A small, informal food co-op (bulk buying club) has been operating on Dublin’s Northside since 2012. This page runs through answers to its frequently asked questions (FAQ).
What can members buy?
Essentially, all of the things that a good wholefood shop would sell but at a lower price – so not just organic food but personal care and household products, too.
Overall, more options are available than are generally found in a shop because we are not limited by shelf space – items are selected by members from a detailed listing and combined into a group order which is then booked for delivery.
There are, however, certain things we don’t buy as a group, such as bottled water. This is because of our values – we’re committed to reducing plastic waste, not making ‘sales’.
What quantities would I need to order? Is it confined to bulk amounts and are there minimums?
We don’t operate any minimum quantities or minimum order values – it’s a collective approach so where there are items in sizes larger than a particular member wants to take outright we have a ‘Splits and Shares’ system where we put them out to the full group to see if we can divide up the required quantity. We do some weighing out from larger packs as a result.
How do prices compare with a store?
You’ll find it’s far cheaper than any other option because of our very low cost base – everything is volunteer run and our overheads are the bare minimum so what you pay is as close as possible to wholesale price. Stores generally add about 50%.
Where do you source the products that are available?
We have a long-standing relationship with Suma Wholefoods, a workers’ co-operative in the UK. We also use an Irish supplier.
How often do you have deliveries?
Once a month. Deliveries are always on a Thursday afternoon to a central location. Those members who have ordered but aren’t scheduled to volunteer on the delivery day collect their goods on the same evening.
Where is the co-op based?
When we receive our deliveries, we make use of a warehouse space close to the Five Lamps area of Dublin 1. Much of the rest of what we do happens online.
When would I need to place an order and make payment?
Our pre-order, pre-pay way of working means we have all relevant dates mapped out a year in advance and make a calendar available, which allows everyone to plan ahead.
Members submit their orders by email. These are combined into a group order and we then have an online process to try and round out any items where full case quantities are needed. Once individual totals are finalised all orders must be paid in full one week prior to delivery day.
How would I get involved?
For any prospective new member we run a short introduction session (approximately half an hour) to explain our core principles, how our pre-order systems work and deal with sign-up. Attendance is a requirement but scheduling of these sessions is very flexible.
The key thing to understand is that the low cost of food and other goods through the co-op is based on *all members* trading volunteer labour in return for their savings. We do not have any ‘customers’, only active members operating as a collective. The work commitment is not huge, but it is essential. Please note that this requires periodic availability on a Thursday afternoon.
What exactly does becoming a member mean?
Membership does not come with a rigid commitment – for example, it is not necessary to be part of every order or to spend a certain amount. We simply ask for a volunteering contribution in line with the frequency with which you buy through the group.
Most members contribute a 2½ hour afternoon shift for every second order they make. Since delivery day is the last Thursday of the month, this might mean working on this date one month, say from 3pm-5.30pm, and then simply stopping by during the evening to collect your order on the next occasion.
Thus, there is no expectation for anyone to volunteer on every order or on one they do not participate in – and ultimately there is flexibility. For example, members who find it difficult to finish work early on a Thursday afternoon may prefer to take a half day’s leave so as to do a double shift once every four orders to meet the work requirement.
A membership covers a household, rather than being individualised, so two or more adults from the same household may choose to divide volunteering work between them.
In this way, the limited work of running the group is shared across the membership. All are worker-owners and all have an equal say in decision making whilever they are actively participating.
How do I get more information?
Just fill out the co-op’s Contact Form.