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.

Neutral Zone Breach: Why JJ Abrams Directing Star Wars is Bad for Sci-Fi

In "The Enterprise Incident," an episode in the original Star Trek series that aired in September 1968, Kirk & Co. enter the neutral zone between Federation and Romulan space without permission. They are captured and, after a struggle, Kirk is presumed dead - then brought back to life as Romulan. The episode proves how odd and uncomfortable it is for fans to see the fearless leader of a ship transformed as a different race altogether.

JJ Abrams accepting the gig to direct
Star Wars: Episode VII creates a similar dis-ease. He may be able to save that operatic saga from the dark, cartoonish canyons of Jar Jar Binks, but it’s to the disillusionment of newly forged Star Trek fans. I have and always will be invested in both franchises, intensely so, but to put the same man in charge of both violates an unseen firewall that many sci-fi geeks place between the two. (read the post)

Juding The Judges: My Rank Of 'Idol' Panelists

Simon Cowell (image courtesy of Macleans)

After Simon Cowell departed “American Idol,” the curmudgeonly Brit’s absence caused the show’s judging panel to take some notable turns. Most of them haven’t been positive, either: The show went from engaging analysis of singing (albeit with ridiculous marketing placement everywhere) to farce, blandness, skimpy outfits and in-fighting.

Jennifer Hudson (image courtesy of Hello magazine)

“It's taken a bit to get used to the new judges,” Oscar winner and “Idol” alum Jennifer Hudson recently told DigitalSpy. To say the least. Mariah Carey was rumored to be furious when Nicki Minaj was signed; TMZ posted video from an unknown source that seemed to show Minaj threatening to kill Carey. Oy vey.

These days, we exhausted viewers are way more likely to judge the judges themselves rather than witness the unlikely rise of an unknown star. So why not start right now?
Click over to my post on AfterElton.com for my rank of all judges, past and present. The results may surprise you!

UPDATE: one story commenter wrote: “A harsh and biased review on Mariah.”

UPDATE 2: My longtime idol, Larry Flick, Tweeted this morning: “I agree with your list.”

UPDATE 3: Another commenter: “You're right on in praising the UNDER-rated Kara DeGuardio (who got a raw deal) and, surprisingly, Paula Abdul.”