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    Published on: February 14, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The New York Times reports that some hospitals and medical businesses “are adopting strict policies that make smoking a reason to turn away job applicants, saying they want to increase worker productivity, reduce health care costs and encourage healthier living.” According to the story, “there is no reliable data on how many businesses have adopted such policies. But people tracking the issue say there are enough examples to suggest the policies are becoming more mainstream, and in some states courts have upheld the legality of refusing to employ smokers. For example, hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, among others, stopped hiring smokers in the last year and more are openly considering the option.”

    The Times notes that “the policies reflect a frustration that softer efforts - like banning smoking on company grounds, offering cessation programs and increasing health care premiums for smokers - have not been powerful-enough incentives to quit ... Applications now explicitly warn of ‘tobacco-free hiring.’ job seekers must submit to urine tests for nicotine and new employees caught smoking face termination.

    “This shift - from smoke-free to smoker-free workplaces - has prompted sharp debate, even among anti-tobacco groups, over whether the policies establish a troubling precedent of employers intruding into private lives to ban a habit that is legal.”

    This is an eye-opening development on a number of fronts. Here are just some of the questions that occur to me (from both sides of the issue):

    • Aren’t these organizations essentially treating a legal substance as illegal?

    • On the other hand, smoking is a terribly unhealthy habit, and these are organizations that are supposed to be pro-health. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense that their employees reflect a healthy lifestyle? (I’ve always thought it both ironic and troubling when you see doctors and nurses outside a hospital grabbing a smoke; why would one trust any health-related advice that such people would give?)

    • However, if hospitals are going to stop hiring people who smoke, does that suggest that pretty soon they are going to stop hiring people who drink alcohol, or eat too much ice cream, or don’t eat enough vegetables? Where does this all logically end?

    • Then again, since high health care costs and medical problems can affect the cost of running a business, doesn’t it actually make sense for companies to do their best to hire the healthiest people they can - and establish that a maintaining a certain base line of healthy living is a requirement for staying employed?

    I can argue this both ways ... and I happen to be someone who is about as anti-smoking as one could be. (I’ve mentioned this many times on MNB. My mom died of lung cancer 13 years next month, after smoking for some four decades. She tried to quit many times, but was addicted. She finally did quit, and had been smoke-free for several years when she was first diagnosed; as Dr. Parker liked to point out, the ways of the Lord are often dark and never pretty. And it makes me happy to think that there may be a special circle of hell reserved for tobacco executives.)

    There is something a little troubling about penalizing people for doing something that is, while incredibly stupid and self-destructive, still legal.

    On the other hand, I cannot blame companies for wanting to purge this habit - and its associated costs, which can have enormous impact on a business.

    And here’s the simple truth. If I were hiring someone, I would not hire a smoker. Could not do it. Would not do it.

    I wonder how many other people and companies are going to start thinking the same way.

    That’s our Monday Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    CNN reports that Mike Gilliland, 52, who co-founded Wild Oats and recently has been making a comeback as CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market, was arrested last week and accused of soliciting sex online from a girl who identified herself as a minor. The official charge is felony child prostitution, according to Phoenix police.

    According to the story, Gilliland is charged with arranging to meet the underage female, drive her to a hotel, and pay to have sex with her.

    Gilliland resigned from the CEO position and from the company’s board of directors, though he reportedly told the board “"that he believes he is not guilty of the charges brought against him, and that he expects to be exonerated.”

    "Sunflower appreciates the respect that Mr. Gilliland has shown for the company by his action, so that his personal affairs will not affect the company," acting CEO Chris Sherrell said in the statement. Sherrell will continue for the time being as president/COO of Sunflower.

    Sunflower, which has been promoting itself as marrying low costs with natural and organic foods, was just last year awarded the 2010 Hot Retailers Award from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), which rewards companies said to be among the most original and innovative in the industry. Its motto has been “Serious Food, Silly Prices.”
    KC's View:
    Sad story, and not just because it sullies the reputation of a previously respected businessman. If he did it, of course, he deserves to have his reputation sullied...and it will be a shame that the tarnish also will end up rubbing off, in some measure, on the company he ran.

    This story also reminds us all of the dark side of the internet. As if we needed to be reminded.

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    In California, the Press-Enterprise has a report observing the 75th anniversary of Stater Bros., in which chairman/CEO Jack Brown is quoted as saying that he senses an economic turnaround is taking place.

    “They say you need food, shelter and love to exist," Brown tells the paper. "I think you need hope, and I see a little more hope out there now."

    Stater Bros. has followed what Brown says has been the deliberate strategy of lowered profits, as the company cut prices and margins as a way of maintaining traffic even during tough times. “We knew our sales would go down because our customers didn't have the money, but our feeling was that, when things turned around ... I didn't want to go look for my customers," Brown says.

    That’s where things have been. Here’s where the story suggests things will continue:

    “Brown estimated he's seen 20 grocery chains disappear during his tenure, and he predicts consolidation will continue. Up to 40 stores in the Stater Bros. market area could come available this year, he said. ‘The major chains are looking at every store and they're drawing a line.’”
    KC's View:
    Interesting that Jack Brown thinks that more consolidation is coming. One thing I keep hearing - always in whispers and never for attribution - is speculation that Stater Bros. is a likely target for acquisition at some point, especially when Brown, who is in his early seventies, steps down from his leadership position. Again, it is just whispers and speculation. But it’s there.

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    The Associated Press reports that Walmart was legally allowed to fire an employee for drug use - even if the drug use was medical marijuana that was legal in the state where it was used.

    According to the story, “U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said the law, approved by voters in 2008, bars authorities from prosecuting people for marijuana use but doesn't tell private employers what to do.”

    The employee in question, Joseph Casias, a former associate of the year at the store where he worked, was fired by Walmart after “he tested positive for marijuana in 2009. He has a medical-marijuana card and smokes pot to alleviate symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) plans to appeal.

    The AP writes that “Wal-Mart said it was pleased with the decision and sympathetic to Casias' medical problems. ‘We have to consider the overall safety of our customers and associates, including Mr. Casias,’ spokesman Greg Rossiter said. ‘Until further guidance is available, we'll always default to what we believe is the safest environment’.”
    KC's View:
    The firing may have been legally permissible, but it certainly won’t win Walmart any Mother Theresa Awards.

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Supreme Court has ruled that “retailers may no longer collect ZIP Codes from credit card customers, except in limited cases.

    “The high court determined that ZIP Codes were ‘personal identification information’ that merchants can't demand from customers under a state consumer privacy law. Merchants typically use ZIP Codes to determine where their customers live and for other marketing purposes ... The ruling still allows ZIP Codes to be collected under certain circumstances, such as at gas station pumps where the information is requested for security reasons and in transactions that involve shipping. The law also allows ZIP Codes to be requested when a credit card is used as a deposit or for a cash advance, the court said.”
    KC's View:
    I cannot even count the number of times over the years I have been asked for my zip code when checking out ... but I never interpreted it as a demand, but rather a request that would allow the retailer to market to me better.

    Actually, a retailer with a decent card program that actually is designed to demonstrate loyalty to the shopper would not need to ask, but that’s another issue.

    Published on: February 14, 2011 has a summation of Walmart’s current efforts to establish a significant presence in major urban centers such as Chicago, New York and Washington, DC., noting that neither backers nor opponents of its plans seem likely to back down. Walmart’s position is that it will provide jobs, access to healthy food, will generate sales tax revenue and will not hurt local businesses.

    The story quotes Matt Ryan, executive director of New York Jobs with Justice and Urban Agenda, on why he continues to fight Walmart’s plans for New York City: “With our city struggling with persistent unemployment and 3 million New Yorkers lacking access to fresh produce in their neighborhoods, the jobs problem and food desert problem are unquestionably real. But asking Walmart to fix those problems is like asking a fox to fix a henhouse.”

    And, it quotes a BBC story on a study into what has happened so far in Chicago:

    “Professor David Merriman, who led the research, saw no evidence of an increase in sales in Wal-Mart's vicinity, based on tax revenues in the store's postal code area. Of all the existing businesses within four square miles of the store, a quarter closed within two years of Wal-Mart's opening day. ‘Adding Wal-Mart is not an effective strategy to increase employment or economic development,’ says Prof Merriman, and cites other national studies with similar results.”

    Reuters reports that South Africa’s Competition Commission has approved the proposed acquisition by Walmart of 51 percent of Massmart, which operates a variety of store formats and brands throughout the sub-Saharan region, and which Walmart sees as a strategic move to help it establish a beachhead in Africa.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that “Safeway Inc., Supervalu Inc.’s Albertson’s and Kroger Co.‘s Ralph’s supermarket chains won rehearing of a U.S. appellate court ruling that their 2003 accord to share profits during strikes violated antitrust law.

    “A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in San Francisco in August overturned a lower court ruling that the agreement, reached during a conflict with the companies’ unions, didn’t violate antitrust law.

    “A larger panel of judges will rehear the case, the court said in an order today that didn’t give a reason. The supermarket companies had argued that the agreement, which called for sharing profits if any of the three were singled out for a strike, wasn’t anticompetitive because it lowered prices for consumers by reducing labor costs.” The agreement was implemented during a 141-day strike and lockout.

    “California sued the three grocers in 2004, saying the so- called mutual strike assistance agreement violated federal antitrust laws and led to higher prices.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story saying that “despite extensive regulations governing certain areas of food processing, there are scant data available to the public about what really goes into some of their favorite restaurant meals. And what information is available - often on fast-food chains' websites - often omits crucial details.”

    In addition, “Restaurants' food-content claims can be difficult to verify. When asked for the composition of several of their own dishes, most of the nearly 20 chains contacted by The Wall Street Journal declined to share numbers, citing the proprietary nature of their formulas. Federal regulations don't require restaurants to disclose such information, and there are no rules stipulating minimum meat content in menu items. While determining nutrient information, such as calories and protein, is relatively straightforward, food-testing laboratories say they can't definitively identify the composition of prepared food because the cooking process blends ingredients in a way that is tough to undo.”

    The story comes as Taco Bell deals with a lawsuit charging that there isn’t enough meat in its taco meat mixture to actually qualify as beef; Taco Bell has said that its meat mixture is actually 88 percent beef, plus seasonings and other ingredients.
    KC's View:
    Apparently these fast food chains have not received the MNB transparency memo. But ignoring the need for transparency in 2011 and beyond is risky, since pretty much anyone can get a product analyzed and then post the information on the internet for everyone to see.

    Being transparent about what is in one’s products isn’t just a bow to reality, but also can be a competitive advantage. Supermarket retailers, for example, could now be selling fresh taco shells, 100 percent ground beef, seasonings, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese ... and marketing it with lines like “Taco Bell won’t tell you what’s in their tacos. We will. We’ll help you make them. And they’ll taste like actual food.”

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    The Buffalo News reports that “New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets released a study Thursday contending that wine sales in grocery stores would result in recurring annual revenues of $71 million by the fifth year, generated by licensing fees and existing excise taxes. The group is backed by grocers, farmers, grape-growers, some wineries and other businesses.

    “The study, prepared by Archstone Consulting, says that the state would collect one-time potential revenue of about $347 million through franchise fees and that 6,386 net new jobs would be created in the first year of wine sales in grocery stores, from increased employment in stores, wineries and businesses that support the industry.”

    According to the story, “Proponents also contend that wine sales in New York State would rise by vastly increasing the number of retail outlets where the product could be sold ... Liquor stores have lobbied hard against permitting wine sales in grocery stores, saying that it would put liquor stores’ jobs, sales and survival in peril.”
    KC's View:
    I have a local wine guy who has no problem with supermarkets selling wine. (They cannot in Connecticut, where I live.) He says that such a move would actually make it easier for him to establish his differential advantages, and that aggressive retailers have nothing to fear from such a change.

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Starbucks plans to make a “big splash” in the single-serve coffee market as soon as it wrests control of its packaged coffee business from Kraft Foods.

    According to the story, “Experts say that any significant effort by Starbucks is likely to transform the $509 million single-serve coffee market in the U.S. by bringing more consumers into the fold. According to Euromonitor International, single-serve coffee accounted for only 7 percent of the fresh coffee market in 2010. But that's up from 2 percent in 2008, and it is expected to hit 10 percent in 2012 ... Lynn Dornblaser, director of consumer-products insight at Mintel International, said a meaningful Starbucks entry could be a ‘catalytic event’ in single-serve coffee.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    Barron’s is out with its ranking of the “world’s most respected companies,” as chosen by US money managers - and Apple Inc. is at the top of the list, followed by, Berkshire Hathaway, IBM, and McDonald’s. Rounding out the top ten were Google, 3M, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble.

    Walmart was the highest-ranked retailer on the list, at number 18. It also was the only retailer on the list.

    According to the Los Angeles Timespiece, “Just to show how quickly respect can be lost, last year's No. 2 company was Johnson & Johnson, which this year sank to 25th. J&J has been grappling over the last year with a rash of quality-control problems that have hit its drug, contact-lens and medical-device businesses.”

    The four primary components generating respect, according to the study, are “a sound business strategy,” “strong management,” “ethical business practices,” and “competitive edge.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    How far the mighty have two former giants of American retailing face ignominious changes to their business status.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Blockbuster, unable to come to an agreement with creditors to help it emerge from bankruptcy, now plans to put itself up for sales - a move that could generate as much as $300 million.

    The timing of a sale could be driven by a concern among creditors that “the company's value is eroding in bankruptcy court, which the chain entered in September. Without clear ownership or direction, Blockbuster remains hindered in efforts to compete with Netflix Inc. and other rivals, the people familiar with the matter said.”

    And, the Journal reports that Borders Group “is in the final stages of preparing a bankruptcy filing, clinching a long fall for a company with humble beginnings that helped change the way Americans buy books but failed to keep pace with the digital transformation rocking every corner of the media landscape ... The troubled Ann Arbor, Mich., bookseller could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection as soon as Monday or Tuesday, paving the way for hundreds of store closings and thousands of job losses, said people familiar with the matter.”
    KC's View:
    Anyone who thinks they are operating retail formats that will live forever because of their ubiquity and history needs to pay attention to the fates of Borders and Blockbuster. There are none so blind...

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    • The Seattle Times reports that Groupon, the online company that combines a kind of social networking with targeted coupon distribution, has elected Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, to its board of directors. The move comes as a Seattle venture capital firm co-founded by Schultz has invested an undisclosed amount in Groupon, which also reportedly is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO).

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that MillerCoors, hoping to beat back a slide in its beer business, “will roll out new cans and bottles of Coors Light, its top-selling beer, in the spring. The brew will include an indicator showing drinkers when it has reached a ‘super cold’ temperature. The story notes that such packaging changes have helped boost sales in the past.

    • The BBC reports that the John Lewis pension trust, which owns the Waitrose supermarket chain, is selling off its 10.4 percent stake in Ocado, the UK pure-play online grocer.

    According to the story, “Ocado mainly sells Waitrose products, but some analysts expect the two to become competitors as John Lewis expands its own grocery business.”

    • The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Target Corp. is partnering with Lady Gaga “to deliver an exclusive deluxe edition of her latest album, "Born This Way," the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports. Fans can pre-order the album and find a free download of her first single, the album’s title track, on Target’s website from 8 a.m. Friday through midnight Feb. 26.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    Reuters reports that Brenda Galgano, CFO and treasurer for the bankrupt Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), is leaving the company, effective March 27.

