retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I wrote Friday in “OffBeat” about what I viewed as the appalling treatment of a senior sales executive by a major beverage company - at 58 years of age, with awards and positive reviews in her past, she was let go. There was something unsavory about the dismissal...and I wondered what the elimination of people with age and experience will have on CPG companies in a cost-cutting frame of mind.

One MNB user wrote:

I enjoy reading your commentary and have been a faithful reader for more than six years. I would prefer not to have my name printed, but thought it was a good idea to share a similar situation. Over the past five years, I watched my company (a major consumer products company) eliminate jobs, many times during periods of economic stability. The interesting portion was the majority of the employees who had their jobs eliminated were over 50 years old. Eventually, the same job elimination came to me. After a significant number of years in service, it appears the company wanted to have their sales force younger and forgo the experience offered by more seasoned employees. The greatest concern is not the changing of jobs and moving back into the sales force after 50 years of age. It is the fact that the compensation package you are offered is designed to force you to accept. You cannot sue the company for aged based discrimination or any other issues, as the litigation will take years and after 50 years of age, it is significantly difficult to enter a job market which favors younger people. Basically, you need the compensation package to survive!

My point is you are forced to accept compensation packages which do not ever measure the sacrifices you placed with the years of service. Once you do find a new job, the exhilaration of starting over again is great! However, understand at your age, you will find it difficult to ever receive a job with a major company again. The smaller companies pray for employees with experience who can grow their smaller lines and utilize the contacts they have built up over the years. The reasoning behind not using my name is I am still under the time frame of not disclosing or disparaging my previous employer.

Again, you are insightful and I thank you for allowing those folks over 50 years old the opportunity to offer an opinion on an industry wide problem.

Another MNB user wrote:

WOW, did that hit home.

Parallel universe…..I was the 2nd highest paid sales person in 2008, met all my sales goals, numbers, every facet (from new accounts, sales, profits etc.)  and I had a similar whitewashed creepy crawly departure from my employment….with fake trumped up charges, all addressed in meetings and summarily dismissed…yet they let me go anyway.  It was cost cutting, absolutely…and my immediate boss had made a 200K error, and was given the directive to recoup it somewhere – it was either her, or me – so guess who got let go!
And, after a very challenging 2009, I am so very grateful to them for the favor they did me!  I am now in a dream job, appreciated, with room for growth and creativity, my talents and experience are appreciated, and ii turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me!  It really is true, that when one door closes, another door opens.

On another subject, we got the following question about the conversion of Ukrop’s to martin’s by its new owner, Ahold:

Open Sunday?  Alcoholic beverages sales?  Pricing changes?  Other?

I appreciate your following this and your commenting on it.  We all can learn from understanding others and what is actually happening; this is a big one!

It's already been reported that they'll be open Sunday and selling booze.  As for pricing, we'll see...

I’ve used “OffBeat” a number of times in recent weeks to decry the calls for a four-day school week and even the elimination of senior year of high school, which I think are being made more for financial reasons than because of any real concern about the educational system.

MNB user Cleve Young responded:

You’re right on the mark with the last sentence of your school commentary: it is about learning more. And it also has to be about learning more ‘good’ stuff, not just stuff. My son is a high school junior and is currently taking a ‘Young Entrepreneurs’ class. Which is kind of an unusual type of thing in a school as small as his (graduate class of 80 kids). I’ve been fascinated by what he has been working on all year. They work with professionals from the working world as mentors, create detailed business plans, cost analyses of overhead and competition, go to the County Clerk and get an actual business license, and then have to give a presentation to an investor panel. We went to the school last week and there was my son up on stage with a nice tie doing a PowerPoint presentation with equipment and overhead cost estimates, tax rates, insurance rates and profit margins. He talked about the area competition, reasoning for his business plan, customer potential, marketing plans, and so much more. I couldn’t have been prouder. And I also have never seen a more compelling high school course which presents real world concepts and experience.

How often do those of who have been working for many years deal with recent college graduates and realize how utterly unprepared high school and college have made them for the ‘real’ world of work. So before the experts/activists worry about how much time kids are in school, or how much money they are spending per kid, or all the other stuff they go on and on about, the should start with reviewing WHAT they are teaching and is it really relevant and needed. A kid sitting in school for 4 hours learning concepts which will help him compete in the workplace is much farther ahead than if she goes through 12 hours of fluff and junk.

I agree with you, but would also suggest that we can;t just be training people for workplace tasks. They also should be taught things that will help them live a thoughtful and fulfilling life, if they choose to have one. That means learning Shakespeare and Hemingway, it means learning how to cook and the importance of good food, it means creating a love of the world that could translate into a desire to travel.

I’m a big fan of the notion of a “liberal arts” education, though the word “liberal” in that description may create a certain animus for the concept these days.

As in this email from an MNB user:

Every once is a while you manage to get me in a stir to write one of these responses. I know from reading you over the years there is a liberal slant to you….that is OK…you deserve to get it wrong because everyone deserves the privilege to do and be what they want in this country. Plus you got the “soapbox” which gives you the advantage to be glib and smug.

Schooling is not about the time spent but about the quality of that time. There are programs in this country being taught by great educators that take kids to whole new levels. They teach kids how to learn because there is an “art to learning” that can be taught. The kids who attend these various programs have better math skill, better memory skills, and cognitive learning skills. It can be done and is being done without taking away the process of being a kid getting to grow up in this great country of ours. You are who you are because of this process…Gates, Jobs, Forbes, Buffet, etc, etc, etc…and yes even Mr. Obama, are who they are because of growing up in this great free (for now) country.

My father went from working in a steel mill to making a great living for his family later in life. He would not have been able to do that in any country other than here. My father use to say that working in the mill was good honest work, but he lived in a country that allowed him to get more out of life if he wanted it.

Putting kids in school year round and taking away their senior year, may make them learn more, but it will not make them better citizens and contributors to the American dream. And by the way, most of the great men in this country had little if any formal education, but good old fashioned… on the job training. This can only happen here, which is why people are fierce to protect our way of life.

At the risk of being glib and smug...and of being accused of abusing my soapbox...I have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

It seemed to be an attack on me for being 1) liberal, and 2) wrong. You seem to suggest that pushing for better and longer schooling is a notion that is anti-freedom ... that the notion of formal and extensive schooling is somehow anti-American.

Could it be that you equate formal schooling to some level of intellectualism, and that you are suspicious of intellectuals as being part of the liberal elite?

If so, I suspect William F. Buckley Jr. would have disagreed with you.
KC's View: