On the subject of the Supervalu-Cerberus deal, MNB user Carl Henninger wrote:
I look at the Supervalu transaction from three points of view, as an industry insider, an elected member of the Village Board of my Chicago area suburb and as a Jewel shopper. As an industry insider I am glad that Supervalu it finally ending this disastrous chapter. As a Village Board member, I am hoping that the sale will lead to improved performance of the Jewel Osco store in my community. Within a year it will be facing new local competition from a new The Fresh Market store in our community and a new Mariano’s opening on the same road, a mile away, in another community. On its present course, I am concerned about the store’s viability. The impact on our community to the closure of this store would be the loss of the sales tax revenue, particularly to the new Mariano’s. As with most Illinois municipalities, we rely heavily on sales tax, a key funding source. As a shopper, I am hoping that the new owners can develop a pricing strategy that will enable our family to heavily shop this store once again. Because of Jewel’s former dominance in the Chicago market, they have always been high priced. But, in the current hyper-competitive Chicago area marketplace, Jewel and Supervalu have not been able to implement and maintain an effective pricing strategy to retain or win back shoppers who have migrated to newer competitors such as Walmart, Target, Trader Joes, Aldi, Costco and a host of smaller local competitors. I hope that this transaction is successful for both parties.
MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:
I grew up in Philadelphia and, therefore, grew up with “Acme” being the generic term for supermarket in the Philly region. My wife’s mother lives in an active adult community in the Philly market. During a recent visit, she needed a few things from the food store. Acme is the closest store, so I offered to go to Acme to pick up the things she needed. She emphatically stated, “Don’t go to Acme. They are too expensive.” Apparently, one of the common topics of discussion among the seniors in Philadelphia (a close second to discussing medical issues and today’s doctor visits!) is the high cost of shopping at Acme. This is a common perception throughout the Philadelphia market.
As an industry veteran who regularly visits the grocers in the Philadelphia market, I understand that the actual high pricing may or may not be true but the perception is more damaging. Acme has failed to establish their own positioning in this market and therefore has not been able to distinguish positive values provided from being an Acme shopper. There is little loyalty, even though the chain has many positive benefits that they have failed to effectively communicate- localized personal service, best of class perishables (especially meat), and neighborhood locations. As a result, they have let the negative perceptions create positioning for them.
Hopefully, Cerberus wants to do more than maintain the status quo and reap a declining value from an outdated store model. Acme stores are local. Shoppers in Philadelphia have grown up with these stores as part of their lives. And, unfortunately, most of the good local competitors no longer exist- Clemens, Genuardis. This sale should be a great opportunity to leverage many enviable assets to reinvent a valuable, well-liked local grocer- one in which my mother-in-law will like shopping.
Regarding the retirement of Safeway CEO Steve Burd, and the company's search - both inside and outside - for a successor, one MNB user wrote:
He has ruined every chain that was bought or touched by Safeway. He can’t leave fast enough for me.
Actually, he wrote a lot more than that ... but this was the part that was civil and printable.
I've had a number of conversations with people about the Safeway situation, and there is a lot of interest in which direction the company will turn. The general feeling, if I can sum it up, is that Safeway's board is likely to choose the current CFO, Robert Edwards, to replace him, but that this is not the direction the company should take. (The sense is Edwards, like Burd, is essentially a numbers guy, and that Safeway needs a hardcore merchant to take the helm.)
Not surprisingly, there is one name that keeps coming up in my various conversations as an ideal choice to succeed Burd - Jim Donald, the former CEO of Pathmark, Starbucks, Haggen, and current CEO of the Extend Stay hotels chain. He is a former Safeway executive, so he knows the company ... he specializes in making companies both more effective and efficient ... he is terrific at motivating organizations ... and he builds value.
In the words of one person with whom I talked, the board would be "negligent" if it did not at least reach out to Jim Donald to see a) if he is available, b) how he identifies Safeway's problems, and c) what he would do to fix them.
On another subject, one MNB user offered:
We just noticed that our Personnel officer is now called Chief People Officer. Just for a giggle, we looked on wiki for definition. Explains it to a tee.
For the record, this is how WikiAnswers.com defines a "Chief People Officer:
A chief People Officer was a VP of Human Resources, but that wasn't touchy feely enough and neither was VP of Personnel. So, some clever HR type decided that all they had to do to impress their employees with how much the company cared about them was to create the third generation of the "personnel manager". That's sure to fool them. don't change the policies, benefits, or management skills, just change the name of the personnel manager. Can't you just see the employees celebrating?
Though there are companies out there that go through this exercise, breathe their own exhaust, and then believe that they've made a cultural shift, not just a cosmetic change.
Nothing wrong with having a Chief People Officer. You just have to mean it.
Once again, let's quote Hemingway: "Never confuse movement with action."
MNB took note last week of an Associated Press report that at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, entrepreneurs from a French company called Hapilabs showed off a gadget called the HAPIfork, which "contains a motion sensor, so it can figure out when it's being lifted to the mouth. If it senses that you're eating too fast, it warns with you with a vibration and a blinking light." The company believes that using the fork 60 to 75 times during meals lasting from 20 to 30 minutes is ideal. "Between meals, you can connect the fork to a computer or phone and upload data on how fast you're eating, for long-term tracking," the story said.
One MNB user responded:
I have been reading MNB for years now and look forward to it every morning. Today is the first time I just had to comment on an article. I actually love the idea of the talking fork. I have a degree in psychology and the idea of a fork vibrating to let you know when you are eating to quickly makes perfect since. It will easily train you to slow down as you begin to associate the vibration with eating too fast. I live alone and sometimes struggle with eating too fast when I’m alone in front of the TV for dinner. So the idea of having the fork training me to slow and creating muscle memory after so many uses sounds very appealing. I would love to buy one right now. Just thought I’d give you my perspective as someone who thinks it’s a great idea.
I thought that the talking fork was the beginning of the rise of the machines, which led one reader to comment:
Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the forks and spoons sensed when to vibrate the food right off the tines, or spill the ice cream in your lap or back into the bowl?
Agreed! Be very afraid!
I commented last week about a story regarding how Walmart has been included in a lawsuit over working conditions at a warehouse it does not own, but that does handle its products, and I suggested that Walmart strikes me as a bit of a control freak, so it isn't hard to believe that the warehouse owners are doing its bidding.
Which led one reader to respond:
I work for a company that does business with Walmart and can tell you that they have no idea what happens in our warehouse. Luckily, it's a good place to work and we don't have problems.
I can tell you that what they do control. If we don't have an item they requested you have to have it to the store within 24 hours or they can fine us a pre-determined amount.
Regarding the ongoing nutrition debate about glucose, high fructose corn syrup, one MNB user wrote:
Just the other day, I had a customer looking for cranberry sauce which did not contain high fructose corn syrup. We looked in the organic aisle and in the mean time he told me he was a biochemist and knows of the bad affects of this on the body. He said the liver cannot properly break it down and it ends up being absorbed by the body as fat. It was an interesting conversion and a little more technical than what I explained. Bottom line, makes me think twice about corn syrup, after all even though the government says it is safe, can we trust them?
Another MNB user wrote:
Nutrition studies such as this are revealing, but they may not be practical. Pure glucose may have less impact than pure fructose on appetite as measured through brain activity. But what foods contain pure fructose? Not many other than a few highly formulated beverages in the Nature’s set. Fruit juice contains a mix of sugars depending on the fruit. Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are both about half fructose and half glucose. Alternatively, the only foods that contain pure glucose are highly processed sugars derived from grains like wheat, rice or corn. Sorry folks, Karo syrup (100% glucose) is no nutrition star!
From another reader:
I think the summary of the study regarding fructose was too simplistic. Fructose occurs naturally in fruit and is added to processed foods through the use of high fructose corn syrup. When fructose sweetens foods that could have been sweetened with glucose, fructose failed to produce feelings of satiety and fullness that glucose did produce, thereby failing to signal that it was time to stop eating. That's different than "causing overeating."
The United States is always way behind other countries when it comes to this type of thing. Many countries have banned the use of high fructose corn syrup because of these types of affects on the body. We wonder why diabetes and overweight people are so high – it’s because of the use of fructose in so many of our foods. Regular sugar is by far much more safe but once again, corporations run this country and the FDA believes their lies that it’s a beneficial product. When will this country start working for the better of its citizens instead of what’s good for a corporation?
So we have finally found the culprit to all of our over-eating ! Thank goodness, I was about to give up. I am so glad it had nothing to do with "super sizing" fast food meals, eating processed foods, or just plain eating too many calories. I am ordering new smaller sized clothing as we speak.
I love emails like this one, from an MNB user talking about a consumer experience:
I pretty much thought I knew what "set up and put in place" meant when I recently purchased a ping pong table from Sears to give to my kids as a Christmas gift. I asked the sales employee if Sears would be able to put together the table for me and he assured that was part of the delivery process for which I was paying $69.99. I was reassured when my receipt and three confirming e-mails I received from Sears clearly stated, "Set up and put in place".
I was thankful for this service and decided to purchase from Sears instead of Costco. Costco offered free shipping, but clearly no "set up and put in place" service. I scheduled a delivery for December 24, so that I could surprise my kids as close to Christmas as possible. The delivery service called 30 minutes ahead of their scheduled time and delivered the table to the middle of my family room floor. I confirmed with the driver that he would be setting it up and putting it place. "No, I only have 9 minutes scheduled for this stop. We don't put together tables."
On January 1, I contacted Sears customer service via Twitter @SearsCares. I wanted to share with them that I was disappointed that the "set up and put in place" had not happened. I had a Twitter reply immediately; they followed me which then allowed me to send them a direct message with my contact info. A day went by, and I heard nothing. Then another day, and so on. Each day, I tweeted to @SearsCares asking when I might hear from someone. Each time, I was told they were assigning my issue to a case manager and that I should hear from someone soon. By January 8, I still had not heard anything. When I tried to send another direct message via Twitter, I discovered they had "unfollowed" me, which then meant I could no longer direct message them. Finally I got an e-mail reply which said:
While your sales check does say set up and put in place, it refers to the delivery of your table. Putting your table together would be considered an installation and would be a separate cost. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused you.
To be fair, they did offer me a $40 gift card for my troubles. I turned it down. Their lack of a timely response and definition of "set up and put in place", are unacceptable. Why would I need a $40 gift card to a retailer at which I won't shop again?
Through my own informal consumer research, I have not found anyone who would interpret the words "set up and put in place" to mean "delivery only".
Fortunately I know my way around a Phillips-head screwdriver, monkey wrench, pliers and a glass of wine, so the table is now "set up and put in place" and functioning just fine. @SearsCares, yeah, I don't think so.
Sounds like bait-and-switch to me.
Here's my question: Y'think Fast Eddie Lampert knows what to do with a screwdriver, monkey wrench and pliers?
Regarding the self-checkout experience at the Apple Store that I raved about, one MNB user wrote:
So, you check yourself out without any other human interaction? And you're cool with that? I'm not shocked OR surprised. Maybe saddened. If great customer service is the one I give myself then I sure would like a paycheck for it.
I love human interaction. I thrive on it. I enjoy it so much that I've created a business in which I am part of a 25,000+ member community that communicates every morning. (MNB is not impersonal, at least not in my estimation.)
But I don't need it when I am buying a charger for my iPad.
More comments regarding the recent Baseball Hall of Fame voting, as MNB user Douglas Madenberg wrote:
As a fellow Mets fan, I’m surprised you found this result satisfying. I found it doubly disappointing that Mike Piazza didn’t make the cut on this first ballot. With only Tom Seaver wearing our team’s cap currently in Cooperstown, my son and I were looking forward to his being joined by a catcher who (presumably) didn’t take part in the whole PED craze and still managed to put up some of the best historical numbers for the most demanding of positions. I understand that these things tend to take more than one vote (Yogi Berra also missed on his first try), but to me, this would have been the BEST year to induct some great, clean players while excluding the dope heads. I fear what will happen is that Bonds, Clemens etc will get in eventually, perhaps in the same year as Piazza, and it will turn into a controversy about the steroids era, rather than a celebration of his career and accomplishments.
From MNB user Ryan Tonies:
I agree with your take on Pete Rose and his absence from the HOF (“…eats away at his soul.”), however the issue I have with it is that his banishment is a result of his gambling as a MANAGER; not his accomplishments as a great baseball player. This clearly isn’t a case of him possibly taking PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs) and cheating as a player. Quite frankly he should be in the HOF as a player in my opinion based solely on his playing merits. Although I see from the Hall’s POV that it would be somewhat contradictory to now reverse this decision and allow him inducted simply as a player; not the complete package.
Regarding Bonds, Clements, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, potentially A-Rod, etc., all these guys have a potentially endless battle into the HOF and I really don’t see them ever getting into the Hall in my lifetime. It’s a shame when you consider their on-field accomplishments, however I firmly believe most people have a real problem with cheating even though none of them were caught with PED’s (except Palmeiro) and there wasn’t testing during the majority of most of the aforementioned players careers. Palmeiro’s suspension was especially stinging after he went on Capital Hill and vehemently denied ever taking PED’s, but I digress...
MNB user Clay Dockery chimed in:
I was out of the Country and got behind on MNB. Seeing the number of comments about Pete Rose was interesting to say the least. My take….he has been sent to the outpost of baseball for a long period of time. While many will look unfavorably on his gambling, there is one key reality. Pete Rose never bet against the Reds! In other words, he did not use his gambling to ever attempt to throw a game. He simply had more money than common sense and made some poor decisions.
Clearly, gambling is banned because you would not want someone to negatively perform as a way to lose. I know it is splitting hairs, but with all of the second chances for other various addictions given to players in every sport, why on earth is this the singular egregious violation that is worthy of no second chance? If he had ever bet against the Reds while he was managing them, I would absolutely agree to a lifetime ban.
Finally, on Friday the "Eye Opener" was about a new entry into the monthly subscription business - a tampon company that has decided that one monthly event deserves a monthly delivery program that is customized to the ebbs and flows of nature. (That delicate enough for you?)
To which MNB user Theresa Ruppert responded:
Only on MNB can you read about Feminine Hygiene products and just be amazed. I cannot believe someone did not think of this years ago. This is one of your best eye openers ever.
Thanks, I thought so, too.
And another MNB user was delighted by the headline:
I love the title on this one.
Friday Morning Eye-Opener: The Perfect Monthly Subscription Category
Said another way, The PMS Category. Brilliant.
It was brilliant.
Also, if I am going to be perfectly honest, completely accidental. I didn't intend it that way, and didn't even notice it until you pointed it out.
But, as Lefty Gomez once said, I'd rather be lucky than good.