Wise Foods, the potato-chip-maker that’s probably option C during your bodega run, has been sued by two people who claim the brand is tricking consumers into buying mostly bags of air. According to their suit, Wise intentionally and systematically underfills its bags, leaving them anywhere from 58 percent to 75 percent empty. As proof, the filing includes results from a home science experiment, where the plaintiffs photographed various bags next to a ruler, adding a colored mark to show where the fill line hits inside the bag.
On a foot-tall bag of sour-cream-and-onion Ridgies, you can see it stops just shy of the three-inch mark:
“Slack-fill” is the industry term for the space intentionally filled with air to protect contents from getting crushed, but the FDA has been onto companies’ liberal interpretation of the term for a while. It lays out six reasons they can use slack-fill in product packaging, and the two plaintiffs — Sameline Alce and Desiré Nugent — argue none apply to Wise’s chips. They believe nobody would pay retail price for Wise’s bags if the amount of empty space was apparent. They also grant that bags aren’t labeled inaccurately by weight, but claim that’s immaterial because no lay shopper has any idea what “2.75 ounces” or whatever of chips means. “Even if defendant’s net weight disclosures are accurate, such does not eliminate this basic deception,” the complaint says.
As it happens, people have been complaining to Wise about underfilled bags for years, usually as much out of wonderment as anger (it’s just a few ounces of chips, after all):
The proposed class-action suit seeks damages for people who bought Wise chips in New York City and Washington, D.C., and also demands the company fix packaging to eliminate the “nonfunctional slack-fill.” Adding insult to injury, it notes bags of Frito-Lay’s Ruffles — the brand Wise’s Ridgies tries to copy — are filled much higher.