Two new studies found that negative reviews of the grocery store are growing, but so is foot traffic.

Christopher Michel
September 07, 2018

For the first 36 years of its existence, Whole Foods gained a reputation for being a certain type of grocery store—one that offered scrupulously organic and high-quality foods, but at a price point that earned it the nickname "Whole Paycheck."

However, after it was purchased by Amazon last year, that reputation—and whether the store will remain the same, or will change—has been a subject of plenty of public speculation. Will the shoppers who know and love Whole Foods still find it meets their needs? And if it changes, are there new shoppers out there that Amazon will be able to attract?

According to New Food Economy, a new pair of studies released about a year after the purchase are finally pointing to some answers.

The first study comes from Yelp, which found that after the purchase, reviews of the grocery store that mention "Amazon" are significantly lower than the average reviews—and that many users who had rated Whole Foods before the purchase updated the review with lower ratings after the purchase.

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What were the biggest issues? According to New Food Economy, reviewers said "the staff was less friendly post-takeover, and that the quality had gone down." An article on Medium by Jenny Yu and Yinghan Fu on the study cites a few reviews as examples: “I wasn’t too impressed when Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market… Customer Service — is lacking in terms of friendliness and knowledge… Amazon is taking part of the advertising,” and “I get the impression the quality has gone down. The employees don’t seem to love their jobs as much anymore, so I wonder what happened behind the scenes with Amazon.”

However, those reviews apparently haven't harmed the company's bottom line. In fact, according to a second study by Sense360, foot traffic is actually up. It may seem unsurprising, but Amazon's new Prime-based rewards system seems to be having the intended effect: Prime members are increasingly shopping at Whole Foods (at twice the rate of non-Prime members) and Amazon's reputation for low prices seems to be drawing shoppers from traditionally lower-priced stores, such as Trader Joe's.

All of this points to the possibility that, despite the often well-founded concerns about how Amazon treats employees and grumbling over other less-than-friendly business practices, Whole Foods may soon end up becoming as much a part of most Americans' grocery shopping as the website is of our online shopping—which is to say a major percentage.