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City of Cambridge

Weights and Measures

The Department of Weights and Measures enforces all laws, ordinances and regulations relating to the accuracy of weight and measuring devices used by local businesses, including taxi meters and gas station pumps. The department seals or condemns devices tested and performs such work in accordance with state laws, regulations and municipal ordinances, subject to review through reports and periodic checks by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Standards. The department inspects prepackaged food and merchandise to ensure compliance with weight, measurement, count requirements and proper labeling. The department also performs biannual inspections of all stores with three or more scanners.

Tips and FAQs

How do I file a complaint?

First, collect as much information as available. For example, if you are in supermarket and there is a problem with a scale, please note the scale number, department and general location.  If it is a gas pump, note pump number, grade of gas, location of establishment, and any information that you think is pertinent. You can submit this complaint through the online complaint form in the Useful Documents section of this page; via email to Jimmy Cassidy at jcassidy@cambridgema.gov, or call  617-349-6133. We take all complaints very seriously and will respond as quickly as we can.

What are the dimensions of a cord of wood?

128 cubic feet. Stack your wood neatly in a row, with pieces touching and parallel to each other, and with as few gaps as possible. Multiply the length, times the width, times the height of the stack. If this equals 128 cubic feet, then that is a cord of wood. Common measurements of a cord of wood are 8 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet and 16 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet.

I have a 20 gallon gas tank, but the pump says I put in 20.5 gallons into an empty tank. Can this be possible?

Yes. The size of your gasoline tank stated in your owner's manual is only an estimate. The actual volume it holds can be higher or lower than the stated size. But if you still feel the pump is inaccurate file a complaint and we will investigate it.

What is tare weight?

Tare weight is the weight of all wrapping, packaging, or any other material used to contain or transport the product. Items must be sold by net weight (the weight of the product itself). Selling a product by gross weight (net weight + tare weight) is illegal.

How often do you check commercial weighing and measuring devices?

We inspect and seal devices annually. To determine if we have sealed the device, look for a current Weights & Measures seal. For example, in Cambridge we used two types of seals, a vinyl seal which appears on scales and gas pumps, and aluminum seals that would be found on taximeters and oil truck meters. These seals change colors every year. For even years, the color is green, for odd years, the color is red.

 seal imageround shape seal

What do you do if you find a device to be in error?

We place a "CONDEMNED TAG "on the device, which means the device is taken out service until it has been repaired by certified repair person.  Afterward, we will re-inspect the device to verify that it is in compliance with the law.

 condemned tage image

What steps can I take to prevent being cheated at a gas station?

First, verify that the posted price sign and pumps prices are the same. Next, make sure the pump starts at zero. Know the estimated size of your gasoline tank. Finally, make sure the pump has an updated Weights & Measures seal on it.

 gas pump picture

What steps can I take to prevent being shorted on a weighing or measuring device?

First, make sure the device is on a solid and level surface and that you are able to see the display. The device must start at zero. There should not be anything touching the device. Also, watch the person who is weighing and measuring on the device to make sure that nothing extra has been added. Finally, look for an inspection seal to make sure that the device has been tested.

How can I avoid being overcharged at the register?

The best way to avoid being overcharged is to have an itemized list of what you are purchasing with shelf price on it, so that you can compare this at the checkout register.

What should I do if I am overcharged?

If you feel that you have been overcharged for an item or items, first alert the cashier of the overcharge, asking the cashier to enter the correct price. If this process does not resolve the problem, ask to see the store manager to correct the error. This should correct the problem, but if not, contact the Weight and Measures Department and we will investigate the complaint. If the overcharge is found, a civil citation will be issued for the overcharge.

Last Updated: 3/4/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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