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No scaling back: Tradition of Publix scales lasts decades and counting

Large green scales seen almost exclusively in Florida-based chain's home state

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They are truly a Florida thing and have been around for decades: The big green Publix scales.

If you’ve ever shopped at the Lakeland-based supermarket chain, you have probably noticed the scales (known by the store as People Weighers) somewhere near the entrance.

The scales date back decades to when George Jenkins founded the store in Central Florida.

Jenkins opened the first store in 1930 and the first scale was installed in those early years.

“Our founder having the vision to be a customer service expert, he thought having scales in the store without having our customers pay for it would be a treat -- and it was,” said Dwaine Stevens, who has worked for Publix for around four decades.

Stevens is referring to the decision by Publix in the early years to make the scales free of charge. Many scales in that era required payment because people did not have scales in their own homes.

The original scale still sits in the Publix headquarters in Lakeland -- and it still works.

But you won’t find the scales in Publix stores outside of Florida, except for a few just over the Georgia border. Stores in other southern states where Publix operates don't install the scales, partly because there are only so many scales left.

The manufacturer, Mettler Toledo, stopped producing them in 2015.

As a result, Publix bought up as many as it could and houses them in a warehouse in Lakeland.

Technicians maintain roughly a couple dozen backup scales in the warehouse. Whenever a scale breaks or needs repair at a Florida store, they replace it.

The main technician at the warehouse said the scales last quite a long time. He recently worked on one that was built in 1971.

The technician actually uses a Publix People Weigher Repair handbook. He said there are all types of repair issues, like when children swing on the arms, treating them like playground equipment.

A Publix manager said the second most common reason people use the scales is to weigh their luggage on the way to the airport. That way they can know if it’s too heavy before checking it with the airline.

Customers say they like the scales.

“I think it’s good to have them in the store. I have one at home, but I like to weigh myself here because I think it’s a little more sufficient for me,” said Publix customer Ovelia Montelongo.

Shopper Tanika Harris said despite the modernization of the supermarket, the scales don't feel too old fashioned.

“It helps you monitor your weight, which helps you make better food choices when you shop, so I like it,” Harris said.

The scales were kept in the back of the stores decades ago but were eventually moved closer to the entrance.

Publix said the scales will stay in the Florida stores as long as the technicians can keep them operational.  


About the Author:

Scott Johnson

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.

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