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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: Thanks, Shaw’s says to longtime employee ... and goodbye

Sue Carter poses for a portrait at her home in Concord; November 8, 2012. Carter lost her job at Shaws after working there for 25 years.

(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

Sue Carter poses for a portrait at her home in Concord; November 8, 2012. Carter lost her job at Shaws after working there for 25 years. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Dear Team Member” begins the letter with the warmth of
a draft notice.
“. . . Regretfully, I must inform you that due to your position, location and length of service, your position has been identified for layoff effective immediately.”

Layoff?

Immediately?

Team member?

The letter said more, essentially warning Sue Carter about the door hitting her in the tush on the way out of Shaw’s last Friday.

After 25 years.

No warning. No severance. No appreciation.

Nothing.

“The ‘team member’ reference is one of the things that made me so mad,” said Carter, sitting in her Concord kitchen, in front of a plate of oatmeal cookies. “Twenty-five years and then getting laid off with no severance pay was bad, but, seriously, they could have put your name on it.”

Carter is one of 700 employees let go recently by the struggling New England grocery chain, which is based in West Bridgewater, Mass., and has 169 stores.

She felt the sting of what she believed was unfair and disrespectful treatment, so she contacted the news media to tell her story.

“I’m positive they’re not going to be hiring me back,” Carter said. “If I wasn’t positive, I would not have called you, because I’m probably burning my bridges.”

Those bridges are in flames after what happened to Carter, who had worked at the Fort Eddy Shaw’s since 1987, when she and her husband, Joe, moved here from Maine.

She loved her job, and she loved the people she worked with.

She worked in customer service, then as a cashier, then, most recently, in flower sales, a one-woman department of arranging and watering and taking orders and making young couples in love happy.

She’s worked the graveyard shift, and she’s always worked holidays, turning into one of the busiest and most popular local employees on Valentine’s Day, Easter and other holidays in which flowers are so vital.

She’d heard rumors after the chain’s managers met at headquarters, then learned those managers had been told to stay away from work until further notice.

Carter had Nov. 2 off from work. The Fort Eddy manager called and told her to come in. She dipped her toe into the water, hoping for reassurance or a chuckle from him by saying, “Boy, this can’t be good news.”

When the manager stayed silent, Carter knew.

She rushed to the store and saw a colleague meeting in the office while another, crying, had already gotten bad news, an offer to move to the Hillsboro store or quit. Others were told it would be North Conway, or Springfield, Vt., or Lancaster, or bust. Five Fort Eddy workers were affected, Carter said.

“A lot of people got offered other jobs, but I think they wanted you to quit,” Carter said. “It makes you look better in the press if it says that some people were offered other jobs.”

Carter wasn’t one of those people. She met for 15 minutes, then, rather than being shown the door immediately, was given the opportunity to say goodbye to co-workers, a reward for her dedicated work.

“Shaw’s deeply regrets the personal impact that decisions to eliminate positions has on Shaw’s team members,” the letter concludes. “We thank you for your past service and wish you the best as we make these changes.”

The form letter has a photocopied signature from Mike Stigers, the president of the corporation. Stigers is not fielding questions from the press.

That role belongs to Steve Sylven of the public relations department.

Why such an impersonal farewell for longtime workers?

“I can’t comment specifically on how it was handled with this particular associate,” Sylven said, “but I do believe there was a letter that came along as part of a packet that everyone received who was impacted. The personal aspect I guess is the interaction that comes with the store director.”

What about severance pay and benefits?

“I need to get back to you on that.”

Why not two weeks’ notice?

“I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the how or why we did it, or the timing of it, other than to say it was a business decision and came from several factors, the biggest of which is the continued competitive environment that we operate in.”

Carter shops at Market Basket now. She and her husband, a retired factory manager, are okay financially, for now, but Carter is looking into unemployment and her options with her 401K and retirement accounts. She’ll also start looking for work soon.

She’s 59.

She left Shaw’s with a check for $1,139 and a few framed certificates, patting her on the back as the Associate of the Year in 2009, and another award for the $25,753 worth of flowers she sold on Valentine’s Day in ’05.

She even had her picture published in the Shaw’s newsletter.

“I just feel like after 25 years they should have given me some notice,” Carter said. “They could have given us stickin’ severance pay. They could have given us something.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@rayduckler
.)

SCO Yes, the hate begins but it is one side, from the Left. Münchausen wants to know why coal miners can't be "re-trained". I am sure that it would be an easy task to "retrain" 100,000 or so workers, right? And exactly what would they be "retrained" to do? Where are the green jobs? Will they make solar panels for a few months to just be laid off? Or will they work in fast food for $9 per hour. Munchausen's compassion is so impressive. So, let me get this. First we end and kill 100,000 jobs and then we put those folks in the poor house, wait for them to be retrained and in say 5 years they can pick up the pieces of their lives because some people are pushing the global warming canard. Stunningly ignorant.

For me the question asked should be why are companies failing, not how they lay you off. Folks do a lot of complaining about the economy, then they go out and reelect a president that will make the economy even more dire. Shaws has been going under for quite a few years. The new Shaws on Loudon Rd killed the old Shaws. Shaws is so incredibly expensive. The one up on Loudon rd will be going under also. We cannot afford the prices. Have to go for the best deals. Our pocketbooks are stretched. Sadly more businesses will be going under.

Do you truly believe that Romney’s approach of increasing tax subsidies to upper echelon taxpayers and fossil fuel companies, while saddling the rest of us with drastic increases in the costs of health care, education and other essentials would have HELPED our economy? Whether or not you ever recognize it, you are going to be very lucky that a majority of voters are much smarter than you.

Here's a corporation completely out of touch. I used to live in Belmont, with a Shaw's right down the street. Early 90's. Prices were reasonable. I think they understood that this wasn't Beverly Hills and we didn't all strike it rich by shootin' at some food. And now? I don't know how you keep food stores busy by pricing for the country club set. Recently I've shopped at Shaw's, but only now and then, and less and less. It really is a ghost town in there. It's a shame. By the way, Obama haters? Would you please just give it a rest? I don't think he was responsible for setting the price of a jar of mayonnaise at $4.59.

Losing your job is one of the most humbling experiences in life. I feel for this woman and her situation. Her assertion that Shaw's should give them something, they did, they gave her a job for 25 years with benefits and merit increases. Shaw's is in real trouble financially. They don't have funds to provide severance packages. Also, severance packages are optional. They are not required when terminating an employee. The layoffs are the first step for them and if things don't improve, they'll be out of business!! If you have been in one of the TWO locations in Concord, it is easy to understand why Shaw's is laying off employees. First, having two locations within a mile of each other is a bad business model. You are duplicating expenses and inventory with no real return on revenue. One store would more than likely generate the same revenue as the two combined. Second, walk around and check prices. Shaw's is by far the highest in town and not by a little, it is a big difference. Go to Shaw's on a Saturday and it is ghost town. There is no one shopping there. Go to Market Basket on a Saturday and see the difference. Their checkout lines are all lit up and the lines are 6 deep......... People are struggling and food prices have risen dramatically and they are looking for lower cost solutions. Shaw's is not providing them one, so they are shopping at other businesses. This is a classic case of Market competition and its effects. Unfortunately, we will see many more examples in the coming years because the economy is not going to improve.

JM, You hit on all points. Especially the pricing. Market Basket is so crowded that you can't get down the aisles while Hannaford and Shaws sit there with front row parking spaces. Just an example.......I picked up some pasta at Market Basket 5 for $5. The same pasta was $1.49 per box at Shaws and $1.54 at Hannaford. Market Basket produce is not as nice as Hannafords but it is cheaper and guess what? Your body can't tell if it "looks" prettier or not. By the way the cheapest groceries used to be Wal-Mart but Market Basket is still cheaper. As a hint, I paid $1 for Del Monte ketchup at Ocean State with an expiration date of April 2014. Hunt's, Heinz at Shaws was $1.79 for the same sized bottle. Unfortunately, there will be many more examples like this set of layoffs.......it is not only the inability of companies to compete in a bad economy due to overhead, it is a sign of the economic times and that is not going to improve any time soon.

Sadly we will be seeing more of this. Another 4 years of business being too skittish to expand or open up new business. The EPA is waiting in the wings with a slew of mandates that will be a huge jobs killer. Taxes will also stop new business. When you base your vote on social issues instead of looking at the economy and jobs, that is not good. A great economy benefits everybody. Going to be a rough 4 years.

You are correct, the last four years is the worst economy in my lifetime. I graduated from college during the Carter years and I thought that was bad. Now 35 years later, I see colleagues, friends, relatives underemployed and unemployed and naive voters just re-elected the man responsible.

Oh Gawd! You peeps are unmitigated lemmings rolling off the cliff of Karl Rove’s unquestionable wisdom. I’ll bite: Please describe for me the Obama EPA’s supposed “slew of mandates” and exactly whose jobs they will supposedly kill. And, if those jobs are mainly in coal mines, please explain why those workers cannot be educated and trained to do something a little more sustainable both for their own health personally, and for everyone’s economic and environmental health. Lots of luck.

I was just waiting patiently for the first example of liberal hate. We were doing just fine, no name calling, no insults, just peachy keen until...a liberal showed up and started the name calling. Münchausen syndrome..let it be known, was the FIRST to insult any of the commentors here. The first. Mark it down on your calendars. Remember it the next time some liberal comes in and describes conservatives as a bunch of name calling extremists. Now go roll of a cliff somewhere Münchausen syndrome...no place for your kind of hate here.

A sad story for sure. As far as Shaw's is concerned, it's hard to understand how the company can NOT be making profits with their outrageous prices! Unless it's because too many people like me don't shop there because of those prices...

The Private Sector is doing fine. Barack Obama. June 8, 2012.

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