Open Letter to Whole Foods Boycotters

It is good to see that you have found a tangible way to respond to the editorial written by the Whole Foods CEO.  Your ability to pursue such a boycott is one of the great things about a free market. There are literally hundreds of food shopping choices in a large city, with a variety of value propositions from the low-cost but ambiance-challenged Wal-Mart or Target to the farmers market. Its great to see folks exercising their choice in the free market to take their business elsewhere.

Besides, if nothing else, it provides the majority of us entertainment value as we enjoy the irony of people exercising their free choice shopping in the highly competitive and diverse grocery marketplace to boycott someone who advocated maintaining choice and a diversity of options in the health care market. Hope all of you have great success boycotting the single payer medical system you long for when you don't like something it does, and I hope the single one-size-fits-all insurance option you have happens to match your individual preferences.

Anyway, I give you an A for political activism but an F for marketing if you believe Whole Foods customer base is all liberal or progressive. It may be so in downtown SF or Seattle. But most of Whole Foods stores are in places like Scottsdale, and Houston, and Dallas. For a large portion of Whole Foods customers, it is not some progressive statement, but it is simply a premium-priced grocery store selling premium quality foods. Though I suppose the Scottsdale country club mom in her new Jag gets some psychic boost from shopping there, kind of like buying a carbon offset.

Seriously -- I bet that most of Whole Food's most profitable customers just don't care about this progressive stuff. They don't go looking for fair trade coffee, or whatever. They don't care Whole Foods buys all wind power (in Texas, where the market allows this). They don't know how the employees are treated and paid. I shop there and I had no clue as to their HR policies until this week when they have been in the news.

Whole Foods does this stuff because Mackey and most of his team really believe in it. They are truly passionate about it, not like some company like Kraft who creates an organic cheese SKU because the consultants said there was a market niche for it. Really, are there 5 other corporate CEO's in the Fortune 500 whose beliefs and the way they manage more closely match what progressives would want to see? Is there even one? But this is the guy y'all are choosing to go after, this one company out of all the Fortune 500, because he disagreed with the progressive orthodoxy on a single piece of legislation? Jeez, this is like conservatives boycotting Fox News because they put a single liberal pundit on from 2-2:30AM.


  1. morganovich:

    also: before you go boycotting some store over its health care policies, ask the workers there if they like the plan they have.

    i'll let you in on a little secret: they do. they love it. it's one of the reasons they are #22 on the fortune "top 100 companies to work for" list.

    i asked 2 clerks, the butcher, and my check out girl about it on sunday. all of them were amazed anyone thought their health plan was bad. they all thought it was great. (they also said i was the first person to ask them about this).

    and for what it's worth, i live in san francisco, so it's not like i'm cherry picking...

    the irony of these people claiming that the CEO of whole foods does not speak for them then speaking up for other people without asking them what they thought would be hilarious if it weren't so scary..

  2. Steve Jean:

    This is a perfect illustration of the Stolen Concept Fallacy.

    They exercise their freedom to boycott Whole Foods because the CEO dared to go against their goal of preventing us from boycotting Obamacare.

    Turn this around. What if President Cheney mandated that they buy groceries from Whole Foods or some other government approved store (subsidiary of Halliburton)?

    Who would bet against me if I wagered that none of the earnest boycott participants will ever see that contradiction?

  3. Evil Red Scandi:

    Shhhhhh! It's too much fun watching them eat their own. Or not. Wait. Bad metaphor. Oh well. Anyway, ix-nay on the common-sense-nay. Or something like that.

  4. Danny:

    This boycott is probably the best thing that could ever happen to Whole Foods. Now I can shop there without feeling the need to punch a few other shoppers in the face.

  5. Danny:

    Oh yeah, and WFMI is up 1% today.

  6. Rob:

    I read through half a dozen websites (and the comments that followed), but I couldn't find one that actually tried to refute/rebut the 8 ways to help improve our health-care system. Everyone just complains about Republican-this, Bush-that, poor-this, unfair-that...

    I would like to see a non rhetoric and non ad hominem based argument.... at least one reasonable attempt to tell me why any one of these 8 ideas shouldn't be used!

  7. Methinks: least one reasonable attempt to tell me why any one of these 8 ideas shouldn’t be used!

    Can't. Too busy trying to figure out what I'm going buy next at Whole Foods (baskets!? I need baskets!! Ooooh...SUN flowers, gotta have those). Seriously, I've shopped at Whole Foods and my local farmers market almost exclusively for well over a decade, but now I'm finding myself just buying extra stuff for the joy of it.

    I can't find a single offensive thing in Mackey's op-ed. Increase choice and create incentives to help your fellow man. Isn't that what they left has been telling us it's been fighting for all this time? Well, at least that's what they say.

    Firing Whole Foods as your grocer is perfectly acceptable to these half-wits, but if Whoopie Goldberg loses a job when she says something repulsive about the sitting president which may cost the company that hired her business, suddenly her first amendment rights are trampled.

  8. ilovebenefits:

    Two thoughts, first with current insurance if you don't like a decision by the insurance company you can appeal. If they deny it you can get an independent review. If it is employer sponsored you can often get your employer to intercede on your behalf. If you are not satisfied, you can then take it to the Courts. Then there's the single payer system, or public option when the Federal Government denies your coverage who are you going to appeal the decision with?

    Second thought, what if health care cost is an unsolvable problem? What if we got the waste out of the system, reduced incomes of health plan CEOs and doctors -- and we somehow kept them in the business of providing health care -- but trend continued rise at 2 to 3 times general inflation because new treatment, procedures and medical advances kept on coming, people lived longer and research to find various cures required larger and larger sums of money...we would be in the same state we are now.

    Maybe, just maybe, market supply and demand is at work here. We have an inelastic demand for health care and and a scarcity of resource so that the cost rises faster than other products and services.

    No amount of health insurance, health care or just health reform is going to solve the cost problem.

    Follow the debate at

  9. Not Sure:

    Anybody who's watched tv for any time at all has got to have seen ads by charities that provide food for hungry kids in Africa. You know- for $15 or $20/month, the charity will send you a photo and a short background of a child you can sponsor.

    So here's my question- if there are uninsured in this country who are dying for lack of health care, why isn't anybody setting up similar charities to help prevent this tragedy? I mean- if one can currently sponsor a hungry African child, surely it's within the realm of possibility to develop a system allowing people to personally contribute towards the cost of health care for the needy in this country, is it not?

    Of course, that would mean that one would have to devote their own time and money to the cause, so I can see where a boycott which doesn't require any more effort or sacrifice than shopping at a different store might be a preferrable solution for expressing outrage at the injustice of it all.

  10. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA):

    Mackey's mortal sin is the same as that of Sowell, Cosby, Rice, Williams, Thomas et al. amongst the blacks -- he's not "down for the struggle."

    Why do "feminists" detest Palin but give the abusive Mr. Clinton an absolute free pass? She's not "down for the struggle."

    In my experience with Whole Foods over the last fifteen years, as a customer, supplier, and in conversation with upper management about ecological agriculture, what strikes me is that they have a remarkable understanding of their demographics.

    While not dismissing Mackey's sincerity, he was probably informed that taking such a clear stand was probably not going to impact the company, and most certainly not for long. The company is the number-10 food and drug retailer in the US, with sales of about $2 Billion.

    Boycotts in general are notoriously ineffective.

  11. Tim:

    I posted this at a more liberal/progressive chat board:

    If it were possible to construct a plan that:
    - Allowed everybody to obtain health insurance
    - Did not allow coverage to be denied because of pre-existing conditions
    - Was portable
    - Limited total out of pocket expenses to, say $4k a year; on average -- including premiums and copays.
    - Provided subsidies so that it was affordable for low income families
    - Did not drastically change the standard of care in this country

    Would you want that plan to be centered around federal government control, or individual control; and why do you think your approach superior?

    The answers I got back so far consist of:
    - The private insurance companies have screwed it up; so the government can't do worse.
    - Private control would be so complicated.

    It's an uphill battle.......

  12. Ian Random:

    A coworker is on dialysis and is having problems with Medicare accepting his premiums. Mysteriously, the folks not motivated by profit at HHS can't seem to coordinate billing and payment. The solution according to his social worker, lower his assets enough so that he qualifies for the National Kidney foundation program to pay his premiums. So the irony is that we have a private charity to pay a public health care premium and tell me we are not one of the most generous countries on the face of the planet.

  13. Not Sure:

    "Did not allow coverage to be denied because of pre-existing conditions"

    Now, I'm not insensitive to the problem this situation poses for people, but really now- is there anyone on the planet who thinks that they could get in a car wreck and then go get collision insurance to cover the wreck as though it hadn't yet happened?

