Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wegmans vs. Whole Foods

Just as I appreciate Simon for pointing me to Ithaca Journal articles I might be missing, I'm glad I have Maggy to scan the New York Times for me. Among our favorite entertainments, when Maggy's here in Ithaca, is browsing in Wegmans. And when I'm in New York, chances are we'll shop in Whole Foods for dinner ingredients. So, this NYT Style article comparing Wegmans and Whole Foods is a natural interest for us.

The Samurai Shopper is more put off by the "stink of Zen" than I am. There are those here in Ithaca who think Wegmans is too tree-hugger or granola-head and would be appalled by Whole Foods. But the culture of both Wegmans and Whole Foods suits me pretty well. Selection in Wegmans is much wider than Whole Foods, perhaps because of the physical size of the stores. Prices in Wegmans are more reasonable, partly because of the wide range of selection. This summer Wegmans made a greater effort to stock local produce. It will never compete with the Ithaca Farmers' Market on this score, but checking labels reveals a fair number of local products year round.

But the clincher for me has always been service. The only eyebrow raising service I've ever encountered was the checkout clerk sobbing into her tissue as she passed my groceries over the scanner, because she'd just seen her boyfriend checking out with another girl. Otherwise, when I ask a clerk where to find something, they walk with me to where the item should be located. If it's missing from its spot on the shelf, they go to the warehouse to find it. Most clerks make pretty good small talk. They all seem to be happy with their jobs and proud of the store. It's no wonder Wegmans is repeatedly recognized as one of the best employers in the nation.

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