Published on: February 12, 2004
We got several emails to our piece yesterday about Meijer's layoffs and new-style approach to business.
user wrote:As a Meijer customer for at least half a dozen years, it has been interesting to note that employee attitudes at a new Wal-Mart supercenter that just opened near us and our closest Meijer seem more friendly than at Meijer.
Checkout personnel attitudes seem especially friendly in comparison.
Incidentally, during WMT's grand opening, still going on, Meijer's parking lot has held about 25-35% of the cars it normally has held.
user David Livingston chimed in:The end is coming soon when you see big layoffs. It could be 5 or 10 years. Maybe sooner. Companies don't grow and prosper when they are cutting costs to the bone. When they do that it is not a matter of prospering but simply surviving. You don't see Wal-Mart laying off 1900 people anywhere to remain competitive. Sure Meijer may have been a little fat in some places, but to dump 1900 people in one shot is an act of desperation.
Personally, I thought Meijer was running lean to begin with. Wal-Mart knows they have Meijer on the run and can play cat and mouse with them for a few years. Unfortunately, a lot of smaller retailers who are in the way are going to get stomped on.
We wrote yesterday that we are concerned about proposed legislation that prevents obesity lawsuits - not because we're in favor of frivolous suits, but because we think the justice system ought to be allowed to do its job. To which one MNB
user responded:OK, Kevin you have showed your “stripes” on this one with “let the courts decide”. One of our major issues in the U.S. is that the courts are increasingly “seizing” power from the other two branches of government. Where does it say that courts can order a legislature to do something as In Massachusetts (forget the topic deal with the “separation of powers” issue)? (California lawmaker) Dutra has every right to introduce this legislation and is entirely right in doing so. We have a “free market” where people choose to do certain things voluntarily. People should not then be able to hold others responsible for what they choose to do on their own.
Actually, we've been writing this for a long time…our "stripes" have long been visible.MNB
user Mike Ferguson wrote:Again, I applaud the legislators in California who see greedy lawyers planning their attack on food companies. The comparison to tobacco is valid to a point, but there is one fundamental difference.
People do need to eat. Each of us needs carbohydrates, proteins and fats to live. There are no good or bad foods, there are good and bad choices in the proper mix and quantity of foods we consume. Consider that just ten years ago all of the experts (except Atkins) were recommending high carb, low fat diets. It seems to me that your mother's advice to eat a balanced diet was far better than any fad diet. Suing food companies is strictly motivated by the greed of lawyers. They are well organized and being trained by those who got rich on tobacco legislation.
Personal responsibility is the only answer in the obesity situation. We can cut portions in half and those who choose to will buy two. We can outlaw soft drinks and people will still have the opportunity to over do it on something else. If a food company sells a fraudulent, dangerous or mislabeled product, they should be held accountable. If they sell a wholesome product, whether it is a candy bar or an apple, they should be protected from the opportunists who want only to become rich.MNB
user Randal O'Toole wrote:Your idea of letting the courts handle the blame in obesity cases ignores the strategies used by trial lawyers. They typically choose to bring cases in jurisdictions where they are likely to win regardless of the law. They also often attack weak companies first and swamp their victims with dozens of suits at once. The result is that the companies settle out of court rather than have to deal with all the lawsuits, setting unfortunate precedents. These tactics make trial lawyers rich and everyone else poor.
Plenty of response to the Atkins obesity controversy.
One member of the MNB
community wrote:The problem with Atkins and other "fad diets" is that they don't offer realistic, lifelong solutions. They may offer quick results, but what then?
No one is going to live on cabbage soup, grapefruit or bacon and eggs for the rest of their lives. One who practices moderation, exercises and eats a balance and varied diet is the one who will successfully maintain control over their weight.
user wrote:You want to lose weight….exercise & stay away from junk food. The more you burn the more you can eat (but use common sense if you think it is bad for you it usually is) . Jack LaLanne has been lost in all of the Atkins hype.
If you don’t want to die from heart disease…have your cholesterol checked. If it high change your diet or start managing it with the new cholesterol lowering drugs. It doesn’t matter if you are a vegetarian or a marathon runner if your cholesterol is high your arteries will clog and chances are you will have heart trouble somewhere down the road.MNB
user Marc Lynn wrote:I enjoyed reading your rebuttal to the garbage being published about Atkins. It has worked extremely well for me for both weight loss and getting my blood chemistry in order. If we meet up at MarkeTechnics you will see me 40 lbs. thinner than the same time last year. My blood pressure is lower, HDL is higher, and Triglicerides are lower. If fact all blood chemistry is within normal ranges. This was not the case 12 months ago before I started the Atkins lifestyle.
Good for you. Though we weren't aware that we were supporting the Atkins approach.
