business news in context, analysis with attitude

Lots of reaction to yesterday’s story about how Whole Foods CEO John Mackey used an online alias in chat rooms to plug his own company’s stock and belittle the operations of his rival, Wild Oats – the very company that Whole Foods currently is trying to acquire. Mackey’s actions seem to be characteristic – he’s been accused of being less than helpful in how he has attacked the FTC, which is trying to stop the Wild Oats deal, on his online blog.

My comment: If I had any responsibility for Whole Foods’ public image and for making sure the deal actually happens, I think I’d walk into Mackey’s office, pick up his laptop, and throw it out the window.

I make a living shooting off my mouth. But I’m not the CEO of a major corporation with responsibility for an awful lot of people’s lives. Mackey, it seems to me, is becoming something of a loose cannon. I have no problem with him shooting at the FTC, but some of the cannonballs are beginning to land at Whole Foods headquarters.

MNB user Tom O'Connell wrote:

Your article & comments on John Mackey CEO of Whole Foods about his secret identity on the internet concerning Wild Oats was very disheartening to read. To me it looks like the former hippie was never really a hippie at all just a suit in disguise after all.

There is nothing so disheartening as a hippie who has completely sold out.

MNB user Mike Griswold wrote:

If only there was some link to the Wal-Mart surveillance activities, this would be perfect. While I usually find Mr. Mackey a breath of fresh air, is there any doubt that after this latest piece of news, anyone other than the CEO would have been kicked out of the organization a long time ago.

Another MNB user wrote:

He is arrogant. Since I first confronted him in 1988, He has exhibited this in communications I have sent him. He is a purist with a message without the (expletive deleted) to identify himself. Whole Foods is like a cult that feeds on its own bacteria. Success leads to failure and Mackey has stayed too long and inbred the organization with the cult of what we do is right and everybody else is wrong. In retail this is an immediate prediction of failure. It is time for him to go and instill the leadership with someone who is adamant about change and reinvention.

Sounds like Mackey may have an image problem. If so, he has nobody to blame but himself.

Responding to yesterday’s commentary about Stew Leonard’s Harry Potter-themed promotions scheduled for next week, MNB user Amy Buttery wrote:

About the Stew Leonard’s stores Potter parties: I'm wondering what the bookstores in the area are doing in connection with the event. Everywhere I go and look, bookstores are having blowout events--contests, food and crafts don’t begin to cover it. But the larger stores with lots of daily traffic will grab the attention of many "casual" Potter fans, and the smaller independent bookstores, despite investing a huge amount of energy into their Potter events, will struggle to compete, at least in the sense of broadening their customer base by attracting truly new customers to their store—those customers will instead be going to the same stores they always do, enjoying whatever Potter events they throw--some of which might be done well but many of which are just feebly throwing something together to be part of the phenomenon.

No one says a grocery store like Stew Leonard’s doesn't have a right to do Potter parties, but I do sort of wish that there were fewer imitators and that independents and even chain bookstores could benefit more from Pottermania than they do…

One more issue is nagging me on this question: I heard from another independent bookstore owner that when they sold out of the last HP book early, they and many other bookstores had a hard time getting new supplies of the books, while every 7-11 and even gas stations were stocking it to get in on the craze. A shame--the bookstore looks bad for not having enough or not being organized enough to get more ordered in time, while the book sat on the shelves at some convenience stores because people don't actually expect to buy the latest HP at a convenience store. All part of the "jump-on-the-bandwagon" phenomenon.

You make a good point, and I suppose what it really comes down to is that the “Harry Potter” books are as much or more about marketing as literature.

Life isn’t fair. And I’m not sure what the solution is to the problems that you address.

Finally, MNB noted yesterday that the FDA is now saying that the lycopene in tomatoes won’t do anything to stave off cancer, which led one MNB user to write:

Come on Kevin! How can we really trust anything that comes out of the FDA or USDA these days?

The lobbyists are so far up these agencies behinds, it must be very uncomfortable to sit down!

Problem is, we’re getting smarter about our health. The more we figure out this out the fewer drugs we will have to take, at the same time demanding that they stop drugging the animals that we eat.

Which begs the question. Where these organic tomatoes? Picked straight from the vine and tested, or tomatoes that were picked several weeks ago, that have been sprayed with pesticides and sitting in a warehouse.

Don’t you think that would skew the results?

I did say yesterday that while I’ve been justifying all the tomatoes, tomato juice and tomato sauce that I eat as being cancer prevention measures, now I’ll just have to be honest – I love tomatoes.

Which prompted another MNB user to write:

I couldn't agree with you more. Health benefits are great, but in the end, I just love a good tomato. And there is no shortage of them at this time of year. Oh, for a few heirlooms, colorful and delicious, nested on leafy greens and snuggling up to some good mozzarella. Heaven, I tell you, pure heaven.

KC's View: