A Grocery List of PR Lessons from the Market Basket Saga: Don’t Do What They Did

What’s done is done. From a public relations perspective, Market Basket (the Arthur S. side) made some questionable plays. Now that produce is back in stock at the supermarket chain, we can take our basket of lemons and make some lemonade. Here’s how to be a smart shopper.

Make a list ahead of time.

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When you’re about to fire a leader viewed by thousands as a deity, and then install new CEOs with a history of either selling, breaking apart, or tanking companies, have your PR firm already hired! This is not something you want to be scrambling around to do at the last minute. Or put down the glass of ‘Haterade’ and don’t fire him.

Ask to talk to the manager.

When the employees start to make demands to speak with the board of directors “or else,” and you plan to ignore their requests, expect these career Basketeers to be displeased and perhaps up the ante.

Don’t go through the express lane with 100 items and expect to piss no one off.

When firing the entire leadership team that runs a decades-long supply chain, on a weekend, via courier, expect immediate consequences.

Don’t treat the cashier everyone loves badly. Especially not in front of everyone.

When those consequences come to pass, and you choose to blame the Godly leader you fired and the workforce he has cared for, expect the rank and file and anyone watching to become galvanized against you.

Don’t be the person who is “shocked” at the prices of items that were clearly marked.

When 25,000 associates were born and raised in the towns they work in and went to public school with the customers they serve, expect those communities to come to their defense.

If you buy dented cans at a discount, don’t complain when the cans turn out to be dented.

When your new CEOs have no experience in the operation, no past team building with the workforce and little face time with most stakeholders, expect them to have a credibility score of negative zero.

Don’t be mean to the old lady paying slowly.

Transcripts and past discussions with private equity firms proving that the majority ownership is seeking to raise prices, lower compensation, or potentially break apart and sell the institution, and the minority ownership wants to open new stores and support their communities, likely won’t play well. Expect that people will embrace those who seem like they’re getting short-changed. Monty Burns has no friends.

Ramming other cars in the parking lot is not a strategy.

Promoting phantom job fairs to replace loved employees fighting for their company that have amassed significant public support? Face palm. You are now even more heartless. Doesn’t help. Also doesn’t generate quality applicants. Hammers perhaps.

If your credit card gets declined twice, don’t ask the cashier to run it one more time.

When there becomes only one rational outcome aside from bankruptcy, accept it. Don’t spend four weeks coming to terms with a reality that’s blatantly evident.

Overall, proceed with caution and with an awareness that the Internet exists. It allows the public to organize, scrutinize and overcome unprepared challengers, regardless of wealth.