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Is Whole Foods Market’s John Mackey up to his old tricks? 03.08.07

Early this morning (2nd August), 6am French time, naturalchoices.co.uk and newconsumer.com both had comments posted on them by a poster identified as rohadeb, the same alias used by John Mackey on Yahoo Finance to denigrate his competitors and boost his own company.

The comment posted on both sites under the alias rohadeb made allegations that senior management in the US with responsibility for the UK Whole Foods Market roll out have instructed US employees to lie to the UK immigration service and thus avoid unnecessary expense for the company. In the comment posted to naturalchoices the manager was actually names as one David Lannon, identified on the Whole Foods Market site as Vice President with responsibilities for the North Atlantic region. The message on newconsumer did not name an individual, saying rather “region president overseeing the London Whole Foods Market”.

The message posted read “Breaking news: Whole Food employees from the states have been directed by regional president David Lannon overseeing the London Whole Foods Market to lie to goverment officials in order to avoid paying the 2000 pound per employee work permit. As noted there are many Whole Foods Market employees from the states who have come to work at the London store. Penalty is 5000 per offense. Someone is going to be sacked over this one. Wait until the trade unions get ahold of this tidbit and turn it into a political football.”

It is unlikely that Whole Food Markets, who have already invested $38 million dollars with the acquisition of Fresh and Wild and whose flagship first UK store in Kensington would not have come cheap, would have deliberately directed its US posted employees to lie to the UK immigration officials. The potential public relations downside of such an action would completely undermine their plans to spread the Whole Foods Market chain across the UK when already the first shop does not seem to be attracting the numbers anticipated.

It has recently been revealed by the Federal Trade Commission investigation of the Whole Foods acquisition of Wild Oats, their nearest competitor in the US, that CEO John Mackey posted hundreds of messages under the alias rohadeb, an anagram of his partner Deborah name, attacking Wild Oats and promoting his own store. While not yet proven illegal, unless he disclosed insider financial information, it has been seen as at best unwise, and at worse foolish and unethical by the US financial community.

Is he up to the same tricks again or is it an imitator or an insider sending these messages? We would love to know.

It may be no coincidence that naturalchoices and the debate on newconsumer have not been wholesome in their praise of Whole Foods Markets, particularly its anti-trades union stand.

Peter Shield

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Newconsumer discussion on Whole Foods Market

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2 Comments

  • Is Whole Foods Market’s John Mackey up to his old tricks?

    7 August 2007 11:56, by Peter Shield

    Official Statement sent to Natural Choices by Whole Foods Market

    “Whole Foods Market is a well respected employer throughout the US and now in the UK. It fully complies with all UK and US immigration laws regarding the employment of its Team Members.

    We have invited several Team Members to travel to the United Kingdom for varying periods of time to assist us with post-opening activities such as instilling our company culture and sharing best practices and knowledge. These Team Members will assist with the promotion of our quality and merchandising standards in accordance with our brand image. This assistance may consist of demonstrating business practices, techniques and strategies for excellence in retailing the Whole Foods Market way.

    The training and support that these Team Members provide will ensure that the new store complies with the Whole Foods Market brand and standards in relation to their relevant department procedures. This training, which is specific to our organisation and to our operations in the US, is not readily available in the UK, as we have no current operations running of a similar scale in the UK.

    All expenses related to the trip are fully covered by Whole Foods Market/Fresh & Wild including airfare, lodging and per diem expenses as permitted under UK law. Visiting support Team Members continue to be paid from the United States and they are not in the UK to undertake any productive work. “

    Reply to this comment

    • Is Whole Foods Market’s John Mackey up to his old tricks? 7 August 2007 20:50, by Jack Sonoma

      This is a very interesting spin put out by Whole Foods as it is well known in these parts that going over to the UK will be some of the hardest days that you will work for the company whether it be wrapping cheese, stocking shelves, hauling trash through the store or working in the food hall. From what I heard, US Whole Foods Market Team Members have been instructed by the Regional Office to inform Customs Officials that they are only going over for seminars in order to avoid paying for UK Work permits. I don’t know how they can justify this clear misrepresentation of the truth but I am sure it will all catch up with them.

      Reply to this comment

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