Robert E. Hebner
Acting Deputy Director of NIST
Dec. 16, 1998
The Department of Commerce, and particularly the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is gratified to see that 43 percent of the inspected stores were perfect -- that is they passed with no pricing errors -- and 71 percent of the inspections achieved acceptable accuracy. The large number of stores that did well suggests that, with employee training and management dedication, achieving a very high level of pricing accuracy is possible. We also know that improvement is still necessary and hope that this report will motivate retailers to do even better.
Much of our economic growth, and the growth in employment, is due to advances in technology. It is, therefore, important to have shown that scanner technology, a useful technology in the retail market, can yield very accurate results in independent testing. Such demonstrations are critical in building consumer confidence.
Before going any further, I also want to speak for the hundreds of weights and measures staff members in the 36 states and the Virgin Islands who participated in this study. This is largely their study. They received training on equitable inspection procedures, visited the various stores, conducted the inspections, and prepared the results. These are the same people who assure that a pound of hamburger really weighs a pound or that a gallon of gasoline is really a gallon.
More than 3,000 weights and measures experts across this country, cooperating through the National Conference on Weights and Measures, are in no small way responsible for the smooth flow of commerce in the marketplace, both domestic and global. In fact, commerce in this country would be chaotic if not for the model cooperation among our state weights and measures inspectors. Without them, it is likely that measurement bias or error would become a competitive advantage in business.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is happy to work with the states and the Federal Trade Commission on issues in which measurements can help assure equity in the marketplace. Among its important assignments in promoting economic growth, NIST serves as America's measurement laboratory. We do research and provide services to make sure our economy has the measurement tools it needs, and to ensure that they are consistent and available around the world.
The NIST role in this study was to ensure that a wide range of inspectors could make a fair and consistent assessment across the country. NIST provided training for the weights and measures inspectors who conducted the Price Check inspections. We also provided the procedure to any retail organizations that wanted it. Not only is the procedure useful for inspections, it is equally useful as an internal quality control approach. The person responsible for executing that training, Gil Ugiansky, director of the Weights and Measures Program at NIST, is here and will be glad to answer any questions on the testing and training.
NIST plans to continue to work to make sure that the technology and training are in place so either state inspectors or store managers can check performance. NIST's role is to make sure that everyone has access to the same price verification procedure and to ensure that the techniques used are valid.