business news in context, analysis with attitude

The conversation continues….as one MNB reader wrote:

Although these topics frequently are only peripherally related to grocery retailing, I always appreciate your willingness to air all sides of a discussion, even if you vehemently disagree. Sometimes you can’t find a middle ground, but in almost every situation you can find at least some common ground, and that seems lost these days.

My argument isn’t about the vaccine, but the mandates. Requiring someone to have a medical procedure to be employed, go to restaurants, stores, etc… goes too far. I understand the thinking around a “greater good” argument, but I find it flawed in two ways.

First, what about other communicable diseases/conditions? Sure, some are required at some point in your life (or heavily suggested). In my annual checkup last month, I got my flu shot and my tetanus booster (every year on the former, ever decade on the latter). Should I be required to have an app on my phone that I need to show everywhere I go that I got my shots? Should I have to prove that I don’t have a staph infection before going to the gym? HPV?

Second, according to the CDC, the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting or transmitting the disease; it minimizes your risk of hospitalization and, most importantly, death. So, if you’re vaccinated, what do you have to fear from the unvaccinated? Due to the nature of this type of virus, COVID is here to stay. Like the cold and the flu, it will continue to mutate, whether the population is 100% vaccinated or not.

From another reader:

Really enjoy your blog and wanted to first say thank you for all that you do.

Wanted to share my experience where a previous employer had health insurance rates based on your overall health (yes it does exist!).  This was at a large private employer with tens of thousands of employees across many sister companies.  On an annual basis, free of charge, all employees could voluntarily submit to testing of their BMI, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.  There was an onsite pop up clinic at each office for a few days or you could have the testing completed at your healthcare provider using specific forms.  If your results fell into the “healthy range” for at least a certain number of metrics, you qualified for reduced health insurance rates.  Spouses also had to submit to testing if they were being covered by the company’s health insurance policy and the employee wanted the reduced rates.  For employees with too many unhealthy results, they could complete various trainings and regularly meet with a lifestyle coach and still qualify for the reduced rates.  Personally, I liked being rewarded for healthy decisions and that my employer was encouraging employees to monitor their health annually or make lifestyle adjustments to improve their health.

As for the heightened focus on freedom of choice, I’ve come to realize that having 100% freedom of choice in many aspects of our lives is a bit of an illusion (this may get a tad philosophical!).  There are so many instances where the choices made by others or factors beyond our control shape our behavior or limit our choices.  For example, if one wants to buy whole milk at 2am from a specific retailer, this may not be possible.  The retailer could be closed or out of stock.  While you most likely will be able to buy some type of milk from a retailer, it may not be your preferred choice due to the retailer’s operating hours, the retailers present in your community, varieties offered, supply chain challenges, etc.  All of these factors shape your options.  Your legal recourse to force XYZ retailer to adjust their operating hours, open a location in your community, change assortment, etc. are limited to nonexistent.  There are numerous professions that require specific training and certifications/licenses in many industries such as the medical, legal, education and real estate industries.  This is to protect the general population and make sure a person is qualified to perform their duties.  If you choose not to comply with the standards set by someone else, you don’t receive the appropriate certificate/license and are not able to pursue that desired career path.  The quality of education that one received as a child, which is influenced by factors beyond a child’s control, could impact one’s ability to meet these requirements.  Using one’s birth zip code, a person’s educational attainment can be predicted with stunning accuracy.

Yes, I’m sure there are some that circumvent the system, but there are consequences if they are caught.  Take voting for instance as well.  We have very generous eligibility requirements in this country, however there are still guidelines around when, where and how you vote.  You don’t have the freedom to vote whenever and however you choose.  Election dates are not decided by the general population each year.  You must be a registered voter and meet those requirements.  Polls and early voting stations (if available) are open specific days and times.  There are deadlines for absentee and mailing voting you must adhere to for your vote to be counted.  You cast your vote using a pre-approved ballot, not whatever piece of paper you choose.  In order to exercise your voting freedom, you have to follow guidelines and requirements established by someone else.  Just something I’ve been personally mulling over the past few months.

From another reader:

My reaction to this reader comment from today's MNB:

"When we talk of freedom, it is regarding the freedom to make your own choices based on your beliefs.  If you don’t believe the vaccine is the way to go then you take that risk upon yourself."

This argument never fails to confound me. The best analogy I can think of is stop signs. Do we all have the same choice to either stop, or to plow through into cross traffic? Those who don't stop on a regular basis lose their right to drive because they endanger others. Vaccines reduce the likelihood of the vaccinated infecting others with a potentially severe or deadly disease, so mandating them makes as much sense to me as laws requiring us to stop at stop signs. Why shouldn't those who choose to not be vaccinated lose some privileges as well, like lower health insurance premiums, entry into public spaces like indoor concert venues, and even certain types of employment?

That said, thank you for providing a respectful forum for the sharing of ideas from differing perspectives.

And from another:

Panama has about 4.5 million people.  It has strict mask mandates that everyone follows. 

Yesterday there were 382 new cases of Covid.  Currently there are 3,486 active cases and 470,561 people who have recuperated.  Of current cases 3,365 are in quarantine at home and 102 in Hospital Hotels.  Total cases are 10.5% of the population.

There are 121 patients hospitalized with 16 in Intensive Care.  A total of 7,391 have died of Covid.  That is 1.6% fatality rate, a smidgen below the US which has a better medical system.

The positivity rate is rising.  For the last week it was 4.47%.  In the US it is 7.5%.

