Publix promises: No more lightweight chickens

Janet Feldman shows off some of the chickens she has taken home for free.

Publix makes a guarantee to customers, saying if the scanned price of an item exceeds the shelf or advertised price, you get it for free.

It's known as the "Publix Promise."

Janet Feldman, 57, of Davie says she has used that promise for nearly a year to get more than 300 free rotisserie chickens from South Florida stores because the birds didn't measure up to the weight on labels.

Feldman drives from store to store in search of underweight chickens that she can get for free after bringing it to the attention of store managers.


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"I'm known as the Chicken Lady," she said.

Now Publix is taking action over the puny poultry.

"Publix delis have been informed to weigh rotisserie chickens that seem underweight and price them appropriately, or use those chickens in other deli recipes," said Publix spokeswoman Nicole Krauss.

Rotisserie chickens have not usually been weighed because they've always come in from the supplier over 2 pounds — at least until last winter, Krauss said.

The grocer got smaller chickens than usual after two harsh storms up north, she said. The supplier, in Atlanta, had trouble getting propane to heat the chicken houses, and the birds eat less when they're cold.

Krauss called it an isolated issue that has been resolved.

Nevertheless, tactics like Feldman's whip bargain-hunting super savers into a frenzy. Some say Feldman is violating the spirit of the Publix policy, putting its customer-friendly ways in jeopardy.

"I feel it's taking advantage of the promise," said Mary Pat Pankoke, a Parkland resident who teaches coupon classes around South Florida and also writes about savings on CouponClasses.com. "I don't feel that's what Publix's intention was with the promise. Publix is great store to shop at, and that's abusing it."

Others say Publix should sell properly labeled products and Feldman is doing nothing wrong.

"It's not unethical. She's following Publix's rules," said Jodi Furman of Lake Worth, who also writes about savings on LiveFabuLESS.com. "People might say she's exploiting the situation, but she's just following the rules. As a consumer, you want to get what you're promised."

Furman acknowledges that hundreds of free chickens sounds "a bit excessive." But "she would not get a single free chicken if they all weighed at least 32 ounces."

Feldman gets the free food by selecting the boniest birds in the deli case and weighing them on scales in the produce department. She then buys them and goes to the service desk to request a refund for each package of underweight chicken.

Managers refund the $7.39 purchase price and give her the goods for free, as outlined in the grocery's policy on Publix.com.

On her best day, Feldman said, she bagged 47 chickens from 11 stores across Broward County, including some in Davie, Hollywood, Plantation, Margate, Tamarac and Fort Lauderdale.

"I could pick them blindfolded," she said. "I haven't paid for chicken in almost a year."

Feldman says she works with local animal rescue organizations and uses the meat to feed cats and dogs. She used to buy up to 30 chickens a week, she said.

After discovering Publix birds were underweight, she complained to managers and to Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Feldman said.

"They promised they would do something," she said.

mvalverde@sunsentinel.com or dchristensen@sunsentinel.com