Clipped From Courier-Post
Weights Unit Protects Consumer I3' W' BRUCE CARLEY the Department oi Weights 5 i Courier-Post Staff , and ; Measures it's an old TO SOME people the field story ... more than a cen-of consumer protection may tury and a half old to be ex-be a new one, but to those in act. ill ?iSKjft--v jr ? f ' 1 if if Courlar-Pojt Photo by Bob Butoti WEIGHTS AND MEASURES Superintendent August Francesconi demonstrates department's method of checking for short weight in prepackaged products. On the federal level, weights and measures stan dards were adopted in 1799. And in Camden County investigators in the Department of Weights and Measures have been quietly guarding the public's interest for 50 years. August J . Francesconi, superintendent of the county department, estimates that full-time inspection of scales and measuring devices now saves the average family in the county $180 per year in meat and grocery items alone. TO celebrate the success of the program, next week has been designated "Weights and Measures Week" across the nation. Although the celebration will mark the 172nd anniversary of the weights and measures law, few persons know about the program that is carried out daily in Camden County. The department is staffed by three inspectors, in addition to Francesconi, and is located in a small office tucked away on the fourth floor of the Camden Courthouse. Francesconi, however, is the only one who consistently spends time in the office. Most of the departmental work, he explains, is done on the road by workmen who check and recheck measuring devices used in all commercial transactions. EVEN for Francesconi, though, the outside work is important. After noon he spends most of the day checking on complaints phoned into the office. A unique aspect of the department's service is that it protects not only the consumer, but also the seller. Francesconi explains that scales or measuring devices that receive a lot of wear can over weigh commodities, costing the seller money. "A weighing or measuring device that is as little as one-half per cent either over or under can cost money," Francesconi notes. Inspections made by the department last year included 567 grocery stores, 398 service stations and 51 chain supermarkets, Famcesconi says. MEASURING devices, such as scales in stores, meters on gasoline pumps and meters on fuel trucks must be inspected once a year, according to the s u p e rintendent, and if approved, receive a county seal showing that their measurements are within the tolerances the law permits. Francesconi says devices that do not pass the inspection tests are condemned and may not be used until they are corrected by a state licensed mechanic. Mechanics, such as those working for oil companies, must be licensed, by the state before they can work on any measuring equipment, according to the law. Although most merchants are honest, Francesconi says, there are many cases of short-weighting per year that must be prosecuted. Francesconi said that when a pre-packaged commodity or items such as meats are found to be consistently short in weight the store or manufacturer is cited by the county and brought to court. FINES for violations range from $50 for the first offense to $250 or imprisonment for three or more offenses. In 1969, the county collected $5,650 in fines based on $180 complaints signed by county inspectors against firms from as far away as Colorado. In 1970, Francesconi notes. inspectors weighed 22,313 prepackaged items In area stores. Another typical inspection is that of checking gasoline pumps in commercial stations throughout the county. FRANCESCONI says inspectors visit all gasoline dealers in the county once a year. Each pump in the service station, he adds, is checked against a calibrated five-gallon can used by inspectors. Inspectors allow a seven-cubic-inch variation in either direction on the five-gallon gasoline test, but Francesconi warns there's a state-approved lead seal on the inside of the pumps where adjustments are made. He notes that if the lead seal in the pump is found to be tampered with, the inspector wifl issue a citation for a court appearance. Inspectors also make spot checks and undercover purchases in the case of 1 complaints against a specific firm, Francesconi stresses. Spot checks are made on weekends as well as during the week and inspectors have the authority to stop trucks transporting such items as milk, fuel oil and prepackaged products.