Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shot his company in the face the other day with an anti-health care op-ed screed in the Wall Street Journal. He’s managed to piss off his company’s core demographic: liberals and progressives, and in the process, enabled a boycott that could actually work."Shot his company in the face"? "Piss off"? Even if you don't have moderate opinions, shouldn't your "voice" — your rhetorical style — at least be moderate if you're going to call yourself The Moderate Voice. Or was it always sarcasm? You shot your blog in the face. I can say that, because I've never leveraged my reputation with a claim that I'm putting my opinions — which actually are moderate — in a moderate voice — which I think is something to do to the extent that you choose, not to claim to do. But damn, if you're going to claim to do it, you'd better do it. You're pissing me off.
While I don’t normally support boycotts (for the most part, I don’t think they’re terribly well organized or impactful), this one is different, and I do believe it can be very effective.(Hot link added by me.)
Here’s why: Whole Foods has always marketed itself to a fairly educated and financially secure customer base. This is why they can successfully sell healthy (and primarily organic) foods, at a higher cost. The company has also fostered the image that it has an altruistic streak in supporting progressive causes.What? Did you even read the op-ed you are shitting on? Since when is supporting ill-formed, sprawling legislative reform the be-all and end-all of wholesomeness?
With a single op-ed in an uber conservative national newspaper, this wholesome image has been blown to bits. In the course of writing 1,165 words, CEO Mackey has caused more potential damage to the Whole Foods corporate image than an e-coli outbreak in the meat room.
In calling for support of the boycott of Whole Foods, I’m making an educated guess that their average customer is very politically progressive in nature. And that is why, if liberals and progressives quit shopping at Whole Foods, the impact would be quickly apparent to the company’s Board of Directors. By quickly, I mean by this coming Monday morning when the weekend receipts are tallied.What delusion! I'll bet the liberals and progressives keep going to Whole Foods, which is about a high-quality selection of goods sold in a pleasant, slightly posh environment. I don't think people are going there to make a political statement, and I don't think people will boycott it to make a political statement — or at least not to make a statement about their support for health care reform, which, you may note, people are not fired up about. People are fired up against the legislation, and Whole Foods may gain some new customers, but we longtime Whole Foods shoppers go there for personal benefit and indulgence (which may include a smidgen of feeling good about greenness and "fair trade").
On a lighter note, take a few minutes and read the Whole Foods website forums on this topic. The forums have been invaded by freepers and redstaters, with predictably resultant hilarity. If one was to believe the freepers, Whole Foods is going to have an entirely new demographic shopping in their stores. The only problem is: last I checked, Whole Foods doesn’t stock Coke, Cheetos, Armor hotdogs, or 365-brand Instant Grits.There's your comedy in a "moderate voice." And of course, Whole Foods does sell cola, cheese puffs, hotdogs, and grits.
UPDATE: We just went to Whole Foods to get our favorite bread — "Seeduction" — and picked up a few other things — for $80+. Not making a political statement. Just doing what we would have done anyway. And, of course, the place was packed as usual — here in lefty Madison. It occurred to me that the boycott will not only fail, it will backfire. Whole Foods shoppers won't give up their pleasure easily. If they are pushed to boycott, they will want to read the Mackey op-ed, and if they do that, they will see it is a brilliant and specific analysis that is stunningly better thought-out than what we are hearing from Obama and the Democrats. Moreover, once they do that, they should be outraged — or at least annoyed — by those who called for a boycott, who sought to enforce such strict obedience to the particular of legislation that the Democrats in Congress have been trying to ram through. Maybe some of the people who want to support Obama and the Democrats will stop and think for themselves about what health care reform should be.