Shoppers often refer to Austin-based Whole Foods Market as “Whole Paycheck,” as they somewhat jokingly insist it takes a whole paycheck to buy natural and organic groceries there. But have you ever wondered about the paychecks that store employees — the cashiers at the cash registers, the folks in the meat and cheese departments — earn from a retailer that racked up more than $10 billion in sales last year?
In a recent interview with Business Insider’s editor-in-chief, Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb said store employees (the company calls them “team members”) earn an average of $15 an hour. That’s about $3 an hour above what the typical Walmart store employee makes, Business Insider pointed out.
Whole Foods employs about 1,200 people at its four stores in the Austin area. The breakdown: 750 at the Lamar Blvd. store and 150 each at the Arbor Trails, Bee Cave and Gateway stores. In all, Whole Foods operates more than 330 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
Robb said the higher-than-typical pay for Whole Foods store employees contributes to one of the retailer’s core values: “team member happiness and excellence.”
“We are pro-team member and we are pro-team,” Robb told Business Insider’s editor-in-chief and CEO, Henry Blodget.
Here are some of the numbers Robb supplied about Whole Foods’ store employees:
- 75 percent work full time
- 82 percent participate in the company’s health insurance plan
- 40 percent own stock or stock options
- The “voluntary” turnover rate — those who quit rather than being fired — is less than 20 percent; “Generally, after people stay with us a year, we don’t lose them,” Robb said
“It all adds up to a place where we really, really value our team members, and we try our very best to... act in that spirit each and every day in the decisions we make,” Robb told Business Insider.
In a post on the Business Insider website, Blodget praised Whole Foods:
Whole Foods’ philosophy is one that many more American corporations need to adopt if the U.S. economy is to become strong again. Even Whole Foods has a ways to go, obviously – $15-an-hour jobs won’t create that much purchasing power – but the company’s attitude is much healthier and sustainable than that of many other American corporations.
One online commenter took issue with Blodget’s viewpoint, writing that the retailer “is not doing this for the good of the employees or the good of the economy. They are doing it because they have to – it’s the narrative their customers need to hear from them. People who go to Whole Foods go there for the same reason they drive Subarus – to make a public statement about their values.”
Another unnamed commenter, claiming to have worked for the retailer for three years, stood up for Whole Foods — at least in part. “It is true that Whole Foods is a very good company and I am very grateful for what they’ve done for me. The company doubtless goes the extra mile at times when it really doesn’t have to,” the commenter wrote on the Business Insider website.
However, the former employee went on to agree with the unidentified critic.
“Whole Foods has a business interest in paying their employees more – the extra $3 per hour is easily offset by the buckets of money they’d stand to lose if they lost their socially responsible street cred. None of which takes away from the fact that they’re a good company – but in a real way, we have the Whole Foods consumer to thank for that as well,” the former employee wrote.
Another purported ex-employee wrote online that Whole Foods is “the real deal,” although “not perfect.”
“Nobody gets rich working for WF but everyone who works there values other things at least as much: the environment, healthy foods, healthy kids, healthy communities. … What other American company does so much good while also doing extremely well by their customers and their shareholders?”