Published on: September 30, 2010
A letter from an MNB user about my NEW coverage and other things:I consider myself to be pretty much an average guy. Most my everyday experiences and way of life are just like most guys I know. So when I read your notes and comments from NEW today, I was a bit taken aback. You see, like most guys I know, I too live in a parallel universe. Some recent examples from my personal experience include working from home to care for my sick 8 year old while my wife went to work and taking a vacation day to chaperone a field trip. Most guys I know have numerous similar examples from their lives. So I will argue that we do live these stories and our understanding of women's personal and professional lives is better than we're given credit for.
There may still be gaps to close, though the data from GAO is outdated, given that it's from 2007, and I share your admiration of the accomplishments, both throughout their careers and through the daily challenges of all the individuals you highlighted. However, the assertion that men don't understand is off the mark.
On another note, I've been stewing over your reply in Your views to the person who grew up in the 50's and argued that outdoor play prevented that generation from becoming obese. Sure times have changed, but it's far from fantasy or delusional to think kids can play outside. My wife and I actively limit our kids time in front the TV, computer, etc. and they spend a great amount of time outside riding bikes, sledding, organizing baseball and football games with other neighborhood kids and more. They even play outside at night.
We prescribe to the notion of everything in moderation so our kids are allowed some sweet cereals, candy, chocolate milk, etc and guess what? They're far from obese. In fact, they're in great shape. We also strive to help our kids develop intellectually and I believe our kids are capable of making good choices. So I'm not threatened by marketing efforts aimed at them.
If 2010 reality is that people cower in their houses because there's some bad people out there, that is a shame. I'd much prefer to live in my fantasy.
Regarding your first observation ... I wasn’t suggesting that no
men get it. In fact, I live in the same sort of parallel universes that you write about. But that’s because I am lucky enough to have a highly flexible work situation, whereas my wife is a teacher with little flexibility between 8 and 3. That said, when I am on the road - which I am about 30-35 percent of the time - my wife has to deal with a far more complicated balancing act than I ever do.
That makes guys like you and me lucky. I think it is not as bad as it used to be...but I also continue to believe that the conversations I heard at NEW were different from almost all the conversations I hear at other conferences.
As for raising children...I agree with much of what you said. But again, I live on a cul-de-sac in a nice community where on some days it might as well be 50 years ago. I’m not endorsing fear, nor am I suggesting that parents simply give up in the face of a changing society. I’m just saying that the world has changed. at the very least, we cannot ignore those changes, or the implications that they have for many families in many places.
On the general subject of customer service, I got the following email from an MNB user:Customer service is fading and when I actually receive it these days, I acknowledge and reward it for sure...but is is far too scarce these days...
Last week after work I called my local pizza shop for their 2 two-topping pizza special for $20. I asked for one pepperoni pizza and once cheese pizza. I was told the price was $25.70. I explained I wanted the special but did not need the extra toppings. The person said they only could give me the special if I ordered two toppings....I told them to make the pizzas and I would be over to pick up.
Upon arrival I asked again about the special, and the manager came over. I was prepared to dig in and have a battle over this issue, and leave the pizzas. The Manager said "Ok, sure we can fix that with no problem". It was a good thing for me, and them :) I know retail and I know how the customer should be treated, and I treat my customers well. It is sad though that the employee is not trained or empowered to do the right thing.....and it came down to me needing to complain or be over-charged.
It isn't rocket science....but I guess we are not hiring rocket scientists either.
On the subject of the economy and pervasive attitudes, I wrote yesterday:Now, we’re still close to the cliff. The systemic problems weren’t fixed. And there are a lot of people who are still hurting, many of whom may never recover.
I may be a cynic, but I refuse to be a pessimist. American exceptionalism is the result of daily hard work and at least some level of optimism...it isn’t a birthright.
Frankly, I’m more worried about the pessimism than anything else.
To which one MNB user responded:That's because you are working.
That’s absolutely true.
MNB user Lauren Klatsky wrote:I don’t doubt that e-readers are undermining “old-fashioned books” sales. While I don’t have an e-reader, yet, you could put me in the ‘plan to buy one in the next 6 months” bucket. However, I’d be interested in knowing if cookbook sales are impacted much by e-readers. I think that food blogs and recipe sites like epicurious.com and allrecipes.com would have a greater impact than the newer technologies since people are likely more concerned about spilling liquids on an electronic device than a book or recipe print out.
I fully expect that the devices used in kitchens will be spill resistant. That’s the easy problem.
And, from another MNB user:
I work for a cereal company and would prefer that you not publish my name since everything needs to go through proper channels to get published nowadays so I hope you understand.
I couldn’t help but notice the 1950’s nostalgic dialog from a MNB reader regarding the OECD report regarding obesity rates. The reader honed in on sugar laden cereals. I get a little sensitive about the easy references to “sugar laden cereals” and “junk food”, but the facts don’t add up.
There are many misconceptions on cereal, here are some facts:
Cereal is a typically low fat, nutrient-dense food that contains no cholesterol.
Cereal accounts for just 4% of total caloric intake, while delivering important nutrients.
Cereal with milk is the #1 source of 10 nutrients in the diets of U.S. children (vitamins A, B6, B12 and D; riboflavin; niacin; folate; iron; zinc and thiamin).
Sugar in cold cereal provides less than 5% of kids’ daily sugar intake. A serving of orange juice contains more sugar. A serving of fruit yogurt contain twice as much sugar.
