Q: I was wondering if you would consider making cardboard boxes available & highly visible near the registers for shoppers to use instead of grocery bags. Perhaps give folks a bag discount when they do so. I really like the idea of not offering paper grocery bags at all (like the Natural Grocers on Tennyson St in Denver—you have to use your own bag or take a box, even if you're walking).
Also- is it possible to post small signs around the produce department encouraging people to use produce bags as sparingly as possible? I understand using them for things like bulk greens or mushrooms, but there is no reason to use them for most items. Perhaps also encouraging people to reuse produce bags.
Lastly, I've heard that you may be getting rid of the bulk soaps, etc, but I would love to see you keep those things!
Q: Thanks for writing. When we have cardboard boxes available, they are stored near Produce, close to the front end, because this is the area where we have the most space to offer them. Customers who reuse bags or other containers to shop help us fund Double Dollars for FoodShare/QUEST benefits participants at the Co-op and local farmers’ markets. For every reusable bag customers use, cashiers tally 10¢ for the Co-op to save for the Double Dollars Fund and for every reused disposable bag the Co-op tallies 5¢ to save for the fund. This has curbed our paper bag use by about 50%, which is in line with some municipalities that have charged a tax for bag use. Customers, of course, are welcome to use the boxes we have available as an alternative to bags, but we simply do not have enough boxes to ensure that all customers that do not have reusable bags would be able to take their groceries away without paper bags available.
We do sell reusable produce bags in the produce department and we are currently looking at ways to promote more use of these bags. To my knowledge, we do not have any plans to stop selling bulk soaps, though we are in the process of changing some of the selection available. Please let us know if you have other questions. Have a great week! -Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director
Keeping the lights on
Q: I wonder why you keep your lights on all the time. I live near by and I see them on all the time. Could you turn them off and if you can’t I would like to know why.
A: Thank you for your question about the lights at Willy East. I checked in with our Facilities Director Jim Jirous, and there are two areas with lights that we think you are seeing and they are on after store hours for different reasons.
Our parking lot lights are operated by a sensor that turns them on at dusk and turns them off again at dawn. The lights are left on overnight for the security of our staff leaving after the store closes, coming to the store before the sun comes up in the morning, and anyone else near our parking lot overnight or using the ATM machine outside. These lights also allow police and fire personnel to see the building clearly from the street if there is an emergency and act as a deterrent to criminal activity on the property.
The lights inside the store are on a timer that leaves them on two and a half hours after the store closes for staff that work until midnight. This timer also turns the lights back on two and a half hours before the store opens for staff that start their day before the store opens. Please let us know if you have other questions. Have a great day! -Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director
Q: I love your selection of bulk coffees. I don't have a high quality grinder at home, so I use your burr grinders to get the perfect grind for my Chemex. I try to buy 3 days worth of coffee at a time to make sure I'm always getting a fresh brew. As you can imagine, I use your grinders frequently.
When I begin to use a grinder, I start by flicking the metal tab on the spout to make sure ground coffee from the previous user isn't remaining in the machine. (I don't want an unknown coffee or the wrong grind going in my bag.) Most of the time, 1 or 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds come tumbling out into the tray below. This feels like such a waste.
Having worked in a coffee shop, I'm aware that flicking this tab to release all of the coffee grounds is routine procedure, and is the final step in the grinding process. However, I believe that the majority of customers are not aware that they should be doing this after each use of the grinder.
I think that the co-op should consider placing signage near the grinders to advise customers to complete this step of the process. This could result in less coffee being wasted, and ultimately, it would be a cost savings for the co-op.
A: Thanks for writing us about this! I agree that there are probably a lot of people who don't know this final step in the process, I'll surely pass your suggestion for signage along, hopefully it helps!
Thank you. -Liz Patterson, Assistant Grocery Manager—East
Q: Why am I being charged 10 cents each time I shop at the coop, and finding it on my receipt as a "contribution" to double dollars? I'm not being asked to make a contribution. What is this charge? No involuntary charges should ever be called a contribution. Please explain.
A: Thanks for asking. You are not being charged an additional 10¢ when you shop at the Co-op. The Co-op Contribution listed on your receipt is what Willy Street Co-op saves for the Double Dollars Fund each time you reuse a bag for your shopping. We contribute 10¢ to the Fund for each reusable bag a customer uses when they shop. You save us money when we use less paper bags, and we send that money to Community Action Coalition to support Double Dollars at participating farmers' markets and the Co-op. Double Dollars provides vouchers for fresh foods, fruits and vegetables to those shopping with Wisconsin FoodShare (SNAP) to stretch their limited shopping budgets further. We track your bag reuse and our contribution on customer receipts due to requests to see that we are counting people's reused bags to support the program, and with a limited number of characters available on the receipt to describe what the line item is, I can see why this could be confusing for some customers. Rest assured, you are not being charged extra involuntarily to support the program! I will check in with our Logistics and IT departments to see if there is any way to make the receipts clearer, though I'm not 100% sure how we will do it. Please let me know if I may assist you further. We appreciate your feedback! Have a great evening. -Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director
Q: It is my understanding that the Co-op has been working to develop an e-commerce website for some time. The website has been mentioned in the Willy Street Co-op Reader without necessarily elaborating on its purpose. Here in the Internet age we might assume what the website would do, but further explanation would be helpful. A vision plan must have preceded the development stage now underway.
Can someone within Co-op management state the intended purpose of the e-commerce website? Who are the people and what are the special needs that will be served? What localities would be included? In addition, because the Co-op would be a latecomer to the e-commerce business in the Madison metropolitan area, what more would the Co-op offer that is not already being offered by the competition?
The e-commerce website would just be one wheel in a bigger machine if it follows a traditional model. There might be a person who selects ordered products from store shelves and another person who drives the order to the customer's home. However it is possible that the product picker may not choose the right item, and the driver might be delayed in reaching an address. Can someone in management comment on the organization's plans to develop a quality assurance program that extends beyond the e-commerce website? If a private company were engaged to select and deliver groceries, the Co-op might be accountable for any customer relations problems.
A: Thanks for writing. The intended purpose of the e-commerce website is to offer both delivery and pickup service via an online shopping interface from the Co-op. This offering is intended to better serve the needs of some homebound customers we already provide delivery services to on a case-by-case basis, some housing co-ops and businesses that order from us frequently, and Owners and customers that enjoy the Co-op but may not live as conveniently near one of our locations. It’s not a new program, but rather one that we are in the process of re-launching for a wider audience. We plan to start the program out of Willy North, due to North having the widest selection of products, the most space for our employees to shop for customers, and the most central location for access to main highways for delivery routes. The program would essentially service the zip codes surrounding our three retail locations, Lake Monona, and Lake Mendota. The e-commerce program would offer customers an option to have pickup and delivery services provided by Willy Street Co-op with the products that we offer, something that many Owners have been asking us to offer and implement better throughout the years. Not only will the website interface be our own and fully integrated with our existing point of sale system, but products will also be picked and delivered by Co-op employees rather than via a third-party provider. We recognize some of the concerns you raise about picking products and delivery schedules, which is why we plan to roll out the program slowly, to test it with existing delivery and business customers prior to launching Co-op-wide, and to launch with clear terms of service, substitution, cancellation, and return policies. Please let us know if you have further questions. -Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director
Double dollars incentives
Q: I read your letter in the new Reader about paper and reused grocery bags. It is interesting that the Coop considers supporting the Double Dollars program an incentive for me to reuse bags (as I always do). Isn't a contribution to Double Dollars always an option for shoppers?
I don't object to supporting the program, but I don't view it as an incentive. I reuse bags for different reasons. It may have been an incentive when the 10 cents went into my pocket, but the current approach is not a motivator for me and, I suspect, for many Owners. It is simply the way the Coop is choosing to support the Double Dollars program.
I suggest offering the same "incentive" to users of paper bags. The Coop would raise more dollars for the program, unless the administrative costs are too high.
And that is my two cents worth!
A: Thanks for writing, for reusing bags for whatever reason you choose, and for supporting Double Dollars! We appreciate it regardless of your motivations!
Whenever a customer reuses a bag, we tally that bag, and keep a count of the number of times people reused bags instead of taking a disposable bag. Willy Street Co-op then donates 10¢ for each disposable bag that was not used to the Double Dollars Fund. The Co-op does not ask customers whether we should tally their bags, we do this automatically, with the money we saved from your bag reuse. Many people do see the Co-op using the money we save when they reuse bags for a good cause as an incentive, and we know this for several reasons: bag reuse has not changed with any significance from when we switched from giving a customer a credit to contributing those dimes saved to the fund; we have customers who tend to double check to ensure that cashiers have tallied their bags to support the cause; and we have had customers tell us that when they forget their bags, they make a cash donation to the Double Dollars fund using the optional scan cards available to them at the registers. Making the optional cash donation serves as a reminder to those customers to bring their bags next time they shop because they know their bag reuse also supports the fund.
We recognize that not everyone will find this program, or any other incentive, as motivating, but it's the one that we are currently committed to, and we have found it to be as successful as other methods. It reduces customer bag use by about half, which is in line with other incentives we have seen including giving customers a credit as we used to, and charging a fee for bags (which we have seen happen in other cities where ordinances require an upcharge or tax for disposable bag use). We are very grateful for the support that our customers provide Double Dollars through their optional cash donations using the scan cards, and when they reuse bags. Please let me know if you have other questions. Thanks! -Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director
Customer Response: Thank you for the prompt and thorough reply, Kirsten. Clearly much thought has gone into the bag reuse/Double Dollar program, and clearly it is working well.
I concede the point that the program is an incentive for many. Bravo to them and to you! Keep up the good work.