I’ve been a member of Mountain Equipment Co-op since at least 1898 (whoops, 1989; I’m not quite that old). I’ve bought clothing and equipment from them ever since, and have never been unhappy with their products nor their service. Since it is a co-operative, to use it you have to buy a share, which was set at $5 when I started and is probably the same. When I joined there was hearsay that occasionally, when there was a significant profit made, people would get little checques so as to reduce the surplus. But I never received anything.
Yesterday in my mailbox there was a letter from MEC that both explained what really goes on, and which had a pleasant surprise. This is the gist of what was happening over the years.
- MEC is operated to remain financially healthy, but not to operate a profit.
- If there is a revenue surplus in a given year, the excess is passed on to the members in the form of additional shares in MEC. The cash is retained to expand the number of stores and to fill them with quality items at reasonable prices.
- Each year the Board of Directors decides if there is enough cash to meet the needs for the projected year, and then decide whether they can buy back or redeem some shares.
- 2006 is one of those years (Whoopie!)
- Each share is always $5 and represents ownership in the company. When they redeem them, they start with those holding the most shares first, so as to make the individuals shareholdings as equitable as possible. I guess some shareholders are Orwellian (being more equal than others).
- It turns out that 19,000 people (out of over 2.4 million members, or about 0.8%) had 50 or more shares each, and have been reduced to 35 shares to prevent them from becoming Laissez-faire Capitalists, and have duly been paid for it at the going rate.
- As a final bonus, the cheque isn’t subject to Income Tax; They Said So!
- On the Verso side of the cheque, they ask me to consider donating to the MEC Endowment Fund for the Environment. But maybe I should have more recto-tude, and take the cheque at face value! 😉
I am definitely Laissez-Faire in the true meaning of the word (not the economic one), so right now I am feeling mildly relaxed, decadent, and slightly guilty at being one of the lucky few beneficiaries of all you poor spenders. But, I only reached this state by spending way too much at MEC for my own part. Anyway, certain friends of mine should check their mailboxes, and may be pleasantly surprised.
I wonder what’s on sale at the MEC store right now?