niman ranch

Whole Foods Tribeca Success!

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Whole Foods Tribeca Success - New Meat Department Slicer

Tartares of Niman Ranch Beef and Watson Farm L...

Last week I wrote about my year-long Whole Foods Tribeca - Niman Ranch ham ordeal. I will not rehash the entire event here, as you can click the link and read the whole story.

I posted the article, shared with Niman Ranch and Whole Foods Tribeca, and within 12 hours received a voice mail from the Whole Foods manager letting me know that the store is getting a new slicer for the meat department, so customers who want to buy a whole 2# chunk of Applewood smoked ham can have that less expensive meat sliced in store at the meat department.

While it does seem excessive to me to spend a few thousand dollars on a new slicer when the deli department is fully equipped and could help out, at least they are satisfying the customer (me). This does beg the question, however, about corporate culture. I am not so comfortable with a corporate culture that encourages such crazy competition between separate in-store departments, almost as if they were separate purveyors in a farmers market. It is also interesting that each Whole Foods store has the leeway to choose how to run itself. Union Square, for example, seems to run on more of a traditional "departments working together for store profit" basis, which is why their deli was more than happy to help us out and slice the ham from the meat department.

That said, this is a great example of how customers and businesses can effectively use social media outlets to address customer service and satisfaction issues in a public forum where all can be heard. I also managed to connect Niman Ranch with Key Food on Twitter, in the hopes that 55 Fulton Market will carry the Niman Ranch meats, which would be most convenient!

Dear Whole Foods Tribeca...

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My Whole Foods Tribeca - Niman Ranch Ham Saga...

Dear Whole Foods Tribeca,

Hubby and I have been shopping in your store at least 3-5 times a week for over a year (since I moved to Manhattan). You are conveniently located to our home and my work, carry a wide variety of items that we like to eat and use, and are generally easy to navigate and deal with.

Last year we tried the sliced uncured Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Ham from your deli counter, and it was so wonderful that we were willing to pay your outrageous deli price of $14.99 per pound (the same ham was $12.99 per pound at Columbus Circle, but I digress).

We were not happy when, after being confronted about the $2.00 per pound price differential between stores, your deli manager told us, "different stores charge different prices, even in similar neighborhoods." And we were really unhappy when you replaced it with a different product that we didn't feel was as good, and your deli manager told us, "Whole Foods Deli isn't carrying Niman Ranch anymore," even though the meat department had Niman Ranch in spades. But when you finally brought that ham back to the deli at $16.99 per pound, that just about broke us.

Of course, the meat department in your store carries the same, albeit unsliced, Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Petite Ham for only $7.99-8.99 per pound (not sure why, but there are always two prices represented in the petite hams). And in our experience, a store's deli counter will slice any meat that you buy in the store as a courtesy, since the store is making money on the sale. In fact, I asked the meat manager at one point whether we could get the petite ham sliced in the store's deli department, and he said, "yes."

Not at Whole Foods Tribeca!

When I tried to have the deli slice the $7.99 per pound ham that we picked up in the meat department, the deli manager replied, "I won't slice that because I sell the same product for over twice as much money. If I slice it you will have to pay $16.99 per pound!" He sent me to the meat counter, but they have no slicer.

When I complained to another store manager, she explained, "there is no way the deli would slice a ham from the meat department, because they are in direct competition. Every department in the store competes with the others for profits, and unfortunately there are a few items that we sell in multiple departments. Of course, there shouldn't be that much of a price differential." And when I told her about the price differential between stores (see beginning), she informed me that, "all stores in a metropolitan area should have the same prices."

But in the end everybody lost. We left angry and without ham. Whole Foods Tribeca lost the sale totally, which means that neither the meat nor the deli department made any money on that sale. And we are questioning whether to continue shopping at a store which is more interested in departmental profits and interdepartmental squabbles than customer satisfaction.

While convenient, Whole Foods is far from being the only large natural foods store in the Tribeca/FIDI area. Even Key Food's new 55 Fulton Market sells a lot of the same items.

What do you think? Are we up in arms over nothing? Or is a year of crazy ham lies from Whole Foods Tribeca managers really just too much to bear?