retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This week, in her "Kate's Take" column, Kate McMahon looked at the various arguments about the proposed NYC ban of jumbo sugared soft drinks and concluded that a study saying that various health initiatives in NYC have helped increase residents' life expectancy persuaded her to support it. "I care little about adults ranting about the Nanny State," she wrote. "If subtle changes can help our nation’s young people, in particular, live healthier lives, then I’m all for it."

MNB user Kathleen Motley responded:

I am sick and tired of hearing about banning jumbo sized drinks.  If they want a jumbo drink, they will just have to buy 2 large!  How is Bloomberg going to stop that?  Think Bloomberg - if there is a will, there is a way.  People are not as stupid at getting what they want as he thinks.  It is all personal preference.  Bet you $ he will not stop liquor sales since he probably indulges himself.  That is also linked to bodily harm.  Glad I do not live in NYC and can live the life I wish to live.

MNB user Elaine Howard, who told us that she did not think we would run her email because she does not support the ban, wrote:

You can’t legislate intelligence. People inclined  to buy huge sodas also buy huge candy bars instead. Once this ball gets started it can’t be stopped. It should be opposed on that front alone. Have you considered that the improvement in life expectancy in NYC is more likely due to something like lower crime rates due to the effects of Rudy Guliani’s  cleanup/crackdown years ago? Don’t be so gullible to propaganda that purport to support your position. Get all the facts. I say get the government out of my lunch break and onto something meaningful. What a waste waist of time.

I asked Kate to address some of the concerns raised by MNB users, and she wrote:

The great thing about civil discourse is the opportunity to exchange opinions without the need to defend your own or attack another's views. In the light of some comments I do, however, feel compelled to defend my research. With 35 years of experience in journalism, I am not a naif likely to be swayed by "propaganda" or overlook mitigating factors such as the decline in New York City's homicide rate or the AIDS epidemic.

Nor did the researchers from the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Valuation. Indeed, the sharp decline (75%) in murders and improved therapies for HIV/AIDS treatment were key factors in an increase in life expectancy in New York from 1990-1999. I reached my conclusion after reading a lengthy analysis of the University of Washington study in the respected British medical journal, The Lancet, that focused on the progressive public health policies implemented in the last decade. To quote the Lancet: 

"More than 60% of the increase in life expectancy since 2000 can be attributed to reductions in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. In the past decade, death rates for heart disease alone fell by some 25%.

"The most influential factor in this decline, says lead researcher Ali Mokdad, is the city's health department and their aggressive efforts to reshape New York's social environment. 'They raised awareness that health is not only your job personally. If you decide to live healthier, the system and the people around you should encourage you, and make it easier for you to do so in your community.' ” The article details efforts to improve public health in New York's poorest borough - the Bronx - where the life expectancy numbers lag behind the more-affluent, educated Manhattan."

To read the piece, click here.

I think there is a lot of room for discussion here - and, quite frankly, I think that a sophisticated discussion of public health policy is required at this point. There are strong opinions on both sides, and both sides make legitimate points. As I've made clear, I actually disagree with Kate on this one ... I'm troubled by the level of government interference that is implicit in the NYC proposal.

However, I'm even more troubled by something else - an email that was sent to Kate yesterday by MNB user Jim Keuth:

Simply put, you're just an idiot.

Not cool. Simply put, that kind of response does not elevate the level of this discussion.

People who disagree with you are not idiots. They just disagree with you - and they may do so with perfectly reasonable, logical and well-motivated positions.

You all don't know Kate as well as you know me, but let me assure you that she's not an idiot. She's really smart, really experienced - and she represents a demographic and a line of thought that ought to be taken seriously, not dismissed with such cavalier condescension. (That's why she's on MNB - because she thinks about things differently than I do.)

We had a piece the other day that referenced a Time story about how treating employees like assets rather than costs tends to create more efficient and effective organizations, which led one MNB user to write:

Thank you for your descriptive illustration of Time's "Future of Retailing" series.

As a faithful and grateful fan of your MorningNewsBeat and a Merchandiser at Wegmans Food Markets, I can tell you firsthand that treating employees with dignity and respect trickles down to happier customers and more motivated employees.

On another subject, MNB user Bill Drew wrote:

I take pride in my ability to write, and I read with interest your Wednesday Morning Eye-Opener.  Twelve years ago, I decided to go back to school with the thought of getting my teachers' license; I had a wonderful two-year experience, made many friends, and graduated summa cum laude.  In my last semester, one of my History professors asked if I would moderate a weekly discussion session for one of his classes, and I jumped at the opportunity.  He also asked me to help grade research papers turned in by his freshmen class.

Bottom line - I was appalled at the lack of quality of the majority of papers.  Sentence fragments, incorrect verbiage, and misuse of common words (they're vs. their vs. there), etc. were common,  but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the situation was that the professor wanted me to "interpret" what I thought the student meant and not lower a student's grade due to poor grammar, misspelling or sentence structure.

Managers today are blaming texting and the use of informal emailing for their employees' lack of skill, but based on my return-to-college experience (which happened over 12 years ago), I think it may go deeper than that.  We know that mistakes can happen and that spell-check won't catch everything ... However, it's my belief that today's school systems are missing the boat and doing a disservice to elementary and secondary students and those students' future employers alike.

Good writing is a science while great writing is an art. Unfortunately, it appears as though the science isn't being taught.

I agree completely.

And another MNB user wrote:

AMEN!!  My personal pet peeve has been the "less" vs. "fewer" distinction. Thank you for mentioning this frequent gaffe. For a short time, I thought I'd gotten that corrected at the express lanes of my former employer but it's now hit or miss --- usually miss.

Perhaps you should have provided the guideline:  "Fewer" should be used when you can count the object(s).  So, "fewer items", "fewer mistakes", "fewer dollars saved" but "less time", "less money saved", "less hot".

Yesterday, Michael Sansolo and I did a joint FaceTime in which Michael made a reference that MNB user Stan Barrett wanted to comment on:

Great comment by Mike S. on the NASCAR relationship.  I remember hearing from some major CPG guys how much a pleasure it is to work with athletes (up for debate I guess) that understand the sponsor/customer/fan relationship.  Another group that “gets it” and is very forward thinking is the UFC/MMA group.  I am on the fence if this should even be legal,  but my teenage sons and their friends LOVE IT.  Bonuses are paid for number of twitter followers to the fighters and imagine this—after 15 minutes of getting beat up in the ring, these fighters (win or lose) are roaming the arena posing for photos with my sons and their friends.  Prior to the fight, weigh-ins are free and fans are encouraged to interact with the fighters. Facebook followers get free access to pay per view fights, etc.   They are building a fan base that uses social media and will be locked in for a long time.  This sport presents a great opportunity for companies looking for NASCAR like athletes.

One other note on this FaceTime commentary.

I got a couple of emails from folks who complained about the fact that because it was improvised, there was no transcript ... and was available only as a video. It seems that their companies don;t allow them access to video on their work computers...

Which was ironic, because that's one of the things that Michael and I discussed. We agreed that it is silly at this point in time to restrict such things, and shows a lack of faith in the employee. They're not necessarily going to watch movies or porn if they can watch video ... they might actually be accessing the plethora of materials out there that could help them be better employees and improve their companies' efficiency and effectiveness.

Michael made a great point. There probably was a time when employers were concerned about people having telephones on their desks, afraid that this would allow them to waste time and lose productivity.

That time is past. It is time now to empower and trust people, not restrict them.

Finally, writing about my less-than-enthusiastic review of Prometheus last week, one MNB user offered:

I went to Prometheus too. The characters were just too stupid to be believable. For example, they had probes to map the location. Why didn't they send in the probes first, before they entered the dome? The characters were supposed to be scientists. They displayed no knowledge of elementary lab technique. They acted like they were taught by Dumb and Dumber. About an hour and a quarter into the movie I had to use the restroom so I left the theater - this happens when you are in your sixties - something to look forward to. I never went back to the theater.

That's why, at my age, I never drink jumbo sodas. Forget the nutrition issues - I'm always afraid that I'm going to have to hit the restroom sooner rather than later, and I hate it when that happens at the movies.

Another MNB user wrote:

Kev, just wanted to let you know that I agree completely about Prometheus. The more I thought about it after I saw it the less I liked it. ... I’ve also seen the first episode of "Longmire" and look forward to seeing the rest. Well written, acted and filmed...

Let me reiterate my enthusiasm for "Longmire," the new TV series on A&E on Sunday nights. It is like a modern western ... and terrific.
KC's View: