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AUGUST 14, 2009 7:40PM

Whole Foods Tell All!

Rate: 18 Flag - Opinion: The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare*

 About Whole Foods, commonly known as Whole Paycheck.

My partner worked for Whole Foods for several years, as a buyer and a Team Leader (management in WF speak). He got paid well, and the benefits were generous, including health insurance, which covered me as a domestic partner. The WF insurance plan is great. The coverage was comprehensive and the PWA (Personal Wellness Account) is an amazing tool for covering co-pays. Mackey the Knife has designed a plan that does reflect a good, solid approach to insuring employees. His business model is unique, and I think , pretty innovative. Team structure is a good business model, and WF consistently promotes from within. It's fairly easy to be making $50,000.00 a year if you choose to folow the model, join the team, climb the ladder. Or, maybe, join the cult.

Many people are outraged about John Mackeys WSJ editorial. And they should be! I can attest to two things about Whole Foods - an excellent insurance plan and a pretty good model for raises and promotion. However, Whole Foods - Jon Mackey - is a union buster and a predatory corporation.

Whole Foods opens as near as possible to the small, independent store in the area to smash the competition. Sometimes Whole Foods just smashes the store and then buys it at a cut rate.  See: Wild Oats in New England. Just because the stores are beautiful doesn't mean they're not the quasi organic version of WalMart.

I went to two Whole Foods recently - it rankles, because I used to get a 20% discount, so now I eat all the cheese samples mutering about my lost discount. BUT, anyway, I have a really severe allergy to some metal (insert joke here) like aluminum and nickel, and the only deoderant my skin can tolerate is sold at WF. And I like cruising the stores, just looking at the crazy, privileged shoppers.

I also had another purpose; does Whole Foods take food stamps? Most stores have a sign, a big sign, announcing that they accept EBT. Debit/credit card machines are calibrated to accept EBT. No signs at Whole Foods! I asked the courtesy desk (yes, the courtesy desk) if WF accepts EBT. When they didn't know what I was talking about, I said: "Food Stamps". The answer/ "I don't know. I guess I could ask somebody." And it went on, until finally , yes, they accept food stamps. Good! Because I think it's illegal not to!

Whole Foods is selling an unattainable lifestyle for most people. I can't tell you, in the years of shopping/visiting when my partner worked there, how many times I said: "I have to leave because everyone in here is so annoying."  The whole: "I'm shopping and now I'm distracted by my inner goddess coming to me and I can't respond to complaints about my child opening that box of cereal on the floor because I have to stay in the moment."

My inner pugilist is about to punch you, ok?  The people who LOVE shopping at Whole Foods are often the trust fund hippies who are raising undisciplined brats while they continue to find themselves. Normal people who try to shop at WF are left feeling inadequate because they can't afford the glittery stuff. Stuff being dazzling food. It's OZ!

John Mackey is a predatory businessman, and for him to lecture people, in his editorial, about HOW TO EAT is so offensive. Shop at my store - we don't welcome poor people. Who exactly is he talking to?

Shop at Whole Foods, if you must (or want to), for the basics. The 365 brand is pretty reasonably priced. The meat and fish at WF IS amazing. And, most importantly, the employees are generally terrific and are making decent wages - enough to maybe buy a house or pay off debts.  Live in the community, not just exist.

But also remember that there's a small man behind the curtain in OZ.  Nothing is as it seems. There's a huge price being paid in so many places to support the Whole Foods empire.

Mackey the Shark: a megalomaniac who thinks that he has the right to determine not only national policies, but how you eat. I hope he gets his own reality tv show.




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Very interesting take. I haven't shopped at Whole Food until the last couple of months. I am able to shop cheaper there than at CostCo which was a surprise. I understand what you're saying though. So far, they haven't knocked out Down to Earth foods here in Hawaii but maybe it's a matter of time. Thanks for giving us the inside look.
Is this the guy in the news that said something like, screw public health, shop at my store instead? What a turdblossom!
Thanks for the inside look. It wasn't Whole Foods that smashed the competition here - it was actually Wild Oats. But then, of course Whole Foods took care of them. (I really miss my little Sunshine Grocery!)

Whole Foods has an awesome cheese department. But the sheer amount of prepared foods is completely overwhelming to me. All I can think of is how much waste there must be. I hope that they are partnered up with some organization that collects that food and gives it to hungry people.
I should have linked the WSJ article. whoops! I'll correct that.
WSJ has no credibility among thinking humans. A good rule to follow: if WSJ says do it, don't. Good article. cy
great post!!! they took Wild Oats out here in Portland, OR too. i go there with the service pups after i finally make it to my poor clinic doctor. i get $2 of sliced turkey for me and the girls. i look at the brownies and then i skedaddle. i can't remember if i ever used food stamps there. i lost them because my rent is low. not whole foods. :) food stamps. what you've written really resonates with me. i'm not comfortable there at all, especially in these tough times. love love lvoe and gratitude for your lovely writing and back to laying low.
oh and what Jeanette said about hoping that they give a ton of food away to those who need it. lvoe love love
Great insight and post. I have always looked at them as an overpriced chain store, with great pie. (Rated)
Thanks! it's a conundrum, innit?

Deborah Young: In Hawaii it must be REALLY hard to shop. Like, how much does a tomato cost? Thanks for reading.

Ric: Yes, he's the little twit who thinks eating his way will negate the need for doctors. Um, yeah THAT;s a good plan.

Jeanette DeMain: CHEESE! I agree that Whole Foods provides a good product - at the expense of smaller stores and also at the expense of regular, non privileged shoppers. However, they have the best cheese.

Hi cy: It's all so personal with healthcare in general - people are aching and hurting - and Mackey is just another trigger.
Thank you, Theodora, for weighing in. I'm really passionate about EBT - benefits - being without stigma. Which is why I am happy to report that the local coop proudly displays signs : We accept food stamps/EBT," It should be even better than that, but being turned away from fresh food is intolerable for me.
Thank you so much for reading and "getting it" and coming home.
You don't even want to know how much a tomato costs. Milk is over $6 a gallon.
Never been to a Whole Foods in my life. But I don't like anyone telling me what I should be eating.
aim, my inner anti-snob is urging your inner pugilist on.
Deborah Y: Yowza! You're right - I don't want to know about the tomatos! Anyway, glad to hear from you, always.

Penguin: Tell me about gracery shopping where YOU are. It must be expensive/a different experience.

AtHomePilgrim: My inner pugilist thanks you! I'm kinda tough on the trust fund hippies. Few things make me boiling mad (ok, that's not true, but), but the privileged embracing "simplicity" and making it oh so complicated really, well, as I said! Thanks for stopping by!
Good look from the inside. Nice post.
Thank you Tony Wang!
Thanks for the inside view. I laughed at several parts of this including how the customers can be so annoying. You've clearly visited the Whole Foods in Berkeley....

I can't afford to shop there (I got to TJ's and the Farmer's Market) other than I have used WF for a few mostly non-food products that I use (detergent etc) that they stock. I'm going to start getting them elsewhere, though, including through mail order, which is a very viable way to get non-perishables, and often cheaper than at WF.

Mail order is a godsend - esp with the recession, you can get free shipping most of the time (especially if you spend a minimum amount on an order but often for any order, esp if you sign up for their emailers on specials) and you'll avoid sales tax as well in many cases. Prices are generally cheaper than shopping at WF to begin with, too. And it's actually more environmentally friendly to order from bulk sellers online than to drive to Whole Foods and buy stuff that had to be trucked to all their separate stores. Wins all around.
Well, I guess I won't be upset that there's no Whole Foods in Oklahoma City. I just checked their Web site. There's one in Tulsa. Figures. (Very interesting post.)
Silkstone: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make a great point re: buying direct. And buying in bulk. I live in a very progressive area where there is a system for food stamps to be accepted at some farmers markets. That's an innovative solution!
I will definitely be looking up the companies that make the products that I rely on re: allergies, and order direct. I don't need the middle man - just like the farmer does not need a middle man at the market, and can happily be paid through "food stamps"as well as cash. Thanks for commenting!
Steve Blevins; Don't deny yourself the Whole Foods experience. These are destination stores! The last one my partner worked at - and helped open - has a chocolate fountain. yes, a chocolate fountain with a team member on hand to dip a strawberry for your pleasure. In hopes that you will BUY some chocolate, of course.
It's food porn, it's OZ, it's...amazing.
I had so much fun when SigOth worked for Whole Foods - the discount made shopping there comparable to shopping at a regular grocery store, plus nobody could yell at me for over indulging in the cheese samples nor the HABA's. (Health and Beauty Aids). I love spraying soothing lavendar essence all over my face and neck - and it clearly says "Tester - Try Me".
Whole Foods is a magical wonderland - just remember to leave with enough money to cover the mortgage!
Thanks for commenting Steve!
Yay Umbrella! Thanks for stopping by! that's hilarious about your sister...especially, like, being treated like a princess at, like, a grocery store!?!?( See also: inner pugilist and why I often had to storm out of WF when SigOth worked there.)
When I lived in Seattle there were always a plethora of choices, including coops and little indie stores. I lived on Capitol Hill, and mainly went to Rainbow Grocery. Of course, I also worked in restaurants/bars. so rarely cooked!
That's an interesting fact about Costco - I have to look up EBT info, because for some reason I thought it was illegal to refuse food stamps. It's a ridiculous policy - EBT is done on debit cards, so is money! It's not like the store is suffering!
I'm planning a trip to Seattle in late October - how far out from the city are you? I'll make a post when I book my ticket so we can, maybe, have a Seattle OS meetup.
It is, I guess, the establishment's choice to accept EBT. Huh.
It seems weird, and is another example of marginalizing poor peole. I feel another post coming on...
EBT works as a debit card - the only reason for a store to refuse EBT is to control the customers allowed to shop there.
And that is denial of food,and turning groceries into luxury items.
I remember the first time I stepped into a Whole Foods. It was the flagship store in Austin. My sister took me there and watched as my jaw dropped in wonder. It was like the chocolate factory sans the oompa loompas... wow. We bought lots of yummy food for our dinner. It was so hard to choose between one yummy thing or another. That was my "childhood Christmas" experience...

I gone back to Whole Foods a few times since... and now I feel like a grown-up shopping for groceries. Christmas is over, and that shit at WF is EXPENSIVE. I'm a "buy ingredients, not products" kind of shopper. I can buy my ingredients at the farmers market and the groovy section of the grocery store.

The last time I went to WF is when I returned to post Katrina New Orleans after a 25 year absence. The WF was located in a gentrified section of what used to be a real neighborhood on Magazine Street. So depressing... How does any better than Walmart ruining communities?
HELLO CK! Good God, that had to be devastating., returning to a Whole Foods. I think they did their share of donations after Katrina - Mackey the Knife likes to keep his brand looking good - but it's the PRESCENCE of a Whole Foods that is marginalizing.

It's a consistent problem - grocery stores won't open in ethnic urban areas because...and they have to keep opening stores because...and suddenly shopping for groceries is akin to a food amusement park.
Why are there no large grocery stores in the multi ethnic depressed downtown area in the town next to me, Holyoke? Because it wouldn't be profitable? Because of violence? And yet, having access to food and other neccesities would help to stabilize a neighborhood cut off from the basics except for the corner store. it WOULD be profitable - families need food, and many families rely on food stamps, which is as good as cash for the store.

Whole Foods is shopping as a privilege. I'm on a tear these days, because it is the high season of beautiful produce, farm fresh, and at least in Holyoke they accept food stamps at the farmers market.
I'll have to post more about food privilege, poverty and how we neglect the urban poor with our choices. And the revolution that might be happening in food stamps.
OMG peaches and blueberries! I am buying direct and loving it.
Great article. And you're right...MOST of the customer's that shop there are old hippies with trust funds,undisciplined brats and food in their teeth.

I'm neither but I did shop there for a number of years on a weekly basis when I could afford it. Or can the average anyone TRULY afford it?

The prices are ludicrous, but the quality of the food is excellent. Unfortunately most of the other grocery stores that offer organic produce don't take care of it and let it dry out and rot on the shelf. It's probably just as toxic as the conventional produce but for different reasons.

Whole Foods needs some real competition and not from an un- integral chain like Walmart.