retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to one of yesterday’s stories, one MNB user wrote:

Great work on finding that New York magazine article from last week about the latest developments in the Murdoch U.S. scandal affecting News America Marketing. And right on with your courage to speak your mind in your editor's notes. I hope you used bleach in the shower at sufficient strength.

If it makes you feel better, the slime can be eradicated in the shower by an author of a post or a reader, but not so easy for the many retailers reading this newsletter under contract that have money in their balance sheet from this News America company, and in doing so, these retailers aided in the harm to both Insignia and Floorgraphics in their actions at the time. And they support right now a corporation that has caused so much harm around the world. And News Corp faces some of the most serious criminal conduct allegations that a corporation could ever encounter, and a scandal that the famous Washington Post investigative journalist Carl Bernstein has already compared at this early stage to the Nixon Watergate Scandal of the mid 1970's.

Ironically, the subject of  the most recent US media coverage and wide exposure since the July hacking unfolded in the UK, that being the Floorgraphics company victim of News Corp, is the one of the three most recent victims (Valassis and Insignia being the two others) to fare the worst in their damage settlement from 2009. Not only did the mere $29.5 million Floorgraphics take pale in comparison to the over $1 billion estimated total value in cash payments and value of two 10-year business deals of the other two companies, now we find out in that article that perjury occurred at the trial and false testimony played a part in the Floorgraphics decision to settle for that amount and end their trial, I presume. And, Floorgraphics has their $29.5 million deal--but no longer has a company. A sad epilogue, indeed.

While that article could not cover all the ground of the dispute between Floorgraphics and News America and the hacking was obviously a focal point, I would like your readers to know that while our brave military soldiers were fighting and dying on the battlefield in Afghanistan to stop terrorism from coming here to the U.S. and to provide a better life for the Afghan people in Military Mission Operation Enduring Freedom, back here in the U.S. the criminal misdeeds of this Murdoch division was ongoing at that very same time and was coined Operation Retailer Freedom. And the evidence that emerged was that News Corp was targeting every single retailer doing business with Floorgraphics--even a single store owner--with the clear intent to take away every retailer doing business with their competitor and to destroy Floorgraphics. And the computer hacking was ongoing at the very same time for a total assault deployment.

And don't rely on what you read here in the MNB comments section as certain truth- with just a little effort you can find it yourself on the Internet in media reports and trial transcripts and assure yourself that this indeed is a 'Fair and Balanced' reader comment report.

We also got a lot of email about the decision in Denmark to institute a “fat tax” on products with certain levels of saturated fat.

I wrote yesterday:

This move will no doubt ignite some discussion of creating similar taxes elsewhere in the world, even here in America ... though it is hard to imagine that such a tax could possibly be passed in the current political environment.

I got that right.

One MNB user wrote:

Seems rather misguided.  Why penalize thin people for buying fattening foods?  Wouldn't it make more sense to penalize fat people?  They ought to base individual income taxes on BMI indices.

MNB user Richard Thorpe wrote:

That is what is so great about America. Our government would never think of passing a "fat tax" even if it knew that it would lead to better health in America. We are the innovators and the go getter country that will not allow the government to tell us what to do. It is our American right to be obese and be a drain on our health system and our economy.  One need only look at the decrease in smoking caused every time the cigarette tax is increased to know that a "fat tax" should NEVER be considered.  Here in Idaho we are keeping our liquor taxes at 1958 levels in order to keep our liquor and beer cheap and available to all while cutting our education funding to whatever level we need in order to balance the budget. This manner of taxation makes sure that we continue to elect the "no tax increase" crowd lest government do something beneficial for Idahoan's health and education. No sir, and our federal government should follow right along. Why in just a few more years we will be able to increase the number of folks below poverty levels and we can be just like all the rest of the third world countries and our rich folk will be paying their fair share just like the are now.

Tongue now out of cheek - There are no simple answers but there is nothing wrong with taxation for social benefit - that is what taxation is - it is the line drawing that is difficult. I vote for better health and education for ALL Americans not just those who can afford it like I can and I am sure you can.

MNB user Bob Bartels wrote:

Taxing the source of fat foods for everyone just increases the cost for all with potentially little effect on fat people.  

Taxing the accumulated fat on people might have more impact.  Maybe we should just leave well enough alone.

From another MNB user:

I don’t believe that cigarette taxes, beverage alcohol taxes or gasoline taxes have been shown to reduce consumption of these items and I doubt that taxes on fat would have an impact either.

It will take education, awareness, and finding alternatives to the fats that do not have their negative health impacts but allow for great tasting food. I am not against sin taxes if they are effective, I just can’t find examples that are.

MNB user Blake Steen wrote:

I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with this but when you try to tax people into a behavior you usually tax them into a revolt.

Often, that’s true.

We’ve had the Arab Spring. Now, the fat tax will launch us into the Scandinavian Autumn.

MNB user Tom Robbins wrote:

It is interesting to hear the various approaches that governments take to "help" solve problems (wow, that is an oxymoron). Whether in Denmark, or the US, taxing isn't the solution. First, where does the tax revenue go? Second, what is the revenue used for (in the US it will go to another entitlement).

Thirdly, is anyone really silly enough to think that "taxing" a product will make the fat go away or actually reduce consumption?

Life and food in moderation is the only plausible solution and that begins at home, not at the government.

Yesterday, we had a story about how Barnes & Noble has acquired Borders’ intellectual property and email list, and we printed - in its entirety - the email that B&N was sending out hoping to entice Borders customers not to opt-out of the list. (As opposed to asking them to opt-in.)

One of the lines from the email went like this:

At Barnes & Noble we share your love of books — whatever shape they take. We also take our responsibility to service communities by providing a local bookstore very seriously. In the coming weeks, assuming you don't opt-out, you'll be hearing from us with some offers to encourage you to shop our stores and try our NOOK products. We hope you'll give us a chance to be your bookstore.

Which sounded very nice. Except that it my commentary, I said that if the email said what it really meant, it would have read something like this:

Borders is dead. Right now, we at Barnes & Noble are doing everything we can to avoid the same fate ... which means we need you to help us stave off the techie infidels who work for

Like the idea of having a bookstore in the neighborhood? Or, if not exactly in the same neighborhood, somewhere in the general vicinity of where you live? Then you’d better start doing business with us. Because we’re the only thing that stands between you and a world in which Amazon will sell everything to everybody.

Please. We’re begging you.

MNB user Ken Wagar thought I went too far:

I am an Amazon user and Kindle owner and can’t remember when I was last in a Borders or a B&N. And I agree that B&N is likely to go the way of Borders, BUT, What is wrong with a company marketing itself? Particularly to people who are known to have used a conventional competitors services? And shouldn’t they be complimented for being so up front and transparent about how those customers can opt out?

I don’t disagree with your position but thought it was terribly one-sided from someone who is normally very fair. You could have made your point and also given them good marks at least for the up-front chance to opt out, something I rarely get as my data is bought and sold buy companies I deal with.

I think you let your passion for change consistent with technology and an eye on the ever-developing future of marketing and retail interfere with balanced journalism if not opinion.

And MNB user Vic Hansen wrote:

Unkind, Kevin. So Unkind. You might even be accused of being a cynic.

That would a fair accusation.

But let me just reply to the suggestion that the journalism was one-sided or unfair.

For the record, the journalism was completely unbiased. I framed the reason for the email, and ran it in its entirety.

The commentary was a little biting ... and little cynical ... and maybe a little unkind. I would also argue that it was pretty accurate.

And yes, it was one-sided ... but it was commentary. Which by its very nature is biased.

And I’m totally transparent about that.

Another MNB user wrote:

Thanks for the laugh on your version of the email Barnes & Nobles sent out, as my kids would say, LMAO.  As recent history as shown us (Netflix) a letter from the CEO via email to customers is a dicey proposition and it appears B&N was more successful than my favorite whipping boy, Reed Hastings.

And, from another MNB user:

After reading your nasty response to B&N doing what any company would do in the same situation and showing your incredible Amazon bias (where I shop occasionally as well) many KUDOS for attaching the SNL Netflix skit. If anyone missed it you should put the link in every MNB this week and next. It was funnier than almost any skit I have seen on SNL for quite a while.

Here is the link, in case you missed it:

Click here.

Regarding the debit card fee controversy, one MNB user wrote:

You are so "flipping" naive to think that the retailers won't just pocket the savings they are getting from swipe fee reductions.  Of course they will "say" they are passing the savings along but there will be no way to substantiate the claim. (Also, please inform the person who blames the "libs" for this law to look at who voted for it and their PAC donations as well.)

Do you really think that food or other retailers are using a different rule book for making profit, as one of your readers stated..the fees are just going to someone else. It was not swipe fees that hurt smaller retailers it was their ability to match price with the big boys who do get lower wholesale costs. Also, the person who said he would go out of business if no credit cards were allowed forgot about WINCO, a successful retailer that does not accept credit cards. They do accept debit cards and they are employee owned and profitable with very low prices and solid service.

MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

I've already seen at least one ad by Ally Bank, about how they never charge you to use your own money.

People can complain or they can act on their own behalf. Sometimes it takes a big jolt to get them acting. Let's hope.

And finally, on another subject, albeit one close to my heart, and MNB user wrote:

Thank you for lending a voice to the disenfranchised baseball purists  on the National League batting title.   Many fans who believe in the purity of the game, and respect the players  from the past should appreciate the call out on how the NL batting title was won.   In the immortal words of Professor Kingsfield -  the fans of the game only appreciate those who won the old fashion way – “they earned it”.

Jose Reyes took the easy route to ensure he got the title.  I don’t know the man but (land mine territory here) based on his age,  assume he came from the generation where even the 28th swimmer in the meet  got the trophy.  That is not earning the prize  – it is assuming the prize and feeling good about yourself.  Ryan Braun deserves the batting championship because he went out the last day and fought to get it.  Now - Ryan had to go out and try.  Statistically  - Jose did not.  But that is beside the point.   Jose and his manager / team figured out what he needed to win and he reached on a surprise BUNT??  In the first inning??  Who does that??  ?? And that move won a batting championship? 

It is like in business– if you take the easy way out, you may win today – but the consumer catches up with you and loses all respect.  Then in the end – who loses?  I may be old fashion but I certainly believe in fair play.   I can’t help but think that the age old idea of winning on your own merit is the only way.  Whether in the respect of your family, winning the heart of the one you love, getting the next job in your career– your life – your relationships or how you treat the dog.  It is all about respect and Mr. Reyes, whether he cares or not, has lost mine.

A couple of things here.

First of all, a bunt hit is still a hit. Bunting is a vastly under-appreciated skill, and more players should know how to do it. I have no problem with the bunt. I have a problem with only one plate appearance by Reyes.

To be fair, though, Ryan Braun does not deserve the batting title. Over the length of the season, Reyes had a higher batting average. Can’t dispute that. It is how he did it, in the last game of the season, that showed lack of character. And character counts.
KC's View: