Whole Foods is a “Faux Hippy Wal-Mart”

Laura’s Team Pick:

Even though they have those fancy rice cake popper machines and provided me with an amazing recipe for goat cheese cheese cake, I’ve always felt a little weird about Whole Foods. Something about people thinking they’re better than I am for buying pricey food. (Disclaimer: Not that this has ever stopped me from shopping there; it’s my first stop when I go to Ohio because there are bound to be at least 2.5 lesbians there.) Luckily, a disgruntled former employee has provided me with ammunition for my dislike – a 2,000-word resignation letter that attacks the company’s core values. These are some of my favorite:

+Oh, you don’t recycle properly?

+Oh, you sometimes intentionally order too much just to guarantee a full shelf, knowing full well the product will most likely be thrown out?

+Oh, you’ve somehow created the worst computer program I’ve ever used to run your entire buying system? IRMA is some Windows 95 era stuff, guys. I could design a significantly better interface in 30 minutes on a pad of paper. I know several students who could create a superior program in their spare time. Was someone actually hired to create that thing? Was it the Realplayer dudes? Even Captain Picard couldn’t facepalm hard enough to express the amount of failure in that… that, thing…

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. whole foods always creeped me out, and the one in san antonio had no lesbians, but a bunch of creepy 20 something parents that wanted the best for their child that would rather be eating mud.

    also one time my truck broke down in front of there and i got a guy to fix it for some beer and everyone looked down on us because we were rednecking it up in front of a freakin whole foods, like it’s sacred or something. sheesh. I’m sorry i dont drive a freakin hummer to transport my super expensive for no reason food. and that i don’t park my hummer in the compact car parking spaces. and that i put my damn shopping carts up because OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE TOO LAZY TOO WHOLE FOODS SHOPPER AND IM GLAD YOUR HUMMER GOT SCRATCHED. THATS WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING LAZY.

    if there were actual lesbians i probs wouldve liked it more. but it made me feel dirty being there. probably because i have no qualms about eating cheap food.

  2. I like whole foods. But then, I guess, its fair to say I’m a faux-hippy. However, I think whole foods does provide some better options than a regular grocery store and also, there are some interesting studies about how advertising and regular grocery stores are basically working to make really unhealthy food seem more desirable, especially to children.
    I live in a bumfuck little town and we sure as hell don’t have a whole foods so i never, ever get to go. but if i lived where there was one i would go sometimes, though i would not buy all my food there because it is too expensive. so that’s my defense of whole foods, straddlers, eviscerate me.

  3. Reading his full letter:

    “Dear Whole Foods Market,

    My experience at Whole Foods was like an increasingly sped up fall down a really long hill. That got rockier with every metre. And eventually, just really spiky … With fire, acid and Nickleback music.”

    He’s so Canadian it hurts. xD

  4. I’ve never worked at a whole foods, but I’ve worked in a few different natural food stores and I’ve gotta tell you, this dude really hits the nail on the head. As someone who, among other things, was given managerial responsibilities with no compensation, was once reprimanded four (four!) times in one day for being 20 minutes late, and have seen coworkers get called into ‘meetings’ in which they are ambushed and reprimanded by like 4 managers, I’d have to say this letter really hit a sore spot. I’ve never been so happy to be unemployed.

  5. I have a love-hate thing with WF. Love cos of all the assorted delicacies…hate the feeling I have after I exit the checkout line…Like I’ve been kissed by a dementor or something. :O

  6. i’m all about HEB central market in texas. HEB does a pretty good job down here, in general.
    it’s a nice place to work.
    and i get a discount on own-brand stuff.

    • Yep, HEB central market works for me here in Austin. Whole Foods always seems so…..daunting.

      • ooh, but it’s like, the whole foods in downtown austin is just so nice/pretty/huge. whenever i go up to austin, i just kind of walk around and stare at things there.

    • ohmykittenscentralmarket.I like to take my five year old niece there whenever I visit my sister. She’s a total lady magnet and she appreciates both the cheese AND candy section.

      plus, they have an entire wall of beer. AN ENTIRE WALL.

    • I’ve never come across an employee at Central Market who seemed anything less-than-content (or frequently happy) working there. Even the employees at regular HEB seem happy to be working there most of the time.

  7. It suck that guy had a bad experience working at a Whole Foods, but I suspect that working at any grocery store is similar. That doesn’t change the fact that WF has the best produce and meat around (aside from farmer’s markets). Since probably every (large scale) grocery store is the same in terms of employee treatment/environmental friendliness, I’ll keep shopping at Whole Foods because at least they have the food I like.

    • Yeah I agree. I don’t think it’s any reason to boycott whole foods because it’s a more large-scale problem that grocery stores in general need to deal with. It just sucks that it happens in a lot of natural food stores too. You’d think they’d strive for something better.

  8. I’ve only ever set foot in Whole Foods once and it was indeed in Ohio and it was at the behest of another lesbian.

  9. I like a lot of the products Whole Foods carries, and I know people who have had both good and bad experiences working there, but the company CEO’s strong stance against unions kind of creeps my little democratic socialist heart out. Luckily, I can’t afford to shop there, so potential conflict dodged.

    • And the fact that he doesn’t like healthcare reform. Maybe that’s why I feel that cold empty feeling in my heart @ the checkout line.

  10. This is so awful, I’m glad they didn’t hire me. Just kidding, unemployment is worse.

  11. THANK YOU for finally breaking the effing silence on this one. I live in Vancouver, where David Suzuki and Whole Foods are God. Also, I stole three bags of groceries from them once. HA.

  12. That letter was painful to read, mostly because every sentence started with “Oh” and was phrased as a question. You could tell this guy was pretty angry and spiteful. Also, I didn’t really learn anything about the store other than the management isn’t great and this guy got into a lot of trouble he didn’t think he deserved to be yelled at for. He sounds like somebody everybody probably wanted gone anyways.

    Also, it’s a chain health foods store. Of course it’s not 100% environmentally friendly or healthy. But it’s some percentage of each and I think that’s still pretty good. Especially compared to most grocery stores.

  13. My favorite part of this letter was the Captain Picard reference. FTMFW.

    Central Market is superior. The End. Even though, living in the OKC area, we don’t have special food stores so I only know about Central Market from the 18 years I lived with my parents. The closest Whole Foods to me is 164 miles away. Somehow, I feel this is a plus?

    • OH SO TRUE. Shopping there, working there, meeting in the back to ‘play jigsaw puzzles’ there…

    • I worked at a Trader Joe’s a few years back. It was pretty awesome, and the pay was way better than anything else I’ve had in retail/food service-y jobs.

      • I have never lived close enough to a Trader Joe’s to shop at one. Everytime I visit friends out of town and get to go to one, it’s such a special experience! My favorite part is how their name changes from Trader Joe’s to Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s depending on the cuisine the food is! Still, it seems less comprehensive than the greatest grocery store of all time, Wegman’s.

        • Wegmans!! I’m summering in Rochester, and developing a pretty severe Wegmans addiction. You’re right, it’s a lot more comprehensive than Trader Joe’s, plus the fruits/veggies are way better, but Trader Joe’s has better snacks (which is super necessary for stressed-out-college-student-me!). Also wines, but that’s not really Wegmans’ fault so much as New York’s….

          • I realize that comment was mostly positive… but how dare you disparage Wegman’s! They stopped selling cigarettes in all their stores in 2008 and offered smoking cessation programs to employees! They are consistently ranked in the top 10 companies to work for! And god damn it, their subs are so delicious! I can’t wait to get back to NY so I can shop at Wegman’s. Even before I see my family. (Kidding. We’ll all go to Wegman’s together, first thing.)

          • thank GOD others realized the wonderfulness of Wegmans. I know its expanding down south – i hope that doesnt take away from its amazingness… quality food and prices comparable to better than most other chain grocery stores

  14. Food should take up a bigger part of people’s budget, if possible. It’s one of the most important things that affects us everyday of our lives. I have no qualms with paying more for healthier food, be it at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, the non-chain equivalent or even healthier options at regular grocery stores.

    • In theory I agree with you. However, there are way too fucking many of us living on such small incomes that if we paid any more for our food, we would not have enough food to keep us alive.

      • yeah i know how it feels. i’ve been on the all ramen noodle diet before, but for those who can manage it, it should be a top priority

  15. that was probally the most ignorant article i have read in quite awhile. obviously it was, “a disgruntled former employee has provided me with ammunition for my dislike”. rather than some actual personal reasearch the author just regurgitated “oh’s” that have no validity. the “oh recycling”- is an isolated term. each store is run different than others. so blanketing every wf market because of one store is not an accurate way to judge how well the company as a whole is run.the “oh food getting thrown out” is a complete farce as unless it is expired. meat/cooked food/frozen products anything salvageable is donated.btw the words “sometimes intentionally” does not make a case for that argument from the beginning, as it did not reflect if those items were sale items, high movement, or limited availability. as far as the “oh – your ordering system” why would you bother to care? you get paid by the hour. if it takes longer to do your job at least your getting paid and quite well compared to what any other “grocery” chain will offer, as well a benefits,surplus,discount..either way you place the order in the system and the product arrives bottom line. if you could actually create “a program on pad of paper in 30 min” you obviously never would have worked customer service in your life genius.
    this was the most ignorant statement of the article- “Something about people thinking they’re better than I am for buying pricey food.”. the people who shop in whole foods have no idea who you are you just have a personality complex. the people who shop in wf shop there for health purposes- for organic, non gmo, gluten free, vegan, no preservatives/artificial additives & coloring.
    as far as all the responses- apparently no one has actually done their research as to how “expensive” whole foods really is… if you shop “365” products, sale items, “everyday deals”, friday one-day, saturday early-bird,weekend 3 day sales and instore coupons. then you will easily walk out with a reciept with a considerably smaller than a bill from trader joes of like items. yes, whole foods is a specialty store so there are high end items if you can afford them or don’t need them don’t buy them. as far as the basics you can find great everyday prices on foods that are healthy. if you like foods manufactured in a plant/lab with ingredients you can’t pronounce then you might find better prices elsewhere..not a promise.
    in short do your homework- the author did not. don’t deny your health because of an uninformed majority.

    • i’ve always wanted to be diagnosed with a personality complex by someone in whole foods management! i can now go about my evening with a spring in my step.

  16. I’ve read that Whole Foods markets itself as a place that is eco-conscious, healthy, fresh, etc. but it isn’t. In D.C., Whole Foods was better than walking through the sketchy part of town to get to Harris Teeter and it’s way nicer inside than Safeway, but it’s still just a grocery store… that doesn’t carry a lot of mainstream products. I rather enjoyed the frozen falafel they sold — I’ve never seen it at any other store — but other than that, I think most grocery stores these days suffice. Nothing tops Wegman’s. What a majestic store.

  17. I have only ever been to Wholefoods once, on an errand for a friend. My impression was that it has a holier than thou kind of vibe.

    His letter does not surprise me. Various articles over the years have implied that Wholefoods overstates the degree of wholesomeness of its produce.

    I also dislike it because it took over a perfectly decent local Canadian health food store, Capers.

  18. I rank most places on the quality of their public bathrooms. The whole foods on 2nd Ave and Houston in nyc was a major win. No pee on seats, lavender soap.

    The 14th street one on the other hand, good lord. Ugh. They had longer lines for the damn bathroom than cubbyhole.

    And fewer lesbians.

  19. I could write that entire letter, almost word for word and apply it directly to my job at Target. It sounds like the pretty standard “my jobs sucks, you’re all dicks” letter that most people don’t have the guts to write. I don’t think there’s anything special about Whole Foods’ particular brand of ass-hattery. Corporate ass-hattery is pretty much universal. If we stopped shopping/working at every place that was run by douches, there’d be no stores left anywhere…on second thought, maybe that would be a good thing for humanity in the long run. /ramble

  20. Well I have to say, working at WF wasn’t a terrible experience for me. It was one of my first jobs 10 years ago, and my duties were limited to sweeping up spilled quinoa, arranging flowers, and being nice to people. Having said that, our WF was bought out by a GIANT Whole Foods, apparently with different staff, core principles, etc.

    what was my point? OH YEAH!
    I pretty much DIED for my employee discount AND the fact that I could buy ANY baked goods or produce for 25cents after the store closed!! I LIVED off of pecan rolls and vegan chocolate cake. mmmmmmmm

  21. Upon working at whole foods for quite sometime.. this is one job where you show up to work late you won’t just get written up.. you have to do it at least 3-6 times in a 6 month period so .. yeah show up to work. They kinda have a zero tolerance and will fire anyone higher up to the dirt shovelers if you are late regularly. I just know at my location we give kitchen scraps to a pig farmer and have about 7 compost bins which are used pretty religiously.. everything that would have been stocked in grocery and cant’ be used anymore gets sent to the kitchen for immediate use or sent to a food pantry.. .Green Efforts seem to be run by employees we worked to get all this stuff in place not the big wigs
    I think that you could easily have worked at a store where people are abusing or not doing things they way they should… lord knows that the store has drifted more and more to the corporate end and a lot of things have changed over the years. .it’s true that you are not allowed to be critical of changes or you get pegged as a rebel.. even if you are just questioning a practice. Which I still do it doesn’t get me fired just maybe talked shit about behind my back.

    Sounds honestly like he’s just pissed and disgruntled… and hey I still shop at HEB (but I am a foodie so whole foods appeals) and nothing is perfect for sure (their Allegro coffee tastes like shit) .. but yeah Whole Foods does make some people go postal.. (one guy thats been working there for years wasn’t allowed a transfer because they would have to pay him more than new hire.. his response whole foods is like a free handjob but with sandpaper) haha ..

    In short i agree with you Alyssa Jane. .. Corporate World.. Corporate Rules or you don’t have a job. And shit I need money :) anyways peace just my 2 cents

  22. i try to buy my produce based on best labor practices for the farmworkers who first harvest it — i think they’re most likely to be abused by the system, even though a job at a chain grocery store may not be the most pleasant.

    whole foods is very far from perfect but at least is taking steps to ensure that its suppliers have fair working conditions and are paid fairly (at least internationally, they are talking of expanding these practices to domestic farms as well), which is more than can be said for a lot of chains:


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