Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Whole Foods

I don't shop at Whole Foods. I was in the Berkeley store once and the only thing I wanted was a pair of earrings at the jewelry counter. I've never been in the store again. It's not only the anti-union policies. It's that the basic strategy of the store is to sell overpriced stuff to stupid rich people. And it doesn't matter whether it's overpriced clothes or cars or vacations or food. Unlike farmers' markets or co-ops, Whole Foods doesn't worry about how we can provide food grown sustainably for the the world's population, but how they can make money selling it to the rich in industrialized countries. The Michael Pollan plan. Given the size of that population relative to the population of the world, that's not much sustainability.

What stuns me about the boycott of Whole Foods is that people didn't know what the corporate strategy was. Really, folks, they're based in Texas. And they hate unions and have devoted lots of time and energy to keeping unions out of their stores. But that hasn't really been all that difficult, as the target market is one that neither comprehends nor cares about the condition of the people who serve them. They're the people who want those who serve them to commend their purchases as they go through the checkout line, remind them that their shopping choices make them worthy of environmental gold stars. And that's what Whole Foods checkers are trained to do. It's part of the establishment of "community." But what kind of community doesn't care whether the checker can take her kid to the doctor or has to spend the day in the emergency room?

Maybe the Whole Foods "community" will learn from this experience--that the corporate interests have as little interest in them as they do in those who serve them.

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