Kevin Smith’s agitation had been building for months. The source was a simple, yet baffling, aspect of everyday life for many in New England:
The price sticker on Market Basket’s deli meat and cheese bags.
Often sealed over the zipper, the sticker made the bag “nearly impossible” to open without tearing a hole in its thin plastic, says Smith, who is the town manager of Londonderry, New Hampshire, and a self-described loyal Market Basket customer. His frustration culminated earlier this month when he went home to make a sandwich for lunch and in the process of opening two deli meat bags, destroyed them both because of the sticker’s placement.
“I had finally had enough and did what any person in this day and age does when they’re frustrated with a company practice,” Smith told Boston.com. “I took to social media.”
Evidently, Smith wasn’t the only one frustrated by the Tewksbury-based supermarket’s deli-labeling practices. To his surprise, his tweet garnered more than 100 likes, practically viral by small-town New Hampshire standards. His replies filled up with tweets in solidarity. Smith says that, frankly, it was comforting “to know I wasn’t alone in my plight.”
However, he didn’t know that among his fellow sympathizers would be the state’s most powerful official.
“Thank you Kevin for finally saying something,” Gov. Chris Sununu chimed in, replying to Smith the following day on Twitter.
The New Hampshire governor said he adores Market Basket and its employees, but that their habit of placing the price sticker over the ziplock had become an irritation for him, too.
“From brown-bag lunches to snacking, our family runs on the Market Basket deli counter,” he said in a statement Tuesday to Boston.com. “So when I saw Kevin’s tweet sharing my frustration, I had to speak out and join the chorus.”
Furthermore, Sununu says that it was negating the benefit of the supermarket’s well-regarded prices.
“I have to re-bag the cheese every time in a ziplock, which defeats the cost advantage of buying at MB in the first place,” Sununu tweeted.
Apparently, the governor got Market Basket’s attention. Within hours of his tweet, Market Basket responded to both Smith and Sununu to apologize and ensure them that their complaints had been heard. The company even promised to raise the issue with their deli departments.
Smith says that when he saw Sununu weigh in and then Market Basket respond, he began to think there was an actual chance of them changing their deli-packaging techniques. But it wasn’t until more than two weeks later — having again returned home to make a sandwich for lunch — that he made a pleasant discovery.
“My wife had done the shopping so I hadn’t seen the deli meat until I took it out of the fridge,” he said. “As I was opening the various meats and cheese, I suddenly noticed that all of the ziplocks were perfectly intact.”
Indeed, the price stickers had been “beautifully placed near the bottom of the bag.” Smith again took to social media, this time to celebrate.
Market Basket, which is infamously tight-lipped, did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday about whether they issued any companywide change or guidance regarding their deli-packaging techniques. A call to their corporate office was redirected to deli supervisor Michael Kettenbach, who did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls. The company, which also didn’t respond to a direct message on Twitter, did however “like” Smith’s tweet Tuesday, as well as two others praising the new sticker placement.
While the relative placement of grocery-store labels aren’t usually grounds for posting on social media, at least one other Twitter user also said they noticed the difference since Smith first spoke up. In his statement to Boston.com, Sununu celebrated the apparent victory Tuesday.
“Finally, the days of re-bagging my cheese because of bad sticker placement are over,” the governor said. “Looks like I’m making grilled cheese for dinner!”