Whole Foods Execs Desperately Flailing in Wake of Overcharging Scandal

Illustration for article titled Whole Foods Execs Desperately Flailing in Wake of Overcharging Scandal

Whole Foods co-CEO’s John Mackey, Walter Robb, and Walter Robb’s extremely unfortunate shirt put out a YouTube video to try to soften the blow of this whole pesky overcharging scandal they’re wrapped up in. It did not work.


If you’re not familiar with the Whole Foods overcharging scandal, here’s the gist: virtually every Whole Foods in New York City (the one exception being the Upper East Side location that only opened in February) was guilty of not clearly pricing items, overcharging on items by weight, and inventing taxes on things that are not taxable under New York state law. The saga has been ongoing for a while, and the latest chapter involves Mackey and Robb’s YouTube plea to not hate the company:

“Straight-up, we made some mistakes. We want to own that,” says Robb. Mackey reiterates this point, calling it a “mistake” and a “very, very small percentage” of transactions as the effort of sticking to this story apparently overrides his basic motor control and his arms flail free in every direction. Robb, Mackey, and Mackey’s appendages all take great pains to emphasize the “mistake” angle, with Robb seeming to regard it as an unfortunately necessary byproduct of “a hands-on approach to bringing you the fresh food.” What.

Mackey and Robb’s claims stand in rather stark contrast to inspectors’ accusation that this whole scandal is “the worst case of overcharges that they’ve ever seen.” It’s important to remember that these are not “mistakes.” Forgetting to place the orders necessary to restock the salad bar is a mistake. Deliberately overcharging customers is not a mistake. Also bear in mind that Whole Foods just last year had to cough up $800,000 in California after a year-long investigation caught them out at the exact same thing. Where there’s smoke in the form of numerous violations and legal settlements totaling nearly a million dollars, there’s typically fire.

On the other hand, Mackey and Robb do tout incoming efforts to make sure it doesn’t happen again: improved training, a third-party auditing system, public transparency regarding the issue, and even promising that if you catch them doing it, they’ll give you the item for free. This is a bit of a tonal shift from Whole Foods’ initial response: sending their top lawyer John Hempfling on Fox News to decry the charges as “coercion.” After absolutely no one bought that tactic, Whole Foods apparently realized they needed a kinder, gentler, less cartoonishly villainous approach.

Go for it, Whole Foods. In the meantime, the rest of us are going to be over here eating popcorn and enjoying the schadenfreude of your Whole Tire Fire.

Image via AP.

Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.


I missed this scandal. Is it somehow different from the fact that everything in Whole Foods is overpriced?