Erin Roan MacDonald

Bulk Soap

All my life I have lived in hippie, alternative, progressive towns. Even Seattle the largest city in the Northwest United States is small town hip with its environmental culture and soy lattes. My last trip there during Christmas, I went to REI searching for rain paints to wear biking in the hopefully up and coming rainy season in Berkeley. I asked the clerk for rain paints and she showed me some. I was somewhat satisfied with what I found, but the fit was mediocre. I asked her if this was all she had and she said yes. My sister, still a Seattleites and wise to the ways of REI shopping corrected me in my search-” you are want cycling pants not rain paints”. Oh. And off we went to the cycling section.

In my day job, I’m vitamin pointer extraordinaire, a director of lost seaweeds and smoked paprika and helpful to those without toothpaste. We offer bulk shampoo, hand soap and Dr. Bronners to those who bring their own container.

I am astonished as a hippy child that customers are grossly confused about how to procure bulk soap. They always ask, oh so how does that work? Oh I bring my own container. And I have to weigh it too. Granted the Store I work at is a little different, there is a separate process for bulk foods, it’s not like co-ops ( do they still exist?) or stores where you have to write down the code number.

It’s not so odd for me. I remember Evelyn coming to the front door in the Trumansburg house to pick up her portion of the weekly tofu and volunteering my monthly hours as young adult at Greenstar Co-op when it was still on Cayuga St. Once when I was working in the office at Greenstar I changed the radio dial to music. It had been on news, but people quickly complained and requested the radio be turned back to NPR. It was the five o’clock hour and my naive mind didn’t know the co-op shoppers they had to get their liberal news in.

Perhaps these people have grown up in Hayward on Lucky’s or Big Red or Jimbo’s, out in the midwest that’s what I imagine supermarkets are called in places like Minnesota or Tennessee. If they were raised on a piles of grain in their parents barn it was for the cows and not for human consumption.


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