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My Trip To Wild Oats on Division

Wild Oats to shopper: "You cannot write down prices!"
I was doing a personal project today: price comparisons at my three area natural food stores (People's Food Co-op, New Seasons on Division, and Wild Oats on Division).

As I walked around the grocery aisles with a few sheets of paper and a book to lean on, I felt the eyes on several employees, then suspected I was being casually watched (they kept passing me, nothing in their hands to stock!). After about 15 minutes, a manager (did not get his name sadly) approached me and here was our conversation:

Manager: May I ask what you are doing?

Me: I am doing a price comparison.

Manager: We don't allow that here. You need to get special permission from the so-and-so department. Are you doing this for a class?

Me: No, I'm doing personal research.

Manager: Well, you can't do it without permission.

And so I put away my notes and memorized as much as I could. Though it doesn't matter of course, because Wild Oats is the second largest natural food chain in the country (Whole Foods being the biggest. And FYI, my aquaintance was harassed there because he bougth food with food stamps and ate it there. Apparently that is a no-no by Oregon EBT standards, and there are cashiers loyal enough to their union-busting corporation that they will bust people on food stamps for EATING THEIR FOOD on the premises.) and I will not be shopping there anymore due to this annoying interaction.

Moral of the story, which i already knew: BUY LOCAL! BUY INDEPENDENT! BUY CO-OP!

Theft is good food! 20.Jul.2005 18:23


It is of course wrong to purchase food from Whole Foods, Wild Oats, or New Seasons when you can buy from People's or another co-op, better yet dumpster if you're able. But it's good to steal from the bad guys, not only does it feed you, but it reduces their income. If you're poor and can't afford to grocery shop, or need to suppliment your shopping with free food, you can still support a good cause by hurting corporate profits. Besides, stolen food tastes better.

Robble robble,

She can, you can, those two can't... 20.Jul.2005 19:10

Ed Chigliak

So, let me get this straight,

Hypothetically, I'm planning a large get-together.
Big summer party, maybe.

I go to Wild Oats, take my note pad, write down pricing
so that I can get an idea what it's going to cost me.

They're not gonna permit anyone do that?


They're not going to let poor people, brown people,
people with long hair, or people wearing anti-establishment
t-shirts on do it?

They should be reminded which customers built Nature's, and made it
an attractive buy for the greedy corporate whores.

I remember quite well shopping at Nature's shortly after they
opened their doors. The good folks you'd see shopping there were
somtimes barefoot, wearing tie-dyed clothes, and paid with dimes, nickels
and pennies. They didn't take credit cards. C'mon, they would have laughed
at you for asking.
We drove up in VW buses, took public transit,
or usually just walked.

No soccer moms, cranky rich-bitches, or pasty-faced
old farts.
Not a BMW, Mercedes, or Jag anywhere in that
neighborly section of the city.

Just for-real people helping people.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant ('cepting Alice) 20.Jul.2005 19:35

omthunders omthunders at yahoo dot com

Why not pull an Arlo. We did it many times 30 years ago.

One person walks in with a note pad
(Sing a verse of Alice's Restaurant when approached by the manager, then walk out)
Then, two, two people walk in with note pads,
Then three, three people ...

Pretty soon you gotta whole movement ...

BTW, if you are a member of a "protected" class, and all of us are you could say, "So what you are saying is that you don't allow heterosexuals to take notes in your store?"

Can you spell cival rights? Sure, I knew yoy could!

OR 20.Jul.2005 20:34

you could have

put each item in a basket, written down the price then totaled them up at the check out.
Then you say to the manager, "You expect me to pay that amount! I've changed my mind"
and leave,with the prices and without the goods.

Wow 20.Jul.2005 21:19


All I have to say is "wow." I can't believe (1) they would have such a fucked-up policy, and (2) employees would actually carry it out.

Here's the contact page for Wild Oats:  http://www.wildoats.com/u/contact

I don't want to get into a big argument with people on here, but I do (did) shop at Wild Oats occasionally. I have no intention of doing so after reading this, and I'm going to let them know why. Thanks for the post, Price Geek.

Would peoples let you do the same thing? 20.Jul.2005 21:33


I'm curious if People's would let you do the same thing? Or mirador? Isn't the idea a grocery industry thing and not specific to wild oats? Just curious if someone could address that. I recall chain stores like circuit city kicking out people doing the same thing a few years back, how about Fred Meyer the not so local yet local chain?

yes, people's co-op would let you do that 20.Jul.2005 23:16

peep's staff member

no problem. c'mon in with you notebook, PDA, or even yer laptop and research away. ask us questions if there's some wild price difference on something so we can explain why it's lower or higher, or suggest an alternative that works out better for your bottom-line. also, you can become a member-owner of the co-op and apply to volunteer your time for a discount.

nope, we won't kick you out at people's for trying to educate yourself!

Done it before 20.Jul.2005 23:25

Working Class Mama

I've price checked before at People's Co-op and never gotten a second glance. Now that People's has coupons I don't have to do so much price comparing though and I recently discovered the wild oats coupons are actually manufacturer's coupons so I think they can be used anywhere. People's also takes food stamps without an attitude.
For everything else, steal, dumpster, or best of all, grow your own.

modern living 21.Jul.2005 00:13


I was pretty surprized when my friend told me about the policy of not being able to eat food stamp purchased food on store premises....this was whole foods in the pearl...guess the idea is you're supposed to buy cheaper, unprepared food that require prep at home...also can't buy hot food with the stamps...one funny thing is, whole foods is so g.d. expensive, I can't afford to buy there(Winco is the place if you can get there)...nice to be able to use their bathrooms though, which, by the way, they aren't devoting enough of the store budget derived from those expensive goods to properly maintain. Thing is though, about the no food stamp purchased food consumed on store property...is it a state or federal compliance requirement? Sort of sounds like one of those things, but maybe not.

variation on a theme 21.Jul.2005 01:17

old timer

first, yeah this is *really* lame. some day they will be erasing your brain as you leave the store. you said it: local, co-op, etc.

second, in regards to the wise advice of dumpstering, and five-finger-discount food, i remember years ago here in portland this group called 'salivation army' did this thing called FREE THE SAMPLES. basically, its easiest if its a store with some free stuff out already for shoppers to taste, but
you can get creative. in a nutshell, you just walk in, "shopping", and then grab stuff and open it and put out samples for everyone to enjoy! at some point i know they had aprons and would bring in little paper cups, etc. in most cases at big stores if you do it quickly and act like you know what you are doing, no one blinks, and then suddenly everyone gets cookies, etc. (i have only done this once, at hell, er, whole food where a (legitimately placed) display of chocolate truffles had been emptied. i just opened another package quick-like and dumped them out and started eating them!)

Fred Meyer not local 21.Jul.2005 01:17


Fred Meyer is owned by the "Kroger Co. [which] is one of the largest retail food companies in the United States as measured by total annual sales."


Where? 21.Jul.2005 01:40

Alex Ansary alex_ansary@hotmail.com

so are you speaking of the wild oaks on 32nd a division? or natures? or is it the same thing?
Also, his people co-op, what is it? whre is it? is there something affordable and like it in my neighborhood, easy to get to by foot? I at ainsworth and mlk.

Fred Meyer was a PNW company before Kroger 21.Jul.2005 04:44

Kitanis kitanis@rap.midco.net


Fred Meyer is owned by the "Kroger Co. [which] is one of the largest retail food companies in the United States as measure"d by total annual sales""

Correct. But Fred Meyer started off in the PNW before its acquisition of Kroger.

But Any store that has tactics like that place that a manager says you can not price comparison is begging for closure.

Here's Where 21.Jul.2005 04:47

Cooperatively Agitated

Alex asked where, so here we go:

Closest to you Alex is Alberta Coop Grocery at 1500 NE Alberta, not too much of a jaunt from MLK and Ainsworth. While we're at it here's the rest -- People's Coop is at 30299 SE 21st ( http://www.peoples.coop/) and Food Front is at 2375 NW Thurman St.

And not to quibble, but a side note here seperating bad options. At least New Seasons is local. I would actually be surprised if they gave you crap about price research there, just because friendly seems to be their game (attempting to drive Wild Oats out of the market). My partner and I refer to the way too convenient White Oats in the neighborhood as the "Evil Store" -- this discussion is certainly encouraging me to be stronger about not picking up anything there, convenient or not.

What kind of old farts?? 21.Jul.2005 07:15

M, Minifield

"No soccer moms, cranky rich-bitches, or pasty-faced
old farts. Not a BMW, Mercedes, or Jag anywhere in that
neighborly section of the city."

The author of the above would do well to examine his or her own bigoted, classist, ageist, racist attitudes.
I doubt that any section of the city with people who think in this manner could be considered

Also here are cross streets 21.Jul.2005 07:47

Working Class Mama

Alberta Co-op NE 15th & Alberta
People's SE 21st & Tibbetts(one block north of Powell)
Food Fight SE 41st or 42nd & Division
(not to be confused with) Food Front NW 23rd & Thurman

Jamba 21.Jul.2005 10:29


I was trained in Dumpster Diving by Hairy Man in California. We always gave thanks to Jamba for providing. I filled my Ford P/U on a seed camp run for the Alturas Rainbow Gathering. It was educational! We even got free beer by the employees stealing from their corporate sponsors and putting it in the dumpster. Donuts, cabbages, and a stop at a potato farm allowed us to harvest all the fallen potatoes from the trucks they were loading. Only back at Alturas were we surrounded by cops as we were topping off with some bananas. They couldn't arrest us. We smelled fragrant at the end of the day, but it all washes off.

I used to work at a health food store 21.Jul.2005 11:43

ex-retail employee

not in Portland, though. It was a locally owned chain of about a dozen stores over a metro area of about 30 miles. Real great place.

We didn't allow pricing either, not because we wanted to hassle actual customers who were pricing, but because it was common practice for large, corporate chains to come in and find out what we were charging, and then use that information against us.

If they saw us selling a national brand for less than them, they would harass the supplier until they stopped giving us a discount (we didn't have as much clout, being so small). They would slash their prices in the short term to try and steal our business, often selling at less than wholesale and eating the loss in the hopes of putting us out of business.

It was a real struggle. It's a competitive market, and the big companies are ruthless. There are even people out there who go around making databases of prices and selling them to competitors.

strange world of food stamp regulations 21.Jul.2005 18:43

andrea pdx

the food stamp policies about buying hot food or food intended to be eaten on store premises was set before in store delis became prevalent.

the policy was intended to discourage people being able to use food stamps in restaurant situations

so at Food Front what happens is that food out of the hot case or hot soups or hot coffee is coded in our registers to ring as a non food stamp purchase

also if a sandwich is ordered to be eaten on premises and comes up to the counter unwrapped on a tray, which shows intent to eat the sandwich on premises, then the purchase is not a food stamp transaction

however anything out of the cold case that comes up in a to go carton is a food stamp transaction. A sandwich that comes up wrapped to go is a food stamp transaction. Gazpacho soup which is a cold soup is a food stamp transaction.

A lot of our customers order sandwiches "to go" but wind up eating them on the store premises. When a customer comes up with their to go sandwich, we don't ask them if they are going to eat it at the store. So anyone with an EBT card is treated the same way. If they decide to eat a "to go" sandwich at our outside tables after they pay for it, that's up to them and not up to us to figure out if they can buy it with their ebt card or not.

So the rules are pretty arcane. We code the hot food items as not food stampable so that we show that we are complying with the regulations as they are presently written.

What needs to happen is that the USDA needs to change its rules about food that comes from in store delis and realize its the 21st century and not the 1970's.

Publish those comparisons! 22.Jul.2005 11:10

Another rouge price taker

About a year and a half ago, I took down the prices for the 100 things I most often buy at People's, Wild Oats, and the natural section of the Hawthorne Fred Meyer just to educate myself about the grocery market and now I wish I had published them. In fact, people should publish this kind of information on a regular basis. We would probably find, as I did about a year and a half ago, that co-ops are 10-20% cheaper across the board on bulk and produce items and tend to charge slightly more for packaged items. This kind of information would encourage people the buy from co-ops and buy fewer packaged items, the items most suseptible to pricee gouging anyway. It would also encourage co-op membership because the discounts allow people to get their basic items even more cheaply and allow people to break even on the packaged items.
The ruthless corporate chains will always try to lure people into their stores by undercutting the co-ops and independents on certain items. They will stop at nothing to get pricing information they need to try to trick the public. Our best defense is public awareness.

History of Nature's; strategy 22.Jul.2005 14:52

Bison Boy

Nature's history-

Nature's opened with one store on SW Corbett street near John's landing. ( http://www.aracnet.com/~lochness/StanAmy.html) After several years, they opened a second store on NE Fremont at about 24th, then a third store on 117th in Beaverton in an old Girod's warehouse a few years later. More stores followed, including a deli in Lake Oswego IIRC. (I sorta lost track about then.)

Eventually Stan Amy sold the whole shootin' match to GNC (General Nutrition Centers). I think this is about when they added the "Fresh Northwest!" bit to the name. That deal worked out pretty well for everyone, until GNC got into unrelated financial trouble a couple years later and had to sell its food business.

GNC sold Nature's to Wild Oats. The new corporate owner did not get on so well with the old Nature's staff, and many of them fled:  http://www.wweek.com/html/business092999.html. Don't expect Wild Oats to act like the old Nature's... it isn't.

Since then, many of the old hands at Nature's got together and launched New Seasons Market. New Seasons is the spiritual successor to Nature's, even though Wild Oats runs the old Nature's locations.  http://www.newseasonsmarket.com/seasonings/ASeasonedIdea.shtml


As for the original topic of price comparisons, I can see why a for-profit store's manager would be paranoid about it. However, I don't see any reason why a person should meekly comply with a manager's request to stop taking notes. (Beyond simple good manners, anyway.)

For starters, have some mercy on the poor manager through discretion. If they see you taking notes, they are probably obliged by corporate policy to act in ways they personally would rather not. (Just as I am obliged to stop skateboarders from riding the handrails at my work, or Oregon Country Fair security is obliged to keep people from smoking pot on OCF property.) Take notes on prices discreetly so staff doesn't notice. If staff does notice and inquires, lie and say you're doing party planning. (Great idea, Ed.) If you're not willing to lie, or if they tell you to stop anyway... just don't.

Say "I understand you're concerned about this information being used by a competitor, but it won't be. I am recording this publically posted information for my own personal fair use and nothing more, so don't you worry." Then keep right on doing your research. If the manager threatens to eject you, calmly say, "People's Food Co-op didn't mind me taking down this same information in their store. Would you rather let me do this and have a chance at profiting from my business, or stop me and lose it for certain and forever?"

If after that the manager wants to call security and have you escorted out, let him. Go quietly. He's within his rights and a big scene won't benefit anyone, least of all you.

But publicize the incident, and never shop there again.

five-finger discounts 22.Jul.2005 22:25


Fascinating to read all the rationalizations for theft here. I have trouble being sympathetic. For starters, I grew up working in my parents' grocery store in a small town. That's what paid my way through college. The bigger problem, however, is the thieves' overt cultivation of an us. vs. them mentality. It's an depressingly familiar tactic through human history: define someone else as "the other", the "evil", and then feel self-righteous and justified about ripping them off.

Lame 23.Jul.2005 01:43


"We didn't allow pricing either, not because we wanted to hassle actual customers who were pricing, but because it was common practice for large, corporate chains to come in and find out what we were charging, and then use that information against us."

I don't dispute your claim that it was store policy.

However, when I was a young tad, my mother knew what every store in town (not Portland) was charging for everything she bought regularly, as well as what was on sale whether she would buy it or not. When I grew up and became for a few years the grocery buyer for my collective of ten, I soon learned the costs of everything that I would buy. As well, how much people would eat, and how much extra they would eat if I brought home a 'brand-name' on sale instead of the regular no-name. I also learned that regular employees of a stable store could tell me what every item in the store cost and where it was located.

In short, the policy is bullshit. A competent chain-store spy does not need to write anything down. A person with normal memory ... and a little day to day familiarity with the business ... can easily remember the few products and prices significant for harrassing a supplier or driving a price-tussle.

RE: five-finger discounts 23.Jul.2005 06:54


Well, Anon, I don't know what to say except that it is not rationalization for us. Yes some thieves steal for greed, but realize that those people advocating theft here, for the most part, are anti-capitalists. That is we don't believe that peddling food to the poor is a good thing. You can call it rationalization, which seems an attempt to dismiss us as unreasoning, and conceited, but have you ever considered the morality of your parent's occupation? They took money from people for food! Food, a thing that is necessary for life, and your parents stood daily between people and those necessities. Demanding dollars or sending them away hungry. That is messed up. Now granted people have to work in this society, and your parents, along with most Americans, probably never put much thought into it, so I'm not making a judgment about the moral character of your parents, or anyone else who hasn't taken time to consider the way that capitalist society uses coercion to exploit the poor. However it is wrong to use threat of homelessness, starvation, negative social stigma, and destitution as a force to motivate a society. We envision a society better that, one that doesn't force those not fortunate enough to be born rich into a life of servitude to the industrial magnates who reap the profits of their labors.

People often steal because they are taught to want many things; things so lavish that they could never, through a wage slaves meager earnings, afford. Simply because they were unfortunate enough to be born into a family not of a privileged class.

We however steal, not because we desire decadent things, but instead because we have soberly reasoned that the mechanisms society uses to enslave the under-classes are wrong. We have better ideas for how people should organize and so, in a many-fold means of protest and revolutionary action, we steal. We steal to feed ourselves, and the poor, which often are the same. We steal because when we purchase from these institutions, which we are sometimes compelled by circumstance to do, we feel guilt, because we have contributed to the oppression of the unprivileged world-wide. And we steal because when we do nothing to harm the enemy, we are complicit in their evils, thus we steal to further our revolutionary ideals, at the expense of tyrants.

Stealing Wrong Under Most Circumstances 23.Jul.2005 07:52


I agree that stealing is wrong under most circumstances, and I too am anti-capitalist.

First, there are other ways to feed yourself if you are poor. And being a productive member of society (having a job that is meaningful to you--yes, there still are some of those available) can be fun and satisfying. That's not to say that all poor folks can or need to work, but i am guessing that most of the thieves on this list are capable of finding paid work which will support their ability to buy food. For those that can't or won't, i don't think stealing food is your only option for survival.

Second, the corporations are not gonna lose one cent so you are not tearing down the big corporation by stealing from them. They charge more to their working class paying customers to compensate for losses due to theft. And those working masses will pay, because they can't justify stealing in their minds. And the big corporations also compensate themselves due to theft by paying less to their suppliers (middle-men, to be sure, but it ultimately comes down to paying the farmers less). Also, the workers get paid less than they might. Everyone loses but the big guy at the top with the fleet of yachts. Stealing isn't helping this pattern.

All that said, I still support my local co-op and try to make food purchasing choices that enhance local production and de-emphasize all the bad stuff like packaging, mistreatment of workers, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of stuff sold by the co-ops now is made by huge corporations. We need to educate ourselves about which products to avoid and which to support.

Ultimately, please spend some of the time you aren't spending at a paying job coming up with some good systems for replacing the capitalist system, so that folks can eat. Stealing just promotes divisiveness of humanity, which is one of the problems we anti-capitalists are trying to eliminate.

coops 23.Jul.2005 10:44


i too prefer the coops in portland. only one thing: they ARE more expensive than new seasons (which is VERY expensive) wild oats and whole foods. i am vegetarian and it is simply too expensive to shop all the time at my local coop. end of story. but i do shop there whenever i can. 6$ for a green pepper?!? THAT is too expensive.

Division Wild Oats...Corperate whores or just Anal? Maybe both 23.Jul.2005 16:38


Working in a Portland Wild Oats location myself, I realise probably more than the average commentor, just how the personal mentality can degrade over time when you work in an environment such as the Division location. The managers are not overly concerned with being personable, customer-service oriented, or even nice. This is reflected in the employees, who have to deal with their abrasive and borderline abusive behavior. So to let the overwhelming negativity of one store, granted the cental office location, speak for all of the stores, let alone the entire chain, is silly. I'm not gonna say that I enjoy working for them, however let's be fair about this, justification of a position cannot be solidified based on the worst banana in the bunch. You might as well say that all corporations are inherantly evil based on the Enron scandal. But to play devils advocate, the more power you have the easier it is to get corrupted...
I can appreciate that it is wrong to discriminate, especially in what is supposed to be a professional work atmosphere, but it does happen. But the actions of a few in a position of power do not dictate the position of all those connected to them, or connected to something they are connected to.
I'm not entirely sure what Wild Oats Divisions problem is, but as far as I've been able to tell, it's resticted to Division. Possibly Lake Oswego, but I haven't researched enough yet. I would suggest that further examination of work related ethical conduct with customers should be attempted at the other stores as well, just to get better feel for the statistics. Plus it would be a more democratic way of going about it, which is the sort of society we supposedly live in anyway.
I've said my piece, and leave it to you to decide what to do with it. Just a friendly reminder to all to be a little more open-minded in all of the conflicts we encounter in our lives. It's hard for me sometimes, I can be quite opinionated, but I strive to anylize the situation carefully before I make generalizations. Thank you for your time.

Co-ops NOT most expensive 24.Jul.2005 13:54


"i too prefer the coops in portland. only one thing: they ARE more expensive than new seasons (which is VERY expensive) wild oats and whole foods. i am vegetarian and it is simply too expensive to shop all the time at my local coop. end of story. but i do shop there whenever i can. 6$ for a green pepper?!? THAT is too expensive."

I don't know what you're talking about. We'll buy our produce at People's Coop and then pop into New Seasons down the street for one item and I notice regularly that the prices per lb. at New Seasons are either the same or more expensive. In addition, Wild Oats is not only more expensive, but the non-organic produce they sell is often more expensive than People's organic produce!

Consistently, I am surprised how low the final total $$ is for the amount we had in our cart at People's. Yes, People's organic produce is going to be pricier than Freddy's non-organic, but this commonly held assumption that coops are the most expensive of all the stores needs to just die off.

Pathetic excuses 25.Jul.2005 05:03


I think you steal because you are lazy. You could start a farm somewhere and grow your own food. There are still groups of people who practicice communal living. Why not get into contact with them and start working on what it takes to join them? If you have some skill other than theft you could trade that to the community.

Unless you are using a computer in the library to post these messages, you obviously have alrdeady decided to reap the benfits of the corporate whores when it suits you by using the computer equipment that they sell.

You have the right to compare provided you aren't disruptive . . . . 10.Sep.2005 16:19

You have the right to compare provided you aren't disruptive

If this really upsets you,

the next time you are in there . . .

think of the important products,

scribbble your notes discretely,

or better yet pose as a typical yuppy suburbanite talking on her (or his) cell phone when you really have data recorder,


so we know where not to waste our money


PUT TO good WORK!!!!!

Re: My Trip To Wild Oats on Division 15.Nov.2005 04:45

author: Price Geek

I also do price comparison and have never encountered a problem. I was curious after reading this so I decided to call Wild Oats myself and the gentleman I spoke with was appalled.
I am into organic foods so Wild Oats is just one of the stores we shop at.
I always take my list in and I have never been harassed.
I do the same thing at Trader Joe's.
I do have contact info for Corporate if you need it? My guess is you were dealing with a ill mannered employee

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do... 02.Feb.2007 11:15


You know there were several times I found myself "sampling" food items at the "local" WildOats/New Seasons/Whole Foods, and found no problem writing down notes. Funny thing is, I'm not white. I'm what most people would categorized as, "What the hell IS this person?" Be that as it may, I have very little money, and dress very well. I guess that was the ticket for me. Y'know, no matter how "diverse" the employees are trained to "think," it's has been the nature to most people, to be "cautious." So to speak. I find it very easy to go to Wild Oats, go to the butcher, ask for the best slice of salmon, say thank you, chuck in my "WildOats" bag and walk out the store. All with a smile on my face. Maybe I should stop. However, all my money goes to the co-op because they are owned by REAL PEOPLE, and not some corporate big heads, taking over this country. Folks, do some research, they rule this nation, in fact, the Earth, and they will stop at nothing to strip the minority; Us. That's right, if your not rich, YOU are a minority in the eyes of corporate heads. White, black, hispanic, latino, whatever. If you don't rub elbows with these people, they could honestly care less. Period. I say be strong in what YOU want in life, and take more than just one Chocolate Haystack and much away. Like the employees, let alone the Managers there will lose any sleep.