Category Archives: retail

Market Basket as The Epitome of Hive-Mind Community Destruction

Image of Market Basket Protests
(AP Photo)

With the ongoing saga of Market Basket protests still in full swing – and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick now entering the fray -, it may be time to remind Arthur T. Demoulas and his supporters of what Spock said to Captain Kirk as he sacrificed himself to save the USS Enterprise in Star Trek II: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few….” To which Kirk replies: “Or the one.”

It was a quaint idea when it first began: Employees supporting the founder of their company following his ouster. Good. Great, even. I applaud that, I really do. However, if their willful abandonment of their job duties as a form of protest costs them their employment, then that is THEIR choice and theirs alone. They, in their masses, made the decision to start this protest but, what they either do not realize or do not seem to care about is the impact their actions is having on the tens of thousands of people who relied upon a thriving Market Basket chain for their livelihood. Truck drivers, grocery suppliers and their employees, small-town produce suppliers and their families, taxi drivers, the list goes on and on.

The number one problem with the Market Basket situation – and the reason it must end immediately – is that entire communities are now being adversely affected thanks to the selfish actions of both the Board AND the employees. New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has indicated that many Market Basket employees in the state may be eligible for unemployment compensation. She also made it clear that this would most likely negatively impact our state budget. Folks, that money comes from us, the people! Out of our already-strained pockets! It does not come from some magical, never-ending pot of gold. Whether it be through employment insurance fees paid by companies (and then passed to customers through higher prices) or through straight-up taxation, we, the people, are now on the hook for effectively bailing out the WILLFUL unemployment of these protesters.

Additionally, other businesses that share building space with Market Basket stores are being hit hard. Look at the very sad example of Aubuchon Hardware in Warner, NH. Situated right next to a deserted Market Basket, the store has had to lay off several workers and predicts having to lay off more in the coming days. This tragedy hits a small town like Warner (population only 2,700) very hard. And their story is not unique during this saga.

What started out as a strong employee reaction to the firing of company founder, Arthur T. Demoulas, has snowballed into a catastrophe that is now affecting entire local economies outside the Market Basket family – and it is time that it STOPPED. Our entire economic system is based on rules that are remarkably similar to those that constitutionally govern our personal lives; i.e. the right to make decisions as we see fit for the betterment of our business. Boardrooms are marriages. When the marriage isn’t working, it enters into divorce. In divorce someone almost always wins and someone almost always loses. Such is the nature of these things. However, if somebody came to you during your divorce and told you that you do not have the right to divest yourself of your spouse but that they (this 3rd party) were going to take away all of your assets, anyways, you would consider yourself to have been unduly violated and illegally taken advantage of. Well, oversimplified though the analogy may be, this is exactly what is occurring with Market Basket. Look, it doesn’t matter if the Board’s business objectives are divergent from the company’s prior mission. The fact remains, a company’s governing body is free to do as it wishes within the bounds of the law and who is ANYBODY to say otherwise while saying with a straight face that they are not then being hypocritical?

Here’s the reality: Many of those Market Basket employees – and nearly ALL of those non-employees who have jumped on the hive-mind social media bandwagon – have never personally met Arthur T. Demoulas nor do they actually know a thing about the man beyond what someone they DO know has told them to think. Yes, he made personal visits to stores. Yes, there are some long-term employees who do have the benefit of knowing the man. But do you really believe that the thousands of young high-school kids working as baggers and cashiers in these stores actually have a vested interest in Mr. DeMoulas beyond the “cool factor” of belonging to a social trend? Yes, that’s a bold statement, and, yes, I will receive plenty of hate mail for it. But when the haters calm down and look back through clearer eyes, it will be seen as truth. For those adults who DO have a vested interest in their employment at Market Basket, how much leadership are you displaying by encouraging these young employees, so new to the workforce, to voluntarily commit financial suicide?

And, as for the people who jumped on the social media trend and boycotted the stores in their OWN communities, well…you may still have a job and the money to buy food at another store, but what have you done to those who relied on Market Basket? Those are YOUR neighbors. YOUR friends and/or family. But, now, they are OUR financial burden. Hive-mind community destruction. Please end this saga, now.

(Ed. note: It has been brought to our attention that Arthur T. DeMoulas is actually the son of the chain’s founder, and not the founder, himself, as stated in the piece. Our apologies for the error.)

About the Author: is the Senior Marketing Strategist for 603 Media Group. Primarily tasked with the challenges of keeping our small business running, Jeremy also occasionally branches out into public speaking, blogging, website design and raising his son to not be another one of “those damn kids”.

Best brand advocates? Your own employees!

Walmart has an image problem. I know that’s not much of a newsflash but the point remains. Lately, the most vocal group of Walmart haters has not been the anti-China crowd or the anti-shuttering of Mom and Pop stores crowd or any of the myriad other normal detractors. No. Lately, it is Walmart’s own employees who are slamming the mega-chain’s mere existence. So united are they in their negative feelings of the company that thousands of employees are threatening a national strike on Black Friday.

In the marketing world, we talk often and loudly about “brand advocates” – that is, those happy customers who are so smitten with your product or service that they tell everyone they meet about you and your organization. We court them, we cater to them, we bribe them with baubles (admit it, you do) and we pray that they will speak on our behalf to all who will listen.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to an old friend about his work. He never really talks much about what he does. His Facebook profile isn’t saturated with each minute detail of his exciting days at work as so many of my other “friends”‘ pages are, and his eyebrows get this particular furrow whenever the subject comes up. On this particular day, however, I pressed him on the issue.

“Man,” he said, “I hate that company. They suck. I wouldn’t wish that place on my worst enemy. Don’t ever buy from them.”

I was shocked. I always thought he loved his job. Was the product bad? Nope. Were the services sub-par? Never. Were shipments to customers routinely delayed? Not at all. Well, what was it that made this company so bad that his strongest advice to me was to not ever buy from them?

He didn’t like the way he was treated.

Word of mouth from customers is vital to growing brand awareness, to be sure. But in your search for advocates, don’t forget the one group of people who can be particularly powerful in both positive and negative ways – your employees.

I’ve had service personnel come out to manufacturing facilities where I’ve worked to repair equipment. These are workers who are sent out into the field to represent their company to their clients and yet, for some reason, as soon as they have an ear to bend, they unload about how awful their employer is, how little their engineering department knows, etc. Always kinda’ leaves me scratching my head wondering why I’m hiring this company and its personnel if they’re really as inept as their own employee says they are….

On the other hand, I’ve had site visits from personnel who can’t talk enough about their employer – in good ways! Now, I consider myself to be pretty in tune with the particularly odiferous presence of a fresh load of you-know-what. So I can usually tell when someone is blowing sunshine just to keep me happy or is genuinely in love with their work. And when you have someone in front of you who is elbows-deep in ink and grease repairing a busted drive union on a 30-year-old printing press while raving about his company and the work he does, well…that’s just bomber (as my 9-year-old would say). And, the next time an employee puts a wrench through a pair of impressed cylinders, I’ll be darn sure to call that same company back to repair the damage.

Not every organization needs to worry about their employees’ personal feelings making the headline news. However, understanding that sometimes employees are just stuck in the whole “grass is greener” mindset, it still cannot be denied that your workers are your first line of ambassadors when it comes to your organization’s image, brand and reputation. Court them. Cater to them. Find a culture that respects their efforts, rewards their successes and fosters personal investment in the organization and you’ll have your own personal team of brand advocates doing your marketing work for you. Win-win for all!

About the Author: Jeremy Jones is the Senior Marketing Strategist for 603 Media Group. Primarily tasked with the challenges of keeping our small business running, Jeremy also occasionally branches out into public speaking, blogging, website design and raising his nine-year-old son to not be another one of “those damn kids”.