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    Published on: June 21, 2012

    And now for something completely different...

    There's no text version of FaceTime this week. That's because Michael Sansolo and I were in California together, giving a speech to a major retailer, and we decided to use our proximity - which does not happen very often - to record a joint commentary that is completely improvised. No script. And therefore, no text version.

    We hope you like it.

    As always, you can access this and every MNB video by going to our MorningNewsBeat Channel on YouTube.com .

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    It may be yet another cautionary tale of what happens when Amazon.com sets its sights on your business.

    Reuters reports that Bed Bath & Beyond's profit projections were disappointing to investors as the company said it needs to spend to improve its e-commerce business - a move that comes as Amazon.com "rolls out more incentives for shoppers to buy home goods online.
    In February, Amazon launched home furnishings website Casa.com, which some analysts said could represent a potential competitive threat to Bed Bath."

    The story notes that "Bed Bath is now spending money on a new e-commerce distribution center, a new data center and a new website and some of the expenses came earlier than previously expected."

    To which I would respond: Really?

    It is 2012. Amazon has been in business since 1994. And if you are a retailer who waited until now to take seriously the threat it poses, then perhaps it can be suggested that you have been asleep at the switch. At the very least, your eyes have not been open.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    HealthDay News writes about a new study saying that "people who shop at lower-cost supermarkets are more likely to be obese than those who shop at higher-priced stores."

    According to the story, an examination of information about Washington State residents "found obesity rates were linked to the type of supermarket the people used. The prevalence of obesity was just 9 percent among those who shopped at higher-priced supermarkets, compared to 27 percent at lower-cost stores."

    The study says that it is not enough to make supermarkets available and accessible to so-called "food deserts," but that it is at least equally important to make healthy food affordable to low-income shoppers.
    KC's View:
    I have to believe it is more complicated than just where you shop. It also is the choices you make ... and it is almost as possible to eat healthy - and do so economically - when buying food at a discount store, for example, if you buy more food in the produce department than the bakery. Does accessibility matter? Sure. But ultimately, it is personal choice that makes the difference ... and why I fear that things like the NYC proposed jumbo soda ban won't have the desired impact.

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    Reuters reports that a policy statement from the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates recommended yesterday that "taxes levied on sugar-sweetened sodas be used to fight the country's growing obesity crisis," though it stopped short of "outright support for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages to control use of these product."

    According to the AMA, the story says, "sugar-sweetened drinks make up nearly half of Americans' added sugar intake, and cutting consumption of these beverages is a simple way to reduce intake of sugar and empty calories.

    "The AMA said the policy recognizes that obesity is caused by many factors, but taxing drinks with added sweeteners is one way to help pay for education campaigns and other obesity related programs."

    The Associated Press story about the same meeting notes that "the nation’s largest physicians group agreed to support legislation that would require classes in causes, consequences and prevention of obesity for first through 12th graders. Doctors will be encouraged to volunteer their time to help with that under the new policy adopted on the final day of the AMA’s annual policymaking meeting.
    KC's View:
    Whether you think this is good policy or not, I just don't think it is going to happen. Except maybe in NYC and a few other places.

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    • The Toronto Star reports that Walmart Canada, as it continues the battle for market share north of the border, is adding Angus beef as an incentive to shoppers. According to the story, "To promote the steaks, food trucks will be travelling to the 170 superstores across Canada. Cooks will set up grilling stations in front of the stores to serve samples to customers."

    Bloomberg reports that Wal-Mart de Mexico, operating under a cloud because of allegations that it engaged in systemic and systematic bribery of Mexican officials as a way of fast-tracking its stores there, is slowing down its expansion plans for the coming year.

    The devision plans to open between 325 and 335 stores this year, down 23 percent from the previous projection of as many as 436 openings.
    KC's View:
    I could be wrong about this, but I see the hand of Shelley Broader - the cheerful foodie who runs Walmart canada - in the food truck sampling idea.

    As for the Mexico slowdown, that was predictable. Though it is hard to feel sorry for a division planning to open more than 300 stores in a single year. Mexico will survive the slowdown, and so will Walmart. (There are a few local officials, however, who may find their wallets to be a little lighter than usual. I don't feel sorry for them, either.)

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple Inc. has informed Apple Store employees throughout the US that they'll soon be receiving hourly pay increases of as much as 25 percent.

    The decision comes after a review period in which it was determined that the some 25,000 employees at US Apple Stores were being underpaid; the Journal writes that they typically have received $9 to $15 an hour, with Genius Bar employees getting up to $30 an hour.

    The raises were instigated by John Browett, the new head of Apple Retail who joined the company two months ago from Dixon Retail, a UK electronics chain. At least part of the impetus, the story notes, was the fact that in some locations, employees were being poached by Microsoft Stores being opened nearby.

    Apple Stores are said to have contributed $14 billion in sales to Apple's bottom line last year.
    KC's View:
    Even in a good economy, a 25 percent raise would be considered to be pretty extravagant. But these days ... this ought to do a lot for morale in the Apple Store chain.

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    The Associated Press reports that Starbucks plans to open its first dedicated Tazo tea shop later this year, in a Seattle location not far from headquarters. According to the story, the format "will include a tea bar where customers can blend their own tea mixes with the help of a store worker the company is calling a 'tea partner' ... The store will offer more than 80 varieties of loose-leaf tea, tea lattes and iced teas, as well as packaged chocolates, infused sugars and honeys. Pastries and other food will also be served, as in the company's coffee shops. "

    Tazo is said to be a $1.4 billion brand.

    The store will not carry the Starbucks logo. It is yet another effort by Starbucks to expand its retail reach; the company also plans to open Evolution Fresh juice stores.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that following a decision by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that their Pom Wonderful brand misled consumers about the beverage's purported health benefits, billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick are appealing the ruling as well as launching a public relations campaign to try to save the brand.

    The FTC said that the Resnicks had to refrain from claiming that Pom Wonderful has specific benefits in terms of fighting, treating or preventing various diseases, though they are allowed to make more general claims about it being a healthy product. The story says that the Resnicks are being unusually "in your face" about fighting the FTC decision, especially in their use of various web sites to draw attention to the drink's health benefits; experts tell the Times that their efforts may be bolstered by the fact that many consumers distrust the government.

    Just goes to show you. if you have billions of dollars, you can fund virtually any argument. You can sell pomegranate juice. Or even elect presidents.

    USA Today reports that Boston Market "plans a string of summer deals and giveaways to lure customers, especially younger ones ... Already the chain has introduced a summer menu with barbecue chicken, highlighting a sauce that launched last year. Now through July 29, kids under 12 who come in wearing a team uniform get free dessert when they buy a kids meal. During part of the Tour de France, people who ride their bicycles to Boston Market can be eligible for discounts.

    "It also is holding a sweepstakes with a trip to Maui as the grand prize. Finally, in August, an extreme sports athlete who is a fan of Boston Market will host a giveaway."

    Forgive me, but I didn't even realize that Boston Market was still in business. It wasn't that long ago that Boston Market was seen as a kind of state-of-the-art meal solutions store, but these days, it seems to be just this side of irrelevant.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    • LeRoy Neiman, the artist who specialized in sports figures and big canvases filled with bold, colorful paint strokes, died yesterday. He was 91.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 21, 2012

    Yesterday, Kate McMahon laid out the various arguments for and against the NYC ban on jumbo sodas and concluded that she agreed with the proposal made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    Not surprisingly, some folks disagreed.

    One MNB user wrote:

    First let me say Kate that by supporting a ban on soda you are a Nanny Stater!  But you think the ends justify the means, you have admitted as much, so therefore it must be ok.  Not so fast!

    Imagine for a moment if the tables were turned, that the right wing conservatives were in control of NY city and a reinstitution of a ban on abortion were being argued and put forth.  Let that sink in a moment, that your voice is in the minority.  I bet you’d be singing a different tune!  Now I just compared soda to abortion which probably isn’t all that fair but this issue of government power in it all is.

    Trampling rights no matter the polling data or who’s in the majority is never a good idea, and neither is giving that power to the government lest you like the idea of the tables being turned.  Whether you like it or not it creates a precedence for more power in the hands of government than is necessary.  The only thing constant in life is change.

    Besides, in my view it was education even more than the silly sin taxes that killed cigarettes, why not give that a chance rather than trample everyone’s rights?


    Another MNB user wrote:

    Your last two sentences read, “If subtle changes can help our nation’s young people, in particular, live healthier lives, then I’m all for it. This is a start.” It’s the “subtle changes” that always scare me. The small taking away of a person’s rights, or in the case of your sentence, a parent’s right to parent, always cause some inner alarm in me to go off. What happened to adults being responsible for themselves or parents being responsible for their kids? I’ll grant you that a lot of time, adults and parents fail, but that’s life and that’s the joy of choice – to screw up.

    Honestly, I think the whole thing is ridiculous – don’t we have a lot more to worry about these days? Maybe instead of Bloomberg worrying about his constituents’ waistlines, he could focus on how the city can create jobs and share those successes with other mayors or governors struggling in the same area.

    … And anyway, isn’t that what we pay psychologists for as adults – to work through all the ways our parents screwed us up?


    From another reader:

    I’d like to see the government involved more along the lines of pushing insurance practices to drive behavior modification versus banning anything. I’ve said it before, until insurance companies begin providing measurable & meaningful cost breaks to people who take care of themselves versus premiums charged to people who CHOOSE NOT TO take care of themselves I don’t see much changing. Why get the government involved in debating which foods are good vs. bad? Why not let the health care professionals and your own health condition, resulting from your diet and exercise choices, determine what you can eat…and I mean literally what you can afford to eat – assuming it were to impact your medical insurance premiums of course.

    Kate noted in her piece that studies have shown that NYC seems to be healthier these days than just a few years ago, and that some of the credit can go to some of the health-related policies promoted by the Bloomberg administration. Which led MNB user Steve Kneepkens
    to write:

    Where is the data that aggressive restrictions on smoking, discontinuing transfats, and posting calories is the sole reason for an increase by 10 years to the life span. How about a 35% decrease in homicides? Naaa that had no impact.

    Here is the counter agreement. Smoking restrictions and zero transfats have happened in every city and state in America.. so NY is no different. Are NYers so much smarter than the rest of us that this had such a dramatic effect in NY?

    Listing calories does not restrict anyone from anything.. it informs them. So banning appetizers with 1,000 calories did not lift the quality of life – INFORMATION DID... that is according to some statistic that you said exists. So consumers acted on their own – without the government invading their fridge.. at least according to the “government statistics”. Ahhh so consumers acted on their own.. Hmm how novel.

    You won't complain until it is something that effects YOU. Just wait.

    I don’t drink soda but who am I to say you can or cannot have a gallon of soda? My goodness it is easy to pick out other’s habits or choices. It is much more difficult to stand up for a freedom that does not directly benefit you.


    To be clear ... unlike Kate, I am uncomfortable with the proposed NYC ban. However, unlike some readers, I attribute only the best motives to Bloomberg on this one. I see little political benefit, and so I think he's genuinely trying to do the right thing, believing that the broader public good is more important than the ability to buy and sell a 24 ounce sugared soft drink.

    I'm not sure I agree, and I'd rather find another way. I do not think, however, that government has no role in these matters. I think the government approach to tobacco has been absolutely appropriate, for example. (Yes, I know some folks disagree with me on this. The same folks who think that second hand smoke does not cause cancer. It is hard to take their objections seriously.)

    I do hope that the Bloomberg proposal leads to a civil and extensive discussion about public health policy. It is a subject that cannot and should not be ignored, and if he has generated discussion with his proposal, that, at least, is a good thing.




    I wrote admiringly yesterday about a Wall Street Journal piece reporting on how some businesses are being more aggressive in making sure that their employees use proper English, believing that anything less hurts their businesses and their reputations.

    MNB user Steve Rash wrote:

    Like you, I was thrilled when I read this article in the WSJ.  My mother was an English major in college and a school/town librarian still to this day at the age of 75.   Your writing is a pleasure to read due to the subject matter (I'm in the CPG industry), the wit (I'm from New England and get your humor), and the proper use of grammar.    Your blog is the only one that I read daily.

    So, it was somewhat disconcerting to see that you began three sentences in this story with the word "and".    Is this acceptable now, or are you trying to keep the prose conversational?


    Thanks. And yes, I am trying to keep it conversational.  And informal.  And still reasonably literate.

    From another reader:

    Your points on the decline of the proper usage of the English language are very well taken.   It appears that this has recently become even more of an issue with the use of electronic media where digits and abbreviations are replacing words.

    It is incumbent on us as parents to supplement the education being provided to our children by correcting their improper use of verbal language as well as acting as proofreaders for their written submissions.   Both my wife and I were taught by demanding teachers and had many principles of English usage drilled into our heads (kind of like your Jesuit education, but in a public school setting).    For the most part, if our kids can get their writing past the two of us they have few issues when their papers are graded by their instructors.   We have made it a source of humor in our house to point out spelling and grammatical errors that we find in the newspaper or on television, thereby discouraging our children from making the same mistakes.

    Like so many other issues, this is just one more where the primary responsibility for solving the problem begins at home.


    MNB user Russell Thomas wrote:

    Irregardless of the public’s reaction to poor grammar, we need to nip this in the butt!  I heard a new one yesterday during a software demo.  We were told the software could be “configurated” to do what we wanted.  I wanted to go nucular.

    MNB user Liz Boyd wrote:

    Regarding your concluding statement in Wednesday’s Eye-Opener: “Anything else is pure laziness. And, contributes to the slow decline of western civilization.” Hurrah! Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only person in the universe who still cares about proper grammar and spelling. It comforts me to know that some companies are cracking down on the many egregious offenses to our language. I don’t know where to begin. Topping my long list of pet peeves in this regard are the countless times a day that I see “your” where “you’re” should be, “everyday” used in cases where “every day” should be used (look it up, people!), and the never-ending instances of “it’s” (contraction for “it is”) where the possessive “its” belongs.  I chuckled when I read your observation of “fifteen items or fewer”.

    Kevin, I couldn’t agree more. Oh, and “I couldn’t agree more” reminds me….how often do we hear “I could care less”? If one says that, it means that one still cares a little, right? “Could” means you’re capable of caring less. The correct phrase, if you indeed are not capable of caring any less about something is “I couldn’t care less”. Speaking is one thing, but a few extra seconds of thought, or a minute to look something up or proofread a note before we hit “send” can make a world of difference in how we are perceived. Thanks for making my day.


    One final note.

    It was pointed out to me with some degree of irony that my piece about good English had a couple of typos in it. I apologize for that, and fixed them as soon as they were pointed out to me.

    Typos are the bane of my existence, and I try hard to avoid them. I always appreciate your patience and good humor about them ... I work weird hours, on short deadlines and without a net, and spellcheck doesn't always pick things up.

    I do try, however, to write a good sentence - well-constructed, rhythmic, literate, and entertaining. I don't always make it, but it is my goal, and one always worth pursuing.
    KC's View: