Clamsplainer’s Market Basket Update: This shit’s like the Titanic.

It’s been a week since I last wrote about the saga of Market Basket – its long, bitter history of family rivalry, its unbelievable hijinks in the state court system, and how Arthur T Demoulas was unseated.

A lot has happened since I wrote those articles (and a heck of a lot of people read them). And, most surprisingly, a lot hasn’t happened on the Market Basket side of things.

As protests continued last week outside all 71 stores, everything seemed frozen in time. The new reality – no produce, a dwindling amount of fresh food and generic brand foods, and few shoppers – was setting in. Nothing was happening. Everybody went elsewhere for food, no one bothered to even see what was left at the Basket. The only fresh faces seemed to be the ones coming to experience what the fuss was about, the ones asking questions, and the ones explaining to their kids what worker strikes were and how they happened. The employees are sticking to their guns – and even upping the game. Cars with posters of Arthur T Demoulas’ face taped to them are driving all over Gloucester, eliciting honks and cheering. The bellwether dog statue at the corner of East Main and Bass Ave is now adorned with a Market Basket uniform and a pro-Artie T sign. In Danvers, dozens of young protesters on Monday braved fierce rainstorms to support their former CEO.

Slightly after the rain. Listen, no one's paying me to go and get wet.

Slightly after the rain. Listen, no one’s paying me to go and get wet.

At the end of last week, the employees’ loyalty and their unorthodox revolt started to hit the national news. Heck, even Robert Reich is writing about the Basket now. This is huge. A non-union workforce walked off the job. They said “fuck it” to the very real threat of cuts in benefits and squeezing of the blue-collar workers, and the also very real threat of raised grocery prices – hitting those who rely on the chain’s low prices to make ends meet. Aside from the Occupy movement, which is obviously a pretty different scenario, this is the only time in any recent history a protest this massive has taken place against a corporation in the US – and it’s COMING ALMOST ENTIRELY FROM INSIDE THE CORPORATION.

WE'VE TRACED THE CALL. IT'S COMING FROM THE MEAT DEPARTMENT.

WE’VE TRACED THE CALL. IT’S COMING FROM THE MEAT DEPARTMENT.

The board met this last Friday after Arthur T Demoulas gave the board a buyout offer. But they made no major announcements aside from admitting they got the offer, and sticking with the “get back to work” refrain. This is how inept the board and management is – they’ve completely lost control of the company, they are positively hemorrhaging cash on a daily basis, and their only takeaway from a meeting is calmly asking employees to return to their jobs. Who is on this board, Spongebob Squarepants and a bunch of six year old kids?

Are they fucking HIGH? Do they not understand the depth of the problem facing them right now? This ship is sinking like a stone and they’re acting like it’s a slight delay in the maiden voyage to New York. No, motherfuckers, you hit a fucking iceberg, and you didn’t act in time. It’s been a month since Arthur T was fired and all you did was stay the course and hope that the employees would tire themselves out and return to work. I’ll mention again that one of the current CEOs is Jim Gooch, whose former leadership position was fucking RADIO SHACK. Turning this ship around and bailing water isn’t going to get easier with every nightfall.

It's cool, we cam totes fix this with a couple of stockboys and a pallet of wheat bread.

It’s cool, we cam totes fix this with a couple of stockboys and a pallet of wheat bread.

Market Basket’s PR is abysmal. Known for being one of the few companies that entered 2014 WITHOUT A WEBSITE YES I AM SERIOUS THEY DON’T HAVE A GODDAMN WEBSITE, they are now playing catch-up. What, did they think the Internet was a fucking fad? Literally they survived for decades because some guy bought domain space and scanned the flyer every week. Their opposition – teenagers with twitter, tumblr, vine and facebook, mind you – beat them to the punch by weeks. Their side of the story was everywhere long before the board could even release a statement on why they fired Arthur T Demoulas. You snooze, you lose, or whatever the Urban Dictionary version of that saying is these days.

21/F Looking for someone to destroy the establishment with.

21/F Looking for someone to destroy the establishment with.

The acrimony between Market Basket and pretty much everybody else deepens with every passing day. Their supply chain of dairy, vegetables, meat, etc is now a full-scale disaster – those smaller companies who rely on Market Basket to buy their goods are struggling right now, and they are rightly pissed. Some of them may not survive if this board doesn’t get its head out of its ass and do SOMETHING.

But what is this ineffectual leadership going to do? Fucking fire everyone? Yeah, no. Disaster. Not even just in a logistics sense, but from a PR standpoint, it would be a headache to attempt to hire an entirely new work force for every store. Customers are protesting along with the workers, and the fallout from such a move would be drastic. It would take months for a new workforce to get up to speed, if they could even find enough people willing to work there. Do they think robotic minions grow on trees? Not since we told Monsanto to cut the crap with the robotic minion GMOs.

Is replacing the new CEO team not an option? Don’t look at me, I have tattoos, pink hair, live in relative poverty, and I’m writing a freakin’ blog. I’m not exactly in Harvard Business School here. But with these two dipweasels at the helm, it’s not going well for Market Basket. This shitstorm may not be entirely under their control, but they’re sitting there with stupid looks on their faces just letting it happen with no real solutions.

Should they sell? Their options are running out – any other offers on the table that aren’t related to Arthur T Basket are going to start to fade out once the potential buyer realizes the magnitude of the employee “problem” and how much it’s going to take to right the ship – it’s not a turnkey operation. It’s a mess. Another week or two of stalemate, and everything’s going to be in far worse shape and we can probably all pool our pennies together and buy it ourselves.

But half the board hates Arthur T Demoulas. Family values, y’all! Selling the company to him would be the ultimate burn for them. They’d be giving in and he’d be getting what he wanted. And these aren’t exactly the type of folks to put employees, customers, and their supply chain ahead of their own pride. But if the other option is supreme, utter, public failure, selling to Arthur T and taking the huge wad of cash isn’t that bad of an idea, now is it.

I think the Basket might be fucked if nothing happens soon, and that’s tragic. But this is capitalism, baby. If you’re ineffectual these days, you’ll be eaten alive. For decades, Market Basket was anything but ineffectual, but damn if the tide hasn’t turned. You hit the iceberg, now deal with it.

Customers, employees, suppliers and whole communities are looking for the lifeboats here. The board bitching with each other over ancient grudges can’t be the thing between them and survival.

71 thoughts on “Clamsplainer’s Market Basket Update: This shit’s like the Titanic.

  1. I miss The Basket. I’ve been having to go to the other guys and realizing just how good I had it. PRODUCE SECTION WITH A HUGE SELECTION, I MISS YOU. COME BACK.

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  2. Also good Union people and families refuse to cross a picket line so that’s a reason a lot of people aren’t even entering MB…even though I need cheap cashews and toilet paper! And all this after I hung up my stop n shop rewards cards…

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  3. The other co-CEO, Felicia Thornton, was previously (2001-2006) the Chief Financial officer of Albertson’s, which is Shaws parent company. Shaws has done better than Radio Shack, but not that much better.

    Since 2006, Thornton was the CEO off Knowledge Universe, a for-profit education company affiliated with the Milken Foundation— Milken as in the notorious Michael Milken.

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    • I wouldn’t say Shaw’s has done better. How many times has it been sold? Even Albertson’s sold it at one point only reacquire it later on.

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    • Shaws is terribly overpriced and in my own opinion, the WORST major grocery chain in MASS. I literally live a 6 minute walk from one and usually drive 20 minutes to the basket (25 minutes to hannaford now) If thats the model that market basket was going to be following, I think it would be better off belly up.

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  4. Love, love, love your point of view. This is a sad situation for all involved with the exception of the Board, who have not made a statement, as you pointed out. But why and why not make a plea to the public? Lucy has some explaining to do and she ain’t coming out! The cheese has been moved and not one is happy! We all know the one who does not succumb to change ends up dead or lost. So in this case we wonder who the dead or lost will be in this. It may be just too late for either side!

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  5. If the Board doesbn’t do the right thing and either bring back Arthur T. or sell MB to him, they are done! As a loyal MB customer, I didn’t shop there because I liked the decor – I shopped there because of the people, the prices and the selection. If they sell out to a Shaws type operation or try to run it themselves to be “more profitable”, I will not be coming back. Nor will thousands of others I’m sure.
    The board has to decide do we want to destroy this company or bring back the people and business model that makes it so successful.

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  6. No bullshit and straight to the point!! Well written, factual content and entertaining. I dont care what color your hair is… in my opinion, you should be on the nightly news!

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  7. This is a great article. I am a business school graduate and help run a local company. You don’t need to go to bschool to understand the case behind this situation – just some history and common sense. I just put it up on Facebook with this descriptive…”So this is crass and not exactly what you’d find in a business school class…BUT it’s dead on correct and hit every aspect of a B-School case study and summarizes the essence of this New England battle. Nice job Claimsplainer….perhaps you should be at Harvard Business School even with your pink hair….”

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  8. KT I’ve also enjoyed your blog posts about the Market Basket debacle.

    I am a Market Basket customer, and I will support the employees with a boycott until this gets fixed. But I am afraid that these tool bags on the Board prefer the destruction of the company rather than come to a win-win compromise with ATD.

    They better wake up and smell the roses because other retailers like Wegmans are making inroads into the New England region while the MB Board of Directors prefer a d*ck measuring contest over doing something constructive.

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  9. How much longer can the workers hold out? I’m assuming they’re not getting paid to protest infront of the stores. Feel like this is going to come to a head sooner than later, and still the rich will get richer, and the average person will lose.

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    • the workers are still getting paid. They punch in and then continue the protest/ and or roam around their store just cleaning stuff

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  10. This article was definitely written by someone who serves Satan and not Jesus. The foul language is enough to make my spirit get very disgusted and uncomfortable. You will know who a child of God is by their fruit.

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    • “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.” ezekiel 23 20

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    • We used to serve Satan at The Clam. Then he got ousted as CEO of Hell and they moved in the guy from Roy Rogers, which is pretty bad but nothing like Hell. We’re worried he’s going to screw it up so we’re not serving the Dark Ones until Satan is restored. Or Dick Cheney. Either would be fine.

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    • @ME. Who decided that “cursing” is the work of Satan? The same xenophobic white European males that wrote the New Testament as justification for scaring people to conform? The same group of people that use the bible as a weapon? Where the fuck was your church during World War II when Pope Pius XII turned his back on the 8 million people executed in German concentration camps? If you judge people (something Jesus probably didn’t do) by the words they use and not what is in their hearts, then you are the one who’s spirit is weak.
      Great fucking blog KT. Bring back Artie T.

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      • You go Stormy Four20!! You are absolutely right! It’s all about the brain and the heart…..not the mouth.

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    • Way to keep the judgmental Christian stereo type alive and well! Please stop this, it is not of Christ to point out sins in other unless they are close to you and it’s with love. We are under Grace, please remember, you are just as sinful.

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    • So your comment raises the question, which local person or group most gets our spirit disgusted and uncomfortable?

      Locally, we have KT and her language, Satan, dipweasels ruining MB, a similarly dipweasely President of Gordon College Michael Lindsay, who wants the Feds to allow him to discriminate in hiring against LGBT in the interest, he says, of showing them respect.

      If KT is working with Satan, I am pleased to see that together they’re promoting great new nouns/adjectives such as “dipweasel”, which I will totally use from hence forth. So I’m down with KT for the language, and probably everything else. No disgusted spirit there.

      Meanwhile, I’m watching with interest to see to what spiritually disgusting levels MB’s Gooch and CO. might yet sink, and how far Gordon College’s Lindsay can extend his dipweseaselyness (love it!). So the answer to the initial question might need to await further information.

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    • God who? Which particular deity do you have a personal faith-based belief in? There are many faith-based beliefs on this planet.

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    • oh, my goodness! he said #5(&($*%$! Therefore it cannot be true! wtf? Is child of god planning to buy his fruit at Basket case?

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  11. From the Lowell Sun: “Gooch’s time with RadioShack went so poorly that a Forbes columnist called his resignation in 2012 the chain’s “biggest opportunity in a long time.” The website Wealth Wire named him one of its five worst CEOs of 2012. His resignation after slightly over one year as CEO followed an unexpected $21 million quarterly loss, according to reports, compared to a $25 million profit a year prior.” CNBC also named him in their top 5 worst CEOs.

    And BusinessWeek also named him one of the worst CEOs of 2012.

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    • So who else but Gooch would be suited for the job of sinking MB in the interest of twitting the past CEO? That’s not a job that requires the expense of hiring an actually competent CEO.

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  12. I’ve seen a few critiques of Market Basket’s lack of a website, but is that the board’s fault or the administration’s? For that matter, it seemed to be working for them–perhaps another way they kept costs down?

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  13. I would love to see employees and customers of Market Basket team up with OurWalmart. It has been an honor to boycott Market Basket and to live in a community with so many courage people who are willing to fight for decent working environments. We need $15 minimum wage across the board and benefits.

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  14. KT, thanks for your colorful description of the situation and its history. It is funny how profanity laced prose actually adds to the credibility of an author these days. Is it “I don’t care what people think, I am telling it like it is!”? Anyway, a nice read. I think you could have given the Mike side of the history more attention. You seem to look at the outcome of the trial as if it were completely clear cut, without much consideration of the process. If only court outcomes could be so relied upon as just, but we don’t hear too many people saying, “Yeah, OJ was not guilty, the glove did not fit.”
    Mike probably saw himself as the guy who worked his whole life while his brother’s widow and kids were getting 50% of ‘his’ profits without any work, time, effort. Such thoughts can fester and and make one feel entitled. In court you can bet the Arthur S side beat the drums pretty strongly on the innocence, vulnerability, etc of the victims and in a civil case, it is pretty much story telling time, facts can be secondary. The penalty in the end was to make the Arthur S side whole and then add 1%, so that shows me the crime must have had some mitigating circumstances. Finally, contrast the photo portraits of Arthur S versus Arthur T. A picture does tell a thousand words, fuck yeah.

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  15. There is actually a Market Basket website, but it’s “mydemoulas.net”…and shocker, last flyer they have listed on there is right when the ship really began to sink…Bring back ATD!

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    • The actual MB website was only up for a few days (www.demoulasmarketbasket.com) and had a store locator with out-of-date data, scanned flyer page and a Contact Us page. It came up after the crap hit the fan, and evidently they didn’t appreciate the contacts and reviews they got since they took it back down soon thereafter.

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  16. This was very satisfying to read; thanks so much for summing up the options and calling these clueless board members out for destroying one of the only good things in our pathetic lives. Today I threw away the carcass of the last MB $5 chicken I bought and felt crushed by sadness and helplessness. What if I never taste their spit-roasted chicken again?

    I am definitely enjoying doing my part by honking in solidarity when I pass the employees protesting near Gloucester’s MB, but I’m ready to do more. Tell us what to do K.T. You seem to have a grasp of the situation. Maybe it’s time for the Clam to rally us on behalf of MB — something’s gotta give here. I miss my chicken. And everything else about MB.

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  17. Wait a minute, what the hell are you people talking about. Nobody, and I mean nobody is talking about this at my hunter and gatherers club. I swear I use to have my finger directly on the pulse of pop culture. I guess that time is over.

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  18. The co-CEOs’ full statement is below:

    “We want Market Basket associates back to work and reiterate that they can return without fear of penalty. We again acknowledge and understand how difficult this situation has been for associates. However, we also need to have associates working to support stores, customers and vendors. We need associates to return to work on Monday August 4th. We understand that some associates may choose not to return, consequently we will begin advertising for employment opportunities. Our hope and strong preference is to have Market Basket’s incredible associates return to work. Again, any associate that wants to return will be welcomed and not penalized.”

    The company will host job fairs on Aug. 4-6 at Market Basket’s IT computer center at 340 Ballardvale St. in Andover.

    The fairs on Aug. 4-5, from 4-8 p.m., are open to current employees who are interested in taking different positions with the company or seeking promotions.

