The “Customer Interaction of the Day” Anthology: 22 Whole Foods moments that made me hate humanity

This isn't me and wasn't taken by me but might as well have been both.
This isn’t me and wasn’t taken by me but might as well have been both.

I don’t know what was more ridiculous about working for Whole Foods: dealing with the corporation itself or the unbelievable customers. Here are 22 of my favorite (in retrospect) customer interactions that I had and promptly documented. The lines in bold are the customer quotes, the non-bolded ones are mine.

1. “Could I see an ingredient list for this?”

“Sure, here it is. Are you concerned about a particular ingredient or allergen?”

“No, just give me the list. Wow, that’s a lot of ingredients. Why are there so many ingredients? What are all those at the bottom?”

“Those are the spices I used. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamo-”

“Well, I suppose that’s fine for some people, but everything has too many ingredients these days! So unnecessary.” (The person walked out angrily. This wasn’t an elderly person; they were probably around 40-50.)

2. *a customer comes up and starts eating all my samples while other customers are also trying to get some*

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, but I can only give out one free sample per customer.”

“Well I have NEVER in my life been scolded for taking multiple samples!”

“I’m sorry, I really wish I could give everyone multiple samples, but unfortunately I’m running low right now and I need to have enough for everyone.”

*I turn my back for a minute to reach for more garnish. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the customer’s hands all up in my sample tray*

“You have to throw those samples away now. I touched them.”

3. *customer whom I don’t know comes in and talks at me extensively about their prolapsed urethra*

*one hour later, another customer I don’t know comes in and talks at me about their cataract surgery*

*twenty minutes later, another customer I don’t know comes in and talks at me about the diarrhea they had last week”

One week later: *prolapsed urethra guy comes back in and gives me an update on the situation, and goes on to talk at me about how his wife has a urinary tract infection*

Y’all. Just because I like cooking things with nutrients in them does not mean I’m a doctor. Please talk about your nasty medical issues with your friendly neighborhood medical professional, not your chef.

4. *dude comes in and hangs his whole face over the glass wall of my station, so that his boogers could easily have fallen right onto my food.*

Dude’s friend: “Hey! Give her some space! Back off the sneeze guard and you can see just fine.”

*dude reacts by jokingly rubbing his entire disgusting hipster beard all over the glass window of my station.* Not funny, sir. Your beard-boogers haunted my dreams for weeks.

5. “I want the tuna salad.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have any tuna sa-”

“You don’t have any?! YOU DON’T HAVE TUNA SALAD!??”

“No, I’m sor-”

(Completely serious) “That’s unacceptable. That’s just wrong.”

6. “Can the red beans be on that part of the plate too?”

“You mean instead of the rice?”

“No I want the rice too, just double the red beans.”

“If I did that, there wouldn’t be room on the plate for the other components.”

“Give me two plates then.”

“Okay, but I’ll have to charge you for double the beans.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re asking for double the beans, correct?”

“Yeah but…can I have double the greens, then?”

“Yes, if you’re willing to pay for double the greens.”

“NEVERMIND”

7. *pointing to the red onion on my cutting board that I’d diced into a pile of small squares* “Is that noodles?”

8. *customer orders food from me and proceeds to micro-manage my sauté pan as I was cooking her order* “Move that little piece to the left a little…now move it back to the right.”

“This little piece here?”

*customer sticks her whole arm over the glass wall until her hand was an inch away from the hot pan and all the food in it.* “Yes, this o-“

“Ma’am, due to sanitation and safety laws I’m going to need you to keep your hands and arms on the other side of the food cart.”

“That’s ridiculous! People are so ridiculous with sanitation things these days!”

9. *customer comes in and whines extensively about how we didn’t have Caesar dressing as a choice for the salads today.*

“I’m so sorry, but our salad options are on rotation, so we unfortunately didn’t have any Caesar dressing in the back. I have to serve what’s on my menu.”

“But Caesar dressing is my faaaaaaaavorite…” *whining continues*

*without missing a beat, the customer’s three-year-old son chimes in enthusiastically* “It’s okay Mama! Don’t cry. They have lots of other dressings! They will have your favorite another day. It’s okay.”

10. “So tell me about each of these ingredients. What’s in them? What’s special about them?”

“…The nutritional properties of every ingredient in everything I’m serving here?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, so, starting with the sauce, ginger is a rhizome that is known to aid in digestion, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory root, amchoor powder is dried green mango so it’s probably high in vitamin C…” (I gave up after about 12 ingredients because A. I had a line of customers behind him and B. fuck that I’m neither a nutritionist nor Google.)

11.(Backstory on this: I’m a woman in my mid-20s)

“This is good. YOU made this?”
“Thank you. I did.”
“Really? You made this? Personally?”
“Yes, I’m making it right now.”
“Without any help? You’re sure? You did this?”
“…yes, sir, that’s what this is right here. In these pans, in my hands, on these burners.”
*shakes head in disbelief* “WOW. Your husband must love you.”

12. (Customer comes in and does the typical thing, which is to ignore the big, colorful sign that states the menu/pricing/options/etc)

“Falafel Night. So how does this work?”
“There’s a sandwich option made with local pita, and a salad option with all of the same components, which can be gluten-free if specified.”
*Points the two display plates* “Which one is the sandwich option?”
“The one on the left, in the pita.”
“And the one on the right that’s the salad is…the salad option?”
“Yes”
“Then why is that one on the left in a pita?”
“Because that’s the sandwich option.”
“So there’s a sandwich option AND a salad option?”
“Yes”

This customer was a professor at a prestigious university.

13. *as I’m shutting down after doing Thai dinner specials*
“Yeah I’d like an order.”
“I’m sorry sir, I sold out so I have to shut down now.”
“Well what’s this then? Can I get some of this?” *as he reaches his hand into the container of rice noodles on my station.*
“Sir, please don’t touch what’s on my station. We have really strict health and sanitation laws we have to uphold for the benefit of everybody.”

*he jumps back and throws his hands up, as if very offended*

“But sure, I can give you some rice noodles if you’d like.”
“Yeah give me some of that. And what’s this? Can I have some of this?” as he reaches over into my container of chopped scallions
“Sir, please do not touch what’s on my station. It’s really important that we uphold these sanitation codes. But sure, I can add some scallions.”
He sees a bowl of chicken on a station that isn’t even mine, and asks “Can I have some of this too, in a separate container? I just wish I could taste a little bit of it and make sure” And before I can stop him, he reaches into the bowl and picks up a piece with his bare hands, and pops it into his mouth.
“Sir, PLEASE-”
“Can you get me one of the big containers from the back? I want a big container for all this.”
*I go to the back and get a container, and see him touch a bunch of other stuff on my table behind my back.*
I come back and he says “I touched the red sauce. I wanted to see what it was.”
“Yeah, I saw. It’s chili sauce.”
“Well don’t give me any of that. But give me a lot of sesame seeds on the rice noodles. I’m a sesame freak.”
“Would you like sesame seeds on the chicken as well?”
*Rather than answering, he launches into a story about how his wife is Chinese and how he bought her a rice cooker once.*

14. “Where do you live?”

“Uhmm…[name of city where I live.]”

“Yeah but where in [city] do you live?”
“I, uhh…don’t feel comfortable answering that.”

“What? Why? You’re weird.”

15. “Are you married?”
“…huh?”
“You know, uh, hypothetically”
“…yes”

(I’m not married, but if it means ending a conversation with a creepy stranger, I’ll claim to have as many husbands as it takes.)

16. “Does it have any sugar in it?”

“It has less than an eighth of a teaspoon of agave per serving.”
*Getting inappropriately loud, aggressive and all up in my face* “DO YOU KNOW THAT’S LIKE CORN SYRUP?”
“Yes ma’am. But thank you for mentioning that.”
“Well! I’m not going to try it then.”
“Okay.”
*I turn my back to get a side towel. She takes a sample and downs it when she thinks I’m not looking.*

17. *samples a dish* “This is really delicious. I’ll have one order for here”

*30 minutes later, comes back with her plate after eating ¾ of the food.*

“Can I return this and get a refund? It’s too spicy for me.”

18.“What are you serving today?”
“The lunch special today is Jamaican festival fritters with spicy banana salsa and callaloo.”
“Does it come with a side of you?”

19. “Can I get the panang curry with vegetables?”
“Sure, but I have two orders in front of you and I sauté the veggies to order, so it’ll be about 12 minutes. Is that ok?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
*After exactly 3.5 minutes of staring at me as I cook as quickly as I can*
“Is mine ready yet? It’s kind of taking a while.”

20. *customer is standing right in front of the (unlocked, open) main door, looking right at it*

“How do I get in?!”

(this has happened three or four different times)

21. “What is THAT? That doesn’t look like a portobello burger AT ALL.”
“…that’s the bun.”

22. “Sir, please don’t reach your hand into the bowl of food! It’s not sanitary; there are samples on the other side.”

“Hey.  You need to smile more.”

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