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    Published on: January 29, 2007

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    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating – if somewhat lengthy at more than 10,000 words – cover story entitled “The Age of Nutritionism,” written by Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” The story focuses on the ultimate consumer problem – that “sooner or later, everything solid you thought you knew about the links between diet and health gets blown away in the gust of the latest study.”

    Examples: “Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease. The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that ‘it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health’ (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third — a stunningly hopeful piece of news. It’s no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids are poised to become the oat bran of 2007, as food scientists micro-encapsulate fish oil and algae oil and blast them into such formerly all-terrestrial foods as bread and tortillas, milk and yogurt and cheese, all of which will soon, you can be sure, sprout fishy new health claims.”

    All this conflicting information has given rise to something that called “nutritionism.” He writes: “The first thing to understand about nutritionism…is that it is not quite the same as nutrition. As the ‘ism’ suggests, it is not a scientific subject but an ideology. Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions. This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it’s exerting its hold on your culture. A reigning ideology is a little like the weather, all pervasive and virtually inescapable. Still, we can try.

    “In the case of nutritionism, the widely shared but unexamined assumption is that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient. From this basic premise flow several others. Since nutrients, as compared with foods, are invisible and therefore slightly mysterious, it falls to the scientists (and to the journalists through whom the scientists speak) to explain the hidden reality of foods to us. To enter a world in which you dine on unseen nutrients, you need lots of expert help.”

    Pollan offers some basic rules of thumb for how to eat:

    • Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
    • Avoid eating processed food products that come bearing health claims.
    • Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
    • Pay more, eat less.
    • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
    • Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
    • Cook.
    • “Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.”

    And here’s the one that may get your attention:

    “Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

    KC's View:
    This is a long and complex piece, and worth reading.

    You won’t agree with much of it. You may not agree with any of it. But the mindset has to be acknowledged, and retailers have to begin considering how much of this approach to food and eating could take hold in the national consciousness.

    Just don’t be too quick to think, “It can’t happen here.” Our experience is that once those words are spoken, it almost inevitable leads to the fast onrush of the unexpected.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    USA Today reports this morning that “the explosion of immigrant populations is fueling the growth of ethnic vegetables such as cilantro and bok choy, giving farmers new, and potentially more profitable, revenue streams to add to their American staples of corn, sweet peppers and tomatoes. They'll have less competition for this narrow niche, crops that an ethnic population would have consumed in their home country, now growing in small quantities in the USA.”

    According to the story, “Farmers are getting help from agricultural experts at Rutgers, using a market-driven approach determined by Census data, economic forecasting and bilingual surveys of consumers. The plan is to create a blueprint that would develop a market along the East Coast — including Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia — to link growers with ethnic markets.

    “Farmers would produce potentially more profitable vegetables, such as tomatillos and bitter gourd, that can be grown in their local conditions. Gourmet consumers and specialty food stores are also interested in ethnic produce.”
    KC's View:
    This is, of course, part of a broader move toward ethnic foods that can be traced to a pair of conditions – the increased number of US residents who are looking for foods that reflect their ethnic backgrounds, as the growth of people who simply are interested in a more varied eating experience.

    This is wonderful for retailers, who have a chance to capitalize on both. But, that means being aggressive in how these products are merchandised and marketed, not just putting them on shelves and in cases and hoping that people will find them. It means constant sampling programs, it means running cooking classes, and it means sponsoring recipe contests that can generate traffic and sales.

    It means competing. And, as we all know, “compete” is a verb.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The Washington Post asks a question this morning that may not have occurred to a lot of people – can food from a cloned animal also be organic?

    “That's a question being raised by scientists, activists and government bureaucrats since the Food and Drug Administration concluded in December that meat and milk from cloned animals should be allowed on the market,” the Post writes. “In the opinion of some in the biotechnology arena, the federal definition of organic food would allow them to label food from clones as organic, as long as those clones were raised organically.”

    The question is not being asked of genetically engineered animals, which clearly are not organic, but rather of clones – which are genetic replicas of other animals.

    The opinion of biotechnology experts notwithstanding, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it will convene an advisory panel to consider the question later this year. And one thing seems sure – the opinions on both sides of the issue will be ample and impassioned.
    KC's View:
    This is one of the 21st century questions that just a few years couldn’t even be imagined…and now it seems not just important, but inevitable.

    Our initial response is that these organic clones – or cloned organics – should just be labeled as such. But we sort of think that this would be the easy way out, and that maybe a scientifically valid decision has to be made here. The problem is, we expect that the decision will come down to politics and passion, not science…just because that’s the way things seem to work these days.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    A North Carolina entrepreneur reportedly has come up with a way to infuse doughnuts with so much caffeine that it renders the morning cup of coffee redundant.

    While the product is not yet on the market, Robert Bohannon developed a way to bake with caffeine powder and sealing it into the doughnut with vegetable oil until the doughnut is consumed. The, the oil breaks down, the caffeine is set loose, and as much as twice the jolt as a cup of coffee hits the person who ate it.

    Bohannon has sent out letters of inquiry to Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks hoping to generate some interest, but hasn’t yet heard back.
    KC's View:
    We fear that Bohannon’s timing may be a little off. After all, we’re in a period right now where even Dunkin’ Donuts is stressing coffee because it realizes that doughnuts are a little out of fashion, and Krispy Kreme has fallen on financial hard times.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The New York Times reports on what it calls the Costco effect: “Shopping at Costco often goes something like this: Customer comes to buy bulk necessities like toilet paper and dish detergent. Customer buys those items, as well as a pack of giant muffins, three cashmere sweaters and a power tool.” The goal is to offer consumers “an inviting mix of necessities and indulgences — bulk detergent and megapacks of yogurts, stocked along with giant plasma TVs and crystal stemware.”

    The Times writes, “Everyone seems to have an opinion about the Costco shopping experience. Some say they avoid going there because they always spend too much money. Others say they do not mind overspending at Costco because the company treats its workers well. A typical full-time cashier will earn $40,000 a year plus benefits after four years with the company…For those who want to minimize impulse buying, consumer experts say, it is helpful to shop as infrequently as possible, to arrive at the store with a list and a budget, and to walk down only the aisles that contain an item on the list. Conventional wisdom would also say that it is a good idea not to shop when hungry.”

    And, the Times adds, “Costco makes the bulk of its profit by charging an annual membership fee for access to its stores, he noted. A larger membership allows the company to buy items in bigger quantities and to pass along savings to customers. Customers who buy more items may feel that the membership fee is worth paying, because the cost is spread over all the products they buy.”
    KC's View:
    Costco’s real genius – and this isn’t an original thought – is that it has educated consumers to expect the unexpected…and be willing to pay for it. These are two things that many other retailers don’t try, and then wonder why sales and market share are falling off.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is considering extending a moratorium on issuing new industrial bank charters for one year – a move that would delay 14 pending applications, include those from Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

    A six-month moratorium was instituted last July, but that freeze ends in two days and the FDIC has scheduled a public session for that day to address the issue.

    The FDIC is not commenting on the report.

    The Journal notes that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the House Financial services Committee, wants to permanently prevent non-financial services companies from owning banks. And Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has said that he thinks the issue deserves more study.

    Forbes reports that Wal-Mart plans to explore the possibility of acquiring more retail entities in Japan.

    Wal-Mart owns about 54 percent of Seiyu there, and has the option of increasing its stake to 66 percent. It made a play for Daiei, another Japanese retailer, last year but lost out at Aeon, the nation’s largest supermarket chain.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart’s Asda Group in the UK plans to start selling electrical appliances such as televisions, washing machines and refrigerators over its website, starting today. The company says its goal is to earn a five percent market share in this segment by 2012.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart has decided not to participate in New York’s Fashion Week next month, a change in strategy since 2005, when it decided to start showing its fashion collections at the twice-yearly event. When it first started going to Fashion Week, Wal-Mart also began advertising its clothing lines in the pages of Vogue, but it has hit a few roadblocks since then – concerns that cultivating a high fashion image could alienate its traditional customer base, as well as disappointing sales with the new, trendier lines of clothing.

    Wal-Mart said it has not yet decided about whether it will attend the September 2007 Fashion Week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The Lakeland Ledger reports on the opening of a new Sweetbay Supermarket in that community – which also happens to be the place where Publix is headquartered.

    The paper notes that the store has “a modern look to complement Sweetbay's highly-touted selection of products, which emphasizes fresh and natural foods,” and that it “features a deep and diverse produce department, where you can find everything from yucca root to aloe leaves, and a natural foods section with things like organic coffee and specialty brands of chips, juices, sodas and cereals.”

