Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A fight for what's right

The Market Basket feud has really caught my attention.  Lately, I rarely turn on the television and what I do watch is an on-demand show at the end of a long day.  I have virtually zero interest in channel surfing or tuning in to local or even cable news.  It seems so sadly skewed.  They replay the same stories, with very little investigative reporting and the stories they do cover have very little depth beyond an eye-catching headline.  

But this Market Basket story really intrigues me.  If you are not from the area, Market Basket is an enormous chain of grocery stores with yearly revenues of more than $4.6 B.  A quick google search will give you more facts about the story if you're interested. 

But the reason for my post is beyond the personal family feud or employee protests.  What's happening at Market Basket is worth taking note.   The newly ousted CEO, is loved by his employees.  He treats them fairly and generously.  When you're shopping, the associates name badges say how long they've worked there --- it is not uncommon to see badges say 8 years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years.  The reason is because Market Basket has made itself an employer that people want to work for.  They offer generous benefits packages, profit sharing, vacation time and upward mobility ---- all while maintaining tremendous profitability.   It is a case study that disproves the modern thinking that to provide cheap and competitive products, an employer needs to provide bare-basics to its people.   Managed correctly, a corporation can have its cake and eat it too.  They can make huge profits, be an industry leader AND be generous toward the people that do their part to make it the success that it is. 

You could also argue that Market Basket treated its consumers fairly.  It didn't price gauge.  It kept prices among the lowest I've ever seen, lower than any grocer and even lower than Walmart and Target.  It didn't up-charge simply because it could. 

The fairness to both his employees and his customers, has brought forth this huge backlash.  Not only have employees gone on strike since the CEO was fired, the customers have boycotted as well.  This is a real example of the power of people.   Our spending dollars can make an impact.  Our choices as consumers can direct the decisions of the Board.   

I'll continue to follow this story with a peaked interest both as a customer who misses my low priced, clean, efficient grocer and a student of ethics and economics, who continues to be optimistic that what's good for people and what's good for economies do not have to be mutually exclusive.