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Member benefits just got better!

Sound Consumer | March 2002

By Nancy Schatz Alton

Please note: you are reading an archived article from the Sound Consumer. Learn about our current benefits »

Member Appreciation Days and members-only coupons are centerpieces of new benefits package.

Longtime PCC shoppers are raving about a new member benefits package being unveiled by the co-op this month. "We've compared it to packages offered by other co-ops across the nation, and we think ours is one of the strongest benefits programs available," says Laurie Lombard, PCC's Director of Marketing.

"We want tangible benefits that will make a difference for members," adds Board Administrator Kathy Blackman. "The new benefits we're rolling out will do that, better than ever. Non-members, who have never applied, will now want to apply."

Member Appreciation days will occur on the 15th of each month. Members will receive 10 percent off everything they purchase on this day, and they will need to show their card to receive the discount. (If you forget your card, bring in your receipt and card at a later date to receive the discount.)

"Instead of picking, say, a Monday every month, choosing the 15th allows for people who have a preference for a certain shopping day: it will hit their favorite day eventually," says Lombard. "Also, the 15th is payday for a lot of people. We want to make Member Appreciation Days convenient for members and easy to remember."

A second new benefit is member-only coupons in the Sound Consumer. An insert in the paper that is mailed to members' homes will contain coupons worth at least $10 each month. The coupon products are culled from the top 50 to 100 items in PCC stores, explains Lombard, guaranteeing that the savings apply to items that are popular with shoppers. You won't find these coupons in copies of the Sound Consumer carried in the stores.

A third benefits change affects both members and non-members. Sale items formerly known as "Co-op Advantage" products now will be called "Featured Items," and everyone will receive the sale price.

Many benefits will remain the same. Members will continue to receive a discount on FoodWorks Classes, with topics that range from "Traditional Vegetarian Indian Cuisine" to "Make Your Own Herbal Bodycare Products." Members also can attend a free "Natural Foods Kitchen" class and tour that runs each month in every store. And the Sound Consumer, with its dose of up-to-date news on health, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and PCC and community events, will continue to be delivered to members' doorsteps every month.

Now save at local businesses
Now members will reap benefits even when they're not shopping at PCC. The new Community Connections program is an example of how PCC stores view themselves as part of their neighborhoods. Businesses throughout the community will provide discounts and special offers to PCC members, an excellent reason for members to keep their cards with them at all times.

"Staff members at every store are going to their favorite local businesses — from the Woodland Park Zoo to video stores to naturopaths — and talking to them about offering discounts to PCC members," Lombard says. "The list will be updated constantly as new businesses join." At the beginning of each month, an updated directory will be available at the Co-op Information Center of each store. To find the most current version, click on "membership," then "Community Connections Directory" in the orange navigation bar at the top of each page.

So far, businesses involved in the Community Connections program include yoga and massage practitioners, restaurants, a security system company, a non-toxic window-washing and gutter-cleaning company, a tattoo parlor, The Bicycle Doctor, The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island, and Rainier Office Supply.

If you would like to see your favorite businesses join the program, have them contact Melissa Watson, the Community Connections coordinator, at 206-547-1222. (There is no cost for businesses, beyond the discount they offer to PCC members.) "We want to encourage people to shop in their neighborhoods and to build the financial backbone of the community," Lombard says.

PCC is also partnering with several businesses to bring additional benefits to PCC members, including substantial savings from Normandy Mortgage, Landmark Group realty, Allied Insurance and Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.

Member benefits have long history
In 1953, 15 families looking for a cheap source of white flour and sugar banded together to become a food-buying club. This garage operation — which found its food source from products damaged on trains — has become the largest food cooperative in the United States, PCC Natural Markets. Incorporated in 1961, PCC opened its first storefront in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood.

By the time Dr. Judy Lipton joined in 1975, the store had moved to the Ravenna neighborhood. "I had been a member of a food co-op at Reed College in the late 60s. By contrast, the PCC was very upscale," recalls Lipton, who is now a board member. "It was a small, comfortable, nice place where I could get all my favorite products, the things I still like, like Dr. Bronner's soaps. I was part of the 'Laurel's Kitchen' generation that bought bags of whole wheat to grind and make bread with."

Even in the early days, when PCC was the only place Seattleites could buy whole grains, members were distinguishing it from other co-ops across the country. At most cooperatives, members could put in a certain number of hours a week at tasks such as cutting cheese or throwing freight and receive a bigger food discount. PCC stopped offering this option early on, deciding to move from a part-volunteer staff to a professional staff.

"A well-run store was a trade-off for the members being less involved, but this is the direction we chose," says Board Administrator Blackman, who has been a member since 1975. "Even back then, we had a clear, articulate vision that PCC was part of a larger picture. We believed in an alternative food system and we would do whatever it took, within the limits of our integrity, to make that succeed."

During the past year, both PCC staff and PCC board members talked to co-ops across the country about member benefits. Some cooperatives give members a 5 to 10 percent discount, while co-ops such as REI give a patronage discount at the end of the year that depends on yearly profits. Neither of these benefits would work in the grocery business.

PCC would have to mark up food prices to give an across-the-board food discount; the volatile grocery industry doesn't guarantee substantial yearly profits, so members most likely would never see a patronage at year end. Members are much more likely to see tangible savings from Member Appreciation Days and member-only coupons.

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