Published on: January 18, 2008
A couple of months ago I wrote enthusiastically about a Fast Company
article by Alex Frankel, in which he wrote about his experiences working for a number of retailers, including The Apple Store, Gap and Starbucks. Now, I’ve had a chance to finish the book on which the article was based – “Punching In: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee” (Collins, $24.95) – and it is a must-read if you are in the retail business.
Frankel does a deft job of trying to understand and explain not just the employee point of view, but also how management and leadership try and often fail – to create cultures that nurture the best characteristics of their employees. It is a fascinating read, and I cannot imagine that anyone in the retail business won’t see parts of themselves and their companies in the events and people that Frankel describes. That’s not necessarily a good thing…and I suspect a lot of food retailers will be thanking the fates that Frankel didn’t choose to work in a supermarket. (He applied to Whole Foods, but couldn’t get hired.)
This is no hatchet job, by the way. Frankel is extremely empathetic to the people who serve as his fellow employees, and perceptive about the cultural and economic issues that these businesses face. (He is very tough on Gap…but they deserve it.)
It has been written here before that too many retailers treat their people like costs instead of investments, like liabilities instead of assets. That’s a shame, and with relatively few exceptions, it is one of the hardest things that food retailers need to come to drips with and change.
When you’re done with MNB
this morning, click over to Amazon.com and buy “Punching In.” And then think hard about the lessons it teaches.
Here’s what I don't get. In Boston, the mayor is trying to prevent chains such as CVS from opening in-store medical clinics, on the grounds that such installations will prevent continuous and quality patient care. The mayor ignores the argument that such clinics actually make basic heath care available, accessible and affordable to people who might otherwise find themselves in emergency rooms or, worse, not getting treatment at all.
Now, he’s entitled to his opinion.
But what makes me curious is the fact that Boston is one of several cities where a local entrepreneur has opened skin care and laser treatments in local malls – in fact offering Botox and other similar, noninvasive treatments to people looking for a quick tune up.
Which means, I suppose, that in Boston retail outlets cannot help you if you have pink eye. But if you have sagging eyes….or other drooping parts…there always will be a place at the mall.
There are times during speeches when we get into a discussion about how young people, the customers of tomorrow, have vastly different ways of getting information and buying products than their elders, and how important it is for retailers to begin planning for the day when these shoppers are the center of the food marketing bull’s-eye.
Then again, maybe these young people aren’t so different at all.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project now says that 48 percent of American adults who go online are visiting video websites such as YouTube – as opposed to 33 percent who said the same thing a year ago.
Which means, I think, that to a great extent aging baby boomers are adopting the patterns of their children faster than some might have expected. Which makes sense, since we aging baby boomers often seem to be perennially in search of the fountain of youth.
On the Internet, at least intellectually, some of us may have found it.
And here’s some more evidence of how the Internet is changing our lives and the way commerce is transacted – 2007 was the first year on which more travel was purchased online than offline. The travel industry prognosticators are saying that this trend will continue.
Sure am glad to see that Oprah is starting her own cable network. Because it seems like lately she’s pretty much fallen off the radar, and this sounds like a desperate attempt to get some attention, to rejuvenate a career that is nothing if not foundering.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that before this week, I’d never been to an In ‘n Out Burger, but was goaded into correcting that situation by Michael Sansolo, who insisted that it serves one of the world’s great hamburgers.
And so we went. And ordered Double-Doubles served “animal-style” which has something to do with the sautéed onions. I must admit, it is a very, very good burger…on a par with the great Original Tommy’s on the corner of Rampart & Beverly in Los Angeles. (Though I have to admit that while I used to go to Tommy’s all the time when I was in college, I haven’t been back in years and so can’t vouch for the current quality. But the romantic memories of 2 a.m. double chili cheeseburgers persist.)
That said, I must say that I had a better burger this week, at a place in Phoenix called Delux which has been open for about three years and has become renowned for its Delux Burger, which is made from all-natural Harris Ranch ground beef…topped with maytag and gruyere cheese, organic arugula and a caramelized onion and applewood bacon mixture and served on a toasted demi-baguette. (I even nibbled on a few sweet potato fries, served with aioli, which I’m not supposed to eat, but what the hell…)
At nine bucks, the Delux Burger also was about three times as expensive as the Double-Double…and some will accuse me of being an aging Yuppie…but in my humble opinion the Delux Burger was nothing short of magnificent.
I also happened to like the fact that I could wash the Delux Burger down with a glass of wine. (In ‘n Out doesn’t have much of a wine list.) In this case, it was a 2004 Merlot from the 14 Hands vineyards of Washington State – which was delicious and certainly robust enough to stand up to the burger. Yummmm…
Maybe I am an aging Yuppie.
In addition to having a restaurant, the owners of Delux also have a small take-out store next door that does a very nice lunch and dinner business. People call from their cars, drive up to the curb, and the folks inside carry out the food, take cash or credit cards, and quickly send people on their way. It’s very smart, it extends the brand, and I wonder if we’ll see more of that as the economy continues to struggle and people are looking for affordable indulgences.
By the way, I checked, and you can pick up the 14 Hands Merlot for about 12 bucks a bottle…which strikes me as a very good deal.
And I have another wine to recommend this week: the 2005 Domaine de Monpertuis Vin de Pays du Gard Vignoble de la Ramiere Counoise, which is a really long name for a wine that only goes for about $15 a bottle…but maybe that’s appropriate, because it tastes a lot more expensive. It is extremely soft on the palate and just yummy.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.