Despite it being January, it’s hard to know where to start, when we are looking at new beginnings throughout our lives. First and foremost, I want to express the thinking I’ve been doing since the week of the Annual Meeting, including the community conversation in which many of us took part. The most overarching emotion to convey is gratitude. Gratitude to the aggrieved parties who took the forum offered to shareholders to bring up concerns to the organization and to quite openly expose their hurt and dismay at the various transgressions we have made, the microaggressions we have perpetrated on people of color. Although our Co-op is an open and forward-thinking organization, we reflect the society we occupy, with all of its faults and challenges. So many of us have incorporated unconscious bias in our lives since we were small, since our great-greats were small, that we are terribly blind to the effects of our words and actions.
I also feel gratitude for the conversation we have been having internally, where we can address the difficult actions that play out in the midst of individuals’ concern for our organization’s well-being. As I indicated in the meeting and in this column in the past, our Co-op has been struggling with theft of all kinds for years, and in recent years, the incidents have increased. This backdrop occasions our well-intentioned staff to be vigilant and protective of our assets. We do overreach, and we occasionally act out our unconscious biases.
I am grateful for the resources that I have to assist us with moving forward in a positive manner to learn better skills and to modify our actions to be more supportive and inclusive of all of the members of our community. Over the past year or so I have been in touch with LaDonna Sanders-Redmond to craft trainings for our staff, to better understand the value and requirements of a truly multicultural organization—one that does not perpetuate microaggressions in its business practices. We have a plan to begin some bite-sized, repetitive trainings in the new year to assist in our work. I also have been enjoying a book by Robin DiAngelo called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Our former board member, Wesley Pittman, shared with me that he too is reading this book and would like to organize some shareholder conversations around it. Interested? Watch for announcements for a lunchtime discussion series on the calendar beginning in March. I am planning to share this book with our internal teams as a reading project as well. I really believe that many of us have a lot of work to do in this realm. And I am sharing a series called “Seeing White” from the “Scene on Radio” podcast with staff who wish to join me. Jon Megas-Russell clued me in to that one.
So, thank you. Thank you for helping to advance our conversation, as a community and within a society, on matters of bias. I know the bar is high, and that this work is never-ending, but we have a lot of history to face and to understand. There is no time like the present to forge ahead.
Secondly, I want to let you know that we are changing the structure of how we apply shareholder discounts to items that are special-ordered in case lots. We have adjusted our departmental parameters to be more consistent around the store: generally speaking, you will receive a 10% discount on special orders, and most days that 10% discount will be off of a regular price, or off of the special price when it is on promotion. The idea is that you get the product in bulk, we handle it less, and you save this extra percentage off. There are, of course a few exceptions, such as in Beer and Wine due to regulations, but simply have a conversation with the buyers to ascertain what you can expect from your special-order pricing. We will no longer, however, apply the shareholder discount to this already discounted price. For those of you who have participated in the discount focus-group sessions, you have participated in conversations about this, and may even have suggested it as a modification. Please ask for clarification if you need it; we will be more than happy to explain.
And finally, you will be seeing a new face in the Front End: Jaci Reynolds is taking over Ann Wright’s leadership. We are very sad to see Ann go—she has made so many positive changes in the department since taking over two and a half years ago. Ann has been with the Co-op for 11 years, initially as the board administrator and assistant to the GM and the management team. Her contributions to our processes in the Front End cannot be underestimated. And please welcome Jaci to our organization! She brings lots of relevant experience and a high expectation of good customer experience.
There will be a few more discount focus-group conversations this month and next, as well as opportunities to sit in on a book group discussion about the Robin DiAngelo book noted above. Note them in the Co-op calendar, and come join us!
See you in the aisles,
By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager