Friday, June 11, 2010

Has WinCo Ever Claimed to Be "Green"? Nope.

My mind is going a million miles an hour here, so bear with me a bit.  I have been surfing the 'net this morning trying to find out if WinCo had ever made any statements about going "green".  I was not surprised that I could find no mention of it, either on their web site or in any press releases.  (Incidentally, when I Googled the words "WinCo" and "green" together, I did find some rather disturbing press releases about recalled hamburger and e.coli. at WinCo.  I am so glad I am a vegetarian. Gag.)

I was researching this because I have been having a fight with the local WinCo here on the issue of using my own containers and bags for the items in the bulk food section.  "Fight" may be a strong word here, but I'll use it anyway, because it makes me feel cooler.  Anyway, it started when a cashier the other day told me that I couldn't use my own containers for my bulk.  What?!? I was so shocked at this.

Nearly 80 million tons of waste is generated from packaging and containers annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or nearly a third of annual municipal solid waste. These fill-er-up stations are the best way to cut back on supermarket packaging, because there's none to speak off, especially if you tote along your own reusable bags and containers. And it's cheaper than buying prepackaged.

Here is the letter I wrote to WinCo, via their form letter thingy on their web site:

Store: Eugene

  Time/Date: June 7  5pm

  Subject: comment

  Message: The cashier I had ringing up my groceries told me that I could not
  use my own containers for my bulk items.  She said that she was informed by
  the Bulk department that the health department wont allow it.

  First of all, my containers were clean and frankly, cleaner than some of the
  packaged goods that come off the shelf.  Also, I shop at (and used to cashier
  at) Market of Choice and lots of people used their own containers for bulk
  items, for things such as food and non-food items.  I think that the Bulk
  department at the Eugene store is misinforming people.  If I have to start
  using paper or plastic bags in the bulk section of your store, I will shop
  somewhere else.

  The other thing is that this is not the first time that the cashier(s) did not
  know how to deduct the tare from the product I am buying.  All of my
  containers have the tare clearly written on them (by another WinCo employee
  from another date).  My cashier did not know how to calculate it, or even
  input it into the register.  I think a little training on that end would save
  people a lot of time.  In the end I felt sorry for the people behind me in
  line and did not get the tares deducted, so I ended up paying for the weight
  of my containers.  I was not happy.

  Satisfaction: 2

So, just in case someone reading this doesn't know, Market of Choice is not my favorite company in the world to work for but they have a great selection of organic and "green" products.  It's kinda like a Whole Foods, but only in Oregon.  Anyway, the reason I shop at WinCo for my bulk foods is partly because it is near to my home and because they carry some bulk items that MOC does not, like wild bird seed.  And I will admit, they are definitely cheaper when it comes to the organic baking stuff like flour and raw sugar.  

However, this is the response I received from WinCo:

 Thank you so much for using our online comment card to share your concerns
  about our Eugene store,

  Per our Vice President of Bulk Foods bringing one's own containers is
  currently not allowed, this is mainly done due to the tare issues it would
  cause at the registers since most likely in most cases the containers would
  not have the tares written on them like yours do.  This would mean our
  cashiers would have to determine what the tare is at the registers (possibly
  emptying the container, weighing it by itself, subtracting that amount from
  the total weight, etc.) and as you can imagine this would cause some delays
  at the registers.

  While we know some stores have allowed this, the above is our official
  policy and we do apologize if our cashier did not have the right explanation
  on hand regarding our policy.  We do appreciate your concerns and will
  forward them to the store.

  Thanks for your time,
  Abisay Herrera, Coordinator of Online Marketing
  € WinCo Foods  LLC €  An Employee Owned Company -
In my opinion, I think that if a person is making a conscious effort to be "green" by bringing their own containers, they are probably going to be intelligent enough to know that if they don't weigh them before filling them, they are going to be paying for the weight of the container itself.  I don't think I am giving too much credit here.  

I realize that a very large percentage of the patrons at WinCo are low-income and have more to worry about than being "green" and most do not use their own containers. I also realize that these customers are the ones that WinCois using their own container for the flour they wish to purchase is going to be so price-conscious that they insist on having their flour removed from the container because they forgot to weigh it the first time when it was empty?  Puleez....

And "tare issues"?  Let me tell you what they mean by the "tare issues" that was not actually put into words in the letter to me.  The cashiers at WinCo are not informed as to what a tare is.  (And in case you are not aware, a tare is just a fancy way of saying "the weight of the empty container".)  This last time I went through the line at WinCo, I said, "The tare is written on a tag on the bottom." while pointing out what I meant.  The cashier just gave me a blank stare.  I then said, "You know, the weight of the container?"  She continued to stare.  Me: sighing, "Look, just weigh the whole thing without pressing any buttons.  Write down the weight, subtract the tare that I showed you, then manually charge me the price per pound for that weight."  Bless her, she tried.  She did what I said, and got a correct weight, but in the end did not know how to manually input a price per pound.  In the end I said screw it and just let her do it as if it were in one of their plastic bags (although that particular container weighed .75 lb, I was more concerned with the increasingly longer line of people behind me).  

Anyway,  I thought about boycotting WinCo and making them lose my esteemed patronage.  But then I thought, why should I lose out on the savings and convenience?  So although I still think that WinCo should go a little "greener" and train their cashiers to do the tare calculations, or even better, get registers with a button that does it for you like they have at Market of Choice, I alas, will concede by not bringing my plastic, re-usable hard containers.  I will switch to thin bags made from a recycled bed sheet or something like that.  (Oddly enough, one of my plastic containers is a recycled Nancy's Yogurt tub that I originally bought at WinCo that specifically has a label on the side just for re-using it.  The photo I linked to is a bit blurry, but it says, "I am re-using this container for:" with several lines provided below.)
And . . . as you exit your solar-powered home and drive to the health food store in your hybrid vehicle, you secretly despise the people that drive big trucks and nonchalantly respond “plastic” when the cashier asks their preference. Let your hippie enviro-anger and self-righteousness boil up to the surface in the form of this reusable bag.