retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I’m not sure what all the fuss about airport security is about.

Last weekend, my wife, daughter and I made our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Chicago. Our eldest son lives there, and it has become tradition for all of us - including our second son, who currently is going to school in Ohio - to converge there for what has become my favorite weekend and holiday of the year. Nobody has to cook, nobody has to eat turkey if they don't want to (everybody else ordered steak, I had salmon), and we spend a great couple of days just hanging out in one of our favorite cities.

On Thursday morning, we headed to the airport early to catch a 9 am flight. Warned about long security lines and potential pat-downs and x-ray screening, we got there in plenty of time to check bags and have a leisurely cup of coffee or two. And then gritted our teeth and walked down to LaGuardia security, which is awful under the best of circumstances.

And found almost no line. No pat-downs. No x-rays. Just the same old metal detectors and the same old take-off-your-shoes-and-don’t carry-liquids-on-the-plane level of security. Got on the plane, took off on time, landed on time, and were in downtown Chicago almost before we knew it.

Coming home, the same thing. Granted, as a United frequent flyer, I get access to the express lines, but it didn’t seem like there was any greater security on Saturday night than there was last time I was in O’Hare. The only difference during the trip home was that the plane had an amazing tailwind that got us into LaGuardia about 45 minutes early.

I was almost disappointed.

I went into the weekend thinking that there was at least a 50-50 chance that I was either going to be felt up or have naked pictures taken of me, and I haven’t had a weekend like that since college.

I’m fully in favor of not having an estate tax, of keeping the current repeal in place. But I just heard some Congressman on television saying that he was worried about people who would have to think twice about putting their loved ones on life support if they thought the estate tax would once again be put in place.

And all I could think to myself is that if someone has to think twice about life support for a loved one based on how much money they might inherit, doesn’t that really create a whole new definition for the phrase “loved one”?

Again, I agree with a permanent repeal of the estate tax. But I would hope that I wouldn’t start making life and death decisions based on whether there is one or not.

A couple of years ago, when MNB users contributed to a list of what they felt were the nation’s best hamburger joints, one of the most oft-mentioned places was Burgers, Shakes & Fries, which had a small location in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Well, last night, BSF opened a second location - less than a half mile from my house. It is a lot bigger, with about four or five times the seating capacity...and it even has a small bar, serving beer and wine. It was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy a draft beer while waiting for my burger (with cheddar, tomatoes and grilled onions).

Nice, and in the end, the thing that rescued the evening.

Someone once told me that the hardest thing for any retailer to do - the most challenging level of growth - is to go from one store to two. And last night sort of proved that. They ran out of hamburgers before 6 pm, and had to send to the Greenwich location to get more. And it took forever to get the food; there were some families that showed up with small children that were visibly frustrated, prepared to gnaw on the brand new tables. And they even ran out of paper towels in the men’s room.

That said, the burgers were pretty good. I think they’ll get the kinks out, and that most of the folks who were there last night will be forgiving and try again, maybe in about a month. (Not all, however. One of the employees apologized for the delays and noted that it was opening night to one man who was leaving with his children; the man, visibly annoyed, said, “That’s not my problem.” Ouch.)

I kept thinking last night that they could have solved - or at least effectively addressed - last night’s problems by doing two things. One, post a big sign that says, in essence, “It’s Opening Night, so please forgive us as we work hard to get things right.” Two, everybody who showed up last night could have been given a five or ten dollar coupon good for use at BSF at some future date, which would have taken the edge off the missteps.

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

KC's View: