Kwok-Ming Cheng pre-ordered sandwich wraps from Whole Foods for his Fourth of July celebration.
He told AsAmNews when he came to the store to pick up his order, he was directed to the customer service desk. A woman behind the desk called on the public address system for catering. Soon after the phone rang at the customer service desk. After taking the call presumably from catering, the employee turned to Cheng and asked “Are you the ching-chong?”
Cheng said he didn’t know quite what to think. He said another employee who heard the whole thing covered his mouth in shock as if to say, “Oh, my God. What did you say.”
“When she saw the reaction of her co-worker, she realized something was wrong and she did apologize,” said Cheng. “Either she was repeating what the catering person asked and repeated it to me or she said it (herself). Either way she said it and her co-worker was aghast.
“I was like really? I was not expecting it.”
Cheng said the catering person also came over to apologize and said it was two orders with similar names.
“Unless I’m wrong, there’s no one by the name of ching chong. I sort of laughed it off with them, what do I do?”
Cheng said the incident continued to bother him on the train ride home. He called friend and cable TV host Shirley Lew who encouraged him to talk about the incident on social media and to contact Whole Foods.
Lew herself also tweeted about the incident and received an immediate response from Whole Foods.
— Whole Foods NYC (@wholefoodsnyc) July 4, 2014
Cheng has also gotten the attention of the supermarket chain.
Whole Foods employee Ariel Norwood sent this email to Cheng.:
"I'm genuinely sad to hear this. At this stage, I've reached out to the Bowery Store Team Leader group so that they can investigate, as I'm not located in the store. Your email response helps tremendously in that, and I've sent it to them. You should be hearing from them shortly." The Bowery Street Whole Foods Store in New York where the incident happened is right next to Chinatown and much of its clientele is Asian, according to Cheng. (A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to a co-worker of the customer service employee. It is corrected in this version. We apologize for the error) See follow up article: Whole Foods Opens Dialogue on Racist Incident, but No Public Apology