Indy Health Food Store Dies

May 20, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Imagine a twist on the David and Goliath tale from The Bible. In the new version, David’s slingshot misses Goliath leaving him unharmed. Unfortunately, it ricochets and fells the boy himself.

That is essentially the story of the independent natural food store, Food For Thought, according to a piece by Jessica Rae Patton on the Fairfield Weekly website.

Ms. Patton felt she should support Food For Thought when the chain store competitor, Wild Oats, opened for business in the area. Union protests outside the chain store helped her to keep her resolve.

But, Ms. Patton found herself eventually shopping in Wild Oats and liked it. The employees were friendly and the product and pricing were superior to the nearby independent.

She writes, “The fact is, as much as I wanted to, I never liked shopping at Food For Thought. Aside from the cluttered aisles, high prices and perpetual stench of roasting meat, the place had the crabbiest staff I’ve ever encountered in a health food store. I’m not talking one negative Nancy cashier whose line I always happened to frequent. This was a collective ‘I’d rather be anywhere but here’ vibe, and this was pre-Wild Oats, well before it could be chalked up to the demoralization of serving a few straggling shoppers while the competition’s parking lot is full.”

Food For Thought went out of business after 35 years.

Jessica Rae Patton was told by a union official that the workers at Food For Thought would be found jobs, probably at the supermarket chain stores in the area.

She wrote, “Is it me, or is there one big, fat bad attitude among these employees as well? I can only speak of the local two or three Stop & Shops I occasionally frequent–when between Wild Oats, Trader Joe’s and, seasonally, the farmer’s market, my grocery list falls short–but I feel more welcomed there by the computerized self-serve checkout clerk than by any of the real ones. Again, I’m not looking for a homecoming parade here. But is eye contact, or a response when a customer says hi, too much to hope for?”

Moderator’s Comment: Is there a customer service crisis in the retail industry? Do you think there is a perception
that non-union employees provide better levels of service than those in unions?

Again, we have another account of a customer preferring to check themselves out rather than being checked out by someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
In Ms. Patton’s case, she had an instance at Food For Thought where the cashier left her to bag her own groceries after ringing her up.

George Anderson – Moderator

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