When gold prices spiked during the recession, you may have sold that gold chain, even a family heirloom to get some extra cash. On Wednesday the state agency that inspects gold scales at many Utah businesses revealed many people were short-changed.
State inspectors say 62% of gold scales were out of compliance, or, inaccurate. Also, most of the time the customer lost money, not the business.
"It's a lot more than we were expecting going into this," said Larry Lewis, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
More than a year ago, state agriculture officials say they received hundreds of complaints, claims of inaccuracies in gold for money transactions.
"It was a very big surprise. It wasn't until the consumers and the law enforcement and regulators came to us and said hey we've got a problem here, can you come and look at this," said Brett Gurney, supervisor of the State Attorney General Office's Weights and Measures Program.
The complaints prompted Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food to launch a new program in January 2013. The agency began inspecting gold scales at 286 Utah businesses and determined customers were short-changed on average .60 grams per transaction, or about 30-dollars.
"We learned that there was a high number of devices that weren't measuring correctly," Gurney said.
Mike Katsanevas owns Crown Jewelers and Pawn in South Salt Lake. He says after gold prices spiked in 2011, "you had a lot of deception going on with these bad players in the market that would not use calibrated scales or bad scales."
So how do you know a business has accurate scales?
"I would look for the seal, the Department of Agriculture and Food seal," Lewis said
The seal means the scale has been inspected and approved by the state. Katsanevas says business should check their scales every day. Ask them to do it in plain view.
"So we grab our calibration weight, you're gonna see on your side it says 100, I'm gonna see on my side it's 100," demonstrated Katsanevas.
If the scale is fluctuating, ask for corrections or take your business elsewhere. State inspectors followed up and said they've removed defective scales, getting businesses into compliance.
"So that going forward consumers can have a bit of confidence, a lot of confidence that if they go to these establishments now most of the problems should be fixed for them," Lewis said.
However, for those who were short-changed, odds are you won't get your money back. "Your best recourse is to shop it around before you make a final decision," added Katsanevas
To ensure this doesn’t happen again, officials say they’ll continue surprise inspections and encourage the public to report businesses they suspect have inaccurate scales.
Visit the UDAF website for more information on scales used in commerce: Scales Used for Commerce in Utah
For more information, or to lodge a complaint about the accuracy of a commercial scale in Utah, contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, 801-538-7158, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.