Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Whole Foods CEO healthcare Op-Ed spurs boycott

August 20, 2009

wholefoodsMaybe Whole Foods Chief Executive John Mackey should stay away from the keyboard and stick to selling gourmet groceries.******The CEO’s recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal suggested alternatives to healthcare proposals being batted around in the nation’s capital.******Among other things, he asserted that healthcare is not a right and called for ”less government control and more individual empowerment.”******His view got some of the chain’s historically liberal customers so hot under the collar that they have threatened to go elsewhere for their organic apples.******The company’s own healthcare reform forum has more than 14,000 posts. Twitter users are opining on the subject.******And the Boycott Whole Foods group on Facebook, which has attracted more than 20,000 members, is planning to picket stores in Washington, D.C. and the company’s hometown of Austin, Texas, on Friday.******According to the Facebook group, which also dings the company for not having unions, Mackey is ”suggesting that healthcare is a commodity that only the rich, like him, deserve.”******In his own blog, published shortly after the editorial ran, Mackey pinned some of the blame on changes made by those darn headline editors.******”I wrote this Op/Ed piece called simply ‘Health Care Reform.’ An editor at the Journal rewrote the headline to call it ‘Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare,’ which led to antagonistic feelings by many.”******He continued: “While I am in favor of health care reform, Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position on the issue.”******This isn’t the first time Mackey, the scribe, has caused a flap.******For several years ending in 2006, Mackey used the pseudonym “rahobed” on Yahoo Finance stock forums to talk up Whole Foods shares and his performance as CEO. He also trash talked competitors like Wild Oats. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated for nearly a year but eventually ruled out any action.******Whole Foods acquired Wild Oats in 2007 and just recently settled an antitrust case with the same federal government that Mackey says should keep its hands off healthcare.******(Photo/Reuters)


There’s no reason for a CEO of a grocery store to post anything on the Wall Street Urinal. Nobody really takes any of his ideas seriously.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Back in 2008, this Whole Foods, CEO John Mackey (how old is this kid?), was caught posting negative comments (trash talk) about a competitor on Yahoo Finance message boards in an effort to push down the stock price. So now I am suppose to take this loser seriously? Please, snore, snore.It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

John Mackey is a small minded weasle with plenty of money and time on his hands to engage in juvenile activities. More and more in America there’s a blossoming of shifty, immoral characters who use the increasingly popular tactic of burying the truth with bull#$%&. I guess it’s easier than providing value and quality.Further, whole foods ( lower case )are merely a means by which prices can be inflated while making suckers feel good about themselves. Personally, I’ll wash my fruits and vegetables rather than worry about microbial contaminants and Chinese poisons.

Posted by RH Pyle | Report as abusive

Sigh. I miss the days when Democrats and liberals were FOR free speech. Now, if anyone fails to toe the party line, lefties attack their livelihood and the livelihood of everyone with which they work.


I have not been a Whole Foods customer as I find it overpriced and pretentious (no vegan I) but I will make a point of shopping there from now on as a vote of confidence in reasoned public discussion. The people boycotting are the epitome of the knee jerk reactionaries they claim to despise.

Posted by Neal Fuller | Report as abusive

Boycott??? This guy is a hero! Whole Foods just won my business.

Posted by Murphyep | Report as abusive

This Whole Foods CEO’s comments are outrageous and spoken as an arrogant man who does not have a clue how most in this country live and how they exist financially. He is obviously a privileged man.The truth is, a country’s greatness is determined by how well it takes care of its citizens. Many essential systems simply do not lend themselves well to a capitalistic model…..a model where profit is everything. Those essential systems include the Fire Department, The police Department, Education, and especially HEALTH CARE. These are the systems people need when they are the most vulnerable.If you want to look for “Death Panels” look no further than your own insurance company. When they turn people away from acquiring health insurance, they are potentially choosing death for that person. When their non-medical panel determines a patient cannot have the treatment the Doctors feel is best for that person, they are potentially choosing death for that person. When insurance companies refuse payment for the correct tests, second opinions, and prescribed medications for a patient they are potentially choosing death for that patient in the form of ineffective/inappropriate treatments undertaken with little information to guide those providing the treatment.Insurance Companies make their money by denying you care. That is the height of a corrupt system.Our government has been providing excellent health care for your Grandmother’s ( and Grandfather’s, etc) strokes, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancers, and dementias for a very, very long time. This care is provided efficiently and effectively and is one of our very best systems of care because patients are able to get to the specialists they need…. True specialists not just someone an HMO dictates as they are “in the system”.Remember….Old age is a pre-existing condition. None of our elderly would get health care if it was not for our government.It is unconscionable to have health care coverage linked to being employed. Sick people can’t work. Businesses cannot afford to provide coverage so they “thin” the coverage they buy. You won’t know you are not covered for certain treatments until you try to use your insurance for them and are denied.It is unbelievable that a country so rich in resources as the United States has 50 million people with no health insurance and another huge group who have insurance yet are going bankrupt from co-payments. We must all step up to the plate and take care of each other.

Posted by Geraldine Derby | Report as abusive

If all employers provided health insurance to their employees, Mackey might have a point.If all insurance companies didn’t make every effort to deny health claims when people actually get sick, often using a nifty little tool called rescissionMackey might have a point.If all insurance companies didn’t use their bureaucracy to deny expensive but effective health care options by interfering with the doctor-patient relationship, Mackey might have a point.If health insurance companies didn’t require doctors to spend so much of their time battling those bureaucrats rather than practicing medicine, Mackey might have a point.If health insurance companies didn’t abuse the market by undercuting one another to get other companies’ existing contracts by low-balling bids on RFP’s, then jack up the rates soon after winning the low-balled contract, blaming resulting rate increases on “increased costs,” Mackey might have a point.If health insurance companies didn’t cancel policies of people who actually have the audacity to get seriously ill or badly injured, using the tactic of “pre-existing condition,” Mackey might have a point.As long as their bottom line is the only thing they (and Wall Street) care about, and to hell with you or me, Mackey’s a damned fool who obviously doesn’t understand the problem.Until that halcion day comes, government has a very real role in regulating health insurance companies that isn’t exercized nearly enough, largely because of powerful health insurance industry rolling in lucrative profits and with their only “long-term” objective being to meet the next Wall Street profit projections.And if health insurance companies continue to resist change, as they have since the Truman Administration, government may very well have to nationalize the whole system to effect the necessary change, and to hell with the health insurance industry and their investors.I’m an insurance agent licensed to sell health insurance, and I consider the health insurance industry to be the biggest legalized racket in the American economy.

Posted by Robert Speed | Report as abusive

I use to love shopping Whole food. And now it is too expensive, but I do it once in the while for the Great Vitamins


I have long avoided Whole Foods because of all the left-wing kooks who love it. But now I may have to buy my groceries there!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Suddenly I love Wnole Foods and I’m going shopping tomorrow.Anytime people refuse to allow others free speech and free opinions on health care, we know that the love is not there for the unfortunate ones without health care. All the love is self-love: the love of my own liberal Socialist/Marxist ideas as parroted by the current president. The more they try to remove our freedoms, the more we are going to assert ourselves to retain them. Get used to it.

Posted by carol wright | Report as abusive

Whole Foods is expensive but oh how good their fruits and vegetables are. Meat prices are outrageous.I shop there for gluten free food as that is a must for me. They have a good selection, which is rare.Because of cost, I confine my purchases there to gluten free and fresh fruits and vegetables.John Mackey is a free man in what I thought was a free country. He can write anything he wants to write. It is this administration that seems intent on limiting our freedoms.

Posted by Karol | Report as abusive

Here is a guy who is well educated, is in charge of the heath benefits for thousands of employees, and was interested enough in the concept of healthy sustainable living to cofound a global market to do just that. I sure as hell want to hear his views and want the general public to know his views. He is spot on in my opinion. I will support his views with my wallet at Whole Foods! Any one who wants to spend $7 on lunch aw Whole Foods instead of a pack of cigarettes or a Macdonald’s value meal will surely experience an improvement in their health and a reduction in their health care costs.

