To Donald D’Amour
CEO, Big Y Supermarkets
Dear Mr. D’Amour,
I would like to congratulate you on the quality of your staff at the Northampton store. My family has shopped at Big Y for groceries for the past 13 years, and shopping has been a more or less routine experience until my daughter Alice was born. You see, Alice won the lottery in terms of special needs. She has Down syndrome as well as having a heart defect that contributed to her having a stroke within minutes of being born. One thing we are striving to do as parents is to develop her independence as much as possible. One way I have done this with her is to get her involved in the entire process of shopping. At this point, we have a routine. I take her to the store with me and she brings a clipboard and write her a list. She gets those items, puts them in the cart and checks them off.
You might be thinking, “what does this have to do with our staff?” Everything. Absolutely everything. Your staff understands that when Alice is in the store, she’s working. They understand that she is doing a job that involves planning, organization, reading, writing, and communication. When I make the list for her (and by the way, it’s grown to about 10 items now), I’m very careful to include one or more items that involve having her talk to someone staffing a counter. This is where your staff has been particularly terrific. They are careful to listen and treat her with kindness and respect. At least every other week, I stop by the manager’s kiosk and let the manager know who in particular stood out.
This past week, it was Chuck at the butcher counter. He treated her with respect, patience, and kindness. It was very touching to see because in my parent’s eye, I could see her doing this on her own as an adult, something I would like but have a hard time imaging on some days.
When I see how well she is treated at the store, it makes it clear to me that Big Y is truly a community store. It is underscored by the rare occasions when I am shopping on my own and at least two people will say, “oh – you don’t have any help today?” Good for you.
And besides hiring excellent people, you hire with diversity. It’s very easy to put that into words in a mission statement or a corporate mantra on your employment page, but to see it in action makes it clear that you put your money where you mouth is.