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Customer Comments

A heartfelt thank you

Q: As I read through the published comments section of the latest edition of the Coop News I felt the impact of public published "thank yous." So, here is an overdue yet heartfelt thank you: 

In April of last year, the West Side Willy Street Coop generously donated to a worthy cause—the first ever Teaching Assistants Appreciation Day in UW-Madison's Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Hungry hardworking Teaching Assistants feasted on delicious organic food from the Coop. Cries of delight (¡Juepa, por fin comida buena! Hurray, good food finally!) emerged from the TA Workroom as they discovered fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and cold cuts from the Coop. ¡Muchísimas gracias!

A: I hope this finds you well! I'm happy to hear the Teaching Assistants enjoyed the food. We're happy to be able to give back to those in our community! Best regards, Liz Hawley, Education and Outreach Coordinator


Q: Heard about $4.00 a year rate and would like to know how to qualify for that. Currently I am receiving SSI disability and would I need to bring in letter from SSI. I heard there are other qualifiers too.

A: Thank you for reaching out about our discount rate. This is a part of what we call our Access Discount Program. For those who qualify, you are able to make reduced equity payments ($4/year), and you will receive the following benefits:

Shop at the Co-op with a 10% discount.

Receive one coupon for a free class every year at enrollment.

Receive one free tote bag for each person on your account to carry home your groceries.

SSI is one of the qualifiers for this program. You simply need to bring your enrollment letter to our Customer Service desk at any of our stores and your first $4 payment. The discount and your Ownership can be activated for you right away. (Just for your information, having an EBT card with active FoodShare benefits is the easiest way to qualify for our Access Discount. If you have an EBT card with a positive balance, that will serve as proof of qualifying as well. To be clear, you only need to have one qualifier to be eligible.)

There is more information about this program that you will receive when signing up. I didn't want to bog you down with too much information at this time. If you have further questions about Ownership at Willy Street Co-op or the Access Discount Program, I am happy to help you with those. 

I hope you're having a great week! -Robert Halstead, Owner Records Administrator

Separate plates?

Q: Hi Willy Street Co-op, I get food from the hot bar at Willy West 2-4 times per week. I would love to add some items from the cold bar to my plate, but I don't want to get a separate plate/container for it because it seems wasteful for the limited quantity that I'm looking for. Is there any issue if I get items from both the hot and cold bar on a single plate and just pay the higher hot bar price per pound for all of it? Thank you!

A: Thank you for taking the time to write to us with your question! We are so happy to hear that you enjoy our hot bar and salad bar. You are welcome to get both hot and cold food on a single plate while you're here. However, you will end up paying a slightly higher tax. Our hot bar is considered taxable, so if you have both on your plate, you will simply pay sales tax on both. I hope this helps! We look forward to seeing you soon! –Renee Strobel, Deli Manager–West

Seafood salad request

Q: Hi There! I love that the Seafood Center is in Willy Street Coop. I'm trying to sway my boyfriends diet more towards fish than red meat so when I cook for him I like to check out the seafood selection there. One thing that is at the Seafood Center store off Whitney Way is their pasta salad, honestly the best seafood pasta salad I have ever had in my life! I try to go there every week and pick up a couple of pounds of it. They make it fresh on Tuesdays. I live in Sauk City outside of Madison so it's a lot more convenient for me to go to the Co-op to get it than the Seafood Center (plus I'm at the Coop at least once or twice a week usually) if there is anyway you could look into offering that, I think it would go over really well. Thanks!

A: Thanks for taking the time to write. The Seafood Center is a separate business from ours, and we have very little input on what products they decide to carry. With that said, I did reach out to Bob Crow the manager of the west side Seafood Center about your request and he said he could bring it over. Or if you knew when you would want it to just give him a call a day or two ahead of time and he would make sure he has some for you when you come to the store to shop. You can reach the Seafood Center by calling the store (608) 284-7800 and asking to speak to the Seafood Center or by calling them directly at (608) 836-1450. -Jeremy Johnson, Meat & Specialty Category Manager 

Ingredient concern

Q: El Rey corn chips are made with MSG (lemon flavor). I am very surprised to see Willy East carry an MSG produce with no SHELF WARNING LABEL. Please write up a “warning” label for the shelf to advise shoppers. (I saw a “beef broth” shelf label on hen of the woods chips.) I did not expect I had to read the label of everything I buy at WSGC—at Woodman’s yes, but not at my “organic” food coop.

A; Thanks for sharing your concern. We do sell many organic products, but also non-organic local products and many conventional products based on the interests of our Owners. In general, we do not print shelf tags with product information of warnings on them because the info on the manufacturer’s label is the most accurate. We always recommend reading the label of any product you buy, no matter whether it’s at our store or another, because products can change their ingredients without notice to anyone. Knowing that we have some shoppers who are very concerned about what they consume for health reasons or otherwise, we believe reading labels is by far the safest way to ensure that you are only purchasing those products that are acceptable to you. If we make a mistake in our labeling by omitting the warning, or putting it on the wrong product by accident, that could impact a customer’s health. We did make an exception and call out beef broth as a potentially deal-breaking ingredient for vegans and vegetarians on the Hen of the Woods chips because it was such a surprising ingredient. We will consider running this comment in the newsletter as a notification. –Brendon Smith, Communications Director

Imported items

Q: Thank you for the progress toward more “green” and local items. Please cease selling imported items unless specifically fair trade/direct trade. Please support MORE local, sustainable, diverse businesses!

A; Thank you for your comment asking us to cease selling imported items that are not Fair Trade or direct trade. I definitely appreciate the idea—in fact, this is how I prefer to eat myself: local first, with Fair Trade/direct trade items added to my diet when necessary. 

As a consumer-owned Co-op, we have to make decisions about what we carry that are inclusive of the needs and preferences of all of our Owners. This includes Owners like you and I who prefer to purchase local and Fair Trade, but also Owners who prefer to purchase items that don't fit this criteria, or whose budgets necessitate that they make alternate choices. 

If there are specific products that we don't carry that you would like to see us bring in, I'd love to hear what they are! Best Regards, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director

Bathroom paper towels

Q: pptowel in the bathroom please? With cold and flu season upon us it would be nice for opening the door and for putting toilet lid up or down. Thank you.

A: Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback with us. We have received a lot of feedback about paper towel availability in the new bathrooms. When we discussed the changes for the bathrooms in the expansion preparation we decided that hand dryers were the more economical and earth-friendly choice. The cost of paper goods continues to rise at a fast clip while also taking a lot of energy to produce and contributing to the deforestation of the state of Wisconsin and the rest of the world. As a Co-op it is important to us to do what we can when it comes to conservation.

At this time we have chosen to return the paper towels to the bathrooms due to customer demand but there may come a time where this is not the economical choice for our business and we will be evaluating this as prices of paper goods rise. We also hope customers and staff will work with us in our conservation efforts and use the hand dryers whenever possible. –Lindsey Hardy, Store Director–West

Pasture & Plenty cooking kits

Q: I want to say that I Love the Pasture & Plenty cooking kits! Please continue!

A: Thank you for your enthusiastic response to the new Pasture & Plenty cooking kits. I also am excited to try them. Your feedback will be shared with the staff. –Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator–West

Exceptional food

Q: Today’s chicken wild rice was exceptional! First time I’ve had it, but I will look for again.

A: Thank you so much for taking the time to write down and share your kind words with us. I will be sure to share this feedback with the staff. Best, Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator–West

More cranberry scones

Q: Please make more cranberry GF scones… every night I come here and they are gone.

A: Thank you so much for writing to us with your feedback! You will be pleased to hear that we have increased our orders for the Gluten-Free Cranberry Scones! We are happy to hear that you enjoy them, and hope this will allow you to pick some up on your next trip to the Willy West Deli! Thank you again, Renee Strobel, Deli Manager–West

Demo plastics

Q: Would like to see less plastic used in demos. Today a plastic cup and plastic spoon for spoonful of kimchi. Thank you.

A: Thank you for expressing concern about reducing the waste our Co-op puts out. For several years, we had our own internal sampling program with staff serving as the sampling agents and the program was very conscious of waste reduction. We used compostable cups as well as introduced the EcoTensil to many. (see 

That program was eliminated but that allowed us to increase the number of external vendor samplings at each site. This past September we reached our record high with 88 vendor visits across all three stores. Because of this high number of product demos, all visiting vendors are required to bring all supplies necessary for a successful demo including the small cups and utensils used for sampling.

I am not in favor of requiring visiting vendors to exclusively use non-plastic items because budgetary pressures might limit participation in the overall program from many start-up vendors, especially those in our new Retail Ready Lab program, but I do think that many of them are unaware options exist. 

I would be happy to include suggested eco-utensils in a revised Demo Guide, a description of demo policies all visiting vendors receive. We also have a healthy stock of EcoTensils remaining from our internal program, which I can distribute to each site and those can be available for use to any vendor. I believe that the more we can let company representatives know about eco-friendly supply options the more companies will opt to use them. -Jack Kear, Event Coordinator

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