Monday, March 24, 2008

Whole Paycheck Rant

A few weeks ago, I attempted to expand my horizons, do my bit for Mother Earth, and shoot my bank account to hell. Add it all up...I bought lunch at Whole Foods.

I despise Whole Foods. For starters, food is a basic human right and simply should not cost that much. There is no logical reason why a small bag of cherries should be $10, unless the cherries were sneezed on by Moses himself and polished by blind Bhutanese monks. I'm also a pretty simple person, and don't require that all my food be gloriously gourmet and farm-fresh.

But don't worry about the prices, because the customer base gives out the sanctimony for free. There's nothing like a yuppie guilt trip about factory farming and buying local/organic/raised by elves when food prices are skyrocketing and I am barely making ends meet. Apparently, if you do not spend an absurd amount on a can of beans, you are a Bad Person. This is much like the Prius evangelicals who want tax breaks and fawning admiration, because they can go out and buy a brand-new car when so many others cannot.

Whole Foods is not hippie-dippy counterculture. We have my parents for that. Whole Foods is a mega-corp that squashes competition and is working to replace all those little companies on its shelves with their own 365 brand. It's not the cute little grassroots mama Earth movement the yupsters seem to think it is.

But I could deal with the prices, the snootiness and the sanctimony if the store itself made even a smidge of effort to be pleasant. My neighborhood Safeway is infamous for its chaotic aisles, rude customers, bratty kids, long lines, and slow cashiers. Which, funnily enough, was just like shopping at Whole Foods. All the fun for twice the price!

On my visit, the lines were halfway down the aisles. And, to add to the pain, some genius decided to put a teenage trainee cashier on the line during lunch rush.

Trainer: Now you put the food on the scanner.
Trainee: I put the food on the scanner?
Trainer: Yes. That tells you how much it costs.
Trainee: It costs (absurdly stupid amount for a glorified snack).
Trainer: Take her money, then give her change.
Trainee: I don't understand!

Please note that this exchange occurred for every single customer.

So, Whole Paycheck, you can keep your yuppie sanctimony and silly prices. I'll be at my nasty old Safeway.


Mattias Klang said...


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Shannon said...

MK, there's a searchbox at the top left. A bit hard to see, but it's there.

lemmonex said...

I love you for this. I often preach against WF. It is NOT a co-op. it is a business, there to make money. I do go occasionally for fish and the like, but begrudgingly. I cannot handle the holier than thou attitude.

Anonymous said...

man, do i hate whole foods...not so much for the corporate greed part...but because people are especially putzy at whole snails, they slide through row by row of food and never consider their surroundings...god forbid you move to the side and let me through

anyway, safeway and giant can definitely be similar, but for some reason whole foods just seems worse...maybe because i'm paying more so it's already painfull...who knows

anyway, if you can't tell, i hate grocery stores period and just realized the beauties of peapod and's amazing!

Shannon said...

Lemmonex, aw, I love you too. I live near the Fish Market, so luckily I can head over there for seafood. Plus, the fish market is a lot more fun.

I have thoughts, maybe they're moving slowly because they want to be seen by as many people as possible. Whole Foods is like the Studio 54 of the designer jeans generation.

Marissa said...

Have you read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan? I think you'd enjoy it.

Also, customer service in DC is by far the worst I think I've seen anywhere in the Free World. I don't get it.

Justin said...

I hate to say it, but I kinda like Whole Foods. A lot. I live right by the one in "Georgetown" aka Glover Park. It is a bit expensive, and people do move slowly through the aisles, but it's so close that I end up going there often, it means I'm not tempted to buy sodas because all they have a cheap knock-offs, and, wait, wasn't I saying I liked it?

Well, I do. I love getting fresh cheese and the little buckets of berries. They have some really good frozen Indian dinners (Tandoori Chef Tikka Masala is amazing), and every so often I'll pick up a bottle of Naked Juice that I'll make last 3 days. Plus, 365 Brand seems extremely competitive. I normally just drink Brita'd water, but at some point I needed a bottle of water and a liter was like $.50. The toliet paper isn't the softest, but it's like $3 for a 4-pack, which is semi-reasonable. And the tortilla chips are very reasonably prices, too. Oh, and I have had great customer service there. The people in the aisles are always helpful, and when I had some bad guacamole there recently, the woman at the counter said I could just walk right out with a new one, no need to go through any complicated register business, took all of 20 seconds.

I went to Giant last night, though, and spent $22 instead of the regular $30-40... Hmm...

Hey Pretty said...

I have a love-hate relationship with WF. I think the quality of their produce way surpasses that of Safeway/Giant and they have a better selection of frozen pre-prepared foods. Their meats and fishes are also superior, as are many of their packaged/deli foods. But never when I shop there am I under the illusion that I'm doing something altruistic. Really, I'm feeding my own craving for high-quality foods. Yes, I resent the price, and since being forced into a limited budget, I haven't shopped there in over 4 months.

If you really want to do good through your groceries, buy as much of your food as possible through local CSAs. You'll be supporting farmers in your area, and doing good for the environment by reducing the amount of carbon produced through shipping and packaging your food. Yes, you'll be limited in ingrediants as you'll only be eating what's in season, but that's the trade off some other willing to put up with.

Shannon said...

Marissa, I've heard of the book, but haven't read it yet. I do try to make green food choices - organic when it's on sale, buy what's in season, cut back on meat consumption, choose sustainable types of fish. I just don't have the resources to go beyond that.

Justin, I haven't been to the Glover Park location, just the Logan Circle one. I don't mind digging for a bargain, but overall I spend more money for staples at Whole Foods than I would at my local Safeway. Times are tough, I'm sticking with Safeway.

HP, in the end, I don't really mind that Whole Foods is so expensive. I just wish more people, like you, would go because they have gourmet cravings, instead of turning it into a classist/greener-than-thou kind of thing.

Virgle Kent said...

Straight up good post. I only go to the WF right across from my crib AFTER the gym for the Hot bar. They've got crazy exotic dishes somenights

Does it look like I'll cook a fucking plantain by my God damn self. Plus the chicks that shop there for some reason look hotter than the ones at other stores. True story.

But the yuppies are going a little crazy with the self right talk. I agree

Domo El Mono Loco said...

until someone from Whole Foods can tell me why a 2 lb. bag of rice costs $5 I will not be shopping there. To add on, as much as the "fresh" (cause lets admit it people tomatoes can only be so fresh in January in DC) food costs there it ought to clean and cook itself!

Shannon said...

VK, hot chicks is by FAR the best reason I've heard today for shopping at Whole Foods. Anyone ever run a search for "whole foods" on Craigslist Missed Connections? Wow, it's like a singles bar.

Domo, if the Whole Foodians were half as green as they preach on about, they wouldn't be buying out-of-season anyway.

Kristen S. said...

If I want decent grocery experience, I just go to the nice Safeway in Kingstowne or Wegman's in Fairfax. If I want superb produce and meats, and am not on a budget that week (i.e. if I'm cooking a fancy dinner), I go to Balducci's.

By god, when I move to VT I will have access to all kinds of amazing farm products and organics.

Kim said...

I actually like Whole Foods very much. I can't buy the crap that Safeway tries to pawn off. Whole Foods definitely has shortcomings but MUCH better than Safeway -- I cringe just thinking about Safeway, which by the way sells overpriced processed food.

Tina said...

Listen to Kristin - Shop at WEGMANS!!!! - its more than a grocery store it is - well I can't even come up with words. I grew up in the town where Wegmans originated and there is nothing better. How I wish I still lived near one - but they have not expanded this far yet. Check out the one up in Fairfax - I don't know how it compares to my home town but if its even close you'll love it.

Shannon said...

Kristen, what you need to do is move to Vermont and date a nice farmer. Who is also a lumberjack.

Kim, fair enough. Where I get annoyed is when people try to tell me it's somehow more virtuous to shop there. Which is elitist, because they're saying the best way to save the Earth is to spend more than most people can afford.

Tina, I've heard good things about Wegman's - however, I live in the city and don't have a car.

KassyK said...

I second everyone who preaches for Wegmans. Coming home to NJ, its one of the saving graces. Same prices as the shitty supermarkets and NICER than Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is a freaking RIP OFF. And it always smells like crap to me.

I also was going to mention the Omnivore's Dilemna. I read it when I gave up meat and it is really interesting.


Nathan said...

I am proud to say that I have never spent my own money at Whole Foods. I did have to pick up a cake there for work once, but that's it. Being the blatant Capitalist that I am, I appreciate any and all Evil Corporations not named Disney or Starbucks, but I could cheerfully choke the life out of most of the clientele. Granted, that also goes for pretty much the whole race, but it's especially true of all yippies willing to spend $12.50 for something resembling a Hot Pocket.

Shannon said...

KassyK, duly noted. Whole Foods gives me stress meltdowns.

Nathan, I think there's a secret soft squishy part of you that wants to play the tambourine, wear organic cotton muumuus, and pay $5 for an apple.

Mike said...

I like Whole Foods because I can buy my carbon offset coupons right at the checkout counter. Very handy.

Actually, I shop at WF because their produce is about 100 times better than what they offer at the local Dominicks (Safeway) or Jewel. Plus, being a vegetarian, I can find a lot more stuff there, like veggie burgers, fake ice cream, etc.

You know, if you drove an orange plastic minivan, you could shop at Wegman's. Just sayin'.