Everything Grocery Retailers Need to Know About Scale Integration

Grocery retailers sell a variety of items by weight, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cold cuts, bulk bin dry goods, and more. Whether people are buying a bag of sweet treats or a pound of sliced cheese, you rely on grocery scales to measure the weight of items and calculate the prices. Although it seems easy to lay products on the scale and print the tags, there’s a battery of scientific tests and several government agencies dedicated to calculating weights and prices correctly.

Proper scale integration for your point of sale (POS) system can take some research. First, grocery retailers should check to see if the scale is NTEP certified for legal use.

What is NTEP? How does it work?

The National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) is facilitated by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. NTEP standards cover every aspect of a scale’s use, including:

  • Capacity
  • Accuracy
  • Appearance
  • Effects of temperature and humidity changes

The standards are developed by a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce called the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST. Every device is tested in a lab setting to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations.

An NTEP Certificate of Conformance (CoC) means the scale is legal for trade and can be used in a commercial setting to sell products by weight. Every NTEP-approved scale will have a CoC number that an inspector can use to verify that the scale meets the agency’s rigorous testing standards and is legal for use.

Why is NTEP important?

Grocery retailers that buy, sell, or determine prices by weight are required by law to use a NTEP certified scale. NTEP scale certification isn’t optional — never purchase a scale that doesn’t have a CoC. Only NTEP-certified devices, when properly inspected and calibrated, can legally determine the weight of products. A grocery retailer with a non-NTEP-certified scale integration may be subject to civil penalties, seizure of the illegal device, or stop-work orders.

Does it matter if my scale is off by a little?

Simply put — yes, it matters. Every state has its own agencies and departments that monitor scales and inspect them for accuracy. Customers trust that their grocery retailer is charging them accurately for the products they buy, so imagine the public relations nightmare if it was reported that your store was caught overcharging customers for items sold by weight. The bad publicity alone isn’t worth the risk to your business, even if it was unintentional. Don’t be cavalier about following the calibration and compliance laws, which help prevent fraud at the scale.

In addition, choose a scale that’s the correct accuracy class. A grocery retailer needs a scale that’s accurate, but doesn’t need the same type of scale used for medicinal or pharmaceutical purposes.

I’ve chosen a NTEP-certified scale, now what?

NTEP-certification doesn’t mean you can plug in the scale and start using it right away. Before using the scale, contact your local regulatory authority to find out what you need to do before processing any sales by weight. You’ll likely have to register the device for inspection prior to scale integration and participate in regular inspections.  A local weights and measures official will use NIST standards when inspecting your scale and certifying it for use.

Grocery retailers who charge for items by weight need a scale to conduct business legally. Look for a scale that is NTEP certified, and legal for use or trade, and be sure to consult your local laws and regulatory agency regarding its set up and use. Always maintain properly calibrated devices, to avoid overcharging customers or shorting your business.

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