(For any non-American readers, Berkeley is probably the most Leftist place in America)
As most veteran customers know, it takes a pretty thick skin to successfully navigate the Berkeley Bowl, this strident city's most popular grocery store. Outside, petitioners seeking signatures for ballot measures have come to blows with opinionated residents. In the tiny parking lot, nicknamed the Berkeley Brawl, frustrated motorists have been known to ram one another's cars. At the checkout, people have thrown punches and unripened avocados at suspected line-cutters.
When one shopper was told she couldn't return a bag of granola, she showily dumped its contents on the floor. Culyon Garrison, who works at the customer-service desk, recently had a loaf of bread thrown at him.
The produce emporium -- one of the nation's most renowned retailers of exotic fruits and vegetables -- creates its own bad behavior. Kamikaze shoppers crash down crowded aisles without eye contact or apology for fender-benders. So many customers weren't waiting to pay before digging in that management imposed the ultimate deterrent: Those caught sampling without buying will be banned for life -- no reprieves, no excuses. (Not even "I forgot to take my medication.")
Raphael Breines, who was ejected last year for eating on the premises, said he couldn't decide between two types of apricots, so he sampled both. Security stopped him in the parking lot. "They treated me like a thief," said the 37-year-old park planner, who was photographed and required to sign a no-trespass agreement. "Technically I was stealing, but I wasn't trying to hide anything. I was just deciding which type of apricot to buy." Breines, a longtime customer, sent an apology letter, asking to be reinstated. His request was denied.
Store manager Larry Evans says the policy is a fair response to doctors, lawyers and college professors who help themselves to bags of cookies, nuts and vitamins, stick their fingers in pies and guzzle from bottles of sake, assuming the rules don't apply to them. "There's a sense of entitlement to this town," Evans said. "People think, 'If I want to do it, I'll do it, just try and stop me.' "
Seven years on the job, he said, has given him insight into the city's sometimes sharp social elbows. "Berkeley residents are angry -- they're mad at the president, the economy, all kinds of stuff. And this is the place where it seems to get released, the local supermarket."
Longtime Berkeley residents also think they have a grip on the good life, so being banned from the Bowl is no small matter. On a typical summer day, a shopper at the Bowl is likely to find 20 kinds of apples, eight types of mangoes, half a dozen varieties of papaya, six kinds of garlic, five types of ginger and 40 different tomatoes.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH (2). Email me (John Ray) here