...all rolled into one. oh, but there's more..so much more.
who do you trust when everyone's a crook?' ~queensryche, 'revolution calling'
so, for those who haven't been keeping up on me and my life (and that's okay...it really isn't that interesting) i work at a 'health food store' chain. people shop there because they trust what we sell, and want to think/truly think they're buying a 'cut above' the usual mass-market grocery store offerings.
once upon a time, i believe that was the case; that my company's founders had their customer's best interests at heart, (ok, as well as earning a living for themselves; they weren't *total* altruists, but still they had ideals). if you've not already figured it out (or read/remembered my previous posts), here's the backstory:
i'm not naming names, but my company was started over 55 years ago by a young married couple who borrowed $200 from the wife's family to go door-to-door, offering books on vitamins and nutrition, as well as taking orders for home-baked bread, which they would deliver the next week. imagine back in the year 1955; this concept wasn't very well-known or popular back in those days (narrowly paralleling the late jack lalanne; a health pioneer as well), but they persevered and started a small but successful 'heath food store' that flourished and continued to grow and prosper throughout the denver/metro area, and they were able to expand and open more stores, all with that same small, simple basic ideal of selling people good, healthy foods and products at 'everyday affordable prices' (their slogan).
but over the years, that all changed. my, oh, my, how it has changed.
they went from a very small local company (with very cheesy commercials), to a multi-state (5 at last count) corporation with dozens upon dozens of stores. yes, just another corporation who i now feel cares very little about their original ideals, ethics or morals, and in the years since the founder's deaths, even though they still loudly and proudly proclaim they are still a 'family owned company.', have become yet just another corporation, with all the mindless sheeplike corporate policies for their employees and blind-eye notice to the minutiae of employee harmony/discord, and concerned only with their bottom line (oh, but still with cheesy commercials)*. in their defense, i did hear from a long-time employee that it was only in the last few years it got this bad...this corporate...this mindless, as opposed to mindful. oh, gee...lucky me.
wow...i was soooo eager to get hired there...it was a dream come true.
ha. ha. ha.
having been employed there for nearly a year now, in addition to my sad realization it wasn't the dream job i thought, i've learned a lot on my own owing to my interest in such things as pertaining to my own lifestyle, and have become very, very, *very* disenchanted with the products sold there, and at other 'natural foods' chains, and the way consumers have been duped...just with the 'natural foods industry' in general. true, it's up to the consumer to do their homework, but so much of this is so carefully concealed...to the casual 'natural foods/products' consumer, they think they're doing the right thing by shopping at my store or similar places, versus their standard grocery store/mass merchandiser.
so, now in the interest of public education, may i offer this primer on the 'who's who' in natural foods (are you still with me?).
did you know:
burt's bees is now owned by clorox. a company that engages in animal testing and sells toxic chemicals as their everyday bread and butter. and are now found at such ('green'?) places as target. for more, click here:
tom's of maine is now owned by colgate-palmolive. their formulas have totally, completely changed from the simple, basic ingredients the company was founded on by good old tom and kate chappell. for example, tom's used to boast they didn't put SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) in their products, now it's commonplace.
and this, from disgruntled consumers, on tom's own site:
seventh generation fired their own founder, (and their products are now poised to be available at places like walmart):
thanks to the internet, it's not hard to find out who's real, and who's not, and what brands use 'organic' in their name. and shouldn't be doing so. and just what's going on in the world of 'natural' products...
nature's gate. jason. desert essence. giovanni. avalon. alba. the list goes on and on...there might be a bare percentage of organic in their products, but they're overall just duping the public. blame the government for not regulating? maybe. but instead i blame the companies for shamelessly exploiting the current vagaries of the word and taking advantage of consumers.
one of the saddest of all? celestial seasonings teas, started by mo siegel back in the very-early 70's. an honest, decent company, who in the quest for cash joined with hain natural foods, and has become the hain-celestial group, the largest owner/distributor of natural products ever. while this is bad enough to the conscious consumer who wants to only buy products from small, local, independent companies (or at least companies that share their ethics), the hain-celestial group is in not-substantial-part (by a leveraging and influential standards standpoint) owned by...heinz.
as you'll see, a large number of the brands you trusted and thought were small independent companies-with-a-conscience are owned by hain-celestial, and the numbers are growing constantly. can you trust them? i'll leave that up to you. i don't buy anything from them.
cascadian farms and muir glen: both owned by general mills.
odwalla: owned by coke.
naked: owned by pepsi.
back to nature: owned by kraft.
knudsen: owned by smuckers.
seeds of change: owned by m&m mars.
tazo tea: owned by starbucks. (what more can be said?...starbucks. responsible for the deaths of hundreds of local coffee shops...generic cubes with their homogenized mediocre coffee and 'droid barristas. what a pox on society. the coffee-shop version of mcdonald's.)
i could go on and on.
idealistically, if i could, i'd like to open a 'natural foods' store stocked with only products that are transparent, trustworthy, and are what they say. ideally...local, responsible, and worthy. but between health department regulations surrounding anyplace that deals in food, and the immense dollars required to start up/run such a place, it's just a pipe dream. all i can do is shop with my conscience, and try to educate my customers without getting fired for telling the truth and thus damaging my employer's bottom line by discouraging the purchase of less-than-scrupulous merchandise from less-than-scrupulous companies. i may be passing judgment on these products, but you know? i'm not gossiping if what i say is the truth. it's up to the consumer to make the right choice.
each day i wake up to go to work and feel like i'm being dishonest, and hate that the company i so wanted to work for is so not what i thought it was...i thought i believed in them, that they had integrity and shared my values. now i want out. our customers are dupes, or simply wear 'good guy badges', thinking they're buying better products than the supermarket next door; that they'll be healthier since they bought them from my store, right? right?
however, there are also those who shop at my store as a 'good guy badge', or to impress others with how healthy (and wealthy) they are, since they buy my store's brands, all the while simply buying processed convenience foods we sell, that aren't really that much different from what the supermarket chain next door sells. but hey, those products we sell, well, they're *natural*, right?
what have i done? i'm making a living, but not a meaningful life. in my search for a job with a company with decency and integrity, i've only found myself nigh-sleeping with the enemy.
i'm so very sad and disheartened...what to do to find meaningful employment? must i be doomed to meaningless work for companies i don't care about to make a living? i've done that for so long...the good places; the places i truly enjoyed working for, that i truly felt *bad* for getting paid to work for, they were so much fun? they never lasted. they closed. or worse, they changed. stopped being what they were; what they started as since well, that wasn't profitable...having employees be happy? well! can't have that! gotta start sucking and being corporate to ensure that bottom line. screw that! (to be crass and puerile).
the only way to be happy is to do it myself? yeah. i reckon. but do i have what it takes? maybe. but what it most takes is what i don't have. i have the ideas. i have the *ideals*. i feel there's the need. a market, for those who have been looking. but the obstacles are truly insurmountable (um...'obstacles' being vast endless quantities of money, of course). so i continue to dream. and be sad. and do my own small part, and try to take comfort in that. but it's not enough.
is this just the miserable human condition?
*by-the-by: i don't own a television, and haven't for many years...i've only heard-tell of the downright horrible commercials my employer runs. i'm very sorry to be associated with that...i hear secondhand from customers of acquaintances of theirs who flat-out refuse to shop at our stores because of those horrid commercials. :::shaking head::: i can't fathom what marketing genius they're paying who promotes rampant headlong wanton growth while at the same time alienating potential customers with such mind-blowingly bad amateurish (but they're all *family* featured in those!) works actually being broadcast. i have to watch the same sorts of 'skits' during our regular trainings. i wince to think this sort of horrifying and embarrassing dreck is being broadcast as a means to attract customers. yea, verily...the mind boggles.
oh, hey! the wonders of the internet! is that you? has home office/HR has found my 'social networking page' and read my disparaging words? am i fired? i couldn't hope that these words are read and actually mulled over as a possible explanation for so very many ills in the workplaces of so many others? nah. just fire me and hire more sheep who don't actually think for themselves, or ask questions...that's waaay too dangerous. just hire more brain-dead sheep all around and everything will be fine. nah, don't pay any attention to what i say...just ignore me. it'll be better for the bottom line, really.