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Behold, the Antichrist: Whole Foods

Behold, the Antichrist: Whole Foods
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  • Post #31 - October 7th, 2007, 3:35 pm
    Post #31 - October 7th, 2007, 3:35 pm Post #31 - October 7th, 2007, 3:35 pm
    So, they have a angry ex-supplier and now they're the anti-christ? Find me one big company that doesn't.


    Exactly.

    Holier-than-thou? Sanctimonious?


    Here I have to agree that their marketing occasionally annoys me with its Malibu-movie star-environmental new ageiness. (See the posters of windmills and sunflower fields that are up at the moment.) But then, this is the kind of neighborhood they operate in:

    Image

    Yes, you just read the phrase "Environmentally conscious gut rehab" on something, without a trace of irony.

    That said, I think the service is not only pretty good, I think it's improved, which I think means they've realized that 1) they occasionally had an attitude problem 2) they have competition. The fish counter in particular seems much better run these days, offering to debone fish, for instance, or knowing what they're selling (I particularly admired watching one of the guys gently explain why there was no such thing as wild-caught tilapia to a woman a month or two ago).

    As far as pricing goes, they can be high, no question. It's crazy that they're asking $1.99/lb. or something for cabbage, say, when it's 60 cents a pound at Tony's. I get Copper River salmon in season for half the price at Costco, I get $5.99 buffalo mozzarella at Trader Joe's that's better than WF's $9.99 ball of same, etc. But I agree that they're not more expensive than Jewel or Dominick's, who charge absurd prices for staples much of the time.
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  • Post #32 - October 7th, 2007, 7:12 pm
    Post #32 - October 7th, 2007, 7:12 pm Post #32 - October 7th, 2007, 7:12 pm
    I never or rarely shop in the areas described by eatchicago (well, sometimes, when I'm feeling flush I do go for cheese) because, as I mentioned before, I can't afford it - which is not to say I think it's overpriced, but with few exceptions it's value meats and frozen fish for our particular lifestyle. None of the gourmet-shop parts of the store bother me. Food that is better/fresher is philosophically OK by me, even if it's more expensive. I also like the idea of saving packaging and buying bulk, and can guess that diet-specific foods must be difficult to find elsewhere.

    However, I'm bothered by the "environmentally friendly" disposable diapers and kitty litter, and the other packaged stuff that proports itself to be better for you and/or the environment, yet wastes just as much packaging and gasoline, and contains just as many empty calories - except they taste bad.

    Sanctimony makes a bitter and unpleasantly fibrous seasoning.
  • Post #33 - October 7th, 2007, 7:55 pm
    Post #33 - October 7th, 2007, 7:55 pm Post #33 - October 7th, 2007, 7:55 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:Michael,

    Perhaps you've just been fortunate enough to avoid the nasty scenarios, or perhaps some of us have gotten an unusual number of them. But I can think of at least two occasions when I've asked about an item only to get a snide and direct "Why would you want that?" type of response, not to mention a number of times I felt I was being treated in a less obviously condescending manner.


    I think this kind of snooty-ness may be location-centric. I've noticed much more of a 'tude at the Lincoln Park store than at the Peterson/Cicero store. I've also found a far greater number of space cadet employees at the LP store, and also find that store is not as clean as any of the other WFs I've frequented in Chicago and beyond.

    I think, at this point in our economy, many large corporations fail to adequately staff and train the bottom rung of employees to provide efficient and friendly customer service. If you had heard me on the phone at work last Thursday with DHL--when they sent two important packages to COLORADO instead of Texas--you would understand what I'm talking about. I think the "tough turds to you, consumer, even if we're the ones who screwed up" attitude is a rampant societal problem, and Whole Foods is not unique in providing less than adequate service--or less than friendly service.
  • Post #34 - October 8th, 2007, 7:58 am
    Post #34 - October 8th, 2007, 7:58 am Post #34 - October 8th, 2007, 7:58 am
    Thiswould be another case in point.
  • Post #35 - October 8th, 2007, 8:50 am
    Post #35 - October 8th, 2007, 8:50 am Post #35 - October 8th, 2007, 8:50 am
    Ultimately, Whole Foods management decided to immediately stop selling live lobsters and soft-shell crabs, saying they could not ensure the creatures are treated with respect and compassion.
    - from the article linked by Mhays.

    Now, this foolishness (the "respect and compassion" comment) would be reason enough for me not to walk into the doors of this wacky store. Are we to assume that WF is satisfied that the beef, pork and poultry whose lives have been sacrificed so we can enjoy their byproducts were treated with "respect and compassion" before being put to death? This has been a nice laugh to start the week.
  • Post #36 - October 8th, 2007, 9:04 am
    Post #36 - October 8th, 2007, 9:04 am Post #36 - October 8th, 2007, 9:04 am
    Every fish or chicken served at Whole Foods is informed that it is going to be made, is taken for a ride to the supposed place where this will happen, and then like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, has just an instant where it sees this isn't gonna happen before getting whacked.

    The removal of live lobster from the stores is, to me, contemptible because it serves to put that much more distance between us and our food, allow us as customers to imagine that there was never a life that was taken to provide us with that square block of chicken breast or steak, as anonymously abstract as tofu. Living lobsters were a reminder that these creatures we eat are real, and that obviously made some people uncomfortable; so Whole Foods moves the killing that much further out of sight, and we all feel better about it.
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  • Post #37 - October 8th, 2007, 9:20 am
    Post #37 - October 8th, 2007, 9:20 am Post #37 - October 8th, 2007, 9:20 am
    Bill wrote:Are we to assume that WF is satisfied that the beef, pork and poultry whose lives have been sacrificed so we can enjoy their byproducts were treated with "respect and compassion" before being put to death?

    Uh, yes?
  • Post #38 - October 8th, 2007, 9:29 am
    Post #38 - October 8th, 2007, 9:29 am Post #38 - October 8th, 2007, 9:29 am
    Hi,

    Dipping into the time before LTHforum, there was once a long thread about a customer who demanded tofu only from a vegetable and tofu salad at Whole Foods. This action not only ruined the salad for the next customer. It was cheaper to pluck out the tofu from the salad, than to buy it directly as a stand-alone product. This accomodation was made without any negative remarks to the customer by the WF employee.

    I was at WF recently to purchase a product I wasn't 100% on board about purchasing. I asked the clerk if he knew what it tasted like. He disapeered for a moment to collect a cup, then opened the bottle to provide me a sample. Another time I was talking to the counter guy at the fish department about a product, then he proceed to cook some to offer me a sample.

    While I rarely shop at WF, I do have a favorable impression of their customer service from these few encounters.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #39 - October 8th, 2007, 9:47 am
    Post #39 - October 8th, 2007, 9:47 am Post #39 - October 8th, 2007, 9:47 am
    cilantro, thanks for the link to the policies information.
  • Post #40 - October 8th, 2007, 9:56 am
    Post #40 - October 8th, 2007, 9:56 am Post #40 - October 8th, 2007, 9:56 am
    Cathy2 wrote:While I rarely shop at WF, I do have a favorable impression of their customer service from these few encounters.


    I concur with those above who have suggested that service could vary by location. This seems almost inevitable.

    Equally inevitable, at least to me, is the fact that when an operation gets big, it's just about impossible for them to provide the same levels of service and product care that a smaller operation can provide. Cheese has been much on my mind lately, and I think the care and maintenance of cheese quality (involving constant monitoring, wrapping/rewrapping, cutting to order, etc.), is just about impossible for most larger grocery stores. It could be done, of course, but because larger groceries trade on volume, when quantities get too big, you'd need a number of additional staff dedicated to nothing but cheese care. That would be self-defeating. I spoke to a cheesemonger last weekend who said Target offers "artisanal cheese" at below the price he pays for it -- the only way to offer those low prices is to reduce costs in other ways (e.g., by pre-cutting, etc.) that reduce product quality.

    Hammond
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #41 - October 8th, 2007, 11:26 am
    Post #41 - October 8th, 2007, 11:26 am Post #41 - October 8th, 2007, 11:26 am
    Bill wrote:cilantro, thanks for the link to the policies information.

    No problem, and I didn't mean to come off as so confrontational. I found it a bit baffling that someone would be so pro extraordinary rendition for lobsters that he or she would refuse to patronize a store that did not practice it, but where others do or don't shop is really none of my business. It's just odd to me that a store founded by an outspokenly anti-union libertarian is viewed by some as some sort of hippie collective.

    The snooty attitude angle is different -- if you got that kind of treatment, it sucks and I can't really make exuses for it. All I can say is that I never have and I strongly doubt it's official corporate policy. It reminds me of people who refused to shop at Tower because they had bad experiences with a clerk. Their choice, and completely understandable.

    Finally, with regard to inventory it very much depends on where the Whole Foods in question is located. You can get very nice fresh porcini in New York's Union Square Whole Foods.
  • Post #42 - October 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm
    Post #42 - October 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm Post #42 - October 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm
    I think the helpfulness of the staff at WF really does depend on the location. Each of the WF employees I've dealt with at the Roosevelt store have been extremely friendly and helpful, always eager to go back to the stock room to get me stuff that wasn't on the shelf, giving me only half a loaf of bread from the bakery instead of a full one, offering me samples of the cheeses and prepared foods, and on one occasion (in a very compassionate way) trying to entertain my overtired toddlers in the checkout line as I tried to rush out the door and get home.

    I have also noticed that certain items are actually cheaper at WF compared to Jewel and Dominicks, especially when it comes to the organic stuff. I stopped purchasing organic dairy products at either of those stores once I discovered that WF charges as much as $2 less for gallons of organic milk.
  • Post #43 - October 12th, 2007, 8:07 am
    Post #43 - October 12th, 2007, 8:07 am Post #43 - October 12th, 2007, 8:07 am
    Dmnkly wrote:But I can think of at least two occasions when I've asked about an item only to get a snide and direct "Why would you want that?" type of response, not to mention a number of times I felt I was being treated in a less obviously condescending manner.

    As I say, I haven't encountered too much of this at WF, but I must have encountered it once or twice, because long ago I adopted a (would-be ironically amusing) submissive posture when asking for certain items there. My inflection and body language take a tone of "I totally know that I'm the unevolved a-hole here, and I wouldn't blame you for banning me from the store for life merely for asking this, but do you have, you know, good old-fashioned American cheese slices?" Usually the answer is no, but sometimes it's yes, and even when it's no, I avoid the employee rolling of the eyes by in effect rolling my own eyes at myself preemptively. I don't mind doing it that much.

    (Why I even ask for things like American cheese or Saran Wrap or whatever at WF is that I'm already there for WF stuff, and it would be nice to get my shopping list crossed off instead of also having to go to the Jewel on my way home while perishable items perish in my car.)
  • Post #44 - October 12th, 2007, 8:31 am
    Post #44 - October 12th, 2007, 8:31 am Post #44 - October 12th, 2007, 8:31 am
    My mom still rags about the fake Cool Whip we bought there once for Thanksgiving dinner, years ago. I point out that "fake Cool Whip" is redundant, but it doesn't stop her.
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  • Post #45 - October 12th, 2007, 9:09 am
    Post #45 - October 12th, 2007, 9:09 am Post #45 - October 12th, 2007, 9:09 am
    All animals must be humanely raised, transported and slaughtered.


    "Humanely . . . slaughtered"? Ok, I get what they're driving at, but the dissonance does underscore the reality behind meat processing to which Mike G was referring above and from which we all prefer to turn our eyes. Foie gras anyone?
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #46 - October 12th, 2007, 9:34 am
    Post #46 - October 12th, 2007, 9:34 am Post #46 - October 12th, 2007, 9:34 am
    jbw wrote:...the reality behind meat processing ... from which we all prefer to turn our eyes.


    Speak for yourself! :-)

    I don't want to turn my eyes. I want to know exactly how my meat gets under that cellophane. Partially because it interests me, partially because I don't ever want anybody to be able to claim I suffer any delusions about where my food comes from, and partially because I think it's only appropriate that we respect the process.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #47 - October 12th, 2007, 11:13 am
    Post #47 - October 12th, 2007, 11:13 am Post #47 - October 12th, 2007, 11:13 am
    Well said, Dom.

    There's a nice passage in the French Laundry cookbook that stuck with me on a similar note. He talks about killing eleven cute little bunnies (I'll spare the detail, somewhat hypocritically):

    The next ten rabbits didn't scream and I was quick with the kill, but that first screaming rabbit not only gave me a lesson in butchering, it also taught me about waste. Because killing those rabbits had been such an awful experience, I would not squander them. I would use all my powers as a chef to ensure that those rabbits were beautiful. It's very easy to go to a grocery store and buy meat, then accidentally overcook it and throw it away. A cook sauteeing a rabbit loin, working the line on a Saturday night, a million pans going, plates going out of the door, who took that loin a little too far, doesn't hesitate, just dumps it in the garbage and fires another. Would that cook, I wonder, have let his attention stray from that loin had he killed the rabbit himself? No. Should a cook squander anything, ever?