We wrote yesterday that Atkins' heart and weight problems may not have had any relationship to his death - though it would seem logical that one should question the wisdom of eating steaks and bacon if one has heart disease, no matter what precipitated the condition. To which one MNB
user responded:You're assuming that Atkins followed his own diet recommendations. I doubt it, considering his history of heart disease and his weight. Still, I don't agree that consumers will react to this news by abandoning low-carb diets. Americans want this diet because it allows them instant gratification, and long-term effects are not paramount in their minds.
Yet another member of the MNB
community chimed in:More hype raised by our friends at PETA! Need I say more?
user wrote:Great piece on the Atkins mess. Yes, one would think that after you've had a heart attack you might question whether the old body chemistry will work properly on the Atkins regimen. Keep pounding the Moderation in amount, Balance in diet and Exercise in regularity drum. How can so many people not hear common sense screaming this to be the way?MNB
user Russ Fair was a bit outraged by all the discussion:This guy's privacy should be protected under the HIPAA privacy legislation and we have no business discussing it.
And another MNB
user agreed:We all should be ashamed of ourselves. We're like a bunch of vultures just waiting for the next wounded target to pounce on.
Doesn't matter if that target is deceased. Leave the man alone! This is no better than our fixation with Janet Jackson's escapade!
Hey, we're just trying to make a clean breast of things…MNB
user Richard Lowe wrote:If you want to explore diet this is an area that makes a lot of sense and is proclaimed to be the holy grail of food by those involved. Suggest you look up raw food, live food, raw diet, tree of life on Google and read some of this stuff or go to the library and see what they have on the subject. They make a lot of sense when it comes to organic farming, and how we should eat and live. The trouble is one must be very conditioned and have a great amount of self-control with the world in another realm. There are also raw food restaurants springing up in the west coast.
We accept the notion that this movement probably is good for people, good for us.
But sorry. We're not going there.
user wrote:What to eat?
Check out Discover Magazine, Feb 2004 issue. Results of a Harvard Medical School study of 121,700 nurses since 1976... the most definitive of its kind. Answer - a carb controlled diet with less saturated fats based upon the health results of these nurses.
Doesn't claim that Atkins or Ornish is right or wrong, but that a carb controlled diet is extremely important. Thus, this should not be a fad but rather should become a basic shift in the eating habits of everyone. (The article explains glycemic index and loading and it's relationships from the food we eat.)
Regarding yesterday's interview about RFID, MNB
user Bob Vereen wrote:Interesting interview in today's newsletter about RFID. From some other newsletters I get about overseas retailing, Wal-Mart is not alone.
Metro, which is a huge German firm operating hypermarkets (supercenters), a DIY chain, etc., also is adopting RFID and has notified its key vendors that they must be up to speed by November. That's ahead of Wal-Mart's timetable over here.
Marks & Spencer, the UK chain, also is on a faster track.
I recall reading about some others, but don't recall the firm names enough to mention.
I think you will be doing your readers a great service to keep us up to date on this. You are far more knowledgeable about retailing and distribution and thus better qualified to write about it than the
general press, which has been touching on the subject from time to time.
Regarding reimportation of inexpensive drugs from Canada, one MNB
user wrote:A long term business friend and I were laughing about all the concern in regards to drug importation. Funny 5-10 years ago when he sold all the US distributors and Drug chains, he used the Canadian system to import and made additional profits. IT WAS OK. My friend always shared with me all the majors he sold years ago. Now our citizens are ordering direct from Canada and saving money.
Importation has become a dangerous game???? And bad for business.
And there is continued response to the Eddie Basha remark comparing Wal-Mart's march to an "economic Holocaust."
user wrote:There's a heightened amount of sensitivity on Nazi references now, especially with the WWII generation and Holocaust survivors passing away, that the brutality and absolute inhumanity represented will be lost as revisionist history will take over if there's no one to keep the true picture of that era alive and use of the "Nazi" label becomes just a throwaway line. Not to mention what is bound to be a very controversial few days for some with the release of Mel Gibson's movie.
It's interesting to note however that certain humor references to Nazis (i.e. Mel Brooks' The Producers and Seinfeld's Soup Nazi) can be accepted in most quarters as humor is used as the vehicle to depict and show horrific events for what they are.
Also on the Basha comment, one MNB
user wrote:It’s nice that you include links and cite reference so that people can read for themselves and form their opinions before sharing.
This reader went on to suggest that we should have included a comment from the original newspaper article, in which Bill Straus, Arizona regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said: "Knowing Eddie Basha, there are few great champions for justice in Arizona. With that said, I think the last thing in the world he intended to do is to trivialize the Holocaust. . . . We have dozens of Holocaust survivors living in Arizona. I can tell you any reference to the Holocaust strikes them extremely profoundly."
We responded via email: "You may be right about that...I certainly didn’t leave it out because of any agenda. Rather, I thought the story really was about the great passion that Basha felt about the issue, and that we didn't need the anti-defamation league to tell us whether or not it was appropriate. We could decide that ourselves...and the responses I've gotten would suggest that this is true."I have enjoyed your page for a couple of years now, and will continue to do so. My concern was the reaction of some of the readers to Basha’s comments. People react to sound bites with attacks and threats without examining the full context. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we should keep it that way. It was the first time that I had seen or remembered such a reaction to anything on MNB. I don’t necessarily agree with the “blitzkrieg or holocaust” metaphors, but I don’t think that Mr. Basha should be damned or made to be a villain for using them. I only hoped that a full read of the article would allay any concerns that anyone has.
user wrote:Those that choose to complain and not fight will not be long for this world. Competition is the key to the free enterprise system, and even if Wal-Mart makes it hard, those retailers that differentiate themselves from the rest can survive.
There is no doubt that Wal-Mart has changed the way we go to business everyday, but there will always be a place in this country for innovative, creative retailers.
Crying in our soup won't make Wal-Mart go away, so you need to learn to live and compete with them or go the way of the dinosaur.
And, regarding the Starbucks-Dunkin' Donuts competition…
user wrote:I feel like Dunkin Donuts got no credit from the masses! I am sipping my warm cup of what I refer to as "drinkable coffee" rather then the shock flavor of Starbucks. I even got a Dunkin Donuts Christmas ornament cup for my tree this year. For under $2, I always get a consistent cup of coffee served quickly. For an afternoon fix, the Chai Tea is great too!
user wrote:I live in the coffee mecca and I would go out of my way to AVOID Starburnt coffee. In fact if Starbucks was the only coffee available I would pass on the coffee. Seattleites have been long time coffee drinkers, long before Schultze came to town. Give me some good Mayorga coffee thank you very much.
We wrote the other day about online grocery models, and MNB
user Glen Terbeek responded:Your comments yesterday that read "Our position continues to be that the next generation has absolutely no allegiance to traditional modes of supermarket shopping. Give them another decent option, and they'll embrace it" is right on.
And guess what, the "next generation" will be manufacturers working together using third party consolidators/distributors (FedEx, UPS?) to reach their targeted consumers directly (frictionlessly). It will be funded by the trade dollars (up to 18% of their revenues). Why will this happen, because the manufacturers have always followed the least resistance to the shopper. And they will be able to control pricing, compete on product attributes, and get great consumer information. What more would they want?
Regarding Wal-Mart's plan to work with Time Inc. to create a new, exclusive women's service magazine to be sold only at the Bentonville Behemoth's stores, one MNB
user wrote:It will be interesting to see the ratio of the new Wal-Mart magazine's ads of Wal-Mart suppliers vs. non-suppliers, and if non suppliers are even invited (read: allowed) to participate as advertisers. Will Bentonville, as a publisher, "encourage" the new mag's editors or, rather, insist that stories have "traditional" editorial distance from advertisers and thus hopefully remain unbiased? Does this mean suppliers be "encouraged" or, ahemmm, arm twisted to become advertisers? Bet they're all lining up, or redirecting, ad dollars right now!
Based on sheer number of readers, this mag will automatically become a powerful 'tool' for shaping American consciousness and personal retail preferences. The problem isn't editors without assistants, although I commiserate with them (and with you too, Kevin!). The real problem is the potential this mag has to dish out highly biased content with backroom pandering that most of its readers will never be aware of. A bit Orwellian? Perhaps. Wonder if they'll have a guts to put a statement on the masthead indicating their 'real' advertising policies...
And another MNB
user wrote:What's the first step when taking over a country? Control the media!
Exactly. But not us…
Also about email, MNB
user Mike Campeau wrote:Let me make it clear up front that I'm not a Wal-Mart fan. I live in Canada and would prefer to see my buying dollars go to local businesses. But not at the expense of the consumer.
It always amazes me when people or companies whose performance is less than desirable look for someone or something else to blame instead of taking a good hard look in the mirror. For some unknown reason (usually based on emotion, not facts), it is often those performing well who get blamed for the loser's poor results. The winner must have cheated, right? He couldn't possibly have developed a better plan than me or executed it more effectively than I did, right? Isn't this how children react?
If the winner has been found guilty of some crime or misconduct, that's one thing. Until such improprieties are proven, however, there is only one word that describes all this negative talk -- WHINING!!
Grow up, folks. Reasonable people aren't swayed by these childlike reactions. They consider the source of this kind of talk before taking it seriously. What they are not hearing during all of this "Oh, poor me!" and "The consumer owes his local suppliers a living!" kind of talk is any discussion about taking better care of the customer.
They're getting more focus and attention from the winner, so that's where they'll continue to go until they see something better from the competition. They have every right to make that decision because it's their own hard-earned dollars they're spending, right?
Remember, Wal-Mart is not the real problem. They just happened to be the company who saw a better way to give the consumer what he wants and took action. If it wasn't them, it would just be someone else.
When you don't pay enough attention to your meal, there will always be someone who comes along and eats your lunch!
And, our favorite email of the week comes from an MNB
user on the subject of food safety:I cannot eat COWS, CHICKENS or SALMON. Maybe I will become a Vegetarian and glow at night from Acid Rain!!!