Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Golden Oldies: Old Co-Op Reviews from Yelp!


posted by chicago pop


Communities are based on traditions, and traditions are based on stories. The death of the Hyde Park Co-Op in 2007-2008 is a story that is destined to live on in song, myth, and legend; to be passed down from mother to daughter and father to son; to inspire blind, anonymous poets in the crafting of epic cycles of poetry, folk ballads, blues riffs, and maybe even a straight-to-video screenplay.

So in the spirit of the valiant WPA ethnographers, musicologists and folklorists who roamed the back-roads of Appalachia in the 30's to find and record the remnants of American folk music -- an endeavor which it should be noted produced no economic stimulus other than the employment of a few academics, but which resulted in what is unarguably a cultural treasure trove -- we have surfed over to Yelp! where a record of past reviews of the Hyde Park Co-Op is still on-line, as if frozen in time.

So that you may begin to compose your own folk ballad, I present you with our top picks.


From "Allison B.":
Just

Die

Already!

Seriously, between the high prices, looming bankruptcy, and elitist attitude?

Go with God.

And God? If you are listening, please bring us a Trader Joes or Whole Foods or that other organic-y Sunflower or whatever the name is. You know. Thanks.

From "Elisabeth A.":
This place is a f***ing abomination. Their prices are insane & their produce rots the day after you buy it. Their meat leaks like a bloody nose. And, get this: their scanners have been down for the last 3 or 4 weeks, so you actually have to write the prices down on a little piece of paper while you shop so that the cashier knows how much to rip you off. Oh, my god. I hate the co-op. I drive all the way up to Roosevelt to shop at the Jewel because giving the co-op my money just makes me mad.

OK, I'm giving them an extra star because their bulk section is pretty sweet and they carry 9 different kinds of capers. And they fixed their scanners.

And here's a closing, solid analysis from "Andrew C.":
The Co-op needs to close as soon as possible.
If you own "shares" in the Co-op, please sell them to expedite its demise.

1) The meat area often smells rotten. The floor in that part of the store is sometimes sticky. I don't know if they're actually violating health codes, but if not, we need new health codes.

2) The management is abysmal. I was once on a group-purchasing account at the coop, and they made numerous billing mistakes, which they refused to deal with until I yelled at them.

3) The prices are shameful. Tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and organic produce are significantly cheaper at Whole Foods, which is notorious for high markup.

The co-op suffers the same problem as many other "community" organizations: No one in the community cares enough to participate in such a tedious, unnecessary undertaking. As a result, the only people left to run it are sanctimonious, closed-minded pensioners who end up blaming the community for their failures.

The the co-op only survives because it has a monopoly on groceries in a neighborhood with high population density and low car ownership. I feel like a chump whenever I shop there, but until Hyde Park Produce opens at 53rd and Kimbark, I have no other choice.

For a selection of deeper cuts, check out the rest, then let the legend grow.

18 comments:

David Farley said...

So the Co-op lives on here and on that other blog I read occasionally.

LPB said...

Remembering how bad the Co-Op was only makes so appreciative that Treasure Island has come to Hyde Park. It's actually pleasant to shop in TI and the produce is very good. Now that I'm getting some value for my money, I don't mind paying the relatively high prices at TI.

Greg said...

Oh man, I totally forgot about the broken scanner debacle and having to write prices down on pieces of paper for months on end. Reading these totally brings back all those times I shopped there "just this last time because I don't wanna drive to Dominick's" and left wishing I could set fire to the building.

Treasure Island is pricey, but not as expensive as the Co-Op was and it's better in every possible way.

mhb said...

Oh, memoreez. We were living in South Shore and would actually DRIVE to the Co-op to get groceries when the broken scanner thing happened (I think because we got duped into buying "shares"... you know, for the good deals!)
That was the last straw for us, too. We became good friends with Jewel foods.

Now having the choice between the big new produce market and Treasure Island, the memories of the bad old days get a bit foggy...

Otto said...

Treasure Island is pricey, but not as expensive as the Co-Op was....

Do you have any data points for that, or is it something you overheard in the Kool-Aid aisle?

I actually had a year's worth of retail receipts from 2007, but there wasn't enough overlap to allow a meaningful comparison. Arm & Hammer cat litter was a penny cheaper at the Co-op. When the Co-op had Goose Island 12-packs for $11.99 regular price, the TI *sale* price was $14.49.

Ignoring the dead horse, one now has the same Maytag blue cheese for $17 per pound at TI, $8 at Hyde Park Produce, and $28 at Peapod (the last a preportioned 4 oz. foil-pack).

Etc. To the extent that TI adopts the policy that demand (read: "merited karma") can be willed into existence, it's nothing but a return to the Carl Waggoner mindset.

edj said...

I miss the old Co-op Pravda newsletter. I wish I had saved the last one. It was a perfect expression of why the Co-op was no longer relevant. The U of C bailout in exchange for going out of business was a good example of how the US government bailout should be working now ;-). I wonder if anyone who lived in Hyde Park works in the new administration.

bornatreese said...

I have the last Evergreen, and I'm hoping to fund my IRA with the proceeds from the sale.

Greg said...

Do you have any data points for that, or is it something you overheard in the Kool-Aid aisle?

Yeah Otto- when I buy my groceries at TI, I spend less than I did for the same groceries I purchased at the Co-Op. Those are all the data points I need. Of course, I don't ordinarily buy beer from grocery stores, I buy my cat litter at Target and I don't buy Maytag blue cheese.

To the extent that TI adopts the policy that demand (read: "merited karma") can be willed into existence, it's nothing but a return to the Carl Waggoner mindset.

Demand was never a problem at the 55th Co-Op and it's not an issue at TI. My biggest complaint about the Co-Op was that it was always packed to the gills with shoppers (complete with checkout lines that resembled backed-up cattle runs), yet was constantly bleeding red ink.

Otto said...

Yeah Otto- when I buy my groceries at TI, I spend less than I did for the same groceries I purchased at the Co-Op. Those are all the data points I need.

I have no doubt that "because you say so" is all the "data" you need in general, but you did also make a broad assertion, which has now been qualified by mention of your extramural shopping habits.

C'mon--What's on this esoteric shopping list? How does it generalize? How much for the little girl? It feels like a mile to sorting out the further matter of "better in every possible way."

edj said...

Sometimes I go to Treasure Island to shop, but it is not my only stop. We generally shop at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Jewel, Hyde Park Produce, and Peapod. I think a lot of people go to more than one place. Generall, I think rader Joe's has higher prices. Whether it is higher than the Co-op, I don't know. I avoided that place like the plague. It was just a bad place to shop with the poor service, long lines, nasty atmosphere, and bad karma for the neightborhood.

I like the Treasure Island. I didn't really go there when it opened because it reminded me too much of the Co-op, but I go their now when I need something faster or don't want to travel farther. It's got a good atmosphere, the sevice is friendly and the shelves well stocked.

I think it's good for the neighborhood and I don't need data points to know that.

Richard Gill said...

I am pleased to note that the above comments about the Co-op are written in the past tense. This confirms that Hyde Park & environs need not put up with below-par amenities. Treasure Island, a first-class operation, is now the neighborhood's signature retail store. I don't know whether that change sparked other positive developments in the community, or was merely symptomatic of a positive trend. I'm just glad that it happened.

edj said...

I have to say that the TI Mall is fantastic. I love the new post office. Bright, friendly and very good. That chain, Potbelly's is a must eat place, and I can always find a reason to go to the Ace. Plus the bike store, the toy store, the pizza place all make it a great non Co-op location.

chicago pop said...

That mall has indeed turned into something quite nice.

Richard Gill said...

...and it appears that TI is moving along on whatever they're putting in "Island Cellars" on the lower level. The space formerly occupied by the Co-op liquor department now has a stone wall like the one on the main level near the entry. More shelving is in, and there are a couple of old-style barrels. Looks like a catacomb-ish specialty shop of some sort.

Greg said...

I have no doubt that "because you say so" is all the "data" you need in general, but you did also make a broad assertion, which has now been qualified by mention of your extramural shopping habits.

Otto, I get the impression here that you think I should try to convince you. I'm not interested in trying to convince anyone of anything. The only person I speak for is myself and the only opinion I offer is my own. And I don't want to write a lengthy treatise here regarding comparative pricing (especially since I don't have access to Co-Op prices anymore).

Besides, I do enough math at work. :-)

Otto said...

I'm not interested in trying to convince anyone of anything.

Duly noted.

Steven Lucy said...

Amusing that the quoted "Andrew C." went on to open his own store, which now has the cheapest soy milk, tofu, and is the only place to buy tempeh in Hyde Park.

chicago pop said...

Indeed.

:-)