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a tale of two grocers

Yesterday some of us had occasion to visit Whole Foods. We went by bicycle, and at least three people tried to kill us with their cars over the course of the 3/4-mile trip, so I wasn't in the best mood when we reached the store—which meant the things I dislike about it were more present in my mind than usual. Leah and I have a significant disagreement over what makes us feel comfortable and welcome while grocery shopping. She's a big fan of Whole Foods—she appreciates the high-quality produce and meat and the lovely ambience created by the lower lights and calming earth tone color scheme. Me, I hate those things.

Haha, no not really. There are things that are objectively very nice about Whole Foods, not limited to those I mentioned and how close it is to our house. But when I'm there I can't shake the feeling that I'm being suckered—that all the positive features of the place are just tricks to get us to spend way more for less food than we could get somewhere else. It doesn't help that WF used to be owed by a multi-millionaire libertarian and is now owned by Amazon, and that it came to us by way of buying up countless independent health food coops and local chains.

My favorite grocery store is Market Basket. I still like it even though the one we go to got much bigger within my living memory. There's no luxury or pretension there: the value proposition is just: here's some food, for the lowest prices you'll find it for. Lots of food. And there are lots of people there who want to buy it, and lots of cashiers and baggers to help make that happen. I love all that—but those things make Leah feel overwhelmed and anxious. We have a lot in common, but some important differences too! Luckily, getting the best groceries means going to both Whole Foods and Market Basket. The organic produce and (relatively) humane and sustainable meats at Whole Foods are much better than anything at Market Basket, and given our budget it makes sense to save something like $1.50/lb on butter. So she can handle the Whole Foods shopping while I go to Market Basket... and we can cement marital harmony by bonding over our mutual dislike for Stop and Shop.

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