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Whole Foods: "Faux Hippy Walmart"

Kagemusha Jul 27, 2011 08:24 AM

'Nuff said:


  1. MsDiPesto Aug 1, 2011 12:40 PM

    Eh, I live near several grocery stores, and a small WF is one of them. I buy fruit there because I know it's actually going to be ripe and it's less of a gamble than buying something at the Giant that I have a 50% chance of throwing out the moment I open the container (in the case of pre-chunked fruit, like cantaloupe) because it's not the least bit ripe. Also, I can get soda without any HCFS for less than $3 a six-pack! Their house brand stuff is quite reasonably priced, and they have a nice cheese counter and olive bar. I buy what I think is good value there, and spread my dollars among other stores by their own strengths.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MsDiPesto
      rockycat Aug 2, 2011 06:12 AM

      Not so sure I agree with you, MsDiPesto. I dropped in on our new WF last night because we had about 15 minutes to kill before an appointment and the kid was yelling about being thirsty. She tasted some of the fruit out for sampling and tossed nearly every one, telling me that they either weren't ripe or had no taste. The only fruit that tasted good was the pinepple. I bought her a store-brand cola and although neither of us could discern the sugar vs. HFCS issue, we could both tell that the soda had very little flavor. I noticed that there was no phosphoric acid in the cola. That probably accounted for the complete lack of "bite." And yes, at least it was inexpensive so I didn't feel to bad about having to throw out half a can.

    2. s
      small h Jul 27, 2011 06:27 PM

      I admire the passion that fueled that resignation letter, but it made my eyes bleed. If its author ever gets ID'd, he's going to have trouble finding work that involves communicating with other human beings using written language. I read the Star article, which says "the writer had been working on the resignation for two weeks..." and wondered how he'd managed to stay drunk for that long.

      5 Replies
      1. re: small h
        mamachef Jul 28, 2011 08:33 AM

        ROFLMAO, small h. And I almost never say that. :) It's possible. I don't recommend it, but it's certainly possible. Oh, the payback though.

        1. re: small h
          chowser Jul 28, 2011 08:54 AM

          I also wonder, if his name gets out, who would ever want to hire him.

          1. re: chowser
            chris2269 Jul 29, 2011 01:59 PM

            Been in Retail Management for over 20 years (I know sad). Only thing the company can say is Re-hire-able or non re-hire-able. Trust me I have worked with people that should of gone to jail and still have jobs. This is nothing. Worked in the Salon Industry too ....even worse.

            There used to be a retail database if you were convicted of something it shows up....other than that its just a drug test (some times) and general background. So posting something (unless you are up for a high powered job) is not going to do you any harm.

            1. re: chris2269
              mojoeater Jul 29, 2011 08:51 PM

              That has been my experience too. As a manager, when you are asked for a reference you can only answer whether you would hire the person again or not. If you elaborate and say anything that could be considered defamatory, there are legal repercussions. But you can say all the nice things you want.

              1. re: mojoeater
                sedimental Jul 29, 2011 08:54 PM

                Yes, but there is a lot of power in that. When all you (obnoxiously) repeat is "yes, they were employed here" and "no, I would not hire them back"....

                It says it all.

        2. chris2269 Jul 27, 2011 03:46 PM

          I would say 60% of our population (correct if you have studies) can not afford Whole Foods. We buy too much into labels. Organic...Green..and feel much better about our selves when we do. I am lucky to live in an area that has a great market. Some people are not and then we bang on them as foodies for buying dinner for the Family from Taco Bell for cents on the dollar V.S. "the local place"

          The Family in the house next to me (Probably 16 people) are Great. Great Neighbors.
          you think they are concerned about what the "Farm": the Pig was raised?

          Point we take our selves as foodies way to serious.

          32 Replies
          1. re: chris2269
            inaplasticcup Jul 27, 2011 04:31 PM

            I tend to agree with you. And most (not all) of the people I know who insist on eating *organic* everything really have no idea the difference between certified organic farming practices and others.