Cereal eaters, including those who eat kids’ cereals, actually have healthier body weights
The fact is, obesity is the result of an imbalance of calories in versus calories out. No single food causes obesity, including cereal. The average serving of cereal with a ½ cup of skim milk contains 150 calories; that’s 9% of the recommended daily intake of 1,650 calories for kids age 6-11.
The research in this area tells the real story. Over the past 30 years, U.S. children age 6-11 have generally eaten the same number of calories, yet the percentage of overweight children has risen significantly. As a society, we need to focus on the “calories out” portion of the equation as much, if not more, than the “calories in” portion of the equation.
Just needed to vent a little.
On the moves in Florida to ban sugary drinks and even chocolate milk from schools, MNB user Bernie Ellis wrote: I think perhaps you are drawing too fine a line on sugary drinks. I seems everyone wants soda out of schools because of the sugar content. So why limit the definition to soda? Isn't the question, should all clearly unhealthy foods be removed from the menu? Of course there is another option, let parents decide if they want their children to have sweets and sell them only to those whose parents want their kids to have them. Of course then the rest of us pay the price through higher insurance prices when they get sick. Maybe we should ban these foods for the greater good. Wow, sounds like regulation and democracy... we are all part of a very integrated society where rules of conduct must be determined.
MNB user Michael Stumpf had a thought about another subject:I agree that Ben & Jerry's made a good and honest decision to drop the "all natural" claim from its labels. How much better would it have been, though, to find a way to replace processed ingredients and really make their ice cream natural? It is a premium brand with a story of two hippies in Vermont making good ice cream. Why not remain true to that image?
And MNB Kevin P. Nolan wanted to weigh in on supermarkets in malls:I’m not claiming to be the end all, be all on the subject but, let's take our academic and/or theoretical hats off for a moment and put on our “just regular people” grocery shopping hats. Shopping for most people is about convenience. I know we’d all like to believe that it about the shopping experience created by the retailer or the actual products provided by the particular retailer but, if you really look deep into the soul of most grocery shopper's it's mostly about convenience. Prices come in to play even more these days but in many cases the typical Shopper will trade off all of the conventional motivators for convenience. They want to get in, get out and get on with the other 20 important tasks they have to complete that day.
Let say we’re walking through the Mall and we cross paths with a Whole Foods store. Surprised and excited, we remember that we need some milk, bread, a bit of produce, a bottle of wine and a refrigerated dessert for dinner tonight. We think Wow! I’ll just stop in here and pick up everything I need and I won't need to stop a second time on the way home. Then we realize that we actually parked on the other side of the mall and we’ll have to take our groceries on a 15 minute walk just to get back to our car. Is the average shopper going to do that? Are you going to do that? The walk by business for a grocery store in the mall is just that…...they walk on by. As for the times when the customer come to the Mall specifically for the grocery store visit and they have to wait 10 minutes to get a parking space reasonably close to the store, or even worse, it’s the holiday season and they can't find a parking space within 3 miles of the store. Will the average shopper put up with that? Will they come back? Would you come back? Just getting in and out of the Mall parking lot during the holiday season is a pain, much less finding a parking space. Valet parking, order pick up, designated parking might help the situation but I believe that it’s just a “band-aid” on the inconvenience. Can a retailer sustain their business with conditions like this when there are so many other options?
I think there’s a reason why most grocery retails aren't in the Shopping Malls today and like the old saying “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!”.
I wrote the other day that Stephen Colbert had a funny line about the best way to solve the migrant labor problem in this country - to stop eating the fruits and vegetables that so many of them pick. But, he noted, the nation’s growing obesity rate suggests that this already has happened.
Which led one MNB user to write:Is he suggesting that fruits and vegetables have negative calories? Or is he suggesting that people would eat more of same instead of fattening foods rather than in addition to? Sounds like the gal who complained, 50 years ago, that Metrecal didn’t work because she was "drinking a can after every meal and still gaining weight."
I think he was making a joke. I laughed.
We had a story the other day that went like this:In Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reports that “Woodman's Food Markets Inc. has been accused of violating federal law by firing an employee because she was pregnant.
“The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Janesville-based company. In a statement, the agency said Woodman's fired Arianna Goodwin in January 2008. That happened after an assistant store manager in Madison asked Goodwin if she was pregnant, and then told her he would have to fire her, or she could quit and reapply after giving birth, the statement says.”
Company officials apparently have not commented on the suit.
To which MNB user David Livingston responded:Another nut attacking a good company.
You have to be kidding me.
Woodman’s can be a good company, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t necessarily have less-than-enlightened managers making mistakes. And this story, all on its own, certainly doesn’t suggest that this woman is right or wrong - or that she is a nut.
Listen, Woodman’s may be right or wrong. She may be right or wrong. But here’s the deal...
We have laws in this country that prevent companies from discriminating against people who are pregnant. These are entirely appropriate laws - and it is hard for me to imagine that anyone who has ever had a mother or a sister or a wife or a daughter would want them to be treated in any way other than fairly and lawfully.
I’ll stick with my original comment:I hope, for Woodman’s sake, that this is a case of one assistant store manager with the sensibilities of a Neanderthal making a bad decision. You simply can’t be doing this stuff.
Yet another illustration about how one person can have an impact on how a company is perceived.
And finally, MNB user Shawn Ravitz wrote to note that I missed something in my sports coverage:You left one thing out of MNB... champagne and beer popped by the Phillies in DC last night.
That's 4 division crowns in a row... home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs for the Phils! H2O (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt)...
Congrats. (I’m a Mets fan. That’s about all you get from me.)