retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reported last week on a statement released by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) objecting to new swipe fees for PIN-based debit cards being assessed by Visa.

One MNB user wrote:

Most interesting that government interference in swipe fees is welcomed by FMI and other groups but in Health, Food Safety etc the free market should dictate. I fully agree with FMI’s stance vis a vis VISA but consistency would also be welcome.

I get your point. But let’s face it. We all welcome government interference in areas where said interference works in our favor. And we hate it when the government interferes in a way that seems to hurt us. The problem is that we don’t all agree on what interference is positive and which is negative, and it is from this disagreement that we get political debate and elections.

The problem is that some political debate descends into hate speech.

I like MNB user Sue DeRemer’s response to this story:

The government really really really needs to let Wal-Mart create a bank. 

She’s right. That would change the essential nature of financial services competition.

On the subject of the carry-on bag experience, and the new charges being levied by Spirit Airlines, we continue to get email ... much of it related to the threat of legislation that would prevent such fees.

One MNB user wrote:

Just another example (one of many) where I can safely say that I don't need Chuck Schumer or Amy Klobuchar to "take care of me" or "protect me" with mindless legislation. The market will take care of this issue. AND if they do succeed in passing tax legislation on this who do they think will end up paying the tax? Get real.

I agree.

So did MNB user Craig Shafer:

Our legislators should be focusing on finding ways to reduce our deficit and create new jobs.  Our government is not needed in this instance.  They should allow marketplace to do what it does best- punish dumb pricing policies with lower consumer demand!

Still another MNB user chimed in:

It is none of the Government’s business!.  That’s the problem we have now. Government institutes laws on a whim and doesn’t let the market correct the problem.  If people don’t like the policy, don’t fly the airline.  It’s that simple.  The airline will wake up or go belly up.  Way too much Government interference in the free enterprise system.

MNB user J. Schindler wrote:

These are the same legislators that claim they just do not have time to address legislation to address the 2010 estate tax repeal, a repeal that we all know is going to be retroactively repealed itself.  In the interim this is causing many people a lot of uncertainty and distress, particularly the Administrators of estates of people who have died in 2010.   Is it any wonder than so many of us absolutely loathe Congress.

Another MNB user wrote:

You have GOT to be kidding me.  This is just getting ridiculous with our government.  You are exactly right when you say that these fees should be handled by the market!! (As should everything else in my opinion...)  But anyway, please government, let consumers= make decisions for themselves!!!  Let us decide if the fees are worth it or not by our behavior!! Trust me government, we are capable of making that decision!  I find it insulting that the government thinks it has to do everything for us and control our lives and our businesses to this extent.  Let businesses try things and let consumers determine the success, or failure!  Please!!! aghhh!!  This legislation is the opposite of freedom.  I think the fee's are ridiculous too, but i have sooo much more faith in the market handling this than the govt.

While I think that a good argument can be made that Congress should simply let the market deal with the carry-on baggage fees - and in fact made that argument last week - it also is possible that every airline could decide to impose the same fee, which would actually make it impossible for any of us to choose to fly airlines without such fees. Not sure how you avoid that, but it is at least a possibility.

I will challenge you on two statements that you made. One is that “everything” should be handled by market forces rather than by legislation, and the other is the implication that this speculated-about legislation is “the opposite of freedom.” Both statements strike me as hyperbole.

There are things that government needs to do simply because market forces sometimes do lead to consumer abuses and the violation of basic human freedoms. (If a bus company decided to make black people sit at the back of the bus, do we let market forces address this obvious inequity? I think not. And legislation can be misguided and unnecessary without being un-American or a “violation of freedom.” People like to throw those words around these days, and what worries me is that they will become so commoditized that we won;t recognize a real violation when we are threatened with one.

MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

I recently started traveling a lot more than I used to. All business trips, none of which allow me to fly in and out on the same day, more because of my originating flight than actual business time. I check any bag that is bigger than the limited carry-on, but I also try and limit the amount I pack except for extended trips to only carry-on bags. Because I fly mostly commuter flights, rarely does my carry-on fit in the overhead bins and I graciously request a valet tag for my carry-on, when I have flown in bigger planes my bag fits nicely in the overhead bin without mashing. I am resigned to the fact that boarding the plane is much like standing in line at the amusement park, a lot of waiting for the thrill of fitting into a confined space for a period of time (hopefully without free-falling of going upside down). What is the hurry to get seated? I say take your time, enjoy the chance to stretch your legs, it isn’t like your seat will be gone if you’re not the first in line.

The hurry is often to get to one’s seat before the precious overhead space over aisle nine is taken by some clown who has a seat in row 23. I hate those guys.

On another subject, a brief piece I wrote on Friday about Air Force recruits going off to basic training in Texas, one MNB user wrote:

I was almost moved to tears reading your story about the new recruits and the individual on his way to rehabilitation. What I kept think was, after their valiant and heroic service to our country and the sacrifices of their family…we virtually abandon them. We sometimes repossess their belongings and homes while they are away serving their country, we leave them to solve their own war related mental and physical illnesses. And, worst of all, sometimes we put their lives on the line for political motivations not related to the security of our country. They deserve more…much more.

And another MNB user wrote:

Your comments on the military-bound young people brought tears to my eyes.  You see, about 11 years ago, my son was one of those enthusiastic young people heading to San Antonio to begin a life in the Air Force.  He is still in the service and loves the life he has there.  He encourages others to seek this as a way of life because of the adventures he has had, the sights he has seen, the people he has met (including the oldest non commissioned officer in the service and several medal of honor winners).  He has flourished here and I can not be more proud of him.  He just re-enlisted and plans to make this his career, his life.

It definitely takes a special type of person to go into military life and stay there.  Not everyone makes the cut, but, should they do so, they are never the same.

If you ever have a chance to attend the graduation ceremonies in San Antonio, do so.  It is the most patriotic thing that I have ever seen in my life.  More so then any 4th of July picnic, inauguration, monument, etc. that I have seen.
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