About six months ago, the Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a sweep of 700 supermarkets and found that one of out of every two stores failed inspection, for a compliance rate of 48%. Because of that abysmal performance, the DCA is doubling its number of inspections this year, and the percentage of shady supermarkets has already increased—more than $310,000 in fines have been issued in the past four months.

The DCA has issued almost 750 charges so far this fiscal year, and found that the most common violation was for a lack of item pricing, which is, according to a DCA press release, "particularly troubling given that nearly one in three times supermarkets got it wrong at the cash register." In New York, all "market commodities" must have a stamp, tag or label giving the item’s cost, with some exceptions, including: tobacco (if you have to ask, you can't afford it), baby food in jars (money's no object when it comes to feeding junior), food sold for on-premise consumption (which we usually eat before getting to the register anyway), eggs (a dime a dozen), and "display items at the end of the aisle," which are apparently just too special to be degraded by such vulgarities as pricing.

Other violations include inaccurate check-out scanners, taxation of items that are not taxable, failure to mark proper quantities and provide required information on food packaged in the store, a lack of proper labeling and unavailability of scales for customers. "Compliance rates have plummeted even further and New York City’s supermarkets are clearly not getting the message that New Yorkers demand that they get it right at the check out counter,” says DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. But John Rogers, president of the pro-business Food Industry Alliance, counters, "We have no reason to believe—and we believe it's an overstatement—to say one out of three customers are being overcharged. We believe that's not the case at all."

The good news, though, is that NYC's five poorest community districts, which are all located in the Bronx, the compliance rate was slightly improved.