    I don't have an answer for this- I just think it's supremely silly to call expecting someone else to pay for a pre-existing condition "insurance".

  14. Raven:

    Not Sure,

    Pre-existing conditions only come up because people are forced to change their health insurance providers over the course of their life. If someone stayed with the same provider then there would be no 'pre-existing' conditions.

    That is why it is a really bad idea to depend on employers for health care coverage yet the system in US forces most people to rely on their employers because that is the only way to get decent coverage at a reasonable cost.

  15. Max:

    @Not Sure:

    Yes, Insurance is not the way to go with pre-existing conditions or even just inherited diseases. But, these people are a small sample of the overall population and one could think that for them the state or in a more perfect world a charity, could get the job done. Yes, they are probably the most expensive cases, but they are only a few perhaps 1-3 % of the total population.

    I think people have the wrong idea what an insurance does. For example, a car insurance is only used if there are major problems with the car, like an accident, we don't use insurance when we only have some maintenance issues (like changing oil).
    So, why not adopt the same principle at the medical level, which would reduce doctor hours, medication buys and other small things. Also, people wouild use the internet to see whether an MRI or a CT is really necessary. And for all the high level and dangerous (and really costly procedures) you can still use a insurance company. And they'd gladly do it, because they bet against a really minimal chance of that happening (compared to going to a doctor for some pills).

    If you want a health-care system then you should know what an insurance company is and what it can do and can't do. It can't provide universal coverage without going bankrupt, but it can provide protection against going broke because of a major diseases.

  16. Mick:

    Does anyone remember when the boycott of the Dixie Chicks regarding their statments about Bush was an assault on freedom of speech? I would wager large sums of cash that those howling the loudest about that "outrageous assault on the first amendment" now support the Whole Foods boycott 100%.

  17. DrTorch:

    Fast Company did an article on Mackey a few years ago. (A very complimentary, pro-Whole Foods article) What was stunning was that his approach to business was _so_ 'Republican' in nature.

    -He didn't locate stores in the inner-city...rather he only targeted wealthy suburbs.

    -He wouldn't allow employees to unionize.

    -Employees are hired on a temporary basis, and their peers evaluate them to see if they are retained.

    The list goes on. Then there is Mackey's efforts to submerge a competitor's stock prior to a planned buyout. Remember that?

    So Mackey plays by the rules of the poltical right, but gives lip-service to the political left.

    And it's THIS that gets the left's attention?

    There's more than enough irony and absurdity in this story.

  18. Not Sure:

    That is why it is a really bad idea to depend on employers for health care coverage yet the system in US forces most people to rely on their employers because that is the only way to get decent coverage at a reasonable cost. - Raven

    Yes, it is not a good idea. And this system probably wouldn't even exist if not for the government's insistence on micromanaging the econonmy.

    So obviously, a government failure calls for even more intervention by... the government. How could anyone possibly disagree?

  19. Bertha Minerva:

    I sorta suspected it was the Margaret Thatcher quote at the opening that is what really got the left riled up. It's like a code word to lefties saying "I'm evil, and all of what I say next is motivated by nothing but pure hatred."

  20. me:

    So, I was reading your newest post over breakfast, Coyote, and as usual I was just thinking 'spot on'... until I hit this sentence: "Though I suppose the Scottsdale country club mom in her new Jag gets some psychic boost from shopping there, kind of like buying a carbon offset". Please, don't post hilariously funny remarks without a "Danger of spilling coffee all over your keyboard on account of laughing too hard" signs. Thank you for making my day start on a fun note :)

  21. Tim:

    Regarding pre-existing conditions. I didn't say it would be at the same cost; but where it goes sideways is where you *had* something, then they start denying coverage. Cancer is an example of this. If you've ever had cancer -- even if you could be considered cancer free -- that counts. So the analogy isn't getting in a car wreck, then expecting coverage; it's if you were ever in an accident, not matter how long ago, getting denied coverage or getting priced out of coverage.

    Of course, if coverage were something that I bought; it would be portable, and the concept of pre-existing goes away.

  22. Noah D:

    "if there are uninsured in this country who are dying for lack of health care, why isn’t anybody setting up similar charities to help prevent this tragedy?"

    I'll bring this up to my parish council. That's a very good idea.