Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | May 2002
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Member Appreciation Day
I am now pleased with the new member benefits and I wanted to let you know because I complained about 5 weeks ago. I went to do my monthly shopping on the 15th and it was not too crowded. With the 10% off, I saved over $6, even though I did not use any coupons. I was impressed to see that this month you have reinstated the "$1 off any purchase over $10" coupon, like you did before. Also, I think I may use some of the other coupons this month. Thank you for making PCC even better!
— Bert and Annette Mull
We were absolutely appalled by the characterization of the new member benefits in the latest Sound Consumer, "Member Benefits Just Got Better!" First, it is not worth 10% to us to crowd into the store on a specific date each month with a throng of other shoppers. Since most of the PCC stores are small, it seems to be lunacy to try and attract a lot of people on one specific day. Second, it is very nice to include the coupons. Unfortunately, for this month, there is not a single item we would purchase!
Depending on how many people decide it is fun to jam into your stores on the 15th, it may be that this costs the Co-op more dollars. This does not include the stocking problems, and having to have more inventory on hand for a single day. We must say, we think this is a very strange development.
— Dana Vance & Valda DeLong
The Member Appreciation Day will be nice. Thank you for doing that, but please get rid of the coupon page and bring back the $1 on anything coupons! I buy raw or basic ingredients ... I don't think your coupons will benefit me.
— Margaret Bradford
The addition of coupons is an insult to long-time PCC customers. Coupons are a pain in the neck and just about everyone (who has a life and a schedule to keep) hates them. Do not think that we members have not noticed the disappearance of in-store membership discounts.
— Eric Madis
I don't want to shop when it's busy. Why not a coupon (one-time use) to use at our leisure? Then the staff doesn't stress and we don't either.
— Rachel Hanson
Laurie Lombard, Director of Marketing replies:
We originally wanted to let shoppers choose what day they could take their discount, but we need a more sophisticated register data system to do that. We're looking hard at how we could allow more flexibility. We hear you loud and clear that having to shop on a certain day to get the 10% discount is not flexible enough. We're working on that.
In the meantime, the Member Appreciation Day returns more dollars to members than ever; we returned more than $75,000 to members since it began in March. PCC received many complaints about the old Co-op Advantage pricing ("in-store membership discounts") from product selection and lack of significant savings, to how shopping invitations gave non-members the member prices, diluting the value of membership. Those Co-op Advantage savings on more than 1,000 items per month are ongoing, but they're now called "Featured Items" and are available to all shoppers. The one day at 10 pecent off for members is an additional benefit for members, not a substitute.
Regarding coupons, wanting more of them is a frequent request heard from members. The member-only coupons in each Sound Consumer insert are drawn from the 100 top-selling grocery items. We've restored a $1 off anything coupon. Also, the monetary benefit of discounts for PCC members at more than 150 "community connection" businesses and services — from insurance to massage to bicycles — is quite substantial. A few transactions could pay for your PCC membership.
Organic vs. free-range eggs
Thank you for the article on organic eggs ("In Season", March 2002). However, I noticed a discrepancy regarding the terms "organic" and "free range." Organic eggs are not necessarily free range. They often come from hens that are confined to battery cages. The term "organic" ensures that hens' feed is not treated with pesticides; it is no guarantee of the hens' living conditions.
On a similar note, free range hens do not always eat organic — unless the packaging states it. Consumers beware: there are no government standards regulating the term "free-range." Free-range hens are often debeaked. There is also no minimum requirement on outdoor space, so hens are often cramped in holding pens with as little as one or two square feet per bird. And when their egg production declines, they are shipped off to meatpacking plants.
"Organic" and "free range" are good things to look for in an egg, but we should investigate the actual conditions behind the words before we are lulled into a false sense of complacency.
— Jean Cockburn, Issaquah
PCC Merchandising Assistant Harvey Varga responds:
You're correct that "free range" is a slippery term, but it does mean some access to out of doors, even if it's just a flap that opens and closes. Living conditions always have been a major consideration in any organic production system we're aware of, and in the federal organic standards it definitely will be. It will not be spelled out as "x number of feet per bird," but it'll be a "guideline" to the producer and the certifier.
All our organic eggs from Stiebrs are from free-range hens. None of the Stiebrs' hens are in battery cages, except those producing "Fry and Try" eggs. Stiebrs battery cages are larger than typical. The first industry standards will take effect in October.
You're also correct that free-range hens don't necessarily get organic feed. All Stiebrs' free-range hens are fed non-genetically engineered feed without animal byproducts. Hens, even commercial chickens, are no longer debeaked. Today's procedure of "beak trimming" means chicks to have the first 1/8-inch of the beak trimmed at exactly seven days. At this age, no nerve endings have formed and the trim is bloodless. It is painless and quite similar to trimming a fingernail. Organic husbandry does permit beak trimming, but it's optional. Not all certified organic producers do it now and several never will. It's the type of procedure that has "management" guidelines given to the grower and certifier.
Thank you for getting involved
A huge "thank you" to all of you who wrote or called Senator Patty Murray and Representative George Nethercutt ("Get Involved" Sound Consumer, March) urging their support of the Organic Farming Program at WSU! Your letters and calls were instrumental in convincing them to include the WSU Organic Program in their priorities for 2003 funding. Representatives Rick Larsen and Norm Dicks also included the program in their list of priorities. All of these four are all on key agricultural or appropriations committees.
Additionally, your letters to WSU President Lane Rawlins have really raised the Organic Program's visibility with him. He has asked key administrators in agriculture and extension to meet with him later this month to specifically discuss the Organic Program proposal for WSU's biennial budget request.
Again, thank you for taking the time to help with this campaign. Your letters and calls really helped to move it forward!
— Bonnie Rice, Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network