I spoke to Whole Foods food editor Molly Siegler, who's based at the company's headquarters in Austin, TX, and learned a variety of interesting facts that made me an even bigger fan of the store. What's the return policy? Who makes all the food in the hot bar? Can you really try something before you buy it? If you've always wanted to know this — plus more — about one of the highest-quality grocery stores, read on for all the insider secrets.
1. You can taste anything before you buy it.
Seriously — anything! "The company has a Try Before You Buy policy," Molly said, and you can use it for packaged foods (like snacks), fresh produce, and even cheese. "If there's a new apple that comes out, you can ask someone in the produce section to cut you a slice."
2. You can return anything.
The return policy "is very Nordstrom-like — bring it back; we want you to be happy." Depending on your location's policy, you'll either get your money back or get store credit — you don't even need your receipt. "It's nice if you have it, but not really [necessary]." You can even return Whole Foods beauty and body-care products, but make sure you have the receipt for those.
3. The best day to shop for sales is Wednesday.
"Wednesday is the day that our sale cycle turns over, so it actually ends up being a day where there are twice as many sales, so that's sort of a fun, magic day to come in. In addition to those in-store sales, we have mobile coupons that are part of our app. These coupons are updated regularly, and you just have the cashier scan the barcode that's exclusive to you."
4. Everything in the hot bar, salad bar, and bakery area is created by culinary experts.
"There's a new team that's been formed around culinary and hospitality: the company brought in a top chef, Tien Ho, who's been working in the restaurant world for years. He is leading the charge for elevating our prepared foods — he's going to focus a lot more on that hot bar experience and salad bar experience. There's a team of trained culinary pros behind every dish.
5. The butchers can debone, season, and/or steam any cut of fish for you.
At no extra charge. "A lot of people do that in our offices for lunch, or it's a really easy thing to do right before you head home for dinner. And it's not just salt and pepper — there's interesting rubs and spice mixes."
6. Employees get a really good discount.
Is your local Whole Foods hiring? Every employee gets a 20 percent discount to start out with, and there's a health-focused incentive that leads to a higher discount. The company does an optional annual screening that records factors like BMI and blood pressure that employees can use as a regular health check-in, in addition to getting an increased discount.
7. The best-selling seafood item is the responsibly farmed salmon.
Look for this in the seafood section — it's the number-one selling seafood item companywide. The salmon is free of antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and GMOs.
8. Each Whole Foods location donates leftover food to local organizations.
Ever wonder what happens to all that leftover hot food at the end of the night? The exact policy varies by location, but all food is donated. "All of our stores have partnerships with local food banks and other local organizations that they can help donate the food to at the end of the day."
9. The company really does take ingredients seriously.
"Whole Foods Market has really high quality standards, but it's not an arbitrary thing. We have a whole team that's dedicated to using science and really heavy research to figure out what can and can't be in our stores. At a minimum, we have no artificial colors, no artificial preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, and no hydrogenated fats. Every single thing in our stores meets those standards, and often poeple don't realize that."