Monday, March 29, 2010

open letter to Whole Foods Market

Dear Management and Employees of Whole Foods,

There are many things I love about Whole Foods. However, the recent pushing of vegetarian propaganda is not one of them.

Since your Overland Park store opened I have been a regular visitor to your prepared foods/food bar for lunch and/or breakfast. I eat there at least 3 times a week, every week.

For the past month, I have been increasingly frustrated with the lack of meat on the salad bar. You have added the whole grains selection to the end of the salad bar, and virtually eliminated the salmon, tuna salads and chicken salads that were previously available.

Over the past three weeks, I have counted six separate occasions in which I went to get a salad and the rotisserie chicken was either depleted or never there. Twice I have heard other customers request more chicken from prepared foods. Twice I have done it myself. EACH TIME I have waited around for 20 minutes and the chicken never appeared.

Now, I appreciate you may be short-handed in the kitchen, but this is not good customer service, particularly since today, there was one staff member serving pre-made sandwiches at one end of the salad bar, and another offering me fat-free "healthy" salad dressings at the other.

Since I don't eat wheat and I happen to believe that low-fat dieting is a good way to make yourself vitamin-deficient, I set my salad down and left without buying anything.

I know it is good business practice, not to mention goodwill, to provide for the vegetarian/vegan demographic of your customers. You have done so in the past by providing sprouts, tofu, whole grain salads, and vegetarian entrees. Since the beginning of the year, the selection of vegetarian items has doubled, but the meats have nearly vanished.

I suspect these changes have less to do with a desire to please your customers and more with the desire to please your stockholders. Due to grain subsidies in this country, I'm sure the unpurchased grains you throw away every day still cost less than the chicken and fish you were selling off the salad bar. Meanwhile, the price of your food bar has not gone down, even though vegetarian proponents argue that eating vegetarian is cheaper, and many people profess a desire to eat less meat because "meat is so expensive." Ergo, the benefit is to Whole Foods, not the customer.

I, for one, do not subscribe to the theory that vegetarian eating is good for our bodies or for the environment. There are plenty of other educated, informed people who feel the same.

Today I noticed a large display of books near the customer service counter under the sign, "Healthy Eating Resources." Every book in the display was about vegetarian, vegan, or raw foods eating. While these books undoubtedly contain some valuable information, I would like to see the opposite side of the argument represented. There are two books coming out in May that I think should be added to your shelves: "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith, and "The Primal Blueprint" by Mark Sisson. While no one book should be taken as absolute truth, presenting both sides of the argument is fair AND "healthy."

Let me be clear: I fully support local and organic food production/consumption. My husband and I buy all of our meat from local ranchers. Our beef is grass-fed; our chickens and eggs are free-range. I don't mind paying more for quality and sustainability. Having Whole Foods so close to my workplace was a tremendous convenience for me.

However, given the recent changes I doubt I will be spending much more time or money at Whole Foods. While I appreciate the quality of your goods, I simply can't find what I want there anymore, and I resent being told, implicitly and explicitly, that what I want is the wrong thing.

Holly Messinger