Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote a thunderous comment piece in which he derided the public option, Barack Obama's biggest campaign promise to progressives, and put forward a stridently conservative view of healthcare for America.Why, how dare he!?
Does Mackey know who his customer base is? Did he really not foresee the backlash that has ensued – the howls across the blogosphere and Twitter, the Facebook petition to boycott Whole Foods?Perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he didn’t really care…
The brand Mackey created caters to a specific clientele. Customers are greeted with signage boasting of local farmers and grass-fed cattle. Whole Foods touts announcements of Green Prom projects and 100-best-companies-to-work-for accolades. The reusable shopping bags and shelves filled with yoga mats and all-natural beeswax lip balm aim to capture the same folks clicking "donate" on the MoveOn fundraising appeals.In other words, idiots who care more for the ‘brand’ and the ability to be ‘greener than thou’ than they do about value for money.
I don’t think you could say that Mackey doesn’t know who his target customer base is.
I think he knows all too well….
These are the same people who pay large sums for a pint of organic strawberries, laughing off or even defending the "Whole Paycheque" label. They tell themselves: It's OK to pay double what those strawberries would cost elsewhere, because they're chemical-free, healthier, environmentally and ethically sound. Whole Foods customers want to feel good about their purchases and believe they are being better citizens for shopping there.I expect Mackey has looked around and realised no-one else offers what he does, and his customer base is obviously dumb enough to have forgotten this in a few short weeks.
Now Mackey, the face of the company, is not only at odds with a central tenet of progressivism, but a supporter of free-market evangelism that has no space for the community-based, egalitarian solutions his customers support.
After all, they are dumb enough to shop there in the first place, aren’t they?
And they really should have done their homework before declaring WholeFoods an Age of Aquarius shopping phenomenon:
Mackey's history is a long line of mergers and acquisitions that would leave the 1980s titans of Wall Street breathless. One by one, Whole Foods swallowed its competition, whole, until it became the venerable giant of natural foods it is today. Union organising was fought. Accusations of corporate subterfuge were made. All of this culminated in a fight with, and finally a win over the US government, over anti-trust allegations.Well, the answer to that is pretty clear.
The public is left wondering what happened to the John Mackey who started a tiny natural foods grocery in Austin, Texas.
He didn’t want to be a tiny natural foods grocery in Texas any more!
Whole Foods has disavowed Mackey's op-ed, but Mackey has not.A ‘bully pulpit’?
Regardless, the money in the Whole Foods coffers has given its CEO the clout to commandeer such a bully pulpit. To the chagrin of progressives, he has used their ethically conscious dollars to advocate against a set of values they hold dear. It is no wonder there was an outcry.