Shopping and Science Fiction

Sunday is always a good day for grocery shopping. On the list today was some stuff from Trader Joe’s and from Whole Foods. I love Trader Joe’s. The stores are cheerful places, both for shopping and for meeting people. I also like the philosophy of providing the average Joe and Joette with products a bit off the beaten track at very reasonable prices with an increasing emphasis on organic food. The true deciding factor – how can I not love shopping somewhere with palm trees in front of the door?


With Whole Foods I have a bit of a problem. Every time I step inside one of these places I have a flashback to John Brunner’s “The Sheep Look Up”. Those who know the book know what I mean; those who don’t should go out and get a copy. One of the things Mr. Brunner describes in his book is the chasm which (in the near future seen from the viewpoint of 1972) has emerged to separate the rich, healthy, and privileged from the poor, sick, and oppressed. Seen against that background the Whole Foods philosophy of providing everybody who has a lot of money to spend with food mostly uncontaminated is a bit – well, let’s put it like that – the near future is the present already.

So, why do I not stay away from their stores? They carry my favorite toothpaste and cheese. What can one do?

5 thoughts on “Shopping and Science Fiction”

  1. What a shame we don’t have Trader Joe’s here. Not only am I a sucker for cheerful looking places with palm trees, but I have a soft spot for someone who knows when to use an apostrophe.

  2. I had no idea that they have no stores in Texas. You should start a petition.

    By the way, the photo shows the very first store site. I imagine they gave it an overhaul or two since 1966, but that is the one (on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena) where it all started.

    Quite a little secret is that Trader Joe’s is German owned. The owner of one of the largest grocery store chains in Germany bought the company in 1979. He had a nose for a good opportunity there, that chap.

  3. Oh, speaking of Whole Foods. Our largest chain of groceries in this area and in most of Texas, parts of Louisiana, Mexico (not the New one) and other nearby states is a chain of stores called HEB. They have about 80% of the market share, in spite of Wal Mart’s best effort. Their produce & meat is good, their prices are more than competitive.

    Anyhow, HEB was started in Texas long ago, by a man named Howard E. Butt (II am NOT making that up!), hence “HEB”.

    A while back, I heard on the radio that Whole Foods and HEB were going to merge. The resulting merger would mean that the company and all the stores would be renamed. After the merger the stores would be Butt-Whole Foods.

    That just cracks me up!

  4. A little about HEB HEB history

    They are excellent civic partners, and contribute to all sorts of local causes in any town in which they are located. Their pay scale is quite attractive to high school and college kids. Our daughter pretty much paid for a lot of her college working at the HEB in her college town. In addition, after a college student has worked for HEB for a set number of hours, she/he can apply for a scholarship. Unless the student’s grades are really bad, the scholarship is awarded. Daughter got the scholarship for a year or so. They also got performance bonuses when the store did well. She loved the job and met two of her closest college friends on the job there . In fact, one became her roommate and they lived together in unusual harmony for 3 years!

  5. I have heard of HEB. As to the merger – well, that name would be kind of … an unfortunate choice, don’t you think so?

    As to pay scales – there Trader Joe’s is quite a good example, too. From what I hear they pay really well and treat their employees as human beings and not as commodities.

    A tip of the hat to Trader Joe’s.

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