Sunday, October 14, 2007

Does Membership Pay?

So I did it! After living in Brooklyn for close to ten years I have finally become a member of the Park Slope Food Coop. Why has it taken me so long to join? Well to begin with, up until now, I have had a severe distaste for commitment. Though it is not a difficult process to join, it is still a process; you have to attend a two-hour orientation, stand in line to pick out a work shift, and then and only then are you allowed to pass through the pearly gates of a promised heaven of organic and local produce etc. What if I join the coop only to find that it is too inconvenient to shop there? I could see myself working my monthly shift only to turn around and purchase my groceries at the Pathmark around the corner because it is more convenient.

Another thing is that frankly, it has always seemed like a bit of a religious cult to me. Every time I walk past by the busy and bustling doorway, forever stocked with a squadron of reflective vest wearing members*, I get the same feeling I get when I walk past a Baptist Church during Sunday Mass, or a Synagogue just after Saturday morning Shabbat; I am instantly taken by a skeptical curiosity - Is this really the path to enlightenment? Are the prices and produce really that much better? And at the same time, as I watch the members coming and going with their boxes and reusable bags of local and sustainable products, I can’t help but feel excluded from something truly significant - What is it that these people know that I don’t? Is life really so much better on the other side?

Well, as you now know, the questions finally got to me and after the tour that Abraham - a dedicated member - gave me, I was an eager convert, you just can't get organic for those prices in NYC. Wednesday evening after work I dragged myself over to Park Slope in order to attend the orientation, pick out my work detail (21/2 hours every four weeks), and hopefully go shopping the very same night. The orientation was brief; we took another tour, and then lined up to select our work shifts and the man in front of me turned around “ We forgot to ask one question,” he said to me with a smirk, “what do we do if we don’t want to be a member anymore? Are you allowed to quit?” It was an interesting notion, here I was thinking of the coop as an almost religious institution, and he was thinking of it more of like the Mafia. “ Maybe you can’t quit, unless you want to relocate and change your name…”

As soon as we were done, we were given a one-day pass and sent on our way. I immediately rushed down the stairs, and as I passed through the entranceway I was partially expecting to be stopped and dragged out, but that didn't happen. Instead I was welcomed in warmly. I grabbed a basket, and began enjoying my upgraded status as a newly converted Coop Member. I can’t tell you yet if it is all worth it, will I give up bulk at Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue? or De-vine on 7th Ave; Hard to say. What I can say is that the organic gala apples I had with my yogurt this morning were the best I’ve tasted in a long while, and I eagerly await further brining session due to their bountiful organic meats section…

*These guys are members on work detail. They help you get your groceries home.

1 comment:

Kara said...

Darren and I have thought about joining. I guess we're skeptical in the same way you were - and, also, since our salaries aren't exactly high, we really want to know if the savings are worth the 2 1/2, or 5 in total, of precious off-time.
So, please let us know, is it worth it? Is it really cheaper than Foodtown or our local deli? Is it a cult? Are you allowed to say? ;-)