Market Basket Saga Rocks Us After Heads Roll

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Carol Robidoux
Carol Robidoux

I returned home to Manchester, NH, from my first vacation abroad to discover Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas had been fired by the supermarket chain’s Board of Trustees, led by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas – both grandsons of the grocery store chain’s founder, who have been feuding for decades, in court and out, over control of the family food fortune.

Bigger crisis: My cupboard was bare, except for some wilted produce.

So I ventured out to restock my refrigerator on Thursday by driving a short distance to Hannaford on Hanover Street, where I am a regular. Although I have been to Market Basket from time to time – my jug’o’wine is $3 cheaper there, and it’s the only place IScreen shot 2014-07-25 at 8.17.08 AM can find Turkey Hill Double Dunker ice cream, I feel like Hannaford is home. It’s smaller, the staff is more helpful and the Muzak is always bumpin’.

I entered my supermarket with trepidation – would the Market Basket boycotters have already been in to swarm the shelves? Would the produce aisle be picked over? Would the “People of Market Basket” Facebook now include a “People of Market Basket Shopping at Hannaford” subset of disturbing photos of poorly dressed overweight people bending and stooping?

To my joy, everything was running smoothly. Plums and peaches were plentiful. Bread, milk and end caps were brimming.

As for the stand-off between loyal shoppers, employees and the new Market Basket regime, I wish them all well. Jobs are hard to come by these days.

Especially in the food biz.

Stop & Shop closed all it's NH stores last year, making a clear path for Market Basket to expand.
Stop & Shop closed all it’s NH stores last year, making a clear path for Market Basket to expand.

Supermarkets and their employees here in New Hampshire have suffered a lot recently – in large part by the newly built Market Baskets, which strategically shut down our Stop & Shops and many Shaw’s markets around this time last year, leaving thousands unemployed. It also created skeletal remains of many once bustling grocery anchor stores at a residual cost to the smaller stores in those shopping strips, that relied on the foot traffic for survival.

It was too hard to compete with the DeMoulas.

As I recall there was not a lot of outrage back then for those who lost their jobs. I do remember there were a lot of opportunistic shoppers rushing in to clean the shelves for all the goods being liquidated at discount prices.

I couldn’t bring myself to do the vulture dance. That’s just me.

Back to the discount prices – which is what has put Market Basket on the map here, and what drives too many of us in our shopping and consumer practices. People love what they perceive as Market Basket’s lower prices, and the 4 percent off your entire order that was launched in the beginning of 2014.

To be honest, there is always a cost, at some level, for mass-produced goods shipped in to our huge supermarkets from all over the world. I have become more a fan of local shopping – you can get pretty much anything you need to eat from a farm stand or independent market here in New Hampshire. Yes, you will pay a bit more, but it supports our local economy and sustains an important eco-system that includes knowing where your food comes from and how it’s produced.

It might even force us to buy and eat a little less.

I have for years marveled at the amount of food that is available to us here in the U.S., with the proliferation of over-sized super mega food marts like Market Basket that now also include Target and Wal-Mart. So much food in a country “of fat people” as I heard more than one person describe us, while chatting with tourists from other countries at German cafés over delicious coffee drinks, and beer.

No denying  that there is a lot of emotion involved in this particular food fight. A lot of bad blood and family history. A lot of customer loyalty sparked, primarily, by the incredible employee loyalty from those so-called Basketeers who attribute good working conditions and benefits to Arthur T.’s benevolent management style.

It’s a story so full of intrigue and karma that  it has gone viral, and is being picked up by national publications.

There are even musical tributes, like this one, “The Buzz Market Basket Song,” broadcast on The Morning Buzz radio show, and this Reggae-style Market Basket protest song by North Shore band, Monkey Knife Fight, with this catchy refrain:

Will I just go hungry for the rest of my life
Say no say no, where do I need to go
If you say Stop and Shop I much rather die
And if you say Shaw’s the answer’s still no
Where am I gonna buy my food
Guess that we’re all just screwed
Where am I gonna buy my food
Take outs much better anyway
Get some McDonalds, maybe some KFC
Order some tacos, or maybe Wendy’s
Get some fried chicken, then maybe Dairy Queen
Where am I gonna buy my fooooooooood

The answer, for me, is Hannaford, as usual. But I wish all the Basketeers well.

About Carol Robidoux 5468 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.