Executives at Demoulas Market Basket are vehemently contesting a local survey done this week on supermarket prices, saying the analysis was flawed and that their prices did not go up 9 percent, as widely reported.
The survey by ConsumerWorld.org has received a great amount of airplay and the inaccuracies of it, and the coverage by the media, have frustrated some in the Market Basket chain.
“It’s not a legitimate survey, but even if it was and you gave it credibility, then he got the analysis wrong,” said David McLean of Market Basket. “Of the 17 items he surveyed, 13 were the same price, two went down in price, and two went up in price. Those that went up in price were beef and eggs. Eggs have gone up astronomically industry-wide and he got the wrong price for our hamburger. He had $3.99 and it’s $3.49. If he had taken out beef and eggs, the two things that have jumped industry-wide, our prices would have gone down by 1.2 percent. He had our prices up 9 percent.
“This is a study that it’s own proprietor, Edgar Dworsky, has said is skewed in a story published in the Boston Globe,” he continued. “This study is really being called into question. It’s not fair to our customers and it’s a shame other media didn’t do their due diligence. Is it about ratings or is it about the news?”
The survey by ConsumerWorld.org – a company based in Boston since 1995 and headed up by Dworsky, a former Consumer Division employee at the Attorney General’s Office – showed that prices are going up across the board at most every supermarket. The survey was conducted on Aug. 5 at local supermarkets like the Chelsea Market Basket, the Revere Price Rite, the Somerville Star Market, the Medford Aldi Supermarket and the Chelsea Save-A-Lot. The prices for items purchased were compared to similar purchases made last year on Aug. 6, 2014.
The survey reported that Market Basket prices went up 9 percent, Star Market when up 8 percent, Stop & Shop went up 7 percent, Price Rite up 7 percent, Aldi up 6 percent and Save-A-Lot up 3 percent. The survey noted that while Market Basket’s prices rose the sharpest over the year, most of that was due to the 4 percent price cut promotion that ran all of 2014 and expired in 2015. With that in mind, Dworsky’s analysis showed Market Basket up by 5 percent, though McLean said that still is not correct.
“The largest increase was at Market Basket which suffered through an employee and customer boycott last summer,” read the survey findings. “In substantial part, the reason for Market Basket’s price hikes was the elimination of its extra four percent across-the-board discount that was applied to all orders throughout 2014. Higher beef and egg prices accounted for most of the rest of the increase there and at all chains.”
The ConsumerWorld.org survey showed that Market Basket was still much cheaper than other full service supermarkets, such as Stop & Shop (15 percent less) and Star Market (29 percent less). However it concluded that the lowest prices on some items came at so-called limited assortment stores – which are not full service and vary in their stock selections. Examples of those stores are Aldi, Save-A-Lot and Price Rite.
“While Market Basket is perceived by many to be the lowest-priced supermarket, smaller limited assortment stores have even lower prices, but they have yet to be discovered by most shoppers,” commented Dworsky.
McLean added that the survey was not only unfair to Market Basket, but also every other company in it.
“They had us 29 percent lower than Star Market and 15 percent lower than Stop & Shop, but I will still say that survey is not fair to any company represented in the survey because it was a flawed survey for everyone and Dworsky acknowledged that,” he said.
McLean pointed to the Nielsen ratings, which came out in June, and reported that prices were 15.9 percent lower at Market Basket this year as compared to 15.1 percent lower last year.
He also said Consumer Reports – which looks at variety, price, cleanliness and other categories – had rated Market Basket’s chain higher than ever before this year.
“They had us at 5th nationally in their most recent report,” he said. “Before that we were 7th and before that we were 9th.”
He also advised anyone interested in following a true price survey to look out for the Checkbook.org Boston version of supermarket price surveys that will come out in the winter. There are far more items compared in that survey, he said, and it is far more accurate and is done nationally.
McLean said Market Basket has found some solace from the damaging survey in the comment sections at many of the Boston media outlets. In those comment sections online, many consumers are found to have chimed in and called the survey into question.
“You can’t insult the intelligence of today’s customer,” he said. “We have very educated customers. Consumers today know because they are on the front lines. They are the ones taking things off the shelf and paying for them.”
EGG PRICES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE GOING UP
Buried within the survey controversy is the fact that the price of eggs has risen tremendously, and are expected to rise even higher in the coming months.
“The price of eggs have gone through the roof,” said David McLean of Market Basket. “From two weeks ago, the wholesale price of eggs a dozen have gone up $1…They’re saying that by October and November eggs could be $4 or $5 a dozen. That’s a very big story. Eggs are a staple item. People don’t realize they had to put down millions of birds because of sickness. When people start baking during the colder months, they’re going to really feel that price jump.”
The industry-wide increase comes due to a flu that many chickens and turkeys contracted late last year and early this year. Millions and millions of birds had to be killed due to the sickness and the potential spread of the sickness.
Many have also said that the price and availability of turkey could be drastically affected also during Thanksgiving.