I was assaulted by a Whole Foods security guard twice. Now I am suing.
Let me start by saying that I am a peace freak.
As a kid, I even had a nickname for it— and any time my family members had to quarrel, it threw me in a state of anguish because I felt love for all of them. And today, all grown up, I still feel happy whenever I manage to resolve a misunderstanding in a human manner, heart to heart. Call me a tree hugger if you want — but peace is my jam despite all the crazy things I have been through, and I stand by it.
Enter Whole Foods.
Before they were acquired by Amazon, I used to be a fan. I shopped there all the time and became friends with many of the people working at my neighborhood store. I would go there, greet my Whole Foods family, have a mega hug fest, and leave with a smile on my face and a recyclable bag filled with a bunch of healthy nonsense I didn’t need.
And then one day last year, as I was exiting my store, a strange woman tackled me with full weight of her body, no warning. I screamed. Before you call me a snowflake for freaking out, let me say that I have lived through things much darker than what one would expect from the color of my skin and never sued anybody — I have been through domestic abuse and severe physical violence on more than one occasion (if you want to know my background, see this Univision podcast) — and a snowflake, I am not. If anything, I am a hardened type. But because she jumped at me out of nowhere, I assumed I was being robbed — and who loves being robbed?
The woman then demanded that I give her my bags, which I refused to do because she was not wearing any IDs, and I assumed that she intended to deprive me of my possessions. So on my request, we went inside the store, me still holding onto my bags for my dear life — and then she subjected to what felt like a sadistic session of intentional humiliation. She seemed to really enjoy putting me through a military drill-like procedure, telling me where to go, what to do, threatening to call the police if I filmed her (which I welcomed — but she didn’t do it after all). I felt like completely humiliated and betrayed by the store.
Mind you, all of this was happening not at a random store but at a store where many of my friends worked (who were all off shift that evening), where I usually felt loved and welcome. Being a freedom-loving artist from the former Soviet Union who is extra allergic to anything totalitarian, I felt squashed. Unexpected physical violence, degradation, the absurd implication that I was a criminal — and why?
I felt like the name of that store was not Whole Foods but Whole Kafka.
Finally, after the manager on duty let me go, I cried all the way home, and I wasn’t one bit ashamed of my sudden intelligentsia weakness.
I twitched to find justice. I wrote to the regional manager — and nothing. I wrote again — and nothing. Remember my love of human resolutions? Yeah, I tried that — in vain. I was going to boycott the store, but I missed my friends who worked there so I pretended it hadn’t happened. And yeah, for a brief second, I considered “lawyering up” as many of friends suggested — but the perspective of dealing with the dirty legal monster horrified me, and I thought, screw it, I’ll just move on. So I treated the incident as an artist: I wrote a story, I complained in dramatic detail to anybody who would listen, and then I forgot.
For months, I didn’t see the security guard who had attacked me.
Then this past August, I saw her working there again. My heart pounded and flew out of my chest, and I decided to attempt getting a closure or maybe even make her understand that she had hurt and degraded me for no reason. It was naive of me, I know, but justice felt so close… So I came up to her, reminded her of last year’s incident, and asked her for an apology. She then started insulting me and, as I filmed her, she guided me toward the exit and… punch!!
Whoa. Talk about an attempt at dialogue and human resolution gone south!
As I was getting “punished,” the Whole Foods manager was coming out of the door, and even he looked astonished.
To his honor, he acted like a decent human being and tried to do the right thing. I am cool with him, and I am cool with the store employees who jumped to my support — in fact, I am super grateful to my friends at the store who enthusiastically consoled me after what happened. We New Yorkers are a family, and every crazy thing still brings out the best in most of us.
But this time, I decided to stop that intelligentsia nonsense — and I got a lawyer. Maybe two times is a charm. Maybe it will be good for the world, too.
What happened to me came out of a pilot episode of Black Mirror. It’s a shame that one of the most powerful companies in the world, a company that effortlessly picks apart entire industries, does such a sloppy job at picking security firms to maintain order at their fancy organic grocery chain.
And I refuse to be treated like a little soldier inside an Amazon-run militarized shopping experience.
I am human.
Today, I filed a lawsuit against @WholeFoods. In 2017, I was physically assaulted and degraded by their security guard—but I let it go then. This past August, same security guard at the same store punched me in the chest!— Tessa Lena ❤️ 🥭 No 🤖s (@TessaMakesLove) January 16, 2019
https://t.co/yDFd4bKNgl #MakesMeWhole #DelishDeals