Rob's Soapbox Archives

July 12th, 2010

MY HATEFUL LOVE AFFAIR WITH WHOLE FOODS

If you have never been in a Whole Foods store you are missing out on a gastronomic delight of epic proportions; an enormous selection of fresh and unique foods and vegetables, meats of high quality in a wide selection and available in all quantities, cheeses from every country and of all flavors, a bakery that bakes seemingly everything, and bins filled with every nut and dried fruit on the planet. More than that, there’s one of the largest in-store food courts you’ve ever seen with row after row of hot, ready to go soup, entrees, salads and more. And of course, the store has aisle after aisle of huge selections of pastas, sauces, oils, vinegars and the full range of everything you’d need to anything you’d want.

Sadly, the store is not without its drawbacks and faults as well. For starters, there’s their asinine over-commitment to “organic foods,” which remains one of the most flagrant lies still to be perpetuated on the American public. Despite countless stings, studies and reports which have proven organic food to be different, but no better, than regular food, certain quarters of the country still insist, for obvious opportunistic reasons, that organic food is wildly safer and healthier. It’s one thing to offer the choice as part of a selection, it’s a whole other level to create your entire store around the theme of “organic or death.”
http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/99/july99/300799_edinburgh.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/dining/04cert.html

Beyond the dopey overly-dramatic organic crusade are other minor annoyances I can look past; their silly, and totally phony, commitment to “a healthy lifestyle” that permeates throughout their store in completely judgmental ways, for example. In their frozen food section, they don’t carry any of the standard brands; no Lean Cuisine, Claim jumper, Marie Callendars, Swanson, or the like; just those haughty “clean, organic, fresh, disgusting” entrees of corn pot-pie and “Indian kash-kash.” Meanwhile, across the store, you can choose from over 10,000 bottles of wine. Perhaps Whole Foods, in their hypocritical wisdom, could produce some meaningful statistics highlighting how many people die per year in “stuffed by a frozen dinner while driving accidents.”

Conundrums like that are throughout the store; they sell reams of bread made with (gasp! The horror) regular old flour; a total no-no in the uber-clean world of health freaks; they claim to be one of those silly “earth friendly” stores yet they have the largest aisle I’ve ever seen of bottled water. If you’re going to commit to this propaganda in my opinion, you need to commit all the way; bottled water was demonized 5 years ago in the “we’re better than you environmental community,” and Whole Foods should have eliminated the product immediately.

There’s no doubt that when you begin to argue logic and reason against the emotion of saving a planet that does not need to be saved, there’s no winning. I could go on forever about all of the contradictory products and policies within the store and it would get us nowhere. For example, I would love to discuss their latest policy of offering “bag credits” for hippies that bring their own re-usable grocery bag into the store with them, despite mountains of common-sense evidence that has already proven how disgusting and un-healthy it is to do so, but I am short on time and space, and also most certain that most of these bug-eaters don’t care. There is a horrible self-loathing component to the current environmental movement in America. As it begins to lose its credibility in the country, the folks hanging on are doing so with a death grip; one that says their misguided self-importance is actually more important than they are; in other words, if I could prove to them (which I can) how unhealthy it is for them to use re-usable bags, their response would most likely be something asinine like “well that’s fine; I’d rather suffer than cause harm to the planet.”
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2010/06/your-reusable-shopping-bag-may-be-environmentally-sound-but-is-it-safe.html

And it is that holier-than-thou self loathing quality that truly makes me hate Whole Foods. The store, its policies, its employees, its selection and its products, on the whole (no pun intended) I actually love; but it is a labor of love for me to ever step foot in a Whole Foods store for one reason, and one alone; the customers.

Nowhere else will you find a more concentrated collection of self-important, dirty, selfish, rude, entitled pseudo-intellectuals than inside a Whole Foods store. It is as though the city of San Francisco is hosting a convention of college professors, homeless people and “professional demonstrators” all at once. I have never, not once, had a pleasant experience with the clientele of a Whole Foods store, in any city. Just last week, I experienced a woman sitting in her car in the parking lot, eating her Whole Foods fruit cup, who thought it best to honk at me as I was parking so as to insure I didn’t back up too far, thus dinging the bumper of her Subaru (I was more than a foot away from it, by the way and certainly didn’t need her help).

From there, I was treated to different gaggles of women friends who apparently thought, at lunchtime on a Friday, that they were the only three people in the store, since they spent their visit walking, shoulder-to-shoulder, each with a shopping cart, up and down each aisle, making it impossible for anyone to get around them or pass them, and not giving a damn at all in the world. It’s their day to shop, their store, and they will take their time and inconvenience anyone they want, thank you very much.

Multiple children under the age of 5 were free ranging and touching all of the food they could find without a parent in sight, and of course let’s not forget the woman who changed her baby’s diaper on one of the counters in the deli section because, as I gathered, she didn’t want to miss being called for her turn to order up a pound of shaved prosciutto. True story.

My visit ended at the checkout line behind a bra-less mother of three who kvetched over how to use her “bag credits” for loving the earth enough to poison her children with re-usable bags (I think she decided to “roll over” her bag credits, whatever the hell that means). The most enjoyable part of being behind this woman, whose body has clearly not seen the edge of a razor since Woodstock, was her refusal to start the check-writing process (this is 2010, people, no one under the age of 60 writes checks anymore) until every single item had been scanned and bagged. I’m not sure why, since she wasn’t distracted by watching her three children while her products were being rung up, as evidenced by the fact that when she left, she only had two children with her. She didn’t even notice the third was missing! I saw her in the parking lot as I left yelling for her daughter…I think the girl’s name was Heaven, or Astrologica, or some other asinine hippie name.

Spare me your silly attempts at equivalency by arguing that these types of people can be seen anywhere in public. No shit, Sherlock. It’s the fact that they all seem to converge, en masse, at all times, at Whole Foods, so that they can appear oh-so concerned about their bodies and their planets when they really care nothing about anything other than their image. As George Costanza famously said “we’re living in a society!”

So, having gone through my quarterly painful visit to Whole Foods I will now slink back to the safety of my rotation of Safeway, the Nugget Market, Savemart, and Raley’s; stores where people are more diverse. Yes, there are plenty of rude people everywhere, but at least at these stores some of them bathe, some of them have manners, and none of them act as though they’re saving the world by buying a plum and sticking it in a used mesh bag filled with e-coli.