Wal-Mart vs. Whole Foods: A tale of 2 economies

A clever online map contrasts Bay Area locations of the stores. What it means is generating some interesting discussion.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 11, 2013 1:14PM

Image: Wealthy couple (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)Here's proof that all those random factoids on the Internet can, with the help of a creative mind, be herded into insightful and informative data that economists, consumers and others can put to practical use -- or at least generate some interesting debate.

On the bulletin-board-like Reddit website, a user posted two Google Maps views of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, one showing all of the Whole Foods (WFM) stores and next to it, the same map with all of the region's Wal-Mart (WMT) outlets pinpointed.

The title of this posting is "How to tell with Google Maps where the rich people live," and it's been generating a lot of clicks.

Matthew Yglesias at Slate said the map might highlight a demographic divide in Bay Area consumers but also points out differences in real estate.

"Wal-Mart relies on a much larger per store footprint to generate a reasonable return on investment," he says, "so it's often not practical to build Wal-Marts in places where land is expensive."

And while there may be an economic divide, the lines between stereotypical Wal-Mart and Whole Foods customers are often blurred. Wal-Mart introduced organic produce to its stores several years ago, while Whole Foods has its own line of competitively priced cooking oils, pastas, frozen foods and cereals.

In fact, as one Reddit user noted, in the suburban Bay Area town of Mountain View, Calif., "the Whole Foods and Wal-Mart are right next to each other."

More on moneyNOW

Mar 11, 2013 2:14PM
Whole Foods is a good place to shop if you're looking for a certain type of hard-to-find meat or seafood or for a specialty cheese or fruit or something.  But IMHO, people who do all their grocery shopping there are just throwing away a ton of money.
Mar 11, 2013 3:30PM
I thought you had to be rich to live in San Francisco.
Mar 11, 2013 3:47PM
The last time I shopped at Whole Foods, I came across two employees having sex over the bathroom counter. 
Mar 11, 2013 5:15PM
Trader Joes has a nice selection! : )
Mar 11, 2013 10:04PM
money is replaceable, your body is not. there is no way im eating walmarts food even if its free. im not eating meat with antibotics, chemicals and corn fed. plus moral reasons i dont eat meat thats been caged. i only eat free range meat. im not eating food thats been gentically modified. i want what nature gave us, not monsanto. i have walmart near me but i take the train 60 miles to whole foods. and yes im so cheap i wont even buy a car. im careful with money but like i said a body is not replaceable. we need food to survive. i personally would prefer farmer markets and local farmers but where im from thats not availble. 2013 sucks.
Mar 11, 2013 5:23PM
In Austin, there's no comparison. Wal-Mart is simply a joke. Based on the foods I eat (high-quality, organic whenever possible, superfoods, variety of vegetables, made without sugar or other nasty sugar substitutes, meat-less whenever possible) - I've shopped at Wal-Mart for food once in the past year and only because I had a gift card. It was really hard to find the foods I listed above - really hard. H-E-B, Central Market, Whole Foods, and the other awesome local grocery stores FTW! I don't know why you would buy all your stuff at Whole Foods anyway when there are so many other great options around town. Go local!
Mar 11, 2013 5:20PM
Whole Foods is a highly profitable major corporation that makes its money by advertising and catering to affluent white liberals who just love to flash their money around and prove to their friends how liberal they are.  They have found a way to make money by gouging the customer base that most deserves to be gouged...more power to them!  The reason why they charge $19.95/lb for free range ground beef and $8.95 per box of flax seed crackers is because there are white liberals foolish enough to pay those amounts just to impress their friends.  Whole foods is what it is, and if you've got a beef with their high prices and snooty, elitist clientele then take your business elsewhere. 
Mar 11, 2013 7:13PM

Safeway is a ripoff anyway, not at the level of Whole Foods, but they are getting there with the prices of the regular grocery items. Same story for Wallmart.

All these corporations have only one goal, making money by robbing their customers.

Mar 11, 2013 3:21PM

One of our local Giants(Fairless Hills) just did a makeover after which the opening brings people into the produce section, the deli section in back and the health food aisle has been shifted onto that side of the store.


Doesn't Whole Foods have Friday deals which should help them compete?

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