My Benedictine education would lead me to believe, based on the above, that having the mask mandate in a country that had 10% of its population infected is working by the positivity rate alone being lower than the US.  I am not a doctor but a fatality rate below the US in a country that has a good medical system but clearly not as good as the US would indicate less dangerous symptoms due to the mandate.

And, regarding the free test kits being offered at some airports, one MNB reader wrote:

Sorry, but “free test kits” are still not enough to get me on an airplane or anywhere near an airport for at least the next few months.

Gonna take a lot more to get me back in the “friendly” skies.   Not worth the hassle.

On the subject of grocery deliver services gone awry, one MNB reader wrote:

I think as with anything, grocery delivery will only be as good as the people who are actually doing the order selection and delivery. In our area I have heard horror stories about every grocery delivery service. A friend of mine said that she felt like she was on an episode of Chopped every night trying to cobble together a meal from whatever had actually been delivered to her, with no communication from the in store shopper. The one exception in our area seems to be Shipt. The employees working for that delivery app seem to be more engaged and stay in contact throughout their shopping trip to keep the customer informed of any substitutions that need to be made. I have to say that 22 months into the pandemic, my husband and I finally tested positive for Covid after a work trip to Florida last week. I was very happy with my first ever on line order experience and delivery using the Meijer app and the Shipt delivery. My order selector was excellent and in constant contact with me throughout her order selection process. Hopefully we will be testing negative again soon, but I will be using this order delivery in the future if we need to do so.

From another reader:

Nearly got trampled by an instacart shopper today that did not know the difference between Yucca root and Hanes underwear.

On another subject, from MNB reader Tom Murphy:

As I am sure you are aware, Raley’s is not acquiring Basha’s out of the goodness of their heart.  In fact, the transaction will be paid by greater volume discounts for products and services across the two companies as well as in reductions in duplicated human capital…you still need local accountants, merchants, HR staff, IT staff, etc…but you don’t need the same scale and many of the layers will be removed.  Certainly, this merger will likely save Basha’s and strengthen Raley’s.  Even with these costs, it will be worth it…given the alternative would likely be a slow bankruptcy death or sale to a private equity firm!

Always loved Basha’s when we spent our winters in AZ…hope they don’t loose too much of the culture or the brand as the cuts and process/system transitions take place.

We posted a terrific Chevrolet holiday ad the other day, prompting MNB reader Howard Schneider to write:

KC, I’d noticed that great Chevy ad too. In the “everything old is new again” department, this spot reminds me of the kind of emotional ads that were a staple of the Leo Burnett agency. Everything from McDonalds to United Airlines became a 30- or 60-second emotional journey. Remember when one could advertise air travel as a positive experience…with a straight face?

MNB reader Dr. Allen F. Wysocki wrote:

We watch virtually no broadcast TV these days, so I was not familiar with the ad. As you said, it is a great ad and too, shed a tear or three.

MNB reader Kevin Weaver wrote:

Thank you for sharing that video. There is a connection between cars, memories, regret and grief and I felt all as I watched. As an owner of 2 vintage cars, I can testify that there is more ‘soul’ in older cars as they hold decades of precious memories…..

MNB reader George J. Denman wrote:

This commercial hit home with me as well. About 6 years ago I had to move my parents into assisted living residence because of failing health and vision. My father had had some recent  accidents taking down about 4 or 5 mailboxes “because they were installed too close to the road”…. It was extremely tough taking away his keys to his car. In his garage at the family home was an 8X10 photo of a 1965 Chevrolet El Camino in maroon paint  and with fender skirts, a car that my father had dreamed of someday owning but never realized. That picture now hangs in my garage wall. Month before he passed away, I surprised him with a trip to the Clark County Car Part Swap and Car show, picking him up in his wheel chair and wheeling him all over the grounds.

We came upon the car show arena and there sitting in the front row of all these gorgeous show cars was a pristine 1965 El Camino in factory ermine white and turquoise interior. My father was so excited to see his favorite car and I wheeled him over to get a closer look. And to his surprise, the window sheet that showed the car on display with its owner, said 1965 Chevrolet El Camino--Owner Bob Denman. I had bought the car and put the title it in his name. Although he couldn’t drive it, it sat in the parking lot of his assisted living for the next 6 months where he could look out his window every day and see his car. He passed away a few months later loving that car.

Point of personal privilege here, if I may…

George Denman is retiring from Graeter's - which in my opinion makes the best ice cream around - and moving into a career in academia.  I'm a little jealous, though I am hoping that at some point he'll invite me to speak to one of his classes.  George is a great guy, and I've always appreciated both his support of MNB and his friendship.  I just wanted to acknowledge it here.

On the subject of menu reduction in restaurants, one MNB reader wrote:

In this climate I don’t believe this is a bad thing.  I have always felt a smaller menu with core items that they can do well and have consistent supply is crucial to a good restaurant.  Make your point of difference in the specials you offer.  Creates excitement, anticipation on social media, and allows the customer to engage the staff on favorites.

And finally, I wrote last week about the difficulty I was having finding Temp Tee cream cheese, which prompted one MNB reader to write:

Temp Tee is made by Breakstone, as you probably know. Which is owned by Kraft (Philadelphia Cream Cheese)… And best known in the Eastern US.

Kraft is probably not changing over the production line (Lowville, NY and home of the annual cream cheese festival) to run this other regional brand when demand nationally for Philly is so high.

Fun fact: Philadelphia cream cheese actually originated in New York and was simply a word-play because people thought dairies in Pennsylvania were higher delicacy of cheese products than those of New York.

I knew none of that, so I appreciate the education.

However … I am happy to day that we located a bunch of Temp Tee over the weekend.  So Mrs. Content Guy can make a load of clam dip for Christmas.