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Whole Foods is an American chain of supermarkets which is known for selling a wide range of organic products. Online, the company has gained a reputation as a promoter of trendy green and health-conscious lifestyles often associated with upper-middle class White Americans.
In September, 1980, the first Whole Foods store was opened by founder John Mackey in Austin, Texas. Throughout the 1980s, Whole Foods expanded in various other Texas locations, as well as New Orleans, Lousiana and Palo Alto, California. In the 1990s, several additional stores were opened in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the 2000s, stores were opened in Manhattan, Seattle, Toronto and West London.
On June 16th, 2017, Wall Street Journal and other U.S. news outlets reported that Amazon has agreed to buy the upscale supermarket chain for $13.7 billion. The news of the acquisition was largely met by surprise from consumers and the public at large, although some analysts were quick to interpret the merger as a strategically sound business decision. On Twitter, people responded to the announcement with jokes and punchlines, with many taking a jab at Whole Foods for its overpriced products. Others quipped that Amazon's buyout of Whole Foods could result in massive layoff of store employees and replacement by robots, alluding to the retail giant's recent attempts at automating the checkout process at select Amazon GO groceries. Throughout the day, Amazon and Whole Foods both emerged as the top trending headlines and keywords on virtually all social media platforms and news sites.
In June 2008, the @WholeFoods Twitter feed was created, followed by the Whole Foods Facebook page the same month. In eight years, the Twitter feed gained over 4.82 million followers and the Facebook page garnered more than 1.97 million likes. On November 18th, 2014, Redditor ruemenzo submitted a photograph of a Whole Foods produce display to the /r/oddlysatisfying subreddit, where it received upwards of 4,400 votes (95% upvoted) and 100 comments prior to being archived (shown below, left). On April 16th, 2015, Redditor moramarc posted a photograph of a Whole Foods cake decorated to resemble a child's crayon drawing to /r/pics, where it received more than 6,400 votes (97% upvoted) and 620 comments before it was archived (shown below, right).
On August 3rd, BuzzFeed published a listicle titled "19 Times Whole Foods Went Way, Way Too Far," featuring photographs posted on social media mocking various products sold at Whole Foods (shown below).
John Mackey's Wall Street Journal Editorial
In August 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial by Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey, which criticized public health care initiatives like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The article received criticism from many on the progressive left, who felt that Mackey's statements were antithetical to the values representing by the natural foods community.
Overcharging in California
In 2014, Whole Foods markets in California were penalized for overcharging customers at over 70 different locations. In July 2015, the WholeFoodsMarket YouTube channel posted a video in which Mackey is shown apologizing to customers for the overcharging controversy (shown below).
Homophobic Slur Cake Allegation
On April 18th, 2016, Twitter user Jordan D. Brown, an openly gay pastor in Austin, Texas, posted a photograph of a cake with the words "Love Wins Fag" written in icing on the top, claiming that a Whole Foods store sold him the decorated product. Additionally, Brown filed a lawsuit against the company for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
The same day, the Kaplan Law Firm PLLC YouTube channel posted a video of Brown accusing the Whole Foods of decorating the cake with the slur, including footage of the cake (shown below).
Meanwhile, Whole Foods released a statement denying the epithet had been written by a Whole Foods employee, and noted that the company "has a strict policy that prohibits team members from accepting or designing bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive" along with a photograph of Whole Foods Market employees with the caption "#LoveWins" (shown below).
The following day, Whole Foods released security camera footage showing Brown purchasing the cake, in which the label can be seen on the top of the box rather than the side it was displayed on in Brown's video recording. Additionally, the company launched a countersuit against Brown, claiming that he "intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur."
On May 16th, Fox News reported that Brown had dropped the suit against Whole Foods and publicly apologized for accusing the company of writing the slur on the cake. The same day, Whole Foods announced they would be dropping the countersuit:
"We’re very pleased that the truth has come to light. Given Mr. Brown’s apology and public admission that his story was a complete fabrication, we see no reason to move forward with our countersuit to defend the integrity of our brand and team members."
 Washington Post – People are worried Amazon will replace Whole Foods workers with robots
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