Pre-peeled Oranges and Owning Your Ignorance

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

Related Post Roulette

71 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    I don’t fully agree. I think we are in love with righteous indignation but this seems like a bad example. Many Whole Foods shoppers, rightly or wrongly, do have firm opinions on plastics use. I get chopping up melons and placing it containers. Peeling an orange seems excessive thoughReport

    • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Your lack of full agreement is outrageous. I must take to the telegraph lines about it.

      Its nice to have strong feelings, but in the end a peeled orange is a small, small thing. Maybe it seems goofy, but it’s still a tiny thing. And of course after a few seconds thought about people w/o use of their hands it seems like a nice idea. They already have ready to eat carrots,candies, cookies, condoms ( okay maybe that is slightly different), sandwichs and salads in bags.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Whole Foods always had a problem with this. The store always attracted middle and upper middle class educated professionals as their main customer base. Most of these people possess liberal leaning opinions. The founder of Whole Foods has politics that go in the opposite direction of a many of his customers. This hurts him some times.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I promise you that 99% of the people buying organic coffee from Whole Foods didn’t MEAN to burn down the fucking rainforest, despite buying coffee that was directly responsible for considerable destruction of the tropical rainforest in Peru.

      I promise you that.

      People who buy from Whole Foods are in general an ignorant bunch. Perhaps that’s just coffee, but I doubt it.

      (Just in case you’re wondering, I know a commodity trader who also moonlights as a buyer for Trader Joe’s. And he’s friends with someone who trades coffee for a livin’).Report

    • Saul Degraw: Peeling an orange seems excessive though

      A only slightly dishonest question:
      With orange juice, they’ve done the work of peeling, squeezing, filtering, and refrigerating for you. Do you view that as excessive?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        It just seems to be a matter of where we draw the line at that point.

        I mean, I sometimes buy hot dogs on the street (usually for Mayo). That entails the provider to take the dog out of a package and place it in hot water for a few minutes. I pay $2-3 for this service when a pack of those very same hot dogs goes for about $5 for 10.

        Ultimately, criticizing the convenience others are willing to pay for seems like getting worked up over nothing. Is the waste an issue? Yes. But as Vikram points out, these are far from the most wasteful product on WF’s shelves.Report

      • Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        And adding the tictac flavoring back in!
        “Fresh squeezed” orange juice in the middle of summer is a bit of a mutant thing, when you think about it.
        They fresh squeeze the orange juice in February, and give it to you around August.
        How’s that for odd…Report

  2. aaron david says:

    Oddly enough, my father was working on a project just like this (actually apple slices if I remember) when he was still a professor. It was his last research project when he had to retire (heart attacks.) This exactly the kind of research that a phd in genetics with a focus on Pomology gets you.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    This is a really excellent post, Vikram. Not much to offer but didn’t want that to go unsaid. Good food for thought…Report

  4. j r says:

    Does everyone get the same top reply on the original Twitter post as I am seeing now? It’s pretty awesome.

    If not, some woman asked to use the Tweet in an article. Nathalie Gordon says yeah, great, please share the final article. And the woman does. Here’s the article:

  5. Brandon Berg says:

    You uprolled me!

    Edit: Was supposed to be a reply to j r.Report

  6. Roland Dodds says:

    I for one, won’t be happy until I have individualized orange slices individually packaged. That’s progress.Report

  7. Damon says:

    Whoa whoa whoa.

    So the peeled orange thing is a real thing. But what about us folks that want the lemon peel or the orange peel, no white pith please, for our booze flavoring activities? I’d love to be able to buy a pound of lemon peel so I can pop in into the vodka when making lemoncello, rather than peeling 50 lemons myself first. WHY HAS THE MARKET NOT PROVIDED FOR ME?!!?? You know why? “Cause of all you damn outraged, narcissist people, missing the concept that my time is worth more doing something else than peeling lemons! Now you’ve gone and ruined this business concept and I am back to peeling my own damn lemons! Curse you!Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Damon says:

      The last orange I bought, I had to actually remember to use the juice before it went bad. I’d already shaved it all round all the way down to the pith to use the peel as flavoring…Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      Pensey’s sells dried orange and lemon peel.
      I wager it doesn’t keep terribly well without drying…
      (have you tried tamarind? I know they freeze that pulp…)Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Those “lots of pulp” orange juices are awful. I don’t know why someone would drink that sort of thing unless they needed an emetic.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    Having thought a bit more on this, here is an angle I’m not sure you explored quite as deeply as I’m going to now (which is totes cool, as you tackled some really important angles)…

    You tackled the, “These people totally failed to see why this isn’t the outrage they believe it to be.”
    You tackled the, “These people are zeroing in on the environmental straw that might break the camel’s back and ignoring all the rest.”

    And aptly so…

    What I want to talk about is the worst case scenario: Let’s imagine there are people in the world who are really so lazy that they are willing to pay an extra 50-cents or dollar per orange for the luxury of just peeling back a pull tab instead of peeling the whole thing.

    So fuckin’ what? How many of us pay for one luxury or another that offers little more than a slightly easier path? You don’t have to like it. A firm eye roll is probably appropriate. But outrage? Really? Why? So some jackhole is lazy? Who the fuck cares?!?! Hell, his laziness is creating jobs. Wahoo!Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      I believe that it is tied in with the whole Whole Foods aesthetic.

      You walk into a Whole Foods and, immediately, you know that you are in a progressive grocery store. Grind your own cashews and make your own cashew butter. Exotic cauliflower variants. Organic bacon. Asparagus water.

      Well, as I am sure you remember, the asparagus water caused quite a stir.

      My own personal response to the (overpriced!) asparagus water was, paraphrased, “freakin’ people. Freakin’ Whole Foods. Freakin’ Whole Foods people.”

      So it was with asparagus water in mind that I first saw the pre-peeled oranges. “Freakin’ people. Freakin’ Whole Foods. Freakin’ Whole Foods people.”

      Knowing that there are people out there who probably wouldn’t even be able to eat an orange unless someone else peeled it for them softens my “freakin”s down considerably. I am pleased to know that they have options that they didn’t have before.

      But my first thought wasn’t the people for whom Whole Foods was opening the orange door.

      It was of the freakin’ people who would pay six freakin’ bucks for freakin’ asparagus freakin’ water.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wave an asparagus at a bottle of water: voila, homeopathic asparagus water.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


        Oh, I think that is a reasonable response. Like I said, I’d give a pretty aggressive eye roll to the pre-peeled oranges. EVEN if I knew they were very helpful to some segment of the population, a voice in my head would say, “Some jackhole is going to buy that just because he thinks oranges are difficult.” And I’d say that while remembering that the only reason I’m in the Whole Foods is because it is in the same complex as the boys’ doctor and the doctor’s office doesn’t validate parking but Whole Foods does if you buy $10 worth of stuff so if I buy exactly $10 worth of stuff I’m really getting it for $7 because I’d be paying that $3 for parking anyway so I’m not really paying Whole Foods’ prices.

        Hell, I might even go a step further and snap a pic and post it on my Instagram (30-something followers) and Facebook (100-something friends) and maybe even use the amazing new eye roll emoji.

        So maybe I’m part of the problem? But the outrage machine feels a little different. Like, why waste your breath, your time, your energy getting so worked up because of some jackhole who thinks he’s too good to peal an orange? I mean, fuck that guy, but fuck that guy by laughing in your head and moving on, right?Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        My first “Freaking Whole Foods People!” moment was buying bulk spices and noticing different scoops for the “organic” and “non-organic” spices, and a prominent notice asking us to respect the difference.

        Conventionally-grown spices might contain trace amounts of pesticide. And if you scoop up your organic spices with a tainted scoop, you might get traces of a spice that contains traces of pesticide mixed in with your spice. And then you add a dash of that spice to whatever you’re cooking, and the result is a meal consisting of perhaps one part per thousand of a spice containing perhaps one part per thousand of another spice, which itself contains trace quantities of pesticide.

        While a bit skeptical, I remain agnostic on the whole “organic” thing, but when you’re worried about cross-contamination of your spices, it’s just superstition. Besides, if you’re the kind of person who worries about this, you probably believe in homeopathy, in which case wouldn’t you want the cross-contamination?

        Asparagus water sounds like a twist on pot liquor, but it’s usually made by boiling the vegetables. I can’t imagine that the water would absorb much if you just dumped the vegetables in cold.

        The uncured bacon they sell at Whole Foods is just plain better, though. IMO, the glutamate flavor in cured bacon is too strong, with not enough pork flavor left.Report

        • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Whole Foods sells bacon to troll the vegans.
          (totally not kidding. Letting the vegans think they control your store is a recipe for a failed business).Report

        • Zac in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          I have long been of the opinion that the “organic” food thing and other, similar food trends are essentially just non-religious peoples’ version of kosher or halal.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:


          From your comment here, I’m assuming you haven’t come across gluten-free soaps:

        • El Muneco in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          From what I hear (it might have been Alton Brown, back when he actually did food-related things rather than being a “celebrity”), organic produce is a scam (you’re trading off one set of bad things for another and paying for the privilege) but organic dairy is worth it because while the feedstuff might not be better once it’s worked its way through the digestive system, the producers are a lot more likely to use more humane living conditions and not throw additives and hormones into everything.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        I love, love, love Whole Foods. I love every one in every city I’ve been to. I don’t have one in my city, but I am unabashedly a Whole-Foods-person whenever there is one nearby.

        That said, you all basically know me. I’m not the kind of person who is going to look at bottled water of any kind, let alone asparagus water. I’m not going to stop by the homeopathic products and other questionable products, which I’m willing to bet also exist in the grocery stores you frequent. It’s not like your grocery store has ethics that won’t permit them to sell such things. You can like a store as a place to shop even if you don’t approve of every single one of the 20,000 products they sell.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Jaybird says:

        Whole Foods exists to make the market I shop at seem relatively non-pretentious. Despite regularly stocking the traditional big three luxury items (truffles, caviar and foie gras). If the “Asian Foods” section had a chill chest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see uni there. But still, at least it’s not Whole Foods.

        I kid. After a Wal-Mart opened in the next shopping district over, it knocked out the “extreme value” Top Foods and forced the “ordinary people” Safeway to get a facelift, so the market I shop at has been forced into a “Whole Foods Lite(tm)” niche.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

      I read somewhere (maybe on OT for that matter) someone point out that a lot of the gimmicky gadgets in TV infomercials with able-bodied actors pretending to be too clumsy to handle a cup of water or whatever, are really products for the disabled.

      A person who can’t hold a knife can cut vegetables with a slap-chop. A snuggie is basically a bathrobe for a wheelchair user.

      The fact that probably 90% of the buyers are able-bodied means that economies of scale make them affordable to the 10% who really benefit by them. It also means that about 90% of the products manufactured get used about twice and then end up in a landfill; not the most efficient way to subsidize the other 10%, but it gets the job done.Report

      • aaron david in reply to dragonfrog says:

        This is a facinating way of looking at it @dragonfrog a very interesting perspective.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I read the same thing, though I think I saw it through Facebook. I think the choice of using able-bodied actors isn’t purely a desire to make sales to able-bodied people. It also functions to normalize the product in the eyes of those who need it. They don’t have to feel that they are buying a weird thing for disabled people but instead something someone could conceivably use…though some of them are bigger stretches than others.Report

        • dragonfron in reply to Vikram Bath says:

          That makes sense – it could make the thing more appealing to someone who might see themselves as having a “shoulder injury” or the like but not consider it a “disability”.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        “Thanks, @dragonfrog ,” he said basking in the warmth of DF’s wisdom… and his own Slanket.Report

  10. Michael Drew says:

    You haven’t written any deeply embarrassing posts, Vikram. Trust me.

    I would, though, in the spirit of the post, want to extend it further to give Nathalie a break as well. She may just have been trying to make a joke, not earnestly condemn Whole Foods.Report

    • They will all be deeply embarrassing after enough time has passed.

      I don’t think I’m giving Nathalie a hard time, and I bare no ill will to her. She left her tweet up, so I assume she stands by it.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

      If it was a joke, it was a bad one. I’d have gone with, “Oh goodie! We solved that whole orange-segments-exposed-to-the-elements problem that has been plaguing the citrus industry.”Report

  11. InMD says:

    Our culture rewards self-righteousness and technology has given us a world where expressing it to an enormous audience is easier than peeling an orange (or taking a pre-peeled one out of a container).Report

  12. aaron david says:

    Ya know, we are often talking about jobs in this country, this economy. Jobs!

    An orange gets picked and packed and unpacked and displayed, etc. Jobs.

    A peeled orange get those and Peeled! An extra job is created, either a peeler or a machine, wich needs service and monitoring, etc. Jobs.

    Much like the container get manufactured and needs a mechanic on the machine and a monitor, and a factory, etc. Jobs.

    Its Keynsian, at the very least. Something tells me the naysayers loved the stimulus.

    ETA spelling of his name.Report

  13. Zac says:

    Ok, the pot cookies I ate a couple hours ago are reallly starting to kick in, so in lieu of the coherent comment I am currently unable to make, I’ll just leave a placeholder.

    Something something Chesteron fences something somethingReport

  14. Sam Wilkinson says:

    Hey @vikram-bath,

    I’m not up for fighting this out with you, but you’re taking my comment/tweet entirely out of the broader context of that conversation.

    I was not saying that pre-peeled things were not easier for those who would have trouble peeling something. Of course they are and of course I know that.

    I was saying that it hadn’t crossed my mind that those items were out there for a population that would struggle to peel something. The entire reason that Elizabeth’s point got my attention is because it hadn’t occurred to me that Whole Foods might be trying to do right by this segment of the population.Report

    • That’s exactly the context I intended to refer to–that it wasn’t obvious to many people that there is a set of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to oranges. If that wasn’t what you meant, let me know, and I’ll remove the link.Report

      • Sam in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In that case, let me clarify – it looked to me like you were saying that I had no idea that pre-peeled things could be beneficial to somebody who would otherwise struggle to peel them. That wasn’t my point. Rather, my point was that it hadn’t dawned on me that a supermarket was putting pre-peeled things out in an attempt to cater toward those populations’s specific needs.

        Shorter Version – I’m not surprised that pre-peeled things can be useful. I’m surprised that supermarkets are actually targeting those populations. (Not that this targeting would be a bad thing – far from it.)Report

  15. Are the plastic covers made especially easy to open? Because if they’re the kind that requires some amount of dexterity to open, they’re not intended for that audience at all.Report