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Nov 10, 2012 06:23 PM

Whole Food negatives

I have been buying at the Whole Foods Union Square New York City store almost since it opened. But I am getting more and more discouraged. One of my major complaints is that there is too much moving around of items too often. Each week I am there something else has been moved to another part of the store. Each time I can't find something I ask a worker who shows me where the item has been moved and agrees with me that there this can be very frustrating for the customer. One even suggested jokingly that the bosses may suffer from a short attention span or something like that.

In addition (and this was before the recent storms, etc.) some items disappear for awhile. The 365 peanut butter was missing for several weeks at one point and all of the 365 canned salmon was gone for probably two months recently at another point.

And this summer milk from Whole Foods spoiled much faster than necessary.

Recently I purchased a Whole Foods kitchen made chicken pot pie that was far too spicy. I had purchased it before and liked it. But this time for me it was inedible. And chicken pot pie is comfort food. I returned it but could not get a replacement because it had been on sale and it seemed unfair to me to have to add money to my refund. And even before I returned it I sent an email about the spicy quality and never got an acknowledgment in reply. But when I returned the remainder of the pie I was told they were aware that it was too spicy.

Finally in their sale brochure a few weeks ago, they recommended an apple cake for its "buttery" quality. I purchased the cake and discovered there was no butter in the list of ingredients, only canola oil

In short, Whole Foods at least in my opinion is not what it was. I have discussed this with some of the workers and at least one has suggested that the cause of much of this is the replacement of those at the very top, that the person who ran Whole Foods at one time is gone, having turned over the management to others.

In the past month or so I have been purchasing more and more at Trader Joe and Costco. My most recent discovery was the 2 lb Kirkland frozen cooked shrimp with tails (size 31-40) at Costco selling for approximately 1/2 the price of the similar item at Whole Foods. Approximately $15 for one lb at Whole Foods, 2 lbs at Costco. The Costco shrimp was noticeably tastier, cleaner (no black veins vs a few every once in awhile at Whole Foods), larger, and firmer.

I really like the people who work at Whole Foods. But I will be buying less from now on.

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  1. I hear you about the frequent re-shuffling at Union Square, but I think moving the bulk bins away from the elevators was a good idea. It's nice to not be bashed by strollers while I peruse the grains.

    1. I don't live near a Whole Foods anymore. I don't miss it. Actually, the only thing I miss is their bulk herb section. It was nice to buy one or two sprigs of something that you need for a recipe versus buying a whole package and having most of it go bad. But otherwise, I do not miss it at all. I shop at a Sprouts store now that is near my office and it fills my needs just fine without having the crazy prices.

      1. As far as shifting things around a lot, I think that's the nature of when these stores get to a certain size, volume and can no longer easily support the SKU count they are trying to maintain. In more heavily managed stores, they'd be receiving more regular plannogram adjustments that would sort this out so that things moved less often, but that isn't WFM's corporate culture as far as I experienced.

        In terms of things being off the shelf for long periods of times, that's a complex one that is mostly out of their control. Peanut crops were very small in comparison to previous years, so they're expensive and harder to fill orders on. Add in a major peanut butter recall recently and the whole train gets derailed. Heck, add in the fact that it's a private label and the outages will tend to take longer. Canned seafood gets seasonal shortages every couple years as well that can last a long while, especially for the private label stuff. I know I saw similar things at TJ's every so often back when I lived in the US... Although TJ's was often better about reacting and filling that space... but that could cause consumer confusion anyway, so they could be criticized no matter what they do.

        WFM is alright. Just like any other grocery retailer, they have their ups and downs. Having worked behind the scenes a lot, I'm probably more forgiving of a lot of what you described than I would have been without that experience. I see the empty shelves, think about what is probably (or certainly) causing it and sigh knowing that it's just how the world works.

        1. TJ's by me is far guiltier of moving stuff around...other than the frozen/refrigerated goods, I think everything in the store has migrated elsewhere at some point

          The WF in my area took out their coffee bar a few years ago and that's about the only thing I can think of that they've changed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: coney with everything

            Interesting... I visit TJ's in Vegas and whenever I am in California. I find the layout of the western region stores to be pretty consistent. We are getting one here in SLC, to open later this month. Will see how they do layout-wise. I'm new to dealing with diabetes, so my TJ's shopping list will be way different. And, of course, being in Utah there will be no booze. Always said that is what would keep TJ's out, but I am glad they proved me wrong!

            1. re: GroovinGourmet

              GroovinGourmet, my TJs in New Jersey has neither liquor or wine/beer and it was one of the earlier ones built on the east coast.

          2. Another negative of Whole Foods is while they cater to people who are gluten free, or Vegans, they rarely have food that I can get my diabetic grandma who is on a strict diet because of heart issues. I'm talking low sodium, sugar free type things. I was looking for a specific butter but had to settle on vegan butter since they had a whole case of that.

            The cost of fruit and veggies there is high and once I brought home lemons from there and the next day they were moldy. WTF! So I shop at the local publix for fruits and veggies, better quality and cheaper.

            I treat whole foods more as a specialty store for items they have that other surrounding stores don't have and buy the rest of my groceries else where.