retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB user Annette Knapp had some thoughts about Michael Sansolo’s column yesterday, which talked about how consumers respond to changes by Facebook and Netflix, suggesting that “the bigger problem these days seems to be a consumer expectation that I can get whatever I want, whenever I want it for never increasing prices or, better off, for free.”

C’mon Michael – using Facebook is not free. Users have given up every detail of their lives for exploitation by Zuckerburg for marketing purposes as used by advertisers. While they are data mining our every move on there, how about it remain at least user friendly for the “users”. Which it is not. I have 60 good friends on there and had to put them in a “list” so that I could look through their chronological posts after work every night. Something that was inherently in the home page design previously. Then I have to cull through the regular “Home” page to see any updates from groups I belong to – in no particular order. Plus, we now have to ask each other (sort of on an honors system) to respectfully click off on “comments and likes” for every “friend” so that you can’t poke your nose into absolutely every comment a friend makes on there with every one of their friends. Maybe Aunt Hilda doesn’t need to hear your discussion about atheism on your friend’s page that she doesn’t know by default. People with smart phones logging in have zero control over any of that by the way. They have access to everything – even if they don’t want it. So – user friendly – out the window. I’d gladly pay $20 per month ala Netflix to have it the way the users want it with some actual privacy, but that is not an option. I bet that system would be nowhere near as lucrative as what they are working toward now. But then, Facebook’s users are not the “client” we’re the “product”.

MNB user Mark Raddant wrote:

Michael, there is a single word that explains the phenomenon you describe: SPOILED.

As unappealing as it is in children, it is an impossible situation for a society to find itself in.  And it’s not just the US, it’s happening in many places.  Just think of mindless riots for the sake of rioting in Britain and strikes in Greece over not being able to retire at 50. At least you can send your kids to their room; what do you do to a Congressional body?

And MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

Michael, I think you screwed up today!

Management does not always make the correct decisions otherwise there would be a lot more retailers and products around that have gone by the way side. How about Chrysler and them GM where is Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn - no that was really dumb - Studebaker, Rambler and oh the Edsel!

I think you need to rewrite today's Column with a different tact! I thought you two preached the consumer is always right!

Michael responds:

Richard has a point. Companies do make mistakes, do misread customer needs or forget why they are in business in the first place. And when that happens, they usually get punished, sometimes put out of business.  But shifting times create an endless need to change, to evolve and to innovate. It's never a sure thing to make a change, but it must get done.

My column wasn't meant as a defense of Facebook or Netflix. Both companies made moves recently that seemed high handed at best. Yet, they are entitled to make the changes and the marketplace will decide if they were wrong or right.  One last point though: Stew Leonard's legendary store had two rules. 1. The customer is always right. 2. When the customer is wrong, re-read rule number 1.  It's a great marketing position, but sometimes the customer can be wrong. And companies need to find ways of having those difficult discussions.

On the subject of China’s ability to build things faster than the US, MNB user Gary Narberes wrote:

With regard to your segment on construction zones, while the Chinese government seems to be doing all it can to build and expand, the US Government is doing all it can to stop building with all the environmental impact reports and work stoppages for threatened species is it any wonder "How America Fell Behind in the World"?

We, as a nation, have created bureaucracies within bureaucracies through every facet of our lives and scratch our heads as to why other countries are surpassing us!  It is time America cracks the books and reads up on what led up to the end of the Roman Empire otherwise, we are doomed to repeat history.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

A big shout out to Visa and MasterCard for raising swipe fees on small purchases to the max - hat really ought to help small business and the millions of Americans struggling to get by as the economy continues to languish. I know you can, I know it will be good for your finances but seriously, what ever happened to doing the right thing?

Regarding a federal system that subsidizes more junk food than fresh produce, MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

A researcher at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy put some charts together several years back, showing how corn and soybean subsidies reduced the acreage of vegetable and fruit plantings. Farmers need to survive and have to follow the money.

A subsidized product is a cheap product. An article posted at the time on several years ago quoted a nutrition researched stating that 60% of the calories in US grocery stores come from one of three categories: refined sweetener, refined vegetable oil and refined flour. There's our obesity/diabetes "epidemic."

The USDA and the food industry together been running an experiment on the population for decades, without notification or consent.

From another MNB user:

Agree wholeheartedly! 17 billion in subsidies for chemicals masquerading as food – and most are genetically modified at that!  (Corn) – watch and see if this actually gets traction…..the money powers behind those subsidies are not going to let go easily…..

But oh, we can dream!  (and write to our public officials..)

MNB user Stephanie Steiner wrote:

When our government finally supports farmers instead of individual crops, we’ll have a food system that is far more supportive of our nation’s health and our personal health.

And finally, MNB user Douglas Campbell wrote:

What, no mention of the Red Sox collapse and the Tampa Bay Rays’ amazing come from behind surge!?!?!?

I’ll get to it when it is settled. Which has to be any day now.
KC's View: