retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of reusable bags and proposed/implemented bans and fines for disposable bags in certain communities, one MNB use had an interesting idea:

Perhaps the solution is to make the consumer "earn" the reusable bags by turning in their one time use plastic bags for recycling. For every so many bags turned in, the store will give the customer a free reusable bag. This would encourage people to recycle their plastic bags for a greener option. Sure, some people will still choose to get the one-time use plastic bags, but this would have to help cut down on the quantity of one-time use bags moved. The store could even develop this as a lead in to a fee related one-time bag use policy, which could possibly encourage more people to get involved in the program before it changes over.

Another MNB user wrote:

Isn’t it time for some common sense . Some of the most intelligent people seem to act like lemmings.

It is strange that I have seen no discussion or press about the thin "fruit/vegetable" bags which probably outnumber the grocery bag 6 to 1 in volume when you consider an average grocery shopper is bagging 6 or 7 fruits and vegetables per visit. These are less likely to have a secondary use than the actual plastic grocery bags…

In our house we use both the reusable polypropylene bags and the plastic grocery bags . But we always use the plastic grocery bags to pack our non-recyclable garbage. If a customer isn't using a plastic bag for his/her garbage than how is the garbage disposed of? I guess they buy brand new "garbage bags" and load them into landfills! What a business boom for "green" jumbo bags!

… Do we forget how the plastic bag came to be many years ago? The Tree Huggers of North America correctly were concerned about excessive trees being cut down for paper bags……… and now in today's world Whole Foods is using only paper bags…

For the record, I’ve actually been looking into the idea of picking up some reusable fruit and vegetable bags to carry with me into the supermarket.

Regarding the debate about the role and efficacy of unions, which came to the fore yesterday when I was criticized for suggesting that union members in Colorado would be foolish to strike during a recessionary period when so many people are losing their jobs. (I wasn't suggesting that labor should knuckle under to all management demands…and there are lots of reasons that management should not want labor strife.)

MNB user Rhett J. Beauchemin chimed in:

Union, nonunion? The question is what is fair. Anyone that thinks that the only agenda that the union has is the welfare of its members is being unrealistic. The same can be said for “management.” Sharing the cost for health care and assuming some personal responsibility for choice, is going to happen. It is simply part of the new post meltdown landscape. Let’s get real here.

MNB user Richard Evans wrote:

Good for you for sticking to your guns. Anyone who has a job today should be glad to have it and be willing to take what they have until things improve.

It is unbelievable to me that some people would even think of walking out in this situation.

You were right on about this being about power. Plain and simple.

MNB user Ken Wagar had some general thoughts:

It’s fascinating to watch the reactions to your positions on things like flavored cigarettes, smoking in general, unions, reusable bags and any number of other issues in MNB.

IMO our culture is splitting into two opposing camps on almost all of the issues of the day. If we have a continuum of opinion and belief on any issue today people are moving to both ends of the continuum and away from the middle ground. The issues become polarized and we stand on “principle”. “Our” side is correct or right and the other side is not only obviously wrong but the people on the side have no value because they are “wrong”. Middle ground and compromise is for weenies and those with no backbone.

The problem is it leaves us with nowhere to go and no solutions to the challenges, it simply hardens peoples positions. When we deal in absolutes, when everything is black and white with no shades of grey progress stops and ultimately the majority rules by imposing their positions on the minority. It seems to me we have enough evidence in our pasts that we should be very worried about institutionalizing the positions of either extreme.

The country was founded on freedom of choice. To maintain those freedoms for all there was necessity for reasonable rules and laws but we have even reached the point where the only reasonable solution is mine and yours is obviously completely unreasonable. It’s why the term common sense no longer resonates. There is a “common” sense on each end of the spectrum but never the twain shall meet.

I grew up in a household of seven people where the exchange of ideas, debate and discussion were encouraged but today the exchange, the debate and the discussion too often become a shouting match, with both sides trying to out-shout the other and may the loudest voice or biggest pocketbook win. I have no solution to all of this but do find it both sad and problematic for us all.

I appreciate what you try to do with MNB but none of us should be surprised at the responses some of your comments generate.

You’re right that sometimes the language gets ugly…but I always think that the conversation is worth having. I’m not always successful (and some probably would suggest that I’m rarely successful), but I do try to bring a common sense component to the discussion.

Sometimes the wingnuts on either side are self-indentifying through their own use of language. And I think that’s okay, too.

Another MNB user wrote along the same lines:

I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks. What I enjoy most about MNB is how you inject your view of the world, colored by your experience in the industry along with the insights that come from being on this planet a bit longer than I have, into the story via your commentary. I especially enjoy when your take a position that runs counter to mine. Leading an insular life by surrounding yourself with like-minded folk can be a dangerous thing – it can prevent you from seeing the big picture. It’s why I watch Fox News and listen to NPR, get my Morning Joe and finish with The Daily Show.

I watched my dad lose his battle with cancer this year, saw my mom finally overcome the addiction to nicotine a decade ago, I’ve watched my brother try countless times to kick the habit and I welcomed my firstborn 4 months ago (hopefully I never see him take a drag). I’ve also watched as our representatives consistently take choices (read: decision-making, liberty and freedom) away from the people whom their sole purpose is to serve. I’m still not sure where I land with this particular issue. It’s great to think of a world without cigarettes – the impact on our healthcare industry, quality of life, etc could be great. It’s also easy to imagine what an unchecked government would look like and I’m not interested. We fought off invasive, tyrannical rule 250 years ago and I’d rather not self-impose an even more restrictive environment under the guise of protecting the populace (from itself).

What I do know is that one of the most concerning things I’ve seen recently is the lack of public discourse regarding policy in our country. I’ll leave politics to the politicians, people that get paid for it and enjoy the games of enacting policy for political gains (power, re-election, party strength etc). That said, I think it’s critical that we have people concerned enough with issues that they are willing to have discourse (not just evangelizing or spewing their viewpoint) about the policies needed to make positive change. Hopefully the sharing of ideas and viewpoints can be done in a civil manner, but it’s understandable when people are passionate enough to speak out on an issue do so by calling others morons and idiots. Thanks for not only giving your perspective, but for continuing to encourage others to do the same. It can take courage (with a touch of idiocy) to take your forum and let others rail against you.

Within the food industry there are clear issues that need to be discussed, from Environmental impacts (how we’re producing food, how we’re getting them to consumers and even how consumers get them home paper or plastic or maybe one of those great MNB bags – which is best?), to Health (how do we ensure our food is safe and customers have confidence in it? how is the food that we’re producing impacting the state of our country’s healthcare? How do the initiatives like sin taxes, product bans in Washington influence behavior, impact the industry and ultimately the consumer?). These aren’t simple topics with simple answers, but they’re important issues that need more than just advocacy groups and politicians.

If you made it this far, my apologies for the long email – I took a simple thank you email and turned it into a chance to get a little self-important. I’ll now step down from my soapbox and get back to work. Have a great day and keep up the good work.


Y’know, despite my positions in some issues, I’m sympathetic to concerns about personal freedoms that come up in these discussions. I am, after all, ultimately a member of the media…and freedom of speech is something that I do not take likely. However, I’m also cognizant that we live in a far more complicated world than when these freedoms were crafted…and I think it is at least worth considering at what point we need to balance them with a sense of responsibility.

I always think that if businesspeople remembered while transacting commerce that they also are parents and children, and that they don't check those responsibilities at the door when they show up at work, then maybe the world would be a better place.

Finally, MNB user Jason Tuffli wrote:

So you mention the football scores but don’t mention the St. Louis Cardinals wrapping up the Central Division crown on Saturday night? First team to clinch!

You’re right. I should have.

But mentioning the Cardinals would have meant mentioning the NY Yankees clinching the American League East, which would have reminded me of the NY Mets’ disappointing season.

More than I could deal with.
KC's View: