Whole Foods' high wages and conscientious worldview attract a more well-educated employee than your average grocer. But with so much going on in the heads of such a well-educated cashier corps, efficiency can suffer.
"I just wanted to buy some locally sourced organic leeks for our raw food dinner," says shopper Heath E. Fude. "The line was held up while the cashier was describing the feminist themes in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Of course I have read it and agreed with his analysis, but our dinner guests were biking over already."
The cashier in question, Charlotte Dickens, majored in 20th Century Escapist Literature at Barnard and is working at Whole Foods while she writes her own novel. It is about how the tortured past of a migrant almond orchard worker comes back to haunt her. "Sometimes I lose track of how many fair trade Challah loaves a customer has bought because I am talking through the internal conflicts of a character in my novel," Dickens says. "I was under the impression that my literary knowledge was an asset for this job."
Whole Foods manager Morgan Ik is unapologetic, and seeks out these types of employees. "Most of our cashiers have Master's Degrees, and our wine bar server is pursuing her Ph. D in Behavioral Science. Serving wine to people too lazy to go to a real restaurant is research for her dissertation." For Ik, the spontaneous academic diatribes are just part of the experience.
Fude disagrees. "I love the idea that the person ringing up my food could, in theory, discuss literature and fiscal policy. But I just love the idea; I don't actually want them to do so."