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Call Kurtis Investigates: Sacramento Recycling Center May Be Shortchanging Customers

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — From inaccurate scales to not properly paying customers, more than two dozen recycling centers in Sacramento County has been cited in the past two years, a Call Kurtis undercover investigation has learned.

Many consumers may not know if they’ve been cheated — but Jerry Morishige had a hunch all along, he said.

The proceeds he receives from recycling centers go into a coffee can, as savings that will some day help pay for his 7-year-old grandson Adam’s college education.

“I don’t want to touch it,” Morishige said. “It’s all for him.”

He said he checked his cans before his last visit to Brambila Recycling on Freeport Boulevard, but claims they weighed in at about 2 pounds less than they should have — shorting him $1.50.

When he challenged the workers, he says they wouldn’t budge.

Morishige admits it’s not much money, but for avid recyclers, it adds up fast, he said.

“They were wrong, they were cheating me,” he said.

CBS13 decided to put the recycling center to the test.

We collected seven bags of cans and bottles, and had them weighed on calibrated scales certified by Sacramento County.

A CBS13 undercover producer stopped by Brambilia on three different days.

The worker, Carmen, admits recycling generates good money for her company.

“How much do you usually come away with?” the producer asks.

“I don’t know, $1,000,” she said, “maybe more.”

But the recycling center shorts our producer on all seven samples we had measured — sometimes by as much as a quarter pound.

“I thought I had a little bit more than that,” the producer said. “But it’s accurate and everything?”

“Yeah, it’s good,” the worker said.

David Lazier, now retired after spending nearly four decades with Weights and Measures departments which inspect recycling center scales, reviewed our results.

“You could make a lot of money this way,” consumer investigator Kurtis Ming asked.

“You could,” Lazier agreed.

“When you hear us consistently being shorted, what does that tell you?” Ming said.

“Either it’s a business practice for the company, or they’ve got an employee who’s taken it upon himself or herself to steal from the consumer,” Lazier said.

Lazier said if it’s truly a weighing mistake, we would have also been overpaid on some samples.

CBS13 wanted to hear what Carmen at Brambila had to say when we explained we received a complaint and were shorted on all seven of our samples.

“Are you cheating customers here?” Ming asked.

The employee shook her head.

She showed us a recent county inspection report, showing their scales passed… Then put us on the phone with the owner.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on here,” Ming said.

Owner Felipe Brambila didn’t know why we were shorted, but promised to look into it.

“We would never knowingly underpay our customers,” he said. “We sincerely apologize for this problem and assure you that we will rectify it immediately.”

Brambila promised to have his scale reinspected and purchase new buckets.

“We strive to provide the most accurate measurements for our customers and have our scales regularly inspected by the county but, even then, problems with the scales may arise,” he said. “In this case, it would be best for customers to inform me, the business owner, directly and we will have the scale re-inspected and fixed immediately.”

Morishige insists the victim here isn’t him — it’s Adam.

“They may have thought they were shorting me, but actually they were shorting my grandson,” he said.

We did confirm the county certified Brambila’s scale in mid-May.

While the scales are usually checked once a year, there’s no requirement for inspections making sure customers are properly paid.

Sacramento County Weights and Measures told CBS13 it does those types of inspections after customer complaints.

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