Berenice De La Cruz (far left) says she bought 90 pounds of rotten chicken and the store doesn't believe her.
Upset over what they say is rotten food and an unwillingness to address their complaints, angry residents of Imperial Beach and south San Diego held a protest in front of the Save-A-Lot grocery store on September 14 at about 4:30 p.m.
Carrying signs in English and Spanish reading "See & Smell For Yourself, Stinky Frozen Chicken" and “Fuera Lo Podrido” (“Out with the Rotten”), about 20 demonstrators came out to draw attention to bad chicken and alleged bad treatment at the store located at 1860 Coronado Avenue.
Berenice De La Cruz, a mother of four, said she bought 90 pounds of frozen chicken meat on sale at the store recently and discovered soon after that it was spoiled. De La Cruz said initially the workers and the manager in the store were receptive, offered her a refund, and told her that the store had received a shipment of bad meat. "They said if you are not satisfied, bring it back. That shipment came out bad," De La Cruz said.
But when she got to the store "the owner just said 'our chicken is good' and walked away." De La Cruz said she ended up leaving the chicken at the entrance to the store and posting photos of it on social media.
“When you need action, you got to take it to the streets,” said Cheryl Quiñones, organizer of the protest.
Ernie Galindo said a bad salsa experience prompted him to join the protest.
"The salsa smelled horrid" when he opened the container at home, and when he brought it back to Save-A-Lot, "they told me that they had mixed the previous batch and the new batch," Galindo said. He said he had some minor stomach problems from the incident. "If you go in there right now, you'll find rotten tomatoes," Galindo added.
The demonstration was protesting both Save-A-Lot and another nearby grocery store, Wally's, both reportedly owned by Waleed Daoud. This is the first major issue to arise at the Save-A-Lot discount grocery store, but there have been past problems at Wally's, which has been the subject of petitions and news reports alleging the selling of outdated and rotten food.
In 2013, Imperial Beach resident Marcus Boyd started a petition that drew attention to the problems at Wally's. Boyd said that low-income families are especially vulnerable. "When the food is limited, it might not go in the trash, it might end up on the table," Boyd said at the time.
Protester Gwendolyn Kesler said the fact that the owner keeps up with the same practices over time is key. "The bottom line is, it's an ongoing problem," Kesler said. "It's the [owner’s] mentality that gets us going."
Debra Marie Davino said that they had tried working it out with the owner to no avail. "We're a last stand," Davino said.
The manager at the Save-A-Lot gave his name as "John Doe" and declined to comment or provide a contact for the owner.
Save-A-Lot's website, which has a "Become An Owner" page, describes it as a franchise discount grocery store chain that started in Illinois and now has over 1300 stores nationwide.