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How one locally owned business in B.C. is practising 'bad capitalism'

This photo, submitted by Amber Price, shows mason jars at The Book Man used to collect charitable donations. This photo, submitted by Amber Price, shows mason jars at The Book Man used to collect charitable donations.

Dropping a token into a mason jar on the checkout counter at a pair of B.C. bookstores is a small gesture that has a big impact, according to the owner, who explains that it's just one of the ways the business has embraced "bad capitalism."

The Book Man, which has locations in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, raised more than $4,000 last year to donate to charities in the two communities. Every time a customer brings their own bag or decides not to take one, the business donates five cents to a local organization – which the customer gets to choose by picking which jar to drop a token into.

"Five cents doesn't sound like a lot but when 80,000 people put a token in a jar – that adds up pretty fast," Amber Price tells CTV News, adding that she got the idea from a Vancouver grocery store decades ago and thought it was a "great way to positively reinforce people making an environmental choice."

The food bank, a cat rescue, a domestic violence shelter, a literacy program and a non-profit that provides period and incontinence products are among the recipients of donations from The Book Man for 2023.

The mason jars are labelled with short, easy-to-understand phrases that tell people who or what their donation will benefit, something Price says makes the program something children can have fun with and learn from while shopping.

New customers and store regulars embrace the opportunity, according to Price.

"People are delighted, some people are definitely surprised. You can see that they feel good when they put that chip. It's not a lot but they're making a positive impact," she says.

"For people who are established in the program, it will be raining cats and dogs outside and they will say, 'no bag, no bag,' and they clutch their books under their jackets. They've got their designated charity, and I don't even have to ask."

The token program is something at least one other business in Chilliwack has implemented, and Price says she would love to see more stores follow suit.

Redistributing profits in this way is part of what Price refers to as "bad capitalism" which essentially means running a business in a way where profit is not the sole motive or goal.

She says when people choose to shop at her locally owned independent stores, they are also making a choice to invest in the community – and redistributing some of the profit is a way to reciprocate.

"We live and work in the community that we do business in and so we are deeply connected to our communities," she says.

"It's really important to me that as I see people investing in our businesses, they see us returning that favour and investing back into the communities that we do business in."

Price also pays her staff a living wage, uses profits to invest in accessibility at the stores and recently redirected profits from a successful Christmas season to fund a program providing families of students at a Chilliwack elementary school with fresh fruit and vegetables.

"It's about making those investments to create a better life for the people that surround us," Price says. Top Stories

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