When Whole Foods Shelves are Half Empty

Business Insider: “Whole Foods is facing a crush of food shortages in stores that’s leading to empty shelves, furious customers, and frustrated employees. Many customers are blaming Amazon, which bought Whole Foods in August for $13.7 billion. Analysts have speculated that the shortages could be due to a spike in shopper traffic in the wake of the acquisition. But Whole Foods employees say the problems began before the acquisition. They blame the shortages on a buying system called order-to-shelf that Whole Foods implemented across its stores early last year.”

“Order-to-shelf, or OTS, is a tightly controlled system designed to streamline and track product purchases, displays, storage, and sales. Under OTS, employees largely bypass stock rooms and carry products directly from delivery trucks to store shelves. It is meant to help Whole Foods cut costs, better manage inventory, reduce waste, and clear out storage. But its strict procedures are leading to storewide stocking issues, according to several employees. Angry responses from customers are crushing morale, they say.”

“Whole Foods gets stores to comply with OTS by instructing managers to regularly walk through store aisles and storage rooms with checklists to make sure every item is in its right place and there is no excess stock. If anything is amiss, or if there is too much inventory in storage, the manager in charge of that area of the store is written up. After three write-ups, they can lose their job … Whole Foods has called it a cost-saving approach and says it has improved stocking issues … The company has also said OTS frees up employees to focus on customer service … Some Whole Foods customers who have noticed stocking problems say they are looking to shop elsewhere.”

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