    "We're going to be known for our foods. We have a lot of exclusives here," store manager, Vernon Chastain tells the Ledger, referring to Sweetbay's signature blueberry sausage and private label frozen foods, among other items. And interviews with local shoppers showed that they were impressed by the Sweetbay offering, despite the fact that Publix is a well-known neighbor.
    KC's View:
    Sweetbay is one of the great retailing stories, because it reflects a corporate approach to business that was willing to rethink – and then completely change – a retailing model. That’s a remarkable achievement…and we think that what impresses us most s the company’s willingness to keep being aggressive, to keep pushing.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    • The BBC reports that Tesco, which has invested in 46 Chinese stores with a local partner, and operates them under a banner that translates into “Happy Shopping,” has opened its first store there using the Tesco name.

    The theory is that Chinese shoppers find western brand names to be highly attractive, and that this move will position Tesco to better compete with other global chains, including Wal-Mart and Carrefour.

    • In the UK, the Guardian reports that Tesco has used what is called a “Trojan Horse” strategy to building up its “land bank” of properties on which it plans to build stores. The accusation is that businesses have secured planning and zoning changes that allow them to build stores on certain sites, but that they haven’t disclosed that they’re already made deals to sell the sites to Tesco – which might have run into greater opposition if its name were on the zoning applications.

    A Tesco spokesman has replied to the accusations, saying, "We are transparent in all our planning applications."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The Washington Post reports that “Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas.” In this case, “expensive” translates to a tripling or quadrupling of prices in certain areas of the country, which has led to lower sales.

    “The uproar is exposing this country's outsize dependence on tortillas in its diet -- especially among the poor -- and testing the acumen of the new president, Felipe Calderón,” the Post writes. “It is also raising questions about the powerful businesses that dominate the Mexican corn market and are suspected by some lawmakers and regulators of unfair speculation and monopoly practices.”
    KC's View:
    It is ironic that tortillas, which are a kind of fuel for many people, are facing a pricing crisis at least in part because corn is being used for another kind of fuel – ethanol.

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The Chicago Tribune reports that McDonald’s, “after testing 18 varieties of oil in more than 50 blends during the last seven years,” has finally “struck gold. It found a suitable trans-fat-free oil that won't change the taste or texture of its top-selling menu item: french fries.”

    The company’s goal is to have every unit in its chain cooking with the new oil by early 2008, using it for fries as well as chicken nuggets and other fried menu items.

    McDonald’s first announced its intention to eliminate trans fats from its foods in 2002, but has been unsuccessful at finding a suitable replacement even while its fast food rivals such as Wendy’s, Burger King and KFC announced similar moves.

    Meanwhile, Business Week reports on McDonald’s move into a greater number of 24-hour stores, which it notes “reflects a strategic shift” for the fast feeder. “For most of its history, growth meant one thing: more locations. And until the late 1990s it worked. Like a juggernaut, McDonald's rolled over the competition and across the nation, opening hundreds of outlets each year and cranking out a run of hit products. Then the company reached a saturation point.”

    Now, in addition to bringing out a plethora of new products, targeting the breakfast meal occasion, and trying to focus on issues such the obesity crisis, Business Week writes that “McDonald's is increasing its financial results by squeezing more from the ones it has. The new focus has forced it to rethink every element of its business, from product development and marketing to restaurant design and technology. In the process, McDonald's, which seemed out of touch with consumers just a few years ago, has attempted to realign itself with contemporary tastes.”

    A major part of this realignment has meant understanding how eating habits have changed in America. Business Week writes, “Traditional meals are getting pushed and pulled into nontraditional hours as longer drive times and hours on the job combine with busier after-work schedules to take up more and more of the day. The idealized vision of a family gathering for a home-cooked dinner seems as dated as ‘Father Knows Best’.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    The Boston Globe reports on the growth experienced by granola manufacturer Bear Naked, which has managed to break through the clutter by taking an unusual approach to marketing:

    • It has avoided using the word “granola” during its first two years of existence, believing that it slotted them into a “hairy legs and Birkenstocks” image they wanted to avoid.

    • The company has gotten a lot of trial by pushing for in-store sampling. “After a breakthrough placement in Stew Leonard's, a grocery chain based in Norwalk, Conn., in 2003, the brand found its way into Whole Foods and then into more mass-market retail stores across the country, and expanded into hot cereals,” the Globe writes.

    Now, Bear Naked is developing promotions with companies like Stonyfield Farms, and is considering radio ads and even distribution in convenience stores.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    • Published reports say that Albertsons LLC, controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, plans to close 11 stores in Texas – six in Dallas/Fort Worth, two in Austin, two in Amarillo and one in Lubbock. The closings follow six other stores that the company closed late last year.

    • Penn Traffic reportedly will close its nonfood warehouse in Jamestown, NY, and will outsource those services as a way of saving money.

    • The International Herald Tribune reports that the Kobe Conference, a gathering in Japan of global regulators, have adopted a plan designed to slow “the decline in global tuna stocks by reining in illegal fishing, controlling the growth of fleets and sharing data on stock assessments. The details of the final version were not immediately released, but delegates hailed it as an important first step in the battle to keep overfishing from wiping out tuna stocks.”

    Not everyone agreed, however, as conservationists “expressed disappointment the plan did not go far enough to put controls on the industry and address the environmental damage caused by tuna fishing,” the Herald Tribune writes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    On Friday, MNB reported the following:

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a new plan by the California Department of Food and Agriculture “calls for processors of the leafy greens to sign a ‘marketing agreement,’ meet a set of still-unspecified health regulations, undergo compliance inspections and contribute as much as 5 cents a package to fund the program.”

    However, the program was derided by the United Fresh Produce Association as not strong enough, according to the Times piece. United Fresh reportedly believes that marketing programs and voluntary certification are not sufficient to achieve the level of protection deemed necessary, and is calling for federal oversight.

    And, we commented: We didn’t write about it the other day because it sort of slipped through the cracks, but in his presentation at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference, Tim Hammonds made a chilling statement – that lettuce and spinach supplies from California are no safer today than they were during the E. coli outbreaks last year.

    He’s right. And that’s unacceptable.

    We then got the following email from Tom Stenzel, President/CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association:

    The LA Times story got this very wrong. We are strongly supportive of the leafy greens agreement in CA! The report confused our support for a uniform national regulatory framework for produce as opposition to this effort -- dumb! Please see our letter to CA Secretary of Agriculture attached, and we're writing back to LA Times to correct that record.

    And, oh my word, Tim Hammonds -- you are one of my best friends in the association business, and FMI is a stalwart leader in food safety. Your commitment has helped me personally and the produce industry tackle the food safety issues before us with a resounding strength. But, please don't speculate about our products "being no safer than last year". I know better. I look into the eyes of those growing, packing and processing these products every day, and you better believe that there is a massive commitment to food safety practices unparalleled in the history of this industry.

    But I also know that saying "trust me" doesn't work with people who don't know me -- so that's why we're asking the federal government to step up to the plate and take its own share of responsibility for public confidence. We want mandatory federal oversight of uniform scientific safety standards. What other industry do you know that can say that?

    Point taken. Thanks for correcting the record about your organization’s position.

    We had a story on Friday about a gas station that has pledged only to sell oil from nations that do not support or condone terrorism, which led MNB user Jan Barnett to write:

    Having worked in the oil industry in a previous life, I find the Terror-Free Oil Initiative to be a great start. Since Venezuela is also a member of OPEC, I have emailed the Terror-Free Oil Initiative and have requested they include Venezuelan imported oil in their listing.

    Venezuela is one of the largest exporting countries of crude oil products to the United States. Their president, Hugo Chavez, has made high-profile visits to Cuba and Iraq, has aligned himself with leftist rebels in Colombia and has made a huge territorial claim on Guyana. He apparently does not have high opinions regarding the US and our government. Venezuela is often ranked within the top three countries, exporting over one million barrels per day.

    We also had a story last week about a very expensive necklace being stolen from a Sam’s Club, which prompted MNB user Bill Drew to write:

    Ouch. A necklace pilfered from Sam's Club. Not sure who has fewer brains: 1.) Wal-Mart Loss Prevention for not screaming about having a $263,574 necklace in the store, 2.) the Sam's Club jewelry buyer, or 3.) any customer who would pay that kind of money at a wholesale club for a piece of jewelry.

    Responding to last week’s piece about Wal-Mart settling a federal lawsuit in which it was charged with not paying people for overtime by writing a $33 million check…though it did not admit guilt in the case…one MNB user wrote:

    Can we ever overcome the fact that when there is a huge settlement or fine paid it is not followed by "we deny any wrongdoing or guilt." Oh, by the way, we have fixed and corrected all those issues and placed controls to see that none of these things (sshh, the 'wrongdoings') ever happen again, which we already denied ever happened in the first place.

    We had an MNB Radio piece last week that called for companies to “think bigger” than they currently are thinking about important issues, which led MNB user Dan Onishuk to write:

    Kevin, your comments about some of the issues that were presented at the conference are disturbing to say the least. It seems that only a few chains have embraced change, differentiation, and customer interactions in order to fuel their success and growth since the 70's. While accomplishing these feats, women have been serious contributors, example Publix and Wegmans probably the two most successful chains that outright stand alone. I am sure there may be others out there, but what is puzzling is that senior management just hasn't had the desire to make employee development and customer interaction job #1.

    Sam Walton always walked his stores, always was interested in his customers, what they were buying, what they were saying, and embracing their comments. He encouraged his buyers and all managers to do likewise-their future growth and prosperity depended on the customer-they had all the money. I am a Sam Walton fan, but no fan as to how Wal-Mart operates now.

    I recently was in Boise meeting with a buyer at Albertsons'. We have never done business with Albertsons' nor many supermarkets because we have never sold items that are "foodcentric" which can merchandise profitably in the stores and have relevancy. I came out of Star Market in the 80's, I would say that in those days the chain empowered employees at store level, we were creative to cross merchandise, there were no turf wars on the sales floor between the departments, we were always attempting to take care of the customer, always looking to get the customer to spend another 25 cents-why it boosted sales and profits which boosted our benefits and salaries. The elevation/promotion to an office position didn't change or alter your
    enthusiasm to first recognize that job 1 was store support-and store support meant customer support.

    To make it brief, after the meeting there was no back to the future, I am not sure what the future has in store for them but I truly felt like I was sent back 30 years in time after what transpired. Most was what you commented about in your radio piece. Earlier in the evening I visited a Fred Meyer for the first time-enough said, the next morning at Albertsons', it was a time warp in merchandising. I don't know who to point the finger at, but I do know this, since the 70's there are less and less players-has anyone figured that out? It is a simple business-has anyone figured that out yet?

    Taking care of the customer is not breakthrough science. I am actually contemplating on taking a food marketing course in college just to see what they are teaching these young minds because they are being destroyed in the industry-at least that is my premise. I guess what is needed is an Al Pacino character like Lt Col Frank Slade and take a flame thrower to it and start all over.

    Lessons learned, do you think 30 years from now these same issues will be the hot stove topic, I hope not, but I wouldn't throw any money on it with any odds, it seems that 30 years ago they were.

    I'll put it on my calendar for 2037.

    On the ongoing subject of health case costs, MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

    How do we control health care costs? One puts their trust in the doctor, since he is highly educated and supposed to know best, or even know all the answers. They don't know either. They can only make an educated guess! It takes a lot of guts to stand up to your doctor and they do not like it!

    I had an agonizing pain in my right shoulder blade as a result of a sailing injury on a very windy day. The first doctor sent me for an MRI scan for two different back locations - bill $2500.00 - both proved negative. Then sent me to see a neurologist who said I needed another MRI scan for the neck and that I may have cancer - I walked out and refused to pay his bill. I then insisted on a prescription of a six pack dosage of prednisone, which solved the problem. The liability insurance industry has the doctors so freaked they need test after test to support any decision they make. I experienced the same reaction to an index finger pain, with the same outcome.

    Also how are all the hospitals affording the building of these huge architectural mausoleums that I see being built all over the place? Why do we need such show places that are good for only one purpose?

    MNB user Joe Zusin chimed in:

    I liked the ideas (Steve Burd of Safeway) has for the healthcare problems; it was a fresh look and things he brought out will work. It is however interesting coming from a man who just negotiated with the union to exclude clerks under 40 hours a week from healthcare benefits until they have worked there for three years. Using his logic his company saved money and we who have healthcare paid. Hmmmmmm.

    In all fairness, one of the things that Burd said in his speech about healthcare last week was that at the moment, he has to work within the system that exists and get the best deal for his company…but that he feel strongly that the system has to be changed so that employees are better taken care of and companies don’t go bankrupt trying to do so. We didn’t report that particular part of his speech, but it is a legitimate point.

    Just a reminder:

    Safeway has made Burd’s healthcare presentation available online in an audio format – you can listen to it on your computer, or can download it to your iPod and listen to it while driving, jogging or whatever.

    The presentation is available at:


    If for some reason this link doesn’t work, go to the bottom of the Safeway home page and click on the “About Us” button…and that will take you to the speech.

    We had some discussion last week about the lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart by Julie Roehm, who is upset that she got fired from her marketing job and then got labeled in the media as someone who behaved unethically and had an inappropriate relationship with an employee. MNB user David Livingston thought she was being a crybaby, and we disagreed…and he fires back:

    I'm sure you are correct that Ms. Roehm is brilliant and good at what she does. But I think she should just move on. I just don't think that she will be able to "get her good name back." If Wal-Mart came out and said they were sorry and gave her some cash to shut her up, does it really change things? Most of us would still that there was something going on and Wal-Mart paid her just to go away. Perhaps Ms. Roehm should try self-employment if she is so smart. The upside is you get to have all the inappropriate relationships you want , accept all the free dinners from customers you want and nobody will ever care.

    There is too much politics when you work for a big corporation. As long as you are a rainmaker and making cash for the company, employers should not concern themselves with petty issues like office romances or who buys who dinner. Poor Wal-Mart, when someone at that company gets hired or fired, its such big news. They should go private so they don't have to disclose so much information and not have to be held accountable to outsiders.

    Did you ever consider what she wants from Wal-Mart isn’t so much cash as an apology? Or an admission that she had actually behaved in an ethical and appropriate way?

    MNB user Steven Ritchey chimed in:

    To the gentleman who thinks organizations should be able to hire and fire at will for no valid reason. I don’t think I’d want to work for him. I want to work for someone who doesn’t take the notion of taking away someone’s livelihood so lightly. This is the kind of attitude that causes people to be disenchanted with their employers and creates distrust between them and their superiors. I want to work for a supervisor and for a company that takes it’s responsibilities to me as an employee as seriously as they want me to take my responsibilities to them. Otherwise there is no teamwork, no camaraderie…

    Finally, we wrote in “OffBeat” last Friday about our first trip to Denny’s and the particularly huge breakfast we ordered…but one MNB user didn’t find us funny or insightful:

    I've never said this once, in all these years, but this time you earned it.

    Shame on you.

    You ordered the breakfast, and then proceeded to trash the entire company because you didn't like what *you* ordered. There are lighter breakfasts available, but (as you are so quick to point out about others) -- the choice was yours to make.

    Denny's isn't five-star cuisine, but they offer very decent food -- with plenty of healthier options -- at a decent price. It works well as a place to grab a bite to eat on your way somewhere -- which is how they've made their way in the world. It's much like a Holiday Inn -- you know walking in the door that it probably won't be great, but you also know it won't be bad, either.

    Did it dawn on you that maybe the FedEx employees sucking down Budweisers might have just finished the third shift, and that this might have been dinner for their schedules?

    I'm usually quick to defend you against the accusations of snobbery and elitism – but you went and dived in headfirst -- and then rolled in it -- on this one.

    I couldn't care less whether you ever eat there again, but to mudsling needlessly over one meal -- that you chose, by the way -- is mean spirited and completely unfair.

    Incidentally, I'm not connected to Denny's in any conceivable way, and I don't eat there regularly, either.

    Fair enough.

    We actually were just trying to have some fun with a piece of Americana that we’d managed to miss all these years. We agree that we ordered the breakfast, and therefore bear full responsibility for what we put in our stomach. The point we were trying to make is that even though we knew it was bad for us, the “grand slam” breakfast is just so damned seductive…no wonder America has a weight problem.

    But if we were being elitist, we apologize. That wasn’t our intention.

    As for the FedEx guys drinking beer at 9 am…that’s a fair point. That didn’t occur to us, because we used to work a lot of overnights back when we were a newspaper reporter, and can’t ever remember even thinking about having a drink at that hour of the morning. But your point is well taken.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2007

    Pitchers and catchers report two weeks from Wednesday – February 14, 2007.
    KC's View:
    Life begins again.