When you make a purchase at the food store, fill your tank with gasoline at the service station, or buy any merchandise by weight or by measure, you think the transaction is only between you and the vendor. It may be a surprise to know that every such transaction also includes a County Sealer, even though one is not present in person.
The County Sealer is the Weights and Measures official who checks all weighing, measuring, and timing devices used in sales made to the public. This person is always present in spirit, protecting both buyer and seller. Sealers are dedicated persons working quietly and tirelessly to save customers money, and to safeguard vendors’ businesses. Errors in either direction, over or under, will cause someone to suffer. The Weights and Measures official tests and seals all weighing and measuring devices used within Northampton County. To “seal” means to put a lock of sorts on the adjusting mechanism of a device after the item has been inspected and found accurate. “Sealing” prevents an unscrupulous vendor from changing the calibration of a device. An external two-inch round vinyl seal is also placed on each device to inform customers that an accuracy check was performed during a certain month and year.
When you as a consumer make a purchase at a supermarket, gas station, delicatessen, or other retail establishment, do you ever ask yourself if that scale is weighing correctly? Did the prepackaged meat you just purchased have the correct total selling price on the label? Did you receive the correct amount of home heating oil in your last delivery? And the gasoline pump you just used to fill up your tank – did the gas seem a little more costly than usual?
The Weights and Measures inspector is constantly checking and re-checking all of these devices to make sure that any of these mechanical instruments does not malfunction because of normal wear and tear. It is the inspector’s job to seek out and find these errors.
If a piece of meat selling for $4.98 a pound has an error in weighing of just one ounce, the error will cost someone 31 cents before the package even leaves the store.
A scale that is incorrect by one ounce on each weighing, making 100 weighings a day over a period of 300 days a year at a unit price of $2.00 a pound will add up to an error of $3,750 a year!
An error of three tablespoons in five gallons on a gasoline pump will result in an error of thousands of dollars a year at today’s average pump volumes.
If you feel you have been shorted in any manner, call the Northampton County Department of Weights and Measures at 610-829-6223.
On the other hand, “quantity” can be determined to a high degree of accuracy. It would be unrealistic for each individual consumer to spend the time and effort it takes to verify the amount contained in every package purchased. It is much more realistic to have a few people check the packages for the general public so that the consumer can be reasonably sure that a package labeled “one pound” actually weighs one pound.
There are such people. They are out there checking the quantity of the contents of various packages in your local supermarket. This requires extensive training, a thorough technical knowledge of the varying characteristics of different types of commodities and a wide range of precise measuring equipment and measurement techniques. They are the Weights and Measures inspectors.
Here are just some of the duties of the Weights and Measures inspectors:
Examine the load thoroughly before taking delivery. Look for painted wood, glass, and other foreign objects. Refuse delivery if the mulch appears to be of substandard quality. In addition, be sure to obtain a receipt with the name, address and phone number of the business, along with the quantity of mulch delivered.
To determine how many cubic yards of mulch you get, measure the volume of the delivery truck. Take the measure of the length, width and height of the leveled load in feet and multiply. Then divide by 27 to obtain the volume of the mulch in cubic yards. Only pay for what is delivered!
For many years coal was the main source of energy in this country until the advent of fuel oil. Coal is now making a come-back in the northeast with the availability of supplemental coal-fired boilers and space heaters. Most users probably purchase coal by the ton and have it delivered to their cellars.
Many stores use electronic scanners to figure the price at the checkout counter. The scanner reads a code on the package. If the scanned price does not agree with the posted price, ask the store manager to correct it. Save the cash register receipt in case you have questions or a problem later on. If the problem is not resolved, contact the County Office of Consumer Protection/Weights and Measures.