retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe has this assessment of some local Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores:

"The lettuce is wilted. Parsley, dead. Broccoli florets fading to yellow. Something gray and fuzzy is going on in the middle of a container of strawberries. Staff carts filling online orders are clogging aisles. Watch out! They’re glued to their phones and hardly look up. Rows of shelves are empty … Now, with shoppers stocking up for what might be quarantine regulations because of coronavirus, shelf-stable pantry items are emptying at a quick pace and not getting refilled. But actually, long before virus panic, shelves were restocked very slowly."

The Globe  goes on:  "Yes, you can still get cellophane noodles and Korean chili paste in just about any market, along with smoked paprika, sriracha, harissa, herbes de Provence, barrel-aged feta, Reggiano Parmigiano, hand-cut pasta, and more. But the shopping experience is deteriorating …"

The question posed by the Globe is not so much whether the Whole Foods experience has declined since its acquisition by Amazon, but the degree to which it has declined.

Whole Foods argues the legitimacy of the question:  "Our goal is to ensure that our customers have an exceptional experience and access to the same high quality products, regardless of whether they shop in our stores or online," says a Whole Foods Market spokesperson.  "When products are out of stock for any reason, we work as quickly as possible to find solutions and provide alternative options that meet our unparalleled quality standards … As Whole Foods Market continues to grow, we are working diligently to continue to meet the expectations of our customers, and we rely on their feedback to make sure we are doing so."

But one customer quotes a B.B. King song:  The thrill is gone.” He tells the Globe, “Everything used to be pristine. It’s not like that now.”

KC's View:

I've gotten enough email from MNB readers frustrated with the Whole Foods experience to know that this is not an isolated case.  To be honest, I haven't seen it much at my Whole Foods - there have been some out-of-stocks in recent days, but not much more than that.

But I do believe that these are criticisms that Amazon and Whole Foods need to take seriously, need to address.  Denial, it seems to me, is not a reasonable option.