NPR Is Slowly Breaking Up with Whole Foods

Fresh Air and Morbier go together like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and quinoa, so why can't NPR and Whole Foods just get along?  

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Fresh Air and Morbier go together like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and quinoa, so why can't NPR and Whole Foods just get along? Well, it's mostly NPR's fault. This weekend's All Things Considered featured Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, a book on marketing secrets and the power of recommendation. NPR moved the point of conversation to Whole Foods. "So as you enter the Whole Foods store, you will notice in many of their stores, they are cutting fresh flowers," said Lindstrom. "And it's not a coincidence. First of all, most likely, they're not earning money on it, but what they are doing is to tell you at a nonconscious level that in fact, everything is fresh in the store." Come to think of it, the Logan Circle Whole Foods does have plenty of orchids at its entrance—but we're getting distracted. If Lindstrom's claims sound familiar, it's because NPR's blog linked to a story he did in September debunking Whole Foods's secret banana pantones and chalkboard ploys.  And Lindstrom's interview is just the latest of jabs NPR has thrown at the now-giant grocer:

  • June 2008: A "Whole Foods Moment" Is Actually Something Really Bad: "Until January, Krause was an organics devotee who shopped at Whole Foods Market. Then she had what she refers to as her Whole Foods 'moment,'" reported All Things Considered. "I started looking at the prices and what I was buying, and I realized I had $140 worth of food in the cart and I didn't have three meals," said mother Diane Krause in the segment . "I realized I couldn't afford to shop there."
  • August 2009: Whole Foods's Sustainable Bags, Aren't Very Sustainable.  "The Whole Foods bag, for example, is made of mostly recycled plastic — ecologically better than a bag made from PVC or with harsh chemical dyes, for example," wrote NPR's Tovia Smith. "But the bags are also shipped thousands of miles from overseas. So every reusable bag is a mixed bag, baffling consumers and experts alike." 
  • July 2011: Whole Foods Won't Help in the Asian Carp Crisis: "Take Whole Foods, the national chain and sustainable seafood mainstay for many shoppers," wrote Eliza Barclay. "The company has no intention of selling Asian carp or lionfish anytime soon." 
  • October 2011: Whole Foods's Cheese Aficionados Are as Pretentious as Font Fan Boys: When describing a game of font or cheese names, Wait Wait Don't Blog Me notes, "The screen flashes a word and you guess whether it's the name of a cheese or a font. If you've spent any time at all standing dazzled in front of the cheese cooler at Whole Foods, you'll do just fine."
Perhaps the examples just come with the territory of being the biggest, baddest, organic market on the market. And maybe that's why they aren't singling out Citarella or Trader Joe's for not battling against the Asian Carp. Worse things could be and have been said. And it's not like the barbs are bad for business, as NPR freely admits its listeners, "are 178 percent more likely than the avg. adult to shop at Whole Foods 5+ times in a month" and Whole Foods's stock closed at a 52-week high yesterday (but they're down slightly today). So maybe NPR just kids because they love.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.