Fill it Up! The Bliss of Working in Bulk as a Member-Owner

Photo by Alejandro Adam. From, posted on August 22, 2016

Do you love the look of the bins of brightly colored beans and rice, all stacked neatly in rows? Or perhaps you enjoy gawking at the granola, grinding your own nut butter, or smelling the spices? Then you’ll understand why I love working in the Bulk Department as a member-owner.

From the time I learned bulk departments were a thing, I’ve been a devoted bulk shopper. After spending so much time emptying bins as a shopper intent on baking bread and snacking, refilling them is karmically appropriate. There is a simple satisfaction in filling containers and hearing how different ingredients dance musically on the metal scoop. When you’re done with your shift, you can admire your hard work – all those beautifully filled bins.

In the past three years of working in Bulk as a member-owner, I’ve found that working in Bulk is more than filling bins. It is also about filling in the cracks of your knowledge, your abilities, and your community – and it is easy to get started! I love working in Bulk because:

  • I’ve learned so much! I’ve become much more familiar with the sections I stock and have found some new goodies that have made it into my family’s rotation. I’ve also received a random education on Bulk products through customer questions about them. If I don’t know the answer, I always tag along to learn from a staff member’s explanation. Did you know we have brewer’s yeast, chestnut flour, cornstarch, and fenugreek? I can show you where these products are! Did you know that lighter roasted coffee is the most caffeinated?
  • The staff is great! They are all fun to work with, want to help member-owners in the Department be productive and safe, and are full of interesting tidbits. I’ve learned about Edna St. Vincent Millay and various useful herbs from Karen, about the complicated nature of almond pricing from Tom, and about the best places to hike in the Adirondacks, gardening tricks, and much more.
  • I’ve gotten to know other member-owners who are part of my Sunday morning shift ‘tribe,’ as well as shoppers.
  • It can be a pretty decent, real-life strength training. There are tasks for people of all abilities in Bulk – everything from bagging small items to lifting large sacks of flour and oats. I’ve definitely gotten stronger moving 25-30 pound boxes and taking them down from high shelves, hoisting half-full bags of seeds, and learning the best way to lift a full bin back into place. My ‘weight class’ has increased over time. Staff is happy to encourage me to help within my comfort level. You may just graduate from lower to higher (and heavier!) items over time.
  • They can be very flexible with scheduling. Staff loves having Member-Owners who make a weekly time commitment! The Department also accepts time commitments for every other week, or for less frequent availability. Don’t have a consistent schedule? Bulk keeps a weekly sign-up sheet so you can claim an open shift that works for you.

Make a Time Commitment in the Bulk Department!

What’s the most important reason to help in the Bulk Department? For me, it’s that I love to do my part to help make the store run smoothly and look attractive, and keep the bins well stocked. We all rely on these items to stay healthy and get us through our day. Honest Weight Food Co-op Member-Owners have always contributed to our success by helping work in the store. By contributing my time to the Co-op in this way, I feel like an owner of the store, and that sense of ownership feels different than being a shopper or Shareholder.

Would you like to join me in Bulk? It’s easy to do so by stopping in to talk to the Bulk Department Manager, Tom Gillespie, or you can e-mail him at: tom AT Curious about other things you can do on the floor as a member-owner? Check out the Member Opportunities board, or reach out to the Member-Owner Coordinator, Yevette Buddeau, by e-mail at memberservices AT I look forward to seeing you on the floor!

More About Bulk from the Co-op Voice:

Why Buy Bulk?
Cost Savings at the Co-op
Beans and Rock: Martha Moskowitz & Honest Weight’s Bulk Department
To market, to market, to buy… lots of plastic?

Find it in Bulk:

Mull Your Way through Winter with the Co-op!
Respect Your Elderberries
Sage for the Ages

Jennifer Betsworth found the Co-op in her quest for a good bulk department soon after moving to Troy in 2013, and became a member not long after that. She enjoys working in and being continually inspired by the bulk department’s offerings. A lover of words, old buildings and beautiful natural places, she relies on the Co-op, her garden, and a little culinary creativity to fuel her adventures.