business news in context, analysis with attitude

Reaction to our stories about Fleming’s problems with Kmart as well as new charges about mismanagement by top executives.

One member of the MNB community wrote:

“To most manufacturers it is not surprising that Fleming misapplied funds deducted from vendor invoices. They had been misappropriating many of those same vendor funds for sometime.

“For a time I oversaw the Trade Marketing funds for a small CPG manufacturer. We had product on the shelves in most Fleming customers, including Kmart.

“There is no way I can adequately explain the amount of time and effort that went into chasing Fleming deductions, many erroneous or duplicate to other deductions already taken. Our cost of doing business with them was so high that, had it not been for the volume contributed by Kmart, we would have stopped shipping Fleming product at several points.

“Conversely, Wal-Mart was our most reliable and profitable account. They said what they did and they did what they said: No ups, no downs, and no funny business. Money saved chasing deductions could be spent on value-added programming, growing our mutual business and reaching out to the consumer.”

Another MNB user wrote:

“I must personally know a hundred people at manufacturers, brokers and CPG marketing firms who can offer testimony on the ‘improper deductions’ part of the allegations. Whether it will come to that or whether they would actually say anything is another story. Many Fleming retail customers probably never got to see certain new items or participate in the promotions attached to those items because of Fleming’s deduction “policies”. They often seemed to treat Vendors more as “credit cards” than partners, so whatever happens to Fleming is ultimately of their own doing. The losers in all this are Fleming’s independent retail stores and the consumers served by them.”

We have to be honest here. We cannot remember receiving one email from someone who argues that Fleming is being tarred and feathered unjustly. Rather, all the email seems to be along the lines of these two…

Which again raises the question, how exactly is Fleming able to grow its business now that it has dumped its retail operations and severed ties to the troubled Kmart?

We got email in response to our story about how scientists now think that genetics play a more important role than previously believed in whether or not a person is obese.

MNB user Denise remark wrote:

“While I agree that genetics does play a role in shaping (no pun...) how we look, etc., it can not be overlooked that we are very sedentary and consume more calories than our levels of activity require. I seem to recall a previous discussion pertaining to personal responsibility; well, here's another!”


It’s interesting to see how pervasive this discussion is becoming in society. Lately, it seems like every time we go to the gym someone has the television there tuned to Oprah or Dr. Phil or somebody else interviewing fat people or former fat people…

One MNB user wrote in about the c-store vending machine concept that we reported on earlier this week:

“While the C-store vending idea is enticing on a certain level, I'm thinking about all the vending machines that I have rocked (don't tell...there's a sticker on them that says not to do this) to get stuck snacks loose. And I'm also thinking of all the vending machines that I've seen that have a note stuck to the front saying "this machine owes me a dollar" signed by somebody on second shift.

“I'm also having flashbacks to stories of people who use ATM's and are robbed...I can just see being held up for a package of diapers and a two-liter of cola. Then again, I may just have issues with change!”

All good points.

Reactions from MNB users regarding McDonald’s decision to put nutritional labels on its food packaging in the UK:

“I couldn't agree more with the "Non-Nutritional" remark! What exactly are they going to say? In a Big Mac alone, you consume your daily allowance of fat and double the daily sodium requirement. Weight Watchers assigns it a 13 point value, which means for most people, that you've consumed half of your daily point allowance (I'm a big guy, 6'0" and 220 lbs., and I only get 24-29 points a day). And that's just with the burger, not to mention fries, a shake or a drink, etc.

“Personally I've just learned to visualize all the lights flashing and one of those alarm sirens sounding when I enter the door, in the hopes that I don't completely destroy my sodium, cholesterol, point value intake. What effect does nutritional information on the wrapper do for you since you'll probably look at it not only after you've unwrapped the food, but also after you've eaten it. Is it kind of an obituary at that point? They've got to work on "the main fare" at fast food joints, offering a staple of healthier, if not just plain healthy provisions. And I'm not talking some dumb salad in a plastic thingie with a packet of sticky/sweet French dressing either.”

And another MNB user wrote:

“The nutritional info printed on the packaging isn't aimed at drawing in customers - at least not primarily. It sounds more like a way of slamming a possible door on those with litigious thoughts. With the sound of the legal community's whetstone ringing in their ears, MacDonald's may have been shrewd to choose the CYA priority first.”

CYA? Can we say that on a family website?

Finally, we got email related to Safeway’s putting Dominick’s on the market in Chicago.

MNB user Michael E Diegel wrote:

A couple of days ago, I stopped into my local Safeway (an aging store in suburban D.C. in desperate need of remodeling and expansion, BTW) for a few items. When I got home and began taking things out of the bags, I noticed one bag looked different. It was labeled Dominick's. I guess that's one way for Safeway to get its $1.9 billion worth before the sale.”

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

“It angers me that in all the articles I read, Safeway blame labor. The simple fact is that Safeway's management ignored basic marketing 101...."Know thy customer!" They came into town with cost saving measures that totally changed the mix of product, advertising strategy, and the feeling of the store, but they kept the name.

“Not in one article did Safeway ever say maybe we misjudged the loyalty of the Dominick's customer. They have dismantled the buying and operating staff, warehousing, advertising department, etc,. The only thing the new owner is buying are buildings with shelves. One hundred stores is like a big boat, it will not turn around quickly after it is going the wrong way and is half in the water. I hope they have deep pockets to keep it a float until it is on course.”

And another MNB user wrote:

“If Bob Mariano (who formerly ran Dominick’s) can put together the deal to buy Dominick’s, it would likely be very welcomed in the Chicago vendor community. Whatever else Mr. Mariano is, we know that he is a top-flight marketer, merchandiser, competitor and grocer and that Chicago consumers would ultimately reap the benefit in better product quality and variety and REAL customer service instead of the phony ‘Do you need help to your car?’ nonsense Safeway offers. Go Bob! Please bring back the Fresh Stores!”

And finally, in the interest of fairness, we offer an email that makes that rare positive statement about Kmart::

“I was watching Dawson's Creek last night (my daughter loves it so we watch it all together) and the story line had 2 characters locked in a Kmart overnight by accident. Don't ask how this came to be as reality tends to be suspended on TV (another example being that there were no out-of-stock products and the store looked spotless.) But not a bad move by Kmart I believe. If they are trying to woo the younger demographic, what better way than showing two popular characters shopping in your store and even having a good time despite being trapped. Product placements are very prominent in TV and movies now and though this is not a product in the usual sense, Kmart is a brand name and benefits the same as if Coke or Pepsi were dropped. And at least in this case it was a seamless and realistic blend with the plot and didn't look like a blatant attempt to hawk product like many awkward product placements are.”

Locked overnight in a Kmart? Watching "Dawson's Creek"?

Either one sounds like our idea of hell on earth…

And on that cheerful note, delivered after six cups of coffee, we'll see you Monday…maybe we'll be in a better mood after having the weekend to read about the beginning of spring training...starting Pete Hamill's "Forever"...and going to see "Chicago."

Then again, maybe not.
KC's View: