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Whole Foods is watching you

From Bruce J. Miller:

On Memorial Day, I stopped at Whole Foods on Broadway in Chicago, one of the food stores I regularly visit, to pick up a few things. The last time I was there I had suggested to an employee that she research the safety of the COVID vaccines before deciding to take one. I referred her to the warnings of scientists such as Sucharit Bhakdi, Mike Yeadon, and Delores Cahill. Another employee overheard me and clearly took offense. “If you’re not vaccinated you’re supposed to wear a mask” he said, “You’re on the honor system.” He lectured me in a very patronizing manner. Since I had recently shopped at many national chain stores sans mask and no one said anything (the mandates having been lifted at major stores a couple of weeks before), I was surprised.

I think talking with people and calmly expressing one’s views is one of the greatest pleasures in life. This accords with my view of free speech and the urgency of making information widely available to people so they can make up their own minds. To that end I have been a publishers’ representative for more than forty years, an independent contractor representing a variety of publishers, and I have sold books written from every imaginable point of view on just about every social and political issue. For example, I have worked for Encounter Books, The American Enterprise Institute, The Feminist Press, and Chelsea Green Publishing.

Throughout the SARS-CoV-2 crisis, it has been my conversations with working people that have kept me going. Many working people view the COVID rules for what they are: arbitrary, baseless, and politically determined. At the Jewel Food Store on Berwyn Avenue, I have freely expressed my views on lockdowns, masks, and vaccinations. I’ve never had any problem with any employee or manager at that store.

I went to the fish counter and there was the man who had lectured me. I bought my fish and turned from the counter and—surprise—there at my elbow stood another store employee, one I didn’t know. “Hi, Bruce” he said.

“You know my name?” I asked.

“Some of the team members have been talking about you. You advised an employee here not to get vaccinated. Have you been vaccinated?”

“You’ve been talking about me? That’s none of your business” I said. “That’s a private matter.”

“No, it isn’t,” he replied. “It’s a matter of public health.”

“If I asked you what diseases you have or what medications you take,” I said, “that would be a violation of your privacy, and this is no different.”

“I have to ask you to wear a mask if you are going to shop here. It’s the law in Chicago. There’s an ordinance that says if you are unvaccinated, you must wear a mask. If you won’t wear a mask, I will call the police.”

“I’ve been to Jewel, Walgreens, Verizon, Trader Joe’s, and no one has asked my vaccination status, or told me to wear a mask.”

“Put on a mask or I will call the police.”

“So,” I said, “please call the police.” 

I went on shopping and paid for my groceries. As I was leaving, I saw that the manager who’d ambushed me—Eric Meyerberg—was standing at the customer service counter. I told him again that he was wrong to violate my rights. He followed me out of the store. I took about five minutes and explained the possible dangers inherent in the new, hastily administered vaccines. I told him I have relatives who died at Terezin. I explained to him that the Nazis used the fear of Jews as “disease spreaders” to stigmatize and isolate the Jews. I also told him I would notify activists and everyone I could about what he’d said. I told him that, although I had been shopping at the store since it first opened. I would shop there no longer.

When I got home, I called the Chicago Police Department and asked them if the law required me to wear a mask if I’m unvaccinated. “There is no law in Chicago that requires you to wear a mask,” I was told. “Stores can set their own policies. If you violate those policies and they call the police, the police might escort you out of the store, but that’s it.” 

I called Eric Meyerberg and told him he had given me patently false information and that there is no law or “ordinance” that requires me to wear a mask or tell him my vaccination status. He mumbled something about the “store’s legal team” keeping him informed.

I do not appreciate being tracked, monitored, and ambushed anywhere I do my shopping, preferring that the employees respect my privacy and my dignity. Clearly, Whole Foods respects neither. 

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