Suggestion Box: Can Shopping Be "Delightful?"

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.

“Delighting customers”: This was part of our trade group’s theme for 2019. Many food co-ops in the country belong to NCG, or National Co-op Grocers, the trade group of about 148 co-ops operating about 200 stores. As a consumer myself, probably the first thing I ever bought was 60 years ago, probably penny candy, likely Bazooka bubble gum. Once I learned how money and stores worked, I moved along the consumer path, and my purchases started to include things like cap guns, slingshots, pimple balls, and of course, more candy. 

Throughout my consumer life, I can’t really remember ever being “delighted” by a shopping experience or product or store. Maybe I’m just hard to delight. Maybe I suffer from retail delightaphobia and avoid situations where delight could ensue from shopping, and/or deny it when it happens. I started to wonder if the NCG theme of delight was a pipe dream/slogan of marketers or should be taken seriously. Are Weavers Way shoppers ever delighted by shopping experiences? Is it materialistic to be delighted by shopping? Is there a co-op principle that could be related to delighting shoppers? 

I don’t know the answer to the first question, but would think the answer to the second question is yes, and to the third question is maybe. International Co-op Principle #3 is about member economic participation, and although the seven principles don’t mention shopping or products, they do mention transactions. So, at least for members, some kind of shopping can be inferred, with the potential for delight. Do we have members who can be delighted by shopping? Turns out we might.

It occurred to me to search the 2018 Member Satisfaction Survey for the word “delight.” In the 125 pages of the survey results, the word appeared three times in what a member wrote:

“As a working member, I have had mixed experiences with the overseeing staff member. Most are pleasant and professional. A few are delightful.” (This member went on to complain that some staff were not so great to work with).

“I am delighted to see Sun & Earth cleaning products, and would like to see Marcal paper products offered — 100% recycled for almost 100 years, right in Philly! (Long story, but Sun & Earth changed hands and moved from the Philly area to Ohio, which made it difficult to get some of their bulk products. We’re looking for a good substitute. Marcal is also being researched.)

“Hard to think of any improvements. I am sure there are inevitable internal issues, but I am absolutely delighted to have Weavers Way and recommend it all the time. With all our concerns about the environment, food production issues, treatment of the animals we eat, pesticides, etc., I feel I can shop at the Co-op and know that you all are doing your best.”

So we have at least two members who, if not delighted by shopping, find some delight in the staff and Co-op’s existence. And we have one member who found some delight in a product brand. So we’ve delighted at least one shopper in 2018, which I will now report to NCG.

suggestions and responses:

s: “Why is string cheese called string cheese when it is much thicker than string, and you can’t really tie anything with it, or do other things you would use string for, like fly a kite?”

r: (Norman) We take your point. However, we did not invent this nomenclature, and sometimes a co-op has to adopt societal norms even if we disagree with them.

s: “We need keto cookies/brownies/cupcakes. Dessert Crazy in Fairmount sells them wholesale. Those of us with diabetes & pre-diabetes will buy them even at a huge expense.”

r: (Matt, MA) We’ll look into options for Keto desserts. In the meantime, we have many Keto-friendly baking supplies on the second floor! (Norman) Does anyone really need cookies and cakes and brownies? Bread baking began in 600 B.C. Before that, no one had cupcakes, and since necessity is the mother of invention, for most of human history no one needed cookies or brownies either. 

s: “The store has Ezekiel bread in the freezer. Would it be possible to include Ezekiel wraps as well? Thank you very much! Be well!”

r: (Matt, MA) Unfortunately, our freezer space is very limited, but we would happily pre-order a case for you. See a grocery staffer for details.

s: “Is there any chance you all (we?) could get Hampton Creek’s big jars of Just Mayo back in stock? Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise is the vegan equivalent of Miracle Whip, which is gross to many people… Thanks!”

r: (Matt, MA) We had trouble with our supplier sending us Just Mayo for a while. We’ll see what we can do to get it back.

s: “We need music in the Mt. Airy store.”

r: (Norman) Please pressure Rick, the Mt. Airy store manager. He would have to agree to it. We also have to be careful, as music could lead to more delight in shopping and we don’t want to get a swelled head.

s: “New version of bulk chocolate ginger #60293 is far inferior to the previous model, which had good chunks of crystalized ginger enrobed in good chocolate. New ones are like anemic Raisinets with a little ginger flavor. Please go back to the originals.”

r: (Matt, MA) Unfortunately this change was made by our supplier, not by our choice. We will pass along your feedback.

s: “Can we carry No Bull burgers again? They are now gluten-free & their original & curry flavors are delicious.”

r: (Matt, MA) I’ll look into it & see if we can figure out the space that would be required.

s: “Could this location carry more options for milk in glass bottles that can be returned for a deposit? I’d like to cut back on my waste and this location only carries raw milk in a glass bottle. The other locations have whole milk and other reusable options, but I shop here. Thank you! Really love this place.”

r: (Matt, MA) Unfortunately, due to our incredibly limited refrigerated space, we are not able to offer all the products we’d like to, especially when it comes to local dairy.

s: “Matzoh! Not gluten-free, not zero sodium, not whole wheat. Just regular matzoh. None available since Passover.”

r: (Matt, MA) Apparently, our supplier mistakenly categorized regular matzoh as a seasonal item and removed it from their normal offerings. Same thing happened with Kedem Grape Juice. We are working on getting it back to normal.

s: “While vegan food choices seem to be on the rise, I’m a carnivore and would like to see more meat choices, especially wild. I’ve heard aardvark meat is low in carbs, and tangy with a hint of watermelon.”

r: (Norman) Sounds yummy. Not too many fruity meats around. Importing meat from Africa is a bit of a challenge for a little co-op chain like us, so we’d have to find an importer with other customers. Maybe a small burger or steak chain would partner with us to bring some in aardvarks. They feed on termites, so they are naturally raised, albeit not grass-fed. 

I wonder if meat with a label stating “naturally raised, termite-fed” would delight shoppers?