retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got an interesting email from MNB user Linda Ballew-Johnson responding to our story about the three-foot long CVS receipt and the company’s seeming inability to use its card program to target customers effectively:

We had one of our computers crash this week and as a result, I ended up creating a gmail account for totally boring and really complicated reasons that don't matter for what I want to tell you.

Since using gmail, I am so amazed at the ability to recognize information in email messages and make relevant suggestions available to me like mapping, search or purchase options . For instance, today when I opened my MNB email, the bar on the right offered mapping to the address in the email, then asked if I wanted some of the dates added to my calendar. Next asked if I wanted contacts added. Finally, it made shopping suggestions for canvas tote bags among other things. The information is on the right side of the screen and does not interfere with the email any more than the Google shopping suggestions interfere with Google search. The suggestions did not require me to do anything if I had no interest - in other words, I didn't have to refuse the help. It was there if I needed or wanted it. IMHO, very clever, useful and (maybe because it is new to me) not clutter. If only more "target marketing" could really read my needs and not just spit out some register coupons.

I should say for the record that I had a phone call on Friday from a CVS executive who read my column about the three-foot receipt, and he patiently explained to me how the coupons were created based on past purchases…and he seemed genuinely interested in my opinion, in part because I’d used my soapbox to criticize the company, and in part because based on his reading of my purchase history, I’m apparently a really, really good CVS customer.

I inferred from our discussion that the CVS system continues to evolve…and I’ll be interested to see the next iteration.

We continue to get email about the use of canvas shopping bags…

MNB user Ron Pizur wrote:

I'm with you on this one. I bought my 2 cotton reusable bags from my grocery store 10 years ago and have used them religiously ever since. I think at that time they cost $2.99 each and I still bought them because I wanted to be a good global citizen. Honestly, I do not follow the argument that a reusable bag is worse than a plastic bag. I don't care what it is made out of, actually I think the more durable the better, because the longer it lasts the less plastic bags that are used. Sure, someday the reusable bag will be so beat up and worn out that it must be thrown out, but hopefully by that time it has saved the world a few hundred plastic bags. My 2 bags are just wonderful - as it is just me and my wife we don't buy a lot and there are very few times that my grocery order can not be jammed into just the 2 bags. In those rare cases that we do need more room my wife just whips out the emergency reusable plastic bag she carries in her purse.

MNB user Len Abeyta wrote:

I am all for reusable bag as an alternative. However there is another side of the story, some customers actually like the connivance of disposable plastic bags, I am surprised that someone hasn't tried to come up with a billion dollar idea to create a bag that is disposable, not made from oil, reality cheap to produce and environmentally friendly. Can anyone tell me why this doesn't seem to be brought to the table?

MNB user Phyllis Palmer wrote:

There IS another reason to use recyclable bags…. reducing clutter in our lives which, from some “experts” views, reduces stress and improves the quality of our lives. That’s MY personal rational for using recyclable bags. I just hate having all those bags which take up space in my house (if I save them to “reuse later”) and in my trashcan (if I throw them away). The added bonus is that these sturdy bags are great for other things as well…. toting stuff on picnics, packing things to eat on car trips (they stand up on a car floor unlike plastic bags). I’m one of “those” who don’t buy into the whole GREEN aspect of this issue. I started it because Trader Joes had a drawing for a $25 bag of groceries if you bring in your own bags (and still do) and because I couldn’t stand having so many paper TJ bags in my closet. The whole trick to making it work is to be organized enough to keep them in your car, take them in the store when you shop, and bring them back out to your car when you’ve emptied them into your fridge. In reality THAT’S the crux of it actually working.

MNB user Tod Davis wrote:

Since we are making the seemingly simple reusable bags issue complicated, I thought I would throw in another curve ball. I don't remember the exact statistic but cotton uses a disproportionately huge percentage of the farm chemicals used in the US making it one of the "least green" crops known. I see an opportunity for the greenest solution of-late which seems to be textiles made from bamboo. With the right education campaign someone could make a real impact (and bundle of money).

Had several emails about the story last week saying that that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called on Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream to stop using cow’s milk in its products, but instead use human breast milk.

My comment: PETA, in my mind always a fringe group, has now seriously crossed the line into being seriously demented.

This suggestion isn’t just implausible. It’s nuts.

And by the way, since when did milking a cow become unethical treatment?

I mentioned this story to Mrs. Content Guy, and her first reaction was PETA clearly cares more about cows than people. I suspect that a lot of women, especially those who have breast-fed their babies, will feel the same way.

One MNB user responded:

I imagine you're going to get more than a few e-mails about this one.

1. PETA is completely wacko. Looney toons. More than one crayon short of a box.

2. Dairy cows are treated incredibly badly and inhumanely (which makes me wonder - does "inhumane" even apply when you're talking about a cow?) - there is plenty of information on the web about the way dairy cows are raised, treated and then end their lives.

3. The answer is clearly not to switch to human breast milk but I think Ben & Jerry's response is amusing - they say that human milk should be used for human babies, right? Isn't the inference there that cow milk should be for cow babies? Doesn't quite make sense to me.

MNB user Brian List wrote:

I watched an HBO special on PETA’s founder, and let me tell you, this lady is pretty crazy in my opinion. Much of the group’s tactics are downright comical, but sometimes quite disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the fair treatment of animals (as most people are) but PETA’s shock tactics are tired and ineffective, which was the first thing that came to mind when I read this story.

MNB user Robert S. Edwards wrote:

I remember when I worked on a Dairy Farm and milked cows that if I did not get all the cows in from the pasture and one went astray, I was sent out to find the missing cow. Reason was that you had to milk all the cows on time, or they really hurt. That would really give PETA something to gripe about.

MNB user Kathleen Whelen wrote:

While milking a cow would seem to be perfectly humane, I think they refer to the mechanized milking equipment and the whole - dare I say - "debovinizing" processes that go along with it. That being said, PETA is nuts.

And still another MNB user wrote:

No doubt that I think the suggestion is nuts, however I feel the need to play devil's advocate. We are the only species that drinks the milk of another mammal, which I do find to be strange. Also, while milking a cow is necessary, the cruelty in mind is the way the milking cows on factory farms are treated, and the amount of antibiotics and steroids that are pumped into them are consumed by US. Yuck. This is a bigger issue than most people care to think about. Six Deadly Diseases and How We are
Causing Them is a simple read and an amazing book, they tie the way cows are treated into the start of mad cow disease (a prion), very interesting, and if nothing else it might open you mind an make you think about how the animals are treated, and how it does indeed relate to our health. But I digress.......

KC's View: