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Nov 20, 2006 01:54 PM

Thoroughly fed up with Whole Foods in Raleigh

I don't go there much since they were taken over by the Texas corporation, but I went yesterday because I was feeling too lazy to cube up the bread I'll be using for stuffing this week and their bagged cubes have always worked well enough. I'm pretty sure it will be the last time I go there.

The prices have absolutely sky-rocketed since the takeover. I always used to buy my beef there but the prices have gone so obscenely high I honestly can't afford to anymore. My favorite special treat, dried mango slices went from about $4 or $5 a pound to over $9.50/lb. While the cheese selection is still good, the prices are crazy. Fresh bread, the main reason for their existence in my opinion, has been relegated to a bare afterthought and they now bag everything in plastic! That should clearly be a capital crime. And the dried bread cubes, the stale stuff they would be throwing away, was $4.68 a bag. Next year I cut up my own.

Their main offense yesterday (although I am still in disgusted awe over their prices) was the attitude of the staff. When they were Wellspring, the cheese department had a policy of offering 20% off bulk chocolate purchases. They defined "bulk" as 1 Kilo or more. I would happily buy 3-4 lbs. of El Rey at at time. Now, not only has the price of El Rey and Callebaut shot up by $2-$3 a pound, but they now define "bulk" as 10 lb. or more. And they will grudgingly give you a 10% discount on an $80 purchase and act as if they are doing you a huge favor. That was annoying enough by itself but the attitude of the staff when I explained the former policy (which I took advantage of for years with no questions by the former employees) was downright insulting.

I dislike Earth Fare intensely but if I'm going to have to pay the same prices there as at Whole Foods for the very few items I can't find anywhere else, at least I can spend my money where the staff is polite and helpful.

Is anyone else finding this to be true and are the Durham and Chapel Hill people seeing this change in their former Wellsprings?

Btw, is there anywhere else locally to buy bulk quantities of quality chocolate such as El Rey? By local, I mean the whole Triangle area. Also, I'm currently buying beef at Fresh Market and have been happy with their quality. Any other suggestions in Raleigh? I don't mind paying for quality as long as I'm getting what I pay for. Whole Foods does not deliver quality for price.

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  1. We shop at Weaver St. in Carrboro as much or more than Whole Foods. Their prices aren't usually any lower but their bakery is far superior and they tend to offer and support lcoal farmers more than Whole Foods. However, I will say one thing that's good about Whole Foods. I really like a lot of their own brand products, especially the 365 stuff. It has really cut down the amount of times we had to go to Harris Teeter, although we are going to HT more now that they are expanding their HT Naturals offerings.

    1. Whenever one company acquires another and shifts the brand, you have to expect that the policies and pricing will change to meet the patterns established by the acquiring entity.

      While that may be disruptive to the consumer, that's just the way businesses operate. There is no way Whole Foods can have a variety of pricing and policy structures in different markets and successfully integrate the acquisitions.

      You are certainly within your rights to exercise your consumer sovereignty and take your custom elsewhere. Given that you don't like either Whole Foods or Earth Fare, your choices are limited, however.

      1. I hate going to Whole Foods in Durham - they are ridiculously expensive and the place is so jammed packed with food items and people that it is claustrophic.

        The ONLY reason I go is to get their cilantro jalapeno humus. While there Friday, I looked at their seafood - the fish prices were sky high AND the quality did not look that good. Being that Durham is 3-4 hours from Wrightsville Beach and Atlantic Beach - you would think that they would have some decent fish with better prices.

        If it weren't for the humus that I am addicted to, I wouldn't go at all.

        1. I have also been surprised by rising prices at Whole Foods (Chapel Hill location). It used to be an indulgence, but now I just feel like a sucker for shopping there. The wine prices have definitely gone up, ever since they jettisoned the "$10 and under" rack. I still go there to stock up on certain 365 products (good and reasonable, as bbqme pointed out), and I have trouble getting out without buying a piece of fish - the fish counter is just so attractive! But for produce, wine, cheeses and baked goods, its Weaver Street or Southern Season all the way.

          As I recall, the Indy did a comparison last year, buying an identical selection of produce at Whole Foods, Earth Faire and Weaver Street. Weaver Street was the cheapest for produce - something I've found as well, although the selection is obviously smaller.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dubedo

            The fish counter is beautiful. But guess what happened at the Raleigh 'Hole Foods fish counter last Thanksgiving? I asked the fishmonger to remove the scales from our whole red snapper. He disappeared in a back for a while and brought back the wrapped fish. I brought it home, and he hadn't taken any scales off. At all! Check to make sure they really remove the scales before you leave the store!

          2. Trader Joe's opens in Cary next week (Nov. 27th). After that, you can kiss the need to go to Whole Foods, EarthFare, or Weaver Street for much of anything (except maybe for produce) goodbye.

            Highlights from my Trader Joe's shopping days in CA:

            Gallon of cold pressed Italian olive oil - $4.99
            Breasts of hormone-free free range chicken - $2.99/lb reg. price
            Gallon of hormone and antibiotic free milk - $2.99
            A dozen free range chicken eggs - $1.99

            The best brushetta and pesto money can buy (Trader Joe's brand)
            Fresh breads
            Amazing frozen foods (as gourmet as frozen foods can get). e.g. shrimp stir fry - $3.99/bag.

            Ground angus beef - $3.99/pound
            Liter of San Pellegrino sparking water - $1.19

            Wines for cheap.

            Natural products galore.

            Display station with yummy recipes.

            I'll be there opening day.

            In CA, we called Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck." I never shopped there for anything except for their freshly made burritos, but they don't even offer that out here. Whereas since I've moved here I've found myself having to go to Whole Foods weekly to get eggs, milk, and bread.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mikeh

              I shop at Harris Teeter & Weaver St. I find the fresh produce: long beans better at HT & baked goods & eco farms stuff great at W.
              Whole Foods in Chapel Hill is the biggest rip-off ever. Just compare rice milk..they are $1-$2 more. I only buy grain roast veg. sausages there & won't if I can get it anywhere else.
              Like the others I'll shop at Trader Joes, Weaver & plant some salad!

              1. re: Rory

                HT has recently gotten much better. Their new store on Falls of Neuse has an excellent variety of beautiful produce. The drive out to Cary for Trader Joe's won't be that much worse for me than the drive to Whole Foods, so I'm sure I'll get out there sometimes. I was never too thrilled with TJ when I lived in Westchester, but it's all relative. I had a much wider variety of shopping options there. Here, TJ will be a very welcome addition.

                Still, I don't believe TJ does fresh meat or freshly baked bread, my two mainstays at Wellspring. Any ideas where I could go for those in the Raleigh area?

                1. re: rockycat

                  A couple of options for fresh-baked bread include La Farm bakery on Cary Parkway near High House (Cary) and Great Harvest Bread Company on Lead Mine Road (North Raleigh). I have had good luck getting bread fresh out of the oven at both locations.

              2. re: mikeh

                TJ's is terrific. Their holiday specials are spectacular. They're a little underdeveloped in the produce department. In my opinion, some of the local Harris Teeter stores are perfectly capable of giving 'Hole Foods a run for their money in the produce department (the big one in Cary and the one on Edwards Mill are particularly good). They're also making strides in the bakery. I've shopped at HT for years and years because of service. The vast majority of the folks who work there are professionals and are really good at what they do.