July 31, 2017

Time is money.

-Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin not everything is about money. There’s health and happiness too. 🙂


Amazon to buy WFM for Billions

My phone lights up, spitting out various news sources all saying iterations of the same thing. I stare at it blankly. I couldn’t believe it: Amazon, the online giant, bought Whole Foods Market, the hippie grocery stored turned luxury health nut food store, for $13.7 billion. You read that right. Billion.

Now, I have a soft spot for WFM. I’ve lived in Austin for almost 11 years. WFM is the Austin thing, so the loyalty ran extra deep since I was an Austinite working at an Austin staple during the college days (corn is great 4078! #cashierlife).  I was there when the grand news of WFM’s financial success in late 2013 spread throughout the land. I was there when they came out with their first commercial. I was there when the fancy H-E-B location came along and began to make my WFM store a ghost town(ish). I was there when Trader Joe’s came into Austin and slight pangs of worry hit every manager’s face. I was there when the prison labor controversy was running around causing questions. I was there when they put more fruit inside their Berry Chantilly cake (it’s a disappointing three berries and 99% cream now).  I befriended many fellas from various backgrounds–including the friendliest porter you ever met and the wackiest guests–even met celebrities (Jesse James was kind enough to donate $25 to one of our donation drives one year and Meatloaf is super nice despite his large size). Days spent among friends during the lunch break exchanging gifts of books, food and music were the best. I’ve seen the stock plunge and rise and repeat, staying in the $30 range.

Bakery @ WFM Gateway, ATX

I was gone by the time their financials were not rising, their overprice asparagus water caused uproar, the closing of different extra aspects of the company is other regions, the stepping down of co-CEO Walter Robb in November 2016, and the opening of 365, the “lower-priced” store that follows a Trader Joe’s format.

I’ll be honest, I don’t shop there as often as I do now. You can’t go back when you had a 20% discount card for two and a half years. I still follow the news though. I cheer when they hit a high point and feel a slight pain of sadness when they lose (except for the asparagus water incident. That was just a “raise an eyebrow and face palm” moment).

WFM Original Store
I do find the timing a little funny. Texas Monthly just came out with an article called “The Shelf Life of John Mackey“. John Mackey, who is regarded as the “animal spirit” of the company (Robb was the business brains), was interviewed by Tom Foster. Mackey pretty much lashed out at NY hedge fund Jana Partners for trying to buy them out without really telling Mackey. He was starting his book tour for The Whole Foods Diet, his second book, so he considered the move “intentional”. The article is well-thought out and details everything from WFM’s inception to the present day conundrum. Foster even plays out what I call the WFM contradiction: as it got bigger, it became more corporate, less healthy and the core values became more….confusing…Was it a hippie store? Was it a rich people store? Was it a rich hippie store? I’ve seen my fair share of both groups at the store I worked at, so honestly I can’t really tell. I just saw happy folks buying kale salad and kombucha. No need for labels.

Anyway, Amazon. Good on you for allowing WFM to operate under their name. Also, good on your for raising the stock price from $33.06 at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2017 to $42.00 twenty minutes later (I knew I should have bought WFM stock three months ago when it was $29). I hope you can keep the spirit of WFM alive and well. As much as I don’t want the online robots to take over and ruin any chance I have at working at Vogue (print is not dead people!) or open my coffeeshop/bookstore, I guess it’s better than having WFM disappear altogether.

(Read the articles here, here, and here, or just Google)


Daily Mail came out with an article a few days ago detailing the “rise of ‘beg-packers‘”. Yes, that’s right: beg-packers. Basically, people (ahem, Westerners) who sit on the side of the road and beg for money while they are traveling through some of the world’s poorest regions. It’s becoming an increasingly insane problem, especially in Southeast Asia where truly needy people are in pure survival mode, not “look at me with my ukulele and Patagonia backpack that I spent wayyyyy too much money on hence me playing with the ukulele and asking you for money.”


People begging on the streets of Bangkok. From DailyMail.com

I am not condemning backpackers. I myself would love to backpack the world someday, preferably Europe. I am simply calling people for their poor financial skills. So here are a few tips to manage your money while going on these excursions.

  1. Do your research! Google exists for a reason. Check how much plane tickets are during the time period you want to go, average cost of room and board (whether it be Airbnb, friends or even a campground), average cost of food, and entertainment.
  2. Once you have done your research, start saving! I take 15% of my paycheck and transfer it to my savings account. Here I further allocate what goes to the emergency fund, what goes to the retirement fund and whatever is left, the vacation fund. Sure 15% sounds like a lot but if you’re a lucky duck who makes $1000 per paycheck, you’re saving $150 every two weeks. That’s $300 per month and $3600 per year. You can do more or less. Up to you.
  3. Hit the bargain bins when you’re shopping for equipment. You don’t necessarily have to go to REI to get the fancy schmancy Patagonia coat or top of the line insulated to-go thermos. Check out TJ Maxx or even your local Goodwill. You’d be amazed at what you find there.
  4. Learn a thing or two from the locals. How about bartering? Don’t really need those extra pair of flip flops, but really need enough food to last a couple days? Try trading if it’s common culture wherever you are at. I’m pretty sure they would appreciate the clean Rainbow flip flops.
  5. Don’t have enough money to go on your own? Try going with a group, whether it be your church or your friends. Everyone pitches in so the burden is not entirely placed on your shoulders.
  6. Probably the most important rule: once you’re there, balance your books! Spent $10 on jewelry? Expense that from your “entertainment fund” to get an accurate total. Gained $5 from winning a mini contest? It’s revenue in your pocket so add it to your total. This will give a clear view on how little or how much you are spending or gaining throughout the trip.

Please remember the needy are needy. They are in pure survival mode. You the begpacker? Well, you should have read this post first. 🙂