I’m guessing a lot of you have already heard about the new employee discount policy at Whole Foods. For those of you who missed it, it’s a hot mess of ugly.
See, the basic employee discount at Whole Foods is 20%. So far, so good. The problem is that there are variations. They aren’t based on seniority or title. Mind you, I wouldn’t be in favor of variations then, either, but at least it has something to do with performance. No, the variations are based on BMI.
That’s right, the lower the BMI measure, the higher the employee discount. Under the scheme employees with a BMI of 28 – 29.9 will get an employee discount of 22%. A BMI of 26 – 28.9 will get employees a discount of 25%. A 24 – 25.9 BMI means they get a discount of 27%. And anyone managing a BMI below 24 (no lower limit on that measure, either) gets a whopping 30% employee discount. Oh, and they also have to meet healthy measures of blood pressure and cholesterol and not use nicotine products to qualify for the additional discounts.
Of these questions, only one is entirely in the control of the employee. The use of nicotine products is a choice. Frankly, I think it’s a choice that is none of the employer’s darn business, but the fact remains that it is something the individual can choose to do or not. In many if not most cases, blood pressure and cholesterol counts are strongly effected by heredity. As for the BMI, well, one look at Kate Harding’s brilliant BMI Project puts it into perspective, as does the fact that Johnny Depp is overweight, according to his BMI. That’s right, Johnny Depp is overweight.
Let’s just let that sink in a minute……..annnnd we’re back. No discount for Johnny, the flabby fatso!
But even assuming that weight is entirely under the control of the individual, the fact remains that while genetics are the overwhelming predictor of weight range, poverty is also a better than average indicator of likelihood of a higher body weight. One reason for this is the fact that poor people often can’t afford things like fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Why? Because these foods are more expensive. So Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thinks that people who weigh more need less money to spend on healthful, nutritionally dense foods so that they’ll lose weight.
Look, I don’t know how much the average checker or produce person makes at Whole Foods. I’m not assuming they’re living in abject poverty, but I doubt they’re exactly rolling in moolah, either. And Whole Foods isn’t called ‘Whole Paycheck’ by a lot of people for no reason.
More than that, though, this policy is bad because it discriminates based on things that have nothing whatsoever to do with job performance. A couple ounces of muscle or fat can make the difference between a BMI of 29.9 and one of 30. Muscle weighs more than fat. In fact, virtually the entire NBA is obese to morbidly obese without being fat at all. Are you really going to tell me that a grocery bagger who is into body building is less physically fit than one who has less muscle on his body and thus has a lower BMI? Are you going to try to tell me that one is better at his job than the other based on body type more than an understanding that the eggs go at the top of the bag?
Base any extra employee perks on job performance, Mr. Mackey.
Oh, and until you decide to do that? Suck it.
If you would like to invite Mr. Mackey to suck it, here’s the address:
John Mackey, CEO
Whole Foods Market, Inc.
550 Bowie Street
Austin, TX 78703-4644