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David P. Willis
Whether you’re bargain shopping at a flea market or finding some fresh, yet inexpensive, produce at a farmer’s market, consumer rules and regulations still apply.
It’s a message that inspectors from the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs bring with them whenever they check out markets during the summertime.
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“We’re just here to make sure everybody’s getting a fair share, a fair price and a correct product,” said Barry Wieck, Ocean County’s deputy director of weights and measures. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
A week ago, Press on Your Side tagged along with Wieck and an inspector during a check at the Lakewood Flea Market on Route 70. In the past, we’ve gone with the county’s inspectors when they’ve gone to work at farmer’s markets, gas stations and boardwalk games too.
The lessons would make any one a better consumer. Here’s what inspectors looked for in Lakewood just as they do everywhere else.
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Barry Weick, Ocean County Consumer Affairs Deputy Superintendent, makes a visit to the Lakewood Flea Market Friday, July 21, 2017. (Photo: Thomas P. Costello)
Every item must have a visible price, Wieck said. “You need to have everything marked because the consumer has the right to know what the price is before they attempt to purchase it,” he said. It keeps a price from changing depending on who’s buying. “We want to make sure everybody has a fair shake,” Wieck said.
A sticker can be on every item. Or if multiple pieces of the same item are sold, a price sign can state how much each one is, he said.
Goods at a farmer’s market, whether for produce or prepared food, can be sold by the item, by weight or dry pint, Wieck said. Inspectors make sure scales are registered and have been tested. (Consumers should look for a scale’s official weights and measures sticker.)
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An Ocean County Consumer Affairs inspector discovers an allegeded bootleg movie during a visit to the Lakewood Flea Market Friday, July 21, 2017. (Photo: Thomas P. Costello)
If someone is selling a knockoff product, it must be advertised as a knockoff. You can’t sell a fake Vera Wang purse as a real Vera Wang purse, Wieck said.
Management at the Lakewood Flea Market works to keep counterfeit items out of the market. “We want to try to protect the integrity of the merchandise that’s sold at the flea market,” said Adam Reynolds, vice president and one of the owners.
Expired drugs and other safety problems
Inspectors are on the lookout for expired nonprescription medicines, such as Tylenol and children’s liquid medicine. “Actually, it can go bad,” Weick said.
During its inspection, officials gave out warnings, and a copy of the law, to vendors who didn’t have price tags on items, Wieck said.
“Educated consumers always look for the price so they are aware of what they (vendors) are asking for,” Wieck said. “Every day you vote with your dollars.”
Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact David P. Willis at 732-643-4042, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/dpwillis732.
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