Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
It all started on March 18.
I was sitting in my usual bleary-eyed late-night stupor when a strange email arrived.
"Welcome!" its subject line began.
I'm not a fan of exclamation points. Especially not in emails. I always translate them as "Yes, I'm trying too hard, aren't I?! But I just can't stop!"
Still the rest of the subject line declared: "You're Set Up to Save with Prime."
I hadn't been aware.
Perhaps Amazon had set me up with something new as a heartfelt surprise.
And then I read on:
Congrats, you've set up your account to receive exclusive savings with Prime at Whole Foods Market. These savings are available to Prime members in all U.S. locations, including Whole Foods Market 365 stores.
Here's one thing I knew: I had not set up my account to receive exclusive savings with Prime at Whole Foods Market.
I rarely go to Whole Foods. If I do, it's because I have an urgent need and it's the only supermarket I can see.
It's not about Whole Foods' prices. It's just that I've never found the supermarket frightfully compelling.
Just as I didn't find this email frightfully compelling. It was frightfully presumptive.
Sadly, this was only the frightful beginning.
On March 21, at 8.15 a.m. came this:
Hey, It's Been a While -- We're Back.
It had been less than three days.
Oh, but in the fast-paced Amazon/Whole Foods firmament that must seem like a whole era.
Indeed, this email laid the love on like peanut butter. On fish.
There was a picture of tulips and the words:
Reunited and it feels so good.
I hadn't felt disunited and this felt as good as making a smoothie out of three of my fingers.
Then came the explanation:
Once upon a grocery trip, you scanned your Prime Code at Whole Foods Market for the first time (felt good, didn't it?). We meant to say hey right away but, long story short, we made an oops and it's been longer than we intended. Time flies when you're stocking kale.
Felt good? I didn't feel anything at all.
I stopped to wonder when I could have done this scanning.
It was last year, as my wife and I were traveling.
All I remember is that the Whole Foods employee at checkout had ventured how much the company had changed -- not for the better -- since it had been bought by Amazon.
This hardly constituted my setting up an account, at least in my mind.
Worse, Whole Foods trying to make a joke out of its own incompetence wasn't warming. And it was a kale joke, which most especially wasn't warming.
But the jocular tone continued. And how:
We're back to welcome you to our emails, where you'll find weekly Prime deals, must-make recipes and details on upcoming events. Let's never be apart again, okay?
Just go away, OK? We were never together and if you don't go away, I'm calling the police.
They didn't. On March 27 came this:
Save 25 Percent On All Beauty In Case You Need a Reason.
Gosh, how did you know, Whole Foods? I buy lipstick all the time.
Whole Foods was convinced, but not convincing. On March 28:
Prime Members: 25 Percent Off All Beauty and Your Extra 10 Percent Is a Beautiful Thing.
It would be a beautiful thing, I thought, if Whole Foods never wrote to me again. Yet, of course, some small part of me wondered what depths would be plundered next.
On April Fool's Day:
More Prime Perks: FREE 2-Hour Grocery Delivery.
And the sell got harder. Slightly:
A shortcut, a lifesaver, Whole Foods on demand. Whatever you want to call it, it's grocery shopping with free 2-hour delivery from Prime Now. Peak-season produce, animal welfare rated steaks cut just how you like them, farm-fresh kale and the rest of what you love. Right to your door, just for Prime members.
There they were continuing their kale obsession.
I understand that once a retailer gets it into their heads to pester you, they're going to do it.
This, though, showed that they were intending to pester me all along and simply hadn't got their act together. Which they were trying to make a joke about.
Worse, they thought I bought beauty products in a supermarket.
The result, of course, is that I'm really beginning not to like Whole Foods at all.
I tend to shop at smaller, more local supermarkets. Of the nationally-known, branded ones, I'm more likely to go to Trader Joe's.
Yet Amazon forcing Whole Foods to pester me because I shopped there precisely once -- and I'm fairly sure I didn't buy beauty products (I mean, look at me. It's far too late) -- is a wonderful way to show how technology can irritate humans beyond reason and how the notion of personalization has a long, long way to go.
Curiously, Amazon has never pestered me with emails for its own brand. I'll get the occasional book recommendation, but that's it.
It's clear that Amazon is a little desperate.
On April 3 came another email:
New Lower Prices (New Reason To Shop)
Yes, it was accompanied by a large picture of kale.
On April 4, I could really feel Amazon squealing:
Prime Members: You Asked For More Deals.
I didn't. And I suspect that's the problem. A lot of Prime members don't care about Whole Foods one way or the other.
I wonder what angle Amazon and Whole Foods will try next.
My guess? Some sort of organic tincture to soothe my stress.