Saturday 25th October 2014,

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Whole Foods investigates apparently racist incident at New York store

posted by Randall

Whole Foods  Two Whole Food employees are accused of using a racially charged slur to describe a Chinese American customer.

Kwok-Ming Cheng pre-ordered sandwich wraps from Whole Foods for his Fourth of July celebration.

He told AsAmNews when he came to the store to pick up his order, he was directed to the customer service desk. A woman behind the desk called on the public address system for catering. Soon after the phone rang at the customer service desk. After taking the call presumably from catering, the employee turned to Cheng and asked “Are you the ching-chong?”

Cheng said he didn’t know quite what to think. He said another employee who heard the whole thing covered his mouth in shock as if to say, “Oh, my God. What did you say.”

“When she saw the reaction of her co-worker, she realized something was wrong and she did apologize,” said Cheng. “Either she was repeating what the catering person asked and repeated it to me or she said it (herself). Either way she said it and her co-worker was aghast.

“I was like really? I was not expecting it.”

Cheng said the catering person also came over to apologize and said it was two orders with similar names.

“Unless I’m wrong, there’s no one by the name of ching chong. I sort of laughed it off with them, what do I do?”

Cheng said the incident continued to bother him on the train ride home. He called friend and cable TV host Shirley Lew who encouraged him to talk about the incident on social media and to contact Whole Foods.

Lew herself also tweeted about the incident and received an immediate response from Whole Foods.

Cheng has also gotten the attention of the supermarket chain.

Whole Foods employee Ariel Norwood sent this email to Cheng.:

                "I'm genuinely sad to hear this. At this stage, I've reached out to the
                 Bowery Store Team Leader group so that they can investigate, as I'm not
                 located in the store. Your email response helps tremendously in that, and
                 I've sent it to them. You should be hearing from them shortly."

The Bowery Street Whole Foods Store in New York where the incident happened is right next to Chinatown and much of its clientele is Asian, according to Cheng.

(A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to a co-worker of the customer service employee. It is corrected in this version. We apologize for the error)

See follow up article: Whole Foods Opens Dialogue on Racist Incident, but No Public Apology

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5 Comments

  • RE: Whole Foods investigates apparently racist incident: typical American attitude….
    it’s not racist if it makes fun of asians….

  • RE: Whole Foods Investigates Apparently Racist Incident: Whole Foods need to make a public apology, fire the employees who made this racist comment, or the Chinese community and Allies should boycott Whole Foods. I frequent the Bowery Street Whole Foods and will now stop shopping there until I hear a public apology.

  • RE: Whole Foods says ching chong incident not a community incident: It doesn’t matter really, because Asians will stop shopping there like sheep.
    Its pretty sad that the don’t even make a public apology.

  • RE: Whole Foods Investigates apparently racist incident: Haoles don’t care about us. Stop trying to make them. We’re nothing but funny, little, slant-eyed yellow people to them.

    Stand as one and hit them where it hurts, in their money purse. Boycott Whole Foods! Take your business to the Asian markets.

  • RE: Whole Foods Investigates apparently racist incident: While appreciate and understand the proper chain of command protocol as well including leaders in the community-I think the approach could have more teeth and the situation needs to be rectified. It would be great to have public awareness for ourselves and how to respond to these type of issues as well as information and training for companies, offices etc.

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