French Market stalls question

Hi all.

This is something that’s been bothering me about French Market stalls, specifically fruit and vegetables stalls.

We’re all used to being expected to place any produce we pick into the plastic baskets provided.

Both the basket and the produce are then weighed together. So, how do we know for sure that the stall holder is adjusting the scale to allow for the weight of the basket (the tare)? Have the French Weights and Measures people got this covered? Or are we being ripped off in this way by paying for the weight of the basket too?

I just watched one lady place some apricots into one of the plastic baskets then hand them to the stall holder who then took the apricots out of the basket, put them into a paper bag and then put them back into the basket before weighing the whole lot. I bought a piece of watermelon that was wrapped in cling film and thought the guy would just place it on the scale as it was clean and dry but, again, he placed it in the basket before weighing it. He didn’t appear to adjust the tare, just keyed it the per kilo price.

I have the same thoughts when we buy from butchers or cheese shops where they often wrap up items in quite heavy paper before weighing them which would obviously mount up to quite a bit extra price wise.

I remember all this being halted many years ago in the UK.

Any thoughts?

French people are not very different and don’t like being ripped off any more than the English.
If anything illegal was going on, it’s fairly certain that appropriate action would already have been taken.
However, you probably have an electronic kitchen scale at home, so you could easily check that you got the weight you paid for.
The weight of a paper bag is only going to a minimal difference and is unlikely to be worth arguing about, especially as the stall holder had to pay for it.
My experience is that they are more likely to give you a bit extra for free, rather than rob you.


I suspect, that to speed up service, the scale is being zeroed with a basket in place at the start of the day (working on the assumption that the baskets are pretty uniform in weight).
This would be much quicker than re-setting for every weighing.
I agree with Mike’s comments, nobody likes being cheated and the local customers will quickly desert a rip-off stall holder.


Did you notice the lead plate in the bottom of the basket? [Squinting and tapping nose] NEED I SAY MORE


Market inspectors are much more ferocious in France than the UK. They regularly check stall holders. During the confinement one local old man who comes to sell his flowers was kicked out and told to go home as flowers were not essential. Poor sod, he’d already picked them and it was probably banking on a few euros to buy food.

No. But I did wonder why it took two of them to lift it.


A paper bag weighs nothing. When I buy a tray of apples the stall holder weighs an empty tray then subtracts that from the weight of the full tray. Then she usually gives me a little present of a couple of pears or a different variety of apple. Then she rounds the price down because she is kind, but also because she wants me to come back next week.

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Hi Fleur.

Of course, I wasn’t worried about the weight of the paper bag but I couldn’t understand why he went to the trouble of taking the apricots out of the basket to put them into the paper bag then put the bag of apricots back into the basket before weighing them. I know he won’t gain anything from the weight of the bag. It just seemed an odd thing to do and the logic escapes me.

Yes, I know I’m probably over-analysing that part of my question but sometimes some things you see register as a little strange and they do say it’s the small things in life that can trouble you the most!

I’ll get over it, I know I will!

Hi Mike.

Yes, you’re no doubt right that it’s all above board. As I said, I do remember baskets were often used in the UK many years ago but Weights and Measures did make it illegal eventually. I imagine because they knew using them could be abused by some.

It was the same with wrapping materials. It became obligatory to use the thinnest and lightest available wrapping materials for things like meat, fish and cheeses. I used to be in the supermarket business and clearly remember the change happening. That’s perhaps why this issue raised my question.

Good point about checking on my own scales but unfortunately the guy didn’t give me a receipt so I can’t check what he charged for any of the things I bought from him which would have answered my question. Oh well!

Thanks for your response.

you might be surprised at the levels of checks and controls applied at markets in france _ including weights and measures, health and safety and sources of products, so i wouldn’t be overly concerned; as these include those responsible for holding the market and not just stallholders;

Hi Ray.

Yes, the baskets are all identical so what you say about pre-setting the scale makes sense.

And the customers are clearly happy with the system.


Hi Norman.

Good to know. Puts my mind at ease about something that’s had me wondering for some time.


As you used to be in the business, you will probably be aware of the old grocer’s trick of weighing his thumb!
Adding the weight of a plastic basket is far too blatant.

A useful tip for market shopping is to look for the longest queues. If the locals are prepared to wait 15 minutes for service, there is a very good reason. Short queues are for tourists in a hurry, who are not expected to become regular customers.


one overt sign in many markets is seen in fruit and vegs marked as ‘grade two’ where they look perfect; if inspectors find fruit not up to grade one standard for various reasons fines can be imposed, so most err on the side of caution

Puts me in mind of a grocer friend who was selling Christmas trees a few years ago. He did anything for a laugh. A bit of Del boy in him but long before Derek Trotter appeared.

One particularly fussy lady didn’t like any of the many trees he had and he spent ages going through them all for her dragging one out after the other.

She finally picked on one that she thought was just about passable if he could find one like it but a bit taller.

He told her he thought he had one in the back of the shop, disappeared for a couple of minutes and came back with the same one but held it a few inches clear of the ground.

She told him it was perfect and even paid more as he told her that, because it was taller, it was in the next price bracket.

Knowing the guy, I can easily believe he wouldve done it.

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Hi Frank,
It could be that this chap wanted you to fill the bag. Then he doesn’t need to handle the goods. And as someone else said, perhaps the scales are set up already to account for the weight of the basket. But I know what you mean when something niggles!

@lebeuil1 No… you get to read the t&cs :roll_eyes:
post like that again and I’ll flag as inappropriate…
Fair warning ignored so flagged.

Not very nice. Not addressed anyone specific either, so likely to offend many while attempting (presumably) to offend one.
You might like to delete or alter it.


Yet in our local Carrefour supermarket everything is classed as Class 1 despite often being in very poor condition.