The produce emporium -- one of the nation's most renowned retailers of exotic fruits and vegetables -- creates its own bad behavior. Kamikaze shoppers crash down crowded aisles without eye contact or apology for fender-benders. So many customers weren't waiting to pay before digging in that management imposed the ultimate deterrent: Those caught sampling without buying will be banned for life -- no reprieves, no excuses. (Not even "I forgot to take my medication.")
Raphael Breines, who was ejected last year for eating on the premises, said he couldn't decide between two types of apricots, so he sampled both. Security stopped him in the parking lot.
"They treated me like a thief," said the 37-year-old park planner, who was photographed and required to sign a no-trespass agreement. "Technically I was stealing, but I wasn't trying to hide anything. I was just deciding which type of apricot to buy."
Breines, a longtime customer, sent an apology letter, asking to be reinstated. His request was denied.
Store manager Larry Evans says the policy is a fair response to doctors, lawyers and college professors who help themselves to bags of cookies, nuts and vitamins, stick their fingers in pies and guzzle from bottles of sake, assuming the rules don't apply to them.
"There's a sense of entitlement to this town," Evans said. "People think, 'If I want to do it, I'll do it, just try and stop me.' "