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    Published on: December 3, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Sometimes, even the crazy people can help retailers drive sales ... especially when those retailers are willing to cater to their craziness.

    The New York Daily News reports that as the world approaches December 21, 2012 - the date upon which a Mayan prophesy says the Earth as we know it will come to an end - "believers have been reinforcing their post-apocalyptic bunkers, building a cache of survival gear and stocking their pantries full of foods to last them through Armageddon."

    (And some of us were only worried about the fiscal cliff...)

    Apparently there are some companies out there ready to respond to these specific needs.

    "For $7,000," the Daily News writes, "emergency preparedness company Wise Food, for instance, offers a year’s supply of foods for four adults that includes meals like brown sugar, maple multi-grain cereal, lasagna, pasta Alfredo and chili macaroni. Meals are ready with the addition of hot water ... Likewise, The Ready Store offers a similar package for $7,250 and includes meals like bbq chicken, beef stew, chicken fajitas, oatmeal, brownies, and pound cake, all of which can be eaten directly from the pouch and are designed to withstand “the harshest conditions." And, the story says, "A year’s supply of food from Emergency Essentials clocks in at about $4 a day and includes dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, milk and garden seeds."

    The Daily News notes that "there is a conspicuous common denominator that threads these companies together: all are based out of Utah."

    Now, I have to admit to having a mixed reaction to this story.

    On the one hand, I admire savvy marketing. I think if there is a cadre of people who believe that the apocalypse is coming tomorrow, it makes a kind of sense to sell them products that will help them survive the worst kind of destruction. Of course, it seems obvious to me that the folks at Wise Food, The Ready Store and Emergency Essentials don't share those fears of a coming apocalypse ... because if they did, they either be saving all this stuff for themselves or giving it away. (What good will money do them after the apocalypse? Haven't they seen the Mad Max movies? Or Waterworld?)

    On the other hand, I'm really going to be irritated if the world comes to an end on December 21 ... because that's a Friday, and it is scheduled to be my last day of work on MNB until January 2 (as usually happens this time of year), and I was really looking forward to sleeping late and seeing a bunch of movies during that time. If my plans get screwed up by an apocalypse, I'm not going to be happy.

    BTW...won't these people ever stop? In 2011, it was that guy Harold Camping - described as a 90-year-old former civil engineer turned minister turned radio host - was was predicting that the world would end and the Rapture would occur on May 21, and then, when that didn't happen, he said that he misread the Bible, and that it would actually happen on October 21.

    Oops.

    Y'know what I think? I think people should be enjoying their lives and work and families so much that when the end of the world comes, it catches them by surprise ... because they were focusing so much on living that they didn't think about anything else.

    What's the line from The Shawshank Redemption?

    "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

    Some people would rather get busy dying. In the meantime, nothing wrong with trying to sell them stuff...
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    The Boston Globe reports that one year after it conducted an investigation and revealed that "restaurants and stores across Massachusetts were routinely selling cheaper, lower-quality fish than they promised customers," a new series of DNA tests suggests that "the vast majority are still mislabeling seafood."

    Some restaurant owners blamed their suppliers, while others said the mistakes were clerical and accidental rather than deliberate. Regardless, the Globe writes, "The results underscore an ongoing lack of regulation in the nation’s seafood trade - oversight so weak restaurants and suppliers know they will not face punishment for mislabeling fish. Over the past several months, the Globe collected 76 seafood samples from 58 of the restaurants and markets that sold mislabeled fish last year. DNA testing on those samples found 76 percent of them weren’t what was advertised."
    KC's View:
    Y'know what ticks me off? When one restaurant owner tells the Globe that “we’re too busy to deal with such silliness,” and does not take the matter of mislabeled seafood seriously.

    That's an absurd position, and it hurts everyone in the food business.

    Companies have a responsibility to be accurate and transparent about what they sell. Nothing "silly" about it.

    To do otherwise is retailing malpractice. And there ought to be criminal penalties. Heads on pikes!

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a new report from the French Ministry of Agriculture suggests that wine consumption there is on the wane, hitting record lows.

    The report says that the average French adult consumed 57 liters of wine during the 2010 calendar year, which, while far more than adults in the US or UK, is far less than the 160 liters the average French adult consumed in 1965.

