Good-Bye First Alternative Co-Op - I Am Taking My Business To Trader Joe's

Here's a letter I recently sent to the First Alternative Co-Op:


I have been shopping at the Co-Op since 1997. However, that time has come to an end now that Trader Joe's is coming to town. Why? I am fed up with having to bag my own groceries.

I have brought up this issue in e-mail and on the customer comment cards. I noticed I was not the only one having this issue in a Thymes edition that ran a couple of years ago. At the time, this particular customer was reassured bagging was part of the customer service/check-out procedure and the issue would be discussed/reviewed with staff.

Nothing has changed. In fact, the problem has only grown worse as you have added new staff (North Store). In fact, the last time I chose to ask a clerk if she would please bag my groceries, she gave me attitude. It was a Sunday evening late last fall. The store was very quiet. Upon finishing up the transaction, she proceeded to get on the phone and made a personal call while my groceries (4 bags worth) sat on the countertop. I waited until she was finished then asked her if she could please bag my groceries. She gave me a dirty look and sighed, then slowly began to bag my groceries. At the end I asked her if I could have some beans for my bags. She told me to help myself.

Today I was waited on by Max. I am very noticably pregnant. He didn't bother to bag my groceries. In fact, there was an elderly woman in front of me - likely near 80 or so - and he failed to bag her groceries as well.

Frankly, I am finished with paying my precious extra dollars in order to shop at and support your store. I (or no other customer) should ever have to ask a clerk to bag my groceries, regardless of how busy the store is. When I lived in Portland, I shopped at Trader Joe's frequently. I never once had to bag my own groceries. So for me and my family the choice is easy. Do we pay more for a place that provides less in customer service or do we pay less for a place that provides more in customer service?

That's an easy one for me to answer. Good-bye, Co-Op. You have had your chance to rectify this situation but have failed.

Before I conclude, I do want to say there are some real gems working there. They include Jonathan, Amy, Roslyn, the young girl with glasses and the nose ring, the store manager (all of whom ALWAYS bag my groceries) and the young girl with the pink dyed hair who stocks the produce. I realize (unlike Michelle Adams statement in the Thymes that the co-op pays their staff a higher wage - the clerks at Trader Joe's start at $9/hour whereas the co-op starts their staff at minimum wage) that many of these people make a wage that falls way below the living wage model (to which the Co-Op needs to seriously reconsider if they are to be taken serious in their sustainability philosophy). And I know, from past experience, what it is like to work with the public in a demanding job, having to stand on your feet and do the same thing repeatedly. However - perhaps if some of these lazy clerks of yours realized there are hundreds of very willing unemployed folks (my husband amongst that crowd) who would take the chance at being employed in their positions, they would rethink how they conduct themselves on the job.


Edwardjon said...

When I joined the co-op a few years ago I asked that the Tymes be mailed to my home instead of me needing to look for one in places around town.

One would have thought I was asking for a lifetime of free beer or something. They do not send the Tymes to my home. I seldom shop Co-op. Too expensive for me anyway.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't help but notice you mentioned no less than six stellar employees and only two bad ones. Seems like the good outnumber the bad .

Nina said...

who are you, anon? a co-op employee? i used two people as an example but i have had much more in the way of "bad" employee experiences in terms of refusal to bag my groceries. re-read my letter and that will be more clear.

and btw--no one from the co-op responded to my e-mail which tells me, as usual, they don't give a giant squat about customer service. it's all about pretentious aloofness and false promises.

Anonymous said...

I am a co-op customer, and have had bad service on occasion, but I would say the good service has outweighed it. When I was new to town and didn't know anyone, Sue the cashier really made me feel welcome. I also remember the woman with the short hair and nose ring treating me well. I don't mind bagging my own groceries, but if you were pregnant I could see how that would be necessary and the cashier should have gladly done it.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed major improvements in customer service since the new manager came recently (in late 2010?). I think most of the customer service issues had to do with a some volunteers. Checkers have offered to put my groceries in bags for me, so I guess I don't have the same experience with that. I think if someone is disabled, checkers would offer to do it. I think they have the best customer service in town now, and they are a whole lot cheaper than Market of Choice, and the quality is the best in the area.