Whole Foods security bans woman for mistakenly taking water

A woman who mistakenly left Whole Foods without paying for a case of water says she was detained by the grocery store's security guards and banned from shopping there ever again.

Company apologizes for 'arrest' and offers woman $25 gift certificate

Whole Foods 'arrest'


6 years ago
A shopper said a security guard attempted to 'arrest' her at a Whole Foods store. 2:03

A woman who mistakenly left Whole Foods without paying for a case of water was detained by the grocery store's security guards and banned from shopping in the store ever again.

Whole Foods pays a security firm whose staff keeps an eye out for shoplifters at its Yorkville location in Toronto. (Whole Foods)

Marni Sky, a frequent shopper at the Yorkville Whole Foods location, put a case of water in her shopping cart last week. She said the water was obscured by her gym bag in the bottom of the cart. After paying for the rest of her groceries — $180 in total — she says she was "arrested" by a security guard while attempting to leave the store.

She offered to pay for the water, which she estimates costs around $5.

But the security guard made her get out of the elevator she was in, detained her for a time and then banned her from ever shopping at that Whole Foods store again.

Sky said she typically shops at Whole Foods on a daily basis. "This was my happy place," she told CBC News in an interview.

But Sky said she was embarrassed and sad about the situation. In an effort to cheer her up, her husband, Dan Shimmerman, wrote a whimsical open letter to Whole Foods executives and posted it on the social news site Reddit.

"Accosting her in a crowded elevator in front of 15 other customers (accomplices perhaps?), he loudly (and proudly) proclaimed, 'Miss, you are under arrest. You stole water from us and I am going to have to take you in,'" wrote Shimmerman. "I kid you not, the lad said 'take you in.'"

The post garnered a lot of attention, with many commenters questioning how a security guard could "arrest" a shoplifter.

"The incident that I described really happened. I tried to spice it up for the sake of humour, entertainment and to make a point," Shimmerman responded to his critics. "But, in a nutshell, my wife was arrested at Whole Foods by a security guy because she didn’t pay for her water."

The grocery store did end up responding to Sky and Shimmerman, offering an apology and $25 gift card to the couple.

"[The Whole Foods representative] confirmed the events, and was genuinely apologetic and embarrassed about the incident. He agreed that it should have been handled differently," said Shimmerman.

Whole Foods said security is contracted out. The store hires a company to scout for shoplifters, sometimes in plain clothes. But the company said security guards do not have the authority to arrest, detain or ban anyone from the store. 

Click on the video above to see a full report from the CBC's Philip Lee-Shanok.


  • Dan Shimmerman originally estimated the couple's annual Whole Foods budget to be around $30,000. He has since revised that figure.
    Dec 19, 2014 10:56 AM ET


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