I am a bit obsessed with this. I apologize.
Back in February, I noted that the Lakewood Whole Foods had ripped out its bar. It makes no sense to me, financial or otherwise. That place was a real neighborhood hang. We had an artist write 3,200 words about it.
And now I bring you the photo above, showing new(ish) signage in the produce section. Where once there were giant black-and-white historical photos of White Rock Lake, there are now marketing messages. “Eat colorful.” “Love how it’s grown.” Ugh. You can practically feel the chill of the server farm where millions of data points in a massive A/B test were analyzed by an AI to generate those phrases. The machines came to East Dallas to erase any vestiges of uniqueness, and they succeeded.
My coworkers heard me leaving messages for Whole Foods corporate media relations and asked what the heck I was doing. “Have you seen what Jeff Bezos has done to the Lakewood Whole Foods?” I said. “It’s a travesty! I’m outraged!” And so on.
They laid into me: “Rogers, it’s frickin’ Amazon. What do you expect? If you want authenticity and uniqueness, go to El Rio Grande!” And they were right. Of course. I am the old guy yelling at clouds.
But I did finally get a response from Whole Foods corporate. They emailed a statement from the Lakewood Whole Foods “store team leader,” Leigh Honeycutt, who I suspect is also the creation of an AI. Honeycutt’s statement read: “Our Lakewood store was recently remodeled, and our customers can expect to see décor updates, new self-checkout registers, expanded space for refrigerated beer and wine, and expansion of our Grocery and Whole Body offerings. Our community has supported us for a long time at the Lakewood store, and we’re excited to upgrade our store to enhance our customers’ shopping experience.”
You see how good the Amazon code is? It even got the plural possessive of “customer” correct. I don’t get how bland marketing signage is an upgrade over cool photos, and I don’t see how removing a popular bar enhances anyone’s experience, but I do understand that grousing about these changes is pointless. Which doesn’t mean I’ll stop.
Thank you for listening to my TED talk.