    One of the biggest changes in how I cook in the last few years-- partly from learning so much more here and other places, partly from reading that passage which has stuck with me-- is that I don't do what I used to do a lot, buy some anonymous chicken breast, buy a jar of pseudo-Indian or Thai sauce, cook it together-- or get too busy to cook it until it's gone bad and throw it away, no big deal. I'm much more likely to buy whole animals, or less common parts of animals, and cook specifically to get what's best out of them-- to respect them and the life that was taken from them for me by not wasting the meat and by making the best thing out of them that I can.
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  • Post #48 - October 12th, 2007, 7:08 pm
    Post #48 - October 12th, 2007, 7:08 pm Post #48 - October 12th, 2007, 7:08 pm
    Mike G wrote:My mom still rags about the fake Cool Whip we bought there once for Thanksgiving dinner, years ago. I point out that "fake Cool Whip" is redundant, but it doesn't stop her.

    :lol: Mike, that should be a quote...
  • Post #49 - October 20th, 2007, 5:01 pm
    Post #49 - October 20th, 2007, 5:01 pm Post #49 - October 20th, 2007, 5:01 pm
    I made a first-visit to the Whole Foods location at Halsted St. and Waveland Ave. and I'm impressed with what I saw. I think it's the nicest Whole Foods I've been into (not that I visit many very often).
  • Post #50 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:39 am
    Post #50 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:39 am Post #50 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:39 am
    I shop at the Palatine WF which is a bit of a dinosaur. I'm counting the days until their new and improved store opens further north on Rand Rd. when they'll actually have aisles that are wide enough for two carts to pass simultaneously. At any rate, while that is not my regular grocery store, I always find shopping there a pleasant experience. The staff is very friendly. If I'm looking for something, it's not uncommon for an employee to ask what I'm looking for and then go and try and find it for me. The produce is great, the cheese counter is most helpful and since I usually go there to buy fish, the guys at the fish counter are always friendly and chatty. Other than the physical plant, I love the store.
  • Post #51 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am
    Post #51 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am Post #51 - October 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am
    Kwe730 wrote:I shop at the Palatine WF which is a bit of a dinosaur. I'm counting the days until their new and improved store opens further north on Rand Rd. when they'll actually have aisles that are wide enough for two carts to pass simultaneously. At any rate, while that is not my regular grocery store, I always find shopping there a pleasant experience. The staff is very friendly. If I'm looking for something, it's not uncommon for an employee to ask what I'm looking for and then go and try and find it for me. The produce is great, the cheese counter is most helpful and since I usually go there to buy fish, the guys at the fish counter are always friendly and chatty. Other than the physical plant, I love the store.
    I will say, WF and Fox and Obel do the same thing which I love. When I ask for something, they generally don't point or tell me an aisle number, they go there and show me where it is. BIG pet peeve is pointing in a general direction and saying "it's in aisle 34, good luck"
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #52 - October 22nd, 2007, 12:49 pm
    Post #52 - October 22nd, 2007, 12:49 pm Post #52 - October 22nd, 2007, 12:49 pm
    I will say, WF and Fox and Obel do the same thing which I love. When I ask for something, they generally don't point or tell me an aisle number, they go there and show me where it is. BIG pet peeve is pointing in a general direction and saying "it's in aisle 34, good luck"


    The supermarket I most often shop at is the Jewel at Howard & Kedzie in Evanston. When I ask for something I'm almost always taken to the exact spot where it's located - by whomever it is I stop to ask the question. About a year ago the store put-on a full-time staff person whose sole job it is to wander about to answer shopper questions, to take you to what you're looking for, etc. The change in service has been well-received from by others, as well as myself what I've observed.
  • Post #53 - October 22nd, 2007, 1:31 pm
    Post #53 - October 22nd, 2007, 1:31 pm Post #53 - October 22nd, 2007, 1:31 pm
    Things Whole Foods carries that most of its employees seem to not be aware of:

    Cheesecloth.
    Twine.
    Frozen veal stock.
    Chicken backs.

    I was very pleased to find them all, but it was a bit of a hunt tracking down the cheesecloth and twine.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #54 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:34 pm
    Post #54 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:34 pm Post #54 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:34 pm
    gleam wrote:Things Whole Foods carries that most of its employees seem to not be aware of:

    Cheesecloth.
    Twine.
    Frozen veal stock.
    Chicken backs.

    Things Whole Foods charges a price for that I just can't figure out:

    - Chicken backs (same per pound price as whole chickens -- what gives?)

    Things Whole Foods no longer packages with whole chickens that I just can't figure out:

    - Necks and giblets (what do they do with them all?)

    Things I've had a funny conversation/debate with a Whole Foods employee about:

    - Lard

    Reminiscent of Dom's conversation about non-extra virgin olive oil (hinted at in his post above, I believe), here's how it transpired:

    Amusing Conversation wrote:Me: Do you have lard?

    WFM Employee: No, it's got all kinds of non-natural stuff in it.

    Me: Actually, I don't think that has to be true.

    WFM Employee: No, there's a lot of crap in lard, and we wouldn't carry it for that reason.

    Me: I'm willing to entertain that shelf-stable lard always has some sort of artificial preservative in it, but house-rendered lard is only as "non-natural" as the pig it's made from.

    WFM Employee: I don't think so. Lard is pretty bad for you.

    Me: So what you're saying is you don't carry lard?

    Lest this be seen as just another example of bashing Whole Foods, I actually shop there frequently and have almost always had very good customer service. I think the house brand (365) products tend to be very fairly priced (especially the non-organic varieties), and we actually get most of our staples there and I think do about as well price-wise as we'd do at Dominick's or Jewel in terms of overall cost (or certainly under a quality/cost type of assessment). There are a few things I just generally won't buy there on principle either because the price is so out of whack with what I think it should cost and what I can get it for elsewhere or the quality just sucks (as suggested by someone else above, almost all of their house-made bread fits into the latter category for me).
  • Post #55 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:44 pm
    Post #55 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:44 pm Post #55 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:44 pm
    Chicken backs (same per pound price as whole chickens -- what gives?)


    Well, what does a chicken back cost per pound when you buy a whole chicken?
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
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  • Post #56 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:58 pm
    Post #56 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:58 pm Post #56 - October 22nd, 2007, 3:58 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    Chicken backs (same per pound price as whole chickens -- what gives?)


    Well, what does a chicken back cost per pound when you buy a whole chicken?

    I do appreciate that. I also appreciate the fact that they are selling the various other parts of the bird for a lot more than the $1.99 per pound or so than they're selling the whole chicken, leading me to believe that if the parts are priced differentially from the whole and some are a higher price per weight, one might reasonably expect certain less desirable cuts to be at a lower price per weight. But hey, they have the right to charge whatever they want for chicken backs if the market will support it and I have the right to not pay that price -- it just seems out of whack with what one might expect and with what I've seen elsewhere.
  • Post #57 - January 19th, 2015, 10:32 am
    Post #57 - January 19th, 2015, 10:32 am Post #57 - January 19th, 2015, 10:32 am
    Whole Foods set to unveil whole new stores

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ ... tml#page=1
    "Sandwiches are wonderful. You don't need a spoon or a plate!"
    Paul Lynde
  • Post #58 - January 20th, 2015, 5:38 pm
    Post #58 - January 20th, 2015, 5:38 pm Post #58 - January 20th, 2015, 5:38 pm
    Dave148 wrote:
    Whole Foods set to unveil whole new stores

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ ... tml#page=1


    Paywalled.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #59 - January 20th, 2015, 6:54 pm
    Post #59 - January 20th, 2015, 6:54 pm Post #59 - January 20th, 2015, 6:54 pm
    You can google the title of the article, and see it that way usually. I did it yesterday
  • Post #60 - January 28th, 2015, 12:01 pm
    Post #60 - January 28th, 2015, 12:01 pm Post #60 - January 28th, 2015, 12:01 pm
    Streeterville neighbors lined Columbus Drive in anticipation of the Whole Foods store that opened Wednesday morning.

    The Chicago area's 20th Whole Foods store at 255 E. Grand Ave. includes exclusive new features like a Ramen bar and Focaccia pizza station.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150128 ... -big-crowd
    "Sandwiches are wonderful. You don't need a spoon or a plate!"
    Paul Lynde

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