Whole Foods vs. Ramadan: The Original Email

Categories: News

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Since our post yesterday on Whole Foods's reluctance to promote Ramadan this year after a few customer and blogger complaints, the story unexpectedly went viral.

Saffron Roads CEO Adnan Durrani called the post "a tempest in a teapot" when interviewed by CNN. And NPR reported: "Looking to set the record straight, the Whole Foods grocery chain says it is 'still carrying and promoting halal products for those that are celebrating Ramadan this month.'"

That's roughly the same thing that Whole Foods has been saying across the Internet for the past 12 hours or so, and the same thing that Whole Foods PR representative Kate Lowery left in our comments section yesterday.

But it's also the same language that was in the original email, sans a few pertinent points. Nevertheless, Kate Lowery emailed the Houston Press this morning with the following request: "Would you like to include the entire sentence from our Q&A to ensure your readers get the accurate truth? I'm happy to share our entire Q&A with you so you understand that we are promoting halal foods during the special time Ramadan, not specifically promoting Ramadan itself. Again, it's business as usual and we are continuing our promotion."

So at the risk of seeming as if we're attempting to distort what was originally said, two screenshots of the original email are posted below.

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Click to enlarge.
The italicized portion of the email was appended by one particular region, as we have now learned: the Southwest Region, which covers Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. But the remainder of the email was sent out from Whole Foods's corporate office to its marketing teams.

Again, it's easy to see that this started out as an entirely positive promotion that stumbled along the way. And it's not as if this is a marketing disaster of epic proportions: It could be much, much worse.

Instead, it's a cautionary tale about letting a small minority dictate your actions, and failing to have the courage of your prior convictions.



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37 comments
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Sebastian
Sebastian

The Whole Foods at Bellaire has had its Houston Press newspaper stand mysteriously disappear.

Froglips_tom
Froglips_tom

It was stolen by the intellectually challenged.

Tyler
Tyler

HP, thanks for the original informative article and this update:If you would like to tell Whole Foods to continue advertising halal products and foods FOR RAMADAN, check out this petition:http://www.change.org/petition...

Critical thinker
Critical thinker

Why would you want Kosher and Halal boycotted during Passover and Ramadan?What next? Force Hindu's to eat meat like China forces Uighur's to eat during Ramadan?

Critical thinker
Critical thinker

Why would you want Kosher and Halal boycotted during Passover and Ramadan? (Sorry can't get rid of the underline.)

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Dont even think about pretending you're just the messenger.  I told you these two are idiotically mixed together.  Noody comes on a foof blog to hear this crap.

There are times we want to talk about food, and times we want to seep into the gutter. Katharine hasn't figured out yet how to separate the two. I've told her this in the past. Either she learns it, or switches professions.

I'll leave you with this.  Please learn it.  There are venues where I want to read dailykos.  this ain't it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Froglips_tom
Froglips_tom

Are you missing the B and L on your keyboard? Or are you just one of those wannabe article editors? 

Guest
Guest

Who cares what you want?

nobodyinparticular
nobodyinparticular

The head of Marketing should have not said anything at all.  If they wanted to change their policy on promotions, they should have sent he material they wanted posted for the year (new tags, etc.) without the need to explain themselves. This is where the screw up lies.  It should have been "We're changing our shelves tags guys." period.  

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Which reminds me of this:  Perhaps blogs are all about page hits, but not this way.  I know most won't get this reference, but this is for the few who do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Froglips_tom
Froglips_tom

Stop posting that Youtube address! You are in violation of copyright law, you fool! It's been removed from Youtube due to complaints from industry! You may now return to your joyous existence.

Abramsj86
Abramsj86

Remember America was built for white Christians, everybody else came later.

Froglips_tom
Froglips_tom

I can't argue that. They left little evidence of the Native Americans who once lived here. I think that's what they once called them. 

jen
jen

WFM doesn't celebrate any holidays.  I'm not sure about store employees, but corporate employees get NO holidays off.  They get a chunk of vacation time that they can use as they fit.  It it kind of WFM culture to be hands off holidays.  

Tricia
Tricia

"Instead, it's a cautionary tale about letting a small minority dictate your actions, and failing to have the courage of your prior convictions"

This is the American Way.Thaqt's how one person got prayer taken out of the schools.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

No. The Constitution of the United States of America got prayer taken out of schools.Why do you hate America?

Florida63
Florida63

I now expect to NOT see easter eggs, christmas trees, or menorahs in Whole Foods in keeping with their "lack of promotion" of religious holidays. I know they will want to be consistent in their policies. 

Half Foods
Half Foods

Good news! It was just all a misunderstanding. Whole Foods has changed its mind. They have two gigantic Christmas wreaths hanging below their lighted store sign this season. So this means that they are going to promote Ramadan next year ... right? right ..? right..? John Mackey needs a smackey. I'm not a religious kind of guy. I am an atheist. However, I certainly do not believe in favoritism. Favoritism for the small group of nay sayers and favoritism for specific religions while excluding others. It's about how make a buck while trying to pass under the radar.

marcello09
marcello09

Ms. Shilcutt, it's time to admit that you made a mistake. The story you posted yesterday was, at best, extremely misleading. Your credibility would be best served by offering a retraction and an apology.

