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Whole Paycheck

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I too am shocked that a company founded by an anti-union libertarian jerk would completely ignore not only basic food safety principles but the FDA’s orders to do something about it.

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  • Warren Terra

    You have to love the part where the FDA inspectors delivered their report; Whole Foods responded promptly by saying “OK, thanks, all fixed”; the FDA in turn replied and said they’d like some actual documentation, not simply an assertion things were cool now; and in response to that communication Whole Foods “said the letter came as a surprise”.

    • LosGatosCA

      It’s the ten-year old boy strategy.

      Nothing happened.
      I fixed it right away
      Nobody told me it was wrong
      Somebody else did it
      It was like that before I got here
      Why should I be punished, everybody does it and they don’t get punished.

      Did I leave anything out?

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “You didn’t see me do it”

      • DAS

        I don’t know about 10 year old boys (it’s been a long time since I was one) but my 10 year old daughter also uses “Mommy/Daddy/Teacher/Other Authority Figure Not Present lets [me do what your upset at me for doing]”

  • Judas Peckerwood

    I’ve lived within blocks of Whole Paycheck stores in several cities and have never once felt compelled to enter one — partly because of the politics of their douchebag founder, and partly because most of the people I know who love shopping there are pretentious yuppie dipshits.

    • Warren Terra

      I’ve shopped at WF to cater for guests (especially for a genuinely gluten-intolerant guest). But never for myself.

    • RabbitIslandHermit

      I’ve shopped at Whole Foods with my mom a few times and I don’t get the appeal at all, at least not in a world where Trader Joe’s exists. It really seems to be a status/identity signaling thing more than anything.

      • dr. fancypants

        I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan, but in my experience their produce is pretty uniformly terrible.

        • MAJeff

          And has such wasteful packaging as well.

      • I’ve shopped at Whole Foods with my mom a few times and I don’t get the appeal at all, at least not in a world where Trader Joe’s exists.

        That’s funny, because if there’s an experience that I found was less appealing than Whole Foods, it was Trader Joes.

        In Albany we have a local co-op that I feel beats the pants off of both. That’s where I do my specialized shopping :-)

        • vic rattlehead

          The only thing I dislike about Trader Joe’s is how crowded it always is. Line wrapped around the store and I feel like I’m constantly navigating hordes of people. I live in Manhattan and I think their stores get too crowded. But I guess I can’t fault them for being so popular-they actually handle the crowds very well, it just makes shopping unpleasant.

          • nixnutz

            I only go there to buy coffee (same with WF actually, and my local health food stores) but the last 4 or 5 times I’ve gone in I thought I was prepared to deal with the crowd but then had to leave as soon as I’d walked to the back of the store. It’s intolerable. WF would be even worse if they didn’t have 40 registers. The crazy thing is I once went to the Brooklyn Heights Trader Joe’s on a Tuesday afternoon and it was nearly as bad as the Union Square one. But they seem more like a place you go to stock up on frozen canapes for a party, or maybe vitamins if you’re into that, than to do actual grocery shopping.

          • Linnaeus

            It’s gettin’ real in the Whole Foods parking lot.

    • DrDick

      I went into one once in Chicago, looked at the prices, and walked out.

    • Troll

      Troll Troll Trolley Trolley!

    • mikeSchilling

      I recently went there to get a pie to take to a friend’s house. It cost too much ($20), but it was one hell of a tasty pie.

      • Derelict

        At least you got a tasty pie. The only WF I’ve ever been in was in Tucson, AZ. I was very unimpressed with the selections, and astounded that anyone in their right mind would pay those prices. The $2 navel oranges were not as good as the $1 navel oranges from any other grocery store–and, no, the 100% price difference didn’t make up for the dry pulpy produce.

    • Brett

      They have a good bakery and deli area, including a wider variety of cookies than you usually see at a grocery store. And the ones here used to have a super-good artisanal bread from a bakery called “Crumb Bros”, until . . . holy shit I just checked the internet and Crumb Bros is opening up again!

      Welp, now I’ve got my next Whole Foods trip.

  • rea

    Much the same thing as happened in Flint, I suspect–the right knows that safety regulations are bullshit–no one really gets sick from lead in the water or contaminated food–so why bother to comply?

    • LosGatosCA

      This is why I laugh when folks insist that ‘organic’ is not just a marketing term.

      Because a business would never lie about how something is produced?

      I mean even the unwanted ingredients, like the salt in a salt free organic food product, or the peanut dust in a peanut free organic food product can be counted on to be organic, no?

      I can see how a company might lie about extra extra extra extra virgin olive oil but not if it’s organic. That would violate the ‘we’ll lie about anything except if the product is fair trade, organic, or gluten free’ agreement consumers can fully count on.

      Face it, business people lie – that’s their job. It’s called marketing, salesmanship, innovative business model, etc.

      • wjts

        I suppose so long as the product in question contains at least one carbon atom, it’s technically “organic”.

        • Ahuitzotl

          organic diamonds,extra crispy, please

      • DrDick

        For that matter, the sawdust in your grated Parmesan is organic.

      • sonamib

        “Organic salt” is my favorite oxymoron.

  • AMK

    You and FDA don’t get it…the listeria is what makes it organic.

  • dudleydowrong

    Because Wall Street has put it under such pressure to expand growth…

    Shocking that pressure from Wall Street could push a company to risk the safety of its customers for better profit margins.

    • Ken

      Think of how much better the profit margins could be, if one in a thousand customers was harvested for organs to be sold on the black market.

      • Think of how much better the profit margins could be, if one in a thousand customers was harvested for organs to be sold on the black market.

        What did you think “organic” meant?

    • Derelict

      But . . . the people on Wall Street are business geniuses! They know everything about business! They even know things about business that haven’t been discovered yet!

      And that’s how they know that it’s a perfectly rational expectation for every publicly traded company to be able to post 20+% profit growth every quarter for all eternity. Any company that doesn’t is just poorly managed.

  • Malaclypse

    But it’s organic Listeria.

    • efgoldman

      But it’s organic Listeria.

      Yooge listeria. The best.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      All Natural!

      Guaranteed not to contain any Technetium or Promethium.

      And by “not any” we mean “not very much”.

      • sonamib

        You don’t mention any lack of plutonium. Should I be worried?

    • CD

      Non-GMO listeria. Free-range, fair-trade, and gluten free.

  • TexRipples

    this is just like that time the jerks from the government tried to keep that hero from building an awesome train!

    • Judas Peckerwood

      Atlas Barfed

      • Woodrowfan

        Atlas Squatted

        • Ahem. It’s Atlas Sharted.

          • efgoldman

            Atlas Shat. Proper use of the past participle.

            • N__B

              If you bought the peas you could SnapShat.

            • My dear sir, shit and shart are not synonyms. Please see the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of the Lower Bowel if you need more information.

  • efgoldman

    You know that real Whole Money devotees are like Berniebots and RWNJs: They KNOW that it’s the best, most organic, most honest, most wholesome place that can do no wrong.

  • I rarely go there unless I need some ingredient I can’t get at Trader Joe’s.

    • sparks

      I’m fortunate enough that when Whole Paycheck came here, they decided to locate in the tonier suburbs outside the city and to ignore the city itself. Certain other supermarkets had also done that out of shortsightedness, and now it costs them a great deal to locate a store inside the city. I have a Trader Joe’s and a good specialty market near me so I have never set foot in a WF.

  • Linnaeus

    Fortunately, we here in Seattle have PCC, which sells the same kind of stuff that Whole Foods does and is unionized.

    • DocAmazing

      Here in SF, we poor stupid hippies still have co-ops. Membership’s cheap & the produce is good & they have fifty-five gallon drums of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

      • CD

        Wow. Does Dr. Bronner write impenetrable religious screeds on the 55 gallon drums too?

        • vic rattlehead

          You know, Dr. Bronner always struck me as a harmless religious kook. If you actually read what he wrote on the bottles, it’s a pretty positive and inoffensive message.

      • dr. fancypants

        Rainbow Market is pretty sweet. Unfortunately I live literally two blocks from Whole Foods, so the path of least resistance almost always leads me there.

      • Aexia

        PCC (Pacific Consumer Co-Ops) is actually the largest food co-op in the country. It’s a local chain.

        • Emily68

          I think it was Puget Consumer Co-Op, although their official name now may be PCC.

    • Are there still Haggen stores in Seattle? They took over a bunch of Vons and Albertson’s stores in southern California, and imploded pretty damn quickly. They left Carpinteria, where friends live, with one grocery store.

      • CD

        Haggen seems just about gone. I think they’re being sold to Albertson’s.

        • Linnaeus

          Yes, Haggen’s been sold to Albertsons. Some of the Haggens in Washington will be rebranded and some will stay as Haggen.

    • dr. fancypants

      Damn, I miss PCC. As I recall, it was cheaper than Whole Foods, and had a pretty excellent bulk section to boot.

      • Linnaeus

        Both are still true.

  • carolannie

    Years ago my daughter worked as a manager at Jamba Juice. She had the local headquarters pull the franchise out of WF because they were so filthy.

    I never have bought prepped food from them

  • davidjoseph1

    The thing is, under the Park Doctrine (421 U.S. 658), the FDA could go the hell after John Mackay.

    • Origami Isopod

      God, I hope so. I’d love to see WF go out of business.

  • Downpuppy

    (Please to read in David Tennant brogue. Thankee)

    30 some years ago, Bread & Circus took over the BigY at the dead Mountain Farms Mall. They weren’t much good other than the bulk yeast.

    Nowadays, in their new name, they’re everywhere, both in new stores and in the old Johnnies Foodmaster spots. Basically useless, other than good cheap chicken.

    NPR at the breakfast lately has been all pledge drive, Orlando & opiods. Quite depressing, really. Like a jolly pacemaker having them dumping all over the listeria, drips and ammonia baths of the 7 state ready to eat plant over the Mystic in Everett.

  • jlredford

    Here in Mass we had a nice small supermarket chain called Johnnie’s Foodmaster which was owned by a local family, the DeJesus’s. Some of the stores were rundown, but the one near me was clean, well-stocked, friendly, and cheap. Then in 2013 the son of the founder decided to sell 6 of the 10 stores to Whole Foods. He has yet to give a reason, and no one knows how much the deal was worth. He laid off everyone with no severance. The store used to be staffed by locals, and turnover seemed low – I said hello to the same people for years. Now it seems to be mainly immigrants with poor English. I wish Market Basket had bought them, but they were going through their own problems.

    • Warren Terra

      When I lived in Cambridge the local instance was justifiably nicknamed Johnnie’s FoodRotten.

    • twbb

      “He has yet to give a reason”

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the reason was lots and lots of money.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Krusty: (gasps and sobs) They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house! I’m not made of stone!

      • Downpuppy

        The entire chain went under. The larger ones are now Stop & Shops; the smaller ones mostly Whole Foods.

        The Beacon Street store everybody remembers for the smelly meat department sold wine and beer. They had a “Card Everyone” policy & so much turnover that I was getting carded after shopping there 20+ years. Everyone meant everyone – I saw them ID a couple with a combined age over 150.

        The only one that’s missed is the Charlestown store, in the time shopping center most famous for the 99s massacre. They had amazing pastry.

    • dr. fancypants

      I used to live right behind one of the Foodmaster stores in Somerville. That one was a bit of a dump.

  • Captain Oblivious

    When I want “prepared” food, I go to a restaurant.

    Why do people even buy this factory-made shit? IME, it’s one grade, barely, above frozen dinners and airplane food, and it’s expensive as hell.

    • twbb

      Speed and convenience. I admit I will sometimes swing by Whole Foods and pick up something they prepare (usually their spanokopita which is ok). If I have a bit more time I’ll hit up Publix.

      • Brad Nailer

        I tried some prepared something at my local Publix a few years ago; not my style, haven’t done it since. Now, their Hot & Spicy Wings? To freaking die for.

        • twbb

          Their subs are justifiably well-regarded, I think. As for the other stuff, I really like their buffalo chicken tenders, their olive bar is good, and their salads aren’t bad. I stay away from the Chinese hot food bar because it looks…dubious.

          • Randy

            It is hard for me to walk by an olive bar and not yell “Olive fight!!!”

    • Randy

      If you’re traveling in small towns, the deli counter at the local grocery is often a better bet than a restaurant. If nothing else, it gives you a glimpse at what the locals are eating at home.

  • wengler

    I’ve never lived in a place nice enough to have a Whole Foods. I will say though that when I lived in Champaign, IL there were two grocery stores across the street from each other. One was for the rich the other for the not so rich. I never understood why someone would pay so much more for the exact same food, but then again I’ve never had that much disposable income. I guess what grocery store you go to is an inherent part of someone’s personal identity.

    • Warren Terra

      I live in Greater LA, which is apparently Supermarket Heaven; last time I counted, there were 13 different full-size supermarkets (at least 10 or so different brands) within five miles of my house, and I almost certainly missed some; within a slightly larger range it’s in the dozens, including Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean supermarkets.

      My personal favorite contrast is between two differently branded Kroger supermarkets, about 2-3 miles apart. One is for the middle class, one is much more for people on EBT, and for brown and black folks. They get the same groceries off the same trucks, but the sales and the prices are usually better at the poor people’s Kroger (though not always, and on which items is interesting).

      • efgoldman

        My personal favorite contrast is between two differently branded Kroger supermarkets, about 2-3 miles apart.

        We’re equidistant from two Stop & Shop markets (in Northern RI). One has more ethnic foods (mostly Portuguese and Hispanic) than the other. Neither carries their circular-advertised Jewish holiday specials (“No demand” a manager told me.) What drives mrs efg batty is that prices for the exact thing are different in the two stores, without rhyme or reason, some products higher, some lower, and each is part of a different weekly ad circular (although obviously lots of corporate overlap)

    • CD

      It’s certainly one of the easiest ways to see class stratification in the U.S.

      It’s funny. The always-jammed WF near me in Seattle has its 3 or 4 aisles in the middle – valuable space — given over to homeopathic medicines and the like, an almost perfect example of paying a lot to get nothing. So there are folks who like spending money for the sake of spending money.

      • Breadbaker

        I buy some bulk things at our Whole Foods if PCC is out of them and Central Market or Ballard Market it out of them. Can’t think of any other reason to go there.

  • glasnost

    Not that I’m a fan of the CEO, but WF would have to be a lot crappier than this before I stopped shopping there, simply because they’re my only realistic, convenient option to get humane meat.

    I’m open to reading something to the contrary, but everything I’ve read so far says, first that most big-market ‘humane’ meat is not trustable and that, second, WF’s basically is.

    I’m not driving two hours each way for a boutique farmer’s market butcher. It’s this or go back to Safeway. I’d rather not give up completely on my agenda to have a little compassion in my largest interaction with animals.

    • TribalistMeathead

      Yeah, this. I’ve been an urban dweller long enough to remember when my only option besides the low-grade dog food being sold at the butcher’s counters at Safeway and Giant was Whole Foods – and I’m forever grateful to them for forcing other supermarket chains to up their respective games.

    • brewmn

      Thank you. There’s definitely plenty of grounds for criticism of Whole Foods and their asshole CEO, but they have been one of the main drivers for more sustainable food production. This post is simply more of Erik’s (and so many of the commenters here) brain dead slamming of things they know next to nothing about.

      • Clearly calling out Whole Foods for blatantly violating food safety laws is “brain dead slamming of something I know nothing about.”

        To say the least, you make really stupid comments anytime you are addressing anything I write.

        • brewmn

          What’s stupid is your blaming of the food safety violations on the fact that their CEO is a “libertarian jerk.” There’s no indication from the article that Mackey was even aware of the violations. These problems were more likely cause by regional management being concerned about profits and costs; it’s not a result of a national policy on the part of the company.

          Food safety issues are a problem for all types of large-scale food production, and you blaming this instance of food safety problems on certain utterances of an individual with no connection to the day-to-day operations of a massive enterprise is, there’s really no other way to describe, simplistic to the point of being stupid.

          Your posts consistently level blame because of big “isms” without any acknowledgement of factors that might complicate an issue. You’re just not a nuanced thinker, and your writing seems more designed to provoke blind outrage against a given target rather than an understanding of an issue. The fact that you find my pointing this out “stupid” realy just reinforces that point.

          • brewmn

            You do have pretty good taste in music, though.

          • How does a culture of contempt for government interference that comes from the founding of the corporation influence their utter contempt for food safety law, even after the government has intervened? Do I really have to explain this to you?

            I will also remind you that comment here at my pleasure, so you may want to consider not commenting on my posts if all you are going to do is attack me.

    • So….we shouldn’t criticize Whole Foods for violating food safety law just because they do other things well? Wouldn’t you want Whole Foods aggressively criticized to do better for precisely the same reasons you mention here about meat?

      I don’t understand how people let brand loyalty get in the way of legitimate criticism of what that brand does. It’s like when people get mad about people criticizing Apple’s labor conditions because they like their Macs. What kind of moral universe is that?

      • TribalistMeathead

        I can’t speak for glasnost, but I was responding more to the general “Whole Paycheck/lol rich white people” criticism of Whole Foods. I don’t think they should be forgiven for any of their various transgressions.

        • I mean, the culture and prices are pretty ridiculous–it basically makes good food available for rich people while the proles have to shop at Kroger or whatever. That is a legitimate criticism of its own, albeit quite different that the food safety problem.

          • brewmn

            They are also opening stores in urban food deserts, which none of the noble, prole-serving stores you mentioned have been willing to do for decades.

            • Randy

              The “food deserts” Whole Foods is going into are gentrifying neighborhoods, where the newly urban like the convenience of not driving clear across town for their high-priced food. It’s not like they are serving any of the “proles” who were living there before it was cool.

              • brewmn

                You’re completely wrong, of course:

                http://www.chicagotribune.com/ct-detroit-whole-foods-met-20150316-story.html

                But, hey, don’t let facts get in your way.

                • sapient

                  Thanks for this. I love Whole Foods. The emphasis on humane animal husbandry is one reason. Their fish counter is terrific, and they care about sustainable fishing practices. The produce is almost always fabulous. The checkout process, even in a busy store, is reasonable. Okay, it costs a bit more (for the features that I’ve listed, and for produce that you don’t have to throw away almost immediately). On the East Coast, our vegetable situation isn’t like it is in the West, so it’s really nice to have a place where there are yummy veggies year-round.

                  The CEO is a bit of a lunatic, but I don’t know much about the CEO’s of most companies, so who cares?

                  I do believe in FDA enforcement of food safety, so I’m glad that where Whole Foods falls short, they’re called to account. But people who don’t like Whole Foods don’t have to shop there. I’m glad mine is in close proximity. I shop there frequently, almost exclusively.

                • Randy

                  You still don’t see the locals shopping there.

              • brewmn

                Spend a lot of time shopping in Englewood, do you”Randy?”

                Because I can guarantee you that the “newly urban” are not driving to 63rd Street for their free-range chicken and organic kale.

      • glasnost

        I said nothing like that.

    • Origami Isopod

      In this thread: “Humane” meat >>>>>> humane policies for workers.

      • sapient

        Whole Foods operates under the usual corporate constraints, but its labor costs are twice the industry standard. This article from Mother Jones is critical of some recent Whole Foods cost cutting measures, but does acknowledge that much. And workers could, in fact, unionize.

        On the other hand, animals can’t unionize. They’re completely at the mercy of people who either care or don’t care.

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    In the MidAtlantic region, there is a somewhat-dominant supermarket chain named “Acme”.

    For food, it’s meh. But you just can’t beat their Rocket Sleds!

    I wonder why they haven’t expanded to the desert west…

    • efgoldman

      But you just can’t beat their Rocket Sleds!

      Their anvils are yooge, the greatest anvils. Their dynamite gives the greatest explosions! So great, you’ll never know your head got blown off!!

    • wca

      For food, it’s meh. But you just can’t beat their Rocket Sleds!

      Rocket Sleds sounds like something you’d get after eating the “meh” food. As in…

      Man, that frozen burrito gave me a bad case of the Rocket Sleds!

  • SamInMpls

    Amazon Prime Now came to my city recently and I have used it for groceries a few times. They don’t really advertise this feature but they have emailed me twice when I purchased an item from them that was later recalled by the FDA for safety reasons. I don’t think I would have been aware of those recalls if I have purchased those items at my local grocery store.

  • pseudalicious

    There’s this great zine called Truckface, and the first collected anthology deals with the author’s time working at a Chicago(?) Whole Foods. The lack of food safety was… eye-opening. If you’re interested in what’s going on in Chicago re: public schools, Rahm, etc., it’s also a good zine, because the author became a teacher and their day-to-day is really interesting.

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