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Whole Foods Market / Assault

1101 S. Canal St.Chicago, IL, United States Review updated:
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Hello My name is Martin. I'm a videographer and reporter for NPR, Youth Radio based in Oakland, and Radio Arte in Chicago. Most of my work involves health education, food security activism, human rights campaigns, and nutrition. I have been a Whole Foods customer for about three years now. My family decides to spend a little more on food so that we can eat quality food. We did not expect to have to sacrifice our civil liberties and well-being. I'm sad to say that due to recent violent acts against me and my family I am launching a campaign against Whole Foods for harassment and brutality towards customers and discrimination based on class and race.

At approx. 1pm CT at the South Loop Chicago store I was approached by a man who asked me if I shoplifted some candy. Seeing as how it was a ridiculous charge I started to walk away after I told him it was in the trash. He then threatened me with arrest, which would be False Imprisonment in most states. I decided to comply and explained that I had thrown away the food and eaten some as well, but not stolen it. I took the man to the trash can and he told me to take the garbage out and show him the food. I walked away because he was being unreasonable and unprofessional by asking me to take garbage out in public and saying things like "I want my candy". As I was walking toward the exit I was tackled from behind and thrown head first into the wall as my family looked on. I was put in handcuffs while the public watched and dragged through the crowd. I was then taken to the back of the store and told I was being charged with assault and battery.

The man then searched my clothes and went through my wallet and ripped my shoes off my feet. He then said he was calling the police and that I would be in jail soon for "being a punk". This man's name is Muawia A. Awad and works for Southgate Market Security, according to the name in his office and what people called him. I am pressing charges against Muawia A. Awad, Southgate Market Security, and Whole Foods Market.

This post is an attempt to reach out to whatever people may be concerned about this or those who have experienced something similar. If you have any comments please contact me at martin.macias@wrte.org.

I just got back from covering the Democratic National Convention in Denver and am getting tired of being pushed around by people who abuse their position of authority and are under the illusion that they have the power to harass people and violate their rights.

Thank you for your time. Peace.


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  16th of Sep, 2008
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
Whole Foods does go to far with their policies and people. To think that they give food away and will gladly open a package OFF THE SHELF for you to sample and then attack this guy with no cause or provocation. I would have to assume that the security cameras were working, but no tape was in the machine at the time. Good luck on your suit since I may have to do the same in the near future for being the victim of allegations without merit.
  23rd of Oct, 2008
Agree Disagree +2 Votes
I am a 55 year old nice, honest and respectful female that lives in Denver, Colorado. Martin, I will pray that you win your suit against Whole Food as I no longer shop there as well. What happened to you is horrible. Going back in time I also had a horrible experience at the Capital Hill Alfalfa's Health Food Store (now Whole Foods Market) in 1996. Whole Foods customer service and security slowly deteriorated here in Denver once they bought out Wild Oats and Alfalfa's. Alfalfa's and Wild Oats has a history of terrible customer service and unprofessional, unqualified security. I was a full-time college student at Metro State College in Denver from 1994 to 1997. I was a frequent customer at the Capital Hill Alfalfa's (now called Whole Foods). One night after I arrived home from class I decided to walk to Alfalfa's to enjoy some prepared fish and a cup of coffee. All I had with me at the time was my normal medium sized lady's purse that I always carry with me. I ate my fish dinner with vegies and then used the lady's restroom after I finished. I was in the store a total of 25 minutes. As I attempted to exit the store, an elderly security guard and an irrate crazy little male supervisor told me that I was seen putting something in my purse while in the cafe'. I thought this was a joke as all there is in the cafe' is napkins and plastic dinnerware so I just told them they were crazy as I am not a thief. I had my receipt showing I paid for my food. The store manager started yelling at me telling me that as a regular customer that I am classified as a "suspicious" customer everytime I would visit the store bringing in my napsack with my school books. I do not own a vehicle. Also, 3 major colleges and other vocational schools are within a mile of that store as well. The security guard then insisted that if I were innocent, I would allow them to view the contents of my purse. So, I told them they were stupid and showed them the contents of my purse. I told them I would ruin the store's reputation as I left that store in tears. So, I proceeded to do just that telling all my professors, etc. In retrospect, I should have refused to show them anything and insisted they call the police and then I would have had a lawsuit. I did report the incident to their main office. The security guard was fired and that store quickly "replaced" the employees that falsely accused me to cover their tracks. I found out from a former employee that Alfalfa's (now Whole Foods) has a reputation for falsely accusing people.
Fastforward to 2008 to the WholeFood Market at Cherry Creek at 1st and University in Denver, CO. I was a frequent customer there for about 3 years up until March 2008. WF started out okay. However, after WF gobbled up the other Health Food markets and became bigger, their customer service and management deteriorated. I had major surgery about 2 years ago as I have been on state aid and food stamps (called the Quest Card) for the past 2 years until I get my medical physical problems settled. There were constant problems at the check-out when I would purchase federally allowable cold deli items as some cashiers and unexperienced supervisors proceeded to give me a "Lecture" embarassing me in front of other customers telling me that I am not allowed to buy those items. I told them that I find it interesting that KingSoopers, Albertsons, Safeway as well as every store I frequent follows the federal regulations as I have no problem buying cold prepared deli items there. One particular night, I was not feeling well so I thought that maybe eating something healthy at WF would make me feel better. A cashier named Emily was horrible repeating her "that is not allowable" lecture over and over. The supervisor she called was just as bad. Emily told me I was a rude person although all I was doing was calmly requesting to be properly served. So, I asked for the store manager named Max who told me I was right that those prepared cold deli item are allowed. Max apologized to me and admitted that the WF system is not up-to-date. So, I thought that was the end of it. However, as I attempted to eat my food in peace, Emily came to my table with what she said was a "federal mandate printout" for me to view. I politely told her I have one at home as I am not stupid and know how to read. I told her I was not interested and to please let me finish my food. She continued to harass me eventually throwing the printout on the table. I again politely told her to please take the printout away and leave me alone. To make matters worse, Emily and the young male supervisor proceeded to tell the Denver Police Officer the whole situation. So, before I left, I went to cust srv requesting to speak to Max, the store manager again. The Denver Police Officer interceded and told me that I already spoke to Max and that I had to leave since the store was closed. The next, day Monday I reported the entire incident to the online Whole Food Customer Service to no avail as they have ignored the entire incident. So, in conclusion, I advise everyone to cease doing business with Whole Food. There are 2 other health food stores as well as some great and yummy organic products at KingSoopers and Safeway as well. Again, Nick, I am praying that you win your lawsuit against Whole Food bigtime to teach them a lesson.
  25th of Mar, 2009
Agree Disagree +2 Votes
I have stopped shopping at Whole Foods Market for many years due to the harrassing security situation. As a past employee, I have been harrassed many times for cutting samples to large--they called this embezlement! For not charging fellow employees full price for day old pastries, for complaining about having to bake par-baked bread with mold on it--I was told it would "bake" off. I would make the pastries with old fruit, that should have been tossed many days ago. And as far as the "illusion" of wearing gloves, the gloves are kept on for hours at a time, while touching garbage cans, money, rubbing our noses...because there is no policy that makes for constantly changing the gloves--nor will Whole Food's pay for the continuous changing of rubber gloves. Whole Food's is an illusion and people who shop there are constantly getting ripped off.
  2nd of Apr, 2009
Agree Disagree -1 Votes
Dear Martin, My mother taught me years ago that if I act like a smart ### toward someone, there is a good chance my smart ### behaviour will be met with a undesirable response.
That's how people get shot.
You could have been more understanding and tried harder to cooperate with an underpaid security guard just trying to do his job.
  22nd of May, 2009
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
Whole Foods employee attitude from security guards to checkers to stockers to managment, yes, especially management, is across the board, absolutely HORRIBLE! I don't know where (or IF) they ever get customer relations/service training as they treat customers as if we are ALL criminals!! In fact, I'm convinced that WF CORPORATE sets the tone for all of the ugly, rude behavior in their entire chain! I'm a white female Los Angeles resident who works in PR and Publicity and I can honestly tell you it has been my consistent experience that WF treats ALL of it's customers with utter disrespect and mistrust! My neighbors have experienced similar treatment in more than one store. I have also overheard on numerous occasions customers being treated rudely. It is an permeating attitude that is truly APPALLING! I only wish some new health food market would come along and take away all of their business! I look forward to the day WF goes under! and i'm glad someone out there is finally SUING THEM AND I HOPE YOU WIN A LION'S SHARE FOR ALL OF US! Does it sound like I'm a bit outraged over the treatment of this greedy, rude, customer unfriendly monster? The answer is obviously a resounding YES!
  16th of Jun, 2009
Agree Disagree +3 Votes
Whole Food Market is a crock of ###, they are not who they protray to be...They do not take care of their employees, they used them up and throw them away
  24th of Jun, 2009
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I think you deserved the treatment. Sounds like you were being rude by not just complying with what the man asked you to do, and that is suspicious.
  21st of Jul, 2009
Agree Disagree +2 Votes
I had a problem with a product called Mary's Sticks and Twigs. The package advertising states it is a lightly crunchy snack. Not true! It is a hard and crunchy snack - HARD to the point that I broke a tooth on a piece of it and, as a result, required a crown to remedy the situation. I complained to Whole Foods about it. The assistant manager told me that it was NOT their responsibility and that I should contact the manufacturer which, at that point, I had already done. What I wanted from Whole Foods was them to take the product from their shelves, after testing it. At my request, they tested it but they deemed it alright and so did not take it off the shelf. My motive was concern for other people breaking their teeth on it. Maybe not everyone would break a tooth on this snack but some older people with older teeth would. My tooth was perfectly healthy and yet this product sheared half a tooth off. The manufacturer were vague and told me that they might pay but that I should get my tooth fixed and send them the bill. Well... the problem is this. How could I pay my dentist the $1200 to get my tooth fixed first! I gave up and they got off scott free. This is only one of the problems with two US-based companies selling their goods in Canada. There are no laws to address this problem that I could find. I do not like the NAFTA because American companies like Whole Foods and Mary's can get away with harming the Canadian public.
  26th of Feb, 2010
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
Whole Foods Santa Monica, CA (Off of Wilshire Blvd and 24th/23rd st) Is exactly the same scenario! The employees at the hot foods bar are ridiculous and watch you like a hawk thinking you are going to steal their food and belongings. I firmly believe Whole Foods is a tainted corporation who prides themselves on "Organic" and "Fresh Ingredients" when the foods are 1/2 cooked and quite a rip off.

I refuse to shop there and will willingly give my money to Trader Joes instead!
  12th of Dec, 2010
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
Phillpower must have been fired. I have been with WFM for 5 years and have had nothing but success. I make a great wage compared to other grocery stores and I have great benefits like health insurance (company pays all of it for me and most of it for my wife), We get a 20% discount, paid time off, excellent training, monthly gainshare which has added an extra $2500 dollars to my annual salary this year alone.
Not saying it is they greatest company in the world but it has been on the top 100 companies to work for 11 years in a row...
  12th of Dec, 2010
Agree Disagree +2 Votes
lets just make sure i understand what went down.

You were in Whole foods,
You ate a candy bar,
you threw away the wrapper, which had the bar code on it, and is pretty much the evidence against you
when confronted, you did not proclaim innocence, you tried to get away
you then acted like a smart [censor], and told the guard where you dropped the evidence.
you acted like an [censor] to a guy, who was doing his job, i would have put your [censor] on the ground

How are you at all innocent?
  26th of Jan, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
Hi, I ran back into whole foods today because, of all things, I had dropped my iphone in a toilet around the corner at Starbucks. So I ran in, picked up some strawberries I'd forgotten earlier and then got a bag of rice which I looked up quickly as the first thing to put your wet phone into. I also picked up some sunscreen as I walk through an isle. Needless to write, I was sort of distracted and without a cart, I put the sunscreen in my pocket as I pulled out the wet cellphone. As I absentmindedly checked out, I forgot about the sunscreen and paid for the strawberries and rice. I was stopped by a young security guy and told not to put my hands in my pocket. I then remembered as I felt there that I'd not checked the sunscreen. I tried to explain my distraction, but it was discredited. I walked with him to the back in a sort of spacey daze while I was told that I had to supply my id, ssi# and birthday. When I balked at supplying this personal information, I was told it was necessary and that I could be falsifying my information. I said that I had been distracted and it was an accident. I said that if the police could be brought in, they should. He discouraged that but I repeated this since I didn't seem to be believed. I offered to buy it and he said it was too late! I was embarrassed and terribly distracted! Goodness, once I accidently dropped a pair of earrings in my purse when I was buying another pair and I mailed them back to the store! I just wanted to get my cellphone mailed by this point in the rice (this is what the company repairing it recommended and I was rushing to mail the phone when all this happened.

What stunned me was the lack of options. I was willing to go with proper police review since at least I could defend myself, but it wasn't really offered as an option, more as a threat. When I repeated my sincerity to see the police it was again dismissed. Finally after signing some form to get me out of there, I was told that I could not go to any Whole Foods for eternity anywhere in the area. Hey, why would I? I had earlier in the day spent $90.00+ on groceries and now I was being told I tried to steal some lotion??

I am not sure how to proceed so that I can at least explain my error. Of course it looked terrible, but it was a real mistake and I went along with this guy out of sheer mortification. I see how hard some of you are on the guy above, but I wasn't rude, just really having a bad time with my iphone and not very organized with my handful of groceries.
  11th of Mar, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
I too was mistreated by Whole Foods security for no reason other than that I dress like a "punk hipster kid, " as the guard was kind enough to point out.

I was shopping in the Bowery NYC Whole Foods last July on a day when my friend was about to be taken off life support; I was very sad, very hungry and a little spaced-out. I picked up a basket of groceries plus some food from the prepared foods section, the latter of which I set down and forgot. I went through checkout, paid for my items, and at the door was a security guard holding my container of prepared foods. He said, "Forgot something?" And I replied, "Yes, thanks! I'm so hungry I haven't eaten all day." He said, "It's no big deal it, happens all the time, but you have to speak to head of security."

So I went upstairs with him at which point I was cornered and accused of stealing. I told them I DIDN'T steal, all I did was forget something, which I still wanted, and that that's not a crime. He commanded me to open my bag and I said no. He told me if I didn't show the contents of my bag he would have me strip searched and call the cops. At this point I was terrified and humiliated as a crowd of employees was allowed to be standing at the door watching this whole exchange. Sobbing, I opened my bag and of course they found nothing but my purchases and my receipts. He told me if I didn't let them take my picture and sign something stating that I was banned from Whole Foods that they would call the cops.

At no point would he listen to my explanations of why I had forgotten my food, even though it's moot since under no terms did I steal anything. As they escorted me from the building the head of security continued to verbally berate me, calling me names while I cried and tried to explain I was upset about my friend's passing. He never listened, despite continually repeating, "Why did you steal, you thief?"

I am still horrified, humiliated, and enraged. I was a regular shopper at Whole Foods before this, just consult my bank and credit card statements.
  19th of Mar, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
Seems to be a lot of people taking stuff then getting annoyed when security notices
  19th of Mar, 2011
Agree Disagree -1 Votes
Well I didn't take anything. Seems to be that you're a smartass—how's that working out for you?
  16th of May, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
I work for them, I agree the deceit is horrible. I have been black balled from moving up because at one point I had quit the company I gave a months notice but ended up moving sooner I was only able to do 2 weeks of it I went to work and let them know my position. So a year later I was laid off, I came back to Whole Foods and I was eligible for rehire, then I found out my old store manager found out I was rehired and went to regional and tried to get me fired again. They are evil and I only work for them for the paycheck. Horrible company.
  16th of May, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
You either paid for it or not. If not YOU TOOK SOMETHING. In denial much?
  9th of Jun, 2011
Agree Disagree -1 Votes
Emm at weelilroo

I am not the one getting arrested so it works pretty well for me... How is being arrested for shoplifting working for you?
  9th of Jun, 2011
Agree Disagree 0 Votes
My biggest complaint with Wholefoods is the fish section I have sen those guys handle trash cans then pick up fish with same gloves; I noticed and complained about it to store manager after I had food poising for 4 days after eating some fish they cooked...
  10th of Jun, 2011
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
How about not shop lifting that always seems to prevent getting busted...it works for meeee

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