August 23, 2009

(h/t Dave)

You gotta love the mentality of Greta Van Susteren, reducing the whole union-hating, Ayn Rand-loving, universal health care-dismissing ravings of Whole Foods founder John Mackey to a question of whether he's a "bad man." She's using the same language I use with my 6 year old when talking about "stranger danger." Sheesh.

Even as a diehard foodie (My husband and I plan our weekends and vacations around meals and restaurants. Seriously.), I actually don't shop that often at Whole Foods. I find it...well, elitist and overpriced. I much prefer Trader Joe's and our local farmers' markets to Whole Foods, though many of my friends are major patrons. But now that I've read Mackey's diatribe in the WSJ in all its Randian glory, I have to wonder if he considered at all who shops in his stores.'s Ali Savino writes on Whole Foods' rotten core:

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote a thunderous comment piece in which he derided the public option, Barack Obama's biggest campaign promise to progressives, and put forward a stridently conservative view of healthcare for America.

Does Mackey know who his customer base is? Did he really not foresee the backlash that has ensued – the howls across the blogosphere and Twitter, the Facebook petition to boycott Whole Foods?

Pundits argue that Mackey hasn't gotten a fair shake. He sells food after all, not health insurance. He's a successful businessman who has wisdom to share. But Whole Foods is more than a supermarket. From the cooking classes and wine tastings to the monthly event calendar on the wall, Whole Foods aims to be a way of life.

The brand Mackey created caters to a specific clientele. Customers are greeted with signage boasting of local farmers and grass-fed cattle. Whole Foods touts announcements of Green Prom projects and 100-best-companies-to-work-for accolades. The reusable shopping bags and shelves filled with yoga mats and all-natural beeswax lip balm aim to capture the same folks clicking "donate" on the MoveOn fundraising appeals.

These are the same people who pay large sums for a pint of organic strawberries, laughing off or even defending the "Whole Paycheque" label. They tell themselves: It's OK to pay double what those strawberries would cost elsewhere, because they're chemical-free, healthier, environmentally and ethically sound. Whole Foods customers want to feel good about their purchases and believe they are being better citizens for shopping there.

Now Mackey, the face of the company, is not only at odds with a central tenet of progressivism, but a supporter of free-market evangelism that has no space for the community-based, egalitarian solutions his customers support.

One of the site team wrote to Whole Foods after the op-ed was published and Whole Foods responded quickly with a somewhat disingenuous response, but also one which disavowed Mackey's stance (The exact phrasing was "Whole Foods Market has no official position on the issue"). If you're on Facebook, you can join the "Boycott Whole Foods" group now.

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