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Maybe a website is a necessary evil, but not for Market Basket

A scene from 2014 at Market Basket’s Waltham store.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/file/Globe Staff

As if 2017 weren’t surreal enough, now Market Basket has a website. A digital strategy, even. Shudder. Speaking as someone who shopped here since it was called Demoulas — and who has several extended family members who started their careers in Lowell, the ancestral Demoulas homeland — I find this troubling.

The very essence of their 100-year-old brand is that they have no brand. They are not “thirsty.” They have no Web presence, precisely because they don’t need to. Their stores are forever packed because they have an excellent selection, top-notch customer service, and provide great value.

Oh, God, I sound like my Nana.


But honestly, this is like Angela Lansbury joining Snapchat. Is it really necessary at this point? And what does this mean for the company, which represents all that’s nostalgic and wonderful and quaint about shopping? They employ polite baggers who wear ties. People actually escort your cart (or carriage, as my Nana would say) to your car if you’re struggling. There might not be cheese samples in every aisle, they might carry Dial soap instead of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and nobody is peddling $20 hemp soap in the toiletry section, but that’s part of the charm.

It should be said that Market Basket did have a bare-bones Web presence until now, with a circular and such. But this is different. Now there are social media accounts. Suddenly, #MoreForYourDollar is a hashtag. Have you ever tried to hashtag something? It’s painful. #AmazingSummerVacation! #Food! #Family! The very act of hashtaggery seems to cover emotions in a slimy layer of disingenuousness, to reduce moments and values to shorthanded slogans and profiteering. I cringe a little every time I do it (and I do), and I know people who work in social media who feel the same way. It’s a #NecessaryEvil, but not for Market Basket.


Emotions aside, let’s talk logistics. This is pure speculation, but will Market Basket’s core customer base even follow them on social media? Part of the store’s charm is that it appeals to such a wide customer base, and many of these customers are older. They shop here out of habit, loyalty, and due to low prices. I cannot picture my late grandfather, a man who used to tape important phone numbers to the back of his flip phone and whose peers still shop here, following MB to find the best deals on #freshhaddock.

And from an emotional perspective, it just feels jarring, as though my Aunt Dot tried to follow me on Instagram with a photo of the sweater she knit for me in 1983. A current post offers five “quick and easy Halloween snacks that your kids (and wallet!) will love.” I was actually looking for snacks the other day (Salsitas chips — haven’t been able to find them anywhere else), and I was pointed in the right direction by a kind-faced guy who also works at the deli. He cut me off a slice of salami before sending me on my way. Will he post on Facebook, too?

Do I sound like the Andy Rooney of low-cost grocery stores? Probably. Look, I get it. Time marches on. I suppose the digital shift is inevitable. And if it earns Market Basket more customers, I’ll adjust. They deserve it. But there was something cultish and proud about them flying a bit below the radar, a puritanical and purely New England stubbornness about them not having a website at all. It said: We’re here and we’re good; come find us.


But wait! I just visited their Instagram account, and friends, this is not GOOP. It’s not even Trader Joe’s. There’s a small can of Market Basket brand cola, the kind my Aunt Mae bought on the Fourth of July, posed diagonally next to what appears to be a fanny pack. And, look, there’s Market Basket’s strawberry syrup with some kind of decimated dessert! Who art directed this thing? And here’s a photo of ketchup — store brand, of course — but half of it is cut out of the frame. This is the Market Basketiest Instagram account of all time. It is charming and rough around the edges. It is pure Demoulas.

Maybe things won’t be so bad after all.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com.