HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Sep 12, 2008 03:30 PM

Do you "Comp-shop"? (esp at Whole Foods)

I went to a Whole Foods yesterday to price out stuff for an event- I was writing down cheese prices, and was asked, then forced, to LEAVE. "We don't permit writing down prices", I was told.

The cheeselady immediately jumped me- "Are you comp-shopping?". I didn't know what she meant- new term for me. But then she sent a young guy to me, telling me I had to leave. I asked- "what's wrong with me trying to price out a party?" He said, "good point...", and I walked away from him. Then he came back with a bigger guy to escort me out. I'm a 5'4" woman. With 2 grown men forcing me from the store, because I wrote down cheese prices.

Um, I'm sorry, in this economy, I'm not allowed to determine which store is going to give me the best bang for my buck, especially since I am planning a pretty large event, and the savings could be substantial?

I have a big event (100+ people) that I have to plan in the area of that WF, but surely won't be buying from them.

Is this "done"?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've heard that other stores get cranky as well if they catch someone comp-shopping. Since the price of food among stores can vary wildly, I would recommend using a small recording device and verbally record the prices. If you speak softly, the employees will (hopefully) think you are just talking on your cell phone.

    2 Replies
    1. re: momdgp

      You can also memorize a few prices and run to the bathroom to write them down, or walk to another aisle and jot them down on the shopping list.

      Yes it's done.

      But if you're price shopping, I can't imagine why you'd be in Whole Paycheck in the first place.

      1. re: mlgb

        mlgb- I wanted some nice higher end cheeses, I want the event to be fairly swank- The local grocery has remodeled and upgraded their cheese dept. considerably, and I wanted to see how they compared to the WF. WF was lower on a couple of items, actually, I was surprised.

        It was pretty odd to be escorted from the store because I'm trying to find a better deal for myself.

    2. That is outrageous. Jfood opened this thread because he did not know what you meant in the title.

      He would definitely call the Corp HQ on this.

      Btw - jfood uses his blackberry when he is taking notes in a restaurant or prices in a store. Everyone thinks he is just sending emails. And he especially enjoys pissing the people off at the next table who think he is being an ingrate for daring to use his blackberry in a restaurant. One day he will take their picture when they give him "that look."

      2 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Some employees may think jfood is "mystery shopping" and give him better service. Especially if he stares at nametags and asks lots of questions.

        1. re: jfood

          As is often the case, I again agree entirely with jfood. I would definitely call corporate HQ _and_ I'd be certain to specify that there seemed to be some physical intimidation at the very least implied. That's unconscionable.

          This has nothing to do with today's economy or anything else, by the way, its just flat out unacceptable for the simple reason that you're a person and should be treated with more respect. Even if it is perfectly within their rights to prevent you from writing down prices, any sort of physical threat, actual or implied, is far out of bounds.

        2. I can see their wanting to protect themselves against corporate espionage (sounds silly even as I type it) but it's private property and they can be a-holes if they want to. A bit of an extreme reaction.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            >>I can see their wanting to protect themselves against corporate espionage (sounds silly even as I type it)<<

            EVERYBODY DOES IT.

            The local Jewel manager spends at least an hour a week in the local Dominicks store a week. He also pretty much knows how they are doing.

            Target managers shop Walmart and Walmart managers shop Target.

            Locally, Costco drops their gas prices within an hour of a Sams Club price drop.

            Of course those folks are smart enough not to record it using a notepad. most of them prefer a small recorder in the pocket.

            If they get "caught", they just leave (and send someone else if needed.

            1. re: jlawrence01

              When I was in the grocery business my manager frequently sent me to the competitors to check prices. We all knew each other, at least by sight. As a courtesy we would check in with the MOD, they would say hello, we would jot down our prices, then they would make a copy of our price sheet...There were representatives from 4 -5 chains in the area who would "shop" each other at least monthly. There was never a problem!

              The behavior of that Whole Foods (to the OP) was crazy! I've been in some stores where they will print out a deli price sticker to provide the ingredient list for a customer who is trying to reproduce a recipe! You should call their corporate office and complain.

              1. re: meatn3

                My wife's assignment when she was in retail was not only to comp shop the competition BUT to buy them "out of stock" if the price was better on certain HBA items.

                Nowadays, it is a lot easier.

          2. Well, I understand being touchy but this goes above and beyond.

            Here's a very time consuming and irritating way to "Comp shop."
            Make a list (all non perishables)
            Buy everything on the list
            Make a copy of the receipt
            Take everything back to the store
            Repeat at each store you'd like to "comp shop"
            Compare prices from the receipt copies.

            Just an idea from a reactionary who is really bugged by the thought of being bounced from a store for comparing prices. </snit>

            1. Sounds like they're getting a bit touchy about their Whole Paycheck reputation. Stupid. This kind of thing doesn't help matters.

              I guarantee you they have people going out to other stores to see the prices of certain things. Example: I don't know if Trader Joe's is still doing it, but at one time they carried a certain scent of Kiss My Face bath wash. Just one scent/flavor/whatever though. At Whole Foods they carry a lot more of that brand. The one scent that TJ's was carrying was priced the same or lower at WF. Every other flavor of the exact same product was priced *several dollars* more per bottle. Funny stuff. I dunno why they wanted to make it that obvious that they were ripping you off on that stuff, but clearly they did it because of the price over at TJ's.

              So I guess they might have been worried you are the competition. But it doesn't make much sense to tell customers to take a hike when they're trying to price out their party supplies. You have a budget, you want to see what fits into it. Totally unreasonable to not let you do this! Write a snail mail letter to CEO John Mackey. The address in Texas is on this page: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/compa...

              2 Replies
              1. re: CrazyOne

                My experience with Whole Paycheck is that they don't gave a rat's behind about the customer. Writing a letter, complaining to the manager...unlikely to get any sort of response.

                Price checking the competition is common practice. Often they'll hire someone posing as a regular customer so that's why they were unsympathetic to any explanation that you might have.

                1. re: CrazyOne

                  I agree that WF comp shops TJs--when TJ's started opening around Detroit, WF started dropping a LOT of prices on comparable items like Kashi cereals, milk, etc. And the 365 stuff generally is close in price to TJ products where they are similar.

                  If I were charged with comparison shopping a competitor, I'd just buy the products I wanted and expense them :) And it's not unreasonable behavior as a consumer to compile a list of products & prices for an upcoming event. I think they must be nucking futz to have done this--better to allow a competitor to know your prices (because they will know one way or another) than to alienate a customer.

                  Whatever happened to the poster "whole value"? Chime in, let us know what's up with this policy.