Thursday, September 10, 2009

Whole Foods Store Tour

I decided to follow-up last week's Whole Foods BUYcott by taking the Whole Foods Store Tour. Store tours are offered monthly and they're designed to help you better understand how to maximize the value of each dollar you spend at Whole Foods. It covers the product labeling, store layout and departments, money saving tips, and information about in-store events. I decided to go to the Town and Country store, but it's more likely that I will shop at the Brentwood location in the future. (Use those links to find out more about each location including directions, sale fliers, and upcoming in-store events.)

Before diving in, let me tell you a about my shopping habits. I do most of the grocery shopping for our household. Prior to the BUYcott, I had often said that my ideal shopping center would include Costco, Trader Joe's, and Aldi. From that list you can conclude that when I have to choose between price and quality, price usually wins. Quality is paramount for certain products I purchase. One such product is chocolate. Sadly, there isn't a Teuscher's in Saint Louis, so I'm forced to buy chocolate bars that cost less than $10—and, yes, Teuscher's chocolate is worth the price. Trader Joe's is where I typically find my chocolate fix, but Whole Foods could fit that niche.

While chocolate is the draw to Trader Joe's, I always buy additional things when I shop there. Often its fresh bread, beer, or their pizza sauce. Whole Foods carries the same kind of products, and they have more variety, so they could replace Trader Joe's in my ideal shopping center.

One way to spot a value priced item at Whole Foods is to look for products with their private label. I've put the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value label to the right. Items with that label will have a lower price than similar name-brand products. Their 365 products will still meet the stringent quality standards that Whole Foods demands of its suppliers, so you're not trading off quality. This is they're big selling point and what sets them apart from other grocers. They promise that none of their products have artificial colors, sweetners, or flavors. They don't have anything with nitrates or aspertame. They work with third party certifying agencies to ensure that all their growers, suppliers, and stores meet these rigorous quality standards. I'll admit that I'm a little indifferent to most of those standards; however, I have a personal aversion to aspertame and every once in awhile I find that I've purchased something containing it. Shopping in a store where you know you never have to check a label has a certain appeal.

I cannot emphasize enough how impressed I was to learn that Whole Foods works with non-government certifying agencies. Tea Partiers across the land should be shouting their praise for that. The government does not have to be involved in policing everything!

Items that are on sale are labeled with orange tags that read "GreatBuy!" Those are in-store sales so they'll vary from location to location. Whole Foods corporate is behind the "Sure Deals" program that you'll find listed on their website and available in all their stores. One cost saving option I was excited to learn about is the 10% case discount. If you purchase a case of something—say, chocolate bars—they will give you 10% off the total price. In some instances, you can mix and match. The Town and Country store offers 10% off any six bottles of wine. You should ask store personnel what qualifies for a case discount.

The core values of Whole Foods drive their efforts to make a positive difference on the environment. As a result, they offer 10 cent refunds when you reuse a bag.

There are many other things to recommend (their bulk food bins, great made in-store gelato, freshly made cashew butter); however, the thing I found most surprising was that they offer to cook any fresh fish that you purchase. Having grown up on the coast, cooking fish doesn't seem like a challenge to me. Nonetheless, many midwesterners are justifiably worried about making a mistake with a food that is relatively costly. They'll cook your fish while you shop. It will be ready to take home for the family or you can eat it with friends at their in-store dining area.

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1 comment:

Gina said...

Thank YOU for this great and very timely advise!!! I will be putting it to great use, and you saved me an hour or two of time. Thanks!