business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's piece about CVS forging a new relationship with Microsoft, oner MNB reader wrote:

CVS is always looking to the future to create new business opportunities. However, at this time they should be looking to fix their unhealthy Rx business. Short staffed, over worked Pharmacists and Techs are leaving the ship. The result equals poor customer service, delayed script filling time, mistakes on filling scripts and messy pharmacy areas. Added to this are law suits and more unhappy store personnel (front of store) having to listen to disgruntled customers. Makes you wonder where the priorities are???

Yesterday we took note of a Fox News report that "U.S. labor board prosecutors have alleged that Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market illegally banned employees from wearing 'Black Lives Matter' masks and punished workers who did … The grocery store chain maintained appearance rules at U.S. locations to prohibit staff from displaying Black Lives Matter messages on their apparel, the National Labor Relations Board’s San Francisco regional director wrote in a complaint issued Friday on behalf of the agency’s general counsel."

I commented:

I'm not sure about the legislative and regulatory constraints, but I think that a retailer that wants a store environment to remain assiduously non-political - or non-partisan - ought to have the ability to say so.  It ought to apply to everyone - if you ban BLM t-shirts, then you also have to ban MAGA paraphernalia.  You ought to be able to say, "Look, I respect your right to free speech, and urge you to protest, vote, and exercise your political conscience in as many legal and hopefully civil ways as you wish.  But, we're going to be consistent in our neutrality, and want to bring down the temperature in our stores, not raise it."

There are lot of good reasons for this.  A political message, one way or the other, could alienate a sizable percentage of customers.  And, conflicting political opinions emblazoned on clothing could create active conflicts among employees and between employees and customers - these days, this isn't just a theoretical concern.

This gets a little more complicated, of course, because retailers, like other businesses, are being drawn into political positions and debates because everything in this country is so freakin' political.  (Even not wearing masks or not being vaccinated, even when such actions would help prevent the spread of a pandemic, are posited as political acts.). And so the ice is thin, and retailers need to be careful where they step.

But - you'll forgive me for switching metaphors - if a retailer wants to create an oasis from the madness, then that ought to be acceptable.

One MNB reader responded:

I agree with your thoughts 100%.  The NLRB opinion would open them up to all kinds of political messages and possible conflict between associates -one with a BLM mask and another with a MAGA mask. Businesses are struggling with a lot of pandemic issues. Government interference on this issue seems overblown .  A possible way around this is to provide every associate with a Whole Foods labeled mask and make it part of uniform. 

From another reader:

Couldn't agree with you more on keeping stores neutral. Unfortunately when C-suites enact a measure customers do not like, it puts the teammates in the position to defend it, or take the heat. Not an enviable position to be in.

And, responding to the cream cheese shortage crisis, which I said could be made worse by a lox shortage, one MNB reader wrote:

It will be like the scene out of Airplane 2 … “And we’re also out of coffee…"

Extra credit for the movie reference.  And here, for your viewing pleasure…