Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is working on a roundup. Instead of cattle, he's eyeing wayward herds of retailers who may have neglected to register their scales with the state of Texas.
A year ago, the agency quietly launched "Operation Maverick," an attempt to corral errant businesses that weigh consumer goods. Everyone from pecan sellers to pawnbrokers and buffet operators to barbecue joints is supposed to register so state inspectors can ensure there's no tipping of the scales in the seller's favor.
"We're about protecting the Texas consumer," Miller said.
Most Texans know the state regularly checks gas pumps, but scales that measure salads, yogurt, candy, luggage or coffee beans are also regulated by the agency. Some 17,725 retailers, including grocery store chains, airlines, coffee houses, laundries and brisket purveyors, use scales to measure what they sell to the public.
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Since June 2015, about 1,000 retailers have been notified they need to register their scales, which, depending on the industry and type of scale, can cost anywhere from $12 to $400. Business owners aren't being fined, just told how to get their scales registered. Once registered, their scale has a sticker issued by the agency.
The name of the agency's effort comes from the moniker given a cow that leaves the herd, explained agency spokesman Mark Loeffler. "We are rounding up strays."
Loeffler explained the agency believes a lot of new businesses don't know they have to register a scale with the state. Twenty years ago, most retailers bought scales from a small handful of providers that the agency tracked. But now that more people can buy measuring devices online, it has forced the agency to rethink its retailer education effort.
"I think what's grown is there are new ways of getting these scales, so you may not come across the regulation that you have to register," Loeffler said.