WinCo: worker-owned grocery chain that pays benefits, pensions, living wages -- and has lower prices than WalMart


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…and then wal mart pulled exclusivity deals with the factories and farms that supply WinCo and they went out of business…is how the footnote in the history books will read.

i know i’m a bit fatalistic…

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WinCo is based out of Boise. Is Idaho considered the Midwest now?


WinCo also trims costs by not accepting credit cards and by asking
customers to bag their own groceries.

I’ve heard of bag your own, but not accepting credit cards?

Yes, but you can use debit cards (a small distinction). It’s a bit of a hassle for us, but only because our credit union charges us for any debit transactions beyond 5 per month. We solve that by using the “credit” option everywhere else we shop, and it’s no big deal. I don’t like that the selection is not as large, but honestly, the brands they stock are just as good. We got used to not being quite so brand-loyal, and it’s an attractive store to us simply because they treat their employees so well.


There is a chain here in Ohio that does it, too. Annoying as all hell. Even though I like everything else I read in the article, I simply HATE carrying cash. I rarely have it on me unless I know ahead of time that I’m going somewhere I’ll need it. A grocery store is simply one of those places I don’t have cash (and after some of the big shopping trips, I don’t WANT to have that much cash on me).

I’m not talking about real credit cards either. I’m talking about those bank credit cards that pull from my checking account (which are treated differently than “debit cards” which, at least around here, pass the transaction fee on to me instead the store). I know, I know, debit cards would work, but at least here, they don’t accept those unless they accept credit cards, too.

But, but Wal-Mart sponsors KQED and lets us know we can buy Stamps at the register! I’ll bet WinCo won’t be able to do that!

(I just heard that on the radio. I guess we won’t be hearing the expose on Walmart on local “public” radio anytime soon.

Credit card fees can cost a business quite a lot as a percentage. Especially in a large-volume, low-margin business. The article doesn’t mention it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you can setup a charge account at your local store.

I also bet that something like Bain Capital is trying to figure out how to raid those pensions.

Credit cards charge business massive fees for the privilege of accepting them. My parents have ran their own auto shop for some 35 years; they shitcanned the CC machine three years ago, and have saved roughly $16,000 so far from not having to shell out to those vultures.

Used the money to go to Cuba last year, and do a tour of the states this year.


I used to shop at WinCo in California, and just used a check instead of a card to pay. And yes we bagged our own groceries. Seemed great to me at the time, but I was a college student so anything cheap was great :smile:


Indeed! The states with Winco stores are Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington; none of these states are in the Midwest.


I’m a big fan of Aldi. I’ve learned that if the crackers they have are good, it doesn’t matter so much if they have 2 kinds to choose from instead of 25. I’m totally fine with Model-T groceries.


From the Time article:

The company became employee-owned in 1985, and changed its name to WinCo (short for Winning Company) in 1999.

Hrm, I always thought the name was related to Winn-Dixie (the more you know…) They are a pretty good store - they offer pasta, spices, grains, etc. in bulk, have a decent range of beers, and their in-house pizza brand (Leonardi’s) is only a half-step below Costco’s.

Aldi’s also does this.

Debit, EBT, and cash only.

Hell where I live we still have a few mom and pop restaurants that only take cash and personal check (what ever those are).

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I live in NC so we don’t have one, but I’d be willing to check them out. However the articles mentions Trader Joe’s… We have a TJ’s and it stays busy, yet I’m not sure what people are buying. If you are looking for a good selection of frozen foods and good produce at reasonable prices it fits the bill. There cheese selection is also very nice (ironically their dairy prices are high.) But try and fill out a full grocery list and you start to fall short, they simply lack a lot of the basics that I need. So sure I shop there, but I also shop at the local grocery store, and even Wal-Mart.

(Perhaps our Trader Joe’s is just really small I don’t know. Even Aldi’s has a wider selection of staples than them.)

I got all excited thinking a store might be near me and I could check it out. Yeah totally not in any midwest states. West and northwest.

Yeah – I’m from Wisconsin originally but have lived on both coasts and I’m amazed on how “Midwest” to them can mean anywhere from Ohio to Idaho – basically “Flyover Country” minus the Deep South, I guess.

Aldi is Trader Joe’s kinfolk (the companies are run by brothers). I love the fact that Aldi’s is a simple grocery store. Supermarkets like HEB (i’m in texas) annoy the crap out of me. I’m there to buy food not a recliner or rug or television or beyonce cd.

Bagging my own groceries is great because I prefer to not buy but two or three days in advance, just as it was in 1974 when I first remember my parents buying food… and I LOVE that Aldi’s uses the quarter system for the carts. It keeps the damned things from dinging my car.

I hope that WinCo moves to the Waco area so my money stays US bound as Aldi’s/Trader Joe’s are German companies.

wait… was that xenophobic?

The farmers market I shop at also does not accept credit cards, which I prefer not to use any how. But they are able to offer some of the same organic brands as Whole Foods at a fraction of the cost.

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I helped do some recon on Trader Joe’s a few years ago, when they were planning on opening a store location in direct competition with the co-op I worked for. Initially, I found the layout and “look” fairly appealing, but quickly noticed several things:

  • They actually weren’t price competitive with us (or Whole Foods, for that matter) in terms of meats or dairy products. In fact, we frequently matched or beat them. For high-quality local stuff, to boot.
  • Their produce section at this TJ’s was about as good as, I dunno, a 7-11? Sickly, sad fruits and vegetables, grouped on foam trays and plastic-wrapped.
  • Something like 90% of the products were basically just convenience/snack foods. Great, if you need a “natural”-ish frozen dinner, or a slightly “upscale” hors-d’œuvre. I would be amazed if anyone could round up enough ingredients to actually cook a scratch meal, though.

I guess it’s okay, if – as in many towns – it’s the only option, but the whole thing left me feeling sorta icky and depressed. All I could imagine was people buying those frozen party snacks and eating them alone in a blue TV glow… “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” :wink: