Whole Foods has long been a favorite spot for petition gatherers—the public tends to be well-to-do, educated and politically savvy.
But over the past several weeks customers to the Petaluma store on East Washington Street have been greeted by a new sign banning all solicitors, whether they were Salvation Army bell ringers or students selling Girl Scout cookies.
However, under California state law, workers or volunteers gathering signatures for ballot initiatives must be allowed on the premises. And that has resulted in some tension between signature collectors and the store.
“It’s not a new policy, but we’ve had an increase in activity of solicitation in general, so that’s why we put up the signs,” said Allen Culp, an assistant store manager at the Petaluma Whole Foods. “Customers just want to do shopping, they don’t necessarily want to answer 20 questions on their way in and their way out.”
Ed Mass, a signature gatherer who frequently sets up near the front of the store, says that the new policy is confusing and has resulted in more customers being rude to solicitors like him.
“I have no problem cooperating with them,” Mass said. “I’m just frustrated since they flipped around the rules,” said Mass. “I am detecting more lame excuses from people for not signing the petitions. It will always occur, but it’s happening more because of it.”
Despite Whole Foods’ new approach to solicitors, not all local petition gatherers are annoyed.
“I’ve been collecting signatures since the beginning of March and I haven’t run into any problems here,” said Alex Cody-Prentice, adding that stores like Whole Foods and Safeway can be a boon for signature gatherers, especially early in a campaign.
Many of the initiatives that Cody-Prentice collects signatures for promote clean jobs and funding fro K-12. Recently, anti-GMO advocates descended on the store to get support for an initiative that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled and according to several gatherers were warmly received.
What do you think of the signature gatherers outside of Whole Foods? Are they doing an important service? Blocking traffic? Sound off in the comments below.