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    Published on: January 19, 2012

    This commentary is available in text and video form. The content is similar, but not word-for-word. Enjoy both, or either...

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with The Content Guy.

    True leadership often is a combination of vision and experience, of tangible and intangible qualities. There are different kinds of leaders, and different kinds of leadership. But a true leader is someone you’d follow anywhere...even into the valley of death, as it were.

    Not too long ago, Michael Sansolo waxed rhapsodic here about the leadership qualities of “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline captain who landed his crippled airplane in the Hudson River and got everybody off without a single casualty. We see and hear a guy like Sullenberger, and we want to be like him. We want to follow his lead.

    But sometimes, when thinking about the qualities that go into a great leader, we have to take it from the other perspective. What kind of leader would we not want to be like?

    In this vein, I submit for your consideration the name Francesco Schettino - the captain of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground last Friday. This guy is no Sully Sullenberger. He’s not even Edward Smith - the captain of the Titanic. Smith may have hit an iceberg, but he went down with his ship. He knew that this was his responsibility.

    Not Francesco.

    What do we know about him at this point?

    The reports are that the only reason the ship ran aground was because he screwed up - he may even have been showing off.

    We know that he abandoned the ship while there were still 300 passengers on board. Now he says that he “fell into a lifeboat” and couldn’t get back on the ship, but is there anyone who believes that?

    We know that no matter how much the Coast Guard pleaded with him to get back on the ship, he refused. It’s dark there, he said. You can;t see anything.

    There are even reports that when he grabbed a taxi to a local hotel, he asked the driver where he could buy dry socks.

    This guy has been arrested already for negligence, and apparently he can be prosecuted under all sorts of Italian and international statutes.

    I think we can agree that there are fewer better examples lately of a complete and utter lack of leadership. Negligence doesn’t even seem to begin to cover it.

    At the end of the day, no matter what your leadership position, it really is all about responsibility. You’re in charge. You get the applause when things go well, and you go down with the ship when things go badly.

    In this context, Francesco Schettino is like to be a case study in how not to lead...not to mention being the punch line for a lot of jokes.

    I would, however, like to suggest that Schettino may not be the anomaly that we’d like to think he is.

    After all, how many bankers and investment experts made money when the economy tanked, because they hedged their bets even against the clients to whom they were making recommendations? And how many CEOs walk away with multi-million dollar compensation packages even after they’ve completely screwed up a company?

    Maybe there are a lot more people like Francesco Schettino out there than we’d like to believe.

    If so, that’s not a punch line. It’s just very, very sad.

    That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I’d like to know what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Don McLean, a long, long time ago, wrote a song about “the day the music died.”

    Maybe it is time for a sequel. A song about the day on which at least some of the internet went dark.

    That was yesterday - a day when Wikipedia’s English language site went dark for 24 hours as a way of protesting proposed internet piracy legislation being considered by the US Congress. It was a day when Google and a number of other sites directed readers to web pages describing what they see as the threat created by such legislation. (Google dramatized its position by blacking out its own name on its web pages.)

    There are two similar bills in play here. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is being considered in the US House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act is being debated in the US Senate.

    Politico writes that “SOPA and PIPA are designed to crack down on websites based offshore that peddle illegal content  — think pirated Hollywood blockbusters and fake Viagra. No one disputes that that’s a worthy goal. The rub is whether it would give the government and copyright holders too much control over the Web ... If the Justice Department or a copyright holder believed a site was directing users to pirated content, they would go to court. Depending on who’s complaining, different remedies would come into play: In some instances a judge could order an Internet service provider like Verizon to cut off access to a site. In others, a search engine like Google could be directed to delete links to an infringing site. The idea is to starve the offending sites of the web traffic that keeps them in business.”

    The story goes on:

    “Google and First Amendment scholars like Harvard’s Laurence Tribe argue that SOPA would squelch free speech by giving private parties power to effectively cripple sites that allegedly — but not conclusively — steal copyrighted content. The simple filing of a complaint, they say, would exert huge pressure on the Internet ecosystem to blacklist an accused site. They also say it would give the feds dangerous new powers to go after sites for political reasons.

