On this Labor Day, I sat down to think about what Market Basket means to me.
I've been shopping at this local supermarket chain for over 15 years. It all started when I was a teenager and worked next door to the Bellingham, MA store. My mother and I loved Market Basket's prices and the proximity to my job. It was so convenient. We didn't love the packed parking lot and the rude customers who took up precious aisle space needlessly. But those situations are inherent in any grocery shopping experience. Market Basket always seemed worse than others. I knew people who would pay more to go elsewhere for a quieter shopping experience. I learned how to navigate the craziness and avoided peak hours. It was worth it the extra effort. Why? Because Market Basket has two basic things that made it the best grocery store around: low prices and variety.
When I left my parent's home and moved closer to the city, I was really poor. I barely had enough to pay all my bills. I depended on the nearby Market Basket in Burlington, MA for my groceries. I tried going to the local Stop n Shop but those trips always proved to be disastrous. I would overpay for basics and could never find everything on my list. The hike to the Burlington store could be frustrating and that store's layout before it's renovation was not ideal but even a bad Market Basket was better than any other grocery store in the area.
There was a time I really wanted to leave Market Basket. I dreamt of shopping at Whole Foods or Wilson Farms full-time. But all I could manage was buying produce at those stores and everything else at Market Basket. Then I discovered the Market Basket in Woburn, MA. It was leagues better than the Burlington store with more product and a much better lay out. I could find everything there.
When I moved in with my husband Carlos, my grocery bill tripled. He's a big man with a big appetite and he prefers healthy food. And as we all know it's much cheaper to buy junk food than it is to buy fresh meat and produce. Now that I had the responsibility of buying so much food, how were we going to pay for it all?
I began to hone my grocery shopping and meal planning skills. I made a menu plan and plotted out dinners for each night of the week. Dinners had to be four servings so that the leftovers could be eaten for lunch the next day. That would maximize the food as well as my time. We went out to eat a lot less and I started cooking more often at home. When finances got really tight, I started paying close attention to the Market Basket circulars. My menu plan was influenced by which meats, produce and pantry staples were on sale.
We've been able to always afford food thanks to the reliability of Market Basket. When the boycott started, I didn't know what to do and I spent most of the summer with a lot of sadness. I felt like I lost control of my life. Grocery shopping was always something I had a complete handle on.
During the boycott, I shopped at Aldi, Whole Foods, Roche Bros. and Stop n Shop while the boycott was happening. I wanted to support the workers who were fighting for what they believed in. I always thought Market Basket was cheap because they kept the overhead low and paid their workers poorly. Little did I know that Market Basket was a great place to work because of Artie T. He gave them a living wage, profit sharing opportunities and made them feel like they were contributing to the company. They weren't just underpaid peons. I wish I had known this before.
The weeks away from Market Basket were brutal. I wanted the boycott to be over so badly. It was sad to see photos of empty store shelves. And it was terrifying to see products like rotisserie chicken sold at other stores for $8.99-$10.99 when I knew I could get the same thing at Market Basket for less than $5.
The Market Basket boycott came at a time when income inequality was dominating my thoughts. I had just watched the documentary Inequality for All and was wondering if good business was a thing of the past. Now that Market Basket is back, I know that it's possible. It's restored my faith in the future.
And now, I'm very proud to call myself a Market Basket customer.