Earlier last week, I was shopping at the new Ms. Greens store that had opened up on 130th Ave. I was pretty excited to see a natural market open up somewhat close to home, and figured it might be worthwhile to check it out. The store itself is quite nice, with a lot of produce, salads, sustainable meat and seafood, and some frozen items as well. As someone interested in food and sustainability, I figured this might be a great place to pick up some part time hours while I kept on with the job hunt. After a sit down with the HR rep, I was signed up and ready to take on a few shifts.
Now I had a few apprehensions. The company is based out of the United States, and is fairly large. This took away from the local aspect of the business, but I figured if they can get some people on board with organic then some trade offs are okay. Unfortunately, what I came to discover is that Ms. Greens is more of a yellowy shade. My first shift working in produce saw me throw away 4 garbage bins full of fresh produce in 2 hours. Unfortunately, I was only one of three workers pulling produce that morning. That's a lot of unsold product. It all goes into a set of compost bins in the back, unless those are full, then the remainder gets tossed in the trash. It turns out that Ms. Greens doesn't have any in store mitigation strategies to reduce this waste. Staff aren't allowed to take it home, and there is no donation procedure in place. Why? While given "health" concerns as a reason, the truth is closer to profit. The company is owned by an investment firm who buys up failing companies and tries to turn them around. Unfortunately, with profit as the key motive, the business owners aren't in touch with the values of a natural grocer. Instead of sharing or discounting food that is imperfect, they throw it away and get people to pay for the best looking stuff because they know that given no other option staff members will pay, and this also helps inventory turnover. This message was also made clear at a staff meeting, where I was told that head office announced to staff members that they do not care about sustainability, they just want to make money.
What does this lead to? Customers giving a lock of shock as they look into your garbage bin and see it full of perfectly good looking produce. See, customers know that organic isn't going to be perfect like their GMO cousins, but this company is so concerned with image, that they don't realize how bad their policies make them look. This disconnect between owners and staff/clientele is going to cause the company to continue failing. While at first I was excited to see a mainstream natural grocer look at expanding into Canada, their business management and unsustainable policies makes me think that we should focus our attention elsewhere, and let this giant die.