Whole Foods Market

For those of you who reside in the Unites States, I would imagine that a number of you have heard of a health food store called, 'Whole Foods Market.' As for as I'm aware there's around ninety to one hundred stores nationwide.

I worked for WFM for six months. They're a great company to be involved with and they certainly treat their employee's well. I personally found most of the staff that I came into contact with, to be very pleasant and easy going souls.

I loved my job from the first day that I began working for them. But sadly, through what I see as no fault of my own, my happiness quickly turned into a reality that I didn't want to face every day.

Below is the letter, (my story) of why I "QUIT" the first job in my life. I was so disgusted by how I was treated by my upper peers, that I simply couldn't just let it rest. I wrote this letter not out of spite or malice but to justify how I felt and to express what I went through, to those who run and own the company (in Austin, Texas.) What I experienced, would never be known to them unless it was put into words like I have done below. This letter was sent certified, to the President, Vice President and the Southern District Regional Manager (the latter being in the state of California).

Lastly I'd like to say that there are always two sides to every story. This is my side of that story.

[As this was originally intended to be a personal letter, I have changed the names of the persons involved and have deleted the location. Everything else here that you read, is as it was sent.]


October 21, 1999

Dear Mr. Mackey:

I am writing this letter today in the hopes of giving you a brief insight into a situation that occurred in the XXX branch of your markets. I would like to start off by saying that I have the highest respect for Whole Foods Markets as I feel they have a great philosophy and a lot to offer to the health conscious consumer. And, out of that respect, I feel that I must inform you of my experience as an employee of your company. I know that it is impossible for you to know what goes on in each store. You must trust your employees and management to alert you to problems that may exist. I hope, after reading this letter, you understand why I felt compelled to write it. I apologize in advance for the length of the letter but this is the only way I feel you will be able to understand the magnitude of what happened.

When I was offered a job at Whole Foods Market working in the specialty department I was overwhelmed with joy. The more I learned about the company, the more I loved it. We opened the Pasadena store on May 5th after several weeks of long hard days getting it ready for customers. I did not mind the ten to twelve hour shifts of exhausting work since it was very exciting to see it all come together and my team leader, Ken Perth, made sure we knew our efforts were very appreciated.

The first weeks were great. The moral of the store and our department was high. We truly came together as a team and made the Whole Foods philosophy come to life. As the days continued I began to notice some unpleasantness in our team. As the first couple of months passed other members of our department had various issues with a fellow co-worker. To our delight, she was given a new position and was transferred in late August to another store that was opening in Torrance, CA. To fill the position Ken started interviewing for an associate team leader for our department. He brought in a man by the name of Jay Gonet. Years before they had both worked together at another WFM store. Most of us couldn't see it then but in my opinion this was the rise and fall of our department.

At first Jay seemed to be a nice guy and we all welcomed him. However, within two to three days most of our department started to feel offended by his brash nature. We had been working very hard at perfecting a system that worked wonderfully for us, our department, and store. Jay made it clear that he was not very interested in how things worked for us. It was obvious he wanted us to be clear that he was in charge and we should be doing things his way. He would chastise us for cutting cheese the wrong way. The only thing wrong with our technique was that it was not the way Jay wanted it cut. We had been taught by Ken. And, instead of showing us how he would like it, he would just rant and rave. He would also bring out several pieces of cheese to cut at one time. Usually it was an amount way too large to handle in a short amount of time and the cheese would often sit sweating on the counter when it should be in the cooler. And personally, I feel very overwhelmed when I see a mountain of cheese to be cut as opposed to a smaller one. This issue was brought up at two team meetings yet nothing was ever changed.

The first real negative encounter that I had with Jay was on Monday 8-30-99. Up to that point I had been taught to slightly cut into the paper that is on top of brie. In doing this it would save the paper from being pulled into the cut when you made any deeper incisions. Jay saw me doing this and came over, grabbed the knife out of my hand and slid the brie away from me. In a matter of seconds he had cut the whole thing like Edward scissors hands. What was he trying to prove? I gained absolutely nothing from that experience. As my superior, I expected Jay to teach. If I was doing something wrong is it not his position and responsibility to correct the mistake? He only managed to degrade and frustrate me.

Later that afternoon Jay had asked me to fill some clear plastic containers with shredded cheese. It had just gone three o' clock and, having sanitized the counter only moments before, everything was spotless. I began to pour the cheese from the bag and into the appropriate containers. Noticing this Jay thrust himself toward me like a madman grabbed the bag and yelled, "I want it done this way! You should have gloves on for this." I responded by saying that there was never any contact between me and the cheese and if any did get between the containers I would put on a glove and clean it up. He just went berserk in front two co workers and three or four customers who were standing at the counter. There is a time and a place for everything and to yell and belittle me in front of others was wrong, period! He then asked me to go into the back stock room with him. He continued to yell and scream at me like a complete maniac. "I'm in charge here, I'm the boss, I'm the one you have to listen to around here." He went on in this fashion for a good three or four minutes. When I was given a chance to try and explain myself all he did was interrupt me and yell again. Upset and frustrated I walked away explaining he had a problem of not listening to people and he should try to let others talk when you ask them to explain themselves . I ended by saying, "When you can talk to me like a human being, then I'll talk to you." I'm sure you can understand my frustration as I find it very offensive to be cut off and not listened to by someone who just asked me to explain my actions. I was also very embarrassed to be yelled at in front of customers when a simple request for me to perform my duties in a different way would have sufficed. Needless to say there was quite a bit of tension between us for the rest of my shift.

The next day I woke up in considerable pain due to a degenerative hip condition I was diagnosed with one month ago. (WFM does have a letter in reference to this from my chiropractor.) It doesn't really bother me that often but when it flares up it is very painful. I was going to call in sick before my 06.00am shift. However, I decided to go to work knowing that I would be leaving a co-worker to open by herself and did not want to put that stress on her. Upon my arrival I explained my situation to my co-worker and then to Jay when he came in a few hours later. Five hours into my shift at 11.00a.m, a fourth co-worker started her shift. That was the relief that I was waiting for. I had been in considerable pain all morning. When I approached Jay about leaving he seemed more concerned about his cheese than my health. He huffed and moaned and didn't want to help me in the slightest. I didn't want to get into another debate with him so I called Mark, our STL. I explained the situation to him and he asked me if it was alright with Jay. I told him that it was not and that Jay seemed more interested in his cheese. I asked Mark if he could talk with Jay and he did. Putting the phone down Jay said that I could go adding "well, I've got help now, Mark is going to come out and help me." When I ignored his remark he continued, "it sounds like we're doing you a favor Johnny." That comment was totally out of line and uncalled for. I'd gone through a lot of pain that morning to get to work and to help out. I had respect for my position and wanted to be there until relief came. And after all my effort this was the gratitude I got. It was very shocking to know that the person I was working for did not feel that my health was of any concern.


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