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You Can Learn a Lot from John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods


Have you seen the media freaking out over Amazon buying Whole Foods?

The photos you may have seen of empty Whole Foods shelves were taken during this past season's hurricanes when customers bought up supplies at a fast pace in case of emergency. It had nothing to do with the Amazon deal.

It is all fake news according to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

The truth is that Amazon and Whole Foods are very much in love. That's the image Mackey chose to portray this past weekend during his two talks at Liberty Con in Washington DC. Mackey gave an interview at a dinner on Saturday night and the keynote speech on Sunday morning.

During the interview, he described the magic he felt when the Amazon and Whole Foods teams met for the first time to discuss their "marriage." In any partnership, Mackey says each side should benefit, and that is what is happening.

"You know when you fall in love you have what I call 'the conversation.' You stay up all night and talk; and it's like oh my god, it's amazing, she's the one. That's how we experienced Amazon the first time we met them. We were finishing each others' sentences before the first meeting was over."

Customers need not worry about Amazon changing the culture of Whole Foods. Mackey says the best thing Whole Foods will get from Amazon is the customer centric attitude and cheaper prices. And Whole Foods might just insert a little wholesome natural vibe into Amazon's business.

Mackey spoke about exciting things to come for the merger but said he couldn't reveal those at this time. "You know how they say I could tell you but I'd have to kill you? Well, this is I could tell you, but Amazon would kill me."

After the dinner, I asked John why he thought the media was casting the Whole Foods buyout as a controversy. He thinks it is the same old desire to create drama. Just a regular business transaction is not as exciting as a big scary company taking over a natural food store.

But he doesn't think that is the same reason Amazon is so often cast as a bad guy in the media. That, he thinks, has more to do with Jeff Bezos being the richest man on Earth and possibly in history. That puts a target on his back.

And that might also explain why Trump bloviates about Amazon as well. Mackey criticized Trump for the recently announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Mackey said this doesn't make sense from an economics perspective.

But that is something he wouldn't have understood before starting his business.

A Bunch of Hippies Selling Vegetable

At his talk on Sunday morning, Mackey shared his backstory about the beginning of Whole Foods. A young man in the 70's, Mackey was the typical hippie. He dropped out of college to hitchhike across the country with a friend. Then he lived in co-op houses with other hippies, where he came up with the idea of starting a natural foods store.

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