Publix shopper gets hundreds of items for free

Posted at 11:39 AM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 11:39:20-04

In South Florida we need a lot of sunblock, but a truck full? Joseph Burgess is a personal shopper who wound up with lots of sunblock for free.

"They call me Publix enemy number one," Burgess explained.

Burgess knows the value of a dollar.

"I've experienced having to live on food stamps, and welfare," Burgess said.

Now that he's back on his feet, he pays close attention to prices.

"Every single penny counts to me because it's my profit," said Burgess.

And profit he did, off a hot product.

"I got free suntan lotion for over five days," Burgess said.

Cashing in on the Publix Promise that guarantees the price that rings up at the register is the price you saw on the shelf.

"If they cheat you they give you a free item," Burgess said.

Publix offers the first item free. You'll pay full price if you buy multiple items.

Burgess got hundreds for free because he found so many products priced wrong.

"The whole object of the game was to get them to stop deceiving the public and it took five days," Burgess explained.

Burgess went to a dozen stores from Ft. Lauderdale to Jupiter.

"Do you think you took advantage of the situation by going to all these other stores and buying sun tan lotion?" Strathman asked.

"Absolutely not. Because nobody seemed to change the prices," Burgess said.

He's not the first memorable Publix shopper. A Davie woman noticed rotisserie chickens were not as plump as advertised, so she went to multiple stores and got dozens of free chickens.

"I am just a small biz person trying to make a buck," Burgess said.

To make sure grocers are not making a buck off you, state inspectors verify prices on the shelf ring up at the register.

We found the state's price check program is small.

Prices were checked at just over three dozen stores in our area in the last year. A small number, and every one passed.

"Do you think the state is doing a good enough job to protect the consumer?" Strathman asked Burgess.

"They are doing a lousy job," Burgess said.

The state said inspectors trained to do price verification tests do nine per quarter at random stores in their territory. They check fifty random items. If an error is found, another fifty are chosen again at random.

"Look at your receipt. Look at what you are paying," Burgess said.

Publix says it runs routine maintenance to make sure the price tag matches what's in the register. The grocer also has price scan clerks whose job it it is to verify prices on the shelf match the products throughout the store.