I think this is relevant to unschooling, it's important to me that my children be able to go barefoot when/where they want to...what do you think?
Whole Foods - Fremont
3535 NE 15th Ave.
Portland, OR 97212
Attn: Michael Frasier, General Manager
Dear Mr. Frasier:
We are very upset about your new policy that customers must wear shoes at all times when shopping in your store.
We have been shopping at our neighborhood grocery store on NE 15th and Fremont regularly for 10 years now - when it was Nature's Northwest, then Wild Oats, and now Whole Foods. Our four children, who rarely wear shoes, have been shopping with us there for most of those ten years and there has never been a problem before. However, in the last month employees have harassed us each time we come in with the kids.
Your employees say our children need to have shoes because there is broken glass in the store. We have never seen any broken glass around (hopefully it's cleaned up promptly regardless of footwear issues), but have assured the employees that we take full responsibility for the safety of our own children, and will release Whole Foods from liability in writing.
Medical research clearly shows that being barefoot most of the time is healthiest for foot development. In accordance with your "core values" (educating the public about healthful living), it would be wonderful for Whole Foods to educate the public about these health benefits rather than continue your current misguided policy.
Our youngest son (now three years old) was born with polydactyly, a disability that makes it very difficult for him to wear shoes. The employees we spoke with at your store insisted that we would need to put shoes on him, or carry him, if we wanted to be allowed to spend our money there. We informed the employees that our son is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and it is up to the store to accommodate him, not the other way around. Your employees appear to be ignorant of the ADA and would benefit from more education about it. Our son wants the right to walk in the store like his siblings and other children. Do you dispute, as some of your employees have, that his right to walk barefoot is protected under the ADA?
We want the right to shop at our closest neighborhood store in the manner we are most comfortable and healthy. Because Whole Foods is so close to our home, we have been willing to spend more on your higher prices, rather than go to New Seasons Market for our grocery needs. Subsequent to feeling unwelcome in your store, we have begun to shop at New Seasons and Trader Joe's instead, and have been welcomed at both stores, bare feet and all.
In the last 7 months alone, our family has spent over $6000 at Whole Foods -Fremont. We know that's not very much money to a big company like Whole Foods, however we hope for at least some small accommodation in appreciation for our loyal patronage.
Your new sign states hygiene as one of the reasons for the policy, but there is simply no hygiene issue involved. Our children’s feet are only touching the floor, just like the bottoms of shoes. Bare feet are no dirtier than the bottoms of shoes; in fact feet are cleaner than shoes because they are washed more often. Hands touch various potentially germ-ridden surfaces all day, and yet you do not require gloves to be worn in your store. In Oregon (and most other states) there is no health code requiring footwear in restaurants or grocery stores.
We suspect that some of your employees or customers feel uncomfortable at the unfamiliar sight of bare feet on children, and perhaps that is the reason for the new policy. We have noticed that many of your customers and employees have nose rings, lip rings, stretched ear lobes, tattoos, dreadlocks, and dyed hair. We remember, not so long ago, when people were uncomfortable seeing those things in public because they felt offended, or worried it was unclean.
Walking barefoot is healthy, natural, and highly enjoyable, and especially important for children. While those who see it as offensive or threatening are free to form their own opinions, the general public deserves better from a company dedicated to the values Whole Foods says it trying to promote. With the anti-barefoot rule, you reinforce negative views about bare feet at the expense of actually encouraging better foot health through walking naturally, unencumbered by shoes. This seems like bad policy all the way around.
Interestingly, on the Whole Foods website, and sometimes rotated in on the “Core Values” page, there is a picture of the original store with the founders/employees in front. In the photo we can spot at least two people with bare feet and one without a shirt.
Here’s the link: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/images/originalstore.jpg
Of course there are many things that stores can forbid and restrict, but there is something very unwelcoming about a posted sign that details those restrictions. In the interest of another of your core values, “satisfying and delighting your customers”, we would like for you to: Change your new policy, train your employees to be more sensitive to those with disabilities, take down the negative door signs, and welcome everyone to the store regardless of what footwear they choose, or don’t choose, to wear.
Please let us know soon what actions you plan to take.
Michael and Emily Troper