Thursday, November 15, 2007

Adios, Wild Rice

Some of you may remember our last dust-up with Whole Foods over the sudden and unannounced removal of bulk spices from our local store. (They've since posted a sign apologizing "for any inconvenience.")

Well, yesterday as I was cruising the bulk section for the wild rice I needed for my "food appreciation" classes (see post below), I found there was no wild rice to be had. Since I've been buying my wild rice in bulk from this store for several years, I had a pretty good idea where it was supposed to be. There wasn't even an empty bin to indicate wild rice had ever been there.

When I inquired at the customer service desk where the wild rice had gone, two members of the "grocery team" showed up, shrugged their shoulders and said they couldn't say, because the "buyer" for the bulk department was out and wouldn't be back until this morning.

This morning, when I returned to the store to purchase more pumpkins, I found the bulk "buyer" loading a bin with yogurt-covered pretzels. We like the yogurt-covered pretzels, so I was happy to see she was on top of that. But where, I asked, had the wild rice gone?

"We don't sell wild rice in this section," she said.

"I've been buying it here for years," I replied.

"Well," she answered, "since I started working here a month-and-a-half ago, we haven't had it. But we do have it in boxes."

She started to lead me to the aisle where the packaged wild rice is on display, but I waved her off. No way am I paying those prices, nor do I need the packaging.

But I did stop by the packaged rice aisle just to see if my suspicion was accurate, that the price of packaged wild rice is about double the cost of the bulk variety. What I found was the Lundberg brand on display costing $4.68 for an 8-ounce package, or 58.6 cents per ounce. The day before, I had purchased my wild rice in bulk at the Yes! Natural Foods store for $7.50 a pound, or a good deal less than half what Whole Foods is charging for the packaged variety.

Wild rice, whole wheat couscous, Israeli couscous--all these favorite items of mine have been eliminated without notice from the bulk section at Whole Foods. When the bulk spice selection was removed, someone describing himself as "an insider" at Whole Foods commented here that we should "get over it" and find what we need elsewhere.

Whole Foods seems determined to have us shop elsewhere...


Robert Walton said...

Corporations want you to buy what they're selling. What they don't necessarily want is for you to know what you want - that's for them to tell you.

Whole Foods has massively profited off a sort of "quasi smart eater," for lack of a better phrase. Those consumers who want to eat fresh, local and nutritious, and do so by purchasing what they're shown as that. A far greater pain for any store is the consumer who knows he wants, say, bulk wild rice, and is not willing to accept a substitute.

Which isn't exactly news, just a random remark that Whole Foods profits because most people don't actually know what they want or why.

I'm not usually this big of a conspiracy theorist, but ... Large retailers make their profits telling consumers what to buy, not by suppplying what the consumer wants.

MA said...

For crying out loud, ED. Doesn't this just make you want to slap these WF knotheads? And no, don't feel compelled to reply. I can read between the lines. Morons.

maggie said...

Someone, somewhere, called Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck". I have the suspicion that being "whole" is not the goal.

We are fortunate enough to have several other options in Asheville, so I have to say I prefer Greenlife or Earthfare, two Southeastern chains who offer lots of local foods and keep the crunch in grocery shopping.

Ed Bruske said...

robert, I'm sure you are right--corporate survival instincts at work here. Some of us continue to hold out the naive hope that there is a grocer out there audacious enough to look out for the customers first.

mary ann, I'm choking on all the stuff I've crammed between the lines. Where are you getting your turkey this year?

Maggie, things certainly are different in Asheville. You live in a great part of the country. What I'd like to avoid are numerous shopping trips hither and yon to get our favorite ingredients. It may be a lost cause...

Tanya said...

Yes. I've been consistently disappointed by the WF bulk section (though Yes! tends to be, on average, much more expensive than WF.) In fact, most nuts are more expensive packaged than in their bulk bins.

Nicole said...

The wild rice is back!!

For the first time in over a month, I did not storm out of WF in frustration when they did not have the 3 things I stopped by for (they actually only did not have one thing on my list tonight-- baking soda). But when I was searching the bulk food aisle high and low for the baking soda, I saw the wild rice!

Last time I was in there I filled up one of their blue forms with all of my complaints- they had discontinued my flax oil capsules (the only vegetarian suitable ones they had carried) and had been telling me for months they were just out before 'fessing up; they were completely out of my yogurt and cereal two weeks in a row and I was faced with gaping shelves (I only even eat yogurt when on antibiotics and am very particular about what kind I will eat); and I remembered to add the wild rice to the list even though I don't eat it that often. I also chimed in on th bulk spice issue- I do like buying my spices that way but had been buying them at Yes! since they opened a location near me (WF is sometimes easier to stop at as long as the parking isn't a hassle and they tend to have more variety so if I need new things and am pressed for time, I tend to try WF first).

Apparently, if enough people complain they will listen. I still can't believe they were out of baking soda tonight though.

Ed Bruske said...

Nicole, was that at the P Street store?

Nicole said...

Yes, P St. (From some of the entries that was the one I got the impression you shopped at.) It is labeled Canadian Wild Rice I think and was ~$12.99/ pound.