Why Are Market Basket's Prices So Darn Low? Do We Even Wanna Know?

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Will you really get more for your dollar at Market Basket? Photo: istockphoto

In preparation for our holiday shopping, we've been following an amusing, enlightening thread over at Chowhound about why the prices at the Market Basket (say it with us: Mahhket Basket) grocery chain are so frighteningly low. (As we've reported in the past, they usually have very nice deals on lobster. Their motto is, after all, "get more for your dollar!") How do they do it?

Is it because they don't put on any airs? Charmingly, really, Market Basket recalls the glory days of grocery shopping as contact sport, when feral women in housecoats would wrestle to the death for the last can of Hormel chili. These days, so many grocery stores are civilized, Muzak-laced sanctuaries with cheese done up by makeup artists and salad bars that undergo more primping than Mariah Carey. No, MB isn't playing that game. You won't find frou-frou meat displays or body wash made from Tibetan grass. Nobody's going to take you by the hand and steer you to your soul-mate piece of sushi. Is this refreshing? Or does it bode poorly for the quality of your cold cuts?

"PinchofSalt" helpfully suggests that "the thing about MB is that not all locations are created equal; you have to find one that works for you." People seem to like the Billerica and Burlington locations. (The Burlington location just expanded on Sunday, by the way.) Other Hounds note that the store doesn't have a website, nor do they have a union, keeping overhead low.

"Makiman" is more cynical. He (we're assuming "Makiman" is indeed a man) speculates that "Market Basket carries items closer to their expirations, and thus the lower prices."

Nay nay, say many loyal Chowhounders. MB just knows how to do business right. "Cutipie721," getting straight to the point, breaks it down thus:

"1. They don't have fancy deco
2. I have not heard of an MB commercial on the radio
3. They don't give out membership key tags
4. They don't do double/triple coupons
5. They don't have any 3rd party perks - when I was pumping gas the other day, I saw a sign next to the pump that says 'shop at Shaw's and save on gas' of some sort."

And even if it's not the fanciest store in town, heck, the people are nice. Says Karl S: "MB personnel are notably more cheery and helpful than those at, say, S&S; and Shaw's. I've heard FAR more complaining about managers and work environment at those latter chains from the workers than at MB."

So, what say you? Is Market Basket a diamond in the rough? We want cheap high-quality ham, and we want it pronto. Before we start cutting coupons, let us know your thoughts.

Earlier: Lobster Prices Hover Around $7.64 This Week