Posted by Justin | Report as abusive

The ordinary Whole Foods shopper can’t use corporate power to command a special op ed column in the Wall Street Journal to publicize their viewpoint as Mackey can. Mackey’s big money and corporate power gives him more ability to have his opinion heard. But, the ordinary Joe can certainly say, “Mackey has every right to speak and be heard…but he has no right to the money in my wallet.” And despite all the attacks on the ordinary Joe shopper that boycotting is ‘stupid’ – it does seem that it is for once getting the ordinary shopper’s “pro-public-option in health care” opinion heard, too.

Posted by Ash | Report as abusive

For this hippy dude to actually write such an article means that there is still hope left in this crazy country!To all the kooks out there who shop at Whole Foods for socialism reasons, please go start your own communist grocery store, live on farms, grow your veggies and try to sell them and make a profit.John Mackey is a businessman first and a liberal second. Our side just got another convert!


We need to hear more from people like Mackey. People who actually know what it takes to run a successful business and maintain jobs vs. the irrational follies of a community organizer with as much business sense as the fools that follow his swansong. Wake up people – there is no free lunch. All you free rangers out there are a bunch of hypocrites. One hand you want the world to go back to an agrarian place and time where we all lived off our local farms. On the other you want big brother to come in and save your sorry selves. Why would you trust the government that is immune from prosecution when you never trust the farm industry that open to every lawsuit threat you can come up with – mad cow, genetic engineering. Please – get over yourselves.

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

The CEO is generous in his company’s benefits to employees and he cares about health obviously. The shoppers made the chain what it is today and he has every right to voice his opinion. I am absolutely sick of the ad homenim attacks on anyone who offers an opinion other than Obama’s. If anyone is causing his polls to sink it’s his followers who attack anyone and everyone who disagrees.

Posted by christine | Report as abusive

Politics aside, Mr. Mackey has a point. Simply appending new benefit schemes to the existing system guarantees that the costs will balloon over time. Every entity involved in health care including the patient, doctor, hospital, health insurer and pharmaceutical company is presented with perverse incentives which result in monumental waste. Mr. Mackey focuses on consumer incentives and his proposals are worth considering. Also worth considering are global payments for doctors and hospitals (phase out fee-for-service) and of course guaranteed issue of health policies. Cutting the patent protection from 20 to 10 years on pharmaceuticals would also help. Most of all, each element in the system should be confronted with financial choices unfettered by government regulations, third party coverage or rigged markets when making health care or business choices.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Bravo to John Mackey of Whole Foods. He has the right to voice his own opinion. Our country is where you have ” freedom of speech “. I will continue to shop at Whole Foods and hope more people come out to oppose the health plan by proposed by President Obama

Posted by judy | Report as abusive

Mr. Mackey’s millions have clouded his view of the real world. His suggestion to cover the uninsured with voluntary donations show how ridiculous his arguments are. There is a related post at

Posted by carly | Report as abusive

We need many more LEADERS like John Mackey. Not the trashy people currently in control. Every single person in this country is entitled to express an opinion. The opinion expressed in this article is extremely good one.


This is the problem with shopping at a corporate grocery; you give them your money in exchange for food, but you have no stake or control. I’m so lucky to have a food co-op in my community which I am a member owner of. Whole Foods is just an upscale version of the same unsustainable Joinst Stock Corporation model. Opt out and join a food co-op; if there isn’t one in your community yet, organize one!


My appreciation goes to Mackey who has the courage to point out the obvious: the proverbial “the emperor has no clothes”.Federal regulations are the root cause of the health care crisis, so hyping yet more government as being the solution is just not credible. For instance, 90% of the cost for developing new drugs is spent by drug manufacturers to satisfy federal regulations on effectiveness rather than on safety. So, if you’ve ever had a loved one die of such diseases as pancreatic cancer … you can thank federal regulations from denial of new, experimental drugs that may have saved the life of your loved one.Expecting yet more government to cure the health care system’s ailments is as sensible as expecting to slow down a speeding car by stomping on the gas rather than the brake.Guy McLendonHouston, Texas


