grocery wars

It’s Reportedly Becoming ‘Normal’ to See Whole Foods Employees Cry at Work

Employees call it “collective confusion.” Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The “militaristic” new inventory system at Whole Foods is still making customers grumpy, but they can be happy that it’s not their job to restock the empty shelves. Employees tell Business Insider that on their end, the situation is bad. The new system reportedly hinges on a framework of “chastisement, punishment, and retribution” to ensure compliance, and they argue that staff morale has been worn to a nub.

Here’s the situation: For months, shoppers have been sore over the empty-shelf problem. The cause is reportedly something called order-to-shelf, or OTS, Whole Foods’ new way of handling inventory that supposedly saves money by reducing back stock, but which employees hate because it gives them no moment’s rest all day. OTS’s protocol covers how all products get stored and displayed, and to make sure that workers comply, Whole Foods has created scorecards.

A look at the actual form shows 17 criteria for judging employees, accounting for things like whether floor items have the correct signage, and if paperwork contains certain cover sheets. Managers are then asked to do “walks” to see how well workers follow instructions. These can apparently get sort of tense: Besides checking if items are “even an inch outside” of predesignated spots, the walks also involve “on-the-spot quizzes, in which employees are asked to recite their departments’ sales goals, top-selling items, previous week’s sales, and other information.” Any scorecard grade below 89.9 percent is considered failing.

This quote from one West Coast store supervisor seems to sum things up:

“I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about maps and inventory, and when regional leadership is going to come in and see one thing wrong, and fail the team … The stress has created such a tense working environment. Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal.”

According to the report, OTS is also hurting employee turnover, either causing firings, or making people so fed up that they quit. “We’ve lost team leaders, store team leaders, executive coordinators, and even a regional vice president,” according to an employee in Georgia. The exodus definitely isn’t helped by the fact that many workers also feel that both Whole Foods’ corporate office in Austin and Amazon “still don’t understand how OTS works” themselves.

Report: New Policies Make Whole Foods Employees Cry at Work