Shoppers at Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. have been astonished to discover empty shelves at their local stores in recent months, with one customer describing the stores as “the Soviet Safeway.” Barclay analysts found stores in disarray with “entirely empty” shelves and deteriorating produce, Business Insider reported.
“Analysts said they encountered ‘high’ out-of-stock issues last week in every department of one Midwest store across both private-label items and branded items,” according to the report. One East Coast store had “extraordinary” inventory problems, according to the analyst.
“The store had no bananas and the supply of eggs and Tropicana products was very low,” the analyst reported. “Entire displays, refrigerated cases, and end caps were completely empty. The prepared foods hot bar was entirely empty.”
This follows a December story that found dozens of shoppers reporting “bruised, discolored, tasteless, and rotten produce in Whole Foods stores from California to New York over the past couple of months.”
“I purchased apples that tasted like water, an orange that was yellow and tough on the inside, and a bruised lemon,” Susie Ippolito said at the time about a store in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “That was the last time I went to Whole Foods. If you can’t sell me a decent apple in the height of apple season, I’ve lost all faith in your store.”
Many customers have taken to Twitter to complain about the problem:
Whole Foods empty bread shelf makes it seem like people are prepping for the apocalypse!
— pavni mittal (@pavnimittal) January 4, 2018
What is with @wholefoods Tenleytown? It looks like the Soviet Safeway. Empty shelves everywhere. New ownership is not impressing.
— John Canon (@jofraca) January 5, 2018
@WholeFoods went to buy decaf beans at #squareone #Mississauga . Medium dark not available. Several others not available. Somebody is sleeping on the job. Came back empty-handed. Disappointing. @JeffBezos @amazon
— K Mohamed (@dataone333) January 5, 2018
Conversation today at Whole Foods amongst the shoppers. All agree that since Amazon takeover quality of produce has plummeted and now there are empty shelves. A great opening for a competitor nationwide, maybe @sprouts @OrganicConsumer
— Peter Kohli (@clove_cafe) January 7, 2018
Amazon purchased Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in August and announced that shoppers would see immediate markdowns on many food items.
“The two companies will together pursue the vision of making Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone,” the company said in a joint statement after the deal was finalized. “Whole Foods Market will offer lower prices starting Monday on a selection of best-selling grocery staples across its stores, with more to come.”
Unfortunately, it looks like they may have cut inventory along with the prices.
— S. Wyatt Young (@swyattyoung) November 6, 2017
— jennifer irwin (@jenirwin69) January 8, 2018
Employees are blaming tight controls on Whole Foods’ order-to-shelf (OTS) inventory system for the shortages.
“At my store, we are constantly running out of products in every department, including mine,” a manager of an Illinois Whole Foods complained to Business Insider. “Regional and upper store management know about this. We all know we are losing sales and pissing off customers. It’s not that we don’t care — we do. But our hands are tied.”
“Employees acknowledge that less food is spoiling in storage rooms, but they describe OTS as a ‘militaristic’ system that crushes morale and leads to many items being out of stock,” the United Food and Commercial Workers tweeted.
Whole Foods has yet to offer an explanation for the ongoing low inventory problem.
My advice? Switch to Aldi. It’s cheaper, they carry a wide selection of fresh produce and organic foods — and I’ve never seen empty shelves at one.