Obviously food is necessary for survival as is good health. However, in this century we have choices where food is concerned. Not the case with healthcare. Healthcare has four major components: the doctors and nurses, the hospitals and clinics, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurers like Medicare and the HMO’s (plus a handful of co-ops). The Government licenses the doctors and nurses, the Government ensures that drugs are safe, the Government certifies the hospitals and clinics, and this Government regulates HMO’s to a limited degree and runs Medicare and Medicaid and the VA medical services and completely pays for medical services and facilities for members of the Armed Forces; Government also subsidizes State and Federal employees through generous contributions to approved HMO’s.Government is not run by a bunch of amateurs, nor is it in the business of making a profit when delivering care to our sick citizens. The profit part is the part that sticks in our throats as citizens of a free and democratic nation. No one goes bankrupt over lack of means to pay for a meal, yet many who are either uninsured, under-insured or who are victimized by HMO’s and their merciless fine-print will find themselves abandoned by society when illness strikes. Sure, you may say that they can wait for foreclosure, bankruptcy, and repossession of the family car and, as a family, walk the streets and then get covered by the social service agencies. If that is what this modern example of a democratic state wants to do, leave things as they are. Then you will truly have a nation divided—between the haves and the have-nots.

Posted by michel d. merle | Report as abusive

The White House has no plan and will sign anything. The House has offered bills that will bankrupt the country. There are plenty of alternatives not proposed by Obama supporters, including those discussed in this op-ed, that can significantly improve healthcare conditions. Let’s have some support for improvements that can work AND keep our country free.

Posted by Bob Thompson | Report as abusive

Carly, I can’t think of a more ‘democratic’ way than having voluntary contributions to a public health trust fund. To fund such a trust using tax $’s is not more ‘democratic’ than using a gun to collect church donations. Using a gun to fund *your* notion of what is moral is totally immoral! The debate today is being waged by morons on both sides that can’t think outside of their own ideologies. Mackey’s ideas are a breath of fresh air!

Posted by Stu, Round Rock, Tx | Report as abusive

I am always glad to see Americans voicing their opinions, I may not always agree with them, but I enjoy it, so please keep boycotting Whole Foods Market, Inc., companies keep dropping sponsorship of the “Glenn Beck” BS, Astroturfers keep showing up at town hall meeting and get your shouts in (we all know you can’t articulate your position and are all about hate) they hate and can’t debate, sweet.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

I’ll be buying more from Whole Foods now that I know that it is leaning less liberal/socialist/communist and more towards American core values. Inefficient government healthcare means more costs, which means more taxes, which means less profit, which means fewer jobs for all the whiners on these blogs.Taking money from some to give to others is thievery. The U.S. government set up by the Constitution was not established to do this (was to have a military and roads, very limited), but is morphing into this pseudo-socialistic Banana Republic state that resembles nothing like the U.S. our children sing about in middle school. It’s a harsh reality when one gets out of school only to learn that the government is going to confiscate 20%, 50% or more of the hard-earned money one makes, only to give it to what is (mostly) whiners and slackers–like the ones on these blogs supporting government healthcare.

Posted by PW | Report as abusive

I shopped at Whole Foods yesterday as a result of publicity over Mr. Mackey’s Op Ed.This blog post obviously slants statist–so what if WF doesn’t have unions? We just spent billions helping bail out union pension plans and where unions go, work dries up.Mackey’s editorial did not slam the popular president. Or even the pathetic congress. Or even the impossibly inferior HR 3200, the bill one committee put forth as a solution.Those who want HR 3200 or single pay should look at the breakdown on the voluntarily and involuntarily insured. Look at the US Census figures. The 45 million number is a political smokescreen.Reuters does the reader no favor with biased posts like the one above.


We are all adults here, and as adults we know there are consequences for are actions, so if you do not agree with CEO John Mackey views on healthcare, you can a) do nothing, b) shop there, c) not shop there, d) protest and picket the stores, its your choice, live the dream!

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Whole foods has bought out our local health food store, is dramatically overpriced, anti-union and this is the final straw. I haven’t shopped there much in recent years and from now on won’t shop there at all.


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