Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Greenbelt Co-op Supermarket & Pharmacy different from other grocery stores?
The Greenbelt Co-op is a non-profit business and cooperative which means that the members are the owners, they can give input and feedback, and can vote or run for the board. In addition, when there are excess earnings at the end of the fiscal year, this surplus goes back to the store, staff and the members, and stays in the community.

Why should I join the Co-op?
By becoming a member, you get to share in the success of the cooperative, participate in setting their policies and supporting other activities approved by the membership. Further, if the store shows a profit at the end of its fiscal year, members may get a patronage refund based on their purchases. All purchases made in the store count toward your annual total. For more information on the benefits of becoming a member, please see our Member Benefits page.

Do I have to be a member of the Co-op to shop here?
No, but there are real advantages for members.

How do I become a member?
One can become a member simply by filling out the application and submitting it with a payment of $10. You may enroll as a voting member for $100. You will then be given a member number which you use whenever you make a purchase. Visit our Become a Member page for details on how to join.

What are the different levels of membership?
Subscriber Membership starts with $10 which opens your member account.  Once you have $100 in your member capital account, you become a Voting Member of the cooperative which means you can vote at the annual meeting on any issue which comes up and that you can be on the Board of Directors. Once you have $200 in your member capital account, the account earns annual interest as well.

What is the member capital account?
This is the account that is opened when you join the Co-op with your membership fee. You may add to your member capital account at any time up to $2000. We cap the account at $2000 and pay simple interest on any monies in the account over $200 once a year.   

How do I know how much money is in my member capital account?
To ensure the privacy of your financial information, we require all members to complete a Capital Balance Request form and present it at the Customer Service office at the store. You may also be asked to show identification or otherwise authenticate your identity. 

How do I know whether there will be a patronage refund and when do I get it?  
Members find out about the cooperative’s financial status at the annual meeting. Decisions regarding patronage refunds are made by the Board of Directors.  Once the Board has received the auditor’s report, the Board decides how any profits of the cooperative will be shared.  Sometimes a portion of the store’s profits go into reserve for future projects; sometimes the profit is split between a contribution to the members’ capital accounts and a patronage refund voucher.  These decisions are made each year on the basis of the current state of the cooperative and its needs. If there is a patronage refund, vouchers are mailed shortly thereafter.

I received a patronage refund but what does the information mean? What do I do with it?
When you receive your patronage voucher, it will list your account status. If you are confused about what the numbers mean, please refer to our sample voucher. Once you receive your voucher, you can:  a) spend it in the store, b) deposit it into your member capital account, c) convert it to a check (after March 1), or d) donate it to the Co-op. You get to choose! If you don't select one of these options, your patronage refund will roll over into the Co-op's general fund automatically. You must have the original voucher. No copies, emails or faxes will be accepted.

I haven’t gotten a patronage refund voucher this year.  Why not?
There were no patronage refunds issued in 2020. Patronage refunds are calculated on the basis of the store’s performance during its fiscal year as well as your store patronage that year and represent a percentage of that amount. If you haven’t shopped at the Co-op very much, we don’t have much on which to base your refund.  While we have been able to pay patronage refunds in the past that is not always be the case. Sometimes the Board decides it would be best if the patronage refund is split between a member’s capital account and a voucher.  If the amount of the voucher is less than $2, we do not issue a separate voucher but simply put the full amount in your member capital account.  If you moved in the last year, we may not have the correct address for you and your refund was returned to us or not mailed at all. Please stop by the Customer Service Office and drop off your completed Information Change Form or email us your new information.

I lost my voucher. Can I get one re-printed?
Yes! Please see the Customer Service Office or email to request your duplicate voucher. All reissue requests must be received no later than July 1 of the fiscal year in which the voucher was issued.

I found some old vouchers in my desk.  Are they still good?
Vouchers must be used in the fiscal year in which they are issued. They are VOID after July 31. All non-redeemed vouchers are automatically added to the Co-op's general operating account.

Why do I need to give my Social Security Number?
If your capital account is greater than $200, you receive simple interest on the amount over $200 (up to $2,000) annually. According to Section 3406(b) of the Internal Revenue Service, we are required to have your CORRECT name and Social Security Number in order to process your interest check. It is imperative that we have this information on file in order to be compliant with the IRS Code. If either your name or SSN is missing or incorrect, the Co-op is fined by the IRS. In order to save the Co-op and our members money, it is imperative that we have this information on file. If we do not have this information on file, we will pass along the penalty to the non-compliant members. In addition, in order to open a membership account with the Co-op, your SSN is required. For more information, please refer to IRS Publication 1281.

I’m moving from the area.  How do I close my account?
You may close your account at any time. Complete and sign a withdrawal form and mail it to us or drop it off at the Customer Service Office when you visit the store. If you withdraw before the patronage refund has been processed, you will not receive a refund. Please note that only those individuals listed on the account can make changes to the account, including adding a co-member, changing addresses and other contact information, making contributions to your Member Capital Account and closing the account.

What does the Board of Directors do?
All actions of the Board of Directors are governed by the bylaws  of the corporation. The Board is charged with making policy decisions regarding the Cooperative, sees to its continuing fiscal health and is responsible to its members. There is a monthly board meeting and is a representative board, elected by the membership, and serve rotating terms. While the Board oversees the general organization of the Co-op, the day to day operations are handled by the General Manager and his staff. For more information on becoming a Board member, please visit the Board of Directors page.

I have some suggestions for the store.  What should I do?
We want to hear from members as they are the cooperative owners of the store.  You can contact the managers or any of the department heads at any time. There’s also a suggestion box located in the store. If you’re not sure who to contact, general inquiries can be directed to In addition, Board members can be reached at Members are invited to participate in monthly meetings; however, they need to give General Manager or the Board of Directors a heads up.

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If you didn't find your answer here, call us at 301.474.0522 or send us an email.