Friday, August 01, 2008

No writing. And no pictures.

I got kicked out of Whole Foods today. Why? For taking notes.

I've been working on a culinary research project for the last couple of weeks -- just a short freelance gig that kind of fell into my lap. It involves vetting local menus and checking out local grocery stores to identify current Boston eating trends. So far I've conducted research at Lionette's, Formaggio, Plum Produce, and the Copley Farmer's Market. All of these venues have been extremely welcoming, gracious, generous with their knowledge and helpful. Today it was time to tackle some bigger markets: Whole Foods, Shaw's, and Foodie's in the South End.

I started at Whole Foods. I walked in, armed with my little notepad and blue ink pen, and started walking up and down the aisles, searching for interesting food stuffs. It's a big chain so there weren't too many surprises in store for me but I plugged away, taking careful notes about anything that I thought I might need to write about later: macadamia nut butter, for example, or the multiple different brands of agave nectar they have on offer that I suspect may not have been on shelves a few years ago.

Then I rounded the corner to the fish aisle and a manager-seeming type guy came up to me:

"Can I help you, ma'am?"

Yech, he called me ma'am. "No, but thanks!" I smiled.

"I see you're writing something down there. What are you writing?"

"Oh," I said brightly, ever the eager student, "I'm actually doing research for a food trends study. It's about what kinds of flavors and ingredients are most popular in the Bostonian palate." I was just about to ask him what items seem to be selling well right now and if he had any thoughts to contribute to this type of study, when he very sternly interrupted me:

"You can't do that here. You can't write down notes. Or take pictures."

"Oh...um...okay," I said. "Well, I just...I can't write anything down?"

"Nope. No writing. And no pictures." His tone was firm, as though THIS CLOSE to bringing out the heavy if I even tried to argue.

"Okay." Shit. Now what do I do? What about my deadline? "Well, can I look around, then?"

"You can shop," he said, giving me a stern don't fuck with me smile.

"Oh. Okay."

So I bought a tube of lip balm and left. I felt mortified as I made my way through the check out line, and I definitely heard a woman standing behind me on a walkie talkie as I was texting a friend of mine about the situation in disbelief. I can't be sure she was monitoring my movements but...do you think she was monitoring my movements?

I have never shoplifted in my life. I've never been arrested. I never even got detention in high school. And here I was, indicted for the crime of taking notes in Whole Foods.

I tried to walk out of there with my head held high, but I felt totally shamed by the incident. And betrayed. I mean, Whole Foods positions itself as this earthy-crunchy pseudo-hippie bourgeois outpost where all the things that will make yours a greener, healthier, happier life can be found (at a slightly higher price point that your run of the mill grocery store.) Now I know that is mere posturing. In reality, Whole Foods is just a big, mean chain with a weird no-note-taking policy.

And it is strictly enforced.

10 comments:

Pam said...

That's absolutely ridiculous! Can you not use a grocery list there? You would think they would totally be into a study of current food tastes... although they may be more inclined to dictate trends instead.

The Missus said...

Umm.. They are WRONG!

You are more than entitled to go in and take notes! Pictures, I understand. But notes? You are most definitely allowed to take notes! I mean, with grocery prices getting higher and higher, you are more than entitled to comparison shop.

Those jerks! I'm gonna go in there this weekend and take notes myself. And if they try to kick me out, I'm gonna give them my middle finger right to the face.

I shop there every other week, pay for grocery delivery and always leave a very nice tip. How dare they be jerks to consumers!!!

Ripe for Reading said...

I would have told them it was for a recipe and said that they were violating my rights.

You can't write something down? They BLOW!

Kitty said...

That's hilarious, Missus! Let me know if they give you the boot!

And I had that thought too, Pam -- I usually shop with a grocery list because I draw enormous satisfaction from crossing items off of it and no one has ever "busted" me before.

BR said...

I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but Whole Foods is a big corporation, at the end of the day. They may look green and crunchy, but from their buyout of good ol' Wild Oats, to some other stuff I've heard, well, they're more wilted and stale. Oh, that was a terrible pun. I'm sorry. Either way, that was total bullshit they pulled.

tim said...

Um, can we get a ridiculous amount of people to head there and take notes?
Cuz this is just stupid. I bet it's not a whole foods policy but the jack-ass manager's policy...sounds like someone on a power trip.

which whole foods?

Geoff said...

You could try talking into an audio recording device.

Sue Amann said...

I really think you should contact the management of Whole Foods to complain about that kind of hostile treatment! It is outrageous that you should be made to feel like you have done something wrong.

(Don't anyone mess with my daughter)!

Sue

Kitty said...

It was the Whole Foods in the Fenway, Tim. They are dead to me.

Good call, Geoff. Do you think they'd try to kick me out for that, too?

And thanks, Mom.

chris said...

I've been having a delightful time reading back through your blog and just came across this entry. How sad of them.
I got invited to a sneak preview of the new Whole Foods in Dedham this Monday.
I just reread the invite and it says absolutely no note or picture taking or you will be removed from the store.
Guess they don't mess around. Although they've gotten so big and seem to be determined to drive competitors out of business by whatever means necessary I guess it's not that big of a suprise.
Keep up the great writing.