Q: Do you ever think some of the comments written up in the newsletter seem petty?
A: Great question. Your Co-op is made up of humans, and so I’d be lying if I said we’ve never felt challenged by some of the comments we receive. We try to use them as a learning opportunity. We also train staff to consider that when we receive written comments, we don’t know much else about how that person’s day was going or how they were specifically affected by the issue they are looking to solve. Our job is to provide the best customer service possible, and all of us can empathize with feeling unhappy with products or services at some time in our lives (and maybe even not being so graceful about it). We also know from experience that when one person vocalizes their concerns, chances are there are other silent people who may have similar concerns. While we can’t always deliver on every request, we do like to help when we can, no matter how large or small the request may seem. If we can make someone’s day, that’s the best! Thanks for checking in with us. -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Amazing chicken tamales
Q: Your chicken tamales are amazing! Thank you!
A: Thank you so much for the positive feedback. We love those tamales too! They are produced right here in Madison by a family run business called Tamaleria El Poblano. They are wonderful people, and we are so happy to be able to offer their products to our customers. -Julia Gengenbach, Interim Deli Manager–East
Q: Please please please buy extra metal utensils so when you get busy you do not run out and people resort to using single-use plastics—regardless of whether or not they are compostable or recyclable they are very bad for our planet. P.S. This has happened several times. Thank you.
A: Thank you for your comment. We have purchased more metal utensils and are aware this is an ongoing problem. We purchase these items on a very regular basis and are, quite honestly, at a loss as to where they keep going. We agree that disposable are not the best option and are trying our best to stay on top of this. –Julia Gengenbach, Interim Deli Manager–East
Q: I would appreciate a good explanation for why Willow Creek ham slices at the deli are so much more expensive than the Willow Creek meat from which it is sliced costs so much less. I am agitated also that I have to copy the text of this email so I can cc others. It would be appropriate, I think, if you allowed folks writing to you to indicate other possible cc’s especially when other receivers of the copied message are thoughtful people and could contribute constructively to the issues raised, not just by me, but anyone writing in. But now to the initial topic—pork producers from Willow Creek were at the Dane County Farmers Market on Saturday October 24, 2015. I bought sliced ham for sandwiches at a price around $6.75 a pound. You sell it for around $12.00 per pound. I understand that there is a need for a mark up. But I understand that you sell Willow Creek pork roast, unsliced, the same meat you slice for sandwiches and sell in the Deli, for around $6.50 per pound. The same meat in the deli, sliced, is 12 dollars a pound? I understand that moving meat from one department, in this case the meat market, to another, the deli, can raise the price, one reason at least being that when a customer asks for slices it takes a worker some time to cut the meat. And maybe you have to factor in the cost of running the display cooler where you put the meat. And it is not just Willow Creek meat that is displayed in that cooler- you have meats from more than one source there and each of those could share the cooler cost. But I do not see/understand much more that goes on in either the deli or the meat department that could raise the cost of “sliced meat” to the extent that you price it at. When I raised this question at Willy West the only answer I got was along the lines of “we have to recover costs.” Again, I understand the need for a mark up—but I clearly do not understand why it has to be such a large mark up. Please note also that Willow Creek, at its outlet store in Sauk City, sells the same sliced pork for $6.75. I take occasional day trips to that area, and will certainly remember that price difference when I drive by. p.s. —please do not send me a response with general statements like “we have to recover costs,” etc. Rather, I hope you can find a way to share with users/owners/customers, in the Reader, for instance, just how the costs change as the sliceable meat moves from the meat market to the deli. Perhaps the response should include the price per pig per pound and the price per pound of useable/sellable meat once the pig is slaughtered, cut and delivered to you. That at least provides an average base price for the meat you can sell. But just how the price rises so rapidly really needs some fleshing out, I would think.
A: You are correct that we sell the Willow Creek sliced smoked ham in our Deli for 11.99/lb. We sometimes carry the comparable product (un-sliced boneless smoked ham) in our meat department for $10.49/lb. Bone-in ham in the meat department is priced at $6.99/lb. Because not too many people are interested in purchasing whole hams outside of holidays and special events, most of the ham we purchase from Willow Creek goes to our deli for slicing.
We also sell pork roasts in our meat department, which are a different cut of meat than the ham, and are not cured or smoked for $6.99/lb (bone-in) and $9.99/lb (boneless).
Because ham requires a labor intensive curing and smoking process, it is typically more expensive than a plain roast, which is simply raw meat. Bone-in meat is typically less expensive per pound than boneless because people are paying for the weight of the bone in addition to the meat, and the bones are not worth as much.
To address your questions:
- Why is the ham we sell sliced in the deli more expensive than the same cut in the meat department? As you can see, the difference is only $1.50/lb, and it is due to the cost of the labor for the person slicing the ham.
- Why is our Willow Creek ham more expensive than what can be purchased from them directly? I’m not sure what Willow Creek charges for smoked ham, and I’m not sure if the pricing you reference is for smoked ham or for roast; but I can say that we make a point to never undercut our farmers. You will almost always find that you can purchase food from them directly for less of a cost than you can from us.Since we purchase from them at wholesale costs and then mark products up to cover our labor and overhead, farmers can often afford to sell directly to consumers (if they choose to) for less than what you will typically see on our shelves.
- What we provide is the convenience of a grocery store setting, where you can find all kinds of local products as well as non-local products in one place, seven days a week.
- Regarding the cc on our comment form. I’ve checked in with our webmaster, and he said that this is the first request he’s heard for that addition. He was concerned that it could be used for spam, however, if we hear more requests for a cc option, we will definitely consider it further.
Thanks so much for your comment. Let me know if you have any further questions! Best Regards. -Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing
Vehicle charging stations
Q: I have a Volt and am always hoping to charge my car at one of the 2 spots you have but every time they’re both taken & never [by] plug-in cars. I want to urge to you not to trust that people will read or consider others. Put a big orange cone or sign that insists that they plug-in or park elsewhere.
A: Thank you for your advocacy. I have to admit, this is a topic we keep returning to and I’m sorry to report that at this time we cannot justify reserving these spots for vehicle charging all the time. To date, our decision has been that the overall demand on our lot is just too great to dedicate these spaces exclusively to electric vehicles. We acknowledge that a lot of Owners are challenged by the constraints of our parking lot at East and are currently looking at ways to improve the situation. Our hope is to make adjustments to our guidelines so we can improve the availability of parking, especially during our busiest times. Our changes will hopefully address your concern as well; we have a couple of ideas as to how we may better define the use of these charging spaces while also considering the high demand for parking during peak business hours.
Once we finalize our changes, we will publish them in the Reader. Since we are still working out details and how our operations will support new parking guidelines, I will not go into those details now. I appreciate your patience as we work to improve this situation and hope that the changes will provide better access for you and other owners. Please don’t hesitate to continue our conversation about this. -Dan Frost, StoreManager–East
Q: Good Morning, My husband and I are *newish* members of the co-op and have recently moved back home to Madison (June). We both have flexible schedules and are interested in becoming more involved in the co-op. Are there volunteer opportunities available? Thanks for the info
A: Thanks for reaching out to us. We do not have a volunteer program. If you are interested in applying for a job, please visit http://jobs.willystreet.coop/, as we do hire at entry level for part-time employment. Occasionally, there are opportunities for Owners to volunteer for committees. Currently, we are accepting applications for one Community Reinvestment Fund Committee member. The Community Reinvestment fund is our grant program. Committee members must be available from 6-9pm between March 14-31 for two meetings. Time outside of meetings is required to review documents. Ideal candidates have backgrounds in food justice or access, cooperative development, sustainable agriculture, health and well-being, and/or social change. Please email me directly by no later than November 15 with brief resume details and information about your interest and qualifications to serve if you are interested. Our board is also comprised of volunteers, and if you are interested in running for the board, our newsletter will have details in early spring. Section 5 of our bylaws prescribes the process and our Annual Meeting will be in mid-July this year.
If you are looking for another avenue to volunteer for a good cause, you may wish to contact Community Shares of Wisconsin, the benefactor of the Community CHIP program at our registers. They are an umbrella for about 70 nonprofits and they may have leads on groups that need volunteers. We also provide food to four food pantries that may benefit from your volunteerism: Lussier Community Education Center, Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, Goodman Community Center, and Middleton Outreach Ministry. Those are just a few ideas.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks again!
-Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services