Suggestion Box: Norman Won't Jump at the Chance to Jump on a Call

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.

For some reason, maybe related to COVID-19, I’ve been getting increased solicitations from new vendors. Dozens of companies are all of a sudden in the mask and personal protective equipment business (except all are still short of disposable gloves). I’m hearing from lots of food and supplement companies too, with the usual new (and unique-in-the-market) claims for snack bars, breads, donuts (low carb, of course), sauces, waters, drinks (rosehip juice is a new one), sausages (now with 30% veggies), CBD everything, chocolate, coffee and more.

Frequently, these prospective vendors are not content to send product info, samples and prices; many ask me if I’d be willing to “jump on a call.” This is an immediate deal breaker; I do not “jump” on calls. I’ve never seen anyone “jump” on a call. In fact, outside of basketball and the gym, I rarely see people jump, period. What would jumping on a call even look like? Cell phone in hand, talking while jumping? Most people would soon be too out of breath to talk.

Taken literally, a telephone call consists of human vocalizations forming language to communicate via moving electrons either through wires or electromagnetic radiation. You could maybe jump on the wires while talking on a wired phone and have jumped on a call, but it’s hard to jump on electromagnetic radiation, which you can’t even see.

I think this term has become its own form of viral infection (although it didn’t originate in a wet market). I would like to know where it started; probably by someone that fancies themselves an “influencer” or “thought leader.” Remember the word “jawn?” It came, infected lots of people’s language for a while, then faded away. Does language have viral forces in nature, too? Do we need a vaccine for these kinds of words? I want immunity!

During some of the recent looting aftermath, I found myself wondering where all that plywood came from. Is the stock of it now low, like what happened with toilet paper after the hoarding? Now that it’s been removed, what happened to it? Was it trashed? Recycled? It seems like we have plenty of plywood available on a moment’s notice to protect property, but not enough to build even temporary housing for the homeless — another societal disconnect exposed by the virus.

suggestions and responses:

s: “As a long-standing member of Weavers Way, I have always wondered about what options the Co-op has to avoid distributing food and beverages in Tetra Paks. As you must know, these are non-recyclable, despite the packaging note that usually says, “Recyclable where facilities exist,” which they don’t. This is greenwash!”

r: (Norman) Our info is that the city changed this a few years ago; same for paper milk and orange juice cartons and the like. The Streets Department website used to be more specific, but is now more general. But according to Green Philly, Tetra Paks are recyclable in Philadelphia’s single stream recycling program. Tetra Paks have three layers —paper, foil, and plastic —and each material is fairly recyclable if the machinery exists to separate it. In the last few years, enough recyclers invested in this machinery because the market supported the investment, making a once non-recyclable package, recyclable.

s: “The toilet paper we’ve been selling recently is less effective and comfortable than our old brands.”

r: (Norman) When the pandemic hit, consumer-oriented toilet paper was one of the products hoarded and the industry is still trying to catch up. Ironically, as restaurants and institutions closed, there was plenty of the commodity, institutional-type toilet paper typically made for public bathrooms.

What we’ve been selling is what we normally use in our own bathrooms. Even four months after the pandemic hit, supplies have not caught up, and many of the consumer brands we normally stock are still in short supply from our main supplier. Some brands are reporting they won’t be available again until November. We do order our normal brands most weeks to see if any are coming back, but it’s been spotty. We would love to stock Marcal, which is made nearby, but none of our distributors carry it and we are too small to buy direct.

Incidentally, almost none of our suppliers list toilet paper as toilet paper, preferring the term “bath tissue.” Since a bath involves immersing one’s body in a tub, I don’t really see the point of tissue; it would just disintegrate. This seems like a misnomer, which we need to get away from in this era of fake news.

Accuracy in language is something to be valued. So is accurate knowledge of history, so here is a bit of history (assuming Google results are accurate): “The first modern toilet paper was made in 1391, when it was created for the needs of the Chinese emperor and his family. Each sheet of toilet paper was perfumed, and that version is close to the version that we use today.”

s: “What’s up with Bell & Evans? They’ve been in the news lately for COVID and worker exposure and support, plus higher than normal levels of salmonella.”

r: (Norman) Like much in the news about the meat industry lately, there is a lot going on. Some things are transparent, some things not so much and some in between. So far, on balance, we still think Bell & Evans is the best choice for locally and “naturally” raised chicken at an affordable price. We were disappointed to hear of these issues, and tried to find out what we could by talking to both our distributor of B&E products and a B&E rep directly. For a couple orders, we also did some subbing of B&E with other brands. We’ve also been subbing out other meat brands, including B&E, as COVID has disrupted the meat supply chain more than other foods.

Regarding B&E and COVID, they claim they responded promptly and transparently and prioritized the safety and health of their workforce. They claim no confirmed cases for well over a month as of July 5. You can read their full response here:, or go to their website and search “COVID.” Their statement is what you would expect a large company to say — they’re in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control; they provided personal protective equipment; they extended sick leave; they practice social distancing; they put up dividers, they do extra cleaning, etc.

We have no way of independently verifying these claims; all we really know is that over the years B&E has appeared to put more effort in to producing chicken products in a more healthy way than their competitors, and this started like 25 years ago, before humane treatment and healthy raising practices were as large a concern as they are now. We’d hope this same concern would carry over to staff treatment, and this was the first we heard that it may not have. They do get decent ratings on Indeed.

Like most large companies, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were gaps, and with COVID, gaps are much more serious. Regarding salmonella, B&E had two products (chicken parts and ground chicken, technically called “comminuted”) that tested Category Three, the worst. B&E responded that they in general get good ratings, that salmonella measures can fluctuate due to a variety of factors, including warmer weather, and that transparency is not an issue since salmonella scores are public information available to anyone via the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. I checked this, and B&E (listed as Farmer’s Pride) is one of five companies that scored Level 3 in their USDA district. This is not to say this is good or acceptable, more that it’s a measure of the difficulty of maintaining low scores over long periods and varying conditions over dozens of products, of which the raw material (chickens) originates from numerous farms.

There have been no warnings or recalls for any B&E products. Consumer guides, and the food safety training many of our staff receive, always suggest cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165° to kill salmonella, and avoiding cross-contamination by washing knives, cutting boards, hands and other surfaces and keeping raw meat of any kind separate from ready-to-eat food. If anyone wants to see the full B&E letter about this, email me and I’ll send it to you.

s: “I know we’ve had seedless watermelon. Why can’t we get hairless corn? I can never seem to get them all off. They get all over everything and annoy me.”

r: (Norman) Do you want to live in a world without sex or corn kernels? The “silk” is how pollen’s genetic material gets to the ovules to form kernels on the cob — one strand per ovule, monogamous and couple-like. Corn silk has been used in folk medicine, although I’m not sure it has any proven beneficial medicinal effect.

As for getting the silk off, I did see a brush on Amazon for removing corn silk with a nice review: “This is just a toilet brush made in a more pleasing color and attached to a smaller handle.” Another productive approach is to trim the silk using haircutting scissors to practice precision haircutting.