A Whole Foods store in New York City has responded to accusations that at least one employee made insensitive and racist remarks about a Chinese American customer on the Fourth of July.
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.
Re: Whole Foods opens dialogue about racist incident: I would find a lawyer and sue WFoods. No public apology. What a joke.
RE: Whole Foods opens dialogue about racist incident, put no public apology: I am a middle school teacher and I’ve taught in communities where I was the only Asian person. Kids were ignorant and only knew what they saw on TV. I was subjected to my share of choice comments. While discipline was important to teaching them that they need to be held accountable and that I am not a doormat (because word got around fast to not mess with me), it was important that the kids learn why what they said was wrong. While Whole Foods can/should apologize, the employee may get spoken to, or the store gets sued, the most important long lasting satisfying thing for me would be the opportunity to sit with the employee(s) – ask them why they would say that and how offensive it is. People often do those things out of ignorance and immaturity. They were downright wrong, and I would be pissed. But after the smoke clears, only this conversation would make it worth it. It would be my hope that the employee(s) get it – that they can’t do that or they’ll pay because it’s unacceptable and realize that I’m not just some Asian person, I’m a person. It’s what I did with my students, and I truly believe those were the biggest lessons learned.
RE: Elaine’s response to Whole Foods opens dialogue on racist incident, but no public apology: Thanks for sharing Elaine. Can you share some specific examples of what you told those ignorant kids?
I have never set my foot back to whole foods after a racial profiling (I am Asian) incident at a store in San Francisco. Looks like whole foods has a track record…
RE: Whole Foods Opens Dialogue About Racist Incident: I’m a frequent customer of the NY Bowery Whole Foods – but I will not shop Whole Foods anymore as they have not made a public apology nor have they shared with the public whether the employees who made the racial slurs were fired or not.