retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB user responding to my suggestion last week that Walmart, often prescient about such things, probably has plans to put electric car chargers in many of its parking lots:

Walmart built a new store in Richmond, CA (20 min outside of San Francisco and Oakland, in the mall in an old Macy’s wing) about a year and a half ago.

They put charging stations at priority parking stalls at all entrances to their store. It looks like they “donated” some to the mall because now there are 2-3 charging stations at every entrance through out the mall.

Testing at new store sites, perhaps?

Like I said last week, while the rest of us debate it, Walmart will do it.

MNB user Richard Lowe has problems with the whole idea of electric cars:

It seems to me this is the wrong direction. It requires batteries and more electric generation, plus more consumer inconvenience. Algae biofuels made locally using sewage and carbon gas from industry would still work in our existing vehicles and service stations, yet be a locally produced renewable energy. We need to hear more about this and consider this as the best alternative to growing our economies and saving the planet. Purdue is building a 2500 gallon/day jet fuel plant in Delphi, IN due to come on stream in 2009. We could be doing the same for gasoline and diesel fuel. These fuels will also burn cleaner.

What are we going to do with all those dead polluting batteries?

What about the cost of replacement and maintenance of them?

What about their lack of performance?

I still don't like the idea.

On the subject of coupons and their role in 2008 and beyond, MNB user Jill M. Le Brasseur wrote:

I just can’t keep quiet on this coupon issue anymore. I have tried to redeem manufacturers coupons sent to me via e-mail or obtained from the companies’ own websites several times at several different grocery stores and other retail outlets only to be told time and time again that “We don’t take online coupons!” This has happened while shopping in three different states, OH, WV and DE. I have completely stopped printing them out and even trying to use them. I have heard that many stores refuse them because they are easy to counterfeit.

Call me a dinosaur, but if the coupon doesn’t come from a newspaper or magazine I don’t use it. Basically because I’m not permitted to!

Since you are a fan of the digital coupon, please tell me and the rest of your readers just where you are allowed to actually use them.

I didn’t say that digital couponing systems work in every case or is foolproof. Just that in a digital society, they ought to. You make excellent points.

And, we continue to get lots of email about the proposed bailout of the bailout of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

One MNB user wrote:

I know, there are not easy answers....I was not in favor of bailing out any banks or financial institutions either....and based on the polls before it was done, 79% of the population felt the same way. I know it would have caused a meltdown, but we'd have survived it. Yes, it would have been tough. Now, I fear we have simply postponed it, and it's going to take place anyway, at some point......I think we should allow the free market system to simply - work. Painful as it might have been, and still appears to be.

The auto industry - well, we've priced ourselves out of the market, with the union costs, our high standard of living. Or, we simply didn't make cars the market wanted. The market speaks.

So, we can offer other goods and services to the market - nationally and internationally. What did all the horse and buggy makers do when cars became mainstream? They found other jobs...or created new ones. No one in 1950 could have predicted a Bill Gates/ Microsoft, or a Steve Jobs/Apple/iPod - yet that happened because of what I'd call practical visionaries had the opportunity - and more importantly, took that opportunity - and we all benefit from the results of their risk taking. I believe this country facilitates opportunity, due to the basic inherent foundation of protecting our "inalienable rights", life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And if we bailout the auto industry (A friend of mine works at Pebble Beach and just wrote one of the companies hosted an elaborate bash there last week, with complementary "Journey" concert for the employees who attended, is THIS where our tax dollars will go? I believe they will! I work hard for what I earn and I want to keep as much of it as possible, knowing some taxes are inevitable - but I want Congress to keep their paws out of our pockets!

Another MNB user wrote:

I think the best way to address this to what amounts to Chapter 11, but call it the Omnibus Auto Industry Resolution Act. The Congress agrees to loan money for 120 days, they hire the guy that handled the 9/11 Victims Fund or someone of impeccable character with no dog in the fight. And, certainly no congressional flunkies that try to slip in a few dollars for the “folks back home” by way of new bike path.

This Special Master would have all the powers of Bankruptcy Judge. If companies, suppliers, bondholders, dealers and labor can all agree to “take one for the team”, then Congress hands out the rest of the loan and things move forward. If there is a holdout for not taking one for the team, then Chapter 11 or 7 begins on the 121st day. The interim loans by the taxpayers take first position.

No one really going to buy a car, when there may not be a dealer for service in the area, or that any warranty is dull and void.

And finally, trying to blame the Automakers for building big SUVs… gee could that be because that what the consumers want? Even with our poor educational system, anyone recognizes that if you sell a product people want you are going to be successful. All goes back to lack of a coherent energy policy… an articulate explanation of the problem, viable options, a debate, and a vote and then leadership and consistency in moving it ahead. We need to get away from politicians posturing on TV and get to something like the BRAC Commission. Politicians just can’t make the tough choices.

And still another MNB user wrote:

The best line about the bailouts: Those who shower before work got the money, no questions asked, $700 Billion, those who shower after work, get grilled by hypocrite congressmen who can’t balance a budget. What a joke.

Regarding my rant on Friday about new genetic testing that allow people to test their kids to see if they are potential athletes, which permits them to fast-track them for possible athletic scholarships – something I am appalled by – one MNB user wrote:

Couldn’t agree with your comments more in this week’s offbeat about genetic testing for children to determine athletic prowess. The whole thing reminds me of sad story of Todd Marinovich, whose father “bred” him to be a quarterback from birth and strictly controlled his diet and upbringing focused on making him a college and professional QB. The young man who went to college never having tried a Big Mac or a beer ended up trying a lot more than that once he was on his own. His drug problems ended his career early and have plagued him throughout his life.

I was discussing a related topic recently with my wife after we visited some friends whose daughter takes daily shots of human growth hormone to help her grow up properly. This girl was in the lowest 5 percentile in height and weight and was estimated by doctors to reach just 4’9” tall at her current growth rate, this despite a father at over 6 feet and a mother around 5’5”. The child has been receiving daily injections of HGH for over a year and is now estimated to reach be about 5’7” by doctors. Certainly a great story about the marvels of modern medicine, however, one only has to wonder how many parents would hear this story and think that their child, on a growth path to say 6’, would benefit by HGH to get to 6’8” giving them a better chance of a college scholarship and a professional sports career. Unfortunately, the use of performance enhancing drugs by professional athletes has proven that there are many doctors out there that would be willing to assist in this little “project”, given the right “incentive”.

KC's View: