Let My Lunchmeat Go!

Well, it’s over. At least according to the calendar, Election Day is behind us. Now it’s just howling, political maneuvering, legal wrangling, existential crises, subterfuge, conspiracies, turmoil in the streets, democracy teetering on the brink of self-destruction — in other words, all the stuff we had leading up to Election Day.

So perhaps it’s time for a quiet discussion about something completely different. Something equally important, something absolutely earth-shaking in its significance, but something mercifully nonpolitical.

Perhaps it’s time to address the issue that has dogged us here on the North Shore for years, perhaps decades: Market Basket deli workers slapping the label over the ziplock instead of on the side of the bag.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Market Basket, and I am particularly fond of the workers behind the deli and seafood counters at the Rowley store on Route 1. They’re the ones who repeatedly satisfy my fetish for honey roast turkey breast, sliced thin, and Deutschmacher liverwurst, sliced thick. These are the people who will happily steam you a lobster, hack you a half-pound of haddock, or stand there patiently while you ponder the pros and cons of 14 variations on bologna.

But requesting something at the Market Basket deli counter is always a moment of high anxiety and personal conflict for me, since I’m preparing to receive a plastic bag which can’t be recycled (according to Ipswich recycling guru Paula Jones, who points us online to How2Recycle.info/sdo). Which means I’m probably contributing to some massive stinky landfill, or dooming a whale to indigestion. If Market Basket courageously shifted from plastic to paper, I would cheer. And the whales might even sing.

But for now, my hunk of yellow American cheese, on sale at a 50¢/lb. discount, is going to come to me in a see-through, environmentally toxic ziplock bag. First, the worker weighs the product, and the scale produces a self-adhesive label with the date, the product name, its weight, and its cost. The worker sticks the product in the bag, slides the ziplock closed — and then comes the crucial, tragic moment.

The label could  be applied to the side of the bag. In fact, if you slap the label on the side of the bag, it’s a single motion. But oftentimes, the workers, for some unknown reason, go to the trouble of folding the label over the ziplocked edge of the bag, and tamping it down on both sides — twice the work. They go home exhausted at the end of their shift, and it’s sadly unnecessary.

Then I get home, with my label-fortified ziplock bag, and I try to open it. I can’t just zip the zipper. The label is in the way. If I try to force it, the flimsy plastic shreds. If I try to peel the label away, the adhesive is almost always too sticky-stuck — and the plastic shreds. Either way, the entire purpose of the ziplock — reusing the bag till the Deutschmacher is devoured — is defeated. (Defeated as definitively as that candidate who — oh wait, never mind. No more politics.)

Here is the heart of the question: What, I ask you, is the rationale for wrapping the label over the ziplock?

Are we afraid the half-pound of sale-priced yellow American cheese is going to slide the zipper open and escape to Boston’s North End with a rogue salami? 

(Warning to the salami: Your family will never accept an American cheese. Provolone maybe, but not American.) 

Let’s look at this logically. The zipper is actually on the outside  of the bag. Once you’re inside the bag, and it’s zipped, you’re stuck. Were there studies back in the 1950s, where lab mice were sealed inside ziplock bags, and they figured out a way to unlock the zippers? There’s no way my cheese can get out. My cheese has no paws and no claws. There may be a mad scientist somewhere, developing a cheese that behaves like a mouse — but until such a cheesy Frankenstein rises from the table, we can be pretty confident, I think, that our deli products are safe inside their ziplocked bags, without the added protection of an adhesive label.

And who might break in? Is it conceivable that I could empty my grocery bags in my kitchen and find the ziplock savagely slashed open, my chicken breast burgled? Someone, somehow, had arranged a grocery heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven — between Market Basket on Route 1 and my home on outer Linebrook Road?

I’m willing to take that risk.

Please, Market Basket: Switch to paper. Or at the very least, stick the dang label on the side of the bag.

In any case, in such a world of chaos, let us simplify.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, at least physically. Emotionally, he appears to be stuck at the deli counter at Market Basket in Rowley. To follow Doug, start searching at DougBrendel.com.

4 thoughts on “Let My Lunchmeat Go!

  1. Hi I loved this diddy. Do you know the reason they put the stickah on the zippah?
    It’s quite simple because people are so petty and try to steal cold cuts by getting 2 of the same and then putting them in 1 bag. So by putting the label on the zippah they are able to control the scumbags that think that it is ok to steal. I would prefer the paper myself so that i could put them in a sturdier bag.

  2. While wiping tears of hysterical laughter, thank you for bringing this small but tremendously annoying problem to light. Every deli bag we have from Market Basket is inevitably torn apart from attempting to gingerly get around that sticker.

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