Whole Foods asks for lower prices, CEO apologies for layoff email and more

Plus: MrBeast’s blindness video raises ethics questions.

Whole Foods has asked suppliers to lower prices

Whole Foods has asked some food producers to lower prices as pressures from inflation begin to ease across the country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We know our customers are weighing the impacts of inflationary pressure on their buying choices,” Alyssa Vescio, Whole Foods’ senior vice president of merchandising of center store, said in a December virtual meeting to suppliers, according to WSJ.

As anyone who eats knows, food prices have jumped dramatically due to increases in shipping, labor and acts of God like avian flu. This has enabled companies to rake in record profits even as Americans feel the pinch.



Why it matters: It’s good PR to be seen as looking out for your customers in a time when everyone is feeling price pain. Whole Foods is a luxury brand, jokingly known as “Whole Paycheck” for its high prices. Being seen as taking a stand for consumers is a bit counter to its brand, but not a bad thing at this moment in time.

However, it’s not an act of pure altruism. According to data from Placer.ai, foot traffic to stores has decreased 8%. And more shoppers with incomes over $100,000 are turning to the anti-Whole Foods: Walmart.

For a luxury brand that nonetheless sells necessities, there comes a time when even they have to consider the cost of eggs.

CEO apologizes after taking MLK quote out of context in layoff email

Writing a layoff notice is one of the hardest things a CEO can do. Today, there’s more scrutiny on communications than ever, with documents rapidly leaking on social media and the press for immediate dissection.

One CEO found that out the hard way.

Jennifer Tejada, CEO of cloud-computing company PagerDuty, got a lot of things wrong in her email to staff announcing a 7% RIF. Probably the biggest — even Martin Luther King, Jr. quote aside — was her 1,700 word email that did not mention layoffs until its seventh paragraph, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Then came the infamous quote: “I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said, that ‘the ultimate measure of a [leader] is not where [they] stand in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand in times of challenge and controversy.”

Tejada has since apologized for the email.

“There are a number of things I would do differently if I could. The quote I included from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was inappropriate and insensitive. I should have been more upfront about the layoffs in the email, more thoughtful about my tone, and more concise. I am sorry.”

Why it matters: Layoff emails are going to leak. Period, end of story. Prepare for it, no matter how small your company is. Always, always keep the focus on the workers affected. The CEO should keep themselves out of the story as much as possible. On the day of a layoff email, they are the bad guy in the eyes of their staffs, even if the layoff is causing them great personal turmoil. Focus on the people losing their jobs.

And never compare yourself to Martin Luther King, Jr.

MrBeast faces backlash over blindness surgeries

MrBeast, the most successful YouTuber in the world, has seen some pushback over a recent mega-viral video where he paid for cataract surgery for 1,000 people. He also gave away cash and even a new Tesla.

The video has earned more than 60 million views. That’s equivalent to the entire country of Italy.

But not everyone is thrilled with the video, as Dexerto reports.

To be fair, some of the criticism is not with MrBeast (aka, Jimmy Donaldson), but rather with the system that makes this simple surgery out of reach for so many people that requires a YouTube personality to step in and help.

However, some have dubbed the video “charity porn.”

Donaldson responded on Twitter to the criticism.

Why it matters: Helping blind people to see again is unquestionably a good thing. Where it gets sticky is when you start filming it. But then, YouTube content is what gave Donaldson the vast wealth he now uses on charitable causes like these. It also draws attention to the issue for millions who may have been unaware of curable blindness.

But the bottom line is that no matter what you do, there will always be criticism online. Follow your organization’s own purpose and ethos and pay attention to those stakeholders closest to you — employees and customers — rather than every random person on the internet.

Most Americans feel upbeat about 2023

Don’t believe all the doom and gloom you hear.

A new Morning Consult poll conducted around Jan. 21 found that 72% of Americans describe their mood as “happy,” with 65% saying they are “content.” The other top emotions were “ready for change” with 76% and tired at 60%, which honestly feels low.

Baby Boomers are most likely to feel positive emotions (69%) while Gen Z adults ranked the lowest, with just 54% feeling upbeat, a steep decline from just a week prior, when that number was 61%.

Why it matters: The news can feel awfully depressing these days. But most Americans are excited about the future and happy about their personal state. Incorporate these findings into your communications. Match the tone and energy of the majority of your audience — keeping in mind that can vary significantly by age.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


One Response to “Whole Foods asks for lower prices, CEO apologies for layoff email and more”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    You like to tell both sides so I’ll tell you:

    .1. I LOVE whole foods quality and the price for that quality level.

    .2. Quoting Dr. King isn’t comparing one’s self to Dr. King.

    .3. Tejada may call it “inappropriate and insensitive” to avoid argument
    but I think it was neither.

    .4. I’m too inept with computers to access the Washington Post story
    so it’s hard to tell whether paragraph 7 was too far down but Tejada sounds good. (In the spirit of telling both sides so do you!)

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