After a tough couple weeks for Market Basket’s loyal customer base and employees who were on the brink of permanent unemployment, news broke late Wednesday night that the “deal” had been done – Arthur T Demoulas’s offer to buy the 51% of Market Basket owned by his cousin, Arthur S Demoulas, and family, was accepted.
There was an immediate outpouring of gratitude and elation, followed by feverishly written grocery lists. At home, the Clam family is out of peanut butter, cereal, flour, pasta, rice, chocolate syrup, all kinds of cheese, frozen veggie burgers, and pretty much all meat products except hot dogs. This last week was like when you’re 85% through the Oregon Trail and rations are meager as all fuck and you’re just going hunting every damn day for what you need to make sure your kids don’t starve. Alkali water? Lost the trail? Goddamnit, MECC, you cruel overlords.
If you’re following along at home, this is actually a pretty incredible story that happened locally, but impacts globally. Here’s why:
1. First off, the little guy won. This doesn’t happen in modern day America, aside from rare instances. Employees without the protection of a union were able to successfully picket for what they wanted – not even a negotiable end goal like salary or benefits, but a concrete thing – reinstate Artie T as CEO. That’s it. Nothing less. While it started slowly, locally, the Market Basket story eventually grabbed nationwide media attention. Our local discount grocery with the never-fashionable floor tiling and the kids with the ties on was all of a sudden A Big Thing.
2. The employees had the backing of almost every single customer. Boycotts aren’t often incredibly successful – in this study, 53 out of 144 publicly-owned firms conceded to boycotter’s demands. That’s a 37% rate. While I couldn’t find the data, I have a hard time believing that any of those 53 cases had the groundswell of bipartisan support that Market Basket’s did. And again, that’s publicly owned firms that ostensibly are very concerned about their public image. Market Basket’s privately held board and double-dose of egregiously godawful CEOS Gooch and Thornton, at first glance, seemed relatively unconcerned about their public image, what with the whole “we will fire whoever doesn’t come to work” thing. This was a mistake. Oh my fuck, was this ever a mistake.
3. The protests were epic. The inmates ran the asylum, for lack of a better colloquialism. At every store, there were huge banners of Artie T’s face, receipts taped EVERYWHERE from other grocery stores, and dozens of protesters outside every entrance. Boycotts happen, but has there ever been a boycott where the upper management was unable to keep their stores from being completely overrun by protest signs? Picket line’s usually not INSIDE THE STORE.
4. The family background behind the protest, as I have stated before in a thing that kinda went a little viral, is FUCKING CRAZY. The family is straight-up nuts and the fighting was a decades-long sawdust soap opera. Plus strippers and disbarred lawyers. People want a crazy drama background, and holy hell has the Demoulas family ever delivered.
Of course, *record scratch* the fairytale ending isn’t set in stone. Arthur T Demoulas bought the company and operations are returning to normal very quickly, but the devil is in the details of how Market Basket will be paid for. The purchase price was somewhere near $1.5 B. ONE AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS. DANG. Artie T and family put up $500m, leaving $1b to be financed – most likely through mortgaging properties. This is going to hurt profits – Market Basket’s key to low prices and relatively good employee benefits was their ability to be almost terrifyingly profitable – they carried so little debt. This is no longer the case. While some of their capital will be saved by not distributing willy-nilly to shareholders on Arthur S’s side like in the past, that’s still not a gigantic chunk of the difference.
In all honesty, though, it may not be perfect, but this ending was the best-case scenario by far. The other options were:
– The stores closing altogether. This would first of all “suck balls” as the kids say, but secondly have a terribly negative impact on our economy – thousands of laid-off workers, plus the ever-expanding lower and middle class that relies on cheap, fresh food to maximize their budget. I don’t want to imagine a world without the Basket, do you?
-Employees giving up and the Arthur S side and its “management” team maximizing profits at the expense of employees and customers alike. The further erosion of worker pay and benefits ticks along and we as a society get used to it. Pete Seeger rolls over in his grave.
It’ll be interesting to see how the whole thing turns out – but the Clam has high hopes for Market Basket in the future. For now, I need a gallon of sour cream and seven pounds of steak to make up for lost time.
KT Toomey, Your commentary on the Market Basket saga has been brilliant. You may be the Mark Twain of our place and generation — with a little salt added, as is befitting a Clam.
Second that. I really enjoy your posts and unique perspective. 🙂
I agree – you’ve reported this leagues better than only other source I’ve been able/willing to watch/read.
I agree – you’ve reported this leagues better than any other source I’ve been able/willing to watch/read.
I found you through a FB post and really am impressed. Thank you for the back story and the very well written political economic commentary. In truth, Mark Twain was just as “direct” in his railings against stupidity. (see Ken Burns show) One note: not just the suppliers but all the ancillary businesses in every MB plaza were feeling the hurt too, if you had to go to Hannafords for food you stopped for gas their too. The pain was so widespread, I hope the joy – yes joy – of this power to the people event is remembered. Please keep posting so we don’t lose this miracle
Thank you KT for your coverage and background info, updates, etc. on the DeMoulas/Market Basket story. Your articles are the BEST! I found you on Facebook when someone forwarded me your first article about the protest. I even printed out the first two articles to share with friends and family that did not have the internet. ( I am now a follower of The Clam.) Please continue to post articles in your personal, right to the point way, as only YOU can do! THANK YOU!!! Patty 🙂
I too found you through a FB post. As a native of Lowell, I was probably more familiar than some with the Demoulas saga. To this day I still call MB Demoulas’ ( neighbors: Where the hell are you shopping???)
Of all the articles I have read about this, your’s made it the most understandable, and entertaining.!
I am now a permanent fan and every day I eagerly open my Clam email to see what hysterically funny observations you have posted for the day!
Never stop blogging, KT. You are totally awesome!!!!
Nice. Oregon Trail.
Caulk the wagons, motherfucker!
How soon til we see the script of the The Perfect Store, the heroic account of how the tiny Andrea Grocerie, captained by plucky ArtieT battled through a storm of market forces, the riptide of shifting family loyalties and near certain fiscal death to save his crew of thousands of benefit-less, but loyal, part-time crewmembers….
Or perhaps: Baskets of Wrath… Market Wars, The Customer Strikes Back… The Tale of Two Arties… Money Basket… The Tewksbury Redemption… To Artie With Love… One Flew Over the Market Basket… Artie Unchained… Bravebasket… From Here to Tewksbury… R.T. … Full Metal Basket … Raging Bullshit… Shop Hard – The Trilogy…. Artie’s Choice… Lox, Stock and Two Smoking Baskets…. Cool Hand Artie… The Artie Identity… Who’s Afraid of Arthur S… Basketstar Galactica…. Last of the Markethicans