Sunday, November 4, 2012

Whole Foods: A whole lotta of hassle going on

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Whole Foods: A whole lotta of hassle going on
Anyone who has been following my writings know that I used to be a big Jewel Osco fan. I loved the store the way I loved the Chicago Cubs. It was in a competition with Dominicks, but instead of winning the World Series, Dominicks collapsed and disappeared, leaving only Jewel.
And as soon as the competition vanished, Jewel went down the tubes. The food stayed on shelves longer than usual, so that it didn't last as long when you brought it home to cook and eat. There was far more spoilage and far less enjoyment. Prices skyrocketed. But as the only game in town, they had no reason to care. It was either Jewel or a trip to Cubs Food which is a cultural disappointment.
So now comes a place called Whole Foods. I guess it's supposed to be some kind of a "green" type of save the environment place. They butcher animals but they do it in a nicer way. I don't think the animals care that they are naturally fed or chemically plowed with nutrients. Either way the poor animals end up on our dinner tables in a justified form of animal cannibalism.
But I need my tabouli and that means fresh tomatoes, green onions, parsley and cucumbers. And a bag of cracked wheat, which I used to be able to get from Jewel but for some reason has been discontinued. I always have to go to a mainstream store and then take a detour to al-Khayam, the Arab grocer on 159th Street next to the abandoned Orland Video Super Store.
Hating Jewel as much as I do, I had to go to Whole Foods. I actually loved going to that spot years ago when it was a borders Book Store at 153rd and LaGrange Road. Borders was my favorite store, too. But then they died, too, and left us with the culturally vacant and uncreative Barnes & Noble across the street. I might as well sit and sulk at Hooters for lunch.
My tiny basket with its small selection of food items that took me one hour to collect
It only opened a few weeks ago but the parking lot was packed, as packed as it was when it served Borders. I could manage. But when I got to the entrance of the store, it was frightening.
Does anyone know how to run a good grocery store any more?
The baskets were packed into the smallest entrance I had ever seen. Maybe that's why they made the baskets so much smaller than the American-sized Jewel baskets. By the time I struggled to pull a green basket out of the line of baskets, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, all of them sour-pusses fuming steam over the annoyance of being near other people.
It was a nightmare. Did Whole Foods open during the Halloween season on purpose?
I couldn't walk two steps before people were snarking and pushing their carts in front of each other like a mad traffic jam on a snow covered Lake Shore Drive, struggling to find relief. As soon as I walked in, there was the parsley, and the tiniest cucumbers I'd ever seem for 2 for $300. The tomatoes were huge, and only five feet to my left. But that five feet might as well have been one mile of beachfront at Normandy on D-Day on June 6, 1944. Shoppers were strewn across the landscape, their dignity torn from their egos. Crawling through the maze of human hazard.
Who designed this place? Fire him. Or her. It's ridiculous. It's the tiniest grocery store I had ever been in, next to Trader Joe's. But I NEVER go to Trader Joe's to shop for groceries. I only swoop in for a specific food item. That place is small and packed. But Whole Food was like a cattle car packed with cows. And some of the shoppers were cows.
You know, we Americans are fat. We eat so much. We waste so much. Most of the people pushing those tiny little green food baskets that made them look four times fatter than they really are didn't need to be shopping on Sunday. They should be a Lifetime laying out a strategy to lose weight and improve their health.
Don't tell me all of those people can't help it. That's baloney. Maybe a few poor souls are overweight because they have no control over their bodily growth, but the some of them are stuffing their faces like pigs in a trough ready for the slaughter.
This used to be a Border's book store. Now, it's a sardine can for consumers
The aisles at Whole Food were so narrow they hold two and half people shoulder to shoulder. When two carts park across from each other, there is no passing until the puzzlement on the faces of the shoppers is resolved. Standing there staring at a shelve with neatly arranged cans of diced tomatoes and boxes of pasta.
I made my way through the store up and down the aisles, one at a time, looking for all that I needed to make tabouli. I was disappointed, of course. They have all kinds of "ethnic foods" limited to Mexican and Italian. Nothing else.
The deli counter was on the other end. It was crunched into such a small space that it was no fun. Yes, I have fun going to the deli counter in Jewel. I just wish Jewel's food was fresher than it is. I stand there and stare at the variety of salads, remembering when I could down a gallon of potato salad and still drive a car. Ah, the old days!
Worse, the store made the replenishment of the deli bar a customer hassle, not an employee problem. The Glass case opens out into the crowd, not into the employee section. 
Kind fo symbolized what the whole problem with Whole Foods is. This is about the store and its owners. It's not about the grocery store consumer. It's about them. And when you shop at Whole Foods is squeezing your way through crowded aisles is "shopping," you are quickly reminded that you don't matter much there at all. Not as much as the owners and their consultants who thought hey, let's take a neat idea and squish it into a match box and make a whole lotta money!
-- Ray Hanania

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