Megan
Megan

Where did she make a mistake?  They promote foods that are relevant to other holidays, both religious and secular.  They rolled out halal meals right before Ramadan, tout them on their blog (with the title "Preparing for Ramadan") and yet do not make any mention about the month in store other than to gloss over it with the "special time" crap in their internal FAQs.  It's a subtle snubbing of Islam.  You can bet if the shoe was on the other foot, there would be a huge uproar.

marcello09
marcello09

Perhaps it would be best to let the Muslim community speak for itself:

"Thanks @WholeFoods fm MuslimMatters family-all 15k of us on twitter, FB & many fold on our blog for making Muslims feel welcome at ur stores"Tweet from MuslimMatters, August 9

"@WholeFoods talks the talk and walks the walk! Standing behind their Ramadan campaign. Thanks Whole Foods!"Tweet from HalalFoodies August 9

"Once again, kudos to Whole Foods for taking part in one of the most joyous and holy months for Muslims. Congrats!"Tweet from MuslimQuarterly August 9

"@WholeFoods We appreciate your organic approach & your Ramadan marketing campaign"Tweet from Islamic Circle of North America, August 9

Guest
Guest

I'm a Muslim and I'm telling you that I'm still offended. Whole foods did not issue a clear apology neither replied to the several complaints that we sent. I know some Muslims don't want the issue to be blown out of proportion but for me I'm not convinced with what whole foods has done so far.

al Guest
al Guest

Perhaps it would be best to let Whole Foods PR firm speak for themselves.

Kylejack
Kylejack

 I suggest you RTFA.

"Saffron Road's halal items are still for sale in Whole Foods. Yet partners at the stores are directed to tell customers: 'Whole Foods Market is not promoting Ramadan, but rather featuring the great halal offerings our shoppers can find in our stores during this special time.'"

marcello09
marcello09

It's now clear that Whole Foods' halal promotion is continuing without interruption, which contradicts Ms. Shilcutt's reporting on the subject.

Kyle Nielsen
Kyle Nielsen

The story was not "extremely misleading."  Employees at a regional management level directed an entire region not to post any signs mentioning Ramadan.  That happened.  The tweets you're referencing thank them for reiterating that they intend to continue the promotion company-wide.

Kylejack
Kylejack

So in short, Whole Foods headquarters sent out an e-mail saying they are not celebrating or promoting Ramadan.  This might be defensible.  It might be said that a store is never promoting or celebrating a particular holiday, but rather promoting the items they sell that are relevant for that holiday. I can dig that.

Then, Southwest region misinterpreted that communication to mean that they shouldn't be posting anything mentioning Ramadan around the halal offerings.

Finally some clarity!  However, I have to say this Us vs. Them thing doesn't fly.  Whole Foods should take responsibility for what their regional management said.  This regional management is a part of their company, and this communication went out to dozens of stores.  Instead of distancing itself from regional management in its own company, Whole Foods should be apologizing that the regional management sent the communication.

Megan
Megan

What's worse is this is the district that includes the corporate office (assuming that it's still in Austin).

LotusPrince
LotusPrince

Not sure I agree with this. Going from promoting Ramadan to not promoting Ramadan is a subtle insult to Muslims. Anyone who gets angry that a place would promote Ramadan because of the ridiculous association of terrorism is a moron who the store is better off without, anyway.

Freddy Rattler
Freddy Rattler

... "store is better off without" (this or that customer? It could be a tale of horror what's in the mind of any given shopper who walks in the store and leaves money at WFM, McDonalds, a BMW dealership and so on. Just sayin.. 

Tyler Atnip
Tyler Atnip

HP, thanks for the original informative article and this update:

If you would like to tell Whole Foods to continue advertising Ramadan/Halal products and foods, check out this petition:

http://www.change.org/petition...

Whatdidieat
Whatdidieat

I was pooping while I read this. I'm still pooping.

Guest
Guest

More like a bunch of weasels in a teapot.

David
David

Religion in general just seems to be a big pain. Why is it so popular again?

Bill
Bill

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.Karl Marx

When times get tough, people look to religion to ease their pain. 

Schwarzestiefel
Schwarzestiefel

Who's in pain that has the cash to shop at Whole Foods?

Megan
Megan

Their FAQ section is confusing.  WFM DOES promote other religious holidays, and they specifically cite Hanukkah, Passover, Easter and Christmas.  Not only that, but as far as I know, there are no signs in-store that specifically state which items in WFM are kosher year-round, just during Passover.  I understand that observant Muslims eat halal year-round, but WFM specifically chose the Ramadan period to highlight this new product (the blog post highlighting Saffron Road was posted July 31; my calendar says Ramadan began August 1, but please correct me if I'm wrong).  They even state in the FAQ that they're highlighting "the great halal offerings shoppers can find in our stores DURING THIS SPECIAL TIME." (Emphasis mine.)  And yet they're backing off and saying "oh, no, we're NOT promoting Ramadan."  It's like the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. My point from the previous post stays the same: Either be completely inclusive and have signage for halal items during Ramadan/Eid al-Fitr, or don't feature any holidays with religious undertones (and yes, that still includes Thanksgiving).  Until they change their asinine policy, I won't shop at WFM.

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