Whole Foods: Paying Its Employees by Weight

Debbie says:

I wish I wasn’t surprised by this breaking news about Whole Foods. Sadly, I think we’ll see a lot more of this kind of wrong-headedness in the next couple of years. Which means we have to be as clear, as vocal, and as convincing as we can to stem the tide.

Whole Foods will offer steeper employee discounts to people with lower BMIs.

If your BMI is above 30, you’ll get to keep the original 20% employee discount, but you’ll paying more than your thinner co-workers, who can knock as much as 30% off.

Don’t miss John Mackey’s letter to his employees at the link. Some of you may remember Mr. Mackey for his especially nasty, wrong-headed, and elitist screed against health care reform last summer. Well, now that it looks like he’s going to get at least some of his way, he’s got fish to fry closer to home.

I don’t have to remind Body Impolitic readers that BMI is a bullshit measurement that means nothing, do I?

I already don’t shop at Whole Foods, because I care about union issues. Also because, as Anna at Jezebel puts it so well at the link above, I don’t need to pay $37 per organic oyster mushroom.”

I know three people who work at Whole Foods. Two of them are a couple, which is amusing, because the wife’s BMI is way over 30 and the husband’s is way under. So they can save money by having him do the shopping. The other is a man whose BMI is also over 30, so he’s out of luck on the discounts.

Anna nails it at the end of her post:

“If public health research has taught us anything, it’s that reducing people’s buying power totally makes them healthier. Stay classy, Whole Foods.”

6 thoughts on “Whole Foods: Paying Its Employees by Weight

  1. If Whole Foods’ CEO believes his own hype, wouldn’t it make more sense to offer steeper discounts to those employees with *higher* BMIs? Just sayin’…

  2. In addition to BMI being bullshit, measures like blood pressure and cholesterol have a large hereditary component. The more I learn about Mackey, the more disgusted I get. (The New Yorker did a profile of him recently, the lastest in its “profiles of complete assholes” series.)

    I rarely shop at Whole Foods any more, but I do want to say that the prices there on many items are in fact cheaper than the local fancy-ish independent grocery near my house, and they have a better selection of local, organic produce as well. When I lived in Menlo Park, I did price comparisons, and Whole Foods was a better deal on most things than Draeger’s or Andronico’s, the other two grocery stores that were walking distance from my apartment; more expensive than Safeway, of course, but also much better quality on the fresh foods. If you stick to staples like bread, milk, and vegetables, you can do pretty well — it’s the organic junk food, prepared foods, and homeopathic aromatherapy candles that cost you. The last thing that keeps me going back to Whole Foods is toilet paper — they carry the 80% post-consumer recycled content tp in 12-packs or 16-packs. But since I got in the habit of going to the farmer’s market every weekend, I have little reason to shop at WF. On the other hand, if my only other alternative was Safeway or Raley’s, I’d probably still go to WF. I miss the East Bay, where I had a lot of better alternatives.

  3. Btw, while poking around online, I discovered that Safeway does something similar, except that they give a health insurance premium discount (rather than employee purchase discounts) on these rubrics:

    “For 2009 we are introducing Healthy Measures, which looks at four key health indicators – weight, tobacco, blood pressure, and cholesterol. On a voluntary basis we requested that our employees get tested / measured on these indicators. We then built a benefits package that had premium differentials based on your performance. People who passed the metrics get the benefit of a lower premium right away.” See:

    In fact, several big companies have “all linked discounts on insurance payments to a range of health indicators in an effort to create incentives for healthy behaviour.” See:

  4. Agreeing with Janet that their prices are actually good for many things, including their own brands, and their fresh food is better than Safeway. However, I have many more convenient markets with comparable food and owners who aren’t visibly obnoxious. I only shop there for things I can’t get anywhere else.

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