retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, we reported that Canadian researchers have developed a “vegetarian combination diet” that may help consumers cut cholesterol levels by about a third in just a month. The diet combines vegetables, such as broccoli and red peppers; soy milk and soy sausages; oat bran; fruit, and nuts. The researchers say that consumption of this diet may be as effective as medicine in reducing cholesterol.

We noted that while this diet may help you live forever, it would probably feel like forever. “On the other hand, if taking one Lipitor means that we can eat risotto, drink red wine and finish up the meal with warm bread pudding, we’ll opt for the Lipitor…”

Well, you’d think we’d endorsed Communism. Or Paganism. Or both.

MNB user Denise Remark wrote:

“For shame, my friend! We have become a nation of people who believe that taking a pill will solve all of our problems and make everything right so we can continue our abusive ways. Not so. Have you read the warnings, contraindications and other liner notes accompanying Lipitor? And once on it, weaning off of it is almost impossible. While soy sausages may not appeal to your culinary sense (it's actually quite tasty however & is versatile enough to be used in practically any recipe calling for sausage), there are many tasty and healthful alternatives.

“My husband had a heart attack at age 41--young even for his family history. Since we met and were married (just recently) I have modified his diet to include almost daily oatmeal, reduced carbs overall (not eliminated, modified), eliminated "junk" food, and increased veggie consumption, including veggie snacks during work hours. His blood pressure is so much lower now that he has had to decrease his BP meds and has been able to eliminate the Lipitor because his cholesterol is normal. I also give him enzymes to enhance digestion.

“I didn't mean to launch into a tirade or sound scolding! It's just that your comment about opting for Lipitor rang of eschewing personal responsibility in favor of taking the easy way out.”


Enzymes for digestion? Yummm…..


Another member of the MNB community wrote:

“Although I agree most probably won't follow this diet, I'd like to refer to your comment, "On the other hand, if taking one Lipitor means that we can
eat risotto, drink red wine and finish up the meal with warm bread pudding,
we‚all opt for the Lipitor." And then refer you to your story on McDonald's
and its responsibility for obesity. One reader comments that ‘Some people
will never take responsibility for their own actions.’”



Okay, okay. We were joking.

Sort of.

Of course, some people thought we were right on the money…

MNB user Tom Hayes wrote:

“I couldn't agree more. I've taken my cholesterol from 249 to 147 over three years. My secret: a modified diet, meaning I do watch what I eat, but don't go over the top. I work out three to four times a week with a one hour routine, heavy in cardio. I drink some wine, both red and white on the weekends or at business dinners. I take Lipitor daily, 20mgs and drink lots of water.

“All in all, I have never felt better, and I can say the overall quality of my life is one of balance and appreciation......for not having to feel I'm missing out on anything, especially all those crazy diets!”



And MNB user Al Kober wrote:

“Soon they will discover a food combinations that will enable us to live forever and not enjoy one single moment of it. I thought food was to be enjoyed and that the eating of the food and the theater surrounding the meal was one of the highlights to memorial occasions. I would rather find pleasure in eating even if, so THEY say, what I eat will raise my cholesterol . What about the meat diet. That lowers cholesterol too. The eating of food , as God intended it to be, is not to be diminished by not enjoying it but to be enriched. Life is to be enjoyed, and eating is a big part of that enjoyment. The goal is not to live forever and not enjoy it, but to get the most out of every minute, even those minutes when we are eating.”

Sort of reminds us of two favorite and very similar quotes:

“The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

And:

"I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

Tell you what. Just for fun, we’ll send an MNB t-shirt to the first person to identify the two people to whom these quotes are attributed.




We’ve had some discussion the past few days about Delta Air Lines changing the rules of its frequent flyer program, and whether similar shifts ought to be entertained by retailers. One member of the MNB community sent us the following email:

“On the airline industry model headed toward collapse:

It's not too hard to make the analogy between the grocery and airline business models to see what's happening:

-Southwest and Jet Blue = Costco or Wal-Mart

-American, Delta, United, Northwest and most others = Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons

-Midwest Express = Byerlys, Dean and DeLuca or other.

“The more the biggest airlines try to play the price game, the more they have to cut back.

“So they can neither compete on price AND offer premium service. The model doesn't work anymore.

“If I'm an American, Delta, United or Northwest not succeeding in the cut-throat price game, why not consider charging $100 more for a ticket
and offering big seats, lots of leg room, good food, great service and amenities. Now there's a ticket to customer loyalty and frequent flyer miles!

I can't believe that my fellow road warriors can't find a way to convince their bosses to make room in the budget or use personal miles or pay out of their own pocket to travel with some respect and dignity again. Either one of the big airlines needs to make this jump or we might need to let the government re-regulate the industry again - yikes."



And another MNB user wrote:

“The problems the airlines face are much bigger than sticking it to the frequent flying members of the public. American Airlines has based their elite status on points (not miles) for a few years now...full fare miles are worth a full point, while discount fares get a half point. Each seat mile is still eligible for free travel or upgrades as before. Let's face it, this point system is a disguised benefit for full fare (mostly) corporate customers.

“Having been on board for 100,000 miles annually (and consistently) using discount fares...my patronage is defined by the airlines as not being as loyal as the full fare customer (who flew as many miles).

“Losing a just few full fare coach and first class passengers on their flights destroyed their P&L's. Didn't any of those geniuses bother to run some "what if" risk scenarios and sensitivity analyses? Any business with a revenue model that could be so easily disrupted should fire every manager (and above) involved in pricing and marketing...for being so incredibly stupid. It's sad for the good folks who work at the airlines that their jobs are at risk because their senior managers thought that the business assumptions used to run the company would never change.

“All of this is compounded by the realization that none of the major airlines recognized that a fundamental change had occurred after 9-11. Companies cut back travel immediately after that...and then realized there was no big problem if travel was reduced (in some cases with dramatic cutbacks) in the future. Was anyone at the major airlines talking with their customers?

“Apparently not.”


And retailers who make the same mistake do so at their own risk.




We wrote yesterday about how Albertsons has changed its corporate policy to ban its employees from accepting gifts from vendors, and asked whether “gifts” might also include allotting allowances and promotional money.

One MNB user wrote:
“Vendor gifts at the holiday time are a HUGE issue for retailers and wholesalers...it's not code for promo bucks and slot fees.”

We understand that…but we were trying to make a larger point.




Yesterday, we reported that McDonald's Corp. will form a joint venture with Fazoli's, an “Italian-style” restaurant chain with 400 units in 32 states, to develop 20 to 30 new Fazoli's in three US markets. We noted that we get suspicious about the quality of the food when the phrase used is “Italian-style” food, as opposed to “Italian food.”

MNB user S. Kirk Lammert wrote:

“I have to admit that I, too, was a bit skeptical about "Italian-style" food. Italian fast food was even more of a stretch. However, I steeled myself and went to Fazoli's to find out. And it was terrific! You probably won't see Veal Scallopini on the menu, but the Fettucini Alfredo with Seasoned Grilled Chicken was as good or better as I've found in any other chain Italian restaurant.

“I believe McDonald's has seen this as well. This will be another major feather in their cap.”





And, on the subject of Kmart planning to close more stores after the holidays, MNB user Norma Gilliam wrote:

“Boy, you were on top of this one early in the game. They were denying any more store closings when you were saying they would be closing more. Now they finally admit they will close them.”

Shucks…
KC's View: