retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of the plastic bag tax proposed by Seattle, we got the following email from MNB user Elizabeth Archerd:

I want you to know that my store, Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, MN, stopped giving away free plastic grocery bags last month. We let members and other shoppers know in advance, and the day we stopped giving them away we saw a surge of people bringing in their own bags, mostly canvas but also reused paper bags. We sold over 800 of the woven polypropylene bags, at cost, within the first few days we offered them.

Overheard today at the entrance: "Duh! I left the bags in the car. And they even have those signs in the parking lot!"

Thanks for that suggestion.

My pleasure.

Though I should note, in the interest of fairness, that it wasn't my idea. It was an idea submitted by an MNB user. Which gives it a lot more credibility.

Got an interesting email from Cristelle Ghekiere, who works for a European company called Séniosphère, responding to a recent MNB piece about a study concerning how baby boomers define themselves:

In Europe we observe the same trends. At Seniosphere, we conduct numerous studies of the 55+ market for a variety of brands, products and services.

And we observe, in Europe as in the US, that even at 80, people don’t describe themselves as old. In their mind, they almost always are 20 years younger than on their ID card.

Even at 80, some are learning the use of technology and computers to stay connected with their family and especially grand children. Starting around 55, their major complaint is to be considered as “old” by manufacturers, retailers, employers and the society when, effectively, they want to contribute, buy products and services adapted to their needs and their pragmatic value and style purchasing power.

There were some emails last week about the case of Debbie Shank, the former Wal-Mart employee who was permanently brain damaged in a car accident eight years ago. Her medical expenses were covered by Wal-Mart, but when she sued the person who caused the accident and won, Wal-Mart sued to get back more than $400,000 in medical expenses – something it was allowed to do under the terms of the company health plan. Earlier this week, awash in criticism that it was leaving the family almost destitute, Wal-Mart changed its mind.

But the email that seemed to get a lot of attention was the one from MNB user David Livingston, who wrote last week: “Wal-Mart realizes the downside to being self insured. If they had used an outside company like Blue Cross, this would have not been news. Winning a lawsuit is not about "financial status" or hitting the lottery. It’s to payback for damages. Wal-Mart was damaged and they didn't get paid back. I feel bad for the family and it’s a very sad situation. I have a feeling Ms Shank will never see a nickel of that money and that her husband will live it up royally once all the television cameras are gone. ”

My response to that: I don't even know how to respond to this last sentence, which seems completely at odds to my impression of the situation. It must be hard, living day to day with such a low opinion of the human race.

Livingston’s comment generated a bunch of responses…

MNB user Anne Maas wrote:

Wow. Has Mr. Livingston seen something first-hand that the rest of us have not? What a horrific thing to assume, and worse yet, voice publicly.

Another MNB user wrote:

It sounds like the only winner in this case and story are the lawyers who will bank $200,000 to $250,000. Just another angle to a sorry situation.

MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:

I could not agree with you more on Mr. Livingstone’s dark view of humanity. I can only assume he also would support proceedings to recover the money donated to the victims of 911 and Hurricane Katrina who later received insurance settlements.

Now, to be fair, David Livingston did take issue with my characterization of his comments:

Thanks. I suppose you didn't also read that Mr. Shank divorced his wife so they could milk the government out of more benefits? I don't have a low opinion of the human race, I have a low opinion of Mr. Shank. Why don't you dress up like a hillbilly, get on TV, and plead with Starbucks to share more tips with your son. That would be the same thing. But you have a bit more class and aren't going to do that.

Actually, you'd be amazed what I’d do to help my kids if they really needed it.

I did read about the divorce ..but the difference between David and me is that my first thought was that Mr. Shank divorced his wife because of impending and imposing financial need, and that he needed to do anything and everything possible to help secure her future. I saw it as selfless, and I have seen nothing to make me think that he is as horrible a human being as David seems to think he is.

Now, David may be right, and I may be proven to be ridiculously naïve. But I’d still rather start from my point of view and be proven wrong than start from his and be proven right.

KC's View: