Famous Berkeley Bowl supermarket profiled in LA Times

John Glionna of the LA Times writes about the Berkeley Bowl supermarket. It's famous for three things: its varied and high quality produce section, the oddball customers it attracts, and its one-strike-and-you're-out-for-life policy against people who sample without buying.

200809221057.jpg 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.

At the Berkeley Bowl, the nuts are off the shelf