The Whole Wheat Test

It appears that the typical Whole Foods Market employee has a heart.

For a variety of reasons, the company attracts employees who care about what they’re doing. Which makes this test relevant to you (because you care) and poignant, too.

I asked at the Whole Foods bakery for a loaf of "whole wheat bread" that looked quite tasty. As the clerk was bagging it, I asked, "Is it 100% whole wheat?" It turns out that lots of bread that’s labeled as whole wheat really isn’t. In fact, there’s no regulation on this at all, and you can sell a loaf with just a tablespoon of whole wheat in it as "whole wheat."

"Actually, no," she responded, putting it back.

Here’s the thing: Virtually everyone who buys whole wheat bread is buying it because they want whole wheat bread, not white bread with some caramel color and a little whole wheat. While it might be legally permissible to sell a pale replacement, it’s certainly not ethical.

I asked the person why she didn’t change the sign. Call it whole wheat blend or something catchy. She explained that she wasn’t allowed to. Yes, they have other loaves that are whole wheat, and she sold me one of those.

The question I’d ask you is this: if you worked at the bakery, would you change the sign? Or direct people to the real whole wheat bread? Or would you follow the company line and deceive your customers?

It comes up more than you would think. I get email from marketers complaining that they are forced to spam people and from retail associates who are upset that they are measured on how many worthless warranties they sell…

Where do you draw the line? How do you decide what’s a sufficient amount of non-transparency and what’s unacceptable?

[Contributed by Doug Sandquist, DDS (ellipses his): there are plenty of buzz words to market… I try and teach my employees, my philosophy that is based on experience and research… Take tooth whitening for example… a laser does nothing to bleach teeth… the bleaching agent bleaches teeth.. the Laser is a marketing tool…  The theory goes that if you light/heat activate the bleaching agent it will work faster.. but all the research shows that it doesn’t matter… the research also shows that tooth whitening at home works as well if not better than the in office "Laser" whitening systems… in fact the research shows that it typically takes a patient 2-4 visits(usually a week apart) of Laser visits to equal 4 weeks of at home daily whitening… so the results are the same… here’s the catch… I can charge $360 for a 4 week at home system…. For an in office laser system I have to charge the patient $500 each visit.. which means it could cost $2000. I am happy to the go the in office way if the patient understands all the alternatives.. I expect my employees to understand all the buzz words and understand how our office handles them… My employees need to know the pros and cons of the options….. and I expect them to educate our patients about them too!  If we are not honest about tooth whitening, how are we to be trusted for other larger treatment options?]