Suggestion Book

Norman Weiss, Weavers Way Purchasing Manager

Greetings and thanks for writing. As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

Some interesting numbers for the year ending June 30, 2018 (our Fiscal Year 2018):

  • $120,140: Total spent on electricity.
  • $425,000: Total spent on credit-card fees.
  • $280,000: Total spent on packaging.
  • $70,000: Total spent on trash removal (including recycling).
  • $10,600: Total spent on staff training and education.

Credit-card fees are the second largest non-payroll expense we have, exceeded only by rent.*

(*We own the Mt. Airy buildings, but we rent Ambler, Next Door in Chestnut Hill and the warehouse on Hunting Park Avenue. We also own the main Chestnut Hill store but we pay ourselves rent for it — it’s set up as own limited liability corporation because there are apartments upstairs.)

While all forms of payment incur some expense (processing and depositing checks and cash also cost money), one does wonder if there is a better method of offering shoppers a convenient payment method that doesn’t send $425,000 out of the co-op economy to be spent by banks and credit-card processors on who knows what. Maybe we can figure something out, like the ability to add money to EasyPay accounts via bank transfer (we are looking into this). Or go back to the roots of American civilization: The Maya used cacao beans both as currency and as a drink.

Last month, we showed a documentary in The Backyard at Chestnut Hill. “Plastic China” followed two Chinese families who earn a meager living sorting waste plastic to be remanufactured into plastic pellets for re-use. This waste material is not worth much these days, partly because the value of recycled plastic is related to the price of oil, and with oil prices being (relatively) low, the economics of recycled plastic tip less toward economic viability.

Most of us never see the impact of throwaway plastic, though we do hear about how it’s accumulating in the ocean, its effect on wildlife and how it doesn’t biodegrade. We don’t hear much about how it directly affects the lives of people in other countries. It’s not a pretty story and it’s worth finding out about if you are concerned about the impact of your consumer decisions on the environment and other people.

suggestions and responses:

s: “Love the Caesar salad! I buy the dressing too, and like adding a little extra to the salad.”

r: (Dan MA) Thanks and we’ll keep them stocked!

s: “Three Springs peaches are my favorite produce item for the whole year.”

r: (Norman) Over the years, we’ve found Three Springs to be one of our best orchards. (Editor’s note: Three Springs, in Adams County, was just honored as a PA Century Farm for being in the same family for 100 years or more.) Their fruit is almost always good and they are good at implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Unlike Tinder, which tries to match people based on passing sexual interest, Three Springs IPM uses pheromone mating disruption to confuse the males even more than the males’ naturally confused state, which limits their ability to swipe right and hook up, thus resulting in fewer pests.

s: “Lemons are outrageously expensive at 79 cents for conventional and $1.49 for organic!”

r: (Norman) Produce pricing is largely about supply and demand. The lemon supply was diminished by higher-than-normal heat in California, which caused some trees to drop their lemons before they could be harvested (known as “premature elemonation”). Normally other suppliers, like citrus-growers in Mexico, can augment the California supply, but Mexican lemon growers had their own problem of the trees getting too cold last December, with lower production as a result. A quick check of Acme, Giant and Whole Foods shows prices similar to ours. Supplies are expected to increase sometime in September, so prices are expected to return to more normal levels in the fall. Lemons are one of our best-selling items; in June, Weavers Way shoppers bought 5,713 conventional lemons and 1,820 organic lemons.

s: “What happened to the large bags of Common Market frozen vegetables?”

r: (Norman) Common Market is a local distributor of local and regional produce and a few other food products. They mainly serve institutions like hospitals and schools but do work with some retail stores, Weavers Way being one of the largest. We were delighted when Common Market came out with their frozen veggie line, as the spinach, corn, green beans and peas were of high quality, reasonably priced and grown by local farmers using IPM methods (except the green beans). Unfortunately, Common Market struggled to provide proper and legal labels for the bags, and they also had trouble getting the labels to stay stuck to the bags. They eventually re-designed the label and in the process basically re-did the program, including going to a one-pound bag.

s: “With all the attention on the problems plastic is causing these days, can’t we just go back in time to the pre-plastic era? Humans lived for centuries without plastic.”

r: (Norman) Those humans were not modern humans. Our DNA has adapted and babies can no longer survive out of the womb without coming into contact with plastic within the first four hours of life. It’s a codependent relationship, as it turns out plastic has its own consciousness and need to reproduce, which is the real reason there is so much plastic in the world. Every time a human holds a single-use plastic bottle, tears open plastic packaging, stores leftovers in Tupperware or touches their plastic phone-screen protector, they make the global plastic consciousness stronger. This spurs it to motivate humans to manufacture and use still more plastic, with the goal of plastic eventually replacing the oceans and atmosphere, after which a new form of life will evolve, one that thrives on plastic, of which there will be plenty.

s: “What’s this I hear that soon all food will come from one country and one company?”

r: (Norman) Correct, the entire food-supply chain will be part of the conglomerate known as Chinazon, which will combine the best aspects of low-cost Chinese labor and land with Amazon order fulfillment and customer service. U.S. farmers and everyone else can relax as the perfect meal shows up like clockwork every mealtime via driverless vehicle. Sensors implanted in your stomach will determine what nutrients you need and in what quantity and Alexa will sense the cuisine that appeals to you and formulate an order so the entire process is automated and all you have to do is lift the food from your plate to your mouth. Of course, eating, like most processes, involves waste; so far, Chinazon is ignoring that part of the process, probably because it’s harder to monetize. Maybe Alexa can get off her stand and do some recycling and odor purification while she’s resting (free for Prime members), so when the plastic packaging eventually gets back to China, it’s presentable enough to be allowed back in and China will reverse its recent ban on the importation of U.S. plastic for recycling.