Kwok-Ming Cheng said he was inquiring about an order he had made when a customer service representative, after getting off the phone with the catering department, turned to Cheng and asked “Are you ching-chong?”
It was unclear to Cheng if the representative was just repeating what catering had asked or said it herself, but both the customer service representative and an employee from catering apologized.
In an e-mail, Damon Young, the Bowery Whole Foods Team Leader wrote:
” I want to extend my sincere apologies for the encounter that took place between you and our Customer Service Team Member on July 4. You are absolutely correct; derogatory statements are not how we conduct business here at Whole Foods Market. We take these situations very seriously and have since sat down with the Team Member and our Customer Service Leadership to address the incident. Please rest assured that we will make sure that the necessary actions are taken as needed .
“While the statement made on July 4th by our Customer Service Team Member was an act of improper conduct, please know that it was not made intentionally. Whole Foods Market stores are inclusive stores where everyone is welcome, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, beliefs, or personal appearance.”
Young offered to meet with Cheng to “discuss our Team Member policies, trainings and our commitment to supporting the local community.”
Left unaddressed by the response from Young is whether Whole Foods will offer a public apology and require its staff to go through sensitivity and cultural training, two demands made by Cheng in an email to Whole Foods sent on July 5.
AsAmNews has sent an inquiry to Whole Foods and is awaiting a response.
As for Cheng, he is considering how to respond to Whole Foods outreach to him.
“I’m still mulling over it,” said Cheng. “On the one hand it is satisfying they have gotten back to me and responded. On the other hand, it sounds very corporate—like a corporate general response.
“The statement did say it was not an intentional insult. That does make sense,” added Cheng.
Cheng said he is seriously considering the offer from Whole Foods to meet with him.