    “The history of the company has always been to promote from within, so allowing the existing associates the opportunity first is in keeping with that tradition,” a company spokesman said.

    A job fair for members of the general public seeking positions will be held Aug. 6 from 1-8 p.m.

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  19. Next time someone is on a rant about how the magic wonderland called the private sector, I’ll send them here.

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  20. A QUICK NOTE FROM CLAMEDITOR JAMES DOWD: Hey gang, starting to notice people getting into the personal attack zone on the comments here and I’m deleting them regardless to whether they make valid points or not. Even though your beloved Glocester Clam is your source for news snark and vulgarity, think of our comments section as a neighborhood BBQ. You can disagree, but politely not being the asshole who starts yelling at people about stuff. If you don’t like it, sorry. Feel free to start your own blog, that’s just the rule here. Oh, and we did publish a couple of the religious crazies (a small % actually) damming KT to Hell for swearing or whatever, but that is just to make fun of them because who goes on a blog post about a grocery store and starts damming the author to perdition? Seriously, people. Anyhoo, thanks in advance for your adherence! –JD

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    • I thought you published them because if get KT gets what she deserves from god it leaves you in control of the Clam.

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  21. Thank you for mentioning 2 things– that the suppliers and vendors who supply MBs are getting f-ed in this situation. They were the first not to get paid (as noted by a commenter above, many employees would clock in to protest). There is a New England farm that is losing about $2000/DAY because their deliveries have been refused. My dad services just one MB with his bread and is losing hundreds/week. AND, thank you for mentioning how much hatred there is in the DeMoulas family. People have been throwing around “corporate greed” and this saga together. WRONG. This is a damn Greek tragedy, revenge is the goal. Now, two more things, customers who are boycotting until Arthur T. comes back: please don’t head to a Super Walmart for your shopping. You see the hypocrisy there, yes? AND, if and when Arthur T. comes back– having no website is just one example about how much of a relic this chain is. Only 1 head of store in all 71 is a woman. And less than 10% of department managers. Arthur T is no angel.

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    • I guess the vendors could try to sell their products in the parking lot far stand style. I know it is not an ideal situation but it might help.

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      • Oh Qwerty, I wish it were that easy for the vendors. MB isn’t my dad’s only store, but it is a good percentage of his week. He just has to swallow the loss. In his area, the consumer dollar has, mostly, gone to Super Walmart and Hannafords. The Hannafords is in his territory, the Super Walmart is not. What this family is willing to do to their neighbors, the community that gave them all those dollars is mind blowing; all because they are blinded by a family squabble that has fueled hatred for decades. It’s not sad, it’s mean and out of touch with what the community is saying.

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  22. I was kicked out of the Market Basket in Rowley today. Told there was some sort of emergency but no one looked very worried or panicked. The fire dept showed up after about 10 minutes but no lights and not in a very big hurry. Nice articles BTW.

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  23. So the Art D majority and their laughable attempts at restoring Market Basket are STILL missing a huge point….the CUSTOMERS!!! Sure, hire new faces, keep the current workers, stock the shelves, but if the CUSTOMERS still boycott, they have NOTHING. Common sense in this argument left long ago, on the shareholder side, it’s all greed. So go ahead, throw open the doors and say ‘we’re open for business!!!!’ I hope people in New England are still hard enough to keep the customer boycott going. If they have the resolve, I suspect Art T (the good Art) should be able to even lower his bid to buy out the remaining shareholders. The board themselves inflicted this wound by firing a well loved CEO, the backlash was unexpected, and frankly, f***n’ awesome to behold. Art D felt the shareholders were due an extra 30 MILLION + each, Art T protested and was canned (though he got the windfall too). Enough Already. The people of New England have protested, physically and with their wallets, the current board keeps adding to the poison, what the hell ever happened to common sense?

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  24. One thing that I’ve seen no mention of which goes hand in hand with their low prices is the high quality of their generic/store brand. Normally you’d buy the store brand to simply save money, but at the Basket I go out of my way for the store brand because it almost always beats the national brands. That quality of the Basket is also missed by going to S’ and S&S.
    Slightly OT, happily the IGA in Rockport went away as that was the real abomination! My apologies if anyone reading this was affiliated with that piece of shite.

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  25. As a loyal MB customer, I had a brief but telling Arthur T. encounter.

    A few years ago, just after the opening of the new Burlington MA store, I was in the deli section, when an energetic, friendly guy in a suit asked me if I found everything I wanted.

    I was a little surprised. I had no idea who this guy was. There were a couple MB employees hanging back a respectful distance, ready to jump at this guy’s word, so that was a clue.

    I smiled and said, “Hey, is this your store? Nice!”

    He smiled at me, and softly replied, “It’s *your* store.”

    He made me laugh, so he laughed, and so did everyone around us. It was like a festival in that place.

    I am wondering how Arthur S. parties.

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  26. BTW, let’s not forget that as a former executive for Sears, James Gooch is also partly responsible for that company being the clusterfuck that it is. He’s well on his way to bankrupting company #3!

    Promote this man!

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  27. Arthur S hates his cousin enough that this might be his plan, just let the company tank and watch my cousins big dream go down the drain with it, I am afraid to say they do hate each other that much

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  28. For those of us who still show up to do our job is has a feeling of being tied to the mast hoping the lashed wheel doesn’t snap as we ride the troughs heading for the rocks. We really feel for the real customers who come in apologizing but saying they have no choice because “my kid only eats this type of (whatever the product is that only MB carries)/ I can’t really afford to go any where else/I just came to pick up the cake we ordered (Yes they are still decorating cakes in the bakery).” The spies, looky-loos and goon squad members are another hazard up here. They all ask a bunch of stupid/impertinent/insensitive or rhetorical questions and we the employees who are inside are not allowed to pop them one. Please do shop here if you have no other alternative or just want to stop in to say you support the folks who are doing this. If you’re a looky-loo looking for drama you’re not going to find it. If you’re a spy you’ll be told to speak to the manager. If your a member of the goon squad (and you know who you are) remember what goes around, comes around you may be looking at your next position when you strut around the store with your superior than thou face and walk out with out speaking to anyone or buying anything.

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  29. Pingback: Why my blog is boring | The Fog of Law

  30. Reblogged this on Roedeo Productions and commented:
    “This ship is sinking like a stone and they’re acting like it’s a slight delay in the maiden voyage to New York. No, (not nice people), you hit a (not nice word) iceberg, and you didn’t act in time. It’s been a month since Arthur T was fired and all you did was stay the course and hope that the employees would tire themselves out and return to work. I’ll mention again that one of the current CEOs is Jim Gooch, whose former leadership position was (not nice word x2) RADIO SHACK. Turning this ship around and bailing water isn’t going to get easier with every nightfall.”

    Like

  31. Pingback: The Resolution Will Be Televised: Is Artie T Returning to Market Basket? | The Clam

  32. Pingback: Clamsplainer: Market Basket’s Storied History of Crazy | The Clam

  33. @ML haskell: he’d have gotten a bigger laugh if he had told the truth: “No, it’s my COUSIN’S store….” 😉

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  34. LOL. what a brownnoser!

    fact that arthur t’s side stole 800 million not a factor?
    fact that arthur t’s side pulled every sleazy move in the book during those court cases, yet still lost EVERY SINGLE TRIAL not a factor?
    fact that arthur t was the one to psysically assault arthur s not a factor?
    fact that arthur t has told the board repeatedly “i don’t answer to you” (he does), and “it’s my way or the highway” (well, he’s got his highway now).

    arthur t is a selfish little THUG, who makes friends by giving them OTHER PEOPLE’S money. employee’s love him, sure; they’d love me too if i screwed my cousin out of 800 million and started passing it around.

    in a just society, judge lopez would have given the fraud victims (arthur s) 100% of the company, not 51%. and arthur t would be in jail with his now-late dad.

    but hey, you have a fun writing style, so brownnose away! just try to get your head out of arthur t’s ass long enough to look at a FACT or two….

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  35. oh, yeah, and PS: the lack of website was under arthur T’s watch. funny how u even blame arthur s for THAT….

    ????

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