Is Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market A Good Place To Work?

 I worked at Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market for several years. When I first started with the company, it was still fairly new. I worked as a clerk in one of their retail store locations. Back then, I really thought it was a great company. Sure it paid too little, but what grocery retailer doesn't pay too little?

But it was a good place to work because it seemed like they genuinely cared about the employees. They did their best to make it a fun place to work and tried to recognize employees that were doing a good job. I felt like all of my coworkers were happy to be there and that sort of upbeat attitude made for a pleasant working environment.

I also liked working for Fresh Thyme because of their mission. They were a niche grocery store which wanted to sell healthy and organic foods at reasonable prices. While they never said this, my impression was that they were trying to be like a cheaper Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

They had a list of ingredients which they wouldn't have in any of the products sold in the store. The list included things like food dyes and those long chemical names that you can't pronounce. They genuinely did their best to sell healthy food at a good price.

For those reasons, I really enjoyed my job at Fresh Thyme and I would have recommended the job to other people.

One thing that bugged me a little bit, though, was that they seemed to try to give the impression to customers that they were like a food coop. They were a health food store, that is true, but I often heard customers talk about the store like it were a food coop. Food coops are owned by the members, and Fresh Thyme is a private, for-profit company, so it was not at all a food coop. Food coops are neat because they keep the money spent in the store in that community.

Fresh Thyme is headquartered in Downer's Grove, Illinois, and so the money spent in any of the retail stores eventually goes their. The money leaves the community. That confusion sometimes bothered me, but it wasn't a big deal and I would have still spoken highly of the company at that point.

Fresh Thyme Is A Bad Place To Work

During my time working for Fresh Thyme, my opinion of the place completely changed. Fresh Thyme was purchased by a larger grocery retail chain called Meijer. Meijer forced the president out of the company and brought in their own people.

They started a very hard driving mission for profitability. They shut down stores that they didn't think were performing well enough. They put a pay cap on almost all of the positions. They refused people regular annual raises. They constantly pushed workers to do more than is reasonable to be expected.

They basically gave up on their mission to sell healthy food, and instead started bringing in normal junk food brands like Oreos and Pepsi. They "corporatized" the place. It made the job much less pleasant. Soon after the company was purchased by Meijer, all of my coworkers started disliking their job. The pressure was too great and the pay was shamefully too low.

Fresh Thyme's Handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic

And their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was very bad. They were very slow to implement basic safety measures like masks and hand sanitizer. There was no way for them to allow workers the ability to socially distance, so they basically didn't try. They put a sign on the break room that said only one person was allowed in at a time, but for a workplace with 30 or so people working at any given time, that is simply not enough capacity for everyone to take their breaks. And there was no substitute break area provided. It was implied that you should sit outside or in your car, but that isn't very convenient in the winter or if you don't own a car.

Record Sales and Wage Freezes

The company talked about how they had set a sales goal which would, if met, mean the company would make more than they ever had. That sales goal wasn't just met, but exceeded multiple times over. They gave everyone a one time $250 bonus, but they refused to provide anyone their regular raises. They had record sales and profitability, but were suddenly dragging their feet on paying people better? And I'm sure the upper level corporate management got very hefty bonuses for achieving those results, despite not working in harm's way in the stores.

Cutting Hazard Pay Short

And there was a practice in much of the retail industry to offer their essential workers that continued to come to work something called "hero pay" or "hazard pay". That was a nice sentiment. It was generally too little to really matter, but nice for something extra to be provided. Fresh Thyme did implement a $2 per hour hazard pay increase, but it only lasted for a little while. It was ended long before the pandemic was over.

There was still a growing rate of infection and deaths in the country, but Fresh Thyme decided that we were no longer worthy of that hazard pay. That was almost more insulting than to have never been offered any bonus at all.

Half-Hearted Health Screening

There was a self administered health screening that you would take on your smartphone each day before your shift started where you would basically answer yes or no to some basic health questions which might indicate whether you had COVID-19.

There was basically no accountability with that screening program. Lots of people didn't take it for months, and they really only provided 2 reminders about it during the whole pandemic. It was obviously not a priority for them.

Keeping Sick Workers Secret

And my coworkers did contract COVID-19. But when they did, they were told not to tell anyone else that they had it. And management refused to share information about who was out with the disease. So we could not try to determine whether we had been exposed and take proper quarantine precautions. They wanted to keep everyone in the dark as to what was going on.

COVID-19 Sick Pay Denied To Workers

They claimed to have a COVID-19 sick pay program, but several of my coworkers that got COVID and had to stay home from work did not receive the sick pay. It seems like that type of program should be liberally applied to ensure workers are safely able to stay home and prevent the spread of the disease, but instead they tried as hard as they could to find reasons to deny people the benefit.

Would I Recommend Working At Fresh Thyme Market?

I no longer work for Fresh Thyme Market (they changed their name from Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market to just Fresh Thyme Market). I probably would still be working their if it weren't for all of the bad changes that took place after the company was purchased by Meijer. But I left because of those changes and the botched handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the blatant unconcern for worker safety.

I would no longer recommend for others to work at Fresh Thyme. I think they completely lost everything that made it a good place to work. It is essentially like working at Walmart now. You would make more on day one working at Target than you would ever get, even after years of raises, at Fresh Thyme. I would avoid accepting a job there. It is no longer a good place to work.

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