Monday, October 6, 2014

Market Basket Miracle

Businesses are run very differently now than when I was young. Then many businesses treated their workers and customers as a precious asset. Not so much anymore. Now both employees and customers are viewed as victims to be fleeced. The main reason to open a business is have a path to our wallets. Nothing matters but their profits.

Fortunately there are exceptions. One of them near me is Demoulas Market Basket where I can really stretch my food budget. Until this June, it was operated by Artie T., the grandson of the founder. He believed in treating his workers and customers with respect. And by doing so, he made a lot of money.

But not enough money to suit another members of his extended family Arthur S., also grandson of the founder. In June, Arthur S gained control of the company, and fired Artie T. Next A. S. replaced him with business types who would convert the chain to a profit-first model. This was a mistake.

Employees of the company went on strike. Since none of them were part of a union, this was a big risk. They didn't ask for better hours or more pay. They only wanted Artie T. back. So it was a strike to return their CEO. No strike like this has occurred in our country.

The new managers reacted with threats and firings. But the strike went on. Store shelves emptied and customers like me, went to other stores. I discovered just how much more I had to pay in the other grocery chains.

All through the hottest days of summer, the employees and customers held firm. We were all excited by the news that Artie T. had made an offer to buy our his cousin. But nothing happened. Hopes were dampened as promised completion of the deal didn't take place. Finally, the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where most of the stores were located, intervened and attempted to mediate between the cousins.

 On a Thursday afternoon, word came that a deal had been struck. Artie T. would own the business and return to run it. Every one rejoiced. Delivery trucks lined up outside the warehouses, workers flooded back to the stores to prepare for the return of the customers. When we first went back to our nearest store less than two days later, most of the usual products were at the ready. Empty parking lots filled with cars.

Artie T. visited many of his stores to personally thank his workers for their loyalty. He posted a message on the company website to thank customers for their loyalty. The last item to return to normal was the appearance of the weekly flyer in my mailbos. Business has been better than ever.

What a lovely example that business is about more than huge profits. Hopefully, Market Basket, and Artie T. will convince other businessmen that businesses based on generosity instead of greed can be very profitable.

Nice to make a bit of history.

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