Reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed my attitude toward food and now I feel like I have a cheating heart if I shop anywhere other than Whole Foods Market. Though I don’t own a farm in Appalachia to grow all my own food or know on a first-name basis the person who did, I can’t sleep at night unless my food labels read: “sustainable farming” “local” and “organic.” These are reassuring reminders that I’m supporting responsible farmers and not pumping pesticides into my family.
With a teenage athlete and a College Kid who works/parties/studies around the clock, food evaporates from my refrigerator faster than a puddle in Death Valley.
That’s how Whole Foods market in Beverly Hills became my second home. Given the frequency of my visits, I tend to notice the little things as I push my cart through the aisles. I’m first at the manager’s desk to politely alert them when they are out of stock on Kale Chocolate Flavor Chips. If new products pop up, I’ll put them to the taste test. Parsley hummus? Carrot-Ginger soup? Yum.
But what is a home without the people. The guy who ‘guards’ your cart until you drive back to the packing area knows I like the eggs in a certain spot. The checkout people and I are like old friends swapping stories and recipes: What are you making for Thanksgiving? Are those vegan cookies any good?
Sometimes I shop at the Valley Whole Foods and the place is spotless and the staff cheerful. The main difference? The shoppers.
According to the staff in the Valley, 80% of customers bring their own bags, as opposed to the 35% of customers in Beverly Hills. “Well, I don’t want this to sound bad,” the bagger in the valley told me, “but the folks who shop in Beverly Hills don’t quite get it yet.”
Gulp! I couldn’t defend my Beverly Hills paper-bag-lovin’ brethren. Back at the Beverly Hills Whole Foods, I asked them about it. “Oh, eight years ago nobody here used reusable, so customers have come a long way,” one employee said. “Still, I get a lot of requests for ‘pack light and double-bag’ and sometimes that’s for one bag of potato chips. Customers get really angry about the fact that we might start charging 10 cents for bags. It’s not like we’re making money on it.”
I’m all for making people pay for bags. How else to change the hearts and minds of my fellow shoppers than to make them reach into their change purses? On the flip-side, I always get a little refund for bringing my reusable bags.
Maybe once shoppers see that reward, they’ll forget they ever had paper. What bags are happening in your zip code?