Whole Foods' nickel & diming

This info is from Greater Boston, a program on WGBH, an NPR affiliate. It is streamable via wgbh.org. Corby Kummer was the guest: Whole Foods hasn’t been as profitable as Amazon wants. They are planning on revamping so that stores will have fresh items on display, but customers will select the rest of their purchases on a screen. These will be collected in a warehouse area above or adjacent to the shopping floor, and will be at the register waiting for the customer to check out. This will drastically cut labor costs, and jobs. Meanwhile, instead of 20 hrs, part time Whole Foods employees will have to work 30 hrs per week to be eligible for insurance. In today’s manufacturing, cutting labor costs seems to have precedence over sales revenue. This will eventually result in already morally bankrupt corporations endind in financial bankruptcy. The unemployed can’t buy the products they used to make, and robots have no use for tacos, toilet paper, or Toyotas.

The first I ever saw Jeff Bezos was years ago on Charlie Rose, where he was announcing the debut of the first generation Kindle. I recall, vividly, thinking that while the tablet was a nifty idea, Bezos was a detached and robotic geek. I thought he might have Asperger’s syndrome but there was something more to it. Autism doesn’t set off alarms for me, but HE did.


How sad that such a formerly great company has been brought so low.


This profit over people model of greed just sickens me.

As a person who spent decades in that sort of grocery I don’t see the idea working for that client base. Their customers are affluent enough that they have and are familiar with devices to order online. They choose not to do so for much of their grocery shopping. Why? They like to visually inspect their purchase before buying, they appreciate being able to get info from a knowledgeable store associate, they often don’t purchase that far ahead of the meal they are shopping for and the store serves as a bit of a social outing where they run into friends.

Whole Foods had swallowed up dozens of regional natural foods stores/chains over the years. Many of the customers at those locations kept shopping after the new owner ship because they had a long, personal relationship with the staff and fellow customers. This change from Amazon will radically destroy what is left of those relationships.

But I could see it not working for the current customers and then Amazon transiting the stores into local satellite distribution points for much of their online grocery sales.

I get the convenience of online buying. But every time we purchase online we further erode our local brick and mortar businesses. So many are in precarious situations now, so they limit their product line, which frustrates the customer who then wonders why they didn’t just order the damned thing on line…It is an endless cycle. But the consumers eventually loose. Our choices will be controlled by Amazon, prices will be controlled too. We are giving up our future options every time we click “buy”.


Yes, Kummer mentioned running into a former WF Chestnut Hill employee who now works at Wegmans. This man was beloved by WF customers. He knew their names and needs. He told Kummer that even before Amazon bought WF, the management no longer cared about customer satisfaction, and he was much happier with the work environment at the newly-opened Wegmans.


One more reason for me not to be sad that my local whole foods is closing. That and their stinky fish!

I had just mentioned to a co-worker this week that I was amazed at how grocery deliveries has exploded at least at my local stores. I know Stop & Shop has been running Peapod delivery for a while, and I had zero interest because I like to select my own products too. The last 2 weeks I’ve been at my Stop & Shop (RIP, local Big Y/Hannafords/victory) and both times I’ve seen a worker picking and packing about a dozen delivery orders at a time.

I would personally never opt for fresh food to be selected for me, but my coworker opined that the newer generations may feel differently (he is a millennial himself). Grocery shopping to them is a task or a chore, whereas I make a point to go into grocery stores when I travel overseas because I love seeing what products they have. :sweat_smile: Maybe as the WF customer demographics start to target the millenials who are now starting to come into the income bracket to afford Whole Paycheck prices, they will focus on different services that appeal to millenials and the younger generation where everything is brought to them. Me and my generation are just waiting to be wheeled to the old school stores where we have to hand-pick everything.


I prefer to do my own selecting too, but now that I have mobility limitations, I can’t. If I use Uber or Lyft to go to a medical appointment, I’ll get groceries while I’m at it. Conveniently, drivers also help carry bags to the house. But if there’s no motorized cart available, I can’t shop. Peapod is far from ideal, but I am glad it’s available. My one and only experience with Instacart was most unsatisfactory.

1 Like

Horrifying and depressing but I guess I am glad to know, thanks for posting.

This may be a very unpopular thing to say but there aren’t many companies that offer benefits to any part time employees, so yeah that sucks but it’s still available to people who work less than full time.

I have a whole foods very close to me now yet I only go there for a short list of specific items, and their (shitty selection) of bulk bins items since they’re literally the only store with bulk bins anywhere near me. That order from a tablet in the store idea is stupid and will alienate customers. If i wanted to shop online then i would. Whole Foods used to be about unique products and local brands but obviously they’ve stopped carrying any smaller independent brands as much as possible. They change the format to fresh stuff and tablets they will lose me as a customer forever


Not sure where you are, but here in NJ the Shoprite near me put in bulk bins a few years ago. I think a few of the other locations have them as well.

I was going to respond that this has huge appeal for millennials, particularly those of a certain segment (thinking of the tech folks in the Bay Area) who want as little as possible to deal with humans and are well-off enough for that to be an option.

My local Safeway has bulk bins too, with many organic options, so unless my local fishmonger or butcher doesn’t have something I particularly need it’s goodbye to WF.

Sigh. No Shoprite in Harlem… the best “tegular grocery store” I’ve found is Best Market, no bulk bins there either. And actually i think it’s one of the locations that will eventually be a Lidl- potentially interesting? Dunno. There’s a much much better selection at the bulk bins in the tribeca whole foods and I’m in the area often enough i restock a few things there that aren’t at my whole foods.

Fairway has bulk bins too, but I’m guessing you already know that.

1 Like

Agreed, benefits at half time was unusually generous.

At least from my perspective working in restaurants where frequently the only benefit even at full time was a shift meal/drink. Is the industry standard for grocery different? It’s another notoriously low-margin business.

1 Like

I read an article recently that this generation coming up is not driving, buying a car or planning to. Leaving rides to Uber/Lyft, public transport and all things deliverable. If you can get from point a to b without your own car and the service world will ship…things as we know it will chg rapidly.

CA just cxld the use of Lyft/Uber until more secure measures are developed. I wonder how quickly that will affect a state with very limited public transport.

Huh? Canceled how?

In the throws of protecting workers while I was in CA this month ridership was halted.

I don’t have a problem with the gig economy, my business is seasonal so the past few summers I’ve picked up some random part time jobs with no expectation of regularity or benefits (but not driving). It sounds like driving is one of those things that’s great sometimes, crap sometimes, hopefully it evens out. In the end isn’t it up to the driver to decide if it’s worth it? I don’t think driving UberPool was ever supposed to be a 9-5 career.

Ride sharing is convenient when you’re traveling or other times, to me the problem is that they’re driving around empty half the time adding to traffic and always stopping in the middle of the street instead of pulling over to the loading zone, again blocking traffic. How can the company or drivers be incentivized towards maximum use of the fewest cars? Driving around 70% empty should be discouraged, not only because the driver isn’t making any money.

A solution that once begun created a new set of challenges. As did the entire share economy.

Transition is never a smooth straight line. What works at x doesnt for y. My only point being that a delivery service in the 21st century has a diff definition for a diff generation of customers. Working out the kinks that come with new ideas is not new.

1 Like

I know . Their fish is terrible . The whole fish are not cleaned. This adds more weight. They have the worst stink belly ever .