Saturday, August 30, 2014
So I went grocery shopping yesterday
I know, this sounds like a really odd thing to blog about, and even odder since this is a cat blog but hopefully you will begin to understand why I feel so darn strongly about this.
I am new to the phenomenon that is Market Basket. There is one in NH that I have shopped at in the past, but randomly and I never really did understand what it stood for. Market Basket, in case you don't know, is a family run business that treated its employees very well. It also treated its customers very well in the form of low prices and happy employees. This is not cheap to do, and so you 'lose' some profits by doing this... but I also believe you gain some profits by doing this as well. Employees have a pretty low turn over rate so you don't need to invest a lot in training, and customers when treated properly tend to be loyal.
Back in June the board at Market Basket fired the people who made the decisions to invest in the employees and where to invest it's profit sharing portfolio. As a result of the firings, seven more executives quit (or were fired depending on your news source). Prior to the firings, they brought in two consultants, Jim Gooch and Felicia Thornton. After the firing they were appointed to be the CEOs. These two people, from what I can tell, were there to 'make the company more profitable' which is more often than not at the expense of the employees..former companies worked at by Jim was Radio Shack and Sears. When this happened, the employees called for a boycott of the store, and most of the customers, myself included, supported them.
I don't know about you, but I am SICK AND TIRED of big business and how they feel they can do anything they want to raise corporate profit and take home more money for the 1% at the expense of the individual. It is very hard to get people to unite and say 'no, this isn't a good thing' because there are always people who are willing and some need to save a penny or two. Finding real ice cream in your supermarket is harder and harder as cream has become more expensive, they have been substituting with cheaper ingredients and then hiding the fact that it isn't 'ice cream' but a 'frozen dairy desert' in wee little print (or not putting it on the package at all). Soda which used to be made with sugar (from sugar cane) started to become made with HFCS - because corn is subsidized by the government where cane sugar is taxed. A lot of 'sugar' being used actually comes from beets these days. Packages are getting smaller and smaller and prices are not being reduced. When was the last time you were actually able to buy a half gallon of ice cream at the store?
I fear that all of these changes aren't just hurting us financially but also hurting our health. Have you looked at an ingredient list lately? Have you ever tried to buy something with out HFCS or GMO free? it is darn near impossible at your general grocery store with out going organic at which point you are often looking at an even smaller package and an even higher price point. We have gotten to the point where what was once 'food' is now at a premium and food like substances (or frankenfood) is the norm. It is just sad.
So why am I talking about all this when I said I wanted to talk about going grocery shopping? Because this non union store banded together, and as one collective voice said "NO!" They did not like the turn the company was taking and they did something about it. I was having a conversation with a co-worker wondering why they didn't just fire everyone who wasn't working - which is very hard to do when it is everyone, including the people who would do the hiring in the stores. The employees did a very good job getting the word out to customers asking them not to shop at their stores and asking for their support in this boycott. I too was annoyed that I couldn't shop there because they carry a few products I can not get anywhere else (not to mention a number of products I can buy elsewhere are often several dollars more expensive) but I stood with them in the decision to say this is not acceptable.
Too many times big companies win.. Just look at Fairpoint Communications. Four months their union has been with out a contract.
This time the 'people' won. They stood up and said let's have a fair work environment, lets go back to what was working and they stuck by their guns despite losing personal income for nearly two months. The company let this thing linger and linger losing nearly 10 million dollars a day since June, which also only set to lower the selling price, and yet they resisted selling to the one person the entire company base was screaming for. You have got to love the dynamics of a family run business
(point of note, I once worked for a different company that was sort of in the same situation. The decedents of the original owner were bickering on how things should be run and as a result one would make wild and unwise spending decisions that ran the company into the ground. They barely survived but are just a shell of the company they were when I worked for them)
So good for you, the current Market Basket team. I hope you continue to be successful and keep the employee loyalty that you are now known for.
As I was shopping, I saw these coke bottles on the shelf just like this.. it made me smile. I heard two different announcements by employees thanking shoppers for coming back (and it was PACKED when I was there) and each time the employees whooped it up and did some cat calls (see, I knew I'd get the word cat in this post somehow) and I walked by a half dozen employees having conversations with customers about what just happened, or thanking them for shopping, or where things were going. The shelves were still not completely full. Most of the produce was still missing, the meat department was kind of sad, but the people were all very happy.. employees and people alike - and when was the last time you could say that about shopping anywhere let alone grocery shopping.
I can not tell you how much I hope this impacts all other areas of business. How companies start thinking that maybe loyalty and treating people right is far more important than paying a penny more on it's shares or that their CEO makes a wee bit more than the CEO of the competition. Money is NOT the only sign of success.. and Artie T I am sure would agree with me.