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My take on Whole Foods

I got off work early, and I decided to run a few errands. Got my haircut, bought some office supplies, and exchanged a few items at Best Buy so I can do my podcast (excited about that!). I also stopped at Whole Foods for lunch while I was doing all of this, and got this mixed salad.

To be honest, I am a bit conflicted about the place. On one hand, I really like it. I think there is a lot of great food there, and with all the great choices available, a place like Whole Foods embodies the best of what capitalism and the free market is all about. Where else can you get salad like this with things like feta cheese, a vegan ‘detox’ salad (I HAD to try that!) seaweed, olives, eggs, kale, and a Thai inspired salad thing with chopped peanuts (which was also pretty damned tasty!) all in one bowl for $11.33? Plus, you get free Internet access so you can check your e-mails and read your favorite blogs while you are enjoying this feast!

Now,  I know what some of you may be thinking. 12 dollars? That’s expensive! But when you really think about it, that’s not really that much. If I tried to make that salad myself from scratch, it would cost at least 100 dollars, not to mention the time it would take to schlepping from store to store to (1) get all the items for the salad (2) prepare them (3) clean up the mess I would have inevitably made (which I probably wouldn’t do, which would subsequently make my wife angry!).

Plus, if you really think of food as medicine, which I do, the price of this salad is awfully cheap by comparison. I know many patients who are on thousands of dollars a months of medications for diabetes and other chronic conditions, for instance, who could likely reduce or get off of many of these drugs completely if they participated in something like The Geoff Pinkus Man Diet.

And when complications of things like type II diabetes set in, then there is really no comparison at all. Procedures and hospital visits literally cost tens of thousands of dollars. I understand that a place like Whole Foods is expensive, and if you really can’t afford it, that’s fine. You shouldn’t shop there, then, and the fact is, a lot of stuff at Whole Foods is overpriced junk. It comes in a nice package, but sans the package, it is a basically Doritos for soccer moms. I get that.

I also am aware of the fake ‘organic’ mark up that occurs primarily at the packaging level, where foods are labelled ‘organic’, but aren’t really that different from conventional raised products, except they are priced higher. That occurs, but you can avoid it by being a smart and informed consumer, so you can choose good foods and not get fooled by advertising or packaging. Of course, this takes a little work, but it can be done. And to be fair, there are plenty of places that sell good food, like ethnic markets in particular, which are many times, in fact, actually better than Whole Foods, at a much better price-point.

My point is, this is real food. Real good food, in fact, that you pick out carefully using your brain and all the knowledge about eating healthy that you know, and yes, it costs more than most other foods. It takes work, effort, creativity and some money to eat better, and you are not rewarded for that with a discount for that.

And that’s what get’s me. It’s not so much about Whole Foods per se, but they are the model for the trendy, healthy, expensive place to shop for exotic and organic foods. They have branded themselves this way, and are successful because of it. They have a great operation, and have succeeded as a result. And ultimately, you don’t have to shop there, if you don’t want to. And if you can’t, I know about 5 Greek and Serbian joints that have great, cheap food and take food stamps as well.

Really, what bothers me most is you tend to have a lot of people complaining about the price of food in general, not just at Whole Foods, (often those who can actually afford it) who don’t realize what an actual bargain good, real, unsubsidized, nutrient dense food really is. And to me, this is insane, because you almost never hear anyone complain about how cheap a 2-liter soda is. That is a severe disconnect.

What do you think?

(And by the way, have you noticed that just about every single person who shops at Whole Foods is either excessively dressed and coiffured or way too frumpy? But often the frump is usually one of the pseudo-frump looks and not actual frump, meaning the clothes look messy, but probably cost more than a nice dress. I always thought that was a pretty good deal for designers, myself. You make nice clothes, and then stitch together whatever is left paying no particular attention to design or fashion, and charge twice as much. Having daughters myself, I wonder if I will be able prevent them from buying overpriced frump. I don’t think so.  But I digress…)

4 Responses to My take on Whole Foods

  1. Yeah I agree with lots of these points. One aspect many people forget is also that it is expensive to ship many of these smaller owned farms and companies goods and that has an effect on these so called ‘expensive’ prices. On a recent trip out to Portland I was stunned to find many of the items I buy back home to be 2-3 dollars less simply because they are manufactured out west.

    • Yes, shipping and the cost of fuel are becoming more and more relevant, making the the locavore argument much more relevant, at least for the things you are talking about…people will always want the exotic, imported foods for novelty, I guess, depending on the price point. I hate seeing food go to waste as well, which I wanted to talk about, but I saved it for another blog, as it deals with the nature of waste in a free market, and how we can address that better–a more complex topic.

  2. Oh and the people who shop at our whole foods dress pretty well on the whole, except for the tourists who all look like they just came from either Bill Knapps or the J-crew catalog.

    • Not in Northbrook…you either have the ‘just went to Teddy’s and am going to the social club after’ or ultra-psedo-frump that costs a lot…I am sure every Whole Foods has it’s own vibe…

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