On a recent Saturday I took my girls to the farmers’ market for berries, greens, and cinnamon rolls. We also stopped by a mobile refill van. I left the empty bottles that previously held my laundry detergent and dish soap, did my shopping, and came back to pay; I especially love the ease of this drop-off feature. What I didn’t love was the price—$10 for a pound and a half of EOS bulk dish soap, in a container that typically costs about $3; same story for the detergent, which cost almost twice what the original bottle did. I am all for spending more money on quality, organic, environmentally-friendly food and products. Still, this felt like too much, and I was compelled to investigate.
I emailed my concerns to Joan Ayers, owner of the mobile refill van and new storefront Homebody Refill (covered in this issue’s Make Feature by Sheila Shupe), and was humbled by her honest and gracious reply. She evoked the concept of the loss leader marketing strategy, in which businesses price certain items below retail cost in order to attract customers who will then spend more money on pricier items. As a smaller business with less buying power, she explained how this strategy isn’t as available or as lucrative for her. Joan also confirmed that I was not the first customer to raise concerns. She promised that she was going to adjust her pricing immediately, and thanked me for the feedback. I appreciate the open dialogue with her, and look forward to visiting her storefront.
We all prioritize our indulgences, from fancy sneakers to happy hour to plane tickets, and this issue has me thinking about the constant weighing of values and paycheck. Why do we expect certain things to be affordable? Why do we justify spending so much on others?
In addition to three new refill stores that are saving bottles from bins, this issue covers three pop-up restaurants that are worth opening your wallet for. Writing about the Café Frida Gallery reminded me of the tenuous and subjective value of art—something that featured writer Kelly Gray understands well. After publishing plenty of gorgeous verse for little or no monetary compensation, she is selling tickets to her first play, Beautiful Monsters (trust me, you don’t want to miss it!). For our Grow Feature, Ursa Born explores the near-utopian community of Sweetwater Spectrum in Sonoma, where adults with autism live independently in a highly supportive environment—but with a hefty price tag.
As we move into summertime, with restrictions lifting and life loosening back up, may we all spend our hard-earned cash (and new freedom!) wisely. Thanks for reading.