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    Published on: March 22, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    This commentary is available both as text and video. They are similar but not identical. Enjoy both, or either.

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

    There was an interesting piece in the New York Times the other day by Karen Le Billion, entitled “How My Daughters Learned To Eat Like The French.” The piece was adapted from a book she has coming out, entitled “French Kids Eat Everything,” and her main premise seems to be that French kids eat everything at least in part because they are offered everything to eat. Growing up in a culture that embraces a wide range of foods, they aren’t culturally predisposed to like chicken nuggets and french fries above all else.

    It was interesting reading the piece because it was just a couple of weeks ago that In was listening to NPR and heard an interview with a woman named Pamela Druckerman, who has written a book entitled “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” She also talked a lot about food, making the point that teaching kids to try different kinds of foods and educating their palates is seen as a central responsibility of French parents. And an early responsibility - she said that French kids eat real food a lot earlier than American kids, so they get accustomed to it earlier.

    Now, I don’t want to start canonizing the French. For one thing, they smoke way too much. And, as Gene Hackman said as Popeye Doyle in French Connection II, “I’d rather be a lamp post in New York than the president of France.” (Let’s just say this this was a somewhat less sympathetic version of France than was seen last year in Midnight in Paris.)

    But they do know their way around wine and food, and I’m willing to bow to their greater knowledge on these subjects.

    If I could start raising my kids all over again, I think I’d try to shape their approaches to food differently. In this way, they take after my wife, who has a far more conservative palate than I do. The good news is that as my kids get older, they’ve begun to try new things and develop a taste for spice and flavor. Which makes me very happy.

    It all comes down to how we think about food as a culture. And, quite frankly, the culture would be better off if more retailers in the food industry would put a greater focus on food and flavor and challenging their customers to try new things. I even think it could lead to new sales.

    The bottom line would be served, and we’d be better as a culture. And everything would taste better. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

    FYI...You can see all of the FaceTime videos by clicking here.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Fast Company has a piece about the things that people would rather give up rather than go without the internet.

    According to the story, polls say that 73 percent of Americans would give up alcohol rather than the internet. Forty-three percent say they’d give up exercise. Twenty-one percent say they’d prefer to give up sex. And only 10 percent say they’d rather give up their car.

    (As Fast Company notes, this means that Americans would rather drive than go celibate. Go figure.)

    I’d just like to say that, for the record, while I love going online, I wouldn’t even want to give up seafood risotto or red wine rather than lose the internet.

    But that’s just me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    Three of the country’s biggest food retailers said yesterday that they no longer will sell meat with so-called “pink slime,” an inexpensive meat filler made from low-grade trimmings often referred to as “lean finely textured beef.”

    Supervalu made the announcement that it will “no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing finely textured beef for any of our traditional retail stores. These stores include Acme®, Albertsons®, Cub Foods®, Farm Fresh®, Hornbacher’s®, Jewel-Osco®, Lucky, Shaw’s/Star Market™, Shop ‘n Save® and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy®.  We are currently working with our suppliers to implement this change.”

    The company added that “while it’s important to remember there are no food safety concerns with products containing finely textured beef, this decision was made due to ongoing customer concerns over these products. All current beef products in our stores meet strict safety and quality standards approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

    Meanwhile,Safeway said that it reached the same conclusion because of “considerable consumer concern” about pink slime.

    “Safeway is committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality products,” the company said in a statement. “While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product.  Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef.”

    At the same time, Delhaize-owned Food Lion said that it is working with its suppliers to assure that none of its future beef purchases will contain the filler, and noted that the “80 percent lean ground beef” it already sells doesn’t contain the fillers.
    KC's View:
    I think this is a good idea, but there are those who think that I am jumping on a bandwagon that ought to be sent careening off a cliff.

