I joke about it all the time "oh I can't wait to pick up cannabis at Target when I go to pick up some ingredients for dinner tonight". It's true. I can't wait for cannabis to be apart of my regular shopping routine and does not involve me driving to a separate city to purchase. At a certain point there will be sales of cannabis and it's derivatives like CBD available in retail locations like Walgreens & Target nationwide. It's an exciting future that as an activist I feel partial satisfaction in.
At the same time- how many have fallen victim to a quick sale at the grocer? Sometimes with a bag of coffee or a box of granola- a product that looks fine that actually is too close to expiration that now you have to find yourself consuming your purchase within a week or even less. Mistake purchases happen and sometimes you cannot foresee cheap sale tactics.
With cannabis becoming more mainstream, can we prevent the common pitfalls of current consumer practices with cannabis and it's volatile nature?
Big Kids Club
I have been visiting a few of the different big box dispensaries in the last two years in Orange County from 420 Central to Bud and Bloom. The concepts of open floor dispensaries and all glass interiors do not faze me as a way to get me in the door. Stock variety, pricing and shelf velocity are key components to my dispensary decisions. I live near the Santa Ana dispensary neighborhood off the 55. Many major dispensaries are located in this small stretch that I have to drive to anyways- OC3, Strain Station Santa Ana, The Reserve (Now owned by Blüm), SCSA (South Coast Safe Access), People's OC, Super Clinik, Bud and Bloom and 420 Central. All heavy hitters with retail history.
The new contender to the neighborhood is MedMen OC or Santa Ana. MedMen is a similar retail experience to Show Grow, Blüm or Cookies- a franchise or chain of dispensaries affiliated with each other by brand and partnerships.
California dispensaries are weighed down by the taxes, regulations and overhead, owners like Steve DeAngelo of Berkeley Patients Group / Harborside Medical Cannabis Dispensary struggle with keeping cannabis affordable for their patients. Sometimes it does get heavy. This year I patiently watched the deals pass by from 420 central- a 15% off discount, a price I found lead products to be priced the SAME at normal price (not on sale for the sale brands and concentrates) at other dispensaries nearby.
Eventually I received a couple of newsletters from MedMen OC, I had visited once before a few weeks ago. My budget was tight and I was cashing in on a FTP deal(which I realized was simply their daily doorbuster deal). I was somewhat impressed by the showroom but unimpressed by the struggles of navigating their Ipad interfaces (unresponsive and difficult to use at the counters, as a designer and someone digitally literate it was embarrassing to fumble). Their prices were not very competitive to those in the area. Understandable with the overhead of the shop and all of the staff.
Their prices on Green Friday was another story.
I received the first email and I was confused. I'm not very good with math. I'll be honest- so when sales and deals are involved I get protective of my hard earned cash. I sent a tweet out seeking information- I was struggling to access MedMen on instagram so twitter it was.
Unfortunately it fell on deaf ears. Or so I thought- I got a new newsletter from MedMen right before the sale. It came with a lot of specifics:
My thoughts- excellent! My local store is OC so I was less concerned about missing out on the deals. I felt like tweeting out once again to MedMen
Green Friday came and it was way less traffic than I expected. When you approach MedMen OC, their storefront backside and employee parking faces the street with their parking in the back enclosed by a fence. It seemed packed and difficult to actually get into the lot. It was empty inside. I arrived near the end of their 10am-1pm deal period.
As I walked down the center of the shop floor I was directed to the Green Friday deals by the entrance. I was halfway inside the store and I was directed back to the entrance door. Normally when you shop at a retail location normally you have to walk through the entire store to the back to access the sales. I was helped by a tall budtender I didn't get his name, who after explaining I was looking for "bang for my buck" left me alone with little information. I explained earlier about how the floor lists all the prices for the products on Ipad on their counters well this was worse.
Similar to Walmart or Best Buy- there were little pop up tables dedicated to the sale products. There was no signage for any of the deals. I was told "all of these Raw Garden are at $15.00 " (later I found out there was bubble hash and those as well as a few others were definitely different prices). It felt uncomfortable- it's like sticking your hand in a container of loose video games at Gamestop and hoping you don't pull out a $50.00 game, it ruins the experience, makes it stressful.
After fumbling and selecting around 10 concentrates of different labels and varieties- I started walking over to the payment counter at the back of the store when met halfway with another female budtender. She was super awesome in helping me realize that majority of the concentrates I picked up were out of my price range. Feeling defeated and poor I had to go back and pick up a few of a different quality to meet what quantity I initially came in to buy. I'm a cannabis patient, I am looking to get cannabis for weeks to medicate with. If I can get about a gram and a half a week at an affordable price it really helps.
I left my purchase at the payment counter. As I walked back to the front of the store to the small table for the concentrates I see another patient speaking with a different budtender that had not been helping me.
The patient was talking about the selection and this budtender mentions something that the very first budtender also briefly mentioned to me "we got this all in last night so I am not totally sure of the entire selection." I brushed this off because I get this a lot from budtenders. They know the brands, sometimes the varieties but strains can be new and change often. Not their fault at all- but this other budtender elaborated on their backend process "we brought these in from our other stores to sell at our two largest locations".
The second newsletter made sense. Bring all the product from your less popular stores to make larger sales at the larger storefronts. It's a common practice for limited quantity products like electronics or video game consoles.
At that point I didn't think much of it. Made total sense from a business perspective. I picked up a final jar of some Guild Extract, paid and left.
The staff at MedMen, the two ladies checking me in, the security guard, were all extremely inviting and personable. The budtenders were all over the place, I felt that maybe they were caught up with the recent rush of sales and still recovering. It's very stressful this time of year in retail.
What I noticed when I got home I am still struggling to excuse.
I normally will tidy up any poor packaging or mistakes from the dispensary, for example I'll rip off excess labels for POS barcodes or move volatile shatters to dab containers.
When I ripped open my little red bag and poured all my jars of concentrates on my desk I had found that there were double labels on all of the Guild Extract I received. I didn't think anything of it until my partner Oscar pointed out that there was not just a random string of numbers under their barcode but an actual date as well.
The date of old label was 12/21/16. A few weeks short of that initial date but pretty close. I was disappointed because I didn't actually open my concentrates at the dispensary to take a look at them but they did have that oxidized effect that live resin gets after being exposed to some air from sitting out. I have gotten this from just taking concentrates from jars and putting them into silicone dab containers.
I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with what Medmen California did for their Green Friday sale. Companies don't have to participate in "holidays" like Black Friday but it is an excellent method to move stock, tap into that desperation for deals & sales on the high prices of cannabis and you have a great formula. Especially when this stock has been sitting at an unpopular dispensary location not being purchased for whatever reason- location, preference or price.
It is a great thing that the old labels were left on, it felt like there was a level of transparency even though it was unintentional. The new labels placed over the old ones to obscure so it seems there wasn't too much regard for customers seeing the old dates.
Keep in mind- Medmen OC opened just a few months ago. This concentrate definitely was moved in from a different location. I recently purchased some Guild Extracts from Bud and Bloom a few weeks ago and saw that their labels had been updated. A little thing but shows that time had indeed passed- if not for the slightly aged tan label.
At the end of the day, I appreciated in getting a deal on my cannabis on Green Friday. I acknowledge I pay a lot for the medicine I want to be consuming because it is far better for me to be consuming concentrates. I'm not going to stop dabbing and this sale provided the cannabis I needed. I just wish there was a little more transparency in the transaction, it should have not been something I overheard or finding out by peeling off labels. It can make you feel a little bit cheated.
I also would be interested in the reaction of a Chardonnay mom being sold year old weed.