retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Whole Foods announced last week that it is creating a program that will offer bigger discounts on food to its healthiest employees, which it hopes will encourage workers to adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

One MNB user responded:

I think it's well meaning, but the wrong direction.

What's the definition of healthy?  So many health 'trackers' are hereditary.  Granted, the age of Whole Foods employees are on the younger side, but if they're going to measure the health of the employee, it should be a more holistic approach that takes into account several factors instead of just a few.  For example, I have diabetes.  It's not due to unhealthy habits.  Whole Foods wouldn't 'save on healthcare costs' with me, yet I eat very healthy, utilize portion control, and exercise daily.  My cholesterol (triglycerides) are not where they should be, but it's no based on my eating habits.  So, are they going to use a blood panel and body mass index to discriminate against hiring someone like me?  Or use age discrimination to keep a younger employee base which costs less to provide healthcare to?

Again, it's well meaning, but doubtful that many would find it "empowering and fun".  If they're going to measure 'health', then they should consider program where they offer 'unhealthy' employees the higher discounts, which they get to keep if they continually show progress in becoming healthier.  Plus, if you give everyone the higher discount -- you only get to keep the higher discount if you 'maintain your health'.   If you're healthy (rewarding the ones that are already doing a good job) or if you show improvement in your health (if you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc), then you are asking everyone to improve and/or maintain good health.  Isn't that the overall goal?
Point:  Bad Idea.

But one Whole Foods team member disagreed:

I am so excited about the new testing. I think it’s a great way to reward Team Members for the efforts they make to be healthy without penalizing others. Everyone gets the 20% discount no matter what. But if I eat well and exercise and don’t smoke I’m rewarded (it’s a voluntary screening, by the way). It in no way affects our health plan or benefits. In this country, my premiums are necessarily higher because other inconsiderate people smoke and force their health issues on the system. But here, there is an incentive to be well. I know that I won’t get the top discount tier, because my cholesterol has always been high. But, I will do well in the other categories. And the way that I shop here, any increase in my discount will probably save me $1000/year more.

We had a brief obituary last week for J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of “Catcher In The Rye,” who died last week of natural causes at age 91. It prompted MNB user Rosemary Fifield, of the Co-op Food Stores in New Hampshire, to write:

J.D. Salinger, known as "Jerry" to the locals, was a regular shopper in our Hanover, NH, store. It was always fun to see him, knowing that the paparazzi searched in vain. The locals took great pride in protecting his privacy, and a favorite activity at the Cornish country store was sending the Salinger-seekers "into the weeds" with bogus directions.

There is, by the way, a terrific story about Salinger’s habits in today’s New York Times. It makes clear that Salinger was a private man as opposed to a recluse ... which is the point that Rosemary Fifield is making.

MNB user Michael Eardley opined:

There are a lot of good writers  and writing out there in today’s world but the great are getting extremely rare. Does anyone have time to write the great American novel today? Will our culture of “getting it done today” allow it?


We had a story last week about how Tesco in the UK is posting signs imposing a dress code on shoppers, and specifically banning them from wearing pajamas while shopping.

My comment:

This simply would not fly in the US. It is my impression that, at least in this neck of the woods, teenagers - mostly girls - love to wander around in their long pajama bottoms...usually worn with a pair of Uggs and a sweatshirt. (Trust me on this one. One of these girls lives in the same house as me.)

It isn’t my favorite look. But it could be a lot worse.

But MNB user May S. Carpenter disagreed:

I, for one, would definitely prefer shopping at stores that requested/required appropriate dress, i.e. no pajamas.  Just because people like to wear their pajamas in public, doesn't mean it should be acceptable.  Put on a pair of jeans, for goodness sake!  What, your jeans aren't comfortable?  Well then learn how to buy clothes that fit!
Applause to Tesco UK for this action.

I repeat: It could be so much worse than pajama bottoms. (And I’ve seen some jeans, by the way, that look a lot less “appropriate” - whatever that means - than pajama bottoms.)

In my view, you pick your battles. This is one that I would not pick, and I think Tesco is silly for doing so.
KC's View: