SHAKE YOUR FIST!

Financial Discrimination: Let Them Eat Cake, But Not At Fresh Market

In COLUMNS, Shake Your Fist! on December 30, 2009 at 8:52 am

By Shakur Pfist
Of Lehigh Valley What The Heck?!

The Fresh Market at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley caters to a clientele supposedly both wealthy and educated, the upper crust of the provincial area. But often with education comes a feeling of social responsibility, at least in principle. Not necessarily in practice, as I found out one afternoon, while shopping there.

As I moseyed down the resplendent aisles tastefully arranged with delicacies unsuited to the pedestrian palette, I also encountered a cornucopia of the basic, everyman, homegrown victuals most Americans have come to know and love (and eat), like apples and oranges, bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and more.

And though I must admit that I would not choose to shop there for staple foods, I found myself on the verge of hunger and hoping to buy a few quick items for that night’s meal. As I waited in line to check out, I couldn’t help but notice the fresh faced patrons, a clean cut and prosperous looking bunch, people so wealthy that they didn’t even have to try hard to look wealthy.

But looks can be deceiving. I was there too, I with my paltry journalist’s pay, possibly on the brink of being eligible for food stamps in this uncertain economy.

The harsh reality is that one heck of a lot of people are out of work. The unemployment rate for Pennsylvania is dropping by increments only as people are dropping off the radar. People are moving back home with older parents, going on welfare, living off savings or if lucky, going back to school in hopes of job retraining. College graduates, educated professionals are for the first time experiencing what it is to become poor, to live on food stamps, perhaps, while considering downsizing to section 8 housing.

So when I got to the front of the line, I blurted out “Do you guys accept food stamps?” Not that I had them. I was at first only joking, but while standing in the cue I had been musing about how things were really getting tight and I might just see if I qualified for the SNAP (food stamp) program. I fully expected the friendly cashier to say “Of course we do!”–it was almost a given in my mind, for in this economy I couldn’t conceive of ANY food store choosing not to participate in the food stamp program.

I was told that Fresh Market does not accept food stamps. When I expressed surprise (which was really outrage forced into the thin guise of surprise), the cashier even agreed with me, surprised himself. Just to double check, I asked one of the front end managers who assured me that Fresh Market does certainly NOT accept food stamps. It seemed she was proud of that fact.

I asked both the cashier and the manager if this seemed like discrimination against the poor, but to that there was no reply. (Crickets chirping in the silence…)

It was all too weird to be true. I had to find out if this actually was the policy, if Fresh Market was so obsessed with its image as the hoity-toity gourmet that it had, like its wealthy human brethren, lost complete touch with reality, with the economy, with what was going on in the world.

I got in touch with Kristen Cowart, a public relations representative for Fresh Market, and asked her about the chain’s policies. She said, via email, ”The Fresh Market does not currently accept EBT cards or food stamps… because we have concluded that the costs associated with participating in the program currently outweigh the benefits for The Fresh Market and its customers.”

When asked about the costs of the SNAP program to retailers, Jean Daniel of the USDA said there was no cost to retailers. “Retailers are not required to accept the program, it’s a business decision. We’ve seen a number of stores come on board recently, (like) Target and Costco, mainly because retailers understand that’s part of a business model. We can’t compel retailers to accept the program”. Daniel says 85% of all retailers that accept SNAP are grocery stores.

When I got back to Kristen Cowart of Fresh Market, confronting her with the USDA policy, she said, via email, “It is true that there is no government-associated cost to participate in the SNAP and WIC programs; however the cost to retailers is in the payment systems – software, hardware, data entry and administration – required to process transactions using EBT.”  Does anyone think for even a moment that Fresh Market is not already paying for most if not all of the above costs?

But when asked if she was aware that a grocery store having a policy of not accepting food stamps could be interpreted as a form of financial discrimination against poorer people, there was no response.

It boils down to this:

What The Heck was Fresh Market thinking, denying poor people access to groceries? In this economy?! What an elitist approach to business and customer service. But I guess you want to keep the riff-raff out. And why would you think that people on food stamps or even welfare don’t deserve to have a few special foods when they want? No, these aid recipients may not be your targeted clientele, but they’re human beings, like you and me, and some of them may have recently been making a decent living before getting laid off when the big bad economy blew their roof in. Many may go on to make a heck of a lot more money than your average employee makes. Then they will be your targeted clientele, but they won’t shop with you then, because you denied them now!

Many of your current patrons, who though wealthy, have great social conscience, will be shocked and appalled to know that Fresh Market practices financial discrimination, which can, needless to say, often result in racial discrimination. Think about it.

Fresh Market to the poor: “Let them eat cake, but don’t let them do it here! Don’t you dare desire that slice of brie with your Saltine crackers and ketchup soup!”

Shakur Pfist to Fresh Market: You might care about your customers, but you don’t care about people.

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  1. Shakur Pfist, you are a moron. Why don’t you find something useful to do? Help out at the food bank or become a clerk at Aldi, for example.

  2. I shop at Freash Market often. I also shop at Home Depot, Walmart, Kmart, Old Navy, Brooks Brothers, etc. Most people, including myself, don’t really care if fellow shoppers are rich or poor. One thing I can’t stand are liberals like Shakur Pfist. I would go out of my way to avoid liberals at any of these stores. Unfortuantely these days half the people at Fresh Market probably are liberals,and the worst kind…rich liberals, like Pfist, who write stupid articles for media.

    • I’m sorry you felt threatened by my story, but so it is. Also, you should make up your mind…am I a rich liberal or someone who needs a job as a clerk at Aldi? I mean, I’m definitely not rich, and I’m certainly not a “liberal”. I consider myself an independent. You would know this if you had read the previous post, which basically skewers the mayor of Bethlehem, whom I believe is a “liberal”, or at least is a Democrat. In this blog, on this site, all sides are fair game when they do something revealed as stupid, unconscionable or corrupt, especially when they are trying desperately to get away with something, trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the world. You should be happy knowing that I, Shakur Pfist, am the watchdog that howls when the thief comes to steal your chickens! And I don’t discriminate between the brown chickens and the white, the ones on the left or the ones on the right. Gee, that rhymes. How nice! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thank you for writing this article. Until recently I shopped weekly at The Fresh Market. I googled to see if this store accepted SNAP due to a drastic change in our family’s financial situation. It is unfortunate that The Fresh Market does not take into account the loyal customer that may have fallen on hard times and wishes to continue buying the food the are accustomed to eating with the assistance they are being given. Thanks for your article and “outing” a store that I assumed valued all of its customers.

  4. Shakur Pfist,
    I completely agree with you that Fresh Market has no good reason to deny usage of foodstamps. I find this new learned fact interesting to me individually on several different levels: I am presently awaiting a position to open at Fresh Market so I can become an official employee (they already offered me a lower paying job), I just this week started using foodstamps for the first time in my 27 years, and for all practical purposes I look and behave like the clientele Fresh Market caters toward. I say this because I am a professional opera singer, with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music from Indiana University. How ironic that Fresh Market wants to hire me but won’t allow me to use my 20% discount with my foodstamps.
    I liked Fresh Market as a company, from the perspective of both a consumer and an employee. They have a huge selection of fresh produce, meat and seafood. They have an in-house bakery. They have fresh peanuts that you can instantly grind up into peanut butter, which is actually cheaper than packaged peanut butter. They have fresh bulk coffee and nuts. They play classical music. From the other side of the fence, I was proud to work there because the company boasted that it took great care of its customers and its employees. Fresh Market has excellent customer service. I have witnessed it as a customer many times, and it makes me want to shop there. They offer admirable employee benefits, including vision and dental insurance. But I suppose that chunky insurance package is intended to balance out their employees’ low wages. I actually did work at Fresh Market for one day, which is when I learned from my fellow disgruntled employees that I would be making $8.00 an hour. It turns out I would be making $9.00 an hour, with no raise in the near future.
    Even though I desperately need a job, I realized this job is not going to keep me from financial disaster. I have school loans from both degrees, a car payment, and credit card debt from being financially independent since 18. I need more money- a position that requires more responsibility and skill level, which I’m told will be available hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will be doing most of my shopping at Kroger, where my foodstamps are welcome.
    -Elizabeth Koontz
    Soprano

  5. I used to work for the Fresh Market, and their whole attitude is to keep out the rif raf,or those who have to actually work for a living. It’s a shame, because the people who do all the work for them can not afford to shop where they work, and the wages paid do not afford most to have any medical insurance. Most of the people I worked with were great, but managers and the human resource departmant do not stick up for their employees. I was poked and pushed by an Assistant Manager when I asked why he had fired one of my under 18 clerks who wanted to go home because he didn’t feel well. I got yelled out, pushed and poked in the shoulder, and human resources talked to me and him and he got no repremand and he now works at the Corporate Office. I who managed the front end for 6 years was let go because I stopped a shoplifter and called the Police. My Manager on duty was too busy on personal phone calls to respond to his pages to come to the front to help. Shows you what over 6 years of loyal service will do for you. My advice to every one is to stay away.

  6. I used to work for the Fresh Market and they prefer to keep out the rif raf or any one that has to work for a living. The pay between men and women is very disparaging. The employees are paid low wages and most can not to shop where they work let alone afford health insurance. This is a company that allows a person to work “help out” as a manager with out the pay, help to train up and coming managers and give no compensation. A company that has you as a corporate trainer with the promise of pay compensation and then decided it is against their best interest. A company that would let a rather large Assistant Manager yell at, push and poke in the shoulder the Front End Manager/ “acting Manager” and not even give him a repremand (he now works at the Corporate Office) and Fire the Front End Manager for stopping a shoplifter and calling the police. Apparently it is their policy to not accept food stamps from the poor, but it is ok to shoplift.

  7. I am a commercial airline pilot with six years’ of higher education, including a Masters degree, and used to shop at the Fresh Market five times a month (when I was at home from trips). Unfortunately, my company furloughed many of us due to budget cuts and I have desperately been looking for work for the past six months. Unfortunately, you cant just show up to a company and say “Hey, I’m an airline pilot, I’d like a job next Monday, thanks.” My profession requires a very specific skill set which is non transferable to other careers and, after desperately trying, I’ve finally had to face the cold hard fact that I can’t afford to eat basic foods. This is complpetely new to me. I’ve just been approved for EBT food stamp benefits (yes, the ones I have been paying into for years with my taxes) and am outraged at the Fresh Market’s elitist reaction to this wavering economy.
    You’re absolutely correct when you refer to those who “will probably end up making more money than your average employee”. When I do get recalled back into the airlines and settle into a salary that will far surpass theirs, I absolutely will not take my business there again. Thank you for this enlightening article.

  8. This is a great article, I was wondering did they accept them, but since they don’t when I go on to be big and bad, I will not shop there, walmart it is, always… Thanks

  9. I had the misfortune of working at a Fresh Market for a little over a year and find it ironic that they pay poverty wages yet don’t accept food stamps. The whole upscale image is a sham anyway. 90% of what you see comes in frozen. The bacon wrapped scallops aren’t even wrapped and skewered in the store! Oh, but you’ll pay a premium price for your frozen food.

    Anyone who’s been inside a Whole Foods should realize Fresh Market is just trying to impress southern rubes with a little extra spending money.

  10. I partially agree and disagree with your article. First of all I was recently fired from the fresh market for reasons that are ridiculous. However it is their right not to except food stamps, I have myself had to use food stamps but in reality a lot of the things you can buy at the Fresh Market you can buy at Wal-Mart or Meijer you just need to know where to look and it is very unsettling to see people who need food stamps to come in with their 10 kids and want to buy 50 dollars worth of sushi. Also with my year and a half of standing at the front end the kind of “rif raf” they are trying to keep out are the parents who come in and don’t watch their children and they are running around sticking their hands and the bins. I think that you should have been more concerned about how society as a whole are becoming very rude especially when it comes to cell phones I would rather have to tell someone we don’t except food stamps then have to listen to constant phone conversations I could care less about and then get in trouble by my boss because the person forgot their groceries. The Fresh Market not excepting food stamps isn’t that big of concern considering each town has a bunch of grocery stores and just so you know when our store opened in 2009 it helped improve my experience at other grocery stores they were cleaner and for the most part their customer service improved I mean when was the last time you were at a big chain grocery store or a Target and they offered to load your bags in your car and all you had to do was pull up to the curb?

    • Just because someone is on foodstamps doesn’t mean their.childen run around stores and are not supervised. I worked at Walmart as a cashier for 2yrs and most of the uncontrollable children I came across were not using foodstamps!

  11. I went into my first Fresh Market today with a friend. Picked up some mushrooms and a couple of other things. When my food stamp card was denied, I was incredulous. Are you kidding me? I can’t buy food from your shitty store? The cashier actually said to me, “It’s only $10!” I’m not kidding. It’s only $10. What a clueless, scary attitude to have. I am still just so pissed about it all. Oh well, they can sit on their throne and eat their bonbons, and sneer down at all us lowly serfs.

  12. Here’s another point…people on Food Stamps aren’t necessarily poor because of the economy…I’m 26 years old and have very severe Crohn’s disease that’s left me without feet of my intestines due to multiple extensive emergency surgeries to remove perforated abscesses in my intestines. Just recently I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis as well. I was found disabled last January after 2 years of battling the government. With my arthritis this bad, it’s almost impossible for me to take care of myself (let alone do normal things like WALK or change my clothes or get up out of a chair). I get food stamps not because I don’t want to work or even that I can’t find a job…I get them because I’m physically unable to be a productive member of society. If I didn’t have food stamps, I’d have no way to feed myself. Social Security Disability isn’t that much money every month! So thanks Fresh Market for keeping the “riff-raff” out…because I sure as hell had a choice when my body completely failed me at 19 years old 2,000 miles away from the nearest family member. Even WHOLE FOODS takes Food Stamps!!! That just makes Fresh Market look PATHETIC, and yes, they are discriminating, but not just towards the people they think they are, they’re also discriminating against people who are legally disabled!

  13. I both agree and disagree with this as well. I agree in that tax payers are providing you with money to purchase food and regardless of the reasoning behind your need for financial assistance you should be “responsible” with this money. Fresh market is expensive! Why purchase chicken at $6.99/lb when it’s available somewhere else for half the price? Now I also disagree with this in that who has the right to tell me I don’t deserve organic/farm raised/etc. food just because I can not, for my own personal reasons, afford it. I am a single mother with 3 children and because of a car accident am now disabled. Prior to my accident we shopped Fresh Market but now go to Whole Foods. My children still deserve the same food regardless of my accident and it’s disgusting to be treated any different. They had no problem taking my money when it was coming out of my bank account!

  14. So, people want to mooch off the taxpayer’s money to get their little luxury treats? You do not deserve it – Welfare is there to help you survive, not to pay for your superfluous items while you leech off of the taxpayer’s money, who, y’know, actually work for a living and contribute something to society, instead of demanding champagne and strawberries on a toilet water budget. And before anyone starts bellowing about elitism, I was once on a similar budget. Working a minimum wage job full-time while going to university full-time, with NO ONE to help me out with any costs whatsoever. Nothing, nada, zip. I lived in a one bedroom hole, ate generic brands of foods and shopped for my precious few misshapen, discolored but edible vegetables at the flea market. Yes, the flea market, and not one of those upscale farmer’s markets either. I’m talking about a flea market where everything smells like old carpets and the vegetable stand actually takes EBT cards. Why? BECAUSE I COULD NOT AFFORD ANYTHING ELSE, and I freaking sucked it up and got through it. Yes, I know, I didn’t have kids, it’s different with kids, blah blah blah, but really, what you’re teaching your children is to expect the best without having to work for it. It’s okay though, Uncle Sam will foot the bill!

  15. Here’s a clue. I work two jobs and can;t afford to ship at some high end place like this. Why is it so outrageous that someone using my tax money can;t shop there? I’m hardly entitled to drive a BMW even though my jobs involve life saving. Why should someone who is taking from rather than contributing to society feel entitled to shop above their means. The entire purpose of food stamps, WIC, etc is to provide for Maslow’s basic needs. Milk is milk, veggies are veggies.

    I’ve noticed the food tastes no different if it comes from local market or obnoxious Yuppie mart du jour. If it comes from government bennies shop at someplace where you can maximize your purchase. You are not, and should not be concerned with the label on the bag. Especially if the tax payer is buying.

    • In response to “Sporkers” and “Dude”:
      Everyone has some valid points on this matter, however it’s important to understand who exactly, in this current economic climate, is on food stamps. Many many families who were middle, lower-middle, and working class have been hit hard by the economy, and breadwinners in these families may have had hours reduced and need food stamps in order to focus their cash money on rent/mortgage and bills. Students and dislocated workers who may, as adults, also have returned to school often can only work part time, needing food stamps to supplement their income or that of their family until they graduate. These people are not on cash assistance, for the most part. These people are not sponging off the system. They’re trying to get back on their feet. They have paid into the system most of their lives and are trying to recover while maintaining some vestige of middle-class existence. Many people on food stamps are elderly or disabled. Some need special diets and have extreme food allergies.

      It’s odd, given the current DEPRESSION, yes, not recession, as the other media would have it, that the average Joe would begrudge food stamps to the type of people mentioned, calling them “leeches”, etc. As for shopping at Fresh Market, for some people it’s the closest place for them to shop and they don’t have transportation alternatives. It’s not about champagne and strawberries. (Incidentally, Fresh Market does not bill itself as a gourmet shop: it is a supermarket with conventional meats, fruits and vegetables.) It’s the principle that groceries are a basic need and that no supermarket should discriminate on the basis of finances or dictate to the individual what food they should eat or where it should come from. Yes, there are much more economical choices, of course, who does not know this? However, it is not for you or me to make another individual’s choices. If you think it’s your right to choose what poor people can eat and where they can buy it, go to your representative–that’s what they’re for. Poor people are not criminals. What if some random mom wants to get an apple for her hungry kid and she’s near a Fresh Market? Should she not be able to use her food stamps? What if she’s out looking for a job in the area and has no other recourse but to stop there? But alas, it will be to no avail, because Fresh Market is firmly set upon the lower ground. Again, most of these people have paid into the system their whole lives and probably more than you. It’s not just YOUR taxes. It’s THEIR taxes too.

      It’s Fresh Market’s right, as a private business, to formulate their own policies, however, if enough people are angry about it, they will either change their policies or face losing customers.

    • Let’s keep it real. Your article comes across a misguided and a little patronizing. Keep in mind that some of us are actually familiar with the location of the Fresh Market of which you speak, and that some of us actualy know what it’s like to BE poor. This article is primarily about people who swung for the brass ring and missed, who then bemoan their fates and who refuse to change their lifestyles one whit.

      Admittedly, you give some lip service to the elderly and disabled, but, in the course of writing this article, have you bothered to actually sit down and TALK to some of these people to see if buying groceries at Fresh Market with food stamps was remotely a concern? I am not the journalist here, so I haven’t done the research.

      Well, I lied. First, out of sheer curiosity, I checked the bus schedules to see how I would get to Fresh Market if I had to rely on public transportation (which so many elderly and disabled folks do. A simple twelve minute drive would instead require me to walk and to take two buses, bypassing a perfectly good PathMark on the way, taking me an hour and 15 minutes to get there. You would garner a lot more sympathy had you written about how a miscommunication between a certain corporation that runs retirement homes and the public transit system resulted in a bunch of elderly people no longer having a way to get their groceries. (Yes, this DID happen.) Without that, these people have no choice but to buy their groceries at convenience stores, bodegas, and independents where the prices are higher. I can tell you of one such store that was finally condemned because, well, it smelled like urine, and the inventory had the expiration dates crossed out to hide the fact that it was sitting there for ages. Shake your fist at THAT!

      Then, I went to the SNAP website and looked at the eligibility standards for one to receive benefits. For a single person (and I am making an assumption here, since you haven’t mentioned any children), you would have to be making just about minimum wage to qualify. Believe it or not, there ARE jobs out there that pay a living wage. They might not be in your career field, and they might not carry much prestige, but since when has prestige put food on the table?

      Believe me, there are a lot of things to get worked up about in terms of our economy. I just don’t think whether or not Fresh Market accepts food stamps is even on the radar.

  16. Fresh Market would be “discriminating against the poor” if they didn’t let them in the door. As it is, the “poor” have the same right to pay cash for their food that everyone else has.

    And before you jump on me about the “fact” that those on food stamps “don’t have any cash” (which is funny because most of them can afford cigarettes, scratch tickets, and pet food for pets they can’t afford, and yes I used to work in the grocery biz), how is that Fresh Market’s fault? Fresh Market didn’t make you poor so why is it their job to save you and take care of you? They’re a retailer, not Mother Teresa.

  17. Regardless of whether one is working or not, the situation is tough if you qualify for food stamps. Why wouldn’t you want to get the most for your foodstamp $ and shop at a less expensive store so you can get more with them? Strictly from a personal perspective that makes sense.

    Then throw in the fact that taxpayers are subsidizing it? There’s no shame in needing assistance to get back on your feet. But shouldn’t you be using that money wisely? I rarely shop at high end grocery stores myself just because I don’t see the need to spend more for food than I have to. I’d be even more frugal if I were shopping on the taxpayer dime.

    • One only gets a certain amount of food stamps either way. People don’t get more or less depending on what they buy. Therefore, if they spend more on healthier foods (at the Fresh Market or elsewhere), they’ll run out sooner. Thus, if they make such a decision, they’ll have to either stretch that food further or spend more cash on food by the end of the month, which just goes back to the economy and is a good thing. How does it benefit you, as a tax payer, for them to be more frugal? o_0

      I am currently on SNAP benefits–am a single mom and a recent college grad. Hopefully, I will not qualify for them for much longer. But in the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep myself and daughter healthy with good or at least decent foods, even if we have less of it. Oh, and I’m a tax-payer, too. I was long before I was on SNAP benefits, and will be long after they expire.

  18. I can’t believe this. Today was my first time in this store. It is not a place I would shop everyday, because of the inconvinience. But I am sad that they descriminate against laid off- out of work families.

    I will not go back there again now that I know this.

    No I am not democrat… 100% republician but decrimination is decrimination.

    My mom has ms and is on ebt and because she is handicapp– she doesn’t deserve to shop there. As a matter of fact I don’t think I remember seeing a motorized cart there today.

  19. You pretty much wrote our story. Our family went from a very comfortabe 6 digit income to absolutely nothing.

    My husband was laid off in November of 2009, a week before thanksgiving, and only after 17 months of serious job hunting and emailing his resume out a bazillion times was he able to find employment. During that time we lived off of savings, but really? How many American families have enough savings to carry them for 17 months?

    We did finally apply for food stamps & medicaid. I’m very thankful that such a system is in place that will aid families when they truly need it. Shame on businesses…. prospering businesses at that….. that do not feel the need or desire to offer the same support to it’s struggling clientele. Those of us who go from wealth to poverty and then back to wealth again will be highly discriminating in our patronage. Fresh Market be warned!

  20. Bravo! You made excellent points stated well. You focused on the humanity of the people using EBT. It’s also true that they have paid into that system and are accessing what is set aside for people if they do need help. It’s right to get the best deal when buying things, no matter how you pay for them. But it’s also perfectly fine to splurge now and then and have nice items. Being on food stamps does not take away someone’s humanity. They are still people. Plus, remember sometimes people on EBT are having some hard times. Things may not be the greatest for them at the time. Buying a few treats at the grocery store may be one of the few joyous things they have. They don’t have yachts to spend time on; they can’t go somewhere for the weekend, and they may not be able to even see a movie-like some greedy, wasteful rich people can. Why do people not point out how wasteful and ridiculous the spending practices are of a lot of wealthy people if you wanna point a finger at how people spend money? If it’s good for food stamp users to spend their money wisely would their not also be a moral reason for rich people to spend their money wisely, contribute more to the poor, and use some of their wealth to help others?

  21. Did you know that EBT payments are processed in the exact same manner as debit cards, even using the already existing machines? So, what “expense” is involved to Fresh Market for starting acceptance?

    I just want them to answer that.

    In regards to the “nicer things” comments…. What about the disabled person on EBT who is trying to eat Healthy/Organic to get their health back, possibly even recover from a major illness (cancer, etc..)??

    They don’t deserve to be able to eat healthy?

    This whole EBT thing with Fresh Market has been ticking me off ever since I first found out about it 2 years ago.

    At that time, due to the sudden closing if the company I worked for, my family and I were on EBT for a short period of time.

    We were trying to fix our Children healthy alternatives to the school lunches, and went in search of Fresh Markets “bulk” Trail Mix and dried fruit.

    Long story short, I ended up leaving 5 lbs of fruit and nuts at the cash register and walking out when I was “declined” and it was said loudly “We don’t take Food Stamps,” LOUDLY by the Cashier.

    Long story short, I am still infuriated over this, even to this day.

    It is now my mission to try and bring this to the attention of the News Media, Social networking sights, ACLU, etc.

    It is discriminatory, plain and simple. There is NO other explanation for it.

    Fresh Market, would you like to comment, if you’re out there watching? And please cite NUMBERS, not just the old “not financially plausible” comment. We all know this is BULL SH*T.

    FYI, my family owned a grocery store for 15 years. We loved EBT, because it was GUARANTEED PAYMENT, straight into the bank, and no worries of bouncing checks.

  22. Thank you for writing this article! I am a recent graduate of a four year liberal arts college. I am also a broke, divorced, single mother. While I teach creative writing for an after-school program and tutor in various subjects for a living, this is not enough for me to make it. I am still on section eight and SNAP at the moment, as I was for the last three years of college. I have recently been attempting to change my diet and my daughter’s to one that consists of more natural and organic foods and would like to shop at the Fresh Market occasionally for just this reason. I find it a tad absurd that my “hand-up” (because god knows it’s not just a “hand-out” for me) is rejected by the fresh market while I am the same person teaching many of the children of their uppity clientele–not to mention that I live in the same neighborhood as them (section eight and all) and recently graduated from the same college that many of them attended and/or plan to send their children to.

  23. I think they should accept EBT it’s snotty not to. They’re basically saying we want to cater to people with money, we don’t want the poor or disabled or elderly to shop here if they don’t ahve cash ro credit. I don’t know how long they will survive with this attitude. I can definitely say their food tastes better than the mass markets who take food stamps. I think those places are the ant poison to thin out the population to save the planet. I don’t think Fresh market is perfect but many of its products are superior. You food stamp people go do occupy Fresh Market and protest! On the other hand, I do feel beggars can’t be choosers and you have plenty of mass regular markets to shop in. It doesn’t give you the right to be able to get gourmet foods on the tax payers tab. I know there are some staple things there but there’s usually a regular market somewhere near that takes them so you can’t fully complain. I think the food stamp system needs to be overhauled. A minority use it the right way but many I see have carts full of junk foods. I knew one girl who left the country to marry some guy and she was trying to get her mom to keep using the food stamps saying she worked hard to get them. She even asked the mom to get her SSI money and send it to her. When we expressed disgust it suppsoedly stopped. The mom wouldn’t touch her food stamps anyways. She at one point talked to me about how to fake getting SSI. Strangely she ended up having all these operations, I think she made herself sick, and she got an atty and got SSI and backpay for like 3-4 years. She partied with the 20-30K left after the lawyer’s cut. I can’t remember the exact numbers. Now when she met a man ina nother country she is miraculously healed. She found her own sugar daddy. Some humans are such bad seeds. The trouble is there are so many growing numebrsof them they are ruinging it for people who really need it.

  24. i think everyone in johnson tn needs to see all this on the fresh food market

  25. I just left the new FM in Crystal Lake, IL and had a similar experience to the above article. I asked the clerk if EBT cards were accepted and was told (quite rudely) “NO.”. When I asked why I was informed it was due to processing costs. RIDICULOUS! Like many others out there I am going through a difficult financial time right now and my child and I qualified for the SNAP program. I’m 37 years old and have held down a consistent job since the age of 15. I’m not taking advantage of the system, I’m relying on it to help me through a temporary difficult time.
    Fresh Market doesn’t care about communities and people. They are predjudice.

    • I also just left The Fresh Market in Crystal Lake. I didn’t even ask, just Googled it and came across several articles like this one. I am quite honestly ashamed to be on SNAP, but it’s what we have to do. I was a housewife for years, have several [very young] children with my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and am in a position where daycare would make it expensive to work. So, we’re on SNAP while I get a home business started. Those dollars are not good enough for The Fresh Market, so I’ll be spending them at a local grocery store instead.

      As someone who once had a fairly generous food budget, I find it laughable that so many are stating The Fresh Market offers “premium” products or a “champagne and strawberries” experience…Give me a break. Their prices were comparable to Jewel, Trader Joe’s and even Wal-mart. Their products were similar in quality, too. There was nothing “upscale” about The Fresh Market other than the classical music and space-consuming bins of bulk candy. If my family is the type of “rif-raf” they want to keep out, I will be more than happy to *not* spend my dollars there when I am wholly self-sufficient again.

  26. Fresh Market opened a store in Johnson City, TN in January of this year. I was very excited to see them coming because I eat mostly fresh organic vegetables and fruits due to an illness I had many years ago which resulted from eating processed and chemically laden foods which are in most stores these days. I am 54 years old, have worked my whole life and for the first time am getting EBT. For those of you who don’t know, EBT is a supplemental program that is provided to people who already have a job but are below poverty level. My household has only one person making a little more than minimum wage and we cannot get by without the EBT money. We are both college educated and have worked hard most of our lives but due to the job market and personal circumstances cannot find good paying employment. We shop very carefully with our EBT money. I check all the store fliers and use coupons very frequently to stretch the money. I also can shop at my farmers market here in the summer which, by the way, doubles EBT money due to a special program they currently have. I went into Fresh Market and found some low priced things on special sales such as oranges, spinach, nuts and waited in line at the checkout only to find that they wouldn’t accept the EBT. They have a big sign up at the edge of the counter just when you walk up to pay “NO EBT!” Not only was I embarassed but angry that they didn’t even have the courtesy to put a sign on the door to warn you. I have never been in a grocery store that didn’t accept EBT. Just because I’m on EBT does not mean that I don’t have some cash to spend. It is a supplemental program. It also doesn’t mean that I will eat the junk they sell at other stores. Part of the reason there are so many people on assistance is because of health issues associated with a poor diet. Many of the stores they normally shop in just don’t carry healthy food. If Fresh Market had any forethought at all to their business they would welcome people like “us” who simply want to stay healthy regardless of their circumstances. The good thing is that if you look around carefully in the store you will find out that most of their stuff is just plain overpriced and can be found elsewhere for a lot less. So does that make the people who are willing to pay the prices wealthy and sophisticated or just bad consumers. Part of the reason prices are so high in stores is because people are willing to pay them. We need to all shop more carefully. I will not go to Fresh Market ever again. I think their policy is ridiculous and am happy to support my Farmers Market and health food store. I predict they won’t last long in Johnson City. They have too much competition.

  27. Sometimes it is hard to believe what people think they are entitled to.

    The Fresh Market offers a generally premium product, one that tax payers should not foot the bill for, under any circumstances! It is absurd to think that one is entitled to have the highest quality food when the entire point of the food stamp system is to help families feed themselves and their children. Think about how much more food someone could buy at Wal-Mart versus The Fresh Market on food stamps.

    The sense of entitlement in this country is astounding. Should food stamps cover a $300 meal at Flemmings? I think not.

    • Thanks for your comment! It’s important to hear all opinions on an issue, and that’s why I post comments from people who both agree and disagree with articles. There are valid points on either side, however it’s important that people make a lucid argument when commenting rather than post knee-jerk reactions, or make wild assumptions about the author based on their own prejudices.

      No one is arguing for people on EBT to go out and buy capers and caviar on public money. But the idea that ANY food store would reject EBT–it’s the principle of the thing. Food is a basic need. Also, no matter what the case, many of the people who are now on EBT are for the first time experiencing long term unemployment, and these are people who have paid into the system without ever taking from it, for years and years. Sure, they’ll now have to make concessions to get the most bang for their EBT buck, but these are the people that ARE entitled to EBT…they’ve paid for it many times over. “Welfare Moms” as many “conservatives” (and many liberals too) call them, are not the people who will wind up of an afternoon at a Fresh Market and want to buy a little something spur of the moment. It’s the people who were once making 40K and up, whose 99 weeks have run out, and who are used to Fresh Market being their local market, who may not have yet adjusted to Aldi’s and Amelia’s, and who are trying to maintain some measure of “normalcy” in their lives, so that they can keep going on. If some commenters do not understand that there’s a difference between those who make a lifestyle of welfare and have done so for generations and those who have been hit by the recent DEPRESSION and have never taken assistance, that’s not my problem. That’s more a case of willfully misinterpreting the article to justify their own prejudiced responses. Most of the negative commenters (not this one, however) have expressed opinions that smack of both racism and sexism, and are therefore, to me, invalid. However, there are people out there who simply disagree and state it emphatically, but respectfully and lucidly, like Clete. So thanks for your response! I may not agree, but I respect your right to disagree.

  28. Kristen Cowart:
    You were recently accused of discrimination against the poor. (Shakaur Pfist ) By your failure to respond to the question of why Fresh Market does not accept EBT programs in nationwide stores, you are looking shoddy and I can only say: SHAME on YOU Kristen.
    SHAME on you fresh market for keeping this woman on your payroll.
    I will take my business elsewhere.

    Shakur, I sent this to Kristen. I hope she gets it.

  29. Great point. I see arguments from both sides, however, all I will ask these questions:

    What does this company do to give back to the communities that surround the stores?

    What is the average pay of their employees compared to the average pay of their targeted consumers?

    Does this company offer benefits to employees to balance pay such as tuition assistance/reimbursement, AFFORDABLE medical insurance, matched retirement plan, and etc.?

    Stores like this are all about one thing, MONEY. Of course, that is why any company goes into business, but for myself I look at what a company does for the community.

    Myself, I was a manager at a Logistics company making about $60,000 a year with a child while in college and was laid off. Even though I came with years of experience, great references, and a degree, I was still out of work a year later despite applying for 20 to 30 positions weekly including all levels underneath management. I eventually qualified for SNAP benefits, even though it wasn’t much. For me, I would rather spend them at a store that gives back to the community. Keep in mind that I was a taxpayer and my tax money went to fund programs like this for years. I hate to hear people say that people who use food stamps don’t deserve certain things, spending tax dollars etc. because you never know when it could be you that has to suck in your pride and accept food stamps or go without eating. In life, nothing is guaranteed.

    I don’t care where somebody spends their money, earned or unearned, but it does show about the integrity of the company. I have spoken with many of their employees who can not afford to buy groceries there. Then again, what is the big hoopla about this store to begin with? I previously did marketing campaigns for some of these companies that supply the products to the stores who will tell the “upscale” customers there anything just to get them to pay for a “premium” product. One of these products was a “luxury” ice cream, that was simply the same ice cream you can purchase for under $4.00 at a large chain store, compared to the smaller container and $7.00 price tag at Fresh Market.

    I would rather go to a local fish market or butcher shop to buy specialty goods, and it would be a better price and support local store owners that support the community.

    Oh, and I did find one of the comments very hilarious…..I am wondering to myself what “republician” and “decrimination” are….can someone please let me know? LOL.

    Very good article again!

  30. I most certainly am shocked at the fact that my favorite grocery store would turn me away because of my financial situation… I most definitely will find somewhere else to shop I refuse to support such a place and they should be ashamed. Sorry Fresh Market but you have lost my business of almost $450 a week!!! I sure hope that other people see you for what you are .

  31. How DARE the Fresh Market NOT accept SNAP-EBT-food stamps!!! This IS discrimination!!! I plan on informing as many as I possibly can UNTIL the “Fresh Market” changes and finally ACCEPTS food stamps…which shouldnt even be called that anymore since it is a credit card type of payment. How dare they discriminate…my mother is a retired ceo of a major corporation & had to recently apply for this program..she shopped regularly @ this store & now cannot!!!!!!!!

    • I am on dialysis and receive food stamps… I recently found out fresh market doesn’t accept EBT and was kind of shocked. Their prices aren’t that different from our other grocery stores, but the products are SO much better and healthier for you.. I live in the south and there are no other healthy stores here – we have fresh market and that’s it… I do feel like “well maybe I don’t deserve to shop there” because that’s what’s been drilled into my head, I’m a lower member of society and should be happy to eat junk so that my money will stretch farther… But then the same people who say we don’t deserve good food bitch and moan when people on EBT buy bad food – so what do you want us to do? For now I buy the “healthy” food at Walmart and watch it go bad within 2-3 days and do it again… Seems to be my only option for now.

  32. If Fresh Market is happy to eviscerate themselves of the potentially tens of millions of dollars in SNAP revenue from those eligible shoppers, they are simply sub-moronically stupid.

    Stores like this are merely artificial-superficial window dressings, encasing overvalued product merchandised toward the consumer who lacks the ability or desire to be value conscious.
    Find a Whole Foods Market in your area, they will be proud to accept your SNAP/EBT dollars, and you can have the same shopping experience, if not better!

  33. This really is a great article creating shocking awareness and insight!

    I have an idea. Drive change. A national movement that creates a situation of awareness via a wastefull need to allocate additional staff and resources.

    Go to your local Fresh and order up a ton of stuff; 2 Lbs of this 5 lbs of this; pull massive quantities of product off the shelves; load your cart and come up to the cashier and check out.

    “Your total is $341.79″…you swipe your EBT…what no EBT icon??… you swipe again….Uh Oh…”will that be credit or debit?” …”It’s an EBT card, you know, SNAP” .. “What’s that?” “It’s SNAP .. The US Governments supplemental nutrition assistance program” …”No I’m sorry, we don’t accept that”.
    “Would you like to use another form of payment?”. “No thank you, I wouldn’t..This is all I have. Virtually every retail food market chain in the United States accepts EBT/Snap why don’t you?”

    Prepare yourself for subjective, witless and uninformerd commentary from the cashier

    Sincerely apologize for the shopping cart full of product left behind, and exit stage right.

    Perhaps when enough of these instances make it’s way to corporate management, they will reconsider their position on the matter.

  34. Give me a break it is a business decision! Plenty of other places to purchase groceries. If they are in food stamps go where groceries are cheaper since the tax payers are footing the bill.

  35. Big deal. Some poor cannot afford to shop at Fresh Market. I cannot afford to live in New York. I have learned to accept that and you should do the same.

  36. Well, it is a business so they have been given the right to discriminate. I myself am a fulltime working mother and I am in school as well. I am vegitarian because there is so much garbage in our food, I choose to feed my 2 year old the best I can. I am a teacher’s assistant and although the pay is low, I love my job! I too use EBT. I am a tax-payer as well. I would like for Fresh Market to accept EBT but I am not worried about it because I shop at Kroger and Whole Foods and I get what I need and it is healthy.

  37. Good for Fresh Market
    People on good stamps do not need to shop at gourmet food stores

  38. This is a capitalist system, every business has the right to accept or not accept any form of payment they please. Some companies accept visa and MasterCard but do not accept Discover or other credit cards for reasons that they determine are harmful to the success of the business that they operate and invested money in. To cry discrimination simply because they don’t accept food stamps (EBT cards) is political correctness run amuck! Get over it and shop someplace else!

  39. You come across as a twitching ball of adrenaline waiting to pounce on a business using discrimination as a key word for getting attention.

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