Does everyone here have a scale, or is it possible to just sell things by the piece, bunch, pint/quart box, bag, etc?
I sell at a huge market with over 300 vendors and I don't think more than 10 or 12 use scales. Those are the people selling bananas, and a couple of the garlic growers.
In booth, stand, or FMs, scales actually make it more difficult because you either have to figure the cost exactly (1.32 pounds times $2.25 per pound if it's digital, or 1 and 7/8 pounds times $2.25 per pound). If you're not pro-rating it, you have to make sure you get the minimum, that is, if you're selling plums at $2.25 a pound, people asking for a pound will not accept .97 pound for $2.25 so you have to put another plum into the bag and they won't want to pay for the extra. They also tend not to like you adding or subtracting a couple of beans to make the measure.
Also, in our state, if you use a scale to sell, that scale has to be calibrated and also has to have a stamp from the Department of Agriculture that the scale has been tested for accuracy.
Much easier to sell by the bunch, basket, or whatever.
For commercial sales, I do have scales at home--a smaller one for herbs and so on, a larger one with different pans for ten pounds and up, for tomatoes and so on. Even there, though, I try to establish bunches, or other simpler measure, where practicable.
My legal for trade scales were $200. The yearly inspection is $5. The scales more than paid for themselves the first year. I sell a lot of things by the pound. The scales are set out where customers can use them. They weigh out their produce and tell me how much it weighs. They've always been honest about it being a little over a pound. Customers often exchange a large tomato for a smaller one if the weight is a little over. I don't care if they're a tad (1/4 lb is too much) over. The small difference in change is made up by them taking the time to do the weighing instead of me having to do it. I can wait on customers who are ready to pay.
It doesn't take long to know what a pound of anything looks like. If someone were to try to pass off 1.5 lbs of greens as one pound I'd be able to see the difference.
It's faster for me to have customers weigh their produce than to spend time filling containers.
We don't use a scale. We also don't sell many mixed greens or mesclun. The only thing we sell bagged is spinach, cut and cleaned, which I weigh out at home for 8 oz. bags. Some customers have requested less, and this year I will also do some 4 oz bags. The few vendors I see with scales have slow lines. Especially at the start of market, we have a long line at our booth, and the pressure is on to serve people quickly and efficiently, and I think presorted measures do this- i.e. pints, quarts, bunches.But I would say that if we sold more of the loose greens, I might consider a scale.
We have a digital scale that figures the price and even adds several different items together for total price that was $233.00! I agree that they pay for themselves after one season . We used to guess and fill cartons and bags very time consuming and not very acurate. Getting a Legal for trade scale is worth it.
Here is a link that might be useful: Digital scale
So, Breezy, you have your answer. :)
I don't know I could say that a scale would pay for itself for me because of the way I do business. It might for you, and it obviously has for others.
I don't sell with a scale, usually, for the reasons I listed above, but I keep one ready to go if I should need it, for instance, if I don't have time to pre-pack or if I don't have a comfortable eye for refilling containers. When I have the really big tomatoes, I like to put one on the scale to show customers. I even have a set of old pan scales so I can put one of the big beefsteaks in one pan and pile Yellow Pear or other cherry tomatoes in the other.
I guess 'absolutely necessary' is the key. It must not be, since a number of us don't use it for sales. On the other hand, it might be the MOST PROFITABLE method for you, even though, as pointed out, it may not be the MOST COST EFFECTIVE, or vice versa. It could be that I don't recommend using a scale simply because I don't like using a scale.