retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to Michael Sansolo’s column yesterday that connected Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to fast food consumption, MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

Being on the road fairly often for work, I find myself frequenting the occasional fast food drive-through so I can continue to eat while getting to my destination. Over the past few years, I’ve been amazed at the difference among these places. Wendy’s seems to get it. When someone comes to a drive-up window, especially around the lunch hour, they’re probably pressed for time. So, I consistently find myself placing an order at the menu board, then as I approach the window, invariably I see a disembodied hand with my drink in it waiting for me to pull up. I take the drink, give the person my money, and my change and a bag with my lunch in it appear almost simultaneously. A decent burger, fries, and a drink, fresh and quick. At the same time when I stop at a McDonald’s, the wait (usually only a few minutes, but it’s a wait!) seems unbearable. It’s FAST FREAKING FOOD for crying out loud! If you can’t do the FAST part, you’ve lost 90% of your competitive differentiation! I’m not there for the ambience, or for the delicious, wholesome, healthy midday repast, I want to eat and run, at the same time! Painful, just painful.

There was a story yesterday about a new study saying that people will spend more at discounters during the upcoming holiday season, but Costco was one of the retailers that the study suggested shoppers might avoid. I expressed some surprise that Costco was not seen as a discounter, which led one MNB user to write:

Perhaps the reason that consumers say they will go to Costco less lies in the fact that Costco sells expensive items at a low margin and has fewer choices than the listed “discounters”.  People are spending less money but still have the same amount of persons to shop for. It seems to me that consumers will continue to spend less per person.  As to why Costco is not referred to as a discounter – again that may relate to the fact that they do not have inexpensive items on their shelves and the consumer view of a “discounter” is inexpensive items for sale.

We also had a story yesterday about the increased number of singles in the US, which prompted one MNB user to write:

I wonder if the increase in singles has anything to do with the increase in technology, gaming or the internet which allows non-personal contact? Any thoughts from you?

I don’t think so, but what do I know? I think it has more to do with people not necessarily accepting traditional models as life choices ... which I think is completely admirable. Not that traditions are bad, for people who want to embrace them. But people also ought to be free to make other choices...and companies need to widen their sights to embrace them as well.

On another subject, MNB user Jim DeLuca wrote:

Your comment about Walmart beginning with a carrot to entice and bringing in the stick later indicates to me that you (and lots of other folks) and I have a difference of opinion about stick and carrot.

My 'learnin' came from the image of a cart driver with a stubborn mule who was not motivated to get along...  so the driver gets a long stick and ties the carrot to it and dangles it in front of the mule.  Ahh, action in the direction of the carrot...

The image you bring up indicates that your metaphor means that you entice with the carrot and you beat with the stick...

In my metaphor the stick represents the communication skills needed to describe the reward...  In your metaphor, there is a polarization issue, I will reward you if I do what I want and I will punish you if you don't...

Just wondering what other folks think...

Yesterday, I got a math lesson, connected to a previous email exchange about people who demonize other people. This is how it went...

One MNB user wrote in an email posted yesterday that the people doing the demonizing are just a fraction of the overall population, and I responded:

“I agree that it is a fraction. But there’s pretty good evidence out there that the fractions are multiplying.”

Which led MNB user Tim McGuire to write:

“I hope that you are right that the "minute fractions of the world at large" that hold such narrow-minded views are indeed multiplying, because the rules of mathematics show that when you multiply two fractions, you end up with an even smaller fraction. :)”

Of course. This amply demonstrates my math abilities.

If my father, who taught math for decades, knew about this, he’d shed a tear.

Which led to yet another email:

Regarding "fractions multiplying" ... The possible missing piece in this exchange is the word, faction, which could be used to describe "the people doing the demonizing", as a definable group.  Factions can multiply, in the sense of your reply to the first reader, and end up as an ever-larger faction, which is the point you were trying to make.  So to quickly recap, when fractions multiply, the number gets smaller, whereas when factions multiply, the number gets larger.  This ain't fiction!

This stuff gives me a headache.

As Jimmy Buffett once sang, “Math Suks.”

And finally, responding to some of the sports coverage on MNB this week, MNB user Bill White wrote:

I have been an Atlanta Braves fan for many, many years, and have put up with the "Bobby Cox Era."  I know we should give him some accolades for being the "winningest coach in baseball history."  But let's be honest - all those years, all those victories, all those Division Championships, the unbelievable pitching staff he had back in the day, and only one World Series ring.  Pathetic!  Bobby's teams had a long history of choking in the Playoffs, and it seems to me that this year was no exception - and a fitting end to his "glorious" coaching career.

Enjoy your retirement, Bobby - as far as I am concerned, it should have happened years ago...

I’d like to say I feel your pain...but I don’t. And I suspect that fans of teams like the Mets, Cubs, Brewers, Mariners, Marlins, Astros and Pirates probably feel the same way I do.
KC's View: