I'm spitting mad about Whole Foods' latest, thuggish attempt to mess with Portland food retailer New Seasons. You may have read the Oregonian story or New Seasons' CEO Brian Rohter's post about the subpoena asking for proprietary and confidential business information. The subpoena sent to New Seasons is part of a screwed-up merger that Whole Foods has been trying to execute with rival Wild Oats for the past 18 months.
Apparently, Whole Foods thinks that New Seasons' weekly sales figures, internal emails, marketing strategies and studies about where to open stores are integral to proving their case that the merger won't create a monopoly. They promise that the information won't go beyond their lawyers, but this is the second time that Whole Foods has tried to get confidential information out of New Seasons. Last year, Whole Foods tried to get the same information and promised that only lawyers, consultants and top management would take a peek.
I know Portland is a small city, but we're not complete idiots. This looks to me like a brazen attempt to get a leg up on New Seasons and maybe even put them out of business.
I'd rather shop at New Seasons any day, and in that I think I'm not alone. New Seasons is locally-owned and carries a wide variety of products from our regional foodshed. Whole Foods can't match their friendliness nor their local selection. I have tremendous brand loyalty to New Seasons (OK, it helps that their 7 Corners store is only a few blocks from my house, but still...) In many years of shopping there, I can't remember ever having a bad experience.
Whole Foods, on the other hand, appears to be a pretty wacky--maybe even unethical--company. You may remember last year, when CEO John Mackay got caught extolling the virtues of his own stock on a Yahoo message board under the pseudonym "Rahodeb." It wasn't his brightest moment.
In the past, I have occasionally stopped into Whole Foods. That ends today. Threaten my favorite locallly-owned grocery store, and I promise to never darken your door again.