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    Published on: November 11, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Interesting and Eye-Opening statistic from the Seattle Times, which reports that Washington State “credit unions signed up 1,430 new members and took in $2.9 million on Bank Transfer Day, the Northwest Credit Union Association said Wednesday.

    “Across the country, some 40,000 people moved about $80 million into credit unions Nov. 5, according to the Credit Union National Association, which surveyed 1,100 credit unions.” November 5 was designated as the day for people to switch their accounts out of big banks as a way of registering discontent with the financial services industry.

    The story goes on: “Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 31, credit unions in Oregon and Washington saw 34,000 new members, a figure equal to more than 30 percent of membership growth in all of 2010, the national association said. It estimates that 650,000 consumers nationwide joined a credit union during the period.”

    The lesson is that anger does move people. The possibility is that people are only going to get more angry, and it will spread beyond banks to other “establishment” institutions ... and marketers need to take heed and keep their Eyes Open.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    The Boston Globe had a nice story about Ahold-owned Stop & Shop’s newest technology offering. The story is framed this way:

    “Self-checkouts are so yesterday. And with consumers complaining about them and some companies eliminating them, supermarkets are seeking new ways to lure in shoppers who want to get in and out quickly.

    “Enter SCAN IT! Mobile, Stop & Shop’s new smartphone app, which lets customers shop with barely a stop. SCAN IT! Mobile is the son of SCAN IT!, a hand-held device currently found in 350 of the chain’s outlets. Both iterations of SCAN IT! do pretty much the same thing: enable customers to scan and bag their groceries as they shop. You whip through the checkout by basically waving your phone at the register. It reads, you pay, you go.

    “The app is designed to work on an iPhone or Android. Download it - it’s linked to your loyalty card - and you’re good to go.”

    The story says that in a recent test, “it seemed to work just as advertised, and if you’re already using your smartphone to, say, compare prices or features as you shop, this will be a natural extension.”
    KC's View:
    Stop & Shop should feel good about the positive reviews, but there is one thing about the piece that bothers me. (You knew I’d find something...)

    There is a reference to ways “to avoid human contact,” and I just hate that. Sure, these kinds of mobile shopping technologies make it possible for a shopper to avoid personal interaction, and in the long run they may make it possible for companies to save some labor hours. But I continue to believe that this ought not be the goal, that one of the fundamental problems with many supermarkets is the lack of personal connection that many shoppers feel when they walk through the front door.

    Many of the products are the same, and a lot of the prices are comparable ... and so what is going to set them apart? Technology is good, but it won’t do the trick all on its own.

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    Starbucks announced yesterday that it is spending $30 million to acquire Evolution Fresh, described as “a California-based premium juice maker,” and said it plans to launch a new health and wellness-driven chain next year.

    The coffee retailer said that the new chain will "redefine the super-premium juice category and experience" and offer a "wholesome portfolio" of food and beverages.
    KC's View:
    It was less than a month ago that the New York Post reported that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was “obsessed” with the notion of juice bars after he visited Liquiteria, a juice bar in New Tork’s East Village, and even “hired veteran juicer Yohana Bencosme away from the dispensary and flew her out to Seattle to train his employees in the ways of fresh juices.” The speculation then was that Starbucks had juice bars on its mind ... and that has proven out. (I was reminded by an MNB reader after we had this story that Schultz has had a long flirtation with this side of the business - he was an early investor in Jamba Juice.)

    Expect that this will be a multi-channel play - that in addition to juice and smoothie bars, Starbucks will aggressively try to expand the Evolution Fresh footprint in the packaged goods arena.

    This is also a broader strategic move, as Starbucks looks to take a strong position in both food and the health-and-wellness category. They’re moving pieces all over the chessboard, and it is going to be interesting to watch.

    Just as a matter of interest ... at the 2012 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion called “Stomach Wars,” which will look at the changing food culture from a variety of perspectives outside the supermarket industry, endeavoring to find some context for the broader discussion. And one of the panelists will be Luigi Bonini, the new VP of Product Development & Innovation at Starbucks, who was hired away from Yum! Brands, the restaurant company, to propel the new Starbucks strategy.

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that the American Farm Bureau estimates that a classic Thanksgiving dinner for 10 this year - including turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and pumpkin pie - will cost $49.20 this year, up from $43.47 in 2010.

    That’s a 13 percent increase, and the biggest percentage cost hike since 1990.

    The biggest contributor to the increase - the turkey. According to the story, “a 16-pound bird will cost $21.57, or 22% more than in 2010.”
    KC's View:
    This will be the first Thanksgiving in years that we’ve had at home - in the recent past, we’ve all be traveling to visit our son in Chicago for the holiday and going out to dinner at a steakhouse. (Great food, no dishes. Perfect.) But this year he is coming to us, and the general consensus seems to be that everybody wants steak.

    I never argue with a hungry crowd.

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    The New York Times this morning notes that “retailers, eager to be the first to draw customers on one of the biggest shopping days of the year, are pulling the equivalent of the Republican primary shuffle by opening earlier and earlier than competitors ... But judging from the negative reaction among dedicated Friday after Thanksgiving shoppers on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the wave of midnight openings this year has crossed a line.

    “Part of the objection is inconvenience. To be at or near the front of the line, shoppers say they will now have to leave home hours earlier — in the middle of the turkey dinner for some. But the wider objections reflect sentiments like those of the Occupy Wall Street movement, including a growing attention to the rights of workers and a wariness of decisions by big business.

    “Either way, many in the shop-till-you-drop crowd have had enough with Black Friday creep.”
    KC's View:
    I think I was making this precise point yesterday. But I’m glad the Times has caught up with me.

    I would point out to the disenchanted shoppers that they don’t have to be first on line, whenever the stores open - they are making a choice and allowing themselves to be manipulated by clever and aggressive marketers. I agree, though, that Thanksgiving ought to be one of those sacrosanct holidays.

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that the US Supreme Court appears to be ready “to block a California law that would require euthanizing downed livestock at federally inspected slaughterhouses to keep the meat out of the nation's food system.”

    In 2009, California “barred the purchase, sale and butchering of animals that can't walk and required slaughterhouses under the threat of fines and jail time to immediately kill nonambulatory animals.” However, the National Meat Association has appealed that law to the highest court in the land, saying that just because an animal is nonambulatory doesn’t mean that it is sick.

    Questioning by justices, the story says, suggests that the California law “encroached on federal laws that don't require immediate euthanizing.”
    KC's View:
    That’s okay. Even if the California law gets struck down, the industry can always fall back on the standard defense when they find nonambulatory animals and suspect that they may have something like mad cow disease.

    That standard defense consists of four words: “Must be from Canada.”

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports on two studies from the University of Rhode Island saying that obesity may not just be related to what we eat, but how fast we eat it.

    According to the story, “Researchers discovered that people who ate quickly consumed about 3.1 ounces of food per minute, versus 2.5 ounces per minute for medium-speed eaters and 2 ounces per minute for slow eaters.

    “For those who question whether men eat more than women, wonder no more: At lunch, men ate about 80 calories per minute, while women ate about 52 calories per minute. At breakfast and dinner, men still consumed more calories per minute than women, but the gap wasn't so wide. Still, the researchers reported that men who said they ate slowly ate at about the same rate as women who said they ate quickly.”

    In addition, the story says that researchers “discovered that people with a higher body mass index in general ate much faster than those with a lower BMI. Also, foods with whole grains (whole grain cereal and whole wheat toast) were eaten more slowly than similar foods made with refined grains.”
    KC's View:
    Best I can tell, the study did not seem to address one major cause of fast eating - being part of a big family.

    I was the oldest of seven kids, and one of the reasons I learned to eat fast was because it was the only way to get seconds. (Which is, of course, another issue.) It is, unfortunately, a hard habit to break as one gets older...

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    • The Washington Post reports that “Walmart has unveiled new apps for the iPad and the iPhone that allow shoppers to browse inventory at their local store, scan products and create voice-activated shopping lists ... The new version of the iPhone app includes both a bar code scanner and a QR code scanner. The new voice-activated shopping list can also help customers find coupons and provides a running tally of the bill.”

    The story notes that Walmart is making a considered bet: “According to IBM Coremetrics, mobile sales made up nearly 10 percent of online retail sales last month, compared with just 3.4 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, about 6.5 percent of people who browsed products using an iPad made a purchase, compared to just 3.6 percent of of all mobile users.”

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart “plans to increase market share early this holiday season by cutting prices, including discounting board games by 34%.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    • The Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reports that there is investor interest in Supervalu these days, a company that it says “trades cheaply compared to other rivals. It might be a takeover target, or it could break itself up and sell off its discount Save-A-Lot stores (which would likely get plenty of interest) and use the cash to invest in its other chains.”

    • Washington State-based Haggen, which has been closing stores and which recently sold a majority share in the company to a private equity group, said yesterday that it will unveil a new format store - a rebranded Top Foods store that “seeks to introduce the Haggen philosophy of ‘Northwest Fresh’ it has cultivated in Bellingham to its other stores throughout the region with a core focus on the brand pillars of homemade, delight and community.”

    According to the announcement, “Some of the highlights of the changes taking place at the Bellevue Haggen include: Convenience store feature inside the front door where customers can easily get their must-have items such as milk, eggs and coffee without having to walk through the entire building. Bellingham-centric ‘store within the store’ specialty shops including: Lummi Fish Market, Chuckanut Deli and Mt. Baker Bakery.”

    • Guiding Stars - the nutrition labeling system that gives CPG products one, two or three stars to products judged, according to a proprietary and patented algorithm, to be good, better and best for you - announced that it has signed a deal to launch its system at New Orleans-based Langenstein’s, which operates two stores in the area.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    • The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced that Jennifer Kaleda, former director of 1SYNC account management at GS1 U.S., has been hired as vice president for industry affairs, operational effectiveness.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    Thursday Night Football has begun, and last night the Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers 24-17.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    I love emails like this one, which looks at a bunch of stories reported on MNB...

    Just a couple of observations. You're column is making me think, good job.

    On the card fee subject, some really good input on "Your Views". I am against most regulation as it is usually short sighted and initiated for some political gain. I supported the restrictive nature of the Durbin law to stop the banks from over charging. But the more I think about it, the law really only needed to REQUIRE that the fees be published on all receipts they were charged on. I think that would have driven more people to cash and would have hurt the banks much worst then the Durbin legislation.

    On Wal-Mart, don't look for them improve anytime soon and their performance will only continue to deteriorate. I have vendor friends that call on Wal-Mart. They hate them. I was speaking with one this morning. Posted receiving hours start at 7AM. Rang the bell until 7:35am and someone finally opened the door. When he was completed, he couldn't find anyone to check him out............ they were on a 20 minute break and he had to wait. Because of that, he is going to miss his last Wal-Mart and they will be out of stock until his next visit. Complaints to the management bring no responses. They simply don't care. The back rooms are packed and the shelves are empty. They are so big and upper management keeps wanting to "look at the big picture" that they have forgotten the nuts and bolts of how to run a business................... A&P II.

    On the Raley’s story, I agree with you. The tone of the story indicated to me that this was a process that had to be done to save the company. I think we will continue to see these kinds of stories in both the private and public sector(especially the public sector). As the unions have pushed for better and better packages that the private sector will be unable to support(can you say unsustainable), you will see local governments go bankrupt and the pensions will end. The sad part are the people that will no recourse but to go back to work because this was their only retirement options. Politicians like Grey Davis should be imprisoned for some of the deals he made that are just foolish and unsustainable. But they will promise and negotiate anything to get elected.

    MNB yesterday’s reported on a Baltimore Sun story saying that “the California city of West Hollywood has given final approval to a first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of fur clothing within its limits ... the city's famously left-leaning political establishment ultimately embraced the ban, won over by supporters' arguments that furs are produced from animals that are inhumanely killed for their pelts.”

    To which MNB user David Farnam responded:

    The key statement here was humanely killed.  I would bet they have no definition of what a humane kill would be, because they don’t believe in the death of animals for any purpose, food or clothing.

    Admittedly I’m a hunter and enjoy the hunt and the kill.  For without the kill there is no hunt.  To many of your viewers that statement probably make them think of me as some sort of barbarian with a tipping point towards being a serial killer.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  I in fact draw spiritualism from being the woods in pursuit of game.  In an odd way I feel closer to God in the woods than I do in church, at least his presence.  I hunt, I kill and I eat what I hunt.  Anyone who eats meat you are the same as me minus the trigger.

    Today if you ask the average person where a steak comes from they’ll tell you the grocery store.  The connection with food to the animal they are consuming has been lost or at least sterilized.

    Populations in rural America are drying up just as urban area are becoming more condensed.  Hence the rise of sterilized belief systems.  Being sheltered from rural life has led to this type of thinking.  The fur industry will dry up all on its own due to lack of demand.  Heck, I would bet most people who used to wear fur now don’t out of fear of what others might think.  And somehow leather is ok but fur is not…see the irony there.  And of all the troubles in this nation FUR took the top spot that week?  Really??? 

    I got my dog from the Humane Society because, well, it’s a dog and I don’t need pedigree when looking for a fury companion.  But I cannot support the Humane Society who supports the abolishment of a very spiritual part of my being.  But I couldn’t pass up a that cute little doggie in the window either.

    I’m not a big fan of fur coats, though I’m not repulsed by them - to me, they just seem like public extravagance, which I’m not big on.

    I’m also not a hunter. I’ve never held a gun, never fired one, and I just don’t think I could kill an animal. That said, I recognize that animals need to be killed if I am going to eat the way I want to, and that hunting can be a perfectly honorable - and even spiritual - thing to do. And you’re right ... if you eat meat, you can’t be anti-hunting.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I’m not one to comment on every story and really don’t want to step into the debate over the anti-fur movement but one things jumps out at me from this story. In this time of a lousy economy, countless challenges facing our kids and businesses closing – is this really what the leaders of West Hollywood deem the best us of their time – really???

    I agree.

    Regarding the economic generation gap discussion we’ve been having, one MNB user wrote:

    My theory on the economic generation gap:  spending habits.  The older generation was more prone to saving for the future, whereas the younger generation is more inclined to spend for immediate gratification.

    I look at my parents and their friends who lived in modest homes that they could easily afford, drove cars until they wore them out, and put money aside for “future emergencies”.  In summary, they lived within their means.

    I see today’s young adults living in enormous homes, driving new expensive cars, and living paycheck to paycheck not saving a dime for the future.  No wonder the foreclosure rates are where they are.  One thing turns for the worse – say a job loss - and they are in big trouble.

    I fall right in the middle of the two age groups – I’m 46, have 2 kids in private K-12 schools and am staring down the barrel of tuition bills for the next 12 years.  It scares the hell out of me and my wife even though we both have good jobs, but it forces us to save and live within our means.  I lost my job two years ago.  I was out of work for 3 months (I was fortunate to find a great position in such a short time!) but never missed paying a bill on time because I had savings to fall back on.

    Regarding the “virtual walls” that some retailers are using to allow people in movie theaters and subways and other venues to place online orders using smartphones and QR codes, one MNB user offered:

    I thought it sounded like a cool, progressive idea when I first heard about the concept. BUT, what is it about K-Mart and Sears trying it that makes it seem less than cool and progressive? I personally would be more excited about the concept if it was available in small towns, that don’t have lots of choices on shopping and with companies whose image is a little less dated. Just my two cents worth.

    On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

    Like you, I’m signed up to many of the daily coupon sites, not only in my home town, but in cities I travel to. Particularly for the latter, I find the Daily Deal to help identify things to do in those cities. For example, I signed up for Alaska and it saved me a lot of time identifying a fly fishing offer. When we used the coupon, everyone in the boat was using a coupon. The guide was said he could care less as he was busy and the other fly fishing guides weren’t. I find daily coupons an invaluable time saver when I want something to do in the cities I travel.

    I never thought about using them that way. What a great idea! Thanks...

    Regarding extended opening hours over the Thanksgiving weekend, one MNB user wrote:

    I don’t know, personally as a shopper I love the idea that Walmart will start at 10pm.  It means I get to sleep in the day after thanksgiving.  I can handle a later night on Thanksgiving Day (it generally is a later night anyway) but have always dreaded the early morning wakeup, the waiting in long lines (sometimes in the cold) and trying to do all of that on little sleep the night before spent with friends and family.  I imagine I am not the only one who feels that way.  I am excited for the change and am already starting to relish sleeping in the following day.


    Responding to Amazon’s decision to formally support federal collection of state online sales taxes, MNB user Andy Casey wrote:

    With Amazon now supporting internet sales tax collection it becomes crystal clear they have figured out a way to do it which gives them a competitive advantage.  Memo to other internet retailers; be afraid, be very afraid.


    MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

    I disagree that companies with under $500,000 in sales should be exempt.  Why should they be?  And what is magic about $500,000?  Everyone should be included.

    MNB user Blake Steen had some thoughts about Mario Batali equating big banks with Hitler and Stalin, which outraged the banking community, members of which now plan to boycott his pricey NYC restaurants:

    Typical rich, overpaid liberal.  It is ok for him to make money the way he does but not for banks to make money.  I’m sure if we compared margins from his restaurants and the banks the overpriced meals would have more margin built in.  This is the kind of stuff that makes me so mad.  I don’t disagree that banks can be and are sometimes wrong but this hatred has got to stop.

    I agree with the end of your email, but the first sentence sounds like a typical overly politicized reaction.

    I can think of plenty of rich, overpaid conservatives who have put their feet in their mouths. Occasional stupidity knows no political borders.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Thinking before you speak has become a lost art with people who are so absorbed by their success that they feel like they can say anything they want!

    Addressing the discontent with the banks over fees and perceived arrogance, and a discussion that we were having the other day, one MNB user wrote:

    The credit card companies and banks do indeed prevent retailers from revealing the amount of the swipe fee. They also for many years actively insisted that retailers had to charge the same for a credit transaction as for cash or debit, on pain of refusing to authorize the credit transactions of that retailer at all. Smaller banks who issue branded cards are also constrained by these rules. So there has been neither openness nor transparency of any kind in the growth of credit cards.

    It is interesting to remember that there were essentially no credit cards in general use before about 1970.  Fees were small, interest rates on balances were capped at about 18% virtually everywhere, and somehow we managed to run profitable banks while credit card companies made a pretty fair amount of money.  Which, of course, they promptly invested in lobbying to change the laws in their favor.

    The name calling that people resort to when some sort of regulation is proposed or enacted, regulations which in large part seek to return to similar conditions to those we had just one generation ago, is remarkable. People who are daily paying an enormous price for the behavior of these companies nonetheless defend them. And for reasons I personally don’t understand the same people who most stridently object to regulation want to “return” to an America, real or imagined, that was somehow better and certainly more prosperous than the one we have now.

    So if one wants to “return” to this prior America, one should be supporting the USDA and the FDA power to make rules – promulgated by Teddy Roosevelt as I recall. One should be supporting the banking regulations that maintained a healthy American capitalism from 1945 onward, including the delightfully prosperous years under Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.  One should want the interest rate caps that we maintained as a society, legally and ethically, for literally hundreds of years.  One should be happy with tax-supported education, since the GI Bill had as much to do with US prosperity as anything done after World War II. One should understand the value of a progressive tax system, which created not only millionaires and billionaires, but also created a thriving economy that everyone shared in and that allowed for more upward mobility than any other period in history.

    I don’t understand people who oppose what worked in favor of what clearly doesn’t, while supporting those who manipulate the laws without regard to the general welfare of the rest of the society. And then use name calling as a form of argument.

    History is worth reading. So is memory.

    Finally...I have debated long and hard with myself about using this email, and I’ve decided to do so because I think it reflects a point of view that is held by a number of people (Franco Harris said a similar thing yesterday on MSNBC), and also because it actually illustrates a larger business point. The subject is the Penn State child abuse scandal, and the reader offering the opinion is David Livingston, who apparently has been in State College this week:

    Students are not taking the firing of Joe Paterno very well.  Even if he was wrong morally its not good for business and is going to hurt ticket sales.  Poor move by Penn State.  Firing Paterno was like firing God.

    I hope the MNB community will forgive me for the following ... because I know I always make the argument for civil discourse. But I cannot help myself.

    But this is one of the dumbest, most insensitive, ill-considered and utterly wrongheaded statements I’ve heard about this scandal.

    Let’s be clear. Business decisions are not exempt from moral considerations. You cannot be a leader of any consequence if you lack a moral backbone, if you are unwilling to make moral decisions that might even hurt your business. And I would not want anyone working for me or with me that thought anything different.

    This is a criminal conspiracy, and Paterno faces at least the possibility of facing criminal charges. You can bet your bottom dollar that he will face civil suits ... and don’t give me any crap about “nuisance lawsuits.” If the grand jury report is accurate, then he deserves anything that happens to him. These little boys were raped. There is no defense. People in power - and nobody had more power on that campus that Paterno, even if there is some revisionist history being written about that - knew it for years, and did nothing. Nothing. And in doing nothing, enabled the raping of more little boys.

    And by the way, one of the main problems with college sports is that people like Joe Paterno are described as “god.” They should not be treated that way, and maybe one of the results of this scandal will be a change in the college sports culture. Because the behavior at Penn State by people in power was as far from god-like as I can imagine.

    Ticket sales might get hurt? Give me a break.

    Shame on you for thinking so, and for saying so.

    As I said earlier, I don’t think you are alone. But I do think, thank goodness, that you are in a minority.

    End of rant.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2011

    Just a few more words on the Penn State mess.

    I think the students on campus need to be cut a little slack for demonstrating on behalf of now-fired coach Joe Paterno. (Though not cut slack for acts of violence and vandalism.) These students are kids, and don’t seem to understand the utter depravity of the acts that have been committed there and that seem to have been swept under the rug by people who should have known better, who were paid to know better, who had a moral and ethical responsibility to know better. They are living in the college cocoon, and that can warp your view of the rest of the world.

    But this is the moment that the university needs to step up and prove what “higher education” really means. It means not closing your eyes to acts of evil. It means being willing to challenge authority when necessary. It means not just doing the least possible thing, but going as far as necessary - and sometimes, even farther - in pursuit of justice. It means not putting an institution ahead of the welfare of people, especially kids who cannot defend themselves, who have no voice in the power structure. It means, at its very core, not just knowing the difference between right and wrong, but acting on that knowledge.

    This is what is known as a teachable moment. In the debris of the Penn State disaster, that’s what the university leadership ought to be doing. Teaching. Not worrying about selling football tickets or preserving alumni donations. Maybe if they actually teach, they’ll learn something themselves.

    There are a couple of commercials on television these days that I find really offensive.

    One is from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It has this older guy in a blue sweater walking toward the camera, essentially saying that anyone who votes to make any changes in Social Security or Medicare should expect to find 50 million people voting against them in upcoming elections.

    Now, I say this as someone who is 57 years old, and therefore probably too old to be affected by any changes in benefits. (General speculation is that if there are any changes, they will only affect people under 55.) But from my perspective, is is one of the more irresponsible commercials on television - and it certainly does not speak for me. (I don’t belong to AARP, mostly because I don’t like to think of myself as being old enough to belong to such a group. But now I have a reason that has nothing to do with vanity and self-delusion.)

    I am not nearly smart enough to be able to figure out how to dig the country out of its current fiscal mess. But I do believe that nothing - nothing - should be off the table. And I also happen to believe that AARP is deluding itself if it believes that its membership will march in lockstep behind such an irrational and irresponsible position.

    The other commercial that really, really annoys me is a new one saying that a large percentage of US Postal Service (USPS) employees are retired members of the military, and suggests that any changes in the postal service - and, by implication, its staffing levels - is an attack on America’s servicemen and women.

    Again, totally irresponsible.

    Listen, I feel bad about the people who inevitably will lose their jobs if the USPS goes through a major and desperately needed restructuring. And I feel worse if a lot of those employees are retired military - they served this country in a way that I cannot even imagine, and they deserve our respect and gratitude.

    But that doesn’t mean that the USPS should continue doing business as usual if business as usual doesn’t make any sense, if the organization itself is obsolete and has outlived its usefulness, at least in the way that its usefulness traditionally has been defined. All of its employees ought to be retrained for 21st century jobs, ought to be helped to find ways to be competitive in a new economy.

    But we don;t do anyone any good if we simply go down the path of least resistance when it comes to the USPS, because eventually we’ll go over a cliff.

    The one thing we can’t be is irrational and irresponsible.

    There is, however, one very cool commercial on TV these days - it is for a video game called “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” and it stars Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington. Now,I am not a gamer - I’m not sure I’ve ever played a video game, and I know I haven’t played this one. But I love this commercial, which is themed around the line, “There’s a soldier in all of us,” and which is both clever and does not insult the viewer’s intelligence. And here’s the deal - it actually made me want to play.

    Which is what I think a commercial is supposed to do.

    I had one of the best birthday dinners of my life last weekend. (I’m referring to the food; my two sons were not there, and I miss them when they’re not with us.) We were in Boston, where we were visiting colleges with my daughter. On Friday night, we went to Legal Test Kitchen (LTK), down in the Seaport District, and I had Blackened Raw Tuna Sashimi, served with chili garlic vinaigrette and wasabi sauce as an appetizer, and then this marvelous paella - with shrimp, chicken and chorizo sausage - as an entree.

    And the wine - fantastic! It was a 2009 Ben Marco Malbec that was smooth and rich and utterly perfect.

    Great evening. Happy birthday to me.

    My other wine of the week - a terrific 2009 Albarino from California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard, which is bright and spicy and perfect with a chorizo omelette that I made the other night.

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

    KC's View: