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.
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.