retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On Friday, MNB featured the following story from a reader:

After being on vacation for two weeks I returned to stock up at Aldi's and was truly amazed at all the new higher end products that are on the shelves for the Holiday Season. Then when I was going through the check out there was a mildly handicapped gentleman in front of me buying a few things and it turned out he had no money to pay for the few items. When I realized this I was going to offer to pay, but the cashier was quicker than I and voided the charge as an error and let the man have the merchandise. I was blown away by the generosity and the ability of the cashier to exercise this decision.

My response was that the cashier should be applauded, as should Aldi for creating an environment that makes such decision-making possible.

To be honest, I was profoundly disappointed by this response from an MNB user:

Good for the cashier, but who said that Aldi’s created this atmosphere. I don’t believe any retailer empowers their employees to give away their products or services without higher approval. Just think how fast that would lead to a all red P&L. It is easy to be generous with other people’s money.

I think you are wrong about that. I believe that at great retailers, the people on the front lines are, in fact, empowered to make such decisions without fear of being second guessed. (Stew Leonard’s is one that comes immediately mind, because I am a shopper there...but I know that there are others...and they would be considered among the thought-leaders in this industry.) Now, empowerment also means creating an understanding about when such decisions are appropriate...but to say that is amounts to just giving away other people’s money amounts to a terrible misunderstanding about the importance of what happened at that Aldi checkout lane.

That decision by an Aldi employee strikes me as a warning to its competitors that Aldi is not exactly the chain you think it is. Be afraid.

MNB took note on Friday of a The New York Times report that Cargill is conducting a “large-scale test to see whether animal vaccines are an answer to one of the nation’s most persistent food-safety problems” - E. coli contamination. The biggest concern seem to be about who will pay for a vaccine that could raise the cost of beef.

MNB user Kelly Jacob responded:

You won’t like this response, Kevin.

To me, it’s one more reason to inch towards being a vegetarian!!  Right now, I have become a “flexitarian” since I occasionally eat meat, but with all of the hormones, the antibiotics and now E-Coli vaccines, the idea of it all makes me queasy!!

When you think about 300 million people in the US and compare it to the number of people who become ill due to E-Coli contamination each year, I don’t think it’s worth the added “chemicals” to our food chain.  Once again, if you are too young, too old or have an illness and are susceptible to E-Coli in meats or produce, take responsibility for yourself and COOK THE HECK OUT OF IT.

They shouldn’t make blanket decisions for the masses that could end up having far worse repercussions ... why are so many women getting breast cancer in their 20’s now? Wonder if those hormones to make cows produce more for longer are at fault?  Why do we have virus-resistant strains now that every animal is poked with antibiotics?)  You have to acknowledge these things that are relatively new over the last 20-30 years, don’t you think?

I’m fine with your response. Of course there should be choice. Some beef will be vaccinated, some will not...and everything should be clearly labeled so that consumers can make informed decisions.

Another MNB user wrote:

Great - another thing to add to our meat in addition to all the existing hormones and antibiotics that are already tainting so much meat.  I'd rather spend the extra dollars to buy locally produced completely natural beef with no artificial hormones, colors, vaccines and whatever else is being artificially added to cows these days.

Again, there should be and will be choice. Transparency is key.
KC's View: