After a long and fruitless (vegetable-less?) search, I finally broke down and decided to go to Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFMI) . There, tucked into an extensive and impressive collection of colorful veggies, I found what I was looking for: fresh, organic celery. The price? $4.99.
To be honest, if I'm paying $4.99 for a vegetable, I expect it to pick my daughter up from daycare and maybe help out with the rent. I'm used to paying between $1 and $1.25 for a bunch of celery, which made Whole Foods' prices seem like a particularly tasteless joke. However, rather than throw the celery to the ground and loudly denounce Whole Foods as a bunch of money-grubbing ripoff artists, I politely returned the bunch to the counter and left.
There were two reasons for my restrained response: first, I'm saving up my first arrest for something special, like picketing Anne Coulter's funeral, and there's no way I'm getting carted off for yelling at a bunch of celery opportunists. The second reason is that I wasn't really all that surprised. You see, I've gotten used to Whole Foods' massively inflated prices and somewhat snotty attitude.
Apparently, I'm not alone. In a recent survey by Mambo Sprouts, an organic and natural foods marketer, 30% of respondents stated that they are now shopping at natural food chains, like Whole Foods, less than they were six months ago. By comparison, only 9% stated that they had cut back on their visits to Trader Joe's. On the other side, 12% stated that they were shopping at organic chains more than they were six months ago; 19% said the same of Trader Joe's. While shoppers are getting increasingly concerned about the contaminants in their food, they are also unwilling to pay the premium that markets like Whole Foods charge.
Maybe it's time for Whole Foods to realize that poor people want to eat well, too!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He thought about buying some honey at Whole Foods, but he couldn't afford the mortgage.