            This is not to say that there is no difference, rather to illustrate the fact that a lot of people buy into the marketing hype of labels rather than make truly informed and substantiated decisions about the production and sourcing of their food.

            1. re: inaplasticcup
              Chowrin Aug 2, 2011 06:24 AM

              ... whole foods organic coffee involves burning rainforests in peru. (not talking their fair trade shit).
              ...and for hundreds of years, Yemeni coffee has been organic. but it couldn't be labeled that, because nobody bothered to have a certification process. Nevermind that NOBODY there was using chemicals.

              1. re: Chowrin
                inaplasticcup Aug 2, 2011 06:36 AM

                Yup! I used to work in agricultural finance, and this was a source of frustration for many of the smaller farmers. USDA *Certified* Organic is, like many other gubbie-awarded designations, a bureaucratic rat-maze and money pit. :(

                1. re: inaplasticcup
                  Chowrin Aug 2, 2011 10:43 AM

                  I'd rather buy from a farmer who's smart, than one who's doing fancy organic stuff. Use the chemicals only when necessary -- and as little as possible, and i'm a happy camper. [I don't mind imperfect fruits either]

                  1. re: Chowrin
                    inaplasticcup Aug 2, 2011 10:46 AM

                    I love imperfect fruits! (And they often taste better because they haven't had all the flavor bred out of them for other appearance and preservation related characteristics.)

                    1. re: inaplasticcup
                      Chowrin Aug 2, 2011 11:10 AM

                      and the smaller berry, the better the flavor! (particularly strawberries, you get throwbacks) ;-)

            2. re: chris2269
              Isolda Jul 27, 2011 04:41 PM

              I don't shop at WF because I'm a snob who loves "green" food or labels, but because I know they'll have certain things that no one else carries. I also know that if I need a cake and don't have time to stop at a bakery, theirs won't be made from a mix full of chemicals. And I hate cake mixes not because I'm a snob, but because they don't taste good.

              I don't think I'm better or more virtuous because I shop at WF on occasion. I'm mostly just grateful that I can afford it.

              And I must confess that WF does not have everything I need. I often have to finish my shopping at the Trader Joe's across the parking lot or stop at Target for paper towels that aren't green but don't cost a fortune.

              1. re: Isolda
                Papuli Jul 27, 2011 06:20 PM

                I wouldn't know either way, but you might want to double-check about the bakery. They're discussing this letter over at Gawker, and another former employee had this to add:
                "I was there for several years doing graphics for the marketing folks. This guy forgot one of my favorite things: Almost all of the prepared foods come from Sysco, not the sales floor. The only time you'll be eating anything even remotely similar to organic romaine in your $9 caesar salad, is if they had bunch of it on spoil in the produce department."

                1. re: Papuli
                  jamesm Jul 28, 2011 05:56 AM

                  Gawker comments aren't the most reliable source of facts.

                  This guy sounds whiny and I'm not sure why this letter is getting so much heat. It's not very clever or well-written. I guess people love to hate whole foods. It's expensive but I can afford it, it's convenient and they usually have most things I'm looking for.

                  1. re: jamesm
                    chris2269 Jul 28, 2011 06:22 AM

                    That is great you can afford it. Their meat Dept.is first rate. I am just lucky to have a less expensive market with great fresh produce and a great meat Dept. close by for like 1/4 the price. They do not have things like Bison and Duck like Whole Foods only down side.

                    1. re: jamesm
                      JuniorBalloon Jul 28, 2011 08:10 AM

                      As I read the letter I thought, what would motivate a normal person to write such a long, vitriolic letter that actually calls out 8 people for extra, personal ridicule? Guy is not normal. Can't imagine working with this person was much fun.


