by Steve Faucher, Downtown Front End Department
Lacee Henifin, Cordata Front End Team
“My sister was shopping at your Cordata location recently, and realized as she was checking out that she had forgotten her wallet. Lacee, ‘a cute red-headed cashier’ (her words), paid for her lunch, and set off a flurry of pay-it-forwards since. Awesome job making ‘community’ such an important part of the Community Co-op!”
—submitted via our online customer comment system
One of the first and last people you probably see when you visit the Co-op is someone who works on the team that we call the Front End. We are the team of folks who work at the checkstands, diligently ringing up our member-owners and customers while striving for a high level of precision with a big focus on service. The Front End also handles most elements of membership, operates the Service Desk that is the informational hub of all things Co-op, and always has a Supervisor on duty who, in addition to assisting our cashiers with any issues or hang-ups, is the catch-all person for anything out of the ordinary that might come up throughout the store.
With a team of 30 staff Downtown and 17 at our Cordata store, we ring up around 3,400 customers a day. That adds up to 102,000 customers in a month, so in only two months we have rung up as many transactions as there are people in Whatcom County!
Holly Turri, Cordata shopper and Co-op member-owner
Holly Turri says, “I love the Co-op!” Soon after moving to Bellingham in June 2013, she visited the Cordata store for the first time. Being new to the Co-op, she and her assistance dog, Sarah, went a bit astray and mistakenly ended up at the loading dock door. Nate Wright, Cordata front end assistant manager, kindly walked her to the front door and thus began her relationship with the front end team. Holly said: “They always go above and beyond. And though it may sound a bit cliché, they are like family. They shop with me, and they educate me.” Holly and her husband James are looking forward to hosting Marc (pictured at left) at their house so he and James can share their mutual interest in making music.
At the register our cashiers are responsible for a dizzying array of details. Every team member has hundreds of numbers tucked away in their heads in an effort to more quickly and efficiently ring up our patrons. What shoppers may not know is that beyond all of the daily transactions at the registers, we serve many people in a myriad of other ways. This brings us to the role played by our Service Desk.
At the Service Desk our member-owners can expect to get information and assistance of all kinds. We can let you know if we have a specific product, show you where it is located in the store, and in most cases give you details about the ingredients, the company that makes it, how to use it, and alternative products that you might want to consider. While you can make a return at any register, many returns are handled by Desk staff. We also sell tickets for community events, help people register for our Healthy Connections classes, and sell ad space for our newsletter and this magazine. Another in-demand service at the Desk is preparing special orders—a very popular money-saving benefit for member-owners to receive a discount of up to 15 percent off the shelf price by prepaying for case quantities of almost any item we sell.
If you have questions, Service Desk staff will strive to find an answer even if it is not directly related to the Co-op—we can help you look up a list of local homeopathic doctors, give you directions to their offices, and then sell you a bus pass to get there! Basically, the Service Desk is staffed by very knowledgeable, jack-of-all-trade Front Enders who try very hard to meet our customers’ needs.
Mike Straus, Downtown Front End Team
Mike Straus can’t quite remember how his friendship with Dorothy Beach started; perhaps it was their mutual connection to Texas. Dorothy was a regular shopper at the Downtown store and after a few falls left her less mobile, Mike started to shop for her and deliver her groceries on his way home. They would share tea and cookies, and talk about the news and their kids and grandkids. “Dorothy was a great lady, and I enjoyed spending time with her. The tea and cookies were just icing on the cake,” said Mike. When Dorothy moved into a care facility Mike visited her with one of his grandkids, and he still keeps in touch with one of Dorothy’s children who lives nearby. Their regular visits extended over a period of 4 to 5 years. “I miss Dorothy,” Mike said in closing.
Offering an umbrella of support for customers and cashiers alike is the store Supervisor. “Supers” are super-capable know-it-alls—in the best possible way! They know the ins and outs of Front End procedures and policies, so they can keep the whole operation flowing. They know how to troubleshoot our finicky Point of Sale system. They know what to do and who to call if something is on the fritz. They are on-site theft patrol. But most of all, they know how to get our member-owners what they need. If there is something a customer wants and we can get it, the Super will make it happen.
Of course, as proud as I am of the Front End team, there wouldn’t be much need for it without our customers. One of the best things about working on this team is YOU—the great people that we have been privileged to serve over the years.
Our community-owned grocery store is truly a work of the community. There are member-owners who have shopped here regularly for 40 years. Some of the relationships and genuine acts of kindness that have occurred here over the years are rather wonderful. It’s not uncommon for a Front Ender to drop off a member’s groceries on the way home from work—purely out of the goodness of her own heart and without need for acknowledgment. One of our own might check in with a regular shopper we haven’t seen for while, just to make sure things are OK. And the outpouring of support from you, our customers, when something unfortunate befalls the Co-op or one of its employees is equally inspirational to me.
It’s really a collection of all these little things that add up to make our beloved cooperative not just for the profit of any one group or person, but to increase the general good for all involved. It’s a collective effort of our community, and it results in the realization of a truly special place.