Whole Evil?

Over at the New Orleans Metroblog, Richard is not fond of Whole Foods, alleging, among other things, that they’ve been “uncannily effective” at keeping similarly-themed chains out (two examples — I’m guessing — would be Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s, neither of which has hit the ATL yet).

I bring this up partly because I visit the Whole Paycheck on Ponce regularly, mostly because it’s a nicer shopping experience than the other two Ponce supermarkets (Publix and Kroger) and partly because Tony and I have a friend in common who works for this particular corporate behemoth, so I thought he might want to chime in.

So here’s the question: if it’s true that Whole Foods has been working to keep competitors out of New Orleans, have they been doing the same in Atlanta? And if so, what has that meant? It’s not just Atlanta, in the case of Trader Joe’s: they’ve stayed far away from the South. I know of some scattered health food stores — Rainbow Natural Foods at the corner of Clairmont and North Decatur, for instance — and they seem to have survived the Whole Foods onslaught, despite their prices being undercut. Likewise, when I went to the gem that is Your DeKalb Farmers’ Market on New Year’s Eve, it was packed. (Man, I wish I lived closer to YDFM. Those of y’all anywhere in the Decatur area, I envy you.)

Also, I don’t get the impression milk is that much more expensive at Whole Foods. I paid $1.89 for a half-gallon yesterday, up from $1.79 a week ago.

I don’t blame WF for anti-competitive practices — it advertises itself as friendly to its farmers and consumers, not its competitors. But it does annoy me hugely when a company builds up a reputation for being “socially responsible” (and y’all can go to town with the debate on what that might mean) and then proceeds to coast on it: one reason why I’m never buying from The Body Shop ever again.

5 Comments so far

  1. Tony Simon (unregistered) on February 1st, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

    I have a friend who works for Whole Foods? I should love to meet this person, especially if they are already my friend.

    My wife and I were just talking the other night about other (for lack of a better term) progressive grocery stores that hadn’t made it to Atlanta yet. The one that pops into my head is Wild Oats. Wild Oats makes Whole Foods look like Aldi, or something.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Whole Foods engaged in anti-competitive behavior. Despite what I’ve heard are stellar working conditions for a grocery store, they are vehemently anti-union.

  2. Jessica (unregistered) on February 1st, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

    Hmm. Maybe I’m getting my mutual friends confused.

    We could have a whole discussion about whether “stellar working conditions” and “vehemently anti-union” are actually oppositional. (Or, for that matter, whether attitudes towards unions and attitudes towards competitors go hand in hand — the presence of a very strong union at Delta didn’t stop it from going after JetBlue with both barrels, for example.) My understanding is that the WF CEO is a strident libertarian who dislikes union bureaucracies, but I haven’t done much reading on the subject since the WSJ ran a front-pager about health benefits at WF a few months ago.

  3. Tony Simon (unregistered) on February 1st, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

    How quickly I forget the publication for which you write. I would be in way over my head in that conversation.

    I just thought of someone I know who I think works for Whole Foods. Are this person’s initials DF?

  4. JDATL (unregistered) on February 4th, 2005 @ 10:10 am

    My recent experiences w/ drugged-out(?) baggers and surly stockers at Whole Foods in Sandy Springs is going to push me back to Public/Kroger. The latter are (slowly) getting in organic staples at more reasonable prices; heck, even Costco carries Martinelli’s organic apple juice by the gallon.

    My experiences with Trader Joes were always positive; hope they decide to make a run here ala Ikea.

  5. stress (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 5:13 am

    I hit this post through an unrelated search, but let me add that there are 2 reasons I have always lived in Decatur since moving to Atl – MARTA + the YDFM.

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