Here's the fun email I just sent this store. By the way, here's some good info about fluoridation from reputable scientific bodies! And this is not to say that it is a cure-all or that it is likely necessary for the rest of time, or that it is needed by all populations. But the CDC, FDA, and WHO cannot all be wrong, and scientists are not out to kill you.
I’m contacting you regarding the surprising interaction I had with a 3rd/Fairfax Store cashier on Saturday, May 10th.
I am a regular patron of Whole Foods and similar natural markets, and I’ve always had good experiences. I just moved here from Seattle last month and stopped by the 3rd/Fairfax store for the first time to pick up a few items.
My cashier did not greet me when she started to scan my items, but when she got to my toothpaste (Tom’s Wicked Fresh, with fluoride), she loudly exclaimed “AW MAN! Fluoride? Why would you get the fluoride kind?!” I was taken aback by her very loud judgment. Funny thing is, my boyfriend (who was with me) is an environmental toxicologist pursuing his PhD, and I am an environmental scientist in the drinking water and sanitation field. I responded “I work in the drinking water industry; trust me, it’s fine, and you’re being paranoid.” Her coworker commented “Ha, she is, look she wears gloves while checking.” I thought that would be it, but undeterred, my cashier continued: “But fluoride, REALLY? Isn’t it bad for you?” To which I replied “The level of fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste is well below the toxicity level determined to be safe for consumption.” She continues! “Okay, well I don’t really know that much about it, so maybe you can tell me. Doesn’t it make your bones brittle? I thought your teeth were made of bone.” I said “I don’t know about that off the top of my head.” And she says “And if it’s not bad for you, why do they put arsenic in it?” To which my boyfriend responds “Well, arsenic is found naturally in the environment. In some places they even have to treat the groundwater to remove it, because it’s just there. It’s like alcohol – one glass of wine per day has shown heart benefits, but too much every day leads to cirrhosis of the liver.” By this point she was done checking us, and we said goodbye.
I really do not think this sort of judgment should be passed on customers. The really funny thing is, she was SO opinionated but then admitted she didn’t know anything. This is a huge problem in the environmental movement – people read a meme on the internet or their friend tells them something, and they get righteous without doing their own research. How often does this cashier tell customers her opinions, however uninformed? And I can guarantee you, not everyone who walks into your store works in drinking water or is a toxicologist. Nor should they have to be!
I don’t want to get this girl in trouble, but this seems to be a pattern of poor customer service among cashiers at this store. Granted, I don’t have many data points, but the TWO times I’ve been in, I’ve had poor treatment (the second time was last night, Tuesday evening, where my cashier did not acknowledge me; no hello, no goodbye. I didn’t know she was done checking my items until I looked in the bag and saw the receipt). It’s enough to make me just shop at Trader Joe’s across the street and never walk into the 3rd/Fairfax WF store again. Please, please, take this opportunity to ask your cashiers to not pass judgment on customers’ grocery choices. This is an opportunity to step up the customer service training.