Hats off to Mike Sugarman over at CBS-5 for his story about the Berkeley Bowl's draconian sampling policies. In short, if you get caught sipping the soup du jour or nibbling on some dried fruit before you purchase said items, you're likely to get detained, hassled, and eventually ostracized from the East Bay grocery mecca.
I actually got a tip about this a few months ago, but got too busy to cover it. A lifetime Berkeley Bowl patron (not one of the people Sugarman profiled) called me up and told me that for years, he had tasted the Bowl's self-serve soup on offer near the deli counter to make sure he liked it before (usually) purchasing a bowl. Then one foul day, Bowl security swooped down on him mid-taste and frogmarched him into a little room, threatened him with arrest, took his picture, and - after a couple of hours - finally let him go with a warning that he never return.
I did make a trip across the bay to look into it and what I found was a bit shocking. In short, the general manager of the Bowl - I can't remember his name or find my notes on the conversation - told me that he could not recall the specific incident in question (which led me to wonder - how many times does this happen, every day? Week?) but that he believed that people who get banned from the Bowl definitely, no doubt about it deserve their fate. Beware, East Bay soup slurpers and serial bulk-bin pilferers. Don't let the tie dye fool you. The dude was serious. Berkeley Bowl will regulate ...
(image courtesy of dissonanced.wordpress.com)