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Monday, October 20, 2014

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Monday Morning Eye-Opener: Monkeys, Morals And Mysteries Of Consciousness

This morning's Eye-Opener is brought to you by Barnie's CoffeeKitchen…

by Kevin Coupe

First of all, let me be absolutely clear about this.

This morning's Eye-Opener has nothing to do with business. Nothing at all. (Unless of course, someone out there is able to find a business lesson in it, in which case I'll be happy to post it if you pass it along.)

It is, however, about perhaps the most interesting column I read over the weekend - "The Ethicist" column that runs in each Sunday in the New York Times Magazine. I was just fascinated by it, and wanted to share it on the off chance that you might find it interesting, too.

The column was prompted by an email to Chuck Klosterman, who writes the column, questioning whether it was ethical to tell Koko, a gorilla who is extremely adept at sign language, about the death of Robin Williams, who she met once, 13 years ago. If Koko was sad at hearing the news, which press reports suggested, was it ethical to bring unnecessary sadness into her life?

So, that was the question. My first reaction, upon reading it, was that this is a crazy question, and it is even crazier to answer it. But Klosterman responded, in part:

"Let’s start by looking at this from a slightly wider angle: What is the moral purpose of 'talking' to a gorilla about anything? What’s the ethical justification for teaching Koko sign language and trying to communicate human ideas that have no bearing on her life?

"The best possible answer to that question is that we might learn something that will amplify our understanding of both apes and of ourselves. We are not talking to this gorilla to make idle conversation. We are communicating with this gorilla to learn about consciousness. And if Koko were authentically saddened by the news of Robin Williams’s suicide, we would learn a great deal.

"Koko met Robin Williams only once. And since an ape can’t comprehend the concept of 'celebrity,' that meeting should be no more intrinsically meaningful than any one-time interaction Koko shared with anyone else. It’s not as if Koko sits around constantly rewatching 'Moscow on the Hudson.' So if Koko was still impacted by that 2001 meeting in the year 2014, it would suggest something pretty profound about ape consciousness. I mean, can gorillas vividly recall and contextualize every interaction they experience? Do gorillas feel empathy for all mammals equally? Do gorillas have the ability to sense (and mentally catalog) specific interactions with 'special' individuals (and did Robin Williams fall into that class)? Do gorillas simply want to please their human masters and reflexively display whatever emotion they assume is expected? Can gorillas comprehend what death is? Do they understand that they, too, will die (and that death, though natural, justifies sadness)?

"If any of these questions could be irrefutably affirmed, everything we think about gorillas would need to be re-examined, along with our entire relationship with all nonhuman mammals. So the moral question might not be 'Is it wrong to tell Koko about a human’s suicide if that information will make her sad?' The moral question might be 'If we tell Koko about a human’s suicide and her sadness is rational and authentic, what else are we obligated to tell her?'"

You can read the entire column here, if you wish.

For me, it was just an unexpected pleasure to read the piece - it was about something I'd never thought about before, and it is presented a thoughtful approach to a question that I normally might've thought was a little bit silly. For no other reason than that, I found it to be an Eye-Opener … and I thought I'd share it with you.

Bozzuto's To Supply AmazonFresh In Northeast

Starting next week, according to a memo supplied to MNB, Connecticut-based wholesaler Bozzuto's will begin supplying Amazon and Amazon Fresh with "grocery, specialty foods, dairy, frozen, deli, bakery, meat and produce servicing their home delivery business throughout the northeast."

The memo goes on:

"In support of this continuing growth, we are asking that manufacturers support the current marketing fund that AmazonFresh & Amazon.com has established with all manufacturers in other regions of the country for a 7% discount on each case of product invoiced to AmazonFresh & Amazon.com from Bozzuto’s. This discount amount will be billed back monthly to all suppliers by Bozzuto’s based on cases shipped directly to AmazonFresh & Amazon.com. This discount is intended to replace all performance allowances to AmazonFresh & Amazon.com and will be starting with shipments to Amazon the week of August 31, 2014.

"Invoicing for these allowances will begin October 26, 2014 and will be billed at the end of each 4 week period. "

It was reported last Friday that Amazon has begun operating its Amazon Fresh service in the Brooklyn, NY, neighborhood of Park Slope - the first time Amazon has expanded the service beyond the west coast, where it has been serving Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. There also are reports it will shortly begin serving northern New Jersey.

KC's View: This is an unexpected move by both Amazon and Bozzuto's; most of the industry experts to whom I spoke over the weekend were surprised - and even a little impressed - that Bozzuto's got this business. C&S, they thought, would have been the more likely partner for Amazon, since it has a broader geographic footprint that would seem to be more in synch with AmazonFresh's long-term expansion plans.

In a lot of ways, this is a smart and aggressive move for Bozzuto's, the kind of thing that a company needs to do in order to make sure that it remains relevant as the retail world goes through seismic changes. That's not to say that there won't be independent retail customers of the company that won't be worried that their primary supplier is in bed with a company that is in line to be their most formidable competitor. But almost certainly Bozzuto's has made the case that this volume will heighten its buying power and result in better prices for everyone … though I suspect there will be at least some skepticism. And where there is skepticism, there likely will be retailers looking at other wholesaler options.

It seems to me that there is at least the possibility that some of these independent retailers might be convinced that it is better to work with Amazon than against it (since, let's face it, Amazon is coming, whether they like it or not). Maybe there's the possibility that Amazon could put click-and-collect stations in the parking lots of some independent retailers that are not in the e-grocery business? (Though, to be honest, even as I write those words I think about Borders deciding to outsource the online book business to Amazon, and we all know how that turned out. So maybe that's not such a great idea … though, the world has changed, and maybe there are unorthodox business permutations that may make sense in ways that are not obvious.

At the very least, this ought to serve as a wake-up call for retailers that may be thinking that Amazon's commitment to the food business is illusory, that it is not a threat to be taken seriously. Think again. If you're not investing in the e-grocery business, then you sure as hell better be figuring out what your competitive response should be.

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From Barnie's CoffeeKitchen...





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Obama Signs Executive Order To Push New Credit Card Security Measures

The Washington Post reports that President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday designed "to protect consumers from identity theft by strengthening security features in credit cards and the terminals in which they are processed.

According to the story, "Obama ordered that government agencies that process payments employ enhanced security features. Those measures include so-called 'chip and pin' technology, meaning that secure information is embedded in a chip in a credit card and users must enter a PIN number in order to use the card, much like they currently do with a debit card."

Obama also announced "a new federal 'Buy Secure' initiative meant to spur retailers and banks toward using the chip and pin technology rather than the magnetic strips on the back of most credit cards, which are vulnerable to theft … Obama also directed law enforcement to share more information about identity theft with the private sector. The Federal Trade Commission will also work with credit bureaus to help victims recover their identities faster after they are stolen."

"The idea that somebody halfway around the world could run up thousands of dollars in charges in your name just because they stole your number or because you swiped your card at the wrong place and the wrong time, that’s infuriating," Obama said. "For victims, it’s heartbreaking. And as a country, we’ve got to do more to stop it."

The administration's decision came after a series of high-profile data breaches at retailers such as Target and Home Depot put millions of Americans' financial information at risk.

Almost immediately, retail trade associations applauded the move.

"We applaud the President’s announcement today encouraging card-issuers to include both a chip and PIN on newly-issued cards," said Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Jennifer Hatcher, adding that "FMI met with the White House in the weeks leading up to this announcement, encouraging White House officials to advocate that a PIN be attached to chip-card transactions in order to increase the security of those transactions."

Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association, released the following statement: "We applaud the White House for addressing this multi-faceted challenge and for calling on all stakeholders to join in the shared responsibility of securing American consumers' data. We appreciate that the President shares this important goal, and is moving the ball forward to broader adoption of secure card technology and payment platforms."

"We agree with the president that this collaborative initiative has the potential to be a premier example of government leadership in driving positive change, in particular to accelerate the widespread adoption of next-generation payment security tools," said Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations.

The Post notes that Obama said he is no stranger to the impact of credit card fraud - last month he tried to use a credit card at a New York restaurant and it was declined because the credit card company thought it might be a fraudulent charge.

KC's View: I think that the thing that really amazes me about this story us the fact that Obama had to whip out his own credit card after a dinner somewhere. (Then again, based on everything we've learned lately, maybe he doesn't want to depend on the Secret Service to handle the bill…)

That said, maybe it would be equally effective if the federal government could get some smart hacker types from Stanford or MIT to break into Vladimir Putin's private accounts and maybe do a little rearranging. Just to show him what's possible…

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MyWebGrocer’s Shopper Marketing Campaigns – Let’s Get Personal With Your Messaging



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Whole Foods To Launch New Values-and-Value National Ad Campaign

The Denver Post reports that "Whole Foods Market is preparing to launch its first national marketing campaign as the chain battles for market share — and fights against its 'Whole Paycheck' image among some shoppers." The ad effort is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million.

The campaign, which will encompass TV, print, online and outdoors, will proclaim that "Whole Foods provides value to shoppers through the values it follows in deciding how to stock shelves," the New York Times reports, adding that "the campaign continues a theme that Whole Foods already uses, 'America’s healthiest grocery store,' and ushers in a new one, 'Values matter'."

The Times notes that "the ads suggest that value for money is as important as a bargain price if not more so, and that by shopping at Whole Foods consumers can be confident about where their food comes from and how it was grown, raised or made. As an announcer puts it in a commercial for Whole Foods beef, 'To us, value is inseparable from values'."

KC's View: The argument here has always been that values are not the same as value … and it seems to me that Whole Foods is making the case that it has to make, the case on which its entire business proposition is built. It'll never be a low-price operator, so it has to make it clear what people are paying for when they go there - a cultural perspective on life and food that they see as being in synch with their own. It's the same kind of argument that Starbucks makes when it goes up against Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's - you're paying for better coffee, yes, but also for something else.

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Worth Reading: The Price Of Consumer Choice

Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal about the moves by companies such as HBO and CBS to un-hitch their entertainment offerings from traditional media vehicles and allow views to watch them online, via streaming technology … therefore giving them greater access and power over what they pay for.

That said, the Journal writes, such an evolution won't necessarily save people money:

"Cord-cutters should be careful what they wish for. A future where television viewers subscribe to each channel individually could be cheaper for young people who only watch two or three channels, industry executives said. But analysts say that for households filled with people of differing tastes or fans of many channels, this future could make the average cable TV bill—which hovers at around $90—seem like a bargain."

You can read the entire piece here.

KC's View: I got a lot of email on this one last week, and I'm not surprised. I certainly think it is possible that people who decide to buy a la carte could end up paying more … but let's not forget that HBO and CXBS are not abandoning their traditional ways of making programming available to people. They're just adding a new method on the premise that for some people, it'll make more sense.

When it gets to that point, I'd certainly be willing to do the math and see which approach makes more sense. I suspect it'll be most attractive to people in the 18-30 age group, and maybe again to people 55+ … since they'll have needs different from mainstream families for whom broadcasting is an answer to a specific set of desires.

The larger lesson should not be forgotten - that consumers want to have the power to choose, and businesses are being compelled to address this demand.

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From Park City Group...




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Tesco CEO Expects To Give Fuller Accounting Of Scandal This Week

Reuters reports that Tesco CEO Dave Lewis has informed the company's staff that "he expects to be able to give a 'clear and accurate indication' of the impact of a 250 million pound accounting mistake when the grocer reports delayed first-half results next week.

Lewis said in a memo that "Lewis said: 'By next Thursday, Alan Stewart (CFO) and I expect to be in a position to give the market a clear and accurate indication of our income for the first half of the year' … The firm is expected to update the market on the progress of its own investigation, being conducted by auditors Deloitte and law firm Freshfields, into the accountancy error."

Tesco said a month ago that its first half profit projections had been overstated by the equivalent of more than $400 million (US) because of what the company acknowledged was "early booking of revenue and delayed recognition of costs."

At least eight Tesco executives have been suspended as a result of the scandal, though the company has not said that there is any evidence that deliberate fraud is involved. However, the British government's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also is looking into the scandal, which has brought attention to what some have called a toxic culture in which employees were treated as if they are disposable and suppliers are treated with disdain.

KC's View: It's going to take a lot more than an explanation from Tesco's CEO to bring the magic back to the company, which has not seemed this vulnerable for years. It isn't just the financial stuff - it is all the cultural toxicity that the financial problems seem to reflect.

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From Samuel J. Associates...


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Online Holiday Shopping, Showrooming Expected to Increase in 2014

Bloomberg reports that the National Retail Federation (NRF) has released a survey projecting that 44 percent of the average consumer';s holiday shopping will be online in 2014, compared with 40 percent a year ago.

In addition, the study suggests that "fifty-six percent of smartphone owners plan to use their device while shopping, for example, to check prices online while they are visiting stores, up from 54 percent last year."

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FastNewsBeat

Bizrate reports on the results of a new survey showing that 63 percent of Americans are not familiar with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

However, the story goes on, "among those that are familiar with the Chinese ecommerce brand, two-thirds (65%) are likely to browse or purchase from it. Of the very small number of U.S. online shoppers who have already interacted with Alibaba in the past (11%), most (80%) are likely to do so again once it launches in the U.S.

"A third (35%) of shoppers had reservations about interacting with Alibaba and said they would not even browse, let alone make a purchase, from a Chinese ecommerce company."


• The Washington Post had a story over the weekend about how "the success of craft beer hasn't been lost onto the soda industry," and that Pepsi is trying to replicate that success with its new test beverage, Caleb's Kola, which is part of "the soda industry's latest stab at stemming the country's growing disinterest in soda."

However, there remains some skepticism about whether this experiment will work, in part because beer "can have a much more nuanced flavor profile than soda, which could put a cap on craft soda's popularity. " In addition, "when people drink soda, they're happy to drink big brands in a broad range of settings. And that could undercut the appeal of a craft soda, which implies a premium quality and concept the market doesn't necessarily need or, even, necessarily want."

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Are You Happy With Your Digital Marketing?


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Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Executive Suite

• Scott Rank, who has served as CEO of Wal-Mart de Mexico for the past five years, will step down from that role next year, the retailer announced last week, and will become the Mexico division's vice chairman. He is expected to announce his own replacement at CEO soon, the company said.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Rank's "tenure at the helm was burdened by allegations in 2012 that the retailer had bribed public officials to speed permits for new store openings in Mexico. Department of Justice investigations into those allegations continue, and the company has scaled back its expansion plans in Mexico since the allegations first were reported.

Your Views

…will return.

From The MNB Sports Desk

It's Week seven in the National Football League…

Atlanta 7
Baltimore 29

Minnesota 16
Buffalo 17

Miami 27
Chicago 14

New Orleans 23
Detroit 24

Carolina 17
Green Bay 38

Cincinnati 0
Indianapolis 27

Cleveland 6
Jacksonville 24

Seattle 26
St. Louis 28

Tennessee 17
Washington 19

Kansas City 23
San Diego 20

NY Giants 21
Dallas 31

Arizona 24
Oakland 13

San Francisco 17
Denver 42

Finally, a word from our sponsor...

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