The Whole Foods Shake Down: How Do You Feel about Whole Foods?

It’s customer appreciation month at Whole Foods, and the company’s website offers a wholesome message, “Love Is All You Knead.”

This is quite a clever little slogan and kudos for the customer appreciation. However, Whole Foods customers might not be feeling the love, as reports of scale tampering and overcharging go viral.

Their “Quality Standards” page boasts, “Standards that aren’t standard anywhere else,” but they may want to triple check their store standards as much as their product standards. A segment covering the asparagus “waterdown” scandal was aired last Monday on the Today show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. One Whole Foods store in Los Angeles was charging six dollars for a bottle of water containing three stalks of asparagus, and naming the drink “Asparagus Water.”

Whole Foods also has to pay penalties in excess of 800,000 dollars due to similar issues with pricing. In June of last year, Whole Foods was found guilty in California state court for overcharging. The Los Angeles Times covered the case and reported that Whole Foods failed to, “deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law.”

Lesson not learned, Whole Foods reportedly repeated the overcharging scam yet again in New York. “Its nickname is ‘Whole Paycheck’ — but Whole Foods’ high prices were generally thought to be part of its luxury mystique, not wrongdoing or mislabeling,” according to The Washington Post’s coverage of the New York pricing scandal.

Failing company ethics and quality standards

Whole Foods has become the biggest name in whole, healthy food shopping, with 420 stores in North America and the U.K. They have always been at the forefront of healthy consumer choices and their quality standards encompass almost all of their products. However, in light of these new reports — and amidst many accusations and legal bouts regarding their ethical responsibilities as a company — the Whole Foods image is unfortunately in rapid decline. PETA is one organization that has blown the whistle on the treatment of Whole Foods’ livestock and Global Animal Partnership (GAP) standards.

The Whole picture

How do you feel about Whole Foods’ recent missteps regarding consumer quality and the company’s failing ethical standards? You, the knowledgeable consumer and Whole Foods patron, need to be conscious that Whole Foods may not always mean “wholesome” when it comes to company or individual store policy.

Not all products at Whole Foods are created equal. Do your due diligence and make sure you know what you are really purchasing. Just like any other corporate supermarket, from Walmart to Trader Joe’s, nutritional labeling can often be a ruse to influence the consumer. On the other hand, although Whole Foods is known for its high price tags, there are also some great deals in the store as well. Try not to equate higher prices with quality in any product, Whole Foods or not.

Planning out your shopping experience with a bit of time spent on the web is optimal for staying away from the marketing traps and poor ethics of big corporate entities. Homegrown research will increase your knowledge, keep your wallet in good shape, and allow you to make smart, health-conscious choices, regardless of where you shop or what you purchase.

—Stephen Seifert

Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.


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