Following an investigation by New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs that found Whole Foods overcharged customers (sometimes by as much as $15), the CEOs of Whole Foods have apologized.
In a clip posted to the grocer’s YouTube page, co-CEOs John Mackey (left) and Walter Robb acknowledged that “straight up” they’ve been mislabeling items that are prepared in-store, sandwiches and juices, for instance. The pair are clear that the errors are unintentional because, as Robb says, “sometimes they’re in the customer’s favor, sometimes they’re not in the customer’s favor.”
Calling it a byproduct of the “hands on” approach of the company, the pair outline the steps they’re taking to rectify the problem in New York and elsewhere: more training; an outside auditing service, which will report back to customers in 45 days what the company’s progress is; and a pact with customers that, if they think something is mislabeled, they can ask the cashier to weigh it and, if it’s an overcharge, the customer gets the item for free.
They close by inviting customers to send their thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, which Robb says, the two execs will be reading personally.
In a previous statement, Whole Foods pushed back on the findings, saying they’d asked for evidence that wasn’t forthcoming. The statement was particularly inadequate when you consider that the company had paid fines for the same exact thing in the past.
While this is a better apology, the more significant section of the clip is the description of what they’re doing to correct the problem. That effort, especially the transparency of offering customers the chance to ask the store to double check the pricing, is a good way to not only minimize errors, but regain trust. And hey, who doesn’t love a freebie.
But as we suggested previously, training and improving the systems with those customer-facing staffers will be critical. As a New York customer, I can say how important this market is, with crowds a fixture at each of the locations I’ve visited. At the same time, if you get a lot of grumbly New Yorkers (and New Yorkers do love to grumble) slowing down the line with lots of requests for a re-weigh, you may find some people in line willing to pay a couple extra bucks just to move things along.