                      1. re: jamesm
                        chowser Jul 28, 2011 08:53 AM

                        I had the same feeling. He's blowing off smoke and people are buying it because they want dirt on Whole Foods and want to hate it. Not to say I'm a big supporter of WF but the whole listing of co-workers and their problems takes it too far. And, yes if you're late, you need to call your employer and that doesn't always mean you're off the hook when you get there. Few of us are brain surgeons but we still need to make it to work on time. Deal with it, or lose more jobs and write more bitter letters.

                        1. re: chowser
                          DuchessNukem Jul 28, 2011 09:52 PM

                          I hear angry twenty-something. And I know, 'cause I knew it all then too. How to run a biz better than everyone I worked for. How stupid all my co-workers and managers were. How unimportant all this labor was with respect to my precious time and the philosophies of Aristotle, Sartre, Spinoza. I had my period of douchery, though far less than this dude. ;P

                          Whole Foods is a specialty store, not a low-cost local supermart. Honestly, I like Whole Foods for same reason Isolda does: I can get stuff I want, that day, that isn't widely available locally. The kids who work at my local stores seem pretty chill. Working conditions -- I've seen worse (remember eating my break in supermarket stockroom, watching rats run over pallets of sugar/etc.).

                          (BTW, all that semi-fresh produce dumped from any supermarket? Due to liability, can't be freely sent off to schools/shelters without intense negotiations, contract, and often local law changes. Always gets my goat when someone decides to "feed the world" with it but won't pony up for the lawsuit protection for a company.)

                          1. re: DuchessNukem
                            Kagemusha Jul 29, 2011 03:32 AM

                            Read the 1/10 New Yorker piece by Nick Paumgarten on John Mackey and you might change your mind.

                            1. re: DuchessNukem
                              chowser Jul 29, 2011 05:14 AM

                              "I hear angry twenty-something. And I know, 'cause I knew it all then too. How to run a biz better than everyone I worked for."

                              Definitely--you've pinpointed it.

                              1. re: DuchessNukem
                                cowboyardee Jul 29, 2011 11:45 AM

                                "I hear angry twenty-something. And I know, 'cause I knew it all then too. How to run a biz better than everyone I worked for.... I had my period of douchery, though far less than this dude. ;P"
                                Ehhhh.... I'm not saying this guy's necessarily a big huggable teddybear, or a bastion of reason, but still you reap what you sew. If Whole Foods doesn't want people second guessing them and reacting angrily at finding out they're just like other corporations, they shouldn't sell themselves as being so progressive and caring.

                                When Whole Foods projects their caring & wholesome & forward-thinking image, they attract naive idealistic people who buy into that.

                                Was this kid naive? Heck yeah. Was he a bit arrogant, opinionated, and whiny? Yep. Did he justifiably feel as though he had been misled and lied to? Yeah, that too.

                                Whether or not you like shopping there is beside the point.

                                1. re: cowboyardee
                                  chowser Jul 29, 2011 12:09 PM

                                  WF is a corporation and anyone who believes otherwise is fooling him/herself. That said, this guy's laments show his ignorance. Is anyone shocked to find that WF orders extra produce so their bins look nice--there's no other way they're going to look the way they do w/out doing it. As Kagemusha said, it's sounds like a 20 something person who thinks he knows it all. Did you read his actual letter? Was there anything surprising in it for you, other than the forced gifts of t-shirts, motivational signs (gasp)? Sounds like he was grasping at straws to slam WF. Meanwhile, there are hosts of reasons I don't support WF, like they're sourcing organic produce from China or not supporting health care which I think much more important, though not in this whiney young one's eyes.

                                  And, the criticism of other employees? Really? I wonder how old this guy is because I can't imagine any adult thinking that's okay. He's burned his bridges. Good luck to him in finding a new job. If he wants to stick by his ethics, he stayed there 6 years. Too late.

                                  1. re: chowser
                                    cowboyardee Jul 29, 2011 12:35 PM

                                    "Sounds like he was grasping at straws to slam WF. Meanwhile, there are hosts of reasons I don't support WF, like they're sourcing organic produce from China or not supporting health care which I think much more important, though not in this whiney young one's eyes."
                                    It sounds like a naive kid who bought into Whole Foods corporate propaganda and was pissed off to be disillusioned (on top of just being generally mad for a bunch of personal reasons).

                                    "Good luck to him in finding a new job."
                                    You guys overestimate the impact of his letter's publication. The economy and his probable lack of marketable skills may keep him from getting a job. And obviously he can't really use many of the Whole Foods people as references - he'd probably be better off leaving it off his resume. But most prospective employers will never see this letter, much less connect it to him as an applicant.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                      chowser Jul 29, 2011 01:51 PM

                                      "It sounds like a naive kid who bought into Whole Foods corporate propaganda"

                                      See, I don't see that. I see a disillusioned angry person who is naive and doesn't understand how businesses work. And, he's using social media to get back at everyone who made him angry. That's why he took stabs at his co-workers, including naming them.

                                      As getting a job goes, ask anyone about how much your online presence can affect your job prospects. It does matter and that's why so many college counselors tell students to be careful what they post. Employers will google you. There's an immaturity in his actions and that speaks up loud and clear.

                                      1. re: chowser
                                        cowboyardee Jul 29, 2011 02:26 PM

                                        "As getting a job goes, ask anyone about how much your online presence can affect your job prospects"
                                        Ask whom? Cause if someone were to ask me, I'd say you overstate your point. Especially among the $11/hour and lower crowd. Sometimes online presence hurts employment options. It happens. But usually - not so much unless you've been a national headline.

                                    2. re: chowser
                                      inaplasticcup Jul 29, 2011 01:33 PM

                                      I think it's cynical and complicit thinking that tells us it's ok for corporations to be hypocritical as long as it's savvy and profitable and that those of us who take issue with it are just being pollyanna.

                                      I'm not saying there's nothing good or useful about Whole Foods, but I think a lot of the letter writer's points about the incongruity of the company's images with its practices are valid.

                                      1. re: inaplasticcup
                                        chowser Jul 29, 2011 01:46 PM

                                        I think it sounds like he's grasping at straws when he's complaining about the over-ordering and most of what he has. Stores have to throw out old produce and they can't give it away. Shelters don't accept cooked foods and customers don't want to buy old food. What are they supposed to do? I don't think his points are valid, not does he do more than list vapid complaints about getting a free t-shirt with corporate logo and how WF expects you to be on time.

                                        1. re: chowser
                                          inaplasticcup Jul 29, 2011 02:06 PM

                                          I would agree that the general bitterness and immaturity of the email wrecks his credibility. But I also think that the belief that business has to be run a certain way certainly perpetuates business being run in a certain way.

                                          The implicit message of Whole Foods is that by shopping there, you are somehow benefiting not only yourself, but Earth at large. Even if it's not directly and explicitly stated in any of its marketing materials, the message is everpresent. And though I'm sure there are many areas where Whole Foods has high and fast turnover of perishable goods, I've been in several that very apparently don't. It's not vapid to point out that the amount of waste one can reasonably assume is generated by the corporation as a whole is not in line with its omnipresent Earth friendly image.

                                          1. re: inaplasticcup
                                            cowboyardee Jul 29, 2011 02:22 PM

                                            "I would agree that the general bitterness and immaturity of the email wrecks his credibility. But I also think that the belief that business has to be run a certain way certainly perpetuates business being run in a certain way."
                                            Well said. I don't know this kid and I don't condone writing a personal rant against his coworkers. Parts of his letter make him look bad (though entertaining in a way). But that doesn't mean he's wrong in feeling misled by Whole Foods. Their carefully cultivated image is incongruous with reality. I realize that doesn't make them particularly unique among corporations. But that doesn't mean it's a good thing.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee
                                              JuniorBalloon Jul 29, 2011 03:53 PM

                                              I think Whole Foods is trying to be better job than their competitors. I don't think it's fair to say that since there is some waste they are not lving up to their ideals. It would be impossible to run any store and not have some waste. I know that it used to be that prodcue from grocery stores was picked up by a farmer or someone feeding their own animals.

                                              I'd bet if you lined up what Safeway sells and compared that to what WF sells the sourcing, environmental impact and waste would be on WF's side. If not I guess I'd lose some dough.

                                              And I don't mean to imply that when they do fall short they shouldn't be held accountable, just saying they should be compared to what other, similar companies are doing.


                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                Kagemusha Jul 29, 2011 04:00 PM

                                                John Mackey is allegedly a total headcase--weird and a bit scary. Tone at the top, as they say. Check the New Yorker article on him and WF.

                                    3. re: cowboyardee
                                      petek Jul 29, 2011 08:01 PM

                                      "When Whole Foods projects their caring & wholesome & forward-thinking image, they attract naive idealistic people who buy into that"

                                      The Whole Foods in my neighborhood(kinda) is located in the trendiest,most exclusive "mall" in the city(Hazelton lanes) surrounded by multi million $ houses and condos.I doubt most of the people who shop there,or their nannies, care about Whole Foods wholesome,caring natural image.They can afford to shop there and they want people to know that they can.

                                      1. re: petek
                                        srsone Jul 29, 2011 08:19 PM

                                        yes....see the south park episode about "smug"

                              2. re: Papuli
                                ferret Jul 29, 2011 10:43 AM

                                They source locally for a lot of their bakery items. In my local WF they clearly state where each item came from on the little placards. Usually from nearby bakeries. Having said that, the other poster's fear of buying a baked good elsewhere from a "mix full of chemicals" is a little unfounded.

                                1. re: ferret
                                  Isolda Jul 29, 2011 11:01 AM

                                  Unfounded? Nope, all supermarket bakeries are required to list ingredients on the package, so when I see things like mono and diglycerides, maltodextrin, cellulose gum and artificial flavors on the labels of the cakes at Shaw's, Stop and Shop, Roche Bros, it's obvious they made the cake from a mix, or the supplier they bought it from did. It will not taste good to me. The pastries in the three WF markets near me all list ingredients that I have in my own pantry, even when the label also says the stuff comes from outside bakeries.

                                  I'm not afraid of preservatives and artificial flavors; I just don't like the way they make food taste. It's a taste issue, not a "faux hippy" issue.

                                  1. re: Isolda
                                    Chowrin Aug 2, 2011 06:28 AM

                                    ... often five star restaurants make their breads from a "mix" (frozen, and generally sourdough cause it's cheaper).

                                  2. re: ferret
                                    Chowrin Aug 2, 2011 06:27 AM

                                    ... so does costco? their baked goods vary dramatically based on who's baking them (I don't mean the really fresh stuff that gets baked on site).
                                    see, costco just does what's decent business, and doesn't feel like they need to celebrate it.

                            2. inaplasticcup Jul 27, 2011 02:27 PM

                              While he sounds a little bitter, it's hard to argue with most of his points, imo.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: inaplasticcup
                                coney with everything Jul 28, 2011 05:23 AM

                                Well, except for the apparent attitude about being 20 minutes late...I'd fire someone in retail if they were that late more than a couple of times without a VERY good reason.

                                1. re: coney with everything
                                  mpjmph Jul 28, 2011 06:57 AM

                                  According to a follow up piece on Gawker, 20 minutes was a typo, and he intended to say 20 seconds. Other WF employees have chimed in to support that as well - even a few seconds late counts against you, and employees are fired after 4 late arrivals.

                                  1. re: mpjmph
                                    Shrinkrap Jul 29, 2011 12:14 PM

                                    How do you type minutes when yomeant to type seconds?

                              2. srsone Jul 27, 2011 08:32 AM

                                and definitely click thru and read the actual letter on gawker...

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