From Maple Street Coop News, Feb/Mar 2006 issue
Published by Maple Street Co-op, 37 Maple Street, Maleny Qld 4552
Tel 5494 2088, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Community versus The Corporation
by Ruth Parnell, Co-op News editor
Now that Woolworths is advertising for shop assistants for its Maleny supermarket (applications close on 5 February, according to the ad in the Sunshine Coast Daily of 28 January), we know there’s not long to go till the store opening. The corporation is after "enthusiastic new staff", and I'm sure its human relations manager will have fun sorting out the genuine applicants. Imagine the odd "Wotter" stocking the shelves and stalking the aisles. And imagine how busy these shop assistants will be, considering that around 80 per cent of locals don't want the supermarket on the banks of the Obi Obi and won't shop there. The underemployed "checkout chicks" sketch in Simon Denver's Accidentally Bunya Street revue last year is still indelibly stamped on my brain.
Community opposition to the Woolworths invasion of Maleny is continuing, if not strengthening helped, too, by the show of support last November for the Maleny Supa IGA and owners Rob and Samantha Outridge who have given so much back to local clubs and worthy causes over the last decade or so (as have other businesses) much more than Woolworths will ever give back to our community. The 100th anniversary of the Universal Providers building was cause for celebrating our colourful history, as well as for waking up to the shocking reality of how a huge steel and concrete box is changing our town's character and environment to its detriment.
According to spokesperson Graham Earle, interviewed for the Sunshine Coast Daily (16 January), many of the town's more conservative residents have become avowedly anti-Woolworths after realising that the promise of a building in keeping with Maleny’s unique character was an empty one.
But local campaigners are not prepared to let Woolworths walk over this town. A large sign with the word "Worthless" writ large mysteriously appeared in January, keeping alive the sentiments of so many disenchanted locals. Plans are afoot for more "shop locally but not at Woolies" events, street markets and other boycott actions, some to coincide with the supermarket opening which is expected to happen by Easter in mid-April, if not earlier.
Famed local author Jill Morris is launching her new children's book Platypus Deep on the bank of the Obi Obi near Maleny Library on Saturday 8 April at 2.00 pm. Illustrated by Heather Gall, the book includes a dedication to Maleny's protesters and is a cry from the heart for endangered Obi Obi wildlife.
A loose collective of campaigners calling themselves "Woffers" is continuing the Woolworths Operation Feedback (WOF) action, using the power of the pen and reply-paid post to irritate the corporate giant. Woolworths had already provided official feedback forms at its checkouts, bearing its reply-paid address (Woolworths Ltd, Reply Paid 74596, Fairfield NSW 1860***), so it was already prepared to pay for feedback! Anti-Woolworths activists thought this was a great idea that could be expanded upon. Some Woffers have been filling up to 200 "I Won't Shop There" envelopes a day with Woolworths catalogues (or parts thereof) and posting them to the corporation, which then has to foot the bill of about $1.50 per envelope.
In late January, key Woffers stepped up their campaign in a Wofathan, distributing several thousand envelopes to seasoned and first-time Woffers. Like the "Wotters" (Woolworths Operation Trolley activists), Woffers keep a low profile but they can feel at one with other like-minded protesters by recording their Wofs and Wots via www.woolworthsexposed.com/wofcount and via www.woolworthsexposed.com/wotcount. With Woolworths announcing on 25 January a half-year increase in sales of 18.4 per cent or $2.9 billion (an increase due in part to increased sales from its liquor store purchases in the last 18 months), Woffers are going to have to increase their numbers to make a noticeable impression on the invading corporation's bottom line.
The Fresh Food Fraud
In any case, Woolworths could do with some more bad publicity like the results of research commissioned by the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and published on 7 January. The Sydney Postharvest Laboratory found that fruits and vegetables that are up to a year old are being sold by Woolworths (and other retailers, for that matter). Suppliers are now able to store produce for longer, particularly as a chemical called SmartFresh has been available in Australia for the last 18 months.
The fruit purchased from a city Woolworths store was found to be of very mixed quality and low in natural sugar. The lab tests found that the apples were up to nine months old, the pears three months old, grapes three weeks old and cherries two weeks old. So much for "The Fresh Food People". Perhaps the ACCC should be pursuing Woolworths for false advertising!
Commenting on the test findings, lab director Dr Stephen Morris said: "The taste can drop off after a long period. And vitamin C and vitamin E as well as anti-oxidant levels, which can be cancer preventing, can decline."
Of course, if we as consumers didn’t demand out-of-season food all year around, we wouldn't have this problem! And while the experts say that food treated with anti-ripening or ripening agents is safe to eat, I'm not so sure... When Woolworths opens up shop, you can bet there'll be stale, chemically treated fruit and vegetables on sale. I won't be shopping there and I won’t be the only one.
*** The Woolworths Reply Paid address was changed in early February 2006. Write to: Director of Supermarkets, Woolworths Limited, Reply Paid 8000, Baulkam Hills, NSW 2153.
From Maple Street Co-op News,
February/March 2006 issue
Published by The Maple Street Co-operative Society Ltd,
37 Maple Street, Maleny, Qld 4552,
tel 07 5494 2088, email email@example.com
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