In Oregon, Thinking Local

I admit a tremendous love for New Seasons—now, Marian Burros of the NYT admits to it as well. In an article in her Eating Well column in the New York Times today (January 4, 2006), she writes:

Today "local" and "sustainable" are the new culinary buzzwords.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the six New Seasons markets in and around Portland, Ore. At New Seasons, "homegrown" is not only the coin of the realm, it's the heavily promoted mantra.

...If there is any doubt about the impact purchasing locally has on nearby farms, the United States Department of Agriculture's agriculture census tells the story. In Oregon the number of farms has risen, from 26,753 in 1974 to 40,033 in 2002, the latest year for which figures are available.

The emphasis on local is not the only thing that distinguishes New Seasons from other chains. Its employees are given "get out of jail free" cards with the instructions to do anything a customer wants. Mr. Rohter said one young clerk opened 81 jars of mustard for a customer to taste. Then he went to his supervisor, handed the card to him and explained what happened.

Printed on the back of the card:

"Dear Supervisor: The holder of this card was, in their best judgment, doing whatever was necessary to make a happy customer. If you think they may have gone overboard, please take the following steps: 1. Thank them for giving great customer service. 2. Listen to the story about the events. 3. Offer feedback on how they might do it differently next time. 4. Thank them for giving great customer service."

"We never reprimand someone for helping a customer," Mr. Rohter said.

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January 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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