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    Published on: July 16, 2010

    Two completely different stories over the past week actually made the same point

    There was a story on Fox News in Chicago in which it was suggested that the millions of dollars spent in the Windy City on public libraries would be better spent on public schools. The question raised is this: “With the internet and e-books, do we really need millions for libraries?”

    Here’s how the question was answered:

    “Keeping libraries running costs big money. In Chicago, the city pumps $120 million a year into them. In fact, a full 2.5 percent of our yearly property taxes go to fund them. That's money that could go elsewhere – like for schools, the CTA, police or pensions


    “One of the nation's biggest and busiest libraries is the $144-million Harold Washington Library in the Loop. It boasts a staggering 5,000 visitors a day!

    “So we decided to check it out. We used an undercover camera to see how many people used the library and what were they doing. In an hour, we counted about 300 visitors. Most of them were using the free internet. The bookshelves? Not so much.”

    That was story number one.

    Here was story number two:

    Newsweek reported that House Minority Leader John Boehner touched one of the third rails of American politics, saying in an interview, “We’re all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected, and I think raising the retirement age ... and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken."

    The story goes on: “Some European countries are raising retirement ages as part of austerity measures: France's decision to raise the age from 60 to the harrowing extreme of 62 practically caused riots, while Britain's new government has announced plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 66, with further increases likely. But in the U.S., there's been little meaningful discussion on the topic ... Boehner deserves credit for offering a serious, fiscally conservative suggestion, and openly discussing the sacrifices Americans will have to make.”

    On the face of it, these seem like stories that have nothing in common - except that they both are likely to irritate someone. (Librarians and library users in the first case, and people planning on retiring at 65 in the latter.)

    In fact, they share something else, something extremely important.

    They both are asking uncomfortable questions. Questions that need to be asked. Questions that a lot of people don’t even want to consider.

    We’ve talked about the future of libraries here on MNB before. Some people think they have a life expectancy similar to that of the local post office, but a lot of people don’t even want to consider the possibility that at some point they may be an obsolete institution, at least in some communities. And while simply eliminating them for budget reasons seems a little cold, the question deserves consideration ... if only so librarians can think about how to make what they do more relevant, more engaging, more important to people’s lives. If you don’t ask the question, you aren’t facing the problem...which means you can’t solve it.

    Next stop, obsolescence.

    The same goes for Boehner’s comments about the retirement age. I may not be sure about the future of libraries, but I’m damned sure that we ought to change the retirement age to acknowledge the fact that people are living longer and can be more productive.

    Most of the responses I read seemed to fall into two entirely predictable camps. Liberals thought that this was unfair to the working class, while conservatives supported the general idea. What appeared to be the case was that most folks had a knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion, reacting with ideology rather than thought.

    Both sides have a point, and there ought to be room to come together on this issue. I cannot think of any reason why some sort of compromise cannot be reached that would acknowledge the fact that people who do manual labor for 45 years ought to be able to retire earlier than, say, people like me. (I subscribe to the line from the Jimmy Buffett song that goes, “Any manual labor I’ve done has been purely by mistake.”)

    This is a big issue, whichever side of it you are on. It ought not be one of the “third rails” of US politics, because that means that it won’t be addressed...when it is precisely one of the issues that need to be addressed.

    So it is with many businesses, which have subjects that dare not be discussed, ideas that dare not be challenged, and people who never are questioned.

    Inevitably, those are the subjects that need to be discussed, the ideas that need to be challenged, and the people who ought to be questioned.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    The US Senate yesterday passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which includes a provision to reform credit and debit card swipe fees by requiring them to be reasonable and proportional to cost and allowing retailers to offer discounts to shoppers who want to use cash instead of credit. The bill is expected to be signed shortly by President Barack Obama.

    Retailers have supported the bill because consumers have been paying more than $50 billion a year in hidden interchange fees to credit card companies and banks, which they maintain lead to higher prices for all consumers. Since these fees are hidden, consumers are unaware of the costs associated with their cards.

