Let's not bury the lede: Whole Foods sucks. It doesn't matter whether it's in Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Santa Fe, the entire place raises my blood pressure more than any other store on Earth (except for the Ladurée shop on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, which is easily avoided since macarons are one of the most overrated desserts on Earth).
I go there, hate it though I do, for the shrinking list of things I like to eat that I can't get elsewhere (today's discovery: filmjölk at Mother's Market), and I'm reminded how much of a misfit I am in that store: a truck-driving, pro-gun, politically apathetic linebacker-sized guy in a sea of thin, liberal Prius drivers. I always feel like a bull in an organic, fair-trade china shop. After yet another shopping trip to the Tustin Whole Foods that left me drinking straight from the whiskey bottle after I got home, I decided to catalogue what bothers me most.
And yet, despite the fact that it makes my eyes roll so hard I briefly go blind, I still go back, because sometimes you can't get the stuff anywhere else. Damn you, Whole Foods.
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1. Traffic inside the store
I swear they set the stores up to cause maximum gridlock. On a normal day it's hard enough to get around the displays of eighteen kinds of marinated shrimp, the displays of gluten-free shampoos, and the displays of local baked goods at three times the price. The other day, I was trying to get from the organic, local, sustainable, help-we've-run-out-of-expensive-sounding-adjectives vegetable section to the probiotic, non-bovine, fermented dairy section and I am pretty sure the only reason I accomplished it was due to Brownian motion.
2. The parking lot
I'm pretty sure that half the problem in the awfulness that is any Whole Foods parking lot is caused by Prius drivers reading other Prius drivers' bumper stickers. Add to this that my local Whole Foods' parking lot was apparently designed by misanthropic and sexually frustrated engineering students whose next project was a first-person shooter called "Escape From Purgatory", and you've got a traffic snarl that would make a nun blaspheme. It's not just that one, either—the parking lot at the Glendale Whole Foods is like an incredibly slow drag strip for people whose Chevrolet Volts do 0-60 in 3.2 astrological sign changes, and the one near the 405 and 101 freeways features people who like to take their half of the road out of the middle. It's enough to drive anyone crazy.
3. The prices
There's a reason it's called Whole Paycheck by the sort of plebes who find it acceptable to buy an occasional tri-tip from Stater Bros: you can sort of kind of fill a paper bag (because of course you didn't remember to bring your unbleached cotton reusable bags, you environment hater) and hope to get change back from a $50—but only if you don't buy fish or meat or really protein of any kind. Something as simple as a gallon of milk can be overwhelming, with prices inching toward $10 for some of the more esoteric ones, but even a standard gallon of 2% has a significant upcharge. "Take what you want, and pay for it," says
God CEO John Mackey.
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4. Incredibly picky shoppers
It can take forty-five minutes to order fish at Whole Foods, even if the counter is properly staffed. This is due to the People of Whole Foods, who have several burning questions about each potential piece of meat they're going to buy, and who have an unnatural aversion to reading the enormous labels that attempt to head off the Tustinese Inquisition. Where is it from? Is it farmed or wild? How much is it? Is this on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch approved list? Was it humanely slaughtered? Oh, no, I couldn't have that. What about this swai fillet? Is it from Vietnam, or is it domestic? North or South Vietnam? Were the wives of the fisherpeople in the South Vietnamese city of origin fully enfranchised?
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Whole Foods is dedicated to making sure that the produce and meat you purchase weigh as lightly on your conscience as possible. They are also dedicated to making sure that you feel like you need to buy everything there, because those bastards at Safeway can't be trusted to provide you with sustainable toilet paper or oatmeal, and the result is the unnecessary labeling of food as "green" when it isn't. Do you really need your processed macaroni and cheese in a box to be organic? Why do conventionally grown tangerines cost a dollar more at Whole Foods when they're probably from the same crate at the central produce market that ends up at Northgate Market? Why is toilet paper being marketed as environmentally friendly? (You want environmentally friendly, install a bidet.) Why are products being sold as "natural" (a completely meaningless adjective), and why does Whole Foods sell Karo corn syrup?