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new Oakland Whole foods..shocking ..rant [Moved from Not About Food]

I dropped by the new Oakland Whole Foods today.. here is my depressing report..

First,on the positive side. as usual the store is very sexy and slick.
Here is the sad part. First, I had forgotten how over priced the place is (had been to other ones and forgot why I boycott the place) .. much higher than Berkeley bowl (for produce anyways). You would think that with all their massive buying power they would charge decent prices, but they over charge on everything. I don't know why this store is so successful.
Some observations..
Crappy non local produce, at higher than farmer's market prices. For example icky over waxed apples from South america, when Great local stuff is flying off the trees right now.

Fish was not particularly fresh looking, even though it was opening day.. Cloudy eyed fish on display. dried out looking squid, silmy fish fillets.

Wine prices are very high, 10-20 % higher than wine stores, even small ones.
Some wines I have seen for 14 dollars are 18 dollars there. some 10 dollar wines are 12 dollars.. dosent sound like much??? well I think 20% is a lot more .. just add up the cost over a year.. and their "sale" prices on like 10 wines are only a dollar lower (or the same) than the regular everyday prices at many stores.. for Example Ridge Geyserville "on sale" for 28.49 or something like that ,, when it can be had everday at other places for 30 dollars..what a bargain.
that is a pricey example but you get the picture...

How do they get away with this .. with ALL THEIR BUYING CLOUT AND POWER, they shoud pass some SAVINGS on to the customer.. I guess even though I live less than 5 minutes away, I will continue to avoid Whole Foods. (even though I am sure I will still shop there in emergency last minute times, YES I am a hypocrite) You would think in a relatively poorer area, they would cut us a break. But I guess its just a place for "aspirational " types who like to see and be seen in the proper mileu and don't care about being ripped off.
I guess the emperor truly has no clothes,, people just convince themselves how great this place is when its alot of flash and not much substance.

By the way there is not enough bicycle parking.. all the slots were full..

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  1. Dude, it's "Whole Foods" ... meaning you're getting the chance to pay a premium to avoid all those nasty "partial foods" at the markets 99.9% of the population shops at (careful, they're dying like flies ... LOOK OUT! You almost bought something with white sugar in it!)

    Shop where they act like they want you, relax and enjoy life a lot more (those "organic only" treehuggers are dying in equal numbers, they just don't admit it).

    1 Reply
    1. re: wayne keyser

      Funny stuff, wayne.

      jason, I made a couple of visits to the Whole Foods here in Westchester, NY, where by the way they comp for parking but you take your life in your hands trying to battle the yuppies for a space.

      Other than finding an amazing Greek yogurt (which even my good ole' standby Stop and Shop has now), I was neither impressed enough with their goods to continue to risk life and limb in the lot, nor was I willing to pay their outrageous prices.

      It's a gimmick, and good-o on them that they've found an audience willing to pay those prices. Keeps the economy going, I guess. All flash and no substance seems to be the mantra these days in more than supermarkets. Good post.

    2. mr. carey, consumers in the Bay Area are extremely fortunate--abundancy of neighborhood farmer markets when many of our local farms were paved over and subdivided, one of our blessings-- and WF considers its market niche sufficiently established that competitive/consumer friendly pricing isn't what I expect there. To me it's a 'super-sized' convenience store (no lottery tickets though--it's geared more for bourgeois bohemian) with some inclinations(organic/sustainable foods usw.) compatible with mine. There's a definite economic caste system in supermarket chains, and N.Cal is top heavy with Mollie Stone's, Andronico's, WF, plus locals like Piedmont Grocery in Oaktown. Locally/family-owned Berkeley Bowl is a one-of with a very different ethos, obviously. And you know that some of those items that the big chains say they're "passing savings to the consumer" are micro-margin "loss leaders." cheers

      1 Reply
      1. re: moto

        What you said.

        Although I describe it as Supply and Demand.

      2. There's a reason my friends call it "Whole Paycheck".

        1. Well said Jason and Im not surprised. Ive become more and more disgruntled with WF here in NJ but I, aslo being a hypocrite, often go there for the salad bars which usually have a good find for lunch.

          I have completely transferred all my buying to Trader Joe's which is everything that WF isnt. They treat you great, have great products, and believe it or not at great prices.

          1. I often feel as though I'm the only one who likes Whole Foods. I never do all of my grocery shopping there, but there are quite a few items that I can't find anywhere else.

            Their turkey & swiss paninis on pretzel bread are amazing. I love their salmon burgers. They also tend to have higher quality pre-cut fruit than others, at shockingly competitive prices. They're also the only place around here that I've found grind-it-yourself honey-roasted peanut butter.

            2 Replies
            1. re: koggit

              Ill have to give it to you on the peanut butter and the almond butter that is freshly grinded. Really cant get anything else like that in other places. Their salad bar selection does keep me coming even though I do complain.

              To be honest, that turkey/pretzel sandwich you talk about sounds great.

              1. re: koggit

                I haven't found the grind-it-yourself station in the new Oakland store, where is it ?

                Also , notice there is no bulk section. It is supposed to appear "sometime" I was told.

                Then another employee said it would be a "limited selection" of bulk items due to "child safety".

                Purchased a "fresh" rock cod filet last night, but should have asked to smell it first. When I got home it smelled too fishy and unusable.

                I did get a nice filet mignon from the meat section the night before and the price seemed fine for the quality.

                Organic squash was much better tasting than what I purchased from Lucky where it was very cheap.

              2. Shopping Whole foods requires discipline......Many people aren't as fortunate to live in areas with so many options and alternatives......I've found that if you shop for the staples and purchase their 365 store brand you can't go wrong ( ie pasta's, sauces, tuna,.......) . Unfotunately you have to travel elsewhere to complete your shopping list.........We've recently had a Trader Joe's open in the area and have been pleasantly suprised.....although ,once again , discipline is required.....

                1. WF closed the store I would go to now and then for specific items I couldn't get elsewhere at the time. Also , I liked the 365 brand Debbieeq2210 describes, decent quality for pretty cheap. Parking lot was scary though. Remember Gladys from the "over the hedge" movie? I've seen her shopping there.

                  Despite the aura of entitlement radiating from a lot of the customers, they were the go to place for hard to find items. The second closest one is not all that far, but it's dinky and the produce is rough looking, So, I just don't go anymore, Wegman's is 10 times what WF is.

                  1. Although I am fortunate to live in an area that has Whole Foods, Wegmans, and a couple of good independent markets, I do the bulk of my shopping at the farmers market when they are available. I do not live in a part of the country that has year round farmers markets like California. I shop at the farmers market for several reasons: cost, sustainability, and to support the farmers who work so hard to keep us fed. In the end, it is less expensive, I eat seasonally, and I get the opportunity to try new things at the peak of the season. It also gives me a sense of community with my neighbors and the farmers. Whole Foods is a good filler in the winter and of course, I still buy non-produce items (except for organic chickens which I get from a local farm) at the supermarket.

                    1. I haven't been to the new Oakland Store yet and since I've moved from SF to the East Bay, haven't shopped at any Whole Foods for a while because there are so many stores that are equal to or better.

                      That being said, I shopped pretty regularily when I was in SF mainly because of fewer options in that category. In their favor
                      - good deli. Not everything was successful, but much better than any other supermarket deli and a lot of regular delis.
                      - good meat counter. The butchers knew what they were doing and I could always count on them to have most of the premium meats. It was my go-to place for my Diestel Thanksgiving turkey
                      - I like the soups
                      - SOME ok bakery items ... as long as I was in the store
                      - good return policy

                      That being said, it wasn't my regular market. Not so much because of price but because I couldn't get everything there. Sometimes I want regular brands. My breaking point was cat sand. I couldn't get normal cat sand ... or the food my cat liked. Or the cleaning supplies I liked ... or ...

                      I don't know how many times I walked out ranting I just wanted a NORMAL brand. I wasn't going to stand in long lines, fight for a parking place and then have to go to another market.

                      As far as my SF store, I rarely bought wine because of the prices you mentioned. The cheese counter had a good selection, but they didn't take good care of it so often that prime cheese wasn't in the best condition.

                      As far as that Oakland location, I hope you try the Grocery Outlet nearby. It is a similar experience at the other end of the price spectrum ... the way other end. You can't do all your grocery shopping there, but what you buy is at least 50 percent less expensive than a regular market ... and quite frankly there's quite a selection of organic food.

                      Whole Foods
                      National, USA

                      Whole Foods
                      230 Bay Pl, Oakland, CA

                      1. When I first started shopping at WF... it was a completely different experience... it had a cult following, huge bulk section, good produce deals with hard to get stuff, inexpenisve relatively healthy processed foods like cereals, fair trade coffees etc., & prices were lower than the traditional super market chains. It was a place you could really feel good about.

                        The current CEO completely transformed the business... he realized there is a big group of wannabe foodies who are willing to pay a huge premium for inflating that foodie ego... and he sold out the original WF mission. Now THEY are evil empire... the guy has gone so low as to post anonymous messages on investment sites about Wild Oats... just to hurt their stock price & encourage a takeover (I am not making this up... he is being investigated by the SEC).

                        Oh... and yes I do shop at WF about 1 a month.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          The FTC lawsuit is pending as of 5 Audust. I believe.....

                          When Bread & Circus opened in Cambridge MA it was a wonderful store with everything we wanted in an organic market. When WF bought them out we hung around for a few months, watched the store become high-priced and ordinary then switched our shopping to Trader Joe's as soon as they arrived in our neck of the woods. TJ's, along with local farm stands get our business now....all year long.

                          1. re: Gio

                            I would avoid WF altogether... but my locally owned equivalent (Oliver's) is even more expensive than WF. Oliver should be executed in a public square!

                            We have a new "gourmet" market in the area... its tiny and I can't do all my shopping there but they definitely seem to be focusing on locally grown stuff, cheaper than the Farmer's Market (most of which is bought in S.F. at wholesale anyway).

                        2. Ok, I just went to the Oakland store ... and I strongly disagree with you because this has nothing to do with ANY other Whole Foods ... it is its own unique creation.

                          It may be one of the most fabulous markets in the Bay Area.

                          It is not really a market ... more of an indoor village ... for heaven's sake ... there's three restaurants in it ... real restaurants, a candy shop, geleteria and a massage room.

                          And the thing is ... unlike any mega market ... it didn't exhaust me ... it is like wandering around a little village checking out the specialty shops ... tasting some cheese ... a little this and that ... a stop by the sunny bistro with outdoor tables for coffee.

                          It is very ... human-oriented ... sort of ... but then again this was just my first impression. There are one or two points I agree with ... and maybe ... just maybe ... the police force in the market might bother me ... to keep the riff raff out?

                          I was on my way to the Mexican section in Oakland and had my, uh, casual (read street-lady) clothes on. One cop sort of trailed behind me occasionally till they decided I was harmless and unlikely to make off with the $4 pears.

                          I'll have to see if that Stepford / Disney quality to it puts me off eventually.

                          But you know ... I just had a street person go baslistic on me at the Berkeley Farmers Market and sometimes you just want to shop and not deal with the real world.

                          Yes, one of the better local artisan geleterias is there next to the wood-fired pizza oven with leaping flames ... but ... well ... but ... not as un real as Disney but ... not ... quite ... the same as real life ... though if they attached condos to the place, I might be tempted to move in.

                          One block to Lake Merrit ... five blocks from where St Anthonys distributes free groceries to the long lines that snake around the block ... I'm going to hell for enjoying this place ... let them eat free government cheese ... while I snack on Tsar Nicoli caviar and cheese from remote French villages ... yep ... going to hell ... never should have reflected on this.

                          1. Personally, I love the fresh bread and delicious cheese counters!

                            I'm adoring the fabulous fresh bread available at the new Reno Whole Foods! What a treat it was to taste what interested me first, before deciding on the multigrain. And have the ingredients posted right in front of me!

                            This bread tastes amazing to me ... dense, packed with seeds and grains ... the perfect complement to the wonderful cheeses I then found at the cheese counter.

                            The woman helping me at the cheese counter was great when I told her what I was looking for and made several great suggestions for a mild breakfast pairing with the bread: Brillat Savarin Triple Cream Delin and the Le Chevrot Sevre et Belle goat cheese. Both were divinely delicious!

                            I'm looking forward to visiting again when I'm in Reno tomorrow! To find fresh, quality, well-cared-for products locally is a treasure.

                            For more on this and my other favorites, please visit my blog: http://www.ChristineHueber.WordPress.com