Truth be told, I have never stepped foot inside of the Park Slope Food Coop, but its reputation precedes itself—both as a neighborhood institution, and as an object of ridicule (like with this hilarious segment from Samantha Bee on The Daily Show; Broad City took a whack at it, too, when Abby impersonates Ilana so that she can cover her mandatory monthly Coop shift).
But regardless of one’s feelings about the coop, it does a hell of a business—$54 million annually, according to Gothamist. The publication also reported that, in 2016, throughout the year, two members were found to have stolen, approximately, $18,000 worth of groceries. Recently, those members were arrested on charges of petit larceny.
Both men, a 79-year-old from Park Slope, and a 42-year-old from Sunset Park, were first reported by coop members who suspected they saw the men shoplifting. The matter was investigated internally and, when each came back in November and December, police were alerted. Both were caught leaving the coop having paid only a pittance of their bill (just $2 on a $87 tab; the second paid for a little more, but lifted $135 in groceries).
In response to the stolen goods, coop general manager Joe Holtz said (in part):
“For a corporation owned by its members equally in a cooperative fashion, where people participate and hopefully learn to love the coop and we try to keep the prices so low, the coop is so vulnerable to having to raise the markup to make up for the stealing, which makes the coop weaker.”
Gothamist reports that, at times, the coop will deal with shoplifting internally by banning members rather than alert police. But, like the two men caught that day—if members are caught in the act—they’re arrested on site.
To help prevent future shoplifting, the coop publicized these thefts in the pages of the coop’s biweekly newspaper—wait for it—Linewaiters Gazette. If there is one place you don’t want to suffer local public humiliation, this must be it: the coop has 16,000 members, and there are plenty of lines to wait and read in while checking out cheap organic produce. Separately, it was the work of some of the 80 paid coop staff who reviewed the surveillance footage that proved the men’s work had added up to, approximately, $18,000 throughout the year, Gothamist reports.
In closing, Holtz told Gothamist, “Does [their theft] surprise me to this day even though I’ve been here so long personally? Yeah. Does it surprise me to the level of being shocked? No, because I’m used to it.”