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A long hour at Whole Foods, San Francisco (long)

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A long hour at Whole Foods, San Francisco (long)

Fine | Sep 2, 2005 09:52 PM

I hope this is the right site!

I live in San Francisco and shop mostly at Rainbow Grocery (a massive vegetarian health food store), but Whole Foods is much nearer (and sells flesh), so I occasionally shop there.

I am partial to Bob's Red Mill Organic White Whole Wheat Four and use it in lots of items, from breads to pie dough. (It's got a more delicate flavor than regular whole wheat flours but allegedly a similar nutrition profile.)

WF stopped carryng it but would special-order it for me. In the past it came in just a few days, but this time, it was 7 weeks and I'd spoken on the phone to 9 different people over that time. Someone told me, "It will be in tomorrow," so I went to the store. No special order.

The live Stevia plant did not list either its nursery or whether it was organic. (I was assured it was the latter.)

I chose a wild salmon steak (14.95/lb). Just then someone I knew came up and greeted me but something out of the corner of my eye made me ask the fishmonger to reweigh the salmon. The scale said $15.95/lb. She then got permission to "do me the favor" of charging me the listed price!

I wandered by the flour section and lo and behold, someone had apparently stacked my order there, even though it had disappeared from the shelves months earlier. I retrieved four of the six bags I'd ordered (and the nice customer service person gave me the 10% discount).

Tasted an unfamiliar organic grape that turned out to be delicious (and when I got home discovered it was featured in a Food section story that very day), but there was no price for the plastic cartons. Asked a worker, who said he'd check in back and find me in the checkout line, which he never did. (Turned out to be $5 for a pound.)

Though I've found the workers at WF to be almost always helpful and friendly, the incompetence at this store amazes me. Indeed, over the years I'd estimate that one out of two receipts has had an error, almost always, coincidentally I assume, in the store's favor, and the system is set up so that one has to to go to customer service to get it corrected. But the darn place is a gold mine, even in San Francisco, where most large grocery stores are union and WF is decidedly not.

(Despite the above-annotated series of mishaps, my chief gripe remains that it passes itself off as a "health food store" but the majority of the produce, year round, is not organic and it's necessary for those of us who prefer to buy only organic to seek out each and every produce sign, a daunting exercise that adds far too much time to the shopping experience. What's more, its conventional produce generally is priced higher than Rainbow's and sometimes even Real Food's organic versions of the same items!)

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