Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wholly Foods!!!

The other week I was in Austin, TX, where I used to live. Since moving, the original Whole Foods Store has been completely redone. It is unbelievable! The largest and coolest Whole Foods I've ever seen! It was jam packed, not only with organic and earth friendly goods from around the world, but lots of local options as well. Most things had clear descriptions of how the product was sustainable. They actually roasted coffee beans there in the store.

I was sipping ice coffee afterwards in the outdoor seating (104 degrees), with the ornamental water sculptures off to conserve water for the summer, and was wishing for a moment that we had a Whole Foods store back in Littleton NH just like this one. Of course, a store this size makes little sense in Littleton (and the new, community owned Littleton Food Coop is wonderful...we're members), but I let myself dream for a moment.

Little did I know that Whole Foods would be in the news a week later...

The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, called "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare." The lead in is a quote from Margaret Thatcher, "The problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of other people's money."


Well, not surprisingly, this has stirred up a ton of reaction.

If you haven't been following all of this, read Heather Horn's excellent summary, "The Whole Foods Controversy in 15 Minutes" in The Atlantic online.

There's a lot going on here. I certainly did a double take when I read a Tweet that I remember as the "Bizarro world of having the CEO of Whole Foods against Health Care reform, and the CEO of Wal-Mart for it." So I read his opinion: it was snarky at times, and it's clear that part of his solution is "eat more healthy solutions like, for example, what we sell at Whole Foods." Overall, I don't think his suggestions will really help the poor.

This is not the first run in Whole Foods has had with its "liberal" cliental. Whole Foods continues to be anti-union, although their employees make better than the living wage, and their health care plans look good to me. Lackey also has a history of questionable tactics, including posting anonymous praising of Whole Foods, and criticisms of Wild Oats Markets...a company that Whole Foods later acquired.

It seems to me, however, that Lackey has every right to say what he said (especially since he wasn't shouting blatant lies), and that many people agree with him. I don't find his arguments compelling, but calling for a boycott of Whole Foods over the expressing of his opinion on health care? That seems to be going too far. (You would have a much better chance of swaying me to boycott Whole Foods over the other issues.)

I found an article by Dean Rotbart on this called, "Whole Foods is latest company inducted into ‘World’s Dumbest PR Blunders’ book." I wasn't expecting much from the article with that kind of title. After all, Rotbart is not someone I usually read, and I seldom agree with him. Despite the title, I found some of what he said really thought provoking:

What I think is the more enduring question for other businesses, senior executives and their public relations consultants is the wisdom – or lack thereof – of any prominent company executive voicing a conservative public opinion on a topic that is certain to rub his or her liberal customers the wrong way....

...Keep in mind that the Left and the Right don’t think or act alike in America. The Left will boycott any business, any cause or any person who fails to march (publicly at least) to the drumbeat of their doctrine.

The Right, in contrast – and in my opinion weakly – will continue to frequent movies that star Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and other conservative bashers; the Right will buy the albums of Barbra Streisand, the Dixie Chicks, and other ‘America is always at fault’ promoters; the Right will shop in chain stores and restaurants that flaunt their ‘green’ records as a response to fictional man-made global warming; and the Right will continue to watch NBC, ABC and CBS, even as their network newscasts serve as propaganda organs for the Obama administration and left-wing dogma. (

(Kurt Note: Did he really just say " a response to fictional man-made global warming" ???!!! Does he really mean all of that, or is he just expressing common phrases of the right? As I said, I seldom agree with him...)

I can't say I care for either "The Right" or "The Left" actions as described by Rotbert, but I have to admit there's some truth here. The way people often respond in these times when they hear things that they don't like, often seems to be either with reactionary rejection, or with hypocritical piety. I'm pretty sure that neither way is healthy for our ongoing relationships with one another...

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