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    Published on: August 3, 2007

    …for the fact that MNB is coming out so late today. We had server problems, which screwed up everything.

    Thanks for your patience.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    Interesting piece in Newsweek about how Wal-Mart - Mexico’s largest private sector employer and a highly profitable player there – may be taking advantage of local customs to pinch pennies in a way that could be considered to be exploitive.

    Newsweek writes that Wal-Mart has almost 150,000 Mexican citizens “on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico - and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits.

    “The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: Our volunteer packers collect no salary, only the gratuity that you give them. Superama thanks you for your understanding.

    “The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be ‘volunteering’ their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws. But some officials south of the U.S. border nonetheless view the practice as regrettable, if not downright exploitative.”

    The story notes that Wal-Mart is fully in compliance with Mexican law, and that it did not invent the “volunteer” program, which was in place south of the border long before it had stores there. Nevertheless, as the world’s biggest retailer, the company is enduring significant criticism from some local officials who feel that the nation’s youth is being exploited.
    KC's View:
    Wal-Mart doesn’t need me to defend it, but it seems to me that if these Mexican officials are so offended by the “volunteer” practice, then they ought to change the law to forbid such activities. Now, that might result in a lot of teenagers not making any money at all, because Wal-Mart is unlikely to hire all of them as baggers – it would hurt the bottom line. But if you’re really offended, do something about it, as opposed to criticizing the easy target from north of the border.

    That said, it has to be noted that these are the kinds of problems that Wal-Mart faces as an enormous American company with a somewhat questionable reputation trying to do business in all corners of the world. Fair? Probably not. But it is the cost of conducting commerce for Wal-Mart, and it has to realize that the local customs it observes in Mexico can have both a real and perceived impact on how it is seen elsewhere.

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    Unified Grocers and Associated Grocers, Inc. (AG) have announced the signing of an Asset Purchase Agreement in which Unified agreed to purchase certain assets and assume certain liabilities of AG.

    Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Approval from AG’s shareholders is required before the deal can be finalized.

    "This transaction will strengthen the competitiveness of independent retail grocers throughout the Western United States," said John Runyan, AG’s president/CEO. "The combined sales volume of our two companies creates an organization with significant purchasing power and marketplace clout, as well as a wholesale supply channel that will continue to become more effective and efficient. This transaction is a win-win for both companies and their stakeholders."

    Alfred A. Plamann, Unified’s president/CEO, said, "This agreement represents a major milestone in our efforts to combine the forces of cooperative wholesalers in the Western United States and we eagerly anticipate the closing of this transaction. We look forward to the success we know it will bring to independent grocery retailers throughout all of our divisions."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    The South Korean government has clarified its position on the importation of US beef, saying that after finding banned bone parts in one shipment, it has not reimposed a ban but rather that suspended inspection procedures – which will have the effect of stopping the sale of US beef in the country for the time being.

    The Korean government has warned that if the US government does not take appropriate actions, a full-scale ban could be put back into place.

    The risk material – believed to be cattle bone and brain matter – is not supposed to be any shipments because it is believed it could carry bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease. After having banned US beef in late 2003, South Korea finally opened its markets to US beef last year, but with stringent conditions that now appear to have been violated.
    KC's View:
    The US government only seems to believe in these inspections as a matter of commerce as opposed to a matter of food safety and science…so I’d expect that they’ll try to do something to improve their image with the South Koreans. But whether this will have any impact on ongoing negotiations with the Japanese about beef shipments to that country – where they are even more concerned about BSE than in Korea – is anyone’s guess.

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    In Australia, there is speculation that Wesfarmer’s proposed acquisition of Coles Group – the nation’s second largest retailer – could be in jeopardy as Coles seems to lose value in the marketplace almost daily. Investors reportedly would like to shave as much as 10 percent from the $17.7 billion (US) purchase price, though Wesfarmers management has said only that while the deal could be tweaked, there will be no major changes in its structure.

    The Coles board of directors is scheduled to vote on the proposed deal later this month.
    KC's View:
    Take the money and run, guys.

    Can’t see any reason from this vantage point why the Coles folks would be against the merger. The question is whether Wesfarmers is going to get its money’s worth.

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    • The Muskegon Chronicle reports that Meijer and Wal-Mart are going head-to-head in Grand Haven, Michigan, and that the battle – during which the two stores share a traffic light and sit across the street from each other – symbolizes the seriousness with which Wal-Mart looks at the market.

    There is no question, the story suggests, that Wal-Mart is bringing its A-game: the store “has been designed for northwest Ottawa County's more affluent demographics, featuring larger electronics and sports departments and a more extensive wine selection in the food center. The garden center also is bigger. To cater to tourists, the store has a larger fishing gear area and its automotive tire and lube facility can service recreational vehicles.

    “Because it is the newest area Wal-Mart, the Grand Haven Township outlet includes several environmentally friendly touches, including skylights throughout the store and ceiling lights that dim according to the amount of sunlight streaming into the building. The floors are made of recycled concrete and lights in the food freezers are controlled by motion sensors. The exterior of the building also is different than standard Wal-Mart design. At the insistence of township planners, the building is all red brick and has a colonial design.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    • The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area reports that Lowes Foods there is working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield “to encourage people to eat healthier.

    “The two companies are promoting an in-store scavenger hunt for healthy foods. For the next eight weeks, Lowes Foods stores will have ‘Eat and Move’ kiosks, which will have game cards. The idea is for children to look for examples of healthy foods, which will help them solve a word puzzle on their game cards.”

    • The Financial Times reports that Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld is warning of a kind of “perfect storm” that could force dairy prices so high that people cut back on their milk and cheese consumption. According to Rosenfeld, “high animal feed costs, a drought in Australia and rising demand in Asia and Africa combined to push up the price of raw milk and milk powder.’ She tells FT, “"2007 is shaping up to have the highest average dairy prices on record … The high cost of milk is beginning to slow consumption."

    • Published reports say that Kroger is looking to add car washes wherever possible to the gas stations it has been opening in front of its stores.

    • In the UK, there are reports that Sainsbury’s board of directors has asked Delta Two – the investment vehicle for the Qatari royal family – to either improve on its $21 billion (US) offer for the company, or improve the terms of its takeover proposal. Delta Two already owns 25 percent of Sainsbury, but is bidding to own the whole thing.

    • China’s reputation as a safe manufacturer took yet another hit this week when Mattel announced the recall of some 1.5 million Chinese-made toys made for the company's Fisher-Price unit, which were made with paint that may contain too much lead.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    • Ahold this morning is reporting that its second quarter sales increased two percent to the equivalent of $9 billion (US).

    In the US, Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover reported a 1.9 percent rise in sales to $3.9 billion; same-store sales at Stop & Shop were up 1.1 percent and down one percent at Giant-Landover. Revenue at Giant-Carlisle increased 13.7 percent to $1 billion, with same-store sales up 2.7 percent.

    • Ruddick Corp. holding company for Harris Teeter, aid this morning that its Q3 sales rose 11 percent to $923 million from $830.2 million in the third quarter of 2006, based on a 13 percent sales increase at Harris Teeter, which had same-store sales go up five percent.

    Net income grew to $21.2 million, from $17.8 million in the prior-year period.

    • Ingles Markets reports that its fiscal third-quarter net profit rose 43% to $19.7 million, from $13.8 million during the same period a year ago. Net sales for the quarter rose to $738.7 million from $659.2 million, on same-store sales that were up 11.9 percent.

    • CVS Caremark Corp. reported second quarter net income of $723.6 million, compared with $337.9 million a year earlier when CVS and Caremark operated as separate entities. Revenue climbed 96% to $20.7 billion, and same-store sales were up 5.7 percent.

    • Walgreen Co. said that its July sales rose 11 percent to $4.42 billion, on same-store sales that were up 7.2 percent.

    • Procter & Gamble reports this morning that its fourth quarter net income rose 19 percent to $2.27 billion, from $1.9 billion a year earlier. Sales rose eight percent to $19.27 billion from $17.84 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    • Unilever has hired Jim Lawrence, CFO of General Mills, to be its new CFO. Lawrence also is the former CFO and Northwest Airlines, and also ran PepsiCo's emerging markets business.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    MNB reported yesterday that Amazon.com has begun testing near Seattle a pilot program called Amazon Fresh that will deliver perishable groceries to consumers, including organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, dairy products, ice cream, meat and seafood. The program, under development since at least earlier this year by Amazon’s grocery team, expands upon the gourmet grocery business and non-perishables business that the company already has in place. And, for the first time, the company is delivering products directly to customers instead of relying on a third-party service such as UPS or FedEx.

    MNB user Lisa Malmarowski responded:

    It will be interesting to see what happens. Hopefully they can improve their service recovery system. I've always been a fan of Amazon for those occasional convenience things I need ( I'm one of those people that prefers to shop at the local bookstore!), and I've always received things as promised, quickly. We all know the good things Amazon does.

    A recent order proved to me that a company is only as good as the last transaction and how they handle a problem is really where the rubber meets the road.

    I ordered 3 books that I couldn't find locally, one was a gift. In order to get the gift book in time, I chose to forgo the super saver shipping and opt for a faster route. Two days later, I received a note saying that all 3 books would not be available for about a week - well after when I needed the gift. So I wrote and asked to qualify for the super saver shipping since they would not be expedited.

    Suffice it to say, 3 emails later, a scolding from a call center worker from overseas somewhere, and finally an email back refunding my lousy $5.64 with a reminder that they were doing me a BIG favor because I chose the wrong shipping, I'll be hesitant to order from them for a while.

    And that would make me super wary of ordering groceries.

    That's okay, let 'em get big - makes more room for quality local stores to shine - especially when it comes to genuine, personal service.


    MNB user Alexandra Minch wrote:

    A company called FreshDirect has been providing this type of service in lower Manhattan for years. It has been a big hit with the residents of Battery Park, especially those without cars.

    I know that, and have written about the company admiringly.

    Here’s where Amazon could be different, I think. It has an enormous amount of information on millions of customers, and it can offer a highly customized online shopping experience that can pull various segments and venues together, in a way that almost nobody else can or has even thought about. Now, this has extraordinary challenges attached to it, both in terms of infrastructure and economics, to name just two major areas.

    But I’m impressed. And I think the opportunity could be transformational, if it expands and if it works.




    In a story about Wal-Mart’s success in the consumer electronics arena, MNB offered the following commentary: Wal-Mart’s biggest problem in the consumer electronics business, from my point of view, is the lack of credible, educated and engaged sales help. Until they get that licked, I’ll be shopping for these items elsewhere.

    One MNB user responded:

    I agree that "credible, educated and engaged sales help" is essential in choosing any new technical device.

    However, don't you think that lots, read "most", customers have a pretty good idea of what they want, thru prior comparison shopping of good electronics stores, especially in the field of new HDTV sets, which are so new to most all of us, when they go to Wally World to buy on price alone? And use Consumer Reports and the likes for reliable "technical" review of products.


    I think some do, some don’t. But I think that even those who know what they want would be put off by the Wal-Mart employee I ran into in its consumer electronics section who expressed surprise that Sony made flat screen plasma televisions.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    As long as the internet is able to provide a wealth of information about products and technologies, store personnel will never be more than a tertiary at best source of info. Trying to buy a new TV recently I was stunned to find that no two salespersons at Circuit City offered the same explanation for the differentiating technology between comparably priced products. Wal-Mart is benefiting from every other retailer that has trained customers not to expect much from store personnel.

    True.

    I’m just old-fashioned about this stuff. I have a guy who works in the TV department at a local retailer who seems to know everything I need to know, and who matches everybody else’s prices. He’ll be there next week, next month, next year when I need a new TV. And, the store is a one-unit operator, so I feel good about supporting a fellow independent.




    MNB featured a radio commentary yesterday that addressed a new IRI study saying, in essence, that rather than trying to be all things to all people, retailers looking to compete in a cutthroat environment ought to instead try to be more meaningful to the most meaningful shoppers.

    And I said:

    Wow! What a concept.

    Now, I want to be clear about this. I’m not being mean to IRI. I’m sure I could find plenty of studies done by its competitors in which the central conclusions seemed equally obvious. This just happens to be the one that crossed my laptop most recently … I think it probably is good that IRI is doing studies about such things, and trying to bring it to the attention of the food industry. Because while it seems like an obvious conclusion – that to compete in 2007 and beyond it is critical to do something different from everyone else – there are too many retailers who don’t believe it or act on it effectively.


    I suggested that in addition to doing better data collection and analysis, as recommended by IRI, retailers also need to do a better job of hiring store managers who have as their highest priority connecting with customers, identifying best shoppers, and developing relationships with these customers that evolve and grow over time. It means developing business leaders, not just store managers.

    And, I concluded: It seems obvious. But as Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote, “There is nothing so deceptive as an obvious fact.” In this case, the obvious is elusive. But it also is one of the highest priorities that retailers can set for themselves.

    MNB user Glen Terbeek responded:

    IRI is right on and so are you right on. Focusing on Best Shoppers is an obvious business practice. The problem is that the "Best Shoppers" are different, store by store. And that is in direct conflict with the traditional organizations and measurements in most supermarket chains; where the stores work for headquarters, rather than where the central support staff works for each store.

    To focus on Best Shoppers, the stores need to be in control of their own markets.

    Otherwise stores will continue to be all things to all people, and only perform to average, not potential.

    Why are all the central support personnel located in a central office building anyway?


    MNB user Dustin Stinett chimed in:

    You said:

    "Sometimes, I’m amazed when a study comes out that seems to state the obvious, and the results seem to surprise people."

    You mean kind of like when I found out that people are surprised when they discover that clearly labeled "Purified Drinking Water" comes from a local water source and not the Magic Purified Drinking Water Tanks in the sky? 😉


    Dustin is making a not very veiled reference to my coverage of PepsiCo’s decision to change the label of its Aquafina water to concede that it is filtered tap water, a decision Coke is not emulating with its Dasani water. I think it is a transparency issue, but he thinks it is much ado about nothing.

    Maybe I just hang out with lesser informed people, but almost everyone I’ve spoken to about this issue thought that Aquafina and Dasani were spring waters, not purified tap water. Not that PepsiCo or Coke claimed this…but they look like Poland Spring and Evian, so people sort of assumed.

    Transparency, in my view, is not just about telling the truth. It is sometimes about correcting misconceptions when and where they exist.

    But we digress…

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Research has many functions - confirms what we know, answers questions we want to know about, and uncovers stuff we didn't know about but need to know. Knowing your core consumer and being relevant to them through strategic differentiation is hitting the sweet spot and that is what branding is all about. You are right on about stores and chains needing to develop talent with strong business acumen...including marketing and branding...(they are not the same thing).

    True. Sometimes we all need to be told something we should know by someone who has the advantage of distance and objectivity. (Hell, it is sort of how I make a living, though being a pundit and professional troublemaker is a little different from being a consultant. My accountant says it means I’m an underachiever…)




    I got the following email this week that I thought worth sharing:

    Last week my company sent 20+ associates to the College of William and Mary's Mason School of Business for a course in Strategic Retail Management.

    Across the street was a Wawa which several of us shopped each morning. The first day, a store employee was observing one of my colleagues shopping the energy drink selection. The employee came over and asked her if she had tried the Wawa energy drink. My colleague said she had not. The store employee said "here, take our Wawa energy drink to sample, no charge". I immediately wondered why my company does not have a program like this and how could I implement one in the near future.

    What a great way to sample and introduce your private label products to your customers. Wawa must have complete confidence in the quality of their private label products.

    My "hats off" to Dick and Howard for training their employees and the Wawa culture that they have ingrained in their organization.


    Bet that store employee never took a course in Strategic Retail Management, and may never have used a consultant to figure out how to sell stuff.




    Regarding the ongoing battle between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Whole Foods about the retailer’s proposed acquisition of Wild Oats, one MNB user wrote:

    So Whole Foods can't purchase Wild Oats because the FTC thinks it would be anti competitive, but Murdoch can buy Dow Jones & Company?

    Are you suggesting that Murdoch gets a pass because he may be more in synch with the Bush administration than John Mackey is?

    I’m shocked, shocked.

    I keep saying that if the judge in the case shops for his own food, he’ll dismiss the FTC’s claims because he’ll know how easy it is to buy organic and natural food in places other than Whole Foods and Wild Oats. To which MNB user Bob Vereen responded:

    Your comment about the judge shopping for food reminds me of how often it is that politicians, as well as lawyers (and now judges) reveal how out of touch with common sense and day-to-day life matters and reality they are.

    MNB user Dan Onishuk weighed in:

    Kevin, you are wrong about this merger. It should not take place. Prices will go up because there will be a definite absence of competition. Someone has to pay for the merger if the courts/FTC would allow it. My guess - "naturally,” the customer.

    Maybe.

    I think there is an equally strong argument that Whole Foods could use the increased buying power to lower prices.

    But even if it does not, isn’t it only likely that Whole Foods would be raising prices? And that the likes of Wal-Mart and Safeway and Kroger and Sunflower and everybody else in the business would see an enormous opening for a more reasonably priced natural/organic foods operation?




    More comments on Michael Sansolo’s piece the other day about “generation gapping,” as one MNB user wrote:

    While Michael Sansolo’s piece “Generation Gapping” certainly captures the issue of “pop-culture,” he neglects to mention the “dumbing-down” that has been going on for a couple of generations. We live in a sound-bite/bullet-point/quick-take world because that’s all that can be handled by the attention spans of generations ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ and ‘Zzzzzzz.’

    In our elementary, middle, and high schools, the Scientific Method has been replaced by “Scientific Consensus.” Political Science is taught by people who apparently learned theirs from John Lennon. U.S. History is at best glossed over and at worst rewritten. World War II, the most important event of the 20th Century, is covered in a week’s time (or less). Ask a Gen-Xer what started the American Civil War and he’ll likely tell you it was because “Lincoln freed the slaves” (for those who believe that to be the case, I would remind you that the war had raged for seventeen months before Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation). I fear it’s just a matter of time before English 1A is replaced by Texting 1A. How does one text “We Are Screwed”?

    But whose fault is it? The answer to that burning question is found by looking in the mirror.

    The Baby Boomers who are lamenting the fact that it will be Gen X “taking care” of them in their golden years have forgotten that it was the Baby Boom generation who taught Gen X everything they don’t know.

    After they first saved the world and then rebuilt it, the “Greatest Generation” (the name coined by Tom Brokaw for the WWII generation) made it so easy for us that taking most aspects of life for granted—a luxury the Greatest Generation never enjoyed—became second nature. Somewhere along the line we decided that we had to make things even easier on our offspring. School is easier. Work is easier. Making money is easier. Finding food is a lot easier. And now we are paying the price.





    We had a story the other day about a possible new way to avoid skin cancer – combine strenuous exercise with caffeine consumption. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has done research showing that when tested on mice, “the combination of exercise and caffeine increased destruction of precancerous cells that had been damaged by the sun's ultraviolet-B radiation.”

    My first thought, however, was this: Who knew that mice got sunburned?

    Now, a few people sent me pictures of hairless mice with severe sunburns. Which was, to be honest, really gross.

    And some people wrote in to express outrage. One MNB user wrote:

    Mice only get sunburned when humans use them for tests. Yes, I do not eat meat.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    Why is it in a modern world we continue to depend on ridiculous test on animals to make decisions about humans? What a joke!
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 3, 2007

    It seems simplistic – indeed, obvious – to suggest that one of the great advantages and pleasures of the Internet is its interactivity.

    Communication about products and services – from the extravagant and rarefied to the mundane, prosaic and even the vulgar – is no longer a one-way street. Consumers know everything. Or, at least can know everything. Which is one of the reasons that transparency is so important. (You’re transparent anyway, like it or not, so you might as well embrace it.)

    Car dealers found it out early. People suddenly were shopping for cars with more information about costs and margins and performance than the salesman had. Sort of changed the balance of power. And there was no reverse, no way to go back to the way things were. So dealerships had to both be smarter and change their approach. Or be stuck in the mud of the past.

    Amazon has been particularly great as posting user reviews, making them a mainstay of its online offerings. Wal-Mart recently joined the party by announcing that it would post such consumer commentary on its website.

    And now, Staples has announced much the same thing, and there is speculation in the marketplace that its chief competitor, Office Depot, has similar plans.

    These are smart first steps. They are steps that more retailers need to take.

    But what will make these and other such innovations will be the differences that they bring. Wal-Mart and Staples and other companies can’t simply follow the Amazon model. They have to innovate beyond that, have to find ways to engage with the consumer that will give them a clear-cut and differential advantage in a cutthroat marketplace.

    As for the timing of such innovations, I can only offer one word.

    “Now.”

    Because yesterday is past, and tomorrow is too far away.




    Good news from medical researchers, who often confuse but every once in a while come up with a nugget of information that helps to rationalize my behavior.

    According to Portuguese scientists, not only is red wine good for you, but it also may help to repair or protect the brain when it comes to other alcohol-related damage. Like, from margaritas and mojitos, which have tasted really, really good during these hot summer months.

    And, I get to tell Mrs. Content Guy that yet another study – this one from Japan – says that drinking three or more cups of coffee each day can help women cut down their risk of colon cancer.

    The really good news about this is that, based on what we have to do to maintain some level of good health, she gets to be the designated driver.




    And still another study – this one reported in The Age in Australia – says that people Down Under “who regularly eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil, vegetables and light cheese are halving their risk of dying from heart disease … Most frequently consumed items in this winning diet included garlic, cucumber, olive oil, salad greens, capsicum, legumes, tomato, feta and ricotta cheeses, olives, onion, watermelon, steamed fish.”

    Nothing but good news here, folks.




    Tough week for my friends in Minnesota because of the tragic bridge collapse in the Twin Cities, and my heart goes out to them.

    It seems odds to mention it now, but I wanted to thank the Minnesota Grocers Association and its membership for showing me such a great time when I spoke at their summer conference earlier this week.

    I always thought that retailers in Minnesota were an exceptionally smart breed…and my opinion was confirmed when I found out how many of them read MNB each day.




    I really liked the movie version of the musical “Hairspray,” even though I went in thinking that it probably wouldn’t be my kind of movie. But it is just so gosh-darn good-natured, with tunes that made my happy feet bounce so much that my 13-year-old was embarrassed, that I couldn’t resist. John Travolta, in the role of a heavyweight Baltimore matron circa 1962 (the role has been played in all previous incarnations by men) takes a bit of getting used to, but Christopher Walken is pure dancing charm as Travolta’s husband…and Nikki Blonsky and Amanda Bynes are excellent as two teenagers growing up in a lot of ways. Set against the early days of racial upheaval, it is fair to say that the story whitewashes the facts a bit – I made sure to explain to my daughter that civil rights marches weren’t really instigated and led by white teenaged girls. But it is a fun movie, and good for the family.




    I usually travel to Seattle a couple of times a year, and it is one of my favorite places – but I’d never had a chance see the Mariners play at Safeco Field – my trips have been either during the off season, or the team has been out of town.

    But not this week.

    I had the chance to go to Safeco with my soon-to-be-off-to-college son to watch what ended up being a 12-inning game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (surely one of the dumbest names ever given to a professional sports team). The game was a little ugly – the Mariners’ closer lost a three run lead in the ninth inning – but it is a wonderful place to watch a ballgame.

    And the food – terrific! The hot dogs were as big and as tasty as any I’ve ever eaten in a sports venue (and I’ve had more than my share), and I also had a great fish sandwich. When I go back, I’ll be sure to try the sushi (Ichirolls!), Thai food and the garlic fries that smelled wonderful. (But even I can only eat so much at a sitting…)




    Is it really August? Or am I dreaming?




    I may be a bit of a sadist, but it is fun to watch Barry Bonds struggle, his steroid-ridden body the only thing in worse shape than his questionable ethics.

    Of course, he’ll eventually hit the home run that will exceed Hank Aaron’s career total, but he’ll have to live with the knowledge that for most baseball fans, it is a meaningless home run, one that does not need an official asterisk because it already has one in the hearts of most real baseball fans.

    And then, maybe he’ll go away. He’ll emerge at some point – to go to trial or go to jail or both – but he can stop being a daily newspaper story.

    He’s sullied my game. Not his game, but my game. He’s unrepentant, unforgiven. And unforgivable.




    Two wines to report on this week, compliments of the folks at Etta’s Seafood, still my favorite Seattle restaurant. The 2005 Hedges CMS from Washington, which is exceptionally smooth. And the 2006 Cameroni Pinot Bianco from Oregon, which was light and great with a wonderful salad made from fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and marinated onions. Mmmm…..




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Sláinte!!

    KC's View: