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    Published on: June 16, 2011

    Notes and comment from the Content Guy...

    MNB’s Exclusive, On-The-Scene Coverage of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit is sponsored by TCC Global, a leader in Best Customer Marketing

    If these links don’t work, paste the following into your browser: http://www.bestcustomermarketing.com

    BARCELONA - Sober-minded.

    That’s probably the best way to describe the first day of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit taking place here this week, as senior executives from global retailing and manufacturing businesses convene for their annual confab.

    And the poster boy for sober-minded thinking was Lester Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, who basically suggested that the global economy and the world’s environmental issues are on a collision course, and that the result will not be a pretty one.

    From an economic perspective, he said, experts say that the global economy will double in the next 15 years - but they do not factor into their thinking the very real possibility that the earth’s resources will not be able to support such economic expansion. “No civilization survives the destruction of its natural support systems,” Brown said, arguing that food is actually the weak link in the global infrastructure. “We are only one poor harvest away from chaos in the world grain markets,” he said.

    Brown noted that recent environmental and climate issues have created depleted grain stocks, and that competition for what remains between developed countries and undeveloped countries could create global instability. Add to that water shortages - he said that half the world’s people live in places where “water tables are dropping and aquifers are being depleted” - and the stage is being set for a major disaster.

    The assessment of the world’s current situation was not entirely bleak. Brown did say that there are things that government and industry can do - becoming more efficient, moving to high speed rail to replace air travel, switching to electric motors in place of internal combustion engines, investing in geo-thermal and wind technologies, and changing the tax system so that income taxes go down and taxes on carbon usage go up. But, Brown said, such initiatives need to pursued with alacrity, in the same way the US mobilized during World War II, because we are “in a race between tipping points.”

    “Time may be our scarcest resource,” Brown said. “We don’t know what the point of no return is.” Or when.

    Speaking of tipping points ... the fragility of the global economy and how it is tied to the environment was vividly illustrated by two presentations about the current situation in Japan, and how companies are recovering from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster there. (The CGF Global Summit was supposed to take place in Tokyo this year, but was moved to Barcelona after events made a Japanese summit problematic. However, CGF has committed to bringing the annual meeting to Japan in 2013, though I talked to more than a few people who thought that perhaps CGF should have been a little less specific about the date.)

    In other CGF news from day one...

    • Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble’s chairman/president/CEO, made the point that the food industry has a responsibility to use better business practices to help people build better lives; he noted that if all the assets of the CGF members were combined, it would create the world’s fifth biggest economy. “What industry has a bigger responsibility than ours?” he said.

    • At a press conference yesterday afternoon, CGF revealed that its board of directors has approved three new resolutions that “advocate for empowering consumers with products and services and meaningful information to help them make informed choices and support healthier diet and lifestyle, and physical activity.

    “The collaborative work will be carried out by a diverse working group of industry CEOs and Chairmen, as well as expert stakeholders from outside the industry. The working group is led by Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé Group and Dick Boer, CEO of Ahold. It addresses three main areas of work: 1) access and availability of products and services that support healthier diets and lifestyles, 2) transparent, fact-based information that helps consumers to make informed choices communication, 3) educational programs to raise awareness and inspire healthier lifestyles.”

    The resolutions are designed to support voluntary behavior by member companies, and to support a “convergence of initiatives” already taking place in some countries by some companies.

    All of which sounds impressive....though if the global economy collides with global environmental issues, it isn’t going to matter much if we’ve been eating right. Now that the resolutions have been made, it will be up to CGF to figure out how to implement them and define benchmarks. Which could be as complicated as solving the global grain issue.

    While the CGF Forum considers issues of global importance, retailers all over the world still have to cope with the day-to-day challenges of doing business. How to build customer traffic and loyalty. How to generate higher sales and higher average transactions. How to differentiate oneself from the store across the street or down the road.

    That’s where TCC Global comes in. For many of the companies attending the CGF Forum, TCC has been a proven marketing partner, helping them develop meaningful and demonstrably effective programs that change shopper behavior. Because that’s the name of the game when it comes to improving store-level bottom line performance.

    To learn more, click here.



    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart - at long last - has decided to ramp up the expansion of its chain of Walmart Market stores, the grocery store format that used to be known as the Walmart Neighborhood Market.

    Bill Simon, the company’s US stores chief, said an an investor conference that while Walmart has 185 Market stores open now, it expects to have as many as 300 open within a little more than a year.

    According to the story, Walmart has decided that its return on investment (ROI) on the Market format is roughly the same as for its supercenters, and will be a good way for the retailer to goose its stagnant sales performance.

    The decision comes as the company has opened three Walmart Express small stores, which Simon said he is “pleased” with so far.
    KC's View:
    There is a fair amount of skepticism out there about Walmart’s current responses to its competitive issues, but I actually think that Walmart can get all this small store stuff right. I also think that these small stores are part of a broader strategy that integrates their operation with the company’s desire to compete more effectively with Amazon in the virtual space.

    These small stores are not just there to provide an alternative to Walmart’s own superstores and all the other competitors emerging in the marketplace. They also are there to be pick-up depots for products ordered online from the company, and that’s where the Bentonville Behemoth really is placing its bets.

    If Walmart can create a truly integrated system, with its physical and virtual businesses working hand in hand, providing products to people when they want them, where they want them, how they want them, and at a price that shoppers deem to be appropriate ... well, I think that is the 21st century endgame.

    Not to suggest supercenters are becoming obsolete, but they may not be the primary engine of growth for Walmart’s future. I think there is something far more ambitious at work here ... if leadership can get the strategy right, hire the right people, and give the concept room to breathe and grow.

    Where Walmart has to be careful is in making sure, even as it pursues these initiatives, that it doesn’t disenfranchise its traditional customer base.

    There is a story on CNBC about how some analysts suspect that Walmart is playing games with its pricing.

    "Walmart appears to be driving its customer base to spend more dollars through purchasing larger package sizes, while it may not be offering the perceived reward of more actual savings on a per unit or per ounce basis," Mark Montagna, an analyst with AvondalePartners, tells CNBC. "After adjusting for product sizes, we found Dollar General prices at parity with Walmart."

    Customers aren’t stupid. If they think they’re being played, it won’t take long for them to move away from Walmart to the surfeit of alternatives now available to them.

    What Walmart has to do is simple. It has to preserve its price reputation and perceived advantages while at the same time define new advantages that will allow it to maintain its leadership position in the marketplace.

    Okay. Maybe it isn’t all that simple.

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    by Kate McMahon

    This one’s for all the dads out there, especially those who have logged significant hours at the stove.

    Though this week’s Father’s Day promotions tout “gifts for the griller,” sites across the internet and a new book are toasting the Dad who does it all in the kitchen. Think of him as a culinary Renaissance Man, who can sift, sauté, choose the perfect artisanal brew or fine wine, and whip up a healthy meal that even a finicky four-year-old would relish. With wit and humor.

    Certainly the ascendancy of the all-powerful “mommy bloggers” has commanded the limelight in social media and marketing circles. So today we turn to the paterfamilias and their words that reveal a more complete snapshot of today’s family, where work, shopping and cooking really are shared endeavors.

    Where better to start than John Donohue’s entertaining new book, “Man With a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families” (Algonquin, $15.95). Donohue, 42, a New Yorker editor and cartoonist, is also the author of a very witty blog, StayAtStoveDad.com. For his book, he has collected tales, musings and more than 60 recipes from an eclectic array of contributors including uber chef/restaurateur Mario Batali, writer/foodie Mark Bittman and novelist Stephen King, along with “everyday heroes” from across the country. They choose to cook for a variety of reasons – sheer enjoyment, to curry favor with their spouse, or to keep the family budget in check during difficult economic times.

    Donohue notes that cooking went from a pleasurable sideline to a necessity for him after the birth of two daughters and ensuing lack of sleep, domestic stress and financial instability: “I ducked into the kitchen. I went in a coward and came out a conquering hero.”

    He cites studies confirming that more men are sharing family meal preparation responsibilities, and not just “stunt cooking” for big occasions or “manning” the grill. As award-winning chef and author Mark Kulansky writes, “Sorry, fella, it doesn’t count unless you are doing it every day.”

    Being part of the every day domestic mix runs through ManOfTheHouse.com, a lifestyle website launched by Procter & Gamble. Food preparation and health are major components of the site, along with advice and forums on home repair, relationships and child-rearing.

    And delivering healthy meals to veggie-resistant kids on a daily basis peppers the commentary in notable “Dad blogs” such as:

    • ShortOrderDad.com
    • Realmendriveminivans.com
    • Menwholiketocook.blogspot.com
    • DadStreet.com.

    Though not Dad-specific, two other sites definitely worth perusing are Foodrepublic.com, which aims to make each reader “a better cook, a healthier eater, a more astute imbiber, a smarter man” and the Eat Like A Man blog on Esquire.com. Both are excellent windows into what is important to men who know their way around the kitchen and the wine cellar.

    There are two takeaways here:

    For retailers, marketers and service providers, it’s a reminder that family dynamics and economics are constantly evolving. To best serve your consumer, you need to get to know them, their passions and their budgets, and strive to connect with them. And social media provides a myriad of opportunities to do just that.

    For families, it’s a reminder that preparing meals is about more than putting food on the table or achieving nutritional balance. As Donohue said in an interview, “Food is a metaphor for love.”

    To every Dad at the stove, Happy Father’s Day.


    Comments? Send me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    Coming just as Ron Johnson, Apple’s retail chief, is leaving the company to become CEO for JC Penney, the Wall Street Journal has a piece about the culture, art and science that go into running Apple’s 326 retail stores all over the world. (The inside look is based on “confidential training manuals, a recording of a store meeting and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.”)

    Some excerpts:

    • Apple’s store secrets include “intensive control of how employees interact with customers, scripted training for on-site tech support and consideration of every store detail down to the pre-loaded photos and music on demo devices.”

    • “With their airy interiors and attractive lighting, Apple's stores project a carefree and casual atmosphere. Yet Apple keeps a tight lid on how they operate. Employees are ordered to not discuss rumors about products, technicians are forbidden from prematurely acknowledging widespread glitches and anyone caught writing about the Cupertino, Calif., company on the Internet is fired, according to current and former employees.”

    • “Apple's control of the customer experience extends down to the minutest details. The store's confidential training manual tells in-store technicians exactly what to say to customers it describes as emotional: ‘Listen and limit your responses to simple reassurances that you are doing so. 'Uh-huh' 'I understand,' etc.’

    “Apple employees who are six minutes late in their shifts three times in six months may be let go. While there are no sales quotas, employees must sell service packages with devices, according to former employees. Those who don't sell enough are re-trained or moved to another position, depending on the store.”

    • “Working for an Apple store can be a competitive process usually requiring at least two rounds of interviews. Applicants are questioned about their leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as their enthusiasm for Apple products, say several current and former Apple store employees. While most retailers have to seek out staff, retail experts say many Apple stores are flooded with applicants.

    “Once hired, employees are trained extensively. Recruits are drilled in classes that apply Apple's principles of customer service. Back on the sales floor, new hires must shadow more experienced colleagues and aren't allowed to interact with customers on their own until they're deemed ready. That can be a couple of weeks or even longer.”

    • “Apple's retail success is fueled to a large extent by demand for the company's products. Retail analysts say many of Apple's advantages over rivals such as Best Buy are technical: It sells a single brand, has far fewer products and has only a few hundred stores compared to Best Buy's more than 4,000. As the company continues to expand, some analysts expect it to face more pressure to consistently execute good customer service. Some former employees say they have already seen the quality of Apple retail staff decline as the retail network has expanded and has fewer enthusiastic fans to choose from.”
    KC's View:
    This is a fascinating piece, and while some of the details are a little creepy, they are totally to be expected from a company that seems to reflect not just founder Steve Jobs’ obsession with minutiae, but also his belief that Apple products - and services, as it turns out - need to be utterly user friendly.

    I don’t know about you, but most of the elements of the Apple retailing experience that would make it difficult to emulate are some of the things that I like best about shopping there as a consumer. (I’ve never felt pressured to buy a service plan, by the way. Ever.)

    Keep in mind that, as the Journal reports, “more people now visit Apple's 326 stores in a single quarter than the 60 million who visited Walt Disney Co.'s four biggest theme parks last year.”

    Generate that kind of traffic, and you’d better have a strong infrastructure to make it work.

    I also think there is a lesson to be learned in here about how difficult it is to emulate the Apple Store. After all, Microsoft has tried - to be clear, I’ve yet to see one in person - but does not seem to have cracked the code yet.

    And the Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is revamping its 30 retail stores, opening a new prototype that, “with hardwood floors and sleek lighting fixtures, echoes Apple's airy retail concept.” The company calls the new format Sony Style, and says they are lifestyle stores, not electronics stores.

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    Someone sent me a copy of the Bottom Line Secrets newsletter, which had a piece suggesting that shopping cart handles in supermarkets is likely to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria from fecal matter and contaminated raw foods.

    According to the piece, “The finding comes from researchers at the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at The University of Arizona in Tucson. Previous studies had shown that seating children in shopping carts increases their risk for infection with salmonella and campylobacter bacteria, each of which can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea that last for a week (or longer in people with weakened immune systems). This time, researchers set out to= see just how dirty shopping cart seats and handles really are. To do that, they swabbed the handles and seats of 85 shopping carts randomly selected from parking lots of grocery stores in San Francisco... Los Angeles... Atlanta... Portland, Oregon... and Sioux City, Iowa, and tested the samples they had gathered.

    “What they found: Coliform bacteria (common in soil, on vegetation and in the feces of animals) were present in high amounts on 72% of the carts... and Escherichia coli (E. coli), a specific species of coliform present in the lower intestines of all warm-blooded mammals and responsible for many serious tainted-food-related illnesses, were present on 50% of 36 of the carts. In fact, the researchers pointed out, ‘Total bacterial levels [on the carts] are far greater than those typically found in public restrooms and other public places and objects that are commonly touched in these environments’.”

    The piece suggests that consumers wipe down their shopping cart handles with the cloths provided by many retailers, and then wash their hands thoroughly before eating.
    KC's View:
    Let’s be clear. I am not pro-fecal matter on shopping cart handles.

    Maybe it is because I’m getting old and cranky, but I read this story, and I wonder how people survived back in the old days when people didn’t wipe such things down with disinfecting wipes. Was there less fecal matter on people’s hands then? (Do we really need to do a better job teaching people to wash their hands?) Or just less research into what was making people sick from time to time? Or are people just not as tough as they used to be?

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that Alpharma, a Pfizer subsidiary, “will discontinue U.S. sales of 3-Nitro, a drug fed to chickens to help them gain weight and to prevent an intestinal disease called coccidiosis. Chickens that had been given the drug, which contains organic arsenic, had higher levels of what’s known as inorganic arsenic in their livers, compared with chickens not given the drug.”

    The Times notes that the FDA says that “the levels of inorganic arsenic detected were very low and that continuing to eat chicken as 3-Nitro is suspended from the market does not pose a health risk,” and that many poultry producers no longer use 3-Nitro anyway.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA Unified School District has ruled that it no longer will offer chocolate or strawberry flavored milk to students, a move that follows the broader decision to serve “fewer meals that resemble fast food and more vegetarian offerings. Spinach tortellini in butternut squash sauce and California sushi rolls, along with many ethnic foods, are to be added. Corn dogs, chicken nuggets and other breaded items are out ... “

    The story says that the the LA school board has been consciously working to be at the forefront of school foodservice reform, trying to address through cafeteria choices the problem of childhood obesity.
    KC's View:
    I am all in favor of providing school kids with more nutritious choices, but I must confess to being a little conflicted about this one.

    The story notes that 60 percent of the milk picked by kids is flavored; what will those kids drink now that it is no longer available? I’d hate to think that they would turn to smuggled-in and even less nutritious alternatives.

    The story also makes the point that the orange juice served as breakfast in the schools has more sugar than low-fat chocolate milk, so everything is not black and white.

    This has more to do with everything that the kids are eating in total than it does with specific milk choices. In a perfect world, we’d be teaching kids to make smart, contextual choices - not just taking away the chocolate milk they like to drink.

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    • The Business Review reports on speculation that either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods may be interested in opening stores in the Albany, New York, market. Neither retailer commented on the report, but the real estate developer said to be negotiating a lease said that “it’s not unreasonable” to think that one of the two retailers could be involved.

    Advertising Age reports on the current trend among fast feeders: “In an effort to compete with No. 3 U.S. chain Starbucks, hamburger chains like McDonald's and Burger King are gradually rolling out revamped stores, complete with flat-panel TVs, comfortable seating and sleeker interior design-and even Subway is testing out a cafe concept.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “the Food and Drug Administration warned Kellogg Co. about bacteria and substandard production procedures at a food manufacturing plant in Augusta, Ga., a setback for the food company that has tried to mend a supply chain that has faced several major recalls recently ... the FDA said it found listeria in the facility, including on ‘food contact’ surfaces. While the FDA warned that items like cookies may not support the growth of listeria, the FDA cautioned that the lack of sanitation may allow for food to become ‘contaminated with filth’ ... In response to the FDA's concerns, Kellogg said it is taking a number of ‘aggressive actions,’ including cleaning the facility and testing the food.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    • Unified Grocers announced that Bob Ling, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, has been named president of the company, succeeding Al Plamann, who remains as Unified’s CEO.

    According to the announcement, “In his new position, Ling will focus on growing sales throughout the Company and on strengthening the business partnerships that Unified has with its retail members, customers and vendors. He will continue to report to Plamann, who will continue to set the strategic direction of Unified with the Board of Directors and ensure that the Company is executing its plans efficiently, effectively and successfully.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    I wrote yesterday about “brief encounters” I’d had with employees at PetSmart and Home Depot, reflecting a higher level of customer service than I’m used to in those venues, and wondered if something is going on out in the hinterlands.

    Apparently, there is.

    MNB user Barry Scher wrote:

    Home Depot is now doing a tremendous job in the customer service arena because they found out, early on, that Lowes was taking away their cookies.   As a regular Home Depot customer, it was only a few years ago that one had to literally chase down a store associate to find something or get an answer to a question.   Now they have friendly staffers who DO go out of their way to be helpful.  Target is another business that excels in good customer service; Wal-Mart should learn from them.

    And speaking of service, how many food retailers stay open to 11 p.m. nightly yet close down their service departments at 9 p.m.?   I understand the cost-cutting rationale but if your store is open to serve customers, serve them throughout the WHOLE store!   It sure is frustrating to go into my chain grocer at 9 p.m. to find the deli closed.   If it is called a "service department", give service please!


    Agreed.

    MNB user Connie Montgomery wrote:

    I think it is in the water...... I have noticed the same thing when I go into any store. Walmart, HEB, Petco, Home Depot, Walgreens and even a Family Dollar. Store employees are becoming so much nicer and helpful.

    By George----I think they got it.


    From another MNB user:

    Wow - strange coincidence?  I received outstanding service from the orange aprons at my local Home Depot in northern Idaho last week too! Hmmmmm....

    MNB user Jim Hrovat wrote:

    Great story about Pet Smart and Home Depot.  Retailers can spend millions annually on advertising but it really comes down to how the customer is treated in the store.  If they’re not treated well the advertising is a waste of money.

    MNB user Wayne Godwin wrote:

    What’s the probability of the vendors at PetSmart paying for the person who directed you to their own brand?

    None, in this case. We’d already chosen the brand. It was a matter of figuring out at what point to move on from puppy food.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Interesting to see all these companies and competitors of Walmart are doing what Sam Walton started. Only problem is Walmart isn’t any more.

    And MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:

    What is the world coming to? My wife recently contacted our cable provider to add Current TV to our package. We were previously told it would be $10.00 per month. Much to our amazement, the person was extremely helpful, courteous and she found a “bundle” with 100 other channels we didn’t want or need but we ended up getting it for $3.99 per month. My wife was having a terrible day up to that point and a friendly helpful voice was all it took to turn the day around.

    Current TV, huh? I expect a report back on how Keith Olbermann is doing in his new TV home... 




    On the subject of the UFCW trying to find a way to organize employees into a non-union that is able to urge better labor practices without actually negotiating with management, MNB user Todd Bogwill wrote:

    If it is so dreadful to work at Walmart can't the disgruntled employees seek better companies in which to work?  Also, if a Walmart employee is providing value to the store in which they work, doesn't that employee earn more in wages? Certainly there is an upward path to store management.

    My thoughts are that unions are the death knell to competitive enterprises leading to higher prices to the consumer.


    I get the whole “like it or lump it” argument, except that I think it probably is illegal.

    Employees are, by law, allowed to organize into a union. Companies are, by law, allowed to take measures - within reason - to convince employees that it isn’t as good idea.

    In some cases, even a job that doesn’t pay a decent wage or have reasonable benefits or offer tolerable hours may be the best job in a community or region. Seems to me that there is nothing wrong with, having taken that job, trying to find ways in which to convince employers that a worker is entitled to more. In some cases, perhaps because alternatives have closed or moved or been put out of business, there may not be another place to work.

    So “like it or lump it” isn’t really a fair reaction, in my view.

    I’m not saying that unions are some kind of panacea, or that the union movement as it has evolved has been a good thing for competitiveness. It would be fairly easy to identify industries where this has not been the case. But I also think there are industries we could identify where management took the “enjoy the crumbs from the rich man’s table” approach to labor relations. There is plenty of blame to go around for the problems that exist in management-labor relations and this nation’s lack of competitiveness.

    Wanting more money or better working conditions does not necessarily make someone “disgruntled,” at least not in the way that this word often is used.

    I’m amused by the whole union / non-union approach, and I’m certainly sympathetic to people who feel that the union movement has gone off the rails. But I hate to demonize the notion of unions in concept, because there was a time in this country that they were instrumental in assuring that people were not exploited. Sometimes we forget that.

    “Like it or lump it” strikes me as an ideological approach, and ideology can often be a substitute for contextual thinking.

    One MNB user made this point, which is worth considering:

    Several years ago at a Walmart meeting an outside union expert came in a spoke. He left us all with one HUGE take away. “Unions don’t exist if you treat and pay your associate fairly”. Companies create the need for unions, he went on to say….




    We wrote here yesterday about “found money” - extra fees assessed by airlines that have allowed many of them to be profitable, and asked if there is money being left on the table by a lot of businesses that could be the difference between success and failure. Which led MNB user Rosemary Fifield to write:

    While I always check a bag and end up paying the fee, I don't really see it as an additional charge. They had the option to make it part of the cost of the flight. Instead, they are giving me a choice and an incentive to carry my own. I just prefer to pay for the privilege of having the larger bag and a place to put all those liquids they don't want me to carry onboard.

    MNB user Paul Schlossberg chimed in:

    Your observations are spot on. There is a real advantage for airlines to use the fees as a pricing tool. By keeping these fees separate from ticket prices, the airlines can be somewhat "slower" to raise ticket prices. The fees bring in extra revenue - revenue which is not taxed.

    MNB user Alex Drew wrote:

    I am a disgruntled consumer whenever fees are pushed down onto us, but I understand it from a business P&L standpoint.  You are totally correct that the airlines pulled a great move by going all in (except for Southwest) charging for checked baggage.  They basically took the choice away from the consumers overnight and all made good profits in the process.  They also did it without any thought of public perception on the airline industry.  I just think, looking back they could have eased the blow of the additional charge by utilizing their frequent flyer programs.  They offer free miles for other profitable services (biggest being new credit cards), so why not for checking luggage?  Imagine if they put into effect a millage credit proportional to the cost of baggage to ticket.  So if the ticket costs someone $300 and the luggage fee is $30 (10% of the ticket), the result would be a %10 millage credit to a FF account for the distance of the trip.  Say the same flight might be 1000 miles, so 10% of the distance would result in 100 miles to someone’s FF account.  Ok, it might be a little complicated but fair to all sides.

    Even a flat 50 miles for any checked luggage fee would have helped lessen the blow to the consumers and might even  have built some loyalty/good faith to the airlines.  I just wish we had a high speed rail system I could take rather than a plane.

     



    I love it when certain MNB discussions prompt emails like the following one:

    Shoot, you combined my three greatest interests: Sports, Business and Discourse. I wanted to challenge a couple of premises from your Tuesday wake-up:

    1. The notion that James wants you to go back to your ‘miserable, little life.”

    “All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point.” - LeBron James

    I don’t take him talking about your miserable little lives from this. Instead, I see him focusing on what is important to him – being happy and that is not derived just from playing basketball. By the way, those that tied their happiness and enjoyment to his losing? Sounds kind of miserable to me. I enjoyed seeing the Mavs win and Lebron lose, I didn’t like how he handled anything after the close of last season, but he’s right – it shouldn’t have mattered.

    2. The notion that winning and creating fans is the goal of professional sports.

    “While I’ve never been one who believes that professional athletes should be seen as role models, I do believe that they have two jobs: 1) win, and 2) create a product that people actually want to root for. By both measures, LeBron James failed. His words drove that home.” - KC

    I disagree. I don’t believe that a professional athlete’s jobs fall to winning. I think they have one job: make money (for themselves and for the owner). This can be accomplished by winning as a team – the Dirk and the Mavs are likely to make a lot of money off of the ‘world’ championship. Meanwhile, Lebron will continue to have the #1 selling jersey and it’s not limited to Heat fans (those rooting for him). He will continue to be the most marketed and marketable product in the NBA. The result of the Decision (I HATED it, but watched) and the Welcome celebration (where ‘king’ James, et al celebrated their future championships before even playing a game) was significantly more interest at a national level. The league just enjoyed its most viewed playoffs in years, Lebron was talked about more than the winning team/players and I’m pretty sure everyone’s making money. Lots of it.

    Carmelo Anthony did something similar. He talked his way out of Denver to the Knicks. Going from a better team, with a fan base that loved him, to a worse team, with less chance to win. In doing so, he significantly increased interest in him, went to a market where his ceiling was higher (marketability, jersey sales, etc). The NBA can now push their largest market – it has a marketable asset in ‘Melo, and Anthony can market himself more effectively. Knicks ticket and jersey sales are up, the NBA now has all of its largest markets stocked with marketable assets story lines.

    You and I may want their jobs to solely be: Win and create a product people root for (for Chris Bosh who openly wept after the game, that may be his desire), but the goal of the NBA, the Heat and Lebron James is, and will continue to be, to create a marketable product that makes lots of money. Job well done. David Stern is happy – except for that upcoming strike and shortened season.


    MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

    You can take his comments after losing the series to Dallas however you want to, mostly it probably depends on your opinion of James to begin with.  I used to if not like him, at least I had a favorable opinion of him.  Now that we’ve gotten past “The Decision” the big party for the “big three” at Miami when the announcement was made and the grand promises he made concerning the number of championships they would win together.  You can probably guess I don’t think very highly of  him at all anymore and am rather  happy my hometown Dallas Mavericks won that series.

    As for how I took  his comments, right or wrong I took him to mean that we still have our pathetic little lives, he has his mansion(s), cars, boats, airplanes and wealth beyond description.  He may still have those things, but he lacks something I value very highly,  respect.





    I wrote yesterday with admiration about how, as a measure of customer service, United Supermarkets has installed a unique piece of hardware in the parking lot of its Market Street location in Lubbock, Texas - a hitching post, for people who like to ride their horses to the store.

    Well, this apparently isn’t as unique as I thought.

    One MNB user wrote:

    This is not unusual.   Many of our independent Supermarkets in Michigan and Indiana have had hitching posts for years because of the number of Amish families within their communities.

    And, from another MNB user:


    In Amish country, as you undoubtedly know, lots of retailers have hitching posts for horses and wagons.

    The sad reality is that everything I know about the Amish I learned from watching Kelly McGillis in Witness.

    But I take your word for it.




    I was castigated yesterday by an MNB user who felt I had swallowed a myth about foie gras in siding with Wegmans’ decision to take it off its cooking school menu because of animal rights concerns.

    But two MNB users came back with an observation that I wish I’d thought of.

    Your reader wrote, “Ducks are not hurt at all.”   How do they remove the liver without hurting the duck?

    And, from MNB user Christine A. Myres:

    Loved the comment about “the duck isn’t hurt at all”. So how exactly do they get the liver out? Just asking...

    I live for these kinds of emails.




    I’m also being castigated by an MNB user for letting people know that MNB delivery times might be a little off this week because of my travel schedule:

    Relax and enjoy Barcelona.  I don't think anyone notices (or cares) what time your blog shows up.  It's not exactly "breaking news."

    Hey, I take this stuff seriously. And I do feel like I have an obligation here ... especially because I preach a lot about transparency, and think I ought to walk the walk.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 16, 2011

    The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in Game 7 of the National Hockey League championships, bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time since 1972.
    KC's View: