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    Published on: September 30, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    This morning’s Eye-Opener is a little bit different. It isn’t industry specific, but it grabbed my attention, in part because it moves so quickly from illuminating to disgusting.

    The Chicago Tribune reports that 83 percent of Americans eat some meal at their desks - 62 percent eat lunch there, 50 percent eat snacks, 27 percent eat breakfast and four percent eat dinner.

    Interesting, right? And certainly a reflection of how people are working harder and longer in tough economic times.

    But, as the Tribune writes, there are repercussions from such behavior:

    “That's not a good thing if you're aiming to stay healthy,” the story says. “Don't believe it? That survey, dubbed the Desktop Dining Survey, found only 36 percent of respondents cleaned their work areas (desktop, keyboard, mouse) weekly. Worse than that? Just 64 percent do so once a month or less. And should you be invited to dine at another's cubicle, note this: 45 percent of men rarely or never clean their work area compared to 30 percent of women.”

    That’s disturbing. But here’s the really disgusting part:

    “At the University of Arizona, a 2007 study found that the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat.”

    The message is simply this - next time you sit down at your desk to scarf down a quick meal, keep in mind that you may be scarfing down a lot more.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Bank of America, saying that new consumer protection regulations would be a drain on its profits, said yesterday that it will begin charging its customers a monthly fee of $5 for the use of their debit cards to make purchases. The fee is designed to make up for the limit on transaction fees mandated by the Durbin amendment, which was part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.

    The new regulations take effect tomorrow, October 1. There have been estimates that the swipe fee regulations, reducing fees from an average of 44 cents per transaction to a maximum of 24 cents, could cost the American financial services industry more than $6 billion a year.

    The New York Times makes the point this morning that Bank of America is not alone. “Wells Fargo and Chase are testing $3 monthly debit card fees. Regions Financial, based in Birmingham, Ala., plans to start charging a $4 fee next month, while SunTrust, another regional powerhouse, is charging a $5 fee.”

    And, the Times continues, Bank of America “is also exploring a number of other fee increases, including for online banking, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

    “Bank of America’s debit fee is steeper than most of its competitors’, reflecting the broader challenges the bank is facing after the financial crisis. The bank has introduced an online-only account that charges customers for doing business at a local branch. It also plans to apply its new debit card fees to anyone who uses the card to make recurring payments like gym fees or cable bills.”

    There reportedly is one holdout, at least to this point: “Citibank is one of the few that said it would not introduce a charge for debit card use,” the Times writes.
    KC's View:
    Here’s my question.

    How many of these banks that are now raising their fees not that long ago took bailout money from the taxpayers, many of whom happen to be their customers? Just curious...

    I’d feel bad about that $6.6 billion in revenue, but since it mostly was being generated by practices that were gouging the US public to begin with, my sympathy is somewhat restrained.

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    The Boston Globe reports that restaurant chain Friendly’s is considering a bankruptcy filing and eventual sale of the company, though the company is not commenting specifically on the story.

    “Like many restaurant chains, we are feeling the impact of the economic downturn and rising commodity prices and a challenging marketplace,’’ Friendly’s management said in a prepared statement. “We are working with our lenders, board, and management team to explore alternatives to strengthen our financial base.’’

    According to the story, “The chain, which has more than 500 locations nationwide, is owned by Sun Capital Partners Inc., a buyout firm in Boca Raton, Fla., that bought Friendly’s for $337.2 million in 2007.” Friendly’s was founded by two brothers, Prestly and Curtis Blake, during the Great Depression; it was sold, because of business disagreements within the family, to Hershey in 1979.
    KC's View:
    Hard to imagine that Friendly’s would be in trouble.

    After all, it is a chain that ought to have the following as its slogan:

    Lousy food, not good for you, but plenty of it.

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Forbes reports that this summer’s Ramadan promotion by Whole Foods and Saffron Road was a success - “according to Saffron Road, sales surged 300 percent during Ramadan and its fanbase on Facebook increased by 200 percent.”

    “‘Not only did we have a huge surge in sales during Ramadan – a 300 percent increase, but we believe perhaps thousands of new halal consumers came into their local Whole Foods Market – some for the first time and many who have stated they are now loyal customers for life,’ said Adnan Durrani, CEO of Saffron Road.

    “This was Whole Foods first Ramadan campaign. Whether it’s repeated next year remains to be seen, the whole even caused a marketing headache for the chain, but surely the numbers can do the talking.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Reuters reports that “Groupon Inc. launched its online retail arm Groupon Goods for its American subscribers on Wednesday, moving beyond daily group discounts to compete with leaders like Amazon Inc .

    “The leading daily deals website sent emails to select customers on Wednesday, calling out Groupon Goods, with discounts on home furnishing products like LED TVs, coffee brewers and pilates.”

    Speculation is that Groupon is looking to move beyond the daily deals business and have a broader presence in the online retail space.
    KC's View:
    No wonder. The online space is where much of the action is.

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Marketing Daily reports that a new survey from Experian suggests that online shopping is expected to be more popular than ever during the upcoming end-of-year holiday shopping season, and that many people will use the internet to find and acquire bargains.

    According to the story, Experian says that “online visits to the Retail 500 are up 17.5% so far this year ... and it is predicting that this holiday, that means people will be looking harder (and earlier) for big discounts.” It also is expected that “free shipping” will be a major draw for online shoppers, and that retailers will increase their offers as it gets closer to Christmas.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Retailing Today reports that Winn-Dixie has “:expanded its Fuelperks! rewards program throughout central Florida, incorporating 62 Winn-Dixie stores in Orlando and Daytona, Fla., areas into the program ... Shoppers using the new Winn-Dixie customer Reward card can begin earning fuel discounts at more than 150 participating Shell stations.” Winn-Dixie says that its customers “have already saved more than $26 million with the Fuelperks! rewards program, which includes more than 300 store locations throughout Georgia, Florida and Louisiana,” the story says.

    • In the UK, the Grocer reports that William Morrison Supermarkets will introduce next week “a convenience range dubbed M Kitchen (that) will comprise 150 new lines, including a bistro range and a number of pan-Asian and tapas-style dishes. Five hundred additional products will be improved after what the retailer called ‘a rigorous benchmarking process’.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    • Ahold USA announced that Bhavdeep Singh will transition from his current role as Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Ahold USA, to a new role as Executive Vice President of Operations, Ahold USA, effective October 3, 2011.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    Yesterday, I wrote about how Jose Reyes of the NY Mets behaved less than honorably in his pursuit of the National League batting title by not playing the entire final game of the season.

    And, I wrote:

    Exactly 70 years ago yesterday, Ted Williams went into the last day of the season with batting average of .399555 - technically a .400 average, which nobody had done in years. The Red Sox manager asked Williams if he wanted to sit out the doubleheader to protect his average, but Williams said no ... and then he went out and got six hits in eight at bats, ending the season at .406, the last man in baseball history to do so.

    Perhaps Teddy Ballgame is an unfair bar against which to measure today’s players. (My son, a huge Reyes fan, would say so.) But I think that character counts, no matter what the era.

    Needless to say, the vast majority of the email I got yesterday was on this subject. Which is one of the things I love about the MNB community.

    MNB user David Vincent Dec wrote:

    The time for integrity is now. Not in the future. It is here, now, and always.

    I'm sure I heard that somewhere but, I can't find it. Maybe it's combined from a few different quotes. I thought it suitable for your commentary on the MNB Sports Desk.

    MNB user Kenneth Todd wrote:

    Bush league!

    MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

    Absolutely, character counts.  That was a shabby way to get the title, and speaks to the character of the man.  Not a good example to the kids.

    MNB user Joe Davis wrote:

    In response to the Reyes commentary, I feel like this is systemic in baseball, professional sports, and I’d argue even corners of our industry (corner offices may be more appropriate).  You can spot people who are in it for the game or in it for the glory from a mile away.  Great figures seem to almost always be “in it for the game”, whatever the “game” may be for them – sports, business, you name it.  I suspect what drove Ted Williams out onto that field knowing his average might suffer was a love of the game.  I don’t think anyone needs to conjecture as to what drove Jose Reyes off the field.  I’m sure all of us can instantly think of a bunch of people that readily fit in either camp.  If you bring class and a passion for doing better than you did the day before, success will come and likely glory with it.  Going for the latter right off the bat (pardon the pun) doesn’t ensure the former.  Here again, seems like common sense has become uncommon.

    MNB user Tom Hack wrote:

    Agree with your recap of the Mets’ final game wholeheartedly.  Maybe  I am victim of my age bracket bias , but some values should not be pushed aside, character being one.

    MNB user Tom Devlin wrote:

    I could not agree with you more on Jose Reyes lack of character taking himself out of the last game of the year to secure the batting title. It just goes to show you the average persons  perception of the mind of today’s professional. The sad part is he was quoted as saying that the fans who booed him do not understand what is going on.... I have to say he is right on this one...... who in their right mind would pay all that money to watch a game in the rain that has no meaning except a true baseball enthusiast.... This act comes from the same team  when  a few players did not go to visit the veterans hospital last year because “they don’t like looking at guys with no legs and no arms.” .. Pathetic and as a diehard Met fan they need to clean the whole place out form top management to the dugout.

    To be fair, most of the guys who did not go to the veterans’ hospital last year are no longer on the team.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Some of us growing up as Kansas City Royals fans will also remember George Brett & Hal McRay, teammates going into the final game of the season tied for the league lead in batting average  (can’t remember the year – you will know I’m certain). George won that title by one at-bat…..

    MNB user Kevin Hollenbeck wrote:

    There is a quote that goes something like Character is revealed when no one is watching…..unfortunately for Reyes it is also is reveled when 30,000 fans are watching (okay, it was a Met/Reds game so maybe it was more like 3000...).

    And, MNB user Scott Svarrer wrote:

    I would add that Reyes showed a lack of character in many games as a Met.  He has a reputation for immaturity with his childlike celebrations, and is generally regarded as someone with an attitude problem.  Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”  Reyes was tested and he failed miserably.  Maybe I’m being too harsh because I’m a Yankees fan and Jeter has set the bar high, but I think Reyes needs to grow up and realize that it’s not all about him.

    You’re right - you have less credibility because you are a Yankee fan.

    Though I would never argue that Jeter has demonstrated greater character than Reyes, I would also argue that Reyes is a lot better shortstop. But talent isn’t everything.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    The Major League Baseball Divisional Series begin this weekend, with the New York Yankees facing off against the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays playing the Texas Rangers in the American League, and the St. Louis Cardinals against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League.
    KC's View:
    nyone in particular.

    The Tigers will beat the Yankees, and the Rays will beat the Rangers.
    The Phillies will beat the Cards, and the Brewers will beat the Diamondbacks.

    Then, the Tigers will beat the Rays, and the Phillies will beat the Brewers.

    And finally, in a World Series that will be incredibly cold and maybe even have one game snowed out, the Phillies will beat the Tigers.

    Published on: September 30, 2011

    It won’t be surprising to anyone who has read our book, The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies, or who has paid attention to the off beat subjects that pop up with regularity on MNB, that the opening of the movie Moneyball would be a big deal. It’s got baseball, business and the movies - all wrapped up in one beautiful 126 minute package. Doesn’t get much better than this.

    This is one of those great circumstances in which the movie doesn’t disappoint, and lives up to expectations. Based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane, general manager of the small-market, low-budget Oakland Athletics, who found it increasingly difficult to compete with better financed teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, especially as those teams would “gut the A’s like a fish” and lure all its good and even decent players away with high salaries.

    Moneyball - the book and the movie - examines what happened when Beane worked with an unorthodox brain trust (as opposed to the seasoned scouts with centuries worth of experience and opinions) to develop an unorthodox approach to choosing players - focusing on slugging and on base percentages instead of more traditional measurements such as hits and home runs, a way of building a team of largely undervalued players that one character describes as being like “the island of misfit toys.”

    Brad Pitt plays Beane; he grabs the screen just like a movie star, but he’s evolved into a man with a lived-in face and vulnerable eyes - he’s a character actor in the making. And Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, a fictionalized amalgam of several real-life characters; he’s a Harvard graduate with a degree in economics, but one who loves baseball and sees numbers and statistics where other people see just the romantic aspect of the sport. Hill is great in the role - he’s awkward and hesitant, but with more spine than you expect, as he helps Beane see baseball through a different set of eyes. And the actors who play the baseball players achieve something noteworthy - they actually seem to move, talk and act like baseball players.

    Ultimately, that’s the most important lesson of Moneyball - the importance of asking the unpopular or unexpected question, of challenging conventional wisdom, of not accepting the status quo just because its been around a long time. It is a distillation of the old Mark Twain line: “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.”

    Of course, in life there aren’t always happy endings, and things don’t always get tied up with a nice bow. Even the most pertinent lessons don’t have the best results. And that also is the lesson of Moneyball.

    Moneyball is a very good movie - well acted, written with style by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (who writes better dialogue than anyone else in the movies), and given great pace by director Bennett Miller (Capote). It is entertaining and illuminating ... and full of wonderful business lessons. Enjoy.

    Last week, I forgot to mention a restaurant that I visited in Seattle - it was new to me, but one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to. Tavolata has some of the best pasta I’ve ever tasted; mine was served with spicy Italian sausage, marjoram, and tomato, and was absolutely magical.

    Finished reading “The Paris Wife,” a novel by Paula McLain that purports to be a memoir by Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. I guess it is a good thing that it is hard to tell what is invented and what is based on actual research, and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the book. I’m not sure if that’s because it is really well written, or because I’m fascinated by the period, my curiosity whetted by this summer’s Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris. If you are intrigued by that era as well, you may find “The Paris Wife” a solid read. If not, then probably not so much.

    I also tasted something else the other day that was far afield from my usual indulgences - Bushmills Millennium Single Malt Irish Whiskey, which was distilled in 1975 and, 35 years later, was about as smooth a whiskey as I’ve ever tasted. My friend Tony Stanton has been saving a bit of it, and he was kind enough to share it with me, a whiskey neophyte. But let me tell you ... it was unbelievable.

    Something else I tried and loved - the Mission Brewery Shipwrecked Double IPA, from San Diego, which was thick and perfect with a spicy cajun shrimp dish I made the other night. I hope they get a national distributor sometime soon.

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

    KC's View: