Over the Transom
On Monday after dropping off the donations at the food bank, I headed back to Sprouts. There Richard was standing near the booths up front opposite the cash registers. I was really glad to see him.
We exchanged pleasantries and he said he wanted to again provide the services of One Can A Week to his customers. He reminded me that under Sunflower management he had more autonomy but he now has to confer with management in Phoenix before we can move forward.
As I left I handed him a document called “A Business Solution to Ending Hunger in America” that I prepared describing One Can A Week’s history at the Rincon Market, Safeway and the Sunflower Market. He assured me the information would help and he will get back to me soon.
Well, that lifted my spirits and it was only 11 am. I decided to drive over to Costco on Grant and Craycroft to try my luck there.
While waiting to talk to the very tall and very muscular greeter I thought only a fool would try to get something by him on his watch. When it was my turn to speak he listened and then directed me to the manager station past the food court.
Sarah was the first person in a red vest I approached. She, too, listened attentively, thought a moment and wrote the name and phone number of the person I should call on a piece of scrap paper. As I left, Sarah said she understood and liked the One Can A Week concept. Another spirit booster.
On Thursday I reached James Harris the warehouse manager and he told me that Costco does not allow any charities to collect donations at any of their location. That made sense to me but I said that One Can A Week was more of a sales promotion and customer service program. It did not matter but he did give me the company’s headquarters phone number.
The next person I was directed to speak to was the assistant to the West Coast Senior VP of Operations. Again the conversation was open and very friendly but still I got the same answer. Also, I could not get through to her boss, the VP.
I really liked talking to the folks at Costco even though each conversation was a disappointment. Most companies today hide behind a recorded wall of “Dial 1, Dial 2...” There is never a way to really reach anyone or ask a question.
I now like Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinke even more than I did before this encounter. If you remember, he’s the one who favors raising the minimum wage and he treats his people with a great deal of respect. It shows because in turn, they really respect their customers.
Something else I realized was his people follow policy to the letter. Consequently, if I want to get a hearing I have to go to the top.
Instead of getting back on the phone I decided to return to days of old and send a letter … over the transom, if you will.
Dear Mr. Jelinek,
Business is going to solve all of our social ills. I know that for sure, however, you may like this concept but are skeptical.
Let’s take hunger, for example. For the past three years I have been working with Ron Abbott the owner of the Rincon Market, a landmark neighborhood store in Tucson, AZ. Ron has donated over 5,000 lbs. of food in 2012 to the Community Food Bank and all of that food was paid for by his customers. And they are very happy to do so.
This is how One Can A Week works at the Rincon Market. Customers donate cash averaging from $90 - $220 per week. That money is used to buy food at retail; e.g., rice for $1.29 or canned vegetables for $0.99, etc. The customers also buy food themselves and leave it in a Community Food Bank box. All the items are delivered to the food bank on Monday.
Of course, your operation would be more food and less cash donated by the customers.
One Can A Week is a low key and very consistent promotion. A small sign near the cash registers will do. In addition, your participation should be noted in your flyers and on your website. Lastly, a local food bank box should be on displayed in the front of each store.
The best part of One Can A Week is the program is in the public domain. I decided to do that shortly after I created the concept because I am only interested in feeding hungry kids and their parents and I need lots of help.
Now imagine if a powerhouse supermarket took on the One Can A Week concept and applied some solid strategic thinking to the idea. That supermarket would sell a great deal more food and never have to give any food away again.
Right now at Costco the answer is no. This means if my letter causes anything to happen it can only be positive. Over the transom or not, I like the olds.
Even More To Come
At present Frank Flasch has 10 Old Ft. Lowell Neighborhood HOAs participating in his One Can A Week – Four Cans A Month program. And so far this year they have donated 2,182 lbs. of food and $902 in cash to the Community Food Bank.
In a month Frank will have two more HOAs join his team bringing the number of participants up to an even dozen. That’s got to be some kind of record.
We collected a total of 184 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $32.00, a $25.00 check and $8.00 in cash.
See you Sunday,