    “This is a long-fought victory for supermarkets and their customers across the country. Our members' extensive work on this spans more than the past decade,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). “These fees represent the only completely uncontrollable cost for retailers. Supermarkets and their customers will see the benefits of a system of reasonable and proportional costs in a competitive and transparent marketplace.”

    “Today’s vote demonstrates the value of retailers engaging with their elected officials,” said NACS President and CEO Hank Armour. “This is why NACS exists - to help bring together the industry to amplify its voice and make a difference on issues important to all of us. Last year we said that 2010 would be the year that we achieve meaningful interchange reform if we can combine the power of skillful lobbying with dramatic grassroots activity. Through consistent engagement with Congress, combined with massive consumer petition campaigns, we have clearly seen that great things are possible when our industry is engaged.”

    “This is a landmark step forward in protecting Main Street against the excesses of the banking industry,” said National Retail Federation (NRF) Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan. “Five years ago most consumers didn’t know these fees existed or that the banks were quietly taking billions of dollars out of their pockets. But today we have a bill on its way to the President’s desk that tells the big banks enough is enough. The days of big bank bailouts are coming to an end – Congress has clearly sided with Main Street businesses and their customers.”

    The Merchants Payments Coalition, created to represent 2.7 million US businesses, released a statement saying, in part, “This historic legislation, which includes a crucial measure to reform unfair debit and credit card swipe fees, is a huge win for Main Street businesses and consumers across the country. Today, Americans can be proud of their elected officials for standing up and doing the right thing by passing financial reform and reining in the out of control swipe fees that have been crippling business owners and consumers alike.”
    KC's View:
    What’s the over-under on how long it takes the banks and credit card companies to figure out some new loophole or scheme that gives them a whole new way to screw around with consumers and retailers?

    I’m thinking next Tuesday...but maybe I’m a cynic.

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    • Wegmans is slated to open its newest store in Malvern, Pennsylvania, this Sunday - a 130,000 square foot unit that will be only the second Wegmans to have a full-service in-store restaurant called The Pub.

    The Malvern location is one of only two new stores Wegmans will open this year.  The other is near Landover, Maryland. The new Malvern store is Wegmans’ 14th in Pennsylvania and its 76th store overall.

    • Meanwhile, the company has launched a new blog - trumpeted in an email that went out late this week - designed to give customers a different perspective on the company.

    In the initial blog, written by Danny Wegman, he wrote:

    “At Wegmans, we’re all about finding ways to make great meals easy, healthy, and affordable. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make that happen, and that’s a big part of what we want to share with you through this blog.

    “Last summer, we took our first steps into blogging with a backstage look at the Wegmans Organic Research Farm. We got great feedback, and decided it was time to take you behind the scenes at other spots around Wegmans. You’ll be able to get the inside scoop from Wegmans people, and connect with us through our blog.

    “The big thing is that this blog is for you. So, we’d love to hear what you’d like us to share. So join in and let us know what you’ve been wondering about. We hope you’ll have fun exploring with us!”
    KC's View:
    Wegmans never misses an opportunity to remind shoppers that it is their advocate, not simply a sales agent for manufacturers. This is very smart.

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    Watch NBC-TV tonight, and you’ll see a made-for-television movie entitled “The Jensen Project” - produced by Walmart and Procter & Gamble as their second combined effort at bringing family-friendly programming to the network.

    According to the Associated Press, ‘The Jensen Project’ stars LeVar Burton of “Star Trek: The Next generation” and Patricia Heaton of “Home Improvement, and concerns “a secret community of geniuses formed to solve some of the world's problems, and they must fight to keep a new technology from falling into evil hands.

    “The companies consider it a perfect movie for parents to watch with their children — without bad language or questionable content. It is material company executives say isn't often available.”

    “We're trying to increase the supply” of family friendly movies, says, Stephen Quinn, Walmart’s chief marketing officer. "Our belief was that the demand was there but the supply was short."

    The first Walmart-P&G movie was called “Secrets of the Moon,” and was shown on NBC last April.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    • Tesco has announced that it will spend the equivalent of $146 million (US) to open seven new stores in Ireland over the next year. The British retailer currently operates 120 stores in the country.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    The Associated Press reports on an unusual entrepreneurial effort in San Diego - a camel dairy that produces camel milk that the owners say is “therapeutic, nutritious and delicious,” and has “more vitamin C, more anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties and contains an insulin-like protein that works well in the digestive tract.”
    Unfortunately, the law prevents the sale of camel milk in the US, so the owners have to make do by selling camel milk soap and giving camel rides.
    If the FDA can develop tests that would certify that camel milk is safe to consume, it could be an enormous boon to the dairy - they say they could get more than forty bucks per liter for the stuff.

    However, the effort would be work intensive, since the story also notes that “to milk a camel, you need warm hands, a gentle touch and quick timing (since) camels give milk only in 90-second bursts.”
    KC's View:
    I had a really funny joke about this last line...but Mrs. Content Guy and Michael Sansolo told me I couldn’t use it. So you’ll have to use your imagination...

    (They have a general agreement - if I ask them whether I can use a joke that is in questionable taste, I almost certainly shouldn’t, since so many get through that I never even think to ask about...)

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    Published reports in Canada say that some 300 unionized employees of the Loblaw-owned Real Canadian Superstore in Thunder Bay have reached a tentative contract deal with the retailer. Terms of the contract have not been disclosed, and a ratification vote is set for the end of the month.

    "We think that both parties have done everything, and have come to a consensus where, at this point in time, we’ve gotten the best we can get for the membership," said Paul Docherty, a member of the union’s bargaining committee.

    Earlier this week, MNB took note of a CTV report that “Loblaw Co. workers in Ontario overwhelmingly have voted to give their union a strike mandate if Canada's largest grocery chain doesn't back down from concession demands that it says are necessary to remain competitive against its non-unionized rivals.

    “More than 97 per cent of members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents nearly 30,000 employees at stores under names such as Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstores and Fortinos, have voted in favour of a strike.”

    The two sides have been negotiating since April, but talks broke down last month over worker opposition to a reported company plan to cut wages by as much as 25 percent and reduce benefits, which the company says it has to do to compensate for declining profits.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge has tossed out a $2.3 million judgement against Dole Foods, saying that the company had been the victim of “massive fraud.” The original case charged the company with exposing six workers at a Dole plantation in Nicaragua to pesticides that made them sterile; the LA court said that witness tampering and faked tests made it impossible to know what actually happened there.

    • The Department of Defense has awarded Food Lion with its 2010 Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for outstanding support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve. Food Lion supports military employees through providing numerous benefits policies, adopting colleague families who have been called into active duty, donating food and volunteering during community military events, and establishing a Veteran's and Military Business Resource Group.

    Marketing Daily reports that Target “is running a new promotion with Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble, which will generate $800,000 for Feeding America ... Running until Aug. 14, 5% of sales of select Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble products will go straight to the Minneapolis-based retailer's Meals for Minds program, a school food pantry initiative program that brings food to schools to help feed children and families in need. The program donation is part of Target's $3.5 million total 2010 commitment to Feeding America and local food banks nationwide.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    Yesterday, in my MNB Radio commentary, I wrote about the current travails being suffered by Apple, which has not been responding well to questions raised about the new iPhone. I wrote, in part:

    The problem is that Apple doesn’t seem to be taking the complaints seriously ... even when Consumer Reports says that the reception problems are serious enough that it cannot recommend the new iPhone. It doesn’t look to me like the complaints are coming from Apple haters, but rather largely from people who love this company and want to love its products ... It seems to me that the core problem is whether the folks at Apple, justifiably proud for having created so many new and exceptional products, ignited so many people’s imaginations, and prompted so many sales of both hardware and software, began to get a little arrogant, began to think that the company’s needs were the most important thing.

    I said that I was worried, but added:

    It isn’t too late for Apple. I’m still rooting for them, still an enormous fan, still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt - just like millions of other people. But don’t take me for granted. Don’t think your needs are more important than mine. And don’t make the same mistake as the other companies I’ve mentioned - because I can’t imagine any circumstances under which I will ever buy a Toyota, I drive past BP gas stations just on principle, and there are a lot of other pain relievers I can take that are not made by Johnson & Johnson.

    One MNB user thought I was being hyperbolic:

    Kevin, I can sympathize with your frustration, but simply don't find the comparison to BP's oil spill (horrific & tragic) or Toyota accelerator problem (reckless disregard) equitable. Guess I'll hang on to my Blackberry & Kindle and be ever so thankful that my Toyota is still rolling reliably with 313,000 miles on it. I am an Apple fan from way, way back to the 512k days and won't turn my back because of a glitch on a newly released phone model.

    I’m not turning my back either, and I certainly did not mean to equate what may be crimes committed by BP and a level of negligence committed by Toyota with a marketing misstep by Apple. I was talking about the importance of brand equity - and how easy it is to lose all that equity if one is not careful.

    Another MNB user thought I was being naive:

    Oh, please. Apple's product have carried design flaws. Has everyone forgotten the Quadra line? The simply awful AlBook and TiBook line of laptops from the late 1990s and early 2000s?

    Since 2005, I have owned three white MacBooks. All three develop cracks on the palm rest on the bottom case. It is like clockwork. About every 9 months, I return my MacBook to get a new keyboard and bottom case.

    Search for a blog called Apple Defects. You will find a slew of flaws associated with Apple products.

    As to Apple's response with the iPhone, why is anyone surprised? They are not customer oriented, instead they are product oriented. Apple drives the market. They are not market driven. Why does the iPhone succeed and the Kin get killed in less than 60 days? Because one company drives the market and the other company gets driven. Because one company does not suffer from the tyranny of the served customer and the other  company does.

    Apple gave a hearty extended middle finger to its customers base with the introduction of the Macintosh OS and that view has been with the company ever since. I find it shocking that anyone expects a different behavior from Apple. They don't care about the customer. They care about the product.


    Interesting. For the record, I have been an Apple customer for two decades. I cannot even count the number of computers, iPods and other gadgets that we’ve owned over the years that were made by Apple. And I have trouble thinking of even one that suffered from a design flaw.

    And, unlike you, I have always felt cared for as a customer. I’ve always felt that customer service was accessible and expert.

    You say “Apple drives the market” like that’s a bad thing. I read those words, and I think that what Apple has shown is leadership and vision. I thought that was a good thing.

    This isn’t to say that Apple is perfect. It isn’t. My piece yesterday was intended not just to point out Apple’s current problems, but to make a larger point - that no company, no matter now iconic or successful, is so big that it cannot make mistakes and lose much of its brand equity.

    Another MMNB user wrote:

    After saying I wouldn’t be an early adopter, I went out and bought the iPhone 4G. The reception problems are real. Like you, I love my Apple products. And like you, I have to wonder wtPhone?

    It offends me to be told there is no hardware problem. Whether their formula for calculating bars was right or wrong, that doesn’t explain why the bars change only when gripping the phone across the bottom. It’s an insult to think we’re going to buy that.

    It irritates me to be told to just use my phone the “right way.” I don’t think I use “the grip of death” on my phone. I think I hold it in a normal fashion, which for me is a grip on the bottom of the phone. I’d love to be able to retrain myself to hold the phone “the right way,” but let’s think about the message that sends.

    It exasperates me to see Apple’s FaceTime commercials. In the original commercial, all of the people enjoying FaceTime were holding the phone in the “wrong way,” which was really the height of irony. I could be wrong, but I swear Apple has since edited it, and now there are snippets thrown in of a hand holding the phone by the top.

    It’s the final straw that the 4OS killed the Sync My Ride in my Escape (which if you aren’t familiar with it, allows me to use my phone and access music through the stereo hands free). Now, this obviously isn’t a hardware problem and I’m guessing Ford/Sync may be more vested in figuring out a way to fix this than Apple. Without all the hardware issues, I probably would have just waited it out. But all combined, I’ll probably be shipping my 4G back soon (I’m in the 30 day window for returns), assuming they don’t announce a recall Friday.


    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    I hope Apple doesn’t go the way Dell did and forget about customer service, quality, reliability and future loyalty.  How sad that would be.  I’ll never buy another thing from Dell or Gateway (is Gateway still around?).  I have 3 junkers sitting in the basement and have already recycled two others.

    Inevitably, one MNB user wrote:

    After reading your radio commentary yesterday, I was wondering if you would still buy an iTurd if Apple made one.

    I knew this one would come back and bite me on the rear end.

    What the reader is referring to is a comment that I attributed to my brother, Brendan Coupe, about a year ago, when he said that I was so enamored with Apple that I would buy an iTurd if the company put one on the market.

    What I said then was this: I’m not sure he’s right about that, but I do know one thing – if Apple did make an iTurd, it would look better and smell better than any other turds on the market.

    I’ll stand by that.

    MNB user Jim Swoboda wrote:

    I, like you, admire greatly Apple and the way they have relentlessly pursued the art of creating highly coveted devices.  I like you, share in the worry.  The biggest mystery to me how great company's can continue to get it wrong when something unplanned occurs. When creating highly complex products which are created by human beings, who by definition, are all flawed, unforeseen things will occur.

    Denying that is what gets one in trouble.  Admitting and working to correct is what separates the mediocre from the best.  Apple is deciding right now which they will be. Looks like we will learn that answer on Friday.


    MNB user Ann Boyles wrote:

    Loved your commentary this week! 

    Particularly I liked how you tied it to other industries/companies BP, J&J, Toyota.  I would love to hear your perspective on how the problems these companies are facing impact the overall category and industry in which they compete.  I get that it’s complicated situation. It seems to me that consumers and customers start losing faith and confidence in the overall category or industry.   What can be done to maintain confidence?  Are they historical examples?
     
    Thanks and keep up the great work, love reading you every morning.


    I think it probably depends. In the case of BP, for example, I think they’ve done enormous damage to the entire oil industry’s credibility...but I’m not sure Toyota’s problems have hurt Nissan or Mazda. On the other hand, I’ve always believed that food safety problems at one company can erode consumer confidence in the safety of the entire food chain.

    And, from another MNB user:

    Spot on with your comments…a problem becomes a crisis when initial comments are ignored. The customer may not always be right…but they always deserve a great brand experience.

    As noted above...Today is a big day for Apple, as it is scheduled to hold a press conference to address the iPhone issues.

    In my view, it is very easy. Steve Jobs has to stand up and say that clearly there are unexpected problems with the iPhone, and that the company is working to solve them. He should say that anyone who has bought the new iPhone can bring it back to the company for a full refund, or exchange it for an older version, or get a voucher for the next version that won;t have these problems. He should say that a band that wraps around the iPhone, eliminating the dropped call problem, will be given free of charge to anyone who has the new iPhone. And he should say he’s sorry...that they screwed up, and that Apple’s primary job right now is to make things right with its customers and fans, and to make sure that this kind of misstep never happens again.

    He does all that, and I think Apple customers fall in line. The stock may drop some, but it’ll go back up ... and Apple will be a better company for it.




    Onto another subject...

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a USA Today report that “two university labs found that over 60% of olive oil tested labeled as 'extra virgin' was in fact cheaper, lower-quality olive oils.

    “The study ... was conducted by the University of California, Davis Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory. They collected 14 brands of imported olive oil and five California brands in March, and shipped 62 samples to an Australian lab for analysis ... Sixty-nine percent of the imported oils and 10% of the California oils labeled as extra virgin did not meet the International Olive Council and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture taste, smell and chemical standards for extra virgin olive oil.

    “As reported here on MNB several weeks ago, the US Department of Agriculture is preparing to establish new standards to make it more likely that products labeled as ‘100 percent extra virgin olive oil’ is, in fact, 100 percent extra virgin olive oil. However, the standards will be voluntary, not mandatory.

    MNB user Carla Baughman wrote:

    I agree that the standards should be mandatory, not voluntary. I also think they should take it further and name names in the study or as analysis is done. Consumer have a right to know what they are buying.

    FYI...the study does name names.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    You don't understand the system.

    The USDA grading standards are voluntary.  They do not have the authority to make them mandatory.  FDA has the primary jurisdiction over olive oils.  FDA could establish mandatory standards of identity for various olive oils.  Also, the law that FDA administers states that a food is deemed to be misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any particular.  FDA could use that to go after mislabeled olive oil even without standards.  But FDA continuously pleads that it does not have sufficient resources to do this.

    I continue to believe that the only way we are going to get adequate  and efficient food regulation is to strip out the food regulatory functions from both USDA and FDA and combine them into a separate federal Food Regulatory Authority.  I also strongly believe that the current system that allows states to have differing requirements is an unconstitutional undue burden on interstate commerce and that there should be as single set of federal rules.  I have no problem with letting the states enforce those uniform federal rules rules, so the state food regulatory employees need not fear losing their jobs.  Most of the FDA and USDA food regulatory employees would probably be employed by the new Federal Food Agency so their jobs would also be relatively secure as well.  Unfortunately, nearly everybody resists change.


    Not me. I’ve always thought that a single food safety agency makes a lot of sense.

    Yet another MNB user chimed in:
     
    The news about EVOO is very discouraging…what else lurks on other labels?????????? If I can’t trust labels sold in “RESPONSIBLE GROCERY STORES”…do I move completely to Farmers’ Markets?

    It certainly is critical to know who you are doing business with.

    One other point. While the study looked at both imports and US brands, it seems to me that this is a great moment for retailers to do a similar analysis of their private brand olive oils to see if they stand up to examination. If they don’t, then retailers ought to toss them out of the store and explain why to consumers...it is a great way to establish credibility in the eyes of the shopper.




    Finally, asked by an MNB user whether the late George Steinbrenner should go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I wrote:

    I’m conflicted on this one.

    A lot of writers here have been arguing that Steinbrenner was the second most influential person in NY sports history, with only Babe Ruth having a greater impact on the city’s sports scene.

    My reflexive response is that owners probably don’t belong there. Then again, Walter O’Malley is in the Hall of Fame, and deserves it because he owned the Brooklyn Dodgers when the team broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

    This, by the way, would be my response to the sports writers trumpeting Steinbrenner’s contributions. Jackie Robinson’s contributions were greater; indeed, in my view, he was one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. And both O’Malley and Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager who signed Robinson, had greater long term impact not just on sports, but the country.

    And I think it is hard to name to the Hall of Fame a man who was banned from the sport - twice.

    So I think my answer is no.


    MNB user Gary Harris reacted:

    Hmmm, spoken like a true Mets fan…

    Not at all.  I don't harbor that kind of hostility toward the Yankees.  (Not like my son, who, if he had to make a choice between the antichrist and Derek Jeter, probably would choose the antichrist.)

    I was actually trying to be reasonable and rational.   Believe it or not.

    I probably wouldn’t be upset of Steinbrenner makes the Hall of Fame ... not as upset as I would be if the steroid users like Barry Bonds get in. That’d tick me off.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I think it is an inequity that George Steinbrenner can be considered for the Hall of Fame, while Pete Rose, banned from Baseball for a less heinous violation of gambling rules, cannot.

    Disagree with you on this one. Rose broke perhaps the most important rule in baseball, undercut the integrity of the sport, and consistently lied about it. He gets no sympathy here. (Nor do the players tainted by the steroids era, in my view.)

    BTW...I was wrong on one thing I wrote yesterday.

    Walter O'Malley was chief counsel to the Dodgers in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke in, but only became an owner of the team later, in 1950.




    Finally...

    In an email posted yesterday about the likely obsolescence of post offices, MNB user Jeff Folloder

    MNB user Jeff Folloder suggested: “Why don't we take all those conveniently located post offices and make them truly useful?  Wire 'em all up with Internet, staff them with cheerful staff, give 'em a fresh coat of paint (buildings, not staff), offer a full range of connected services from DMV, Social Security, municipal services... to a variety of courier services.  And raise the price of bulk direct mail anyway.  To put it in CPG terms, make the PO the destination and let the experience underline the value.”

    Which led MNB user Ken Hillman to write:

    Brilliant...and add to it my pet opportunity of using unused space for local "virtual officing" , conference rooms, presentation print etc.

    “Your Views” are becoming a favorite destination because of letters like Mr. Folloder...


    Mine, too.

    Thanks to all of you.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2010

    You may remember that last month Michael Sansolo regaled us with a column about the James Taylor - Carole King Troubadour Reunion Concert that he attended. During my week off at the end of June, King and Taylor played Madison Square Garden, and so Mrs. Content Guy and I ventured into Manhattan for an evening out.

    I agree with Michael’s assessment of the concert - it was outstanding. It is amazing how many songs Carole King wrote, and how energetic she was dancing around the stage, playing the guitar and the piano, and generally seeming to have a terrific time. James Taylor is a lot more laid back - he has this kind of gentle awkwardness to him, but the voice remains both cool and iconic.

    When Michael wrote about the concert, he talked about how it highlighted for him the importance of marketing to baby boomers ... and going there reinforced the notion in my mind. (It was one of the few times that I’ve seen lines as long going into the men’s room as into the ladies’ room, which certainly says something about the demographic.) Beyond that, there are three lessons from the concert that I’d like to share with you.

    Word of mouth is a powerful thing. I’d noticed ads for the Carole King - James Taylor concert tour, but I never really considered getting tickets until I read Michael’s column. After I finished, it took me about five minutes to go online, see when they would be playing nearby, and get tickets. True loyalty can be seen in advocacy, and advocacy in turn creates new customers.

    Not all concerts are created equal. To be honest, it took me a little while to get used to the pace and energy level at the Taylor - King concert, because the most recent concerts I’ve been to were The Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift, and a bunch of Jimmy Buffett concerts - all of which are loud to varying degrees. Not so when King and Taylor were singing; we all knew the words, we all sang along, but the energy was a lot lower. That didn’t make their concert a lesser event, just different. It is important to maintain a sense of context when judging such things, and not expect the same results from vastly different artists.

    Finally, it is important to take your wife out. Even after 27 years of marriage. Especially after 27 years of marriage. We went out for Greek food at a wonderful Manhattan restaurant called Periyali (that I recommend highly), we strolled through the city, and enjoyed an evening of good music. Can’t do better than that, and I wouldn’t have wanted to share it with anyone else.




    USA Today reported the other day that “instead of getting married in a church or banquet hall, more couples are choosing their favorite retail spots as the backdrop for their special day. The shops range from T.J. Maxx to Taco Bell, and they all combine the couple's love for a brand with a desire to have a wedding with a personal twist.”

    I know that I’m a little crazy, but...I’m thinking that anyone who wants to get married at Taco Bell ought to be denied a marriage license.

    But maybe that’s just me.




    I have three movies to chat about this week...

    Eclipse is the third movie in the “Twilight” series about vampires and teen angst in the Pacific Northwest. Suffice it to say that it is one of the longest two hour movies I’ve ever seen. But my daughter enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next one, which is all that really is important.

    Grown Ups is the new Adam Sandler-Kevin James-Chris Rock comedy about middle aged men who used to play basketball together as kids, and how they reunite over the 4th of July weekend after their old coach dies. Think of this as a comedic version of “That Championship Season,” except that it never seems that they go for anything other than the obvious jokes and reach for the easy moments of sentiment. I laughed a lot, but Grown Ups is anything but a grown-up comedy.

    The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second Swedish movie based on the best-selling series of novels by the late Stieg Larsson. I loved the first movie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and liked this film almost as much, mostly because of the darkly compelling performance by Noomi Rapace as the title character - she’s simply unlike anybody I’ve ever seen onscreen before, and both character and actress seem completely fearless. You can’t take your eyes off her. Almost as good - though he has less to do in this movie - is Michael Nyqvist’s crusading journalist, who is captivated by Rapace’s Lisbeth Salander for reasons even he cannot explain. The film is shot in Scandinavia, has subtitles, and is very much worth seeing (even if you have not read the books, which I have not...though Mrs. Content Guy has, and also likes the movies). Note: They are making English language versions of the movies, with Daniel Craig and Carey Mulligan rumored to be set as the leads. They’re very good, but they’ll have to do great work to equal the originals.)




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Fins Up!
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