10 Types Of Customers You Meet While Working In The Whole Foods Bakery

There were a great many things that I enjoyed about working at Whole Foods, particularly in the bakery — not least of all the enthusiastic parents and excited kids, the repeat customers who considered me and my coworkers a sort of tangential social circle, and anyone who was psyched as fuck to get a free cookie (I was profligate with the free cookies). However, because the store markets itself as if it is necessarily moral and responsible to shop there, it also necessarily comes along with some very colorful personalities. I think that some of the people who shopped in the bakery, specifically, had real existential crises: They were in a store that was supposed to be “healthy,” but here they were confronted with fat- and sugar-laden cake! Their brains short-circuited and they became the following people:

1. People who manufacture reasons to be contemptuous. It was October, and we were decorating the large cupcakes with a swirl of either white-and-orange frosting or chocolate-and-orange frosting because it was seasonal and kids love that shit. There was one customer who had come in repeatedly to express her disgust at the cupcakes, and one night she came in while my very outspoken coworker was closing to do just that. She complained about the orange swirl. She told my coworker, “If this were ‘Cupcake Wars,’ you’d lose.” (Oh. Good thing it’s a grocery store, then.) My coworker offered to re-frost a cupcake for her, but the customer instead responded by asking to speak with a manager … about the orange swirl on the cupcakes. She walked away from this interaction with a free six-pack of cupcakes, by the way, which just goes to show that if you complain about literally anything at Whole Foods, chances are you can get something for free.

2. People who are racist. One of my coworkers was (well, still is) Taiwanese-American. She didn’t have the best handwriting of all time, but it was by no means appalling. A customer asked her to inscribe a cake, so she did, and when the customer took it, she looked at the cake for a minute, then looked up at my coworker, and said, “I thought Asians were supposed to be perfect,” and then walked away. YUP. On another occasion at a store that had restaurant counters, I was taking my lunch and overheard two obviously very wealthy women talking to each other about “the help” (they used those words). One of them told the other, “You have to get a Mandarin nanny!” as if Chinese people (Mandarin is a language, by the way) are collectibles, and then went on the extol the virtue and wisdom of her Hispanic maid not because she had had really extensive conversations with this woman about her life and experiences, but because her she knew how to get stains out of stuff.

3. People who are just there for the samples. There was an elderly customer who would come in to the bakery, go to the self-serve cookies-by-weight case, and sample as many cookies as she could before someone asked if she needed help. Stealthy old lady! She also refused to buy any of the cakes unless my supervisor had made them, and faced what appeared to be a real crisis when she found out that my supervisor had taken a different job.

4. People who are there because they want to take their anger out on someone. The Whole Foods bakeries do not have nutrition information for all of their in-house products. We got a lot of questions about nutrition information for the in-house granola, specifically. One day a woman came in, seeming irritated to begin with, and asked me the nutritional information for the cherry almond flax granola. I told her what I normally tell people: We don’t have nutrition information, but our ingredients are very similar to most other granolas, so you could at least guess that it was about 200-300 calories per quarter cup. “No,” she said, getting visibly enraged. “I make granola at home, so I know how many calories are in granola. This has nuts and flax seeds, so it has more fat in it than other granolas.” Big question here: Then why did she need to ask? Answer: Because she was having a bad day and felt like a service employee was the right person to take it out on.

5. People who want to convince themselves that you can do things that are impossible. Like the people who are looking for low-fat, low-carb bakery items, who I really, really wanted to direct to the meat department. (I suggested chocolate-covered strawberries instead.)

6. People who ask unanswerable questions. I had a woman ask me if we had a bakery box, and I said yes, we have several sizes of boxes for the baked goods. I showed her a cake box, and she said, “No, a bakery box, you know? A bakery box.” She gestured her hands around an invisible box. “Like, a bakery box?” I didn’t know how to respond. I’m sure what she was asking for was a plain white box, but Whole Foods only carries branded, brown cardboard boxes. What do you do with that?

7. People who want to feel fancy for knowing French stuff. First there’s the women who awkwardly interrupt their English sentences — usually when they’re speaking to their children- – to insert an approximation of French pronunciation of baked goods, i.e. “Oh, honey, would you like a… *~kwa-SOHN~*? They have almond… *~kwa-SOHNs~* too. Oh, how about a chocolate… *~kwa-SOHN~*?” Then there was the couple who, without provocation, insisted at length to a coworker of mine (who, incidentally, had lived in Paris for some time) that they knew the difference between macaroons and macarons because they had gone to Paris. The woman leaned toward my coworker over the counter and raised her voice as if she were speaking to a child. “In Fraaaance,” she said.

8. Actual French people who are disappointed with you and your shitty croissants. One elderly French customer came in to tsk tsk us for putting powdered sugar on our almond croissants, claiming that that wasn’t the way they were made in France. I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but I wasn’t going to argue with him.

9. Genuinely crazy people. We had one woman who would try to order muffins to be made on the spot 20 minutes before she came into the store, when muffins took 40 minutes to bake. She would go on tirades when we weren’t able to fulfill this order and eventually got herself banned from three stores in the area.

10. People who do not understand expiration dates. Our grab-and-go case — the one with cake slices and cupcakes prepackaged for you to take to the register — generally had expiration dates that were three to five days out from when the items were produced. That’s pretty short — conventional grocery stores use chemical-laden ingredients that allow baked goods to stay on the shelves for two weeks. The five-day expiration date provoked two responses from customers, however: Either they were appalled that we didn’t make everything fresh every single day (oh my god, the waste) and the expiration date was too far out, or they assumed that the expiration date was too soon, and that we had lied about when the products were made.

Give me a holler on Twitter, especially if you have customer stories of your own.