Open Letter to Whole Foods Chapel Hill

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(919) 627-8595 Nick and Sandy
(The Hypertwins)
122 Pinecrest Rd.
Durham, NC 27705

December 9, 2009

To All at Whole Foods in Chapel Hill,

First, I want to make it clear that we have never had a problem with the quality of service or products at your store. The folks there have always been very friendly and helpful, and have many times gone out of their way to make sure we got what we needed. Many of them have even become like friends, which is a large part of why our decision to stop taking our business there was so difficult.

It is also why I feel obligated to write this letter -- to explain our sudden disappearance, because I am quite sure it would not have gone unnoticed. Alex, Birdie, Karen (and the remaining meat department folks whose names we can't remember! Mike?), Kelly, Marcia, Nita, the lady who stocks the lunch meats, and a handful of others whose names we also can't recall -- we know your faces, we're just bad at names!: this letter is for you. I wanted to write it a long time ago, but things have continued to be crazy with the Josh situation (some of you know about this, but I'll explain later for those who don't) and there just wasn't time.

As many of you are probably aware, Whole Foods chairman John Mackey wrote an editorial which was published in the Wall Street Journal this past August 11. In it, he disparaged the idea of "health-care entitlement" and implied that president Obama's proposed reforms would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and amount to a "government takeover of our health-care system".

In other words, he not only dismissed the idea that everyone is entitled to decent medical care in America, supposedly still the wealthiest nation in the world, but he also blatantly echoed anti-reform talking points which had already long been refuted by that time. He should have known better, and he especially should have been more interested in the welfare of those who keep his business running: its employees and, of course, its customers. Like us.

For those who don't know, let me describe our situation in brief. Sandy's almost-17-year-old son, Josh, is profoundly autistic. He is physically healthy, but he needs adult supervision at all times when he is at home, and his inability to communicate plus his agility and physical strength make it very difficult to manage him successfully in a small house with two younger children (10 and 12). Every professional we have spoken with agrees with us that he needs placement in a group home.

Due to the broken health care system, however, we have been working at trying to get him the services he needs -- therapy, personal care, and residential -- for over six years now.

As a consequence of Josh's situation, neither of us can get a regular job due being on call to go retrieve Josh from school if he is being a problem, and the need to be at home as much as possible after school hours and over school vacations (including all summer). I do contract programming work when I can, but that requires intense concentration -- of which I can do very little while Josh is around. I have also been unable to keep up with the demand for my computer maintenance services, as it is often difficult to find time during the brief window when Josh is at school to get out to a client's location -- and almost impossible to do it after school hours or on weekends.

So I think you can understand why we felt the urgent need for healthcare reform, and that anything would be better than the current system -- underfunded, badly designed, inefficient, undocumented, and utterly broken as it is.

When we found out about Mr. Mackey's editorial approximately two months later, it came across as a slap in the face: he seemed to be saying that we, as healthcare reform supporters, just wanted to take hard-earned "other people's money" out of the hands of noble entrepreneurs such as himself, and presumably fritter it away for our own personal benefit -- rather than going out and earning it, as he has done.

We have this to say to him:

Mr. Mackey, we would much rather be earning money to pay our way, rather than spending our own savings and freeloading off Sandy's widowed mother just to keep the bills paid. It is because of the broken healthcare system that we have to do this. It is because of the opposition of public figures like yourself that the system we get when Congress is done debating will probably not do anything to improve our situation, or those of hundreds of autistic kids in the Triangle who have to deal with this same system.

Perhaps you are not aware of this, but apparently certain people thought, back in 2001, that private enterprise was inherently vastly more efficient than the government could possibly ever be at delivering a vital service, and ordered the North Carolina health system spun apart from a comparatively well-ordered, centralized system into a fragmented one with different agencies all "competing" to do the various pieces of the job.

Well, guess what: those cost-saving measures not only doubled expenses, they shattered the system so it doesn't even effectively deliver the services paid for by the taxpayers. In light of this and other free-enterprise "experiments" done on our healthcare system over the past few decades, it boggles my mind how you, Mr. Mackey, can possibly advocate private enterprise as a way of running healthcare -- or diss government-run healthcare, when it has been shown to be far more cost-effective not just in the US (remember Medicaid, and "get your filthy government hands off my Medicare"?) but even in other countries worldwide.

That said, I doubt very much that my words will sway you, Mr. Mackey; the most we can do, since (unlike a government program) you are not in any way directly accountable to us, is to take our business elsewhere -- which is, of course, what we are doing.

To all the rest at the store: we wish you well. Please feel free to drop by our web site ( and say hi; I have posted this letter there, along with links to more information about some of the topics covered.

All the best,

Nick (writing this) and Sandy


  • 2009-12-10 mailed to WF Chapel Hill