Are Whole Foods customers really that bad? Nils Parker thinks so. And it's certainly the kind of thing you can assert without drawing too much controversy. It's fish-in-a-barrel at this point. Do people who shop at Whole Foods get all defensive and excuses-excuses about it? Yes, even if the excuses, like Wegmans not having a bulk grains-and-legumes section, or the local Gristedes being more expensive, are tough to dispute. It's embarrassing to admit to shopping at Whole Foods, so much so that even legitimate reasons sound like silly excuses. Even if you don't show up in a new Prius (or any Prius) and head-to-toe Lululemon (or any Lululemon), you're in effect confessing to being that guy.
Parker engages in a bit of the ol' assertion of a perfect stranger's thoughts, but it's OK, because the stranger is a Whole Foods shopper, not a human being:
They stand in the middle of the aisles, blocking passage of any other cart, staring intently at the selection asking themselves that critical question: which one of these olive oils makes me seem coolest and most socially conscious, while also making the raw vegetable salad I’m preparing for the monthly condo board meeting seem most rustic and artisanal?Eh. Perhaps customers are this insufferable other branches. One can infer such insufferableness from my favorite Whole Foods sign, which I'm sure I've posted before but now's as good a time as any to bring it to new readers:
But at the Princeton branch (a good drive's remove from the town or university, deep in strip mall and office park territory), the customers seem quite reasonable, as well as a socioeconomic mix. (These things could well be related.) It's a popular lunch stop for people who work in the area, and not just in the pharmaceutical-company-executive sense. Also for locale-specific reasons, the staff will be, say, preppy blond teens from the area, so between the posher staff and less-posh clientele, there's less of a customer-cashier class divide than one might find at a big-city branch. It's not that this region is somehow devoid of entitlement. The behaviors Parker describes are ones I've seen... in coffee shops. On NJ Transit. Most which is precious or insufferable seems to cluster in town itself, with its no-prices-given food boutiques and tiny seasonal farmers market where the ten interested parties must fight over a bunch of lacinato kale.
But yes, maybe Whole Foods is, as a rule, that bad. But it's too easy a target. It's too easy to write about the cliché, and to ignore the reasonable hordes in favor of the rare few who meet it.