Here's why boycotts don't work: the vast majority of customers don't care. And yes, that includes the vast majority of Whole Foods customers, a surprising number of whom drive SUVs and even--I swear!--occasionally vote Republican. Now consider the demographic that cares enough about health care to actually boycott a company over it. Most of them are a) wonks or b) political activists. The latter group is disproportionately young and does not spend a great deal of money on groceries. The former group is tiny.
You may get a large number of people who say they'll boycott Whole Foods. But then when they're out of extra-virgin olive oil and the Safeway doesn't have organic, and the nearest Trader Joes is a twenty-five minute drive away through traffic--they'll shop at Whole Foods. Three weeks later, they'll have managed to forget that they ever intended to stop shopping at Whole Foods. The stores are successful because they dominate their market niche, putting together a collection of things in one store that you would ordinarily have to go to several stores for. Shopping in multiple places is a big pain in the butt.
Here's something for those of us stuck in Deep Blue states to do: not only boycott Whole Foods, but start picketing the stores to reduce purchasing.
Like Mark, I've stopped shopping at Whole Foods given its CEO's "astonishingly disingenuous" WSJ op-ed last week, and his seeming desire to be part of the anti-health insurance reform movement. But this is still inside-the-blogosphere stuff. At a Quaker meeting I attend every Sunday -- a meeting filled with well-informed progressive folks -- most people had not heard about the boycott when I talked about it during announcements. Pickets would get the news out faster.