    I continue to get email about the Pink Slime issue, such as this one:

    Please STOP referencing BLBT (Boneless Lean Beef Trim) FTB (Finely Textured Beef) and LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef) as “Pink Slime” in your daily blog. Pink slime is a term that was made up by Jamie Oliver who used his celebrity to mis-represent the facts and the facts have been further mis-represented and sensationalized by the media. There is no such thing as “Pink Slime “ in the beef industry and to continue to use this term is only doing a dis service to the beef industry, retailers in general and most importantly, the customers that patronize our stores.  As I am sure you have been made aware by now, these products are not fillers, they are 100% pure beef made from 100% pure beef trim and yield a product that is over 90% lean. BLBT and FTB are produced from trim that is virtually impossible to separate lean from fat with a knife. The industry has developed processes that make this once impossible separation process possible. For someone who claims to be a knowledgeable food advocate, it seems that you have not done much in the way of getting your facts straight on this subject and you continue to provide a platform that is perpetuating a blatantly false, misrepresentation of the facts.

    And from another MNB user:

    Your use of the term “pink slime” even in quotes IMHO extends and promulgates misinformation not only about the specific product from a specific company that is sometimes added to ground beef by some suppliers in some cases but is by no means used in the majority of ground beef sold by supermarkets in the USA. I completely understand that you support transparency and that a significant segment of the population does as well but we would all be better served by using terms such as “the addition of chemical compounds determined to improve the safety of the product” rather than using terms such as pink slime. If a consumer chooses not to buy products with additives designed to make the product safer for consumption I have no issue with their choice or that the information be made available to them but I don’t know that we need to be un-necessarily inflammatory about it.

    For all of those now inclined to change their diets to more fruits and veggies (which I have done to a significant degree) and less red meat I have to ask if they are aware of the many and various chemical compounds used to grow and preserve these products or the fact that “Organic” farming can include things like manure which we likely are not particularly interested in eating either. There have been more documented cases of food driven illness in the past few years from veggies than from red meat.

    I am not advocating for or against transparency, or the use of chemical compounds in the production of food products or the consumption of red meat. I do advocate for a rational discussion of the issues rather than the throwing of fuel on the fire.


    Pink Slime is now Pink Slime - forever. Deal with it.

    It may be safe. But it does not sound desirable. Or appetizing.

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that the City Council there will consider an ordinance that would prevent “formula retail” stores - meaning those with “ standardized facades, color schemes, decor, employee uniforms and merchandise” - from opening in the city’s Chinatown.

    The ordinance is being proposed about a month after Walmart announced plans to open a 33,000 square foot supermarket in - wait for it - Chinatown.

    The story notes that the sponsors of the bill have bypassed the usual process of having a public hearing on the proposal, and that it will be voted on tomorrow. While Walmart does not need council approval because it is moving into an existing building, it will need construction permits ... and the sponsors seem to be hoping that by passing this bill quickly, they will be able to throw a roadblock in front of Walmart, which had numerous issues in California when it tried to open bigger stores there.

    And, the Times writes, “Opponents warned that (the) proposal could block a wide range of chain businesses from opening in Chinatown, including banks, grocery stores, fast-food places and Boba tea houses.”

    No surprise that Walmart is facing opposition, though it is a little distressing that they’re trying to do it by circumventing the system that allows for public comment. Silly me, but I’d want to hear from people in the neighborhood - not just other businesses that may be affected, but also from local residents who may be yearning for a mainstream grocery store to be within walking distance.

    Bloomberg reports this morning that Walmart will pay $2.1 million in fines to the state of California “for overcharging consumers in violation of a 2008 agreement to stop scanning errors that resulted in customers paying more for products than their shelf price.”

