For a number of years, sweetmeat sellers cashed in on consumer apathy by weighing sweets along with the box. Needless to say that heavier the box, higher the 'profit' that the shopkeeper pocketed and greater the loss the consumer suffered. But nobody really knew the extent of such loss till one particular festival season, when the law enforcement officials checked the boxes used in these shops and found them to weigh anywhere between 100 to 350gms. In the guise of providing better festival packaging, the shopkeepers were actually using heavier boxes.
So when a consumer paid for a kilogram of sweets, what she or he actually got (when packed in 350-gm boxes) was only 650 gms. During the festival season, one can well imagine the collective loss to the consumers as a class. This loss of course would be the shopkeeper's gain.
Forcing the shopkeepers to mend their ways was not easy. Concerted action by law enforcement officials and public campaigns by consumer groups together brought about the desired results — the consumers finally started demanding that the boxes be weighed first and the quantity of sweets adjusted accordingly. The shopkeepers too started acknowledging the weight of the box while weighing the sweets.
However, during the festival rush, shopkeepers usually do not weigh the box, but mention its weight on a display board and accordingly adjust the weight of the sweets. But obviously even here, everything is not hunky dory. Here is an example.
Ashok Dhingra: During the Holi celebrations, I bought a kilogram of sweets from a sweets shop. When he was weighing the sweets, I asked him what the weight of the box was and he told me that it was 100 grams and so he gave me about 1.135 gms of sweets including the box. After we consumed the sweets, while throwing the box, I got a little suspicious and weighed it and found that it actually weighed 250 gms.
Do you suggest something to stop this practice? Can the weights and measures department instruct that the weight of the box be printed on the box itself? Would that help?
Answer: First and foremost, I would suggest that you lodge a complaint with the controller, department of weights and measures, Delhi government, against the shopkeeper. (E-mail ID: firstname.lastname@example.org )
You or a consumer group can also file a complaint before the consumer court against the shopkeeper. Here, you can ask the consumer court to calculate the amount earned illegally by the shopkeeper, say for a year, through such unfair trade practice and direct him to deposit the money into the Consumer Welfare Fund.
Your suggestion about printing the weight of the box is good. The department of legal metrology should make it mandatory for all manufacturers/distributors of boxes meant for packaging sweets to specify the correct weight of the empty box in bold letters on the package.