retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to a piece and commentary about the growth of dollar stores, one MNB user wrote:

I think you are wrong about households earning over $100k not going to dollar stores, because of your premise "because they don't have to". They might not have to, but they might "want to".

One retired colleague put the value equation quite succinctly when he told me that "rich people don't get rich by wasting money", e.g. price matters to everyone. It's about the perception of value, which sometimes is lacking at certain retailers in certain categories. I rarely frequent dollar stores but when I do, I find myself picking up greeting cards and gift bags, generally at about a 1/3 of the cost your typical Hallmark sells them for. And that's not all that often ends up in my purchase. They are also a lot more convenient than fighting your way through a Walmart.

Last week, MNB took note of a Boston Globe report that US District Judge D. Brock Hornby has ruled that “only those customers who weren't reimbursed for fraudulent charges may sue the Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain over a data breach that exposed 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers to computer hackers.”

The breach took place in late 2007 and early 2008, and reportedly some 1,800 credit card numbers were stolen and used for unauthorized purchases.

The ruling is a win for Hannaford, which argued that customers reimbursed for any fraudulent charges really had nothing to sue over; the judge tossed out every complaint against Hannaford except one, from a Vermont woman who has not yet been reimbursed.

MNB user Thomas D. Murphy wrote:

As an industry consultant in technology, I am aware of two similar cases with other grocers (which never became as contentious as the Hannaford case) where the management team was prevented from releasing information to the public while the crime was under investigation by the Secret Service and the FBI. In both cases, the perpetrators were caught ONLY because once the crime was discovered, the grocer continued operations allowing the investigators time to make an arrest.

Doesn’t make it right for the consumer, but there is justice in this for the grocer!

There was a story last week comparing Walmart and Whole Foods through the prism of their stock market performance, and I commented:

I continue to have the quaint, anachronistic view that a company’s success ought to be gauged by how it takes care of customers on Main Street, not customers on Wall Street. This is not to say that share price isn’t important…but I prefer to get a feel for how a store is working by wandering the aisles, chatting with the checkout people, and tasting the food. Which is probably why I’m a blogger/pundit and not a broker…

MNB user Doug Campbell responded:

I agree with your old-fashioned perspective. If you take care of your customers, the stock price will take care of itself. Treat the customer like nothing more than a revenue source, they will figure it out and go where they are welcome to spend their money. In time, that will show up on Wall Street. I gladly do most of my shopping at Publix, despite the ever so slightly higher prices. Another national chain is much closer, but the environment, until very recently, was not at all welcoming or customer friendly. By the way, the other national chain just emerged from bankruptcy. Funny how suddenly the customers are now treated well.

We reported last week that Kmart is opening its first in-store health clinic, and noted that it will be right next to the store’s pizza parlor.

Which led one MNB user to write:

Am I the only person who gets the heebie-jeebies thinking about a clinic for sick people being located right next to the pizza place and both sets of customers walking in the same set of doors? I certainly understand the need for easily accessible, low-cost healthcare options - but really think putting them in public locations is not the best option. Considering the recent concern about pandemic potential, do we really want to expand in-store clinics, bringing sick people into a public environment in order to be treated? Maybe it's an indication of obsessive-compulsive traits - but I get out the hand sanitizer when I pick up maintenance prescriptions at the pharmacy and there's someone sitting in a chair coughing and sneezing waiting for their prescription so they can feel better. Great innovation making healthcare options available to the masses - Bad innovation putting them somewhere the healthy and sick masses will all be shopping and touching the same stuff.

On the other hand, maybe they know something about the quality of the pizza that we don't…and figure that this is actually a pretty savvy adjacency…

And, on another issue, one MNB user wrote:

I have to react and respond to your comments about food safety. You state that you’ve never seen anyone stick a thermometer in a frozen food container. I have to assume that means you never have. With your education and intelligence, why not? Do you trust your health to someone else?

I work in a deli/prepared foods department of a supermarket and take food safety very seriously (I don’t want to kill anyone) though most others around me don’t. I am food safety certified with a grade of 98% so I think I’m qualified to weigh in on the subject. (The 2% wrong drives me nuts because they don’t tell you what you got wrong. What if that’s the most important 2%?)

Manufacturers most definitely should guarantee food safety but that won’t cut it. A guarantee is a promise and promises can be broken. My auto has a guarantee but that doesn’t guarantee it from breaking down, it only it only guarantees they will fix it. I’m still sitting on the side of the road waiting unproductively for a tow and an alternate means to get me where I was going. As to food, even with a guarantee mistakes will happen. The difference is, instead of being stranded on the side of the road, I am sick, or worse, dead. Also, one third of chicken is contaminated with salmonella. How does a supplier guarantee the chicken you buy at the supermarket? It can’t. It’s your job to kill the salmonella when you cook it.

Food safety begins and ends at home. It is your last line of defense. Ask a skydiver, “Who packs your parachute?” the answer is: HE DOES! One can’t trust one’s life to anyone else.

Food safety information is readily available but, sadly, not used enough. It’s not rocket science. Wash your hands, before and after. Thoroughly wash the cutting board after preparing the chicken and before preparing the salad. Keep cold foods, cold and hot foods, hot. The danger zone is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. Everyone should have and use a thermometer. 145 degrees for beef, 155 degrees for pork, 165 degrees for poultry, ground meat, and everything else.

If everyone did these things we wouldn’t need a guarantee.

Finally, I took a gratuitous potshot at the designated hitter rule last week, which led MNB user Lance Hollis McMillan to observe:

“The designated hitter is like letting someone else take Shaq’s free throws.”

Don’t know who said it, but I know I didn’t think of it…..

But you shared it. And you are absolutely right.
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