Whole Foods: 'What Do You Need' vs. 'How Can I Help?'
I recently posted a review of Whole Foods on my Yelp! page that got some buzz on Facebook, so I decided to post it here, too. There is a good lesson in customer care that all retail places can learn from. The review follows in full below—you can also see and interact with it on the Yelp website.
Whole Foods is really not a place where one goes as a "need." Can we agree on that? Judging by other reviews of this location, everyone raves about the products and selection (accurate), but laments about the prices--also true, but its in-house brands are usually cheaper.
I wrote a line on my joke page, and I think it actually came true recently: "If Whole Foods' customers don't completely crush your soul, its employees will finish the job." Although not true in all locations, THIS location--about which I've written here before--has gotten. just. terrible.
On two successive visits to Whole Foods (referred to as "Food Hole" between friends), employees asked me the "need" question. After waiting for help in the meat section a few minutes, a guy dashed over and said: "what do you need?" I was taken aback. "I don't *need anything," I said in by best Manhattan attitude. "I'd just like some chicken cutlets."
A few days later, I was in the shopping center buying dog food so I ducked in The Hole. I really like WF's in-house gelato, so I went to the counter. Nobody there. I waited. Still nobody. I finally flagged someone down and asked them if they could help me, and she said she'd get someone.
A few minutes later, a gal with an apron came up to me in a rush. She didn't go behind the counter to assist, she just walked up to me and asked, "what do you need?" "I'd just like to taste the pumpkin gelato" I said. she walked behind the counter, dug out a taste with one of those plastic dollhouse spoons and started back to what she was doing. She left the counter, even though I was ready to buy.
These two experiences culminate in a check-out experience I had last week that was, in a word, surreal. The bagger and cashier had zero interest in me, what I was buying or how it should be packed to go home. Bagger Joe was retelling a story about his girlfriend and how she wasn't behaving right and how he was gonna set it all straight later. It was one, long, sordid, misogynistic, run-on sentence. The cashier said nothing, and I'm not sure he was even listening to him. (Bagger dude started to put the frozen stuff in the not-frozen bag, so I had to interrupt him.)
Mindfulness seems to be a bragging point of Whole Foods in general, with magazines at the check-out counters that urge you to become a vegan, cross-legged Shaman who only eats hemp, lettuce and twigs with an occasional organic fennel tea. But mindfulness and courteous behavior amongst employees at this location is not there, and I'm starting to lose hope it ever will be.
Will I still go for the product selection? yes. will I be ready for the "need" question? feels like I'll always need to be ready for that.