    The departure was mentioned in an A&P regulatory filing. No reason was given.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 14, 2011

    Responding to last week’s story about the owner of a California medical marijuana shop who plans to expand into groceries in order to grow his business, one MNB user wrote:

    While I like your suggestion of "Munchies and More" for the marijuana dispensary, I like "Weed and Feed" even more!!

    We had a piece last week about CEO churn, with the suggestion from experts being that CEOs are going to have a lot less time to prove themselves these days, and will face enormous heat if they cannot get immediate financial results.

    My comment:

    I’m sure the analysts are right, but does it strike anyone else as worrisome that CEOs are going to be judged on the basis of short-term financial results rather than long-term equity building? Isn’t this, in part, how the economy got into trouble to begin with - people and companies focused on short-term profits rather than long-term viability and credibility?

    One MNB user wrote:

    The timing is long overdue for CEO’s to have a long-term, demand-creations revenue growth mindset vs. short term profit orientation. If the trend is, as you say, to value different CEO talents & skills, is it also time to upgrade existing Board members with those who understand these implications? This trend may also require the Chairman to evaluate Board member value-add differently, don’t you think?

    From another MNB user:

    I support your view.  Long term equity growth is the job of a CEO and a Board.  The COO title is where the shorter term results are more safely addressed, in my humble opinion.

    But another MNB user disagreed:

    Why shouldn’t  CEO’s be held to the same standard as those that they supervise.  In other words: “What have you done for me lately?”

    On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

    Kevin – a personal anecdote for you, and a heads-up for the supermarkets that want to play in the kids meal space.

    A couple of years ago we were headed out of town.  We picked up our 5-year old who immediately said “I’m hungry”.   In the interest of time, I lobbied for a chicken nugget Happy Meal.  My wife, being the health conscious one in the family wanted to go to the really special grocery store with the gigantic prepared food section across the street and get some “healthy” food.  She won, and 15 minutes later came out with $35 worth of stuff – chicken strips at $7.99 lb, fruit, carrots and milk.

    You can imagine her horror when she looked back at our daughter (who was happily devouring the $7.99 chicken) and saw pink juice dripping from the pink chicken strip onto her hand. The chicken was browned on the outside and raw on the inside, cooked by someone for some period of time at some too-high temperature.

    After sterilizing my daughter’s hands, my wife called the prepared foods manager at the store to warn him that his chicken strips were not cooked.  He ARGUED with her, insisting that she was obviously mistaken.  Rather than calling him a name, as I would have probably done, she calmly asked him to go to his case, pick any chicken strip and either cut into it or take a big bite, whichever he preferred.  He argued with her all the way, up to the point where he cut into it and got the pink juice effects.  There was a muted “oh my”, and then he became very apologetic and started offering free stuff to fend off the salmonella-poisoning lawsuit that had suddenly blinked into life in his head.

    My point is this:  Whether or not Michelle Obama or any of the food police want to admit it, there is tremendous value in the rigorous portion control and standardized cooking procedures that McDonald's and the other fast food operators have put into place to ensure that the chicken strips are NEVER undercooked, and until the supermarkets put the same types of procedures into place, they will not be able to capitalize on the kids meal markets.  People may gamble with their own stomachs, but will always choose safety for their kids.  We can argue all day long about the long-term health implications, but “no diarrhea in the car today” is a pretty powerful motivator.


    I keep jumping on my soapbox about the end of video rental stores and departments, but MNB user Mike Moon has a different take:

    Last year we re-installed movie rentals in my stores after over a decade of not having them. We got out of the business back when VHS was the format and the titles were $70 each to purchase. It was a revenue-share program and didn't work well for us primarily due to the high inventory costs (not enough new release titles each week frustrated customers, and then the store's exposure to the vendor when a movie was rented and not returned).

    When the local video store closed down last year, we saw an opportunity to get back into the business. I had been asked by my customers to try to get a Red Box for our community, and I and my wholesale company tried to make contact but could never get a return call. I explored other kiosk operators, but couldn't justify the time and trouble for a 10c profit per movie (1.00 rentals @ 10% or less margin). I contacted my old movie vendor, installed a 600 title DVD section, and have been very successful. Revenue share profit adds about $1000 month to our bottom line for very little time and trouble. The DVD's are much cheaper (about $15) than the VHS versions, so we can have more movies, use less space, and our exposure is much less if a title is not returned.

    A decade ago pay-per-view was on the horizon and it was going to be the death of movie rentals. This was a small factor in our decision to exit the VHS business. Flash forward to today: I have a Netflix subscription and have PPV opportunities through my satellite provider, but I still watch a "take-home" movie 90% of the time. What I have discovered is that I like to browse for a movie. I like to read the boxes, be reminded of the movie trailers, see who the stars are, etc. While the take-home movie business is no doubt shrinking quickly, I think this fact alone will keep the take-home business alive, especially in other business formats that rent movies on the side.

    A number of people last week, commenting on my story about the cockfight where one rooster turned on and stabbed his owner, opening an artery and killing him, said they thought the same fate should have fallen to Michael Vick.

    MNB user Samuel Copeland thought this was a little much:

    I don’t understand why many people (in my subjective, small sample sized opinion) in this country (or perhaps humans in general) can’t or won’t strive for rehabilitation.  It both amazes and disappoints me to read that folks would like to see Michael Vick killed as retribution for his actions.  Why? Because then there will be “justice”? I am no Biblical scholar, so I don’t know anything about “eye for an eye” except that you simple have two people with poor depth perception, not one. Why not change Vick’s attitude so that he can do good in this world?

    Every human being in this world has the potential to do great things.  Doing something bad, which Michael Vick did and I in no way condone (I am, in fact, a vegetarian …who doesn’t want to see all carnivores eaten), does not eliminate that potential for good.  Rehabilitation is possible. I don’t know the reasons that make it successful, I just know it’s possible and it happens. It may not happen as often as we like, but that shouldn’t deter us from seeking it out.  As a result, Michael Vick may now donate his time or money to the ASPCA.  He may donate it to the UNCF.  He may just convince a kid to work hard, get a football scholarship and go to college.  Regardless of what good he does (I’m hoping he now does more good than harm),I am hopeful the world will in some way, no matter how big or small, be better because Michael Vick was not killed by a fighting dog.

    I would love to link this to problems with rehabilitation and our prison systems, but in the sake of time and the need to do more research to present a more cogent argument,  I will simply leave it with a quote I love by Eleanor Roosevelt,  “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I was more than a little disappointed with the comments you posted about Michael Vick. His transgressions viewed in isolation are of course horrendous, but that's not reality. The reality is that you have to view his story in a larger cultural context with implications for everyone.

    There are forces at work in Vick's past which, I'd imagine, most of your readership have not been exposed to. In contrast to the comments you posted comparing how fitting it would be if Vick befell a similar fate as that of the cock fighting ringleader, consider this quote from a Sports Illustrated article on Vick, saying, "You'd be hard put to find many athletes, including his opponents, who aren't rooting for him to succeed, and the fact that many are black men, out of hardscrabble places touched daily by crime and the prison system, is no coincidence." His receiver, Jason Avant, explains that, "Guys look at him not as a quarterback; we look! at him as an inspiration. We look at him as a guy who has been through hell and back—and he's conquered it."

    There's much more to the Michael Vick story to consider than what he did to dogs...

    And, from another MNB user:

    It amazes me how much crap Vick is taking compared to Big Ben.

    I do not condone what Vick did but he served his time and is trying to start over. His crime did not go unpunished. I wonder how many of the people who bash Vick live a perfect life.

    If I had to pick . . .  I would take someone messing with dogs compared to daughters. What Big Ben did compared to Vick is not even in the same crime league.

    No, I am not an Eagles fan . . .  just someone who knows everyone I know including myself has made mistakes or had a problem or two when they were younger.

    I originally thought that the discussion of the Chick-fil-A story would sort of come to a natural end last week, but there were some more emails that I thought were worth posting.

    (The privately held fast food chicken chain, well-known for a conservative religious culture that goes so far as to close its stores on Sundays, has come under fire from some gay rights groups for having contributed food to an anti-gay marriage group. The company says it is not anti-gay, though it does believe in the “biblical view of marriage.” And analysts say that the company’s culture may make it difficult to expand to national proportions, where its beliefs will be seen as unacceptable by some.)

    One MNB user wrote:

    Chick-fil-A is a private company.  If done within the framework of the law, they are free to make any donations or public support of any group or cause to which they choose.  The result of such support will then subject them to public reaction, be it positive, neutral or negative.  The real question is whether it causes people to avoid their stores.  I imagine there are those who feel strongly enough to avoid them.  I would further imagine that there are those who would avoid Chick-fil-A if there as an equal or better alternative.  I include myself in this group and it is a scary proposition for chick Filet.  They currently fill a niche which isn’t duplicated (high quality fast food chicken).  Will they lose customers to new competition faster than a company that isn’t taking their stands on these issues?

    On a separate note, opposition to gay marriage baffles me.  I would love to hear a politician say, “I support gay marriage.  There should be no law restricting it.  I also support freedom of religion.  Any gay marriage laws would certainly not require a given religious group to perform or allow gay marriage.” I personally would refer to the caveat as the bigoted-homophobia exception, though I imagine a smart politician would come up with something else.

    A MNB reader stated:

    Is it not possible to be morally opposed to the gay agenda of equating gay relationships with marriage?  If the gay community can only “feel the love” by others delegitimizing the strongly held moral beliefs of those who disagree with them, then perhaps that is one of the reasons that they do not “feel the love.”
    Of course it’s possible to be opposed to the idea of gay marriage.  But don’t be surprised when people see it as a morally indefensible position.  This is unique to the gay marriage issue.  For example I would never say that about another hot button moral/religious issue, abortion.  While I am pro-choice, I certainly cannot tell someone they are wrong to be pro-life (I’ll even use their term).  Gay marriage is not abortion.  Unlike abortion, where they are fighting for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves, here they are fighting for something that does not affect them.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    In our post-modern world, where everyone is encouraged to live out what they believe, I find it glaringly contradictory that Chick-fil-A is being berated for doing literally just that.

    If pro-gay groups/individuals assume they can't be criticized or opposed for doing what they believe is right, why should Chick-fil-A have to behave any differently with its beliefs, whether related to this topic or others?

    In that way, pro-gay parties are behaving just as close mindedly, if not more so, than Chick-fil-A.

    Two things.

    One is that I’m not sure I would agree that Chick-fil-A has been “berated” for its stance. On the contrary, I think that this has been a largely high-minded discussion of what happens when culture and commerce meet, and what the impact can be.

    Two, nobody has suggested, best I can tell, that Chick-fil-A had no right to give food to a group that is anti- gay marriage. What has been said is that in today’s climate, such decisions have consequences.

    And MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

    I think Robert B. Parker (as Spenser) said it best when he told someone, “I don’t care if you have carnal knowledge of a Chevy Tahoe, as long as the Tahoe is a consenting adult”.

    I believe as you so eloquently stated that what people do in bed or with each other is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.  The only time it becomes my business is if it directly affects me, which I don’t think will be happening.

    I do however think gay people have an agenda, and it’s the same agenda most of us have.  I think they, like most of us want society to treat them with respect, to not look down its collective nose at them and not discriminate against them because of their sexual orientation.

    Now for the part some will call blasphemous, a good friend of mine once said that not all good people are Christian and for certain not all good people go to church because of they did we’d have to hold services 24 hours a day 7 days a week to accommodate them all.  Some of the things you’ve said this week reminded me of this.

    And finally, from MNB user Gary Harris:

    Thanks as always, Kevin, for the discussion. Religion, politics, business, movies, obscure boomer references…it is ALL good!

    Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

    (Besides, it is the only thing I’m any good at.)
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