Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Uptight hippies

After my fabulous containers finally arrived from The Container Store, I headed over to check out the Park Slope Food Co-op. I told the woman at the checkout that I was thinking of becoming a member and wanted to take a look at the place. She told me to speak to a different woman, who was the squad leader or something like that. So I told the squad leader that I was thinking of becoming a member and wanted to take a look at the place. She told me to come back for one of the tours. I said that a tour wouldn't be necessary, I just wanted to look around for a minute and then leave. Apparently that's not permitted. Not only is it members-only for shopping, but it's also members-only for entering, unless a shopper-worker is around to chaperone. Yikes!

Not far from this Co-op, one can purchase a slice of best-in-the-city Joe's Pizza and a crisp can of diet Coke for $3, no membership necessary.

I tried, in vain, to figure out the rationale behind the members-only-may-enter rule. Aren't hippies and hippie-sympathizers supposed to be laid-back? One guess was that they're worried about shoplifting. But aren't all supermarkets worried about this? Another was that the Co-op is trying to maintain an exclusive environment, one not unlike tiny liberal-arts colleges in the middle of nowhere where an egalatarian feel and anti-materialist, anti-bourgeois sentiment abounds, but where the joys of communal life are nevertheless restricted to a privileged few. After all, hippies, like all other subcultures, want to be surrounded by their own kind, and random newcomers to the neighborhood looking for a good local supermarket might not fit the profile.

My best guess, though, is that the rationale is unknowable. As in a foreign country, where the rules contradict everything one has ever known and thus appear illogical (Why do Parisian bakeries make such a fuss about receiving correct change?), the Park Slope Food Co-op operates on a system entirely incomprehensible to those on the outside. I came to the Co-op to learn if being on the inside was something I'd be interested in pursuing, but I think the idea is, if you have to ask, you don't belong.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, if the hoi-polloi knew just how cheap the Reggiano was, there would be problems.

Happily, I'm sure you've been permanently blacklisted now.

Anonymous said...

The biggest reason the coop doesn't allow non members in is not because of shoplifting. In order to be a member, you have to work a minimum if two nights a month at the coop. Working in a squad, stocking shelves, working the register-you name it. There is no way around it. It isn't fair to let people who don't help run the coop shop there. The coop isn't an ivory tower type "liberal arts college" institution at all. In fact, it is one of the most diverse communities in the city.

Anonymous said...

Hippies? I thought the hippie stereotype was about everything being free and easy or something. At the coop you work, and everyone works together to make the place run.

Shoplifting is not the major concern - the store takes money and resources to run. If non-members could come in and shop there, there'd be thousands more people suddenly coming in to buy stuff. The prices are lower than anyone's, certainly any coop: A fixed markup of 21% on every item. If one week an item cost the coop $1 to acquire, then it will be sold for $1.21. How this is at all practical is that, for every extra person who comes in and starts moving products off the shelves, that's one more person who also comes in and helps get the products onto the shelves.

Without that, the whole thing falls apart.

It seems weird to you that you can't just walk in and buy stuff like at a pizzeria, because you're thinking this is a grocery store. It's not. It's a food cooperative, owned and operated by the members. Membership is open to all, but everyone has to agree to work together to keep the coop running. Does that actually seem strange to you?

You seem upset that you didn't get to find out more. Well, you could have and still can show up to an orientation session on many days each week. Or you could show up another time and see if a member is available to walk you around the coop. Why so upset that you didn't get to do exactly what you wanted, when you wanted, when you walked into someone else's establishment? Show some cooperation and you will find it's easy to get things to work out.

Anonymous said...

Above, "You have to work a minimum of two nights a month". That's incorrect: it's 1 work shift every four weeks(it's a week-based calendar, not monthly). A shift is between 2 hours (maintenance) and 2:45 (most other shifts). Shifts start as early as 5:30 a.m., and as late as 8pm. See

Anonymous said...

How can you have an opinion on the co-op if you've never been there? That's so crass.

Too oft people have opinions on things they haven't researched. Do you want to contribute to this problem? What if I told everyone your blog sucked? I've never read it, nor will I. How would that make you feel?

Take your vendetta on "hippies" somewhere else. What about your vendetta on rich people who can afford all the finest foods? Only by banding together are we able to get the wholesale prices. I can eat all organic food. Thanks to this, on a stipend which one purchased me a staple diet of rice and beans, I can now afford to eat gourmet meals every day. Sink your teeth into that.

The only price I had to pay for this was an investment. This money helps to stock the shelves for me, until I come in and buy the food. Since I have food stamps, I only had to pay a $10 investment fee. This means the difference between me starving and me not starving. Would you prefer people to starve?

Blogging is about niche. Write what you know, not what you don't know.

Anonymous said...

Ha! That's so funny. I was about to comment that your post was racist but caught myself, because clearly the right term is prejudiced. Looking at the title of your blog, however, I see that you are a Zionist, so I'm guessing you are a racist, aren't you?

I don't want to say all Zionists are racists, because that would be racist, but ask yourself this. Do you like Palestinians?

Do you believe Palestinian children should starve? People need food, water, and shelter to surive. They are basic human rights. Removing for an entire race food (destroying greenhouses), water (destroying water tanks), and removing shelter (bulldozing houses) is, you guessed it, genocide. I personally cried about the Holocaust today. Do you ever cry for the Palestinians that don't exist?

I guess your problem is that close-mindedness characterizes your personality (prejudice, racist, skeptic). A little public service announcement. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but my only advice to you is to get a new brain.

To believe everything and to doubt everything are equally convenient solutions, because each removes the need to think. -Abraham Lincoln

If this doesn't describe you, feel free to reply in the comments.