    As a result of the 2008 agreement, the story says, “consumers who were overcharged at cash registers received $3 off the lowest advertised price of the item, and if the price was less than $3, Wal-Mart was required to give the item free of charge, according to the statement. Today’s judgment means the program, originally intended to end in November, will be extended to November 2013.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “big advertisers, ad agencies and ad networks are working with Internet-browser makers on a ‘do-not-track’ system, a shift from the industry's previous skepticism about such a tool ... A do-not-track tool would let Internet users indicate they don't want their online activity to be monitored. Microsoft and Mozilla have incorporated such features into their latest browsers, but the tools rely on ad networks and others to honor people's do-not-track requests.”
    KC's View:
    One of the things that drives me nuts - just generally - is illustrated in this story, in the line that goes like this:

    It is still not clear how ad networks and advertisers will interpret do-not-track requests. Some ad networks still collect information about Web browsing when users opt out of their systems, but don't use that information to display targeted ads.

    And then it goes on to say that some executives say that consumers have simple expectations about do-not-track systems ... that they mean that - go figure - that they will not be tracked.

    It’d be nice if people would say what they are going to do and do what they say.

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    The Orange County Register reports that Kroger-owned Ralphs in Southern California has announced that as of April 1, its longtime double coupons policy will be ended.

    “In mailers delivered to customers this week,” the Register writes, “the Southern California supermarket chain announced big changes coming soon to its Rewards program. Starting April 1, rewards points earned on the Ralphs Rewards card will be good for ‘fuel discounts’ instead cash-back certificates. Customers will receive their final ‘rewards certificates’ after May 1, the full page ad said.” And, in smaller print, the ad says that coupons now will be accepted only at face value.

    "At Ralphs, we take our relationship with our customers very seriously,” Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel tells the Register. “Rest assured that these changes are leading to something  that will result in more widespread savings for our shoppers, throughout the store, every single day. While we  understand your frustration, please know that we carefully considered these changes, keeping in mind the implications for our shoppers. Next week, on March 28th, we plan to announce the new savings program with even greater savings."
    KC's View:
    I’m sure they’ll face some blow-back on the elimination of double coupons, but I think this is a smart move. I’ve never liked double coupons, and they can become a kind of addiction that is tough for customers to break. I also think that offering fuel discounts in California - where it seemed during my visit last week like prices were rapidly edging toward $5 per gallon - has to have some resonance.

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “a new group of entrepreneurs is trying to build a new vending industry, outfitting machines with high-tech features.”

    Among the stuff being sold in these new-age vending machines - live bait for fishermen, prescription medicines (from machine slinked to doctors’ computers), and even small pieces of artwork.

    The new machines are designed to counter what has been a decline in vending sales in the US, which the story says reflects “a range of socioeconomic changes. Food and fuel costs have increased, but consumers are reluctant to insert more than a $1 bill; snacks and sodas are under assault for being unhealthy, and in the recession, factories and offices downsized, leaving employee break rooms with less traffic. Many young people don't bother with cash, relying instead on plastic, which only the newest machines accept.”
    KC's View:
    I read this story, and I instantly thought of this piece from MNB that ran last fall:

    An MNB user sent in a link to a story on Springwise.com, concerning a French baker who “recently rolled out 24-hour automated baguette dispensers next to his two bakeries in Paris and Hombourg-Haut.”

    According to the story, “Jean-Louis Hecht came up with the idea when, living above his boulanger, he was disturbed countless times by people wanting to buy bread after he had closed shop. The bread is partially cooked before being put into the machine — which cost EUR 50,000 — and finished off when a customer orders; delivering a hot, freshly-baked baguette within seconds. Each stick costs EUR 1, and when the machine debuted in January the baker sold 1,600 baguettes, reaching sales of 4,500 in July.”

    I think there are some enormous opportunities here, with equally enormous implications for marketers.

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    ...with brief, italicized and occasionally gratuitous commentary...

    Reuters reports a new study by Beverage Digest reveals that “US carbonated soft drink consumption fell faster last year as strength in energy drinks failed to offset weakness in traditional sodas from Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc.

    The story goes on: “Total sales volume of soda fell about 1 percent in 2011 to 9.27 billion cases, according to Beverage Digest, about the same level it was in 1996. Sales volume fell 0.5 percent in 2010. Excluding energy drinks such as Red Bull and Rockstar, soda volume was down 1.5 percent last year, Beverage Digest said.”

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Kraft Foods Inc. plans to name its global snack-company spinoff Mondelez International Inc., and will “make the change when it separates the international snack business from its North American grocery business before the end of the year.”

    According to the story, “The name, pronounced ‘mohn-dah-leez,’ is a mash-up of terms to convey the idea of a ‘delicious world,’ the company announced. ‘Monde’ evokes the Latin word for ‘world’ and ‘delez’ conveys ‘delicious’.”

    Maybe it is just me, but somehow “Mondelez” does not role trippingly off the tongue. Most people are not going to know how to pronounce it. And with all due respect to my friends at Kraft, I just have a feeling that this is not a name with legs.

    • The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said yesterday at the company’s annual meeting by saying that the company’s successes are tied to its social conscience. "We are heading into a crucible; we're in the midst of something that's really going to test the conscience of the country," he said. "It's a test we will not pass by being bystanders."

    As the story notes, “Starbucks has helped fund — and encouraged customers to contribute to — a jobs program that makes loans to small businesses, community centers and others.” And Schultz has been highly visible in encouraging corporations and individuals to cease giving money to politicians until they stop their ideological posturing and start governing.

    The company also announced yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports that it “will expand into the rapidly expanding energy drink industry with a line of so-called ‘Refreshers’ beverages in flavors such as raspberry pomegranate and orange melon. Made with fruit juice infused with the extract of green, unroasted coffee, the 12-fluid-ounce, 60-calorie drinks are already being sold at some grocery locations.”

    • Whole Foods yesterday said that it is “taking its annual Do Something Reel Film Festival online this year. The film festival is an ongoing collection of provocative films about food and environmental issues that can be purchased online at www.dosomethingreel.com and streamed for a limited time.

    “Beginning in April, Whole Foods Market will stream a different film each month with proceeds helping to fund the 2012 Whole Foods Market/AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Festival filmmaker grants.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    • McDonald's announced that its CEO, Jim Skinner, is retiring and will be succeeded by the company's No. 2 executive, President and Chief Operating Officer Don Thompson. The transition is scheduled to take place at the end of June.

    • The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced that Ellen Davis has been named Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the NRF Foundation, the education and research arm of NRF.

    Davis joined NRF in 2002 as manager of media relations, continuing in positions of greater responsibility until being named vice president in 2008. NRF said that she w ill continue to serve as a chief spokesperson for the organization on retail industry trends.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    I haven’t had “Your Views” the last few days, so let’s do some catching up...

    I wrote the other day that I am a big supporter of the notion that the retirement age ought to be extended, in the way that Tesco is doing in the UK.

    Which led MNB user Michael Phelan to write:

    Not everyone is fortunate enough to sit behind a laptop and drink Starbucks as they go about doing their work, but holding up public workers as scarecrows that should take the blame for our current economic mess is disrespectful and should stop.

    If my home were on fire or a family member needed to be rescued from an emergency, I wouldn't be confident in a group of 70-year old emergency responders showing up. The same goes for public employees who perform other physical work that can impact public safety. Do you want 70-year olds inspecting and repairing your commuter train or bus? bridges? elevators and escalators in public buildings?  The boilers in your public schools?

    Public workers and their pensions have been negotiated in good faith. If pension reform is needed - which most of us can agree it is - it needs to be done thoughtfully at the bargaining table. Sure there are plenty of clerical and desk employees who shouldn't have to retire early, but those numbers have never proven that to be a meaningful concern.

    Let's not forget that it is the financial industry which has damaged the real estate market and the value of public pensions, among other things. Rather than fight amongst ourselves on Main Street, we should all be insisting on meaningful reform on Wall Street - before they create the next catastrophe that they'll want to be bailed out from.

    Along with other election year  issues of "values and morals,"  which show up like clockwork, politicians in both parties have pointed to this (mostly) red herring  of public employees to distract us from the following:

    • their failure to put meaningful financial reform in place, while continuing to receive millions in campaign donations from the financial industry.

    • their failure to invest in our own country and create good and meaningful jobs to replace those lost in  U.S.  manufacturing in the last 30 years.





    I keep getting emails from people about customer service levels in various industries. Here’s one from MNB user Cindy Sorensen:

    On  March 18, I was in the Munich airport waiting for my return flight home.  My flight was delayed and had the potential to be cancelled, and I needed to contact my German host family to let them know I might be staying an additional night in Germany until I could return to the US.  I used a pay phone twice in the gate area of the airport.  I used my VISA card to pay for the calls.  Each call lasted only approximately 3 minutes.  For those two phone calls, I was charged over $18 each to place a call from the Munich airport to a home in Aschheim, a suburb of Munich!  This is really taking advantage of a stranded traveler, who did not have a "handy" (cell phone) in a foreign country, who no longer was carrying any Euros to make a local phone call  and who had to rely on a pay phone to make a call and who had to use a credit card to place a call.   For sure, I will never voluntarily be a mobile customer of T-mobile because of this experience.

    I have written a complaint letter to T-Mobile.  I’ll let you know if they respond.  In the meantime, I hope they spend my $36 wisely, because for sure I will never be a mobile customer of theirs.


    MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

    I have another customer service story to share – on a completely different product line than the Apple tirade I went on a few weeks ago.  I am a big watch fan and have been fortunate enough to satisfy my wants for timepieces with three Tag Heuer watches – two for me (a Link and a Monaco – the Steve McQueen one, very cool).  I have owned the Link for many years and have sent it in once to have it cleaned – and to have the crown replaced as it had stripped.  It cost $300 to have the crown replace – but what are you going to do?  The crown was replaced in 2007 and I have worn the watch sporadically since (I got the Monaco – and was afraid of stripping the crown again as the stainless steel insert screws into a brass receiver which is never a good choice as the softer brass will always suffer).

    The crown started having problems almost immediately after I got it back – so I have been extremely cautious about screwing the crown in when I change the time and date.  Last week, the crown would not screw in anymore and I need to have it serviced.  I spoke with a friend who owns the same watch – and he has had the same problem.  I called Tag today and the first customer service agent “Lance” proceeded to let me know that the only way the crown could have stripped was if I had done something wrong – like screw it in too tight.  After an attempt to get him to understand I was not interested in placing blame but rather in finding a way to keep it from happening, he continued to want to focus on what I had done wrong.  I asked to speak with a supervisor (as my patience with poor service is not good) and he transferred me to Laura.  I would have expected, with a company like Tag Heuer, that she would have taken a different approach – but chose the same path as Lance – blame the customer first.  They checked the records and found I did have the watch serviced – but again said it was likely my fault.  I asked to speak with her boss and was put on hold twice – and Laura came back both times to tell me I would have to send the watch in.  I kept telling he I knew that – but was a bit tired of having the crown replaced when there is clearly a problem.  She elected to reinforce that it had to be my fault.

    I finally got her to provide my information to her boss – Michelle – so I will see where things go.
     
    My goodness – what happened to listening to the customer and helping solve the problem????


    Another MNB user wrote:

    You got to love just how much digital networks have effected customer service. Here is a great store of just that.

    A friend of mine goes into a grocery  store and buys a lot of groceries, then he proceeds to the check outs. He greats and  says” hello” to the cashier, who does not reply , nor make eye contact. He then takes out his loyalty card and scans it, and IT replies back “welcome Mr. Smith”. The cashier without saying a work starts scanning his groceries, and when she done, the scanner says “ your total Mr. Smith is $79.52”. At this point my friend scans his credit card and then turns to the cashier and says,” well since you didn’t greet me, or even knowledge me, so I guess a “ thank you is out of the question”? Her reply was “NO, it’s on the bottom of your receipt”, and then went back to scanning the next customer…Wow...


    MNB user Cleve Young wrote:

    I recently moved to NYC from a small Western NY town. One thing you quickly realize in the city is the customer service in stores, or more accurately the severe lack of it. I understand that no one is ever going to confuse me with George Clooney, but am I really so hideous that the vast majority of store employees refuse to even make eye contact let along be willing to offer friendly help. For most stores I would much rather use an iPad to get help than even try and find or talk with an employee. And I’m very much a people oriented person who prefers talking to a human than a machine. And on those occasions when I do get someone to talk with me the majority of the time they return a blank stare, a shrug of the shoulders, and a very well trained ‘ummm…’ To be fair some employees are wonderful, friendly and very helpful; it’s just unfortunate that they are in the minority. So for a business is it really so bad to replace some of the low/non performers for whom all the training in the world is not going to improve, and then concentrate your training on the select quality employees and give both them and the customer the tools and technology to help provide even better customer service?

    From MNB user David Burgess:

    I’m sitting and fuming in Dulles on my way back from the Boston Seafood Show, delayed  by plane troubles.  But that is not what I am fuming about.  When I landing in Dulles I went to grab a sandwich to take on my connecting flight home only to realize that I left my noise canceling headphones and iPod in the case on the plane.  So I went back to retrieve them – about 10 to 15 minutes later.  The attendant at the gate went to retrieve them.  She radioed back to the woman working the gate that they were not there.  The woman said – pretty much verbatim – they are not there.  There is nothing we can do.  When I tried to object, she would not even look up from her screen and said, “We have another flight.  We can’t worry about that.”  It’s true that the flight from Boston was going on to Mexico, but it had not yet started to board and she had exactly one other customer there and was almost finished with him.  (He walked about just after I did.)  I could tell she did not care at all about my things.  The tone in her voice made it clear we had nothing more to talk about.  So I left to go catch my flight.  And here I sit waiting.  Here’s the thing.  Maybe one of the other passengers saw their opportunity to pick up a set of headphones, but more than likely the cleaning crew picked them up and took them wherever it is they take them.  But I’ll never know because the attendant had no interest in helping me.  I don’t have a guitar, nor can I write and sing a catchy song, so my little dilemma will never make it onto You Tube, and it’s true that I am the one who lost the headphones and iPod, not United.  But they lost something, too.  A frequent flier who will not pay another nickel for a United flight if they are the last carrier on earth.

    From yet another MNB user:

    I have so many interesting (I think) stories to tell I don't think you have the time or patience to hear them all.

    I am not a TV junkie, but I finally decided that an extra $13 a month for HD service beyond the local channels was a luxury I could well afford and enjoy. I like ESPN; wife likes HGTV.  The kids can live without that part of their inheritance.

    Calling WOW they first said they would come out and install and set up this for "only $10". I said wait a minute, I am ordering an extra service for which you are getting another $13 a month from here forward and you want me to pay $10 for installation?

    For a new customer you would come out and install everything for zero!  The rep quickly said, "we'll waive that $10 fee".  I didn't even have to suggest I might switch to a competitor. The meek may inherit the earth, but they will pay $10 extra for a cable co. HD installation fee.





    We had a piece yesterday about how Giant Eagle is launching a Curbside Express online ordering service, which led MNB user Bill Malloy to write:

    Kevin, great story on Curbside. We have the service in our home town of Windham, Maine. It is at the Hannaford banner store. I could easily be biased, in that I work for the parent company, but hope you take my comments as genuine, as this is how I feel. My family loves the service. We organize our weekly dining menu ahead of placing the order, and find we get excellent quality and service. I happen to like my bananas on the green side, and with a comment in the order I get exactly what I want. It has been so successful, that we make sure we get our order in so we can get the pick up time we want. It is definitely a differentiator.

    Agreed. I love that store, and have no problem believing that your comments are genuine.




    MNB took note yesterday of a survey finding that people in their twenties are carrying average debt loads of $45,000, including educational loans, credit cards, car loans and mortgages.

    One MNB user responded:

    $45,000 including car loans and mortgages?  Sounds pretty low to me.

    I think I actually showed my age on that one. When I was in my twenties, the only real debt I had was a college loan of a few thousand dollars on which I paid $63.86 a month for 10 years. (Amazing how some numbers stay with me...) I was driving a car that I paid a thousand dollars in cash for (I don’t remember that exact number), and I was living in a rental apartment - and making around $7,000 a year as a newspaper reporter. (And, as it happens, had met the girl of my dreams, and so was supremely happy.)

    So $45,000 in debt seemed like a lot. In retrospect, maybe not so much.

    Especially when reading this email from a reader:

    I am 27 and my wife is 28.  We have $288,000 in debt, including Student Loads, Car Loans, Mortgages and other projects.  The assets we have accumulated equal $315,000 (Cash on hand not included).  Our Net worth is not great, but that would be due to student loans, since they have no asset attached.  It would be a more useful statement if we knew how much was free floating vs. how much was asset based.

    Yikes.




    Got the following email from an MNB user:

    You said something a while back about going back to check out Fresh & Easy.  You stayed at Redondo Beach last week.  Didn't you get into one?  There are several close by including one of the new small format stores.

    I actually did get into a Fresh & Easy Express store, and actually liked it a lot - more than I even like the regular Fresh & Easy stores. It seems like less space makes the format more focused ... and maybe gives Tesco less space to make mistakes, if that makes any sense.

    (Sorry for not mentioning this earlier. I had written this before, but my idiot editor accidentally cut it out. Of course, I’m also the idiot editor around here...)




    MNB user Judy Anton sent us the following email:

    In response to the comment “Maybe In-n-Out is best served sticking to it’s West Coast roots” – I was in the Dallas area in February to visit family and had a great experience at In-N-Out.  I asked my 23 year old daughter, who lives in the Dallas area, about her impression of their customer service and this is her response (Yoshi is their dog).  “I haven’t been to the one in Las Colinas yet but we have been to the Dallas, Arlington & Frisco locations and all the employees were really nice and friendly like Larry!  Super excited to work for In-N-Out.  I love the In-N-Out customer service when we go.  We just went on Sunday and Yoshi was barking his head off at the lady taking our order (we went to the drive thru) and she still was just smiling all happy taking our order LOL.  Since their drive thru is so packed all the time they have someone standing outside taking orders instead of on the speaker.”

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    FYI...In-n-Out has at least 5 store if not 7 now in the Dallas area, I have been to three and have not seen any difference in quality or friendliness. What he saw might be just new store start up as they are as busy as any location in California. Plus better burger than Five Guys, especially their fries.

    I wrote the other day about how Larry, an In-N-Out greeter, turned the experience there into a pleasure. Which led MNB user Chris Weisert to write:

    Clearly Larry is who Larry is…Clean shirt, name tag, hat and the most important piece of dress code, the smile. You are right on target here you must find people who are happy with themselves and provide them an environment that allows them to be just that, happy.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Your article on In N Out reminded me of this: SERVICE IS EVERYTHING.

    Not just one thing.

    It is EVERYTHING.

    I marvel that some businesses just don't get this one simple fact.  They don't need to do thousands of dollars worth of market studies.  The reason Trader Joe’s, and in some eras, Whole Foods, the natural markets, have succeeded to the point they have, is SERVICE.  which includes passion and a sincere interest in the products or business, not just the bottom line.  The bottom line will take care of itself, if SERVICE is the focus.

    When a company loses that (think Starbucks, Wal Mart, and more).....they dive.  And if they don't correct it, they die. (A&P?)





    I wrote the other day that I thought supermarkets ought to come up with a way to treat best customers better at checkout - that it is absurd that people buying the fewest goods get an express line.

    Which led one MNB user to write:

    Based on your economic status, you will naturally be able to spend more on food, buying more products and higher-priced food luxuries. A young mother or father buying food for an economically struggling family will need to carefully spend their limited resources on just the bare necessities, saving wherever possible, including buying the cheaper generic products. Why do you think you should get better…quicker service than the struggling family? Just curious.

    I’m sure that you meant, people of equal means, each buying different quantities from the same store…the one spending the most should get preferred treatment. I also would be in favor of that…but, you know it will be turned into a class thing.


    Of course I was talking about people buying different quantities from the same store ... my contention is that every store ought to treat its best customers better than occasional customers. To use a phrase Michael Sansolo is fond of, cherry buyers ought to be treated better than cherry pickers.

    From another MNB user:

    Several years ago I was in a short line reserved for higher level frequent flyers checking in for a flight.  The long line for the general public snaked around and one resentful man in that line started loudly berating me, calling me a privileged person who thought I was better than anyone else etc etc.  It was an comfortable situation.  I finally told him that this benefit was offered by the airline to reward their best customers who spend a lot of money with them and that if he had a problem with that he should take it up with the airline, not me.

    After leaving my day job, and with the hassles post 911, I do not travel by air very much so now I too am in the long lines with the less privileged.  I don't resent the fact that the frequent flyers get that perk, but I can see that issue developing in a retail setting.

    I view the express lanes from a different perspective.  Many of the people with a few items may be very good customers - a ten minute wait when you are buying $100 worth of groceries is more tolerable than if you are buying $15 worth of groceries.


    And, from yet another MNB user:

    Lines for the customers with the most in their carts, not the least. I like this idea, to further elaborate, man them with your friendliest, fastest checkers. Make sure these lines are open first or always when lines start to back up. If more than 4 or 5 people are waiting in line either open another line or offer the customers standing in line a product sample. Make grocery shopping, if not a fun experience, at least not an unpleasant chore that could be replaced with on-line shopping and either pick-up or delivery.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2012

    • Quarterback Tim Tebow was traded yesterday by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, a team that just weeks ago had given its existing quarterback, Mark Sanchez, a three year contract extension.

    According to the NY Daily News this morning, the Jets “traded fourth- and sixth-round picks in next month’s draft for Tebow and a seventh-rounder. They also cleared a financial hurdle that threatened to nullify the trade.

    “Tebow received $6.3 million in advances from the Broncos during the 2011 season for the final four years of his rookie contract. The Broncos believed that the Jets should pay them the $5.1 million in advance salaries paid to Tebow for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons ... The Jets tweeted that an agreement had been reached early in the day before both sides finally struck a deal eight hours later. The Jets eventually agreed to pay the Broncos half of the outstanding $5.1 million, according to a source.”

    I’m a Jets fan, but I just don’t get this deal. (Neither does Joe Namath, BTW.) And the way the deal almost melted down yesterday just heightened the perception that the Jets are a franchise in organizational turmoil, with the only bright spot being that the NY Mets make them look good from an organizational point of view.

    • The National Football League (NFL) yesterday announced that Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, has been suspended for one year without pay because of charges that he had authorized and then tried to cover up a series of “bounties” to be paid to players who managed to take opposing players out of games through vicious hits. In addition, the Saints’ general manager was suspended for eight games, and top assistant coach (who might have replaced Payton) was suspended for six games; the Saints also were fined $500,000 and the team lost second round draft picks for the next two years. The team's former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, has been suspended indefinitely.

    This marks the first time that a head coach has been suspended by the league, and these are said to be the harshest penalties ever assessed by the NFL.

    Wonder which former big time NFL coach will want to take the New Orleans job for one years and an awful lot of money? Bill Parcells? Jim Fassel? They’d better give Drew Brees somebody good to work with, or they are going to have a very unhappy quarterback.

    Good for the NFL, by the way. They have to take a hard position on this because of concerns about concussions, and the idea of bounties is repulsive, even in a game that is built on violence.
    KC's View: