Customer Service at Napa Whole Foods


Corby Kummer

I thought the music was getting louder as I approached the huge wine section at the Whole Foods in downtown Napa. Nice music, too! Very pleasant light jazz and merengue. And there was a reason it was getting louder: it was live. The band had a plastic bucket for donations and cards (it's called Ezkewl, and its MySpace page is here.)

This might be what you have to do when you're next to a crowded and very well-run Trader Joe's, where I'm told Napa residents often shop in favor of Whole Foods, for the better prices. They certainly were better, on the few items I noted: huge plastic containers of figs for $4.50, compared with $5.99 a pound at Whole Foods, which did have three kinds, the large light purple, less-sweet, watery first-harvest variety called fiorone in Italy and "brown turkey" here, black figs, and big green Calimyrna.

Where to buy produce is a hot topic in Napa: the farmers' market is just on Saturday, and people object to the prices at Whole Foods. The produce department at WF is very well-maintained—but so is the one at Trader Joe's, the best I've seen, with very good bulk produce and two very knowledgeable men who went through the whole stack of avocados one by one to find us the one ripe one there. One of the men explained the policy (try to keep them a day or two from being ripe), and the other told us exactly the condition of the avocados they'd had to throw out in the morning. And at Whole Foods, every person we asked would go out of his or her way to find what I asked for. My Napa friend said innocently, when I exclaimed, "Isn't it like that where you live?" If only all shoppers had both markets next to each other!