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The Hartford Courant reports on an incident that took place at an upstate Connecticut Whole Foods last December 13, for which the store sought no publicity.

During the conversion of the store’s computer system – it used to be a Wild Oats – a glitch caused the entire system to crash, taking the checkouts offline. And it happened during a busy time as a snowstorm started to hit the region. The store’s assistant manager, Ted Donoghue, had to make a quick decision – and he instantly told customers that there was a problem with the computers and that until it was fixed, all groceries would be free.

According to the story, Donoghue did not consult with headquarters, and subsequently has received no negative feedback, even though the store gave away roughly $4,000 in product before the system came back online.

KC's View:
An editorial writer for the Courant said something instructive about this incident – “I doubt any other chain store would have done the same thing, but this is Whole Foods, where every employee earns a living wage, employees are real team members and customer satisfaction is not just a saying but a practice.”

What should concern other stores is not the view of Whole Foods, but the view of “any other chain store.” I’m not sure this is an accurate perception, but if this is the view of the industry, it isn’t necessarily a positive one.