I (the PALS scribe) had an interesting experience this morning at the Whole Foods Market at Fashion Island, Newport Beach. I hadn't been in a Whole Foods since one left the basement at The Triangle. Why would I, with Mothers Market right here on Goat Hill? I was picking up the Kim Harrison books at the Barnes and Noble (see the post on book 12) when I spotted the store, and on a whim went in after I bought my books. Like a good Californian, I'd brought my own bag (Southern California Genealogical Society on one side, GENI on the other).
It was early; I wanted to avoid the crowds so I went to B&N when it first opened (got another free book there, from their Popular Arts promotion, but that's another story). There weren't many people in Whole Foods–a few obvious out-of-town tourists gawking at all the high priced organic stuff, a mother & child with an overflowing cart, a few people buying produce, vendors stocking shelves.
I walked every aisle, "taking inventory," as my father calls it. Fat Tire beer is cheaper here than at Ralphs or Vons, Go Lean cereal is more expensive than Trader Joes, that kind of thing. I briefly considered buying the quinoa, but put it back after close scrutiny of the shelf tags revealed it wasn't the cheap price I thought it was. Some shelver had put bags of quinoa where the barley belonged. I also picked up some bath salts, but put them down after reading they made the tub slippery.
I left without buying anything, putting the empty cart back with the others outside. As I walked out the door I wondered if someone would think I'd shoplifted something. I halfway expected to be stopped, since I thought I looked suspicious, carrying a shopping bag with stuff in it. No one paid any attention.
As I was putting my bag of books in the car I heard a voice behind me. It startled me–the parking lot was kind of empty. Turning around, I saw an obviously nervous young man not much out of his teens. He was holding two phones, which was kind of odd. He asked if I was having a nice day, which was weird. Who does that to a stranger in a parking lot? I wondered if he was some kind of pollster or signature gatherer, but he didn't have a clipboard. He was too nervous to be a carjacker. He finally stammered out a question, "Did you buy anything at the Whole Foods?"
I told him I hadn't, but I'd bought books at Barnes & Noble. I held the bag out to the kid and told him he could look in it if he wanted. He said it wouldn’t be necessary, and backed away. He probably ran all the way back to the store, but I didn't bother watching him. I just threw the bag in the car, got in myself and drove away.
I wasn't insulted. I was almost laughing because the store had lived up to my expectations, though later than I thought it would. I felt sorry for the kid though, Some idiot manager sent him out there to check me out instead of going himself. It's hard enough to approach a customer near the store, it takes real hutzpah to do it in the parking lot far from the store. Hardly anyone that kid's age has it.
As I was driving home, thinking over the incident, I couldn't help wondering why the kid had two phones out? Was someone listening? Was he taking photos of me, my car, my license plate? What kind of store chases someone out to the parking lot instead of stopping them at the door, or near it. I wasn't walking fast and I stopped to put the cart away. I walked on the sidewalk quite a ways before crossing the street to the parking lot. Did they debate sending someone after me? And after the kid went to all the trouble of catching up to me, why didn't he look in the bag? Was I so obviously telling the truth? Was he just too scared to look?
Whatever. I'm not ever going back there anyway–they don't have anything I can't get cheaper on the Hill. But after what the management did to that poor employee, I wouldn't if they did.