    According to the story, "In 1980, more than half of French people older than age 15 drank wine every day. Vino was served at half of all meals. In 2010, after decades of steady declines, just 17% of drinking French folk had wine regularly. The beverage shows up just once in every four meals, as tap water, juices and sodas become more prevalent.

    "However, as wine becomes more a weekend event, the number of occasional drinkers who sip a glass once or twice a week is up slightly to 45% from 41%, according to the report."

    Two reasons are offered for the decline: increased health awareness, and continuing economic problems in Europe that have affecting consumer buying habits.
    KC's View:
    So what happened to the French paradox, which promised us that the consumption of red wine would actually be a boon to good health?

    Just want to say that I am willing to help pick up the slack on my end.

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    CNet reports that Redbox Instant - designed to be a streaming service that will compete with Netflix's streaming option, as well as Amazon's Instant Video application, may launch by the end of year, possibly as soon as December 17. According to the story, it is believed that Redbox Instant "will be available on a variety of devices, such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles," and is likely to cost as little as $6 per month.

    Redbox Instant is a joint venture of Coinstar, which owns Redbox's traditional kiosk business, and Verizon, which is providing the streaming technology.
    KC's View:
    Another example of how business models are constantly shifting. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    USA Today reports on a new study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) on the major US corporations that pay the lowest wages, concluding that "two-thirds of low-wage workers — those paid less than $10 an hour — are employed by large corporations with at least 100 employees."

    According to the story, "Many of the companies have a history of poor labor relations. Long hours, unsafe or unpleasant working conditions and limited full-time positions and benefits, have been documented at some locations of many of these companies.

    "During the recession, layoffs and benefits cuts were widespread. More than three years after the recession ended, pay hikes or improved benefits have not materialized at most of the 12 companies. Yet, nine of the 12 companies have been profitable the past three years. Ten posted year-over-year revenue gains in 2011."

    The twelve companies are: Walmart, Yum! Brands, McDonald's, Target, Sears, Burger King, Starbucks, Dine Equity (parent company of of Applebee's and IHOP), Macy's, Wendy's, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster) and JC Penney.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    • The Seattle Times reports on a Deutsche Bank analysis of Cyber Monday retail activity, which concludes that "Amazon.com took an aggressive approach to Cyber Monday online sales, undercutting big retail challengers such as Wal-Mart and Target even more decisively than last year."

    According to the story, "From the start of November to Cyber Monday, e-commerce’s much-hyped answer to the Black Friday doorbuster deals of brick and-mortar stores, a basket of 43 products had dropped 6 percent at Amazon. The same gunny sack of goodies dropped 1.8 percent at Wal-Mart and 3.4 percent at Target."

    The story goes on to note that while Amazon did not dominate every category,the numbers clearly suggests that the e-tailer is getting more, not less, aggressive on pricing as competitors begin to take it more seriously as a long-term threat that must be battled both online and in stores.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that lawyers representing warehouse workers in California's Inland Empire "are raising the stakes in a legal battle with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over hours, pay and other conditions at a giant distribution complex in Riverside County. On Friday, they unveiled an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleging that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, ultimately is responsible for pressuring a contractor and subcontractors to work more quickly."

    Walmart says it will fight the allegations at a hearing scheduled for early next year.

    The question being debated is what company bears the ultimate responsibility for working conditions at a Walmart warehouse in Mira Loma, near Ontario, California. A company called Schneider Logistics operates the facility, uses employment agencies to handle human resources, and "receive containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and reship them to Wal-Mart distribution centers and stores around the country."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Timothy Ferriss, who recently has his book, "The 4-Hour Chef," published by Amazon Publishing as opposed to a traditional publishing house. When the book came out - in print and as an e-book - Barnes & Noble said it would not stock the book because it wants to fight back against what it sees as predatory pricing policies by Amazon as well as what it sees as being Amazon's increased and worrisome power in the publishing business.

    In the interview, Ferriss addresses the question of whether, by jumping into bed so completely with Amazon, he is essentially anti-bookstore.

    "I’m pro-reader, not anti- bookstore," he says. "But sometimes being pro-reader makes it look that way.  I think the nature of the free market is that you have to offer something your competitors don’t. If you’re a bookstore competing with Amazon, you need to offer a personal touch or some type of value-added that Amazon has a tough time of replicating."

