Sunday, October 7, 2012

W(T)F Marketing by Frugal Sister

Whole Foods (a.k.a. Whole Paycheck) is in the market of selling virtue. I'm not putting down the concept of organic sustainability, nor am I against low carbon footprint, fair trade and respectful observance of cultural diversity. I want to make it clear that I GET how some people might have food allergies and are deathly afraid of exposure to specific ingredients. I UNDERSTAND that some people have an undiagnosed 'nero-sensitivity' to a plethora of seemingly benign additives. Again, not talking to you, the overwhelmingly fragile hot-house human. You have enough trouble just keeping your self together to face another day and I send you nothing but love and (mostly) sincere compassion.

What I really really really hate is the fact that the WF form of style appropriation is so un apologetically price gouging in the way that it makes one believe that these virtuous products MUST be served up at such a high premium to make them fly. WF is riding a profit wave that would be called piracy...except for the fact that the Prius driving consumers pulling into the parking lot do so sans gun to head like some other public entities (yeah, I'm talking to you PG&E). 

There are some options that net the same benefits, only they take more imagination and (admittedly) more time. Farmers markets discharge the middleman and allow you to meander through shopping in a relaxing way that mirrors our ancestry. Produce stores are all over the SF bay area. The veggies are so fresh, the dirt clinging to them is still wet. Whole grain tortillas warm and moist, delivered every morning from some Mom and Pop bakery in San Lorenzo.  The Half Moon Bay fisherman delivering his morning catch that afternoon. These small shops dance on a thin margin and they simply can not market 2nd rate food while competing with the likes of Safeway or Lucky.  When you see the prices, you might feel that they are these inexpensive bargains. That's looking at it from the wrong perspective: they are charging the RIGHT amount. It's the pretentious 'virtue vultures'  that misrepresent.

When Dianne wrote about the bargain pork roast with the massive bone, hidden from the shopper by a display case presenting only the fleshy portion, thus distorting the sense of "true" cost, I thought that this misrepresentation of perception sums it up pretty nicely: you are buying into the presentation. Virtue is everywhere. Keeping a small grocer in business seems more in keeping with a model of  'economic sustainability' that supports a level playing field and gets your cash to someone who truly needs it for survival. . Every time I go into W.F. to get a last minute item, all I can say is " W.T.F.?" 

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