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Whole Foods – I was wrong!

One of the things I love is when I underestimate people, or even institutions, and they prove me wrong. Like when I meet a very young person and assume they will be immature or naive, and they turn out to have way more sense and understanding of the world than I do. Or like the time I went swimming in Seattle and a very large woman got in my lane and I thought “oh great, now I’m going to have to swim slowly,” and she swam my backside into the ground. I love that. It reminds me that even though first assumptions and quick categorizations can be helpful in processing the firehose of information that is shooting as us all through life, these assumptions are often wrong, and it’s always worth taking a second look and letting yourself be amazed. It helps me keep my mind open.

One of the assumptions that I recently had shattered is my ideas about Whole Foods Market. If you don’t know these markets, they are very pretty, well-designed and stocked with high-quality and, more often than not, organic foods. The company blog features stories about artisan cheese and why things like reviving grass-fed cattle is good. Their buyers build relationships with their suppliers, and get to know them as people. The tagline on the website is “selling the highest quality natural & organic products.”

So I had some assumptions about WFM. One of which was that it was expensive. Very expensive. But I recently learned – and this really surprised me – that WFM is price competitive. I found this out by talking to a fellow Thunderbird alum who works as a specialty coordinator for company. Whole Foods has suffered in image on this score, with many people both affectionately and ruefully referring to it as “Whole Paycheck,” implying that it takes one’s whole paycheck to shop there. While it’s true that there are many specialty items (many of which are prominently displayed) that are quite spendy, if you do a price comparison of the WFM private label “365,” it is extremely close to other private labels, and in some cases is exactly the same or even less. From my own (admittedly short and highly unscientific) survey, I would be willing to bet that WFM private label organics probably come out better than many organic private labels at other stores.

I like to share information here whenever possible, especially information that surprises me. This surprises me. I am not an “organic shopper” – I pretty much always value price over organic. But I know many, many people who do put a high value on organic, and I will definitely be letting them know that they can probably do better at WFM. And I will also be giving my local WFM a second look in the future when I have shopping to do.


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