    The story notes that Ferriss's book "as sold more than 60,000 hardcover and digital copies, according to Amazon, and hit three different Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Still, the hardcover would have sold far more copies if Barnes & Noble carried it in its 689 consumer bookstores."
    KC's View:
    This interview is interesting, I think, because it addresses the whole question of whether by being pro-online shopping means that one is anti-traditional retail. My feeling always has been that shoppers (and I include myself in this) are interested in retailers that cater to their needs and aspirations.

    Pay attention to this passage: "I think the nature of the free market is that you have to offer something your competitors don’t. If you’re a bookstore competing with Amazon, you need to offer a personal touch or some type of value-added that Amazon has a tough time of replicating."

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    The Chicago Tribune reports that there is an online petition circulating on Change.org that asks Gatorade to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from the product.

    According to the story, BVO "is used to suspend citric oils in prepared beverages," and the petition maintains that it "was developed as a flame retardant and poses health risks like reduced fertility and early-onset puberty."

    PepsiCo, which owns Gatorade, says that the product is safe. "As standard practice we constantly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with federal regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers and athletes expect," the company said in a statement.

    The petition reportedly has more than 184,000 signatures.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

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

    • Kroger said late last week that its third quarter saw its net income jump almost 62 percent to $316.5 million, as Q3 total sales increased about 6 percent to $21.81 billion, and same-store sales growth, without fuel, was 3.2 percent. Kroger noted that this was the 36th consecutive quarter of positive identical supermarket sales.

    Reuters reports that Starbucks - accused of avoiding the payment of taxes in the UK by managing the books in such a way that its business there showed no profits, even as it told investors that it was not only profitable, but also "among the best performing of its overseas markets" - says it may change its tax practices there.

    While the retailer has maintained that its calculations have been both legal and appropriate, a spokesperson said that "the public mood had caused the company to reconsider its tax arrangements, which include intercompany royalty and interest payments that reduce the UK unit's taxable profit."

    Sounds like maybe the company was facing not just a lot of public criticism, but maybe even the sale of a few less lattes. As I commented when this story first broke, it reminds me of the scurrilous actions of Hollywood studios, which sometimes juggle the books so that even hit movies don't look like they've made a profit, thus allowing them not to have to pay any of the parties who may have profit participation in their contracts. I know that everyone wants to avoid paying taxes, but this struck me as ridiculous and not a good story for Starbucks' image.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    • Rick Majerus, the college basketball coach who only had one losing season in 25 years with four schools, and who led the University of Utah to the 1998 NCAA Finals, passed away Saturday after a battle with heart disease. He was 64.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    I always think it is interesting when MNB readers send emails in which they recount their shopping experiences.

    For example:

    We are both on the far side of 65.  Wife went to Toys R Us to get a list of things for the grandkids.  Was frustrated trying to find items, out of stocks, lack of help, and long lines (only half the checkouts open).   Gave up, came home and ordered all at Amazon.com.  She doesn't know who was less expensive and doesn't really care - nor do I.

    And from another reader:

    Visited the Apple store on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT on Saturday afternoon to learn about the adapter to permit an iPhone 5 to connect with a brand new iHome clock radio (not an Apple product).  The adapter is manufactured by Apple and I wanted to be sure that the iPhone would charge when plugged into the iHome through the adapter.

    A greeter ushered me to a large table by the front door manned by two sales associates.  I was told that neither of them knew if the adapter would work; in fact they assured me that no one in the store knew if it would work.  They pointed to a distant wall and said I should just buy it and go home and try it.  As I walked away one of the clerks mumbled, “I’m sure it will work.”  Why will it work now when 60 seconds ago no one in the store knew if it would work?

    After selecting the proper adapter without any assistance (good luck if you don’t know what you are looking for), I tried to find someone to pay $30.00 for this piece of plastic.  A woman with an iPad asked me if I was checking in (for one of the coveted appointments with a “Genius” you’ve described over the past few weeks).  I said no, I wanted to check out.  She told me I should go up front where there was help (to the same guys who pointed me to the back of the store).  I told her that the help up front had been “worthless.”  Another sales associate (Rebecca) overheard this conversation and immediately stepped in.  I was on my way in 60 seconds, passing the two clerks up front who were still talking to each other.

    Since I had opted for email delivery of my receipt, I also was given the opportunity to fill out a survey.  Excellent!  I let Apple know how disappointed I was.  Trevor, the manager from the Apple store called me at 11:00 this morning and asked if I had a few minutes to talk.  We spent about 15 minutes on the phone and I told him of my experience.  He listened attentively, told me how he planned to educate his employees, including having the employee go on-line with the customer to Apple forums to try and find the answer (something his employee told me I should have done – I came to the store for their expertise!).

    The manager assured me that the Apple customer experience of several years ago (engaged employees excited to talk technology with each customer) could absolutely co-exist with the today’s Apple stores that generated enormous revenues for Apple.  He acknowledged the comparison of his employees to the aloof Starbucks employees of a few years ago and seemed committed to change what he can at his store.  He pointed out that a manager could be called at any time and asked me to return in the future.

    Will I go back?  I will, because their technology is pretty good, pretty reliable, and I can walk to their store.  But they have competition – a new store opened up on Greenwich Avenue several blocks away called Macinspires.  I’ve been there and it is like walking into a combination of the Apple store from several years ago and an electronics trade show with really well informed sales reps.  And no hard sell either.  The best part is that they are even closer to home than the Apple store. 

    You can bet that I told Trevor of my positive experience at Macinspires. 


    I am more convinced than ever that Apple needs to find someone to lead its Apple Store division who can restore some of its past luster. I think that the Apple Store experience remains superior in most cases, but you hear more of these stories now than you used to.

    That's never good. It is like a warning shot. Apple needs to pay attention. (Just like every other retailer.)




    Regarding our piece last week about how United Airlines seems to be trying to intimidate the founders of a complaint website called "Untied.com," which led one MNB user to write:

    I had never heard of this site before your piece.  I checked it out.  Now that I know about it, if I have an issue with United, guess where I will be going to log that complaint?




    On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    In response to your response to the writer claiming that $250K annual income makes the earner a vastly different person than the majority of people living in America today you missed a couple of huge points other than geography’s effect on cost of living.

    The first is that the majority of people earning $250K + annually are NOT “corporate fat cats”.  They are small business owners who, due to tax laws, have to claim company profits as personal income.  These people are not pocketing all of that money and buying McMansions and BMW SUV’s.  These small business owners are channeling the profits into paying off the increasingly uncomfortable amount of debt and costs it requires to start and maintain a small business. In a lot of cases, that debt is a mortgage on their own home.  I know this as I am one of them.  Some small business owners actually incorporate themselves to avoid a certain amount of risk, but by doing that, their small corporation pays even higher taxes than small business “profits”.  There was a time in this country when we encouraged and protected the risk takers for the obvious advantage that they were building and growing the economy for all  that that offers.  Now the prevailing knee jerk reaction is to blame and penalize them when they had naught to do with the avarice of the auto makers or large bankers who have yet to suffer any criminal prosecution for their mismanagement in the meltdown of 2008.  Any tax increase on the small business owners who are the real risk takers will naturally hinder their willingness to expand business, open new locations, and hire new employees, especially when they see the taxes as being levied to pay off the rescue of the “too big to fail” businesses favored by TARP.
     
    The next argument about raising taxes on the “rich” is much more philosophical.  Define rich.  In the US Tax Code there is no enshrined and codified definition of “rich”. Therefore, this adjective becomes the catchall bumper sticker definition which in reality will redefine itself up and down depending on the purposes of the user.  In the 2016 election I will not be surprised to find that the definition of rich is now anyone making over $75K annually.


    MNB user Bill Kadlec wrote:

    Here is my thought on the “wealthy” tax bracket discussion. While the simplistic and short sighted measure of one year’s income at $250,000 can be projected as a rich family, it doesn’t account for the overall financial health of that individual (or family). The US Government should seriously consider bringing back income averaging as an equalizer to spikes in income or the painful troughs that can be experienced by people. Particularly someone who is recovering from a financial devastation, the increase taxes feel more like a penalty for making the effort to dig out of a hole than contributing their fair share.




    Regarding improved consumer confidence, one MNB user wrote:

    As I was reading the article on the improving consumer confidence index, I wondered if there is a post-election/campaigning “bounce”.  The election/campaigning season is negative and drills in on the problems in this country to the point of over-saturation.  I’m pretty sure we’re all glad it’s over and with that, the “mood” of the country lightens a little.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    While there are a number of economic indicators that could lead us to believing we are heading down the path to another recession, and just as many that we are heading into better times, I think the recent up-tick in consumer confidence has more to do with the presidential election being behind us and corresponding negative ads from both sides also a thing of the past.

    You are right in your assertion that whatever the sentiment is today, it could change almost overnight, with the next jobs report or more topically, an impasse in avoiding the impending fiscal cliff.  For retailers, my advice is take advantage while the getting is good!!






    The purchase by ConAgra of Ralcorp led one MNB user to write:

    The bigger opportunity for ConAgra Foods may not be in the broader portfolio of brands but rather the increased influence with major retailers, many of whom buy both their branded and PL products.  CAG can leverage that influence to better control how their products are merchandised in-store.
     



    There was a study out last week saying that parents tend to pay more attention to their kids' eating habits and health than to their own, which I didn't find all that surprising, but my comments led one MNB user to write:

    It was heartening to read your Wednesday comments on parenting: "caring more about your kids than you care about yourself."  Couldn't agree more. [Corollary here for "somewhat older folks" might be "caring more about your kids' kids than you care about yourself."] In any event, discussing this with a co worker this morning, note was made of recent commentary on MNB about the Toys "R" Us customer experience, to the effect "I would take any available alternative to actually having to go to a TRU store to shop; it really is that bad!"

    Those expressed sentiments seemed to be contrary to the sentiment expressed this morning about "being a parent", and seemed to manifest "it really is all about me" centricity, as opposed to the more-selfless "it's really all about my kids [or grandkids], and not about me."  If a parent [or grandparent] opts to purchase, here, a child's toys online -- sort of the archetype impersonal shopping experience -- thus denying the child any possible "joy & wonderment" of simply being able to wander through a toy store, a big deal thing for a kid -- and even assuming the parent merely uses that trip to whet the child's appetite, intending to return ex child later on to actually make the purchase -- co-worker and I found it hard to square these two juxtaposed topical threads.  The analogous observation, "Here, Johnny, instead of actually going to visit Santa Claus at the mall, we'll just look at pictures of Santa Claus here on my computer; it'll be a lot more convenient for me that way", was noted.  Today's parenthood comments seemed genuinely to express the sort of selfless spirit we felt was appropriate in the "parenthood context", whereas the earlier TRU comments did not.  Two readers' thoughts, anyway.


    Maybe I'm a lousy parent, but I never took my kids to toy stores at Christmastime. We always had very specific rules. Get your letter to Santa done by Thanksgiving, and then sit back and wait to be surprised on Christmas morning. (Never Christmas Eve.) I'd guess that most of the time, maybe 30-40 percent of what they received actually was on their lists; I always liked the idea of surprising them, as opposed to wandering through stores so they would be tempted to get the "gimmies."

    Sure, we'd hit the mall to visit Santa. And we'd try to get to NYC to walk down Fifth Avenue, see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, etc... I've always thought that Christmas traditions should have very little to do with toy stores.

    BTW...my kids - ages 18, 23 and 26 - all had their letters to Santa in by Thanksgiving this year.





    Responding to last week's Eye-Opener about the video showing terrific customer service at a Texas Krispy Kreme, even to a fellow trying to get rejected as a way of thickening his skin, MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

    After viewing the Krispy Kreme, customer service experience on entresting.com, I watched another of Jia’s rejection videos.

    First of all, people in Texas are much nicer than people in New Jersey.  Even when giving rejection, they take the time to explain why.

    Secondly, the interesting thing about Jackie at Krispy Kreme is that her mind automatically tried to understand how to meet Jia’s request, without instantly rejecting it as “something we don’t do.”  How well do we give our customer-facing employees the latitude to create solutions to meet customer requests?  How well do they do when they are busy?  In this case, the unique request is part of a test, but the overwhelming number of unique customer requests are real, and how well do we address these real requests?


    The only part of this email with which I disagree is the disparagement of people from New Jersey. That's an easy stereotype, but I have to tell you that there are nice people and bozos everywhere. I just hate it when people slot entire states into categories when it comes to how nice or not nice their residents are.

    From another reader:

    Wow.  Just this morning I stopped in a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Three employees were behind the counter, but not a single customer so I walked right up.  And waited.  They seemed to be talking about work, so I was patient and waited some more.  Eventually, one guy glanced over at me.  I continued to wait.  Then I waited some more.  Nobody ever said “I’ll be right with you” or acknowledged my existence in any way.  After waiting some more I turned and walked out.  It’s a newer store that I pass every day and this was my first visit.  It was certainly also my last.  Krispy Kreme got it right, Dunkin’ Donuts got it wrong.

    Thanks for posting that link.  Every supervisor should make sure their employees watch it, whether they’re selling donuts, jewelry or plumbing parts.

     




    Regarding JC Penney's stated interest in replacing checkouts with coffee and juice bars, and give employees smart phones that they can use to check people out, MNB user Julee A. Wingo wrote:

    I love JC Penney, but if they’re going to do that, they better have separate people designated for checking people out or more people will get frustrated with waiting for people to get their juice, etc.; and start shopping on line.  Maybe not at Penney’s.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I believe in supporting brick and mortar stores so that I am essentially helping provide someone in the community a job. When selecting which stores to go to, I favor retailers that offer good customer service. Since starting my career, JC Penny has been the place that I shop for all of my business casual clothes, and I have been disappointed when I can’t find something and there are no employees to help. Giving employees iPads, iPhones, and a drink bar only makes me believe customer service will continue to lack. I have already abandoned Walmart because of the consistent lack of customer service and am trying to not feel this way about JC Penny…





    We had some discussion last week of the irony that Walmart has such strict rules on what its employees can accept from vendors (nothing!), while there seems to be some evidence that it may have engaged in systemic bribery of foreign officials in places like Mexico, India and China.

    Which led one MNB user to write:

    Not only is there zero tolerance for accepting any type of gift, including a lunch, but manufacturers are not permitted to leave behind any samples brought to sales meetings.  When the meetings are over, all samples are packed back up and leave w/the sales force.  On a call to any other retailer, the samples are left behind for the buyers to either take home or share w/coworkers.

    And from another reader:

    I guess there is a bit of a media feeding frenzy about Walmart in India. But their policies are very clear. After a long and somewhat contentious meeting in Bentonville, the Walmart associate  and I decided we could use a soft drink. We went to the Sam's soda vending machine  near the meeting room.  I put in my quarter for my soda and started to put in a quarter for hers ( it was about 4 years ago but I bet the soda is still close to 25 cents). She quickly stopped me, and put in her quarter. She was concerned that her tough minded buying attitude would be compromised by my " gift" of a $.25 soda. Say what you want about Walmart, but corruptible associates is not one of them.

    Maybe not corruptible. But the question is whether at least some of its employees are corrupting.

    From still another reader:

    It seems easy to point our fingers at them and say, "got 'cha!".

    While I do not condone them... It seems they were nonchalant about it to the point of "asking to get caught", ... who are we kidding?

    Retailers are currently paying "consultants" to go into some of our domestic municipalities to secure liquor licenses, building permits, etc. Anyone with half a brain knows these consultants are merely "bag carriers", who simply know who to give the bag to!

    At least it maintains some degree of deniability for the retailer.

    After Wal-mart gets properly excoriated, let's uncover some of the ugliness in our own backyards.





    Regarding our piece about the Silver Fox Club being disbanded (and the picture we ran of the original members), MNB user Len Okyn wrote:

    Kevin, the ‘Silver Lining’ article brought back great memories of why I love the Supermarket Industry. It was because of my association with my good friend Paul Corliss and the other Icons in the Silver Fox Club picture I became committed to encouraging high school and College grads to seek careers in the most challenging and exciting industry in the world. I never forgot “how did we get here from there?” and that is what those Silver haired ladies and gentlemen did. Thanks for the article and now unfortunately you will never know what you missed by not being an proud member of the Silver Fox Club.
     
    FYI: I am the Silver Fox to the left of Neil Golub, Price Chopper.





    Neil Golub also came up in another story last week, as he and his wife, Jane, were honored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Which led MNB user LaDonna Hale to write:

    I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know these two outstanding individuals when I worked “with” them at Price Chopper.  I am glad to call them friends. They continue to be the man and woman I measure all others against in this business, and in life in general.  I have never met two more caring, engaged, thoughtful and gracious people.  No accolade they receive could ever be enough to recognize them for their good deeds!

    All true.




    MNB user Matt Mroczek wrote, about American Express-sponsored Small Business Saturday:

    I support small business by NOT using American Express since their fees are usually higher than Visa and Mastercard.  “Small Business Saturday” is a great opportunity for AMEX to send all of it’s cardholders unwittingly into stores that don’t accept it for payment to “show” them why they should.




    Regarding Joe Biden's visit to Costco last week, MNB user Mike Starkey wrote:

    I would love to see a basket analysis of Joe Biden's Costco purchases and reveal the country of origin of his purchases.  Sad to say that most likely a very large percentage of the basket would be manufactured somewhere other than the United States.  I'll leave the politics aside, but if people are really worried about jobs folks should at least think about their purchases and where the products are made while they vote with their dollars in the marketplace.

    I think that is a really good point. And not just because I have a sponsor on MNB that certifies products made in the USA.




    Michael Sansolo had a column last week about how Martha Stewart has found a new fan niche - tattooed hipsters in Brooklyn, who are finding applications for her brand of suburban chic. Michael suggested, with tongue a bit in cheek, that maybe her prison term had given her "street cred" with an audience that might not ordinarily be seen as Martha Stewart fans. He also wrote about a college basketball coach who had to change the terms of the game if he was going to get any level of excellence from a team that traditionally had underperformed. Michael connected the two stories by suggesting that sometimes unconventional approaches and unexpected appeal can lead to sustained success...but one MNB user wasn't buying and he sent Michael the following note:

    Who gives a crap about street “cred”. So the business lesson is that Martha Stewart is more “diversified” because she spent time in Jail? Seriously? And you are making a comparison to and  equate the business lesson to a coach who for all intents and proposes did something – NEW, UNIQUE, SPECIAL, GOOD, & WELL.

    You and the metro guy clearly have dislodged equilibriums.


    First of all, I'm the Content Guy. Not the Metro Guy. Let's get it straight.

    Second, I think it was an entirely legitimate column and thesis. You're welcome to disagree with it, but I thought it made a lot of sense and is completely in line with the overall approach here on MNB, which is to examine everything from different and unusual angles.

    Third ... I'll show you just how dislodged my equilibrium is. I've read enough about the basketball coach in question - David Arseneault of Grinnell College - that I'm not entirely sure his motives are as honorable as some have suggested. And, while I'm no Martha Stewart fan, I actually have a lot of sympathy for her. I cannot believe that of all the people who have committed financial misdeeds over the past decade, Martha Stewart is the one who went to jail.

    At least that's one guy's opinion. The Metro Guy.




     I appreciated this email from MNB user Cindy Sorenson:

    I loved your commentary about handkerchiefs, and the follow ups in "Your Views" section today.  They all made me think of my dad.  He carried one every day.  AND it had to be ironed.  How many handkerchiefs did I iron as a kid growing up?  Boy, did I hate that job.  But what I wouldn't give to be able to iron a handkerchief for my dad who has now been deceased for 12 years.  I wouldn't complain for a second.  Great memories.  Thank you.

    My pleasure.





    And finally, on another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    Regarding whether baseball owners have been guilty of exploiting players for relatively low pay (in years past), or whether, on the other hand, players' salaries these days have grown beyond all reason, you know what (the late) Robert B. Parker would say about it all, don't you?  That's right.  "Baseball is the most important thing that really doesn't matter."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

    It is Week Twelve in the National Football League...

    Buffalo 34
    Jacksonville 18

    Seattle 23
    Chicago 17

    Indianapolis 35
    Detroit 33

    Green Bay 23
    Minnesota 14

    Kansas City 27
    Carolina 21

    New England 23
    Miami 16

    NY Jets 7
    Arizona 6

    St. Louis 16
    San Francisco 13

    Houston 24
    Tennessee 10

    Denver 31
    Tampa Bay 23

    Pittsburgh 23
    Baltimore 20

    Cleveland 20
    Oakland 17

    Cincinnati 20
    San Diego 13

    Philadelphia 33
    Dallas 38
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 3, 2012

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    KC's View: