retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Great piece by Jessica Goldstein in the Washington Post about how she recently went to the Whole Foods store in Foggy Bottom, and found that it had a Hannukah display. “A whole display for Hanukkah! Change has come to America,” she writes.

But wait a minute. Maybe not. And this is where Goldstein’s writing offers the kind of barbed indignation that we love here at MNB:

“I see the classic supermarket screw-up: Whole Foods is selling matzoh. Matzoh and matzoh balls and a wide variety of matzoh-y things would be just spectacular if this were a) a Passover display or b) the cracker section, but it is neither. It is Hanukkah which, for the uninitiated, is not Passover and is not a holiday on which one eats matzoh. What Whole Foods is really displaying is a casual kind of ignorance for which there is no excuse.

“The War on Christmas gets all kinds of sparkly graphics on the TV news, perhaps because Christmas decorations lend themselves quite nicely to all things sparkly. But for those of you who care about the less-sparkly things in life, this is what a swipe at Hanukkah looks like: It looks like a callous kind of carelessness, a sign that the great Whole Foods, which manages to ensure that organic pasta comes packaged in biodegradable boxes made of locally grown hemp, cannot devote all of 30 seconds to a Wikipedia search for ‘Hanukkah food’.

“I’m not demanding some kind of extreme cultural awareness wherein the manager of Whole Foods understands what the letters on the dreidel stand for or even attempts to provide a definitive spelling of ‘Hanukkah.’ (Seriously, don’t worry about it.) I am not even suggesting that Hanukkah is worthy of equal retail real estate as Christmas.

Hanukkah is celebrated by a smaller number of people than Christmas is, and it’s a less important holiday than others in the Jewish calendar. Scale your decor accordingly.

“However, it would be just lovely if Whole Foods could spare half a minute to getting their Google on and figuring out that matzoh, in fact, has negative nothing to do with Hanukkah, that the only teeny tiny connection this flat non-bread has to the festival of lights is that they both have something to do with the Jews, an association as logical as stuffing stockings with chocolate bunnies on Dec. 24.”

I love writing like this. Not only is she indignant, but she’s funny about it, and the imagery is perfect.

(I love it when she adds: “I expect this kind of cluelessness from the grocery store in my hometown of Berkeley Heights, N.J., where there are maybe 12 Jews total, four of whom are related to me. But in Washington? You couldn’t find, I don’t know, one Jewish person to double-check the display?”)

The Eye-Opening business lessons here are simple. Don’t make assumptions. Pay attention to the little things. Because if you don’t, it can come back and bite you on the tucchus.

One positive note: The Post reports that “the Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom responded via Twitter this morning to apologize and say it had pulled matzoh off its Hanukkah display.”
KC's View: