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Katy Burns

Katy Burns: The people of Market Basket

So who, exactly, are the people of Market Basket? Are you one of them?

Think of our local supermarkets as neighborhoods.

We’ve got the upscale – Shaw’s, admired for its broad avenues/aisles and chichi sections (the wine department is especially attractive) but little patronized – and the middle-class redoubt of Hannaford, an overall pleasant place with the occasional pretentious feature (fake trees in the produce section! made-to-order sushi!).

Then there’s Market Basket, the unashamedly down-to-earth food emporium known for diversity and – it’s widely believed – low costs. Concord’s two Market Baskets bustle with assorted humanity, from folks who look vaguely like street people to harried mothers loading their carts with cereal and bananas and gray-haired darlings leaning on their shopping carts while spending endless minutes contemplating with rapt attention the various brands of mustard available in the cluttered condiment aisle.

In fact, clutter is a hallmark of Market Baskets, whatever aisle one prowls. And they’re noisy, with PA systems overflowing with a stream of announcements of sales and specials.

Market Baskets can be fairly termed funky – and fun. They harbor on their shelves more than a few unexpected treats along with the bargains.

So it was with a certain amount of anticipatory delight I learned there was a website called “The People of Market Basket” as well as a related Facebook page.

I had to check them out, and initially they looked promising. The parent site, peopleofmb.com, is basically an endless stream of photos of folks shopping at Market Baskets in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The photos – clearly taken with cell phones – are accompanied by snarky comments written by someone (or perhaps a group of someones) writing as WeAreThePeopleOf, who I’m guessing originated and maintains the site.

Anyone submitting a photo is sternly warned that they should get releases from any people who appear in the photos, but clearly that is something honored mainly in the breach, unless one can maintain with a straight face that, say, the rotund man leaning over a cooler with most of his large, pink posterior bursting from the top of his pants graciously consented to be mocked by hundreds of unknown internet users. Or that the large older woman in bright blue sweats and what appear to be pink fuzzy slippers cheerfully agreed to pose for a stranger.

And this is why the People of Market Basket site is disquieting – and, ultimately, a distasteful and depressing example of one of the worst aspects of the internet we all now view as our personal playground.

In addition to offering a spectacular range of information there for the asking – how deep is Lake Nakuru, where can I buy garam masala, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1954 – the internet can connect us with a whole universe of people, ideas and opinions. With access to the internet we can pay our bills, reserve a room in a remote romantic inn, check out the latest photographs transmitted by the Mars rover Curiosity, or watch clips of love scenes from Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

But that same internet also allows – in fact, encourages e_SEnD some to make extraordinary mischief or engage in just plain old meanness on a massive scale. And anonymous mischief and meanness at that.

Look at the malicious websites that abound, proffering outlandishly false information – from “the truth” about our Kenyan/Muslim/communist president to can’t-miss financial “investment” tips that would likely lead to bankruptcy – and accountable to no one. They can vanish one day and pop up the next, and no one even knows who is behind them.

The same is true of the emails peddling “urban myths” – a kind way of saying outrageous lies – that recirculate endlessly, clogging email boxes and alarming gullible recipients about imaginary “death panels,” for example.

The internet is the best weapon snoops and stalkers have. They can do their dirty work without leaving fingerprints.

And bullies are right at home in cyberspace, from the pitiable souls who make social media sites little better than minefields to the commenters who infest almost all websites today. Wrapped in their comfortable anonymity, they delight in attacking people who are courageous enough to attach their names to their words. The Monitor has its share of these cowards, but it is hardly alone. In fact, the comments on the lofty Washington Post website exist in a virtual cesspool of malice and misinformation.

And then there’s the casual bullying of such websites as The People of Market Basket. They’re the 21st century equivalent of a gang of teenage girls or boys who think nothing of tormenting people they perceive as different – as not up to their lofty standards.

It’s pathetic enough that so many people have nothing better to do than haunt what they consider downscale markets to snap candid shots of the stores’ seemingly downscale patrons.

It is worse, somehow, that the photos are then used to mock people who have no idea that they’re objects of ridicule for perhaps hundreds of other souls.

Those subjected to this casual derision, after all, are not anonymous, even if an occasional face is pixilated. That young woman who’s bulging out of her bizarre open-backed top would, should she stumble on the website, surely be humiliated to be the object of jeers, however odd her choice of clothing.

The truth is that the same folks who are having such a high old time violating the privacy and dignity of folks who pop up in their cell phone cameras are, themselves, likely to have more than a few unsightly candid moments that they’d be mortified to find captured by anonymous voyeurs with cameras.

The victims here are not, after all, auditioning for America’s Beautiful People or some other reality show coming soon to a cable channel near us all.

They are innocently grocery shopping, for goodness’ sake! As one who shops at all three stores in question, I can testify that darned few people of any age, weight or shape dress up for a trip to the grocery store. And they likely won’t in the future. But maybe now the people of Market Basket – and everyone else – will all be a bit more wary of snickering people wielding cell phones.

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

To Devil Doc, What is your point? Your grandparents ran a grocery store, not a supermarket in 2013. Things have changed. I have first hand, day to day experience in one of the nation's premier grocery chains, please think again.

You're calling the site mean when you basically called people FAT!!! Katy Burns,this is not your best written piece. For example:Or that the large older woman in bright blue sweats and what appear to be pink fuzzy slippers They never ever called her LARGE like you do. They commented on her slippers. What a sorry excuse for an opinion when you're doing the SAME EXACT thing they are doing but you mentioned her weight. OR when you said:folks who look vaguely like street people You're calling the People who shop at MB homeless??!?! What a hypocrite!!! Did someone edit this for you before you hit PUBLISH?

I love the site! I don't consider myself a bully either. If you can't laugh at someones PJ pants I think that's a little crazy. What you didn't mention is most of the pictures are of funny signage or phallic looking meat. They also don't post faces of people either. How can someone be bullied if they aren't identified? As a whole, people who like that page ARE the People of MB because we want good food at a reasonable price. If I ever showed up on the page I would laugh. I think your opinion is a little biased and you only talked about the negative. By saying this page is the worst aspect of the Internet is a little far fetched too. Your quote " That young woman who’s bulging out of her bizarre open-backed top would, should she stumble on the website, surely be humiliated to be the object of jeers, however odd her choice of clothing." Wouldn't your choice of words be considered bullying??? Why is it bizarre??? Is saying she is "bulging" calling her fat??? Enjoyed reading the article but I think your judgment of it is a little off.

I have a love-hate relationship with Market Basket - or as my wife called it when she worked there as a kid - Trash Basket. On the plus side, they have the best seafood prices - especially the best lobster prices - of any store in our area. They also have, as Katy mentioned, some interesting items that you can't find elsewhere. On the minus side - their produce is to be avoided at all costs.

Produce at Claremont store is good Dan :)

Come on I think you all missed the point. We love the MB people. I worked next to the Storrs st one for 18yrs and shopped there almost every day and it felt liked old fashioned neighborhood store where everyone knew you. Only problem is has anyone noticed that of all their stores only about three have woman managers? I find that strange in the 21st century. Van no matter what the subject is, you can't help bringing Obama into it. This probably won't be printed, none of my comments are since the Monitor website changed.

who cares! There is a "people of walmart" site & no one says anything about that! It's funny & if people don't like it they don't need to go to the site or like the page on facebook. simple as that. This is SUCH a pointless article, the ONLY thing you did here is make people more curious & give the website more traffic...

If anyone is looking for the circular online check out MyDemoulas.com

Wether the website exists or doesn't, it's not fair for you to criticize either! Market Basket (formally DeMoulas) is a wonderful place to shop. Their prices are great and so are their employees / management (aside from the selected few teenagers). I can say this because I am one of the many that work there and have since being a sophomore in HS. I am proud to say I work for one of the most successful companies in New England. You should look into all the improvements the DeMoulas' are making to better their company. If the older stores are all you have been in, then you should really take a walk through the new ones. I work in an older store (#43) very out dated and not a lot of room, and yes on holidays and weekends it does get crowded. Just across the parking lot a brand new 43 is being built. It will be equivalent to the Londonderry MB (taking over a Sears Essentials building). My husband is a manager at store #13 an even older store than mine. In 2012 it was remodeled and looks amazing! Looks like it is a brand new store even though it's been there at least 50 years. The new stores being built are going to be amazing! So before you want to write and article using condescending words to describe what we are proud of, do your homework first! No, we may not attract the most beautiful crowd, but with a grocery store having the best prices, the best business reputation, most popular grocery business in NE, etc. why wouldn't you want to be a part of that?! And did you also know that Market Basket was ranked in 2010 #43 in the "Top 75 North American Food Retailer", Consumer Reports ranked them #7 in a 2012 survey, and they've been on Forbes List twice (recently), once in 2008 & 2010.

Nothing from fans, or the people that make the site. Sweet article based on opinion. About 5 % of the pictures posted are people, the rest are of funny packaging, odd looking meat or even awesome artwork done by the employees. I appreciate the free press! My site was booming this morning!

I will admit I used to have a laugh at the site when it first started. But then someone else took over the site and it started getting a bit extreme and most of the stuff posted is an overkill or not even funny to begin with.

I think someone is a little bit pompous, takes herself way too seriously, and needs to adopt a sense of humor.

So many things to comment on here, Katy. First and foremost, I am a Market Basket shopper because of the prices. I don't see Shaw's as upscale, in fact, Shaw's is on the ropes financially. Hannaford is the upscale supermarket. There are many issues I have with Market Basket but the biggest is that yes, the aisles are narrow but more aggravating is that while the rush is on and there is tremendous shopper traffic, they are stocking shelves (something that should be done during non-peak times or overnight). Yes, people look down their noses at Market Basket shoppers, I can see that, I hear it with stories about quality, etc. But those critics are simply not correct, they are, as you suggest, elitists. I can tell you without a doubt that the produce at Hannaford is simply prettier, the sushi is made of Grade C tuna but presentation is everything. Market Basket squeezes everything into narrow aisles but in Hooksett that is not the case, it is roomy and easy to navigate. I checked out the site and it truly is offensive and obviously built by people who feel superior to those who shop at Market Basket. The one's laughing all of the way to the bank are the shoppers. A few weeks ago I purchased spaghetti sauce at Market Basket, brand name at 3 for $2.99. Shaw's? 3 for $3.29. Hannafords? $1.79 each. They can laugh all they want. Market Basket is here to stay and when all of the other parking lots are empty, Market Basket's is overflowing!

Why give this loser website any press. Market Basket is a great place to shop and the Hooksett Store is far from cluttered. The Market Basket on storrs street is packed because it is a small old building but the managers do a great job with it. The other stores mentioned in this article are overpriced and in this dreadful Obama economy we the people need good prices.

Being out of Skippy smooth peanut butter for a week is not acceptable, especially when they're trying to push their inferior store brands. Doc

are you kidding? its not the stores fault that the store is out of skippy peanut butter. market basket always keeps up with their orders, however, the food companies do not always fulfill them in a timely manor, doc.

Brent and Itsa, I grew up in my grandparents grocery store. You two have no idea what you're talking about.

Had to laugh. "inferior store brands". Yes, there are some of those in every supermarket but as someone who has intimate knowledge about "store brands", many times they are not inferior and are manufactured at the same plant to slightly different specifications. In fact, many brand names are manufactured by other companies, outsourced. I was in Ocean State Job Lot and discovered Del Monte ketchup, a brand name but not available around here much, it was better than Hunts or Heinz. ALL grocery stores have their "store brands" and in reality, many are not quite as good. Peanut butter is a commodity which is consistent brand to store brand unless it is of course all natural or a special blend. But, you have a choice to shop where you choose, it is your pocket book.

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