    “Nonsense, supporters say. The bills, they say, are narrowly crafted to target overseas sites that are ‘dedicated to theft of U.S. property.’ Web companies are resorting to hyperbole and hysteria to maintain the status quo, backers argue.”

    The politics of the issue are said to be unusual. There seems to be enough support for the bills in Congress to get them passed, though Politico notes that “the protest against the bills has its supporters reeling,” with members concerned that support for the bill could hurt re-election chances this fall. President Obama already has said he would not sign either bill as they are presently written, and reports say that he had to make a choice between irritating one of two core constituencies - Hollywood or Silicon Valley.
    KC's View:
    Perhaps the whole issue will get tabled until after the November elections.

    I hope that if this happens, supporters will take time to reconsider some of the provisions of the legislation. While I totally understand why companies are concerned about pirated material, I worry that the bills could open the door to a kind of censorship.

    Published on: January 19, 2012, the loyalty marketing research and education company, is out with a new study saying that “when asked if it pays to be loyal to a favorite brand, only 12% of U.S. consumers strongly agree and only 17% say loyalty programs are a ‘very influential’ factor in determining a purchase.”

    Indeed, the study shows that “while consumer participation in loyalty programs is up, the type of engagement that forges long-term brand commitment is down, a victim of the rapidly disappearing unique customer experience. The number of Americans participating in at least one loyalty program grew from 68% in 2009 to 74% in 2011. For Seniors (60 and over), the jump was from 61% to 81% for the same period.”

    In addition, says, “just 31% of U.S. consumers find reward program communications extremely relevant.”
    KC's View:
    Somehow, I’m not surprised by any of this.

    It has been argued here for years that many so-called “loyalty programs” are nothing of the kind - that they largely exist as a way of funneling coupons to shoppers, as somewhat more sophisticated discount programs that have very little to do with creating or demonstrating loyalty.

    In the report, COLLOQUY says “loyalty programs have fallen into a trap of copying one another with discount and cash-back rewards that increasingly look alike to consumers. The research conclusion: Something new is needed, otherwise brand owners must incur not only the margin losses but also the cost to re-engage their customers.”

    They’re playing my song.

    If you are operating a loyalty program, and you see that many of your customers have a key ring full of cards from your competition, the message should be clear. It ain’t working.

    First of all, retailers need to be finding ways to demonstrate their loyalty to their best shoppers, not trying to buy loyalty with price cuts.

    Retailers need to be seriously segregating their best shoppers for their least dedicated shoppers, their cherry buyers from their cherry pickers.

    Otherwise they’re just kidding themselves.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    As expected, the Eastman Kodak Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing assets of $5.1 billion and debts totaling $6.8 billion.

    The Bloomberg story about the filing notes that Kodak seemed to be “a company stuck in time,” and that in many ways as a photography pioneer had proven to be a liability in a digital world. The irony, of course, is that, as the story notes, Kodak “invented the first digital camera in 1975, which it shelved because it would threaten its lucrative film business.”
    KC's View:
    And if that is not a metaphor for myopic management, I don’t know what is.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    • @WalmartLabs has announced the launch of what it is calling a “Get on the Shelf” contest, which offers anyone in the US “the chance to get their product sold on and even in Walmart stores. Any product in any category currently covered by Walmart is eligible ranging from housewares and electronics to toys and apparel.”

    The contest is being set up with a kind of ‘American Idol” infrastructure, with contestants required to “create videos of their latest inventions and the public will vote online for the winners.

    “A two-round public voting process will determine the top three products to be sold on The Grand Prize winner's product will be sold on and featured on the site's home page, and also get valuable shelf space in select Walmart stores across the country.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    Reuters reports that the nation’s childhood and adult obesity rates seem to be holding steady.

    According to the story, “Government researchers found that in 2009 and 2010, about one in three adults and one in six kids and teens were obese. The rates represent no change from 2007 and 2008 figures, and only a slight increase among specific demographics over rates from the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

    The numbers are said to be encouraging to public health officials.
    KC's View:
    It also has to be seen as a reflection of the fact that the enormous publicity about obesity issues - not to mention efforts made both in people’s personal lives and in the public policy arena - may be having an impact.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    The Travel Channel is out with a new survey suggesting that “a good number of Americans are willing to embrace the weird, at least when it comes to grub. When asked what they would serve at a Super Bowl party, one-third of respondents would serve muskrat chili and one-fifth would put a pig ear sandwich on the menu. Seventeen percent of hosts thought that possum fajitas sounded good for the game and 6% would serve lamb brains ... When asked to choose between a range of bizarre foods, smoked raccoon appealed to 39% of survey takers while 18% agreed to dine on guinea pig. Only one in 20 would have duck testicles or cow placenta.”

    The survey was done as a way to promote the channel’s premiere of "Bizarre Foods America" on January 23 at 10:00pm.
    KC's View:
    I like to think of myself as having fairly liberal food tastes, and I’ll try almost anything. There is nothing mentioned in this story that I’d be unwilling to taste (though I suspect that a pig ear sandwich might push the envelope in terms of acceptability).

    But I’d really like to know where they conducted this survey.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    • In the UK, the Guardian reports on Tesco’s struggles in the western US, noting that the company is closing stores - temporarily - in the “food deserts” that it originally targeted as being prime territory for its Fresh & Easy format, while at the same time opening stores in places like Hermosa Beach, “a mecca for surfers and young professionals about 10 miles south of Los Angeles airport where such offerings as largegrain couscous, pre-prepared chicken and broccoli alfredo, and $30 (£20) bottles of pinot noir from the Santa Rita hills near Santa Barbara have a more obvious customer base.”

    According to the story, “The company's line is that it is fine-tuning its path to profitability and market visibility in what has been an undeniably tough economic environment ... But the picture is challenged by retail trade analysts and union activists who say Tesco has never properly understood the market, has alienated the communities it seeks to serve and has done a poor job of providing something that is both different and appealing.”

    • Fresh & Easy announced that it has launched its own line of affordable vitamins and supplements, described as “offering customers even more options to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Like all fresh&easy products, the new range of twenty vitamins and supplements contain no artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.” The line of private brand vitamins and supplements are said to “provide many benefits, including supporting bone, urinary tract, prostate, heart, immune system, joint, prenatal, digestive, eye, and general health. They also provide antioxidant support, help energy metabolism and provide sleep support.”

    • Sometimes you can’t win.

    Take the case of Tesco in the UK. The company announced this week that as part of a broader effort to clash prices, it was going to begin selling five-packs of chocolate bars for just one British pound, or about $1.55 (US). That works out to 20 pence per bar, or about 31 cents apiece, or less than half what the bars are sold for individually.

    Enter a number of health experts - who complained that lowering the price on chocolate would only serve to worsen the nation’s obesity crisis.

    Tesco responded that it also has lowered prices on meat, seafood and fresh produce.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    Perhaps this is the next trend for in-store health clinics.

    Walgreen Co. announced that its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary, which operates clinics in some 350 of the company’s drug stores around the country, will begin offering customers the ability to make appointments - either online or via instore touch screen kiosks.

    "Our goal is always to leverage leading technology and practices to help our patients receive the care they need, on their terms, and the ability to offer appointments will help us do just that," says Heather Helle, divisional vice president for Walgreens Consumer Solutions Group, in a prepared statement. "Now patients or health systems partners can easily evaluate which clinic location makes the most sense for a visit at a convenient time, and we believe this will ultimately help create the simpler and easier health care experience that is being sought by patients and their health care providers."
    KC's View:
    This will be a huge advantage for Walgreen’s stores...and I’d expect that we’ll see more retailers offering this option.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    The National Grocers Association (NGA) announced that it is partnering with the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Unilever to expand its highly regarded Executive Leadership Development Program.
    The NGA Executive Leadership Development Program is currently offered at Cornell University through funding provided by PepsiCo, Inc. The expansion will now include two programs offered at two institutions, Cornell and USC, allowing N.G.A. to increase annual participation from 36 executives to more than fifty.

    More than 250 NGA member executives representing senior leadership from over 100 independent retailers and wholesalers have graduated from the Cornell program since its inception. PepsiCo Inc. sponsors the Cornell program through funding support and Unilever will provide funding to support the new USC program.

    The NGA Executive Leadership Development Program will be held June 3-7, 2012 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and June 10-14, 2012 at USC in Los Angeles, California.
    KC's View:
    I love the USC program, and have been pleased when Bob Hermanns, who runs it, has invited me to teach there from time to time. I recommend that anyone looking to give their executives a higher education give USC serious consideration.

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    • The U.S. Department of Labor said yesterday that its regional solicitor’s office in Boston has filed a complaint against DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., asking the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to force the chain to comply with “safety standards designed to protect employees from fall and laceration hazards.” According to the announcement, “This request for enterprisewide relief is based upon hazards OSHA found during inspections of various DeMoulas stores, including the agency’s most recent inspections at Market Basket stores in Rindge and Concord, N.H. Those inspections resulted in citations and proposed OSHA fines totaling $589,200, which DeMoulas has contested to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.”

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that Wendy’s is beginning to test a “Black Label Burger” concept that would be designed to appeal to high-end tastes.

    According to the story, “The Bacon Portabella and Spicy Santa Fe burgers are ‘in the very early stages,” said Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch ... the sandwiches cost just under $5 each and feature ingredients such as mushroom sauce, Muenster cheese, guacamole and more.”

    Bloomberg reports that there is considerable speculation that hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, who owns 60 percent of Sears Holdings and is facing declining sales at both his Sears and Kmart chains, could take the company private.

    The speculation has led to a rising share price for Sears. Analysts say that the needed restructuring at the company can be more easily achieved if it is privately owned.

    • The Academy of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph's University and the Food Marketing Educational Foundation announced that they will honor Weis Markets - currently celebrating its 100th year in business - at their 44th annual citation award dinner.

    “It is our great pleasure to recognize Weis Markets with the 44th annual citation award,” said Bob Higgins, executive director of the Academy of Food Marketing. “Not only is Weis Markets a leader in food retailing and distribution, the organization is also a model for corporate citizenship with its support of many philanthropic and charitable causes.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2012

    Responding to a story about obesity issues, one MNB user wrote:

    You seem a bit conflicted for a change.  You espouse one view “a public policy response is required”  yet believe another “no amount of public policy can replace the simple act of parents feeding their kids healthy foods.”  Unless of course you actually believe that more policy will move the needle?  Obesity as a national problem/project is a complex socio-economic puzzle.  For how can you have obesity with impoverished people?  Seems counter intuitive.  Poor used to mean hungry and I don’t think it necessarily does anymore.  I think poor today means less access to quality food i.e. food deserts and more access to low quality food, i.e. government cheese.

    The bigger issue in my view is how people receive health care.  Those that can afford to pay, pay for those who can’t.  Those that don’t pay have no skin in the game and those that do likely pay a flat rate premium where a fit active healthy person pays the same as the coworker sitting next to them with a 4 pack a day Twinkie habit.

    I think you were on to it with the parents and I would bet the children mirror the waistlines of their parents as well.  Similar to the sin tax on cigarettes, I smell a Twinkie tax coming.  Smokers also pay more in most health plans today but they can lie about it.  Scales don’t lie which is why I smell a fat tax looming.  At least there would be a financial incentive for losing the pounds.  And if they don’t, well they are costing the system more anyway.  Of course if the incentive is too great I could see Liposuction procedures running rampant.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I agree with your last point, “But at the end of the day, no amount of public policy can replace the simple act of parents feeding their kids healthy foods (and eating such foods themselves), getting exercise, and going to fast food joints less frequently.” This seems to contradict your previous point that “there is no question that a public policy response is required” and supports my firm belief that personal accountability, not government intervention, is the answer.

    We each need to act like adults and step up to our responsibilities as parents and citizens. If we can’t or don’t, some politician is going to strong arm ill perceived policies that cannot be sustained…Oh wait, it looks like that’s already happening.

    I actually don’t think there is a conflict in my views.

    I absolutely believe that we as parents have the greatest responsibility for educating our kids about how to eat intelligently and exercise adequately. No question about it.

    But that does not mean ignoring the role of public policy. For example, I firmly believe that our schools should be educating kids about nutrition from an early age, requiring physical education classes, and serving healthy food in their cafeterias. I think that if we’re going to spend public money on public education, it ought to be spent wisely - and since there are plenty of smart people out there who believe that the US obesity crisis creates national security issues for the US, I think that there can be sophisticated and comprehensive public policy ways to address the problem.

    I don’t think that requiring honest and complete labels on food products is an abuse of power - it is just requiring transparency, not trying to tell people what to eat.

    On another subject...I got a lot of emails yesterday about our story suggesting that there could be legitimate environmental questions raised about the one-cup coffee maker trend, which has been popularized by Keurig and other companies. The question is, what is the impact of all those coffee and tea cartridges that are difficult to recycle?

    I said that while I don’t use a one-cup machine - I drink way too much coffee for that - this issue alone would turn me off using one.

    However ... I got a bunch of emails yesterday from people who pointed out that you can buy filter baskets for one-cup machines that allow you to use your own ground coffee, can be washed out and reused, and therefore are no threat to the environment.

    To be honest, I didn’t know that. This option probably hasn’t been marketed much because the coffee companies make all their money on those disposable pods. But it certainly affects my thinking about Keurig and other, similar machines.

    Thanks for the info.

    Regarding celebrity chef Paul Deen’s announcement that she has diabetes, and her simultaneous announcement that she has a marketing deal with a pharmaceutical company that makes diabetes drugs, one MNB user wrote:

    Paula Deen could have announced her condition three years ago when she was first diagnosed. She could have teamed up with the American Diabetes Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) or the Joslin Diabetes Center, which is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. 

    Instead she's partnering with a drug company.

    I think that says it all.

    I share your cynicism. This announcement is about branding and money, nothing else.

    On another subject, MNB user Shawn Tuckett wrote:

    One particular collision spot for the Boomers and the Millennials is grocers' weekly ads.  Working for a digital marketing company specifically focused on grocery, your article brought to mind my discussions with grocery executives on how to best serve up their weekly specials, be it digitally or through the long established print medium.

    While I could wax eloquent on the promise of digital and tell you why retailers should run from print as fast as they can, your article helps illuminate the more nuanced environment we are contending with.  While the Millennials prefer digital hands down, the Boomers are on the fence and like you said they are the big spenders, hence they can't be forgotten.

    With that said, one thing retailers can't do is ignore the issue.  They must engage with these questions now and use their unique understanding of their shoppers to make decisions that best fit their business. A question I do often ask myself though - do most retailers make decisions based on today's shopper preference or shopper preference from 20-30 years ago?

    While I assume digital marketing will ultimately benefit these retailers and their shoppers, both Boomer and Millennial more, maybe that's just my immaturity and know-it-all nature as a Millennial getting in the way of my better judgement.  Somebody find a wise Boomer who can set me straight.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Thanks for your comments today regarding Millennial Branding.   Early in my grocery management career I recall having attended a presentation by Ken Dychtwald from AgeWave.   From that day forward, I have had a keen interest in generational marketing and it is a cornerstone of my business today.

    Having been born in late 1961, I have been told in various situations that I am a member of both the Baby Boom generation and Generation Y, depending on whose description is being used.   Because I work predominantly with Baby Boomers both as co-workers and as clients, I believe that my beliefs and behavioral traits have virtually nothing in common with that generation and everything in common with Gen-Y.   (The one glaring exception is that I have had only two employers in my post-college working career.)

    I only work for a Fortune 500 company because they bought the firm I worked for previously.  Despite that, they do allow me to operate my business in an entrepreneurial fashion and for that, I am very grateful.   However, should the firm ever lose sight of that entrepreneurial spirit, I would likely find myself looking for a third employer.   Just the same, they won’t allow me to post the name of my employer on my Facebook profile!

    Regarding the success Starbucks’ pre-paid card, one MNB user wrote:

    One of the key benefits of using the Starbuck's Pre-Paid Card isn't just the ability to use my phone to pay, it is the additional discounts such as a free drink for every 15 that I purchase, free flavors when I want them in my drink, etc..  These "upgrades" and rewards drive the desire for both myself and many of my friends to use our Starbucks cards frequently (and in fact argue over whose card is going to be used!).

    Kohl's also does this with their additional % off for using their cards (albeit this is a credit card vs. a pre-paid gift card).

    Truly a lesson for other retailers.

    We had a piece about Target the other day noting that company says that “what we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices without making investments, as we do, to proudly display your brands, create a superior guest experience...”

    Which led one MNB user to write:

    It's seems in this statement that Target is missing the point that it is consumers who are making the decision to buy online after using Target "as a showroom".  The online retailers are apparently offering a guest experience that many consumers prefer.  That is the real challenge facing Target.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I wonder how Greg Steinhafel and Kathee Tesija feel about his "most important vendor partners" sharing Target's strategy with you and then seeing it printed, verbatim, in your blog, for all its competitors to see.

    That's not the kind of supplier "partner" I would want.  I'm also at a loss to understand why you would reprint a letter that clearly was not intended for the mass market.  Journalists have their sources, but also are expected exercise judgement.  I'm a fan of yours but I think you blew it here. The story, and the content, are indeed interesting and relevant, but at what price?

    I don’t mean to be callous here, but when I make a judgement about a story, if I can have the words “interesting” and “relevant” attached to it, that;’s usually good enough for me.

    My job is not to protect Target. My job is to tell you what I know, and tell you what I think, and clearly differentiate between the two. (I try not to be gratuitously mean or snarky - and I certainly don’t think I was in this case - but I’m certainly willing to cross that line for a good punchline.)

    The emails above, and my original response to the story, are why I posted the letter. It allows for open and frank discussion of retailing issues, including how brick-and-mortar retailers can best serve customers in a digital world.

    And you are assuming that it was given to me by a “vendor partner.” I never said that.

    Got the following email about Michael Sansolo’s column about conductor Benjamin Zander:

    Michael's article belongs in a tabloid, not in this venue. It was full of mixed messages and has nothing to do with the industry. It's personal and his reference to the Louisville Slugger was awful. WTH?

    I respectfully disagree, on a number of points.

    First, it was a piece about the fragility of leadership and what happens when people perceived as leaders think they are above criticism. Zander - who was fired for having hired a convicted child molester 20 years ago to be a videographer for the New England Youth Orchestra - showed arrogance in his response to his ouster. We deal in metaphor and unorthodox examples here on MNB, and I thought this was a great example of what we do ... and that nobody else in this space would even think about doing.

    Was it personal? (Michael’s son, he noted, studied with Zander and loved the experience.) Sure it was. In my mind, that’s what made the piece effective. It illustrated the difference that exists sometimes between reality and perception - and again, that’s what I think people expect from MNB, and what makes us different.

    Tabloid fodder? Far from it. Mixed messages? Nothing of the sort.

    The reason that MNB exists, IMHO, is to do pieces like that. I feel bad that you didn’t see it that way, but I’m also sort of pleased that it provoked a reaction.

    And, we have an update from MNB user Craig Espelien about his frustrations with Apple Store customer service:

    Well, Apple’s service reputation is now severely tarnished with me.  As you may recall from an earlier note, I talked to two different people in their customer service (sales) area and was directed to the corporate office – where I have now left two voice mails (Tuesday January 10 and Monday, January 16) for Kimberly Weibrecht (not sure the spelling is correct).  She is apparently in charge of the Great Plains retail group – which includes the Mall of America store where my tribulations began.

    I have not been to an alternative store yet (too much travel) but Apple completely dropped the ball if their goal is to make customers (both current and potential) happy.

    A simple call to hear the issue and “look into it” would have been the minimum – but ignoring the problem does not seem to be the way I would want my business run.

    I think I said the other day that I’d never had a problem at an Apple Store, but I subsequently realized that once I did - I felt strongly that during one visit, the employees were more interested in talking to each other than to paying customers. An hour or two after my visit, I got an email survey from Apple, and I pointed this out ... and within a couple of hours, I got a call from the store manager, apologizing for the experience and asking what she could do to make it up to me.

    That clearly has not happened in Craig’s case. Not sure why. but it certainly appears that priorities may have shifted at the company...

    This would be an enormous mistake for Apple. It has cool stores. (You should see the new one in NYC’s Grand Central Terminal - it is awesome.) It has cool products. But customer service is an enormous part of the equation, and a diminished reputation in this area could evolve into a brand-damaging trend.

    The lesson to every retailer ought to be clear.

    KC's View: