Monthly Archives: September 2013

Success By Numbers

One of my many illnesses is defining my life’s success by numbers.  Do I have an amazing wife, son, dog, home, and overall quality of living?  Absolutely. Do I have my health?  I’m lucky to say that for now, I do.  Those alone should qualify as success.

Yet in this world, that’s not enough.  Success comes with achieving bigger and bigger goals.  And to do that, you have to strive to be better.  And I have wanted to be better as long as I could remember.  I don’t know where it came from.  This sort of competition (mostly with myself, but often in the context of others) was not drilled into me by my parents.

Making better a measurable thing is addicting. Never mind becoming a better person – how can you quantify that???  Really the questions should be: how many goals have you scored this season? What’s your GPA?  What’s your SAT score?  How many times in a row can you make a free throw?  What’s your net worth?

At the ripe age of 36, I think I’m finally getting it and broadening my horizons…  Not everything I work on today is to improve some number.  But old habits die hard….

One of my number addictions relates to running.  I don’t run to be in shape.  I run to get faster.  There are great benefits to running like improved mental and physical health, but honestly, that’s secondary.  I run to win.

After a 5 month break from running, today I begin my renewed focus on getting better. The Kaiser Half Marathon, held on February 2, 2014 is what I have set my sights on. In the 2013 race, I ran my best time ever – a 1:23:30.  That’s 6:22 per mile for 13.11 miles.  I would have never thought that was possible even a year before.

For the upcoming race, I want to break 1:20:00.  For some reason, that number is important to me.  Do I get a prize for doing it?  Nope.  Is it important enough to get up during darkness, six or seven days a week, every week for 5 months, and go running?  Strangely, it is.

Why do I do this?


Whole Foods Charity Scam

I have always admired Google’s corporate slogan, ‘Don’t Be Evil’.  It’s such a great core value to have permeate through everything you do, and during the relatively short time I got to spend at Google, I really felt that it was built into the fabric of the company.

Fast forward to a Friday night in San Francisco.  For me that involved going to Whole Foods to get some groceries.  Whole Foods is such a feel good place.  They make you feel great about the local, organic products you are buying.   They even ask you if you want to do something good for the community every time you swipe your credit card:

Your total is $49.35.  Would you like to round that up to an even $50 and give that to your local charity?

Nothing says feeling good like giving back.

Except tonight, with my mind unusually clear, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Whole Foods is running a brilliant, legal, and FUCKING LAME charity scam.  Yes, they give that extra 65 cents to charity.  And then they use that 65 cents as a sweet tax break to offset other income.

Quick math: Whole Foods had $12bn in top line revenues last year.  Let’s assume that the average bill is $50, and all WF stores have this charity program, with 20% of transactions participating ( I see it happen all the time ), and the average round up figure being 50 cents.  They can offset $24 million dollars in income.  Assuming a tax rate of roughly 33%, Whole Foods gets $8 million additional cash for you being so charitable. In the grocery business, where margins suck, an additional $8mm in free cash flow is a big deal.

To add insult to this, in San Francisco you are charged for bags now, so most people bring their own when shopping.  When you do, Whole Foods gives you a small credit (5 cents per bag):

I see you brought 3 bags – would you like the credit or would you like to have us donate it to charity?


Whole Foods boasts an incredible culture and set of core values.  Sometimes realizing what is actually going on behind the happy smiles makes me sad.  Not sure it makes them evil, but it’s pretty weak sauce.