(WETM) – Have you ever taken your car through a car wash? What about buying produce at the supermarket? Or, probably the most common, have you ever filled your car with gas?

These are things we likely do without a second thought; we just fill up and go on our way. But all of these and any other thing you buy that needs to be weighed, measured, counted, metered, or timed have to be carefully inspected by the local department of weights and measures.

At all levels of government — federal, state, and county — there are weights and measures departments. At its most simple, these departments aim to make sure customers are getting what they paid for.

There’s a wide variety of things the department has to keep an eye on. The Chemung, Schuyler, and Yates Department explains its job is to ensure “confidence and fairness in the marketplace.” When something has been inspected and approved, you’ll see an inspection sticker on it; check the produce scale at the supermarket next time you’re weighing some vegetables. The WM departments have to periodically inspect these devices.

Below is a list of just some of the things a weights and measures department checks to make sure transactions are honest and fair:

  • Physical and computerized scales at supermarkets and other stores.
  • Devices used to measure lengths of rope, chains, wire, etc.
  • Milk tanker truck volume.
  • Oil, gas, diesel, kerosene, and propane truck meters.
  • Heavy-duty scales at gravel yards and other plants and mills.
  • Gas pumps at gas stations.
  • Scales used for jewelry and precious metals.
  • Taxi meters.
  • Timing devices at car washes, tire pumps, laundromats, etc.
  • Verifying claims made in companies’ advertisements.
  • Pre-packaged goods to verify their weight or count labels.

These departments may also do courtesy inspections of devices used at non-business locations. Examples include places like schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

And of course, WM departments also have to report their findings back to the state, take consumer complaints, and take inaccurate devices out of order or condemn them. Some cities or counties will also impose fees for inspection.