I don’t often write about food subjects as I once did in this blog. But John Mackey’s latest comments force me to change course a bit. I shop every week at Whole Foods. It’s one of the best food markets I’ve ever encountered (not the best, but close). It has an astonishing variety of foods (almost all at uniformly high prices). But you don’t generally shop there for economy’s sake. You shop there for excellent service and the wonderful types of foods and high quality you find.
I didn’t shop at Whole Foods this week. Instead I spent over $200 at PCC Markets, one of Whole Foods local competitors. PCC’s stores are smaller, they offer less variety. Nevertheless, I will spend as much of my food dollar at PCC as I can from now on. Why? Because John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO is an idiot. Plain and simple.
I know all the arguments in Whole Foods’ favor. I’ve mentioned a number of them above. In addition, almost all surveys rank Whole Foods as one of the best companies to work for. They offer decent health insurance and benefits for their workers. They’re a progressive company. But I’m sorry; none of that can cancel out Mackey’s idiotic libertarian effusions over the past few years.
Among them: most recently he claimed that Obamacare was “fascist:”
“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” Mackey told NPR. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”
Earlier on Terry Gross’ NPR program he called it “socialism.” Later, he “clarified” the fascism statement, but only insofar as to say he used the wrong word because it was so “freighted” with bad connotations. Gee, dya think?
On a related matter, he said climate change wasn’t necessarily a disaster because it would open new business opportunities for eager entrepreneurs. Perhaps he’s think of filling the Arctic north with farms that will grow Whole Foods produce and drive down his company’s costs. Perhaps he’s thinking of those ships that will now be able to navigate the far northern reaches and ferry French and Italian delicacies from overseas to his stores here in the U.S.
In a recent NY Times Magazine interview he was asked to comment on the stores’ high prices. Instead of graciously conceding the chain had high prices and explaining why, instead he pointed to the gradually declining overall cost of purchasing food in the U.S. as a percentage of income. A total non sequitur response. And insulting.
John Mackey explains the success of his company as due to a slavish pursuit of the needs of the customer. Yet in his public relations approach he insults his audience’s intelligence. Why the disconnect?
Frankly, I don’t know what he was thinking in making such statements. But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to hear John Mackey’s opinions on anything but running his stores. If he feels he’s got to opine on subjects that make him look like a total idiot, so be it.
If he wants to cater to Texas Bluedogs, Ayn Rand devotes, or readers of the National Review, so be it. But if he wants to play in the Big Leagues, that is, where the rest of America lives and eats, he better learn to understand he’s in a minority and act accordingly. If not, he’ll have only himself to blame when customers like me turn away. Either the company’s board muzzles or fires him, or I take as much of my business as I can elsewhere. So far, there’s no word that anyone on Whole Foods’ board is troubled by his nattering. So my $200 a week is going to PCC.
Mackey studied philosophy in college. Apparently, he didn’t study political philosophy. If he had he couldn’t possibly be as much of an idiot on these subjects as he is. Or else he studied at the Ayn Rand Institute of Libertarian Thought.
All this is a terrible shame because I genuinely like Whole Foods despite the high prices. But I will not brook a CEO whose views so deeply offend mine.