Monday, November 25, 2013

255th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

A Community Service Culture in the Making

We have all seen supermarkets help feed hungry families during the holidays with specially priced shopping bags of food their customers can purchase. But we’ve not seen anything like what just happened in the Sprouts Farmers Market on Speedway last week.

In addition to the One Can A Week program, Sprouts management introduced a $5.00 bag of food that contained a number of healthy items to create a couple of nourishing meals. They then placed them on the checkout stand for easy access. Within a few days the demand grew so great, Richard Rodriguez, the store manager, had to call the other Sprouts stores in town to get more shopping bags. They were able to help out because they were not selling as many bags as Richard.

How did they do it?  On Friday when I took the photo above, Richard and I had a few minutes to discuss the amazing situation. Studies reveal that companies with a strong community service commitment create a culture that brings out the best in their employees and their customers.

A couple of the cashiers were proving to be great at encouraging their customers to participate in the $5.00 bag program. The other cashiers saw what they were doing and followed suite. Suddenly all of the cashiers were making sales, even some multiple sales. “Give me 10 bags,” a lady said after checking out the mass of paper bags in the aisle and hearing what all the commotion was about.

Richard decided to display the bags going to the Community Food Bank up front to heighten the excitement—and equally important—make a statement. When management and staff work together to build a community service culture, there is not limit to the good that can be done for and by each and every customer.

In the mix, of course, is One Can A Week. Twelve weeks ago Richard and I introduced a low key and consistent community service program which has quietly built awareness. Even through all the excitement, customers were still dropping cans and packages goods in the bin surrounded by the $5.00 bags. The donations this week topped the bin and tipped the scales at 148 lbs.

After Thanksgiving there will be more shopping bags to purchase because there are just so many needy folks to help feed here in Tucson. Then in the New Year, One Can A Week will go back to what it does best. Keep customers and staff fully engaged in community service on a very pleasant and consistent basis. Of course we all want a better world so working community service into our culture will do just that...for everyone.

One Can A Week
Breaks into a Gated Community

Home Owner Associations in gated communities have many rules to maintain peace and quiet. No solicitation is at the top of the list. However, with so many families in trouble and the government cutting back on aid, Maen and his children decided to press the envelope a bit. They got permission to talk to their neighbors about One Can A Week at a neighborhood get together. Acceptance was pretty good.

Then two Sundays ago they started making the rounds to introduce the program to near by neighbors. Acceptance was pretty good there, too. This past Saturday Maen—relying on his marketing skills—posted a sign on the in and out gates telling folks he and the kids would stop by Sunday. To his surprise people he had not talked to yet put food out on their porches. Food was everywhere in his community and the kids went nuts. He told them they had to wait and pick it up in order or they would not remember the route for next Sunday.

In my first two weeks I collected around 40 lbs. of food for the Community Food Bank. In their first two weeks Maen, Petra, Rayah and Michael collected 242 lbs.

For the past few years Maen and I have been talking about ways to open up gated communities for One Can A Week. We knew they could make a significant difference in helping the needy in our city. Seems a sign on the gate every Saturday is the key along with a friendly group of kids knocking on neighbors’ doors.

The 15th Truck Load
On Monday there was nothing. Then by Sunday the truck was jammed. Not sure how that happens but I like it.

This week’s donations amounted to 630 lbs. and included Sheva Vista, 60 lbs.;  Sprouts (Speedway), 148 lbs.; Miles Neighborhood, 180 lbs. and River View Estates, 242 lbs. 

New CEO at the Community Food Bank
Michael McDonald, former Executive Director here in Tucson for Habitat for Humanity International (the U.S.’s 14th largest home builder) will join the food bank in January. Really looking forward to meeting him. Click on the link to read his very interesting bio.

We collected a total of 180 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $30.00, a $25.00 check and $5.00 in cash. 

See you Sunday,


Monday, November 18, 2013

254th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
The Lady Had No Interest

Around the third Saturday at Sprouts I began to notice the regulars. One lady in particular came in the east entrance with her walker, slowly passed my table with no expression on her face and gently lowered herself into an electric cart near the west entrance. This happened week after week with little eye contact and a nod now and again.

A week ago she stopped in front of the display table, smiled and announced she had forgotten to buy a can to donate. “That’s okay,” I said a bit surprised at the new found friendliness, “Next week I will have a sign on your cart to help remind you.”

This Saturday she came up behind me as I was attaching signs to the three electric carts. And of course, as the laws of happenstance dictate on this planet, she wanted the one I was working on. The two carts I had just finished—admittedly not as stylish—would not do.

“Finish what you are doing,” she said calmly, “I can wait.”

About a minute later I had the sign attached and stress tested, tugging firmly at each fastener before turning it over to her.

There’s kind of a general rule about shopping at supermarkets. For most folks it takes about 25 minutes to get in and out. At Sprouts, with all of the enticing food displays and the hands on picking and scooping, I have noticed that the in and out time is somewhere around 45 minutes. So I had forgotten about the lady in the electric cart when she drove up and handed me a can. “I remembered,” she said smiling.

The truth is I never thought she would be a One Can A Week participant. But Richard Rodriquez, the store manager is right. A pleasant display, respectful signage and a little time does it every time. Maybe that elderly couple who wear matching tee shirts will be next.  

A Shopper's Eye View

Any time you invent something it takes a lot of testing to determine if your product will survive normal usage. I often I think about automobiles and what engineers have to do to compensate for that inevitable human question and surprised response, “What’s this do? Ooooops.”

The label backing had to be strong so I selected a flexible plastic. The label itself would have to be plastic also but my test sample used paper. As you can see in the photo, the plastic stood up well as did the connectors—wire and tiny doll clothing buttons—but the paper got attacked by splashing water and all kinds of food products going in an out of the cart.

The all plastic and laminated label will experience the same grocery onslaught but it’s better prepared to do its job of clutching tightly to the bars while gathering donations for hungry kids and their parents.

Magic Flip Flops
Al Shoemaker, my friend and neighbor three doors down has been recuperating from serious back surgery. In the past couple of week he grew weaker and we did not know why. A clue popped up on a recent visit to the doctor because he complained more about his shoes then ever before. They just seemed to be too slippery for him to stand easily.

The next day I purchased a handsome pair of flip flops at Walmart that had nubs on the soles for better traction. (Al calls them nipples, for some reason.) Well, that did the trick. He can now push on the bed with one hand to stand up instead of making multiple two handed attempts.

Al and his house are not ready to receive company just yet but if you want to show your support, a gift cards from In and Out Burger, Wienerschnitzel or Boston Chicken will do nicely. I know he’ll appreciate your concern and it will most definitely lift his spirits to eat something other than his own cooking. Also, I don’t mind chasing takeout for him because he’s pretty happy when I return.  

We collected a total of 142 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $34.00, a $25.00 check and $9.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

253rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Polite Company

Late Friday morning I want back to Sprouts to finish placing the stickers on the remaining 50 or so shopping baskets. I also had the final prototype sign for the shopping carts I wanted to test. It fit just fine.

Even with only a portion of the shopping baskets stickered, I noticed the bin had more single Sprouts canned and packaged items. Before, Sprouts items were mixed in with donations from customers’ homes and other supermarkets. This change means the quiet reminders are working. When all carts and baskets carry the reminder—starting Saturday—donations should really pick up.

After completing my work, I walked out of the supermarket feeling a bit elated. It was then I decided to treat myself to lunch at the new Hibachi Super Buffet next door. Right after I had that thought I turned around and went back in to ask Richard, the store manager, if he could join me. He said yes because he had heard good things from his staff about the buffet and was looking for a reason to try the new restaurant himself.

We walked past the shopping carts— stopping to help a customer separate two that were stubbornly hanging on to each other—and then past the large blank wall leading up the restaurant’s double doors.

“What do you think?” Richard asked. “Those blank walls,” pointing to either side of the doors, “are disturbing. They should do something to them.”

“You’re right,” I replied as we yanked open both doors and entered, “they almost hide this plain entrance way.”

Richard is always making observations, mostly to himself to keep his skills honed but when he is around someone who appreciates marketing subtitles he makes it an essential part of the conversation.
The Hibachi Super Buffet is decorated in classic dark mahogany-like wood with lots of open space. There is even a huge fish pond filled with small and large Koi. Coins blanket the bottom of the pond which immediately made me think of metal contamination. Don’t eat the carp I told myself.

The great thing about a buffet is within a few short minutes after entering the restaurant you can be enjoying your meal. I started with the stuffed scallops which were wonderful …as was everything else.

I showed Richard the final shopping cart sign and that segued into a conversation on impulse buying.

“If you have a new gum near the checkout,” Richard said, “the customer may or may not try it. Why not help the customer make up his or her mind by having that same gum display in the meat, the produce and the bakery departments.” He went on to say that what he liked about One Can A Week was there are small shelf talkers, stickers on the carts and baskets and a big sign telling the customer how much had been collected. Richard also thinks it’s solid and subtle marketing … everywhere it should be to help the customer make a decision.

A few weeks after Richard said I could collect One Can A Week in his supermarket, he told me he really liked that I did not ask the customers for anything. I just said hello or responded to their questions. Initially I thought it was a nice compliment but following our Hibachi lunch I realized that when it comes to politely interacting with customers, both Richard and I are not only on the same page, we are on the same sentence. No wonder One Can A Week is working so well at Sprouts.

Epilog: While waiting for the waiter to return to our booth with my Visa card, we both opened our fortune cookies. Mine read: “All the answers you need are right there in front of you!” Those darn things never tell me anything I don’t already know.

Looking Good
Have you noticed how clean the Mile Neighborhood is? Block after block the yards are neat and the streets nearly sparkling. Amazing … and delightful. Just wanted to let you know in case you were too busy driving home to take in and appreciate the sights.
We collected a total of 154 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $83.00, two checks totaling $75.00 and $8.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, November 4, 2013

252nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Thanks to Sprouts
       This...             Becomes This... 
For Many Needy Folks
This Thanksgiving Holiday

Friday morning Richard Rodriguez, the manager for Sprouts Farmers Market on Speedway called me to say he had 10 large bins full of pumpkins he wanted to donate to the Community Food Bank.

Within a few minutes I had Jacob Coldsmith, the Community Food Bank Director of Logistics on the phone. He took the information and called Richard himself. Later that day when I was at Sprouts measuring a shopping cart for signage, Richard told me he needed Jacob to respond quickly because the fork lift drive’s shift was over in an hour. Jacob did just that and was at the supermarket in 20 minutes with a huge refrigerator truck.

Jacob was doing his own marketing by driving that truck. He wanted Richard to see that he can handle all kinds of perishable stuff. And in a hurry.

He not only picked up the 10 bins of pumpkins at the Speedway supermarket, Jacob also snagged the Broadway supermarket’s extra pumpkins. While he loaded the pumpkins at Speedway, the Sprouts Broadway manager called Richard to find out what he was doing with his extra pumpkins. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect so Jacob got them all.

Working with Jacob is a pleasure because he totally understands that he has to move at the “speed of business” especially when dealing with supermarket chains. Those folks have no time to spare. Food comes in fast and what doesn’t sell has to move out just as fast.

Richard had another option if the Food Bank couldn’t meet his schedule. He was thinking about feeding the pumpkins to the elephants at the zoo. We both love elephants but he and I agreed, kids come first … and Jacob made it happen. 

Community Food Bank Pumpkin
Comes With A User's Manual

When I arrived at the food bank today I called Jacob to find out how many pounds of pumpkin the two Sprouts supermarkets donated on Friday. His answer was staggering. Speedway’s total was 3,402 lbs. while Broadway came in at 2,200 lbs. for a grand total of 5,602 lbs.

That volume of pumpkin can produce 1,867 pies or loaves of bread, based on 3 lbs. of pumpkin generating enough puree for a single pie or loaf.

Jacob went back to his office and returned with another surprise. “We just don’t hand our clients nice looking pumpkins and say good luck,” he said smilingly. “We give them this, too.”

The Volunteer Department at the Community Food Bank created a very slick two sided flyer that included information on how to prepare and cook pumpkins, pumpkin nutritional facts and several tasty recipes.

This is another reason I love the Community Food Bank. They always think of things to help folks. That attention to detail makes me push just a little harder to find more food for them to distribute.

The 14th Truck Load
It’s a little too soon for the holiday rush, however, calls for pick ups are … well, picking up. This week’s donations amounted to 520 lbs. and included: Mayor Rothschild, 38 lbs.;  SwanRise Productions, 30 lbs.; Pete Swan Productions, 2 lbs.; Miles School, 158 lbs.; Sprouts – Speedway, 132 lbs.; and Miles Neighborhood, 160 lbs.

Lot’s of Trash … Gone
All three roll-off bins were filled to capacity. Alley mattresses, couches by dumpsters and loads of unwanted vegetation left the neighborhood today. This is what Environmental Services hopes for when they provide those free roll-offs.

Look around the neighborhood, it is quite spiffy. In the spring, more free roll-offs will appear so get ready.

We collected a total of 160 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $32.00, a $25.00 check and $7.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,