Coop, with over $8.7 billion in revenues, is one of the big boys in Swiss retailing-the other being Migros. This cooperative operates supermarkets, restaurants, gas stations, consumer electronics outlets, hotels and even perfume stores. Back in 1999 I attempted to visit Coop and their Coop Bank but was rebuffed at both places and abruptly told "we're not interested" (go to Archive 1 to read story).

Times heals all wounds as I'm back at the 14-story, 1970's building a few blocks from Basel's main train station for another visit. It was initially built as an apartment house, which explains why it's located in a primarily residential area. Atop the building there's a large one-story Coop sign in addition to the similar size Coop sign near the front entrance. Big doings are going on here as there's a huge company building under construction immediately next door.

It's a tiny reception area with only two chairs for visitors. I check-in with friendly receptionist Biancia Meestens and ask if she can contact the secretary to Hansueli Loosli, Chairman of the Executive Committee, to find out who ended up with my introductory material sent a month earlier. Hmm, it's not good as I'm told the secretary knows nothing about it. But, things work out in the end as the accommodating Urs Engler and Sylvia Filliol-Liniger, both from public relations, end up answering questions and showing me around the place.

The top floor (14th) houses the company cafeteria and that's where we head to sit down and go through my questions. Actually it's on the 13th floor but since they count the lobby floor as zero it would be the 14th for me. Wow, the cafeteria affords employees a terrific view of the city and surrounding areas. About 250 work in this building but after the new big add-on is finished, between 2,000 to 3,000 company personnel will be working in this complex. This year (2002) is special as Coop celebrates its 100th birthday.

Smoking isn't allowed in offices, there're no on-site recreational facilities but showers are available and employees can use company-issued foot powered two-wheeled scooters to get around. You can drive to work but have to pay to park the car and the company's art collection is contemporary and international in scope. There's covered parking for commuting cyclists, no formal dress code, it's a six minute walk to Basel's main train station, 10 minutes by tram to the city center and 25 minutes by car to Basel Airport. Any unusual employee perks? Ten percent off non-food items at Coop stores, plus five times the normal "Supercard" points given to shoppers on their groceries. Like many grocers, Coop has this free card given to shoppers that gives points for how much you spend. These "superpoints" can later be redeemed for travel, consumer goods and a zillion other things.

I can't see the CEO's 12th floor corner office as "he's busy" but do check out the boardroom with its U-shaped table that seats 14.