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    Published on: January 24, 2013

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you today from the Brown Palace in Denver...

    Just a few thoughts this morning, coming after the Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference.

    I think the thing I found most heartening about the conference was that food seemed to be more central to the discussion than sometimes has been the case in the past.

    I think it is terrific that a new campaign, called "Let's Put Our Plates Together," has been begun to encourage and coordinate efforts by retailers to get families to eat together on a regular basis, because we all know that when families eat meals together, their kids are better adjusted, have fewer drug and alcohol problems, and get better grades.

    I think it is wonderful that, in a series of Community Outreach Awards, FMI is lauding retailers large and small that are being aggressive with programs that deal with nutrition, health and hunger. These are enormously important issues, and the food industry can and should be central to addressing them.
    I go to a lot of food stores, and the simple fact is that it is the stores that celebrate food that are the best ones. That doesn't mean gourmet food, though it can. It just means understanding that selling food is different from selling widgets, and as such presents an opportunity to be different and differentiated in how one markets and merchandises.

    It means being specific about health and nutrition issues. It means providing as much information as possible to consumers so they can make informed, intelligent decisions. It means having food stores that smell good. It means helping people understand how to prepare and serve food. It means figuring out where the gaps are, and filling in with information whenever possible.

    This stuff cannot be overstated. It can't be talked about too much.

    Food matters in a way that few other products do. I find it encouraging whenever people in the food industry talk about it, rather than just focusing on supply chains and efficiency and slotting allowances and all that other stuff that, while important, isn't what makes the food business special.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Netflix, as part of its financial report issued yesterday, said that its streaming customers were "up by 2.05 million customers in the United States, from 25.1 million in the third quarter" — was its biggest in nearly three years, and helped the company report net income of $7.9 million, surprising many analysts who had predicted a loss."

    The New York Times story notes that "the results reflected just how far Netflix has come since the turbulence of mid-2011, when its botched execution of a new pricing plan for its services — streaming and DVDs by mail — resulted in an online flogging by angry customers ... Netflix’s fourth-quarter success was a convenient reminder to the entertainment and technology industries that consumers increasingly want on-demand access to television shows and movies. Streaming services by Amazon, Hulu and Redbox are all competing on the same playing field, but for now Netflix remains the biggest such service, and thus a pioneer for all the others."

    It is just this week, remember, that Dish Network-owned Blockbuster said that it will close more than 300 of its stores in the US, and already this year its UK division has filed for the British equivalent of bankruptcy protection.

    And the competition is only going to get more intense as these companies seek ways of furthering their brand equity. In the case of Netflix, that means coming out with original content - the new series "House of Cards" and the revival of "Arrested Development," for example - as a way of differentiating themselves.

    There is no question that Netflix misjudged the pricing market at one point, but it appears to have survived the misstep and now is focusing on consumer-centric innovation.

    Good lesson.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that some analysts are suggesting that Safeway should sell its Canadian operations, which is worth about $5.5 billion, and there is at least some suggestion that Loblaws and Metro in Canada could be positioning themselves for a Safeway Canada bid.

    Much of the speculation seems to be fueled by a brokerage called BMO Capital Markets.

    According to the story, "Metro, which runs a network of more than 600 food stores and 250 drug stores in Quebec and Ontario, said on Tuesday that it was selling part of its stake in Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. The sale will raise about $479 million, the company said. Loblaw, meanwhile, announced late last year that it was launching an IPO for its real-estate holdings into a REIT. BMO said that plan could raise almost $700 million for Loblaw, Canada’s largest food retailer."

    While some in the analyst class may believe that a sale of Safeway Canada is a good idea, there is no suggestion that they have any inside information that such a transaction is in the works.

    Meanwhile, Safeway is going through its own changes - the impending (and, if some people are to believed, partially-forced) retirement of CEO Steve Burd, the search by the board to find a replacement because of the apparent lack of a succession plan, and the planned IPO of its Blackhawk gift card unit.
    KC's View:
    It would seem to be a time of choices at Safeway, where priorities could be set that will propel (or, I suppose, inhibit) its operations for some time to come.

    In the case of a new CEO, will the board choose a financially oriented candidate, or a merchant? (I'm told the board is leaning in the direction of a CFO-type ... which certainly will influence its long-term strategic thinking.) Will they go outside the company, or choose an internal candidate? (It has been suggested to me that it is far more likely the board will pick someone from the inside.) How will it compensate for the loss of revenue that inevitably will happen when Blackhawk gets spun off? (Will selling the Canada business cover up some corporate deficiencies?)

    The thing is, some folks I talk to within the business suggest that the ways in which the board may be leaving may be the wrong directions - that it should be seeking a real merchant from the outside, someone who can reinvigorate the stores and make them more competitive and differentiated.

    And there is even some suggestion that while Delhaize's organizational changes have gotten more headlines lately, in fact Safeway needs to confront some systemic issues in the same way. It would mean some trauma in the short term, but no pain, no gain.

    At least, that's what I'm hearing...

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    • Following up on yesterday's piece about Walmart spending $450 million on its Canadian business during the coming fiscal year, Reuters reports that Walmart Canada plans to expand its fresh-food offerings in every store by 50 percent as it competes with Loblaws and "girds for Target Corp.'s arrival in the country later this year."

    Shelley Broader, CEO of Walmart Canada, says that "Wal-Mart will add food sections to stores in Canada’s Maritime provinces this year and plans to increase its food line to as many stores as possible," according to the story.

    “The addition of fresh food through supercenters a few years ago has really not only driven our growth trajectory in Canada, but it is really meeting the needs of the consumer base that was under-served,” Broader says. “I would like to put fresh food in every facility that I can.”

    In addition, she says, Walmart Canada plans to add "traditional financial services" to its mix, and will consider adding "the other opportunities that come along with financial services."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013 reports that a new study published in Economics and Human Biology suggests that one of the best ways to help kids control their weight is to keep them at the dinner for three minutes longer each night.

    The reason has less to do with what they eat during those three minutes, and more to do with what has become a truism - that families eating together often will have children who are better adjusted and socialized, more likely to have good grades, and less likely to have drug and alcohol problems.

    According to the story, "The findings suggest that the factors at play are likely to be communication and the importance of a scheduled mealtime. Researchers found that families who said that shared mealtimes are an important part of family life and have special meaning for them were less likely to have a child who was obese or overweight."
    KC's View:
    None of this is new. But as I said in :"FaceTime" this morning, it cannot be stated too often or too strongly.

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that two private equity companies - Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. - have teamed up to make what is seen as the most attractive opening bid to acquire most of Hostess Brands' cake business, which includes Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

    Hostess, which is bankruptcy, is selling off all of its brands as it liquidates the entire company.

    The story notes that whichever opening bid is accepted by Hostess, it will be seen as a "stalking horse bid," with other companies then able to top that bid at the bankruptcy auction.
    KC's View:
    Maybe I'm alone in this, but I'm already tired of this story. It'd be nice if Twinkies are saved because their survival means jobs, and because it is an iconic brand. But in the long term, I'm reasonably sure the republic will survive the demise of Hostess.

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    Dollar General Corp. said yesterday that it plans to open 635 stores and relocate 550 stores during the current calendar year, including - at some point in the continuum - the chain's 11,000 the store. The company said that it will add 6,000 jobs as part of the expansion, and also "is participating in a statewide initiative called Paychecks for Patriots that helps unemployed veterans find jobs."
    KC's View:
    In some ways, this statement by Dollar General was far more compelling and illustrative of broader trends than an interminable and snore-inducing presentation I saw on the same subject this week.

    Two conclusions can be reached from these numbers...

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.


    Be competitive. Be very competitive.

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    • Lund's/Byerly's has launched its first smartphone application, available in both the iPhone App Store and the Google Play Store.

    According to the story, the app will offer shoppers access to product selection, specials, recipes, app-only offers, store information and the ability to create shopping lists.

    In addition, the company said, "Everyone who downloads the app between January 24, 2013 and February 6, 2013 will have access to an exclusive in-app code for a free movie rental from a Redbox kiosk inside any Lunds or Byerly’s."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    NACS reports that "the U.S. convenience store count increased to a record 149,220 stores as of December 31, 2012, a 0.7% increase (1,094 stores) from the year prior, according to the 2013 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.

    "The growth of convenience stores selling motor fuels was nearly triple the overall growth in the industry, as fuels retailers added convenience operations and convenience retailers added fueling operations. Overall, 82.6% of convenience stores (123,289 stores) sell motor fuels, a 1.9% increase (2,339 stores) over last year.

    "Convenience stores account for 34.8% of all retail outlets in the United States, according to Nielsen, which is significantly higher than the U.S. total of other retail channels including drug stores (40,727 stores), supermarkets (33,192 stores) and dollar stores (24,075 stores)."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

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

    • The Boston Business Journal reports that Starbucks shift supervisors in Massachusetts are getting a starting wage increase from $11 to $13.89 an hour, as well as a one-time bonus of $350.

    The increase and bonus are designed to compensate for a compensation hit that the shift supervisors took when state courts ruled last November that they could not participate in money left by shoppers in store tip jars. reports that bison may be poised "to succeed lamb as the next hip, hot burger protein."

    According to the story, "Bison appears to be taking the same top-down menu path to popularity that lamb burgers followed: appearing on higher-end burger bar menus before trickling down to fast-casual and even a few quick-service concepts. Obviously, bison was the star from the 2002 start of the 40-plus-unit Ted’s Montana Grill chain, where most burgers are available with beef or bison patty. Now the 33-unit The Counter chain says bison’s popularity justifies its becoming a year-round option on its build-your-own-burger menu."

    How did I not end up working for BurgerBusiness at some point during my career? Sounds like a great gig ... especially if one could combine it with a career at BeerBiz...

    • The Houston Chronicle reports that Sprouts Farmers Market plans to open its first Houston-area store in late March, and has four more planned for the market.

    • In Washington State, the Olympian reports that Haggen Inc.plans to close its Top Food & Drug store in Lacey sometime in the next two months, noting that this is "the second major retailer to close in the area since October."

    The company did not address the specific reasons for the decision. "As a company, we continually evaluate our stores and identify opportunities to strengthen our overall business,” says John Turley, co-president and senior vice president of operations at Haggen.

    One probable reason cited in the story: WinCo, which opened nearby in 2010 and, in my experience, ends up being a formidable competitor in virtually every place in operates. I've been told that there are two companies that keep Walmart execs awake at night - Amazon and WinCo.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    • Ralcorp said yesterday that its CEO, Kevin Hunt, plans to resign when the company's planned merger with ConAgra is completed, though he will remain with ConAgra under the terms of a one-year, $1 million consulting gig.

    The Associated Press reports that "in addition, ConAgra Foods has also entered into a retention agreement with Scott Monette, CVP and CFO of Ralcorp, Richard R. Koulouris, CVP and President of Ralcorp Food Group, and Charles G. Huber, Jr., CVP and President of Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products.  The three stand to receive potential cash retention payments of up to the following amounts: Mr. Monette – $637,502; Mr. Koulouris – $840,000; and Mr. Huber – $810,000."

    • Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corporation announced today that Paul Beletsky, most recently with Wakefern/Shop-Rite, has been hired into the position of Director of Meat Merchandising.

    • Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corporation also announced that Sam Wagar, the company's Director of Enterprise Architecture, has been promoted to the position of Vice President, Technical Services.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 24, 2013

    Got a number of emails about the criticisms being leveled at Subway for using 11-inch rolls for its footlong sandwiches.

    MNB user Kurt Mueller wrote:

    Must of been a slow news day on Monday to have this topic  your feature commentary!  Subway is not the first to make a claim and not deliver.  Ever heard of a " foot long" hot dog!  The industry standard on a foot long hot dog is 10".  The bun the hot dog goes on is an industry standard 12".  Now granted, there are some hot dogs called foot longs that are larger than 10" and called "foot longs".  The challenge here becomes the bun which isn't more than 12" causing the hot dog to overcome the bun.  In the name of not living in the world of "Crock", if one would use your logic, foot longs should be sold as 10" hot dog in an 12" bun!  Or better yet a 11.5 hot dog in a 12" bun! Or I'm confident  what your would prefer, a 13" hot dog in a 12" bun!  Isn't the sizzler of a 12" Subway sandwich or a "foot long" hot dog what marketing is all about?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Can't stop laughing about the "footlongs." It brings back memories from my youth working my Uncle's "footlong" hotdog stand at the State Fair. Health inspectors used to visit once a day and check temperatures, etc. -- and measure the length of  a sample hotdog. According to law it had to be some odd number like 10.5 or 11 inches in order to qualify as a "footlong." It seemed weird then and it seems weird now. Yes - life ought to be simple - and Subway should get out their rulers.

    MNB user Beth Coon wrote:

    I think you are splitting hairs with the Subway issue. Anyone who bakes knows that yeast dough can be temperamental especially to those just learning (ever try to make a round pizza from scratch?).  Had they chalked it up to a training issue and then followed up by addressing that, this would not be an issue.

    And from another reader:

    It would be interesting to know if the sandwich was ever 12 inches in length… this feels like an executive decision to cut the cost, and they got caught! Wonder if the baking form or dough size changed in the last year?

    MNB user Greg Beehler wrote:

    I wonder if the Footlong sub may have been, at one point, twelve inches and not eleven as it now appears to be.
    Could have been a hidden cost increase (just like the cereal companies downsizing the box, or putting one fewer granola bars in the package instead of actually charging more)
    Of course “the eleven incher” doesn’t have the same ring to it…at least not in a fast food ad!

    MNB user Bill Justin chimed in:

    I assume it is a human problem. Most likely this product is mass produced and frozen. Product shrinks and need to be stretched and proofed before baking.

    I am a long time Subway fan. Lets just fix the problem and not try to damage a great firm that has a great product.

    From another reader:

    The Subway marketing staff must be all male - men have been lying about size for centuries.

    But really, it's what's inside that counts.  Remember Wendy's "where's the beef"?.

    I see a class action in Subway's future.

    Maybe it's a Weight-Watchers foot long.  If we all ate 8.33% less food  - poof, obesity epidemic solved.

    MNB user Kathleen Whelan wrote:

    They could have said that they did it for Jared – so he would think he was eating more than he was.  All those extra inches of carbs not eaten really added up!
    Now, here’s something that demonstrates how much the MNB World View influences me.  I recently bought a new convertible laptop case  to replace one that I had finally destroyed.  They no longer make the eBags ‘Router’ anymore, which I liked because it has a side compartment for your laptop.  I hunted around and found a comparable one from Heyes.  When it arrived, I read the card that listed its features and was struck by this one: “Organizer compartment has a CD player pocket with audio port”.
    Good MNB user that I am, my immediate thought was “who listens to CD players anymore?”

    I love it.

    On the subject of the Made-In-The-USA trend, MNB user Christy Meyer wrote: 

    Just a comment on your news brief … My husband and I went to our local Lowe’s recently to look at doing a kitchen remodel. In the course of looking at cabinets, the associate we were working with told us that all their cabinets are made in the USA (and she named exactly which states for each manufacturer and had even visited one of them as part of her role in the design area). We were both very pleasantly surprised -- especially after looking online for deals and all those cabinets were made in China. I mentioned to her that Lowe’s should shout “Made in the USA” cabinets – that definitely took us over-the-top on our decision to purchase our cabinets from them. (Didn’t hurt, either, that the associate, Pam, was very helpful and patient with us!)

    Regarding Blockbuster's decision to close 300 stores, MNB user Mike O'Shea wrote:

    Who would have thought that Blockbuster even had 300 stores to close!

    MNB user Cindy Sorensen wrote:

    Today, one of my friend's posted this breaking news on Facebook:

    News headline today, Blockbuster is closing 300 stores.

    In other news, Blockbuster still has stores.

    On another subject, one MNB user offered:

    I’ve heard a lot of commotion from people on the issue of the “increased” Social Security taxes for January 1, 2013 and am continually baffled by the comments I hear.

    This is not a new tax or a higher tax, it’s the same tax that we had prior to the temporary reduction in 2012. This reduction was temporary – we had a nice break with some additional spendable income for 2012 – but that’s all it was meant to be is temporary. It’s difficult to see your first 2013 paycheck with such a dramatic cut in net pay, I agree. But this is an example of how it hurts to give someone a “deal” over a period of time because it always comes back to bite the “giver”. Instead of appreciating what we saved all year in 2012, people are looking at it as a huge negative. It’s similar to awarding someone with a 20% discount in their grocery bill for one year and then the next year, ending it. What they’re now having to pay seems horribly high but rather than blaming the person who gave them the 20% discount in the previous year, they should be appreciative of how much they were able to save while they received the discount. You just can win by being a nice guy I guess.

    Regarding the loss of users being suffered by Facebook, MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

    I’m a Facebook  user, but I don’t live on it like some people I know.  I agree, it does seem to bring out the narcissism in some people who seem to think we are interested in every little thing that happens in their lives.  I have no need to tell the world every detail about my life, even I find my life boring at times, and I’m sure others would be equally as bored with the details.  I for certain don’t post when I’ll be out of town, that’s like inviting my house to be broken into.
    MNB user Catherine Storer wrote:

    I recently deactivated my Facebook account for a number of reasons.  The primary reason was that it was just a waste of my time.  I found myself becoming cranky while scrolling down most of the sappy re- posts. But the others included 1)  privacy considerations, 2) a mistrust of what Facebook could  be doing with my information and 3) tired of the advertisements.

    Done with Facebook!

    I've gotten a lot of email about my piece last week about a good shopping experience I had at Sears...

    MNB user Philip Herr wrote:

    Hard goods has always been Sear’s sweet spot. I’d imagine the salespeople in that department take pride in that and consequently you got great service. Good for you.

    From another reader:

    I don’t share your animosity towards Sears.  OK, back in the day when shopping was a sport, not a chore, I would have been horrified at the thought of shopping at Sears for anything but hardlines—which I almost never had need for back then.  Now, as a full-fledged grown up, Sears is among the places where I shop and buy—admittedly with some mixed results.  I have had many terrific experiences like yours in the lawn-and-garden area, most notably buying a very nice gas grill, and having it assembled and loaded into our SUV on the spot.

    This past Black Friday, my mother wanted a Lands’ End jacket that was on sale, but they did not have the color she wanted in her size.  The Lands’ End specialist took incredible care of us, contacting the Lands’ End call center (and making sure to find a phone rep who was as on the ball as she was!), getting them to match the in-store price, and having the right jacket shipped free to my mother.  A refrigerator purchase a couple of years ago did not go quite as smoothly.  However, in contrast to the reader with the ping pong table, it was the delivery crew who saved the day.  Our salesman in the store made all sorts of promises, insisting we call him if we encountered any problems or issues with delivery or with the refrigerator itself and he would take care of it.  In actuality, he could not have cared any less when the delivery crew wheeled in a fridge with a badly dented freezer door handle.  It was the delivery crew (in conjunction with their dispatch center) who took the initiative to swap out the damaged part with a new one from another unit so that we wouldn’t have to set up another delivery (and be without a refrigerator in the meantime).

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    You just described a typical experience.  You need to move closer to civilization and trade your on-line habits for old fashioned ones.

    Give me a break.

    Another reader wrote:

    Like you, Sears is not my shopping spot of choice and, like you, I have been lured in there by reviews of a product here and there. I gotta say that every experience except one dealing with water heaters (which was bad news many places though they had a distasteful approach to their WH program), was conducted excellently service-wise. Kinda old-fashioned service in fact, you know,the kind that caters to your questions, is there when you need it, friendly no pressure and is efficient?  Stuff from my youth but in action today kinda service.  We shopped for some appliances there and got great service but despite some very contrived and overly tricky/complex promotional programs, their pricing "sounded good" on those appliances but with analysis never merited the purchase and we purchased elsewhere but the sales team was always very good. I might add that their Craftsmen stuff is a continuing draw. By virtue of these rare, focused visits (e.g. for appliances) I have stumbled into the virtues of their Craftsmen line of tools and garden stuff.   Their garden dept is now my go to spot for the basics as I stumbled into finding they have the best garden pruners, quality hose nozzles and hoses that I can find (short of Felco pruners that cost a firstborn). I also have become a fan of their Craftsmen tools. Seem a much better quality and they stand behind them. 
    The stores are tired and kinda depressing daunting you from going in, but they have some really good things going for them.  I have become a fan of the basement anyway.

    And from another reader:

    Gosh, I wish I had the same experience.  Over Christmas I went in to my local Sears to buy a gas grill.  I have purchased my last 3 grills from them and wanted to do so again.  You could have shot a cannon through the store.  I stood in the gas grill department which is adjacent to their appliances area with credit card in my hand to make a purchase and no one was around to take my money. 
    Not to give up, I went home, logged on to their site and tried to order the grill.  I was told that the grill was out of stock within my area for delivery, but I could go to my local store to pick it up. 
    Are we talking about the same Sears?

    And another:

    My experiences are the same as the one you describe. I might not go there for clothes any more, but for tools, lawn equipment and I need to add electronics, there is no retailer more responsive to the details. The details keep me loyal.

     MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

    We had occasion to go to our closest Sears this weekend; we had a planned errand near the mall, and made sure to grab the Sears gift card that we received for Christmas since we were going to be right there.  We had our mind set to replace an old Waterpik that was failing.  Sears had a comparable device from another maker, so my having checked Target’s price on a recent trip was moot, so I pulled out my iPhone and used the Amazon price check app, which showed a $10 savings over Sears’ sale price.  Under other circumstances, we might have just placed the order with Amazon right then and had it on Tuesday, but since we were there to utilize a gift card (plus the instant gratification taking it with us), we asked about price matching.  The first answer to be uttered was “We match local competitors”.  Fortunately for them…before I could pipe up to say that Amazon is EVERYONE’S local competitor, he set about finding a work-around of some sort to match Amazon’s price, and we were rung up and on our way.  We had barely gone 20 feet when we saw something that was a perfect solution for a need we had.  Since we didn’t need a price match, the clerk was able to check us out right from a handheld device, and we left happy and satisfied.

    And from another reader:

    Two years ago, I needed tires for my car.  I went on line to check where I might find them and Sears 'had them in stock.'  I drove to Sears, bought them and my car was put on a hoist so they could mount the tires.  After 15  minutes, the sales lady came out and told me they had searched for the 'in stock' tires and they were actually out of stock.  because they were a hard to find item according to her, it would take a week to get them so I agreed to wait.  It took another 15 minutes to get my car off the hoist.  The next day it became apparent that one more week wouldn't do so I dropped by an independently owned tire store just a few miles from my house.  The salesman said he didn't have the tires, either but, after checking, he said he could get them from the distributor in about 30 minutes.  It took 45 minutes for which he apologized profusely and added a free tire alignment for my trouble.  I called Sears to cancel the order.  Had to wait until the sales lady came to the phone.  At first she refused to cancel - I had prepaid with my credit card - then relented and proceeded to ream me out for 10 minutes for wasting her time while she processed the paperwork.   BTW, I'm pretty sure the same tire distributor services  Sears and the independent that sold me the tires.

    Got the following email regarding Kate McMahon's column yesterday about John Mackey and the tumult created online by some of his comments - specifically referring to Obamacare as "fascism"...

    Regarding the comment from John Mackey.  Despite the comment and if you agree or disagree with the comment I am concerned with the knee jerk reaction to penalize rather than understand the reason for the comment.  When a progressive (or as us older guys say Liberal) makes a statement it is understood by all progressives that the entire population should line, in agreement, behind the comment.  And if we disagree we are to remain silent because we are uneducated.
    Maybe those claiming to be so enlightened should use their enlightenment to be more understanding.  Applying the same standard (just walk a mile in my shoes) that they expect from a conservative.

    You missed the point of Kate's column, which was to focus on the online response to Mackey's comments ... including the fact that Whole Foods' corporate office addressed the comments almost before the tumult commenced.

    Also, to be fair ... there are plenty of ways to criticize and disagree with the whole of Obamacare, or some of its elements. But if you call if "fascism," that is a code word. and one should expect to get some blowback.

    Mackey can say anything he wants. But when you contribute to the public discourse, what you say can have consequences - both positive and negative.

    And from another reader:

    It seems that more and more Jack Nicholson's quote "you can't handle the truth" remains relevant.  It is disappointing that when someone speaks the truth about pretty much anything, they are shouted down by those who don't know and/or except reality.  Mackey speaks the truth, and that is controversial?  Being honest used to be  the right thing to do, now it seems that it has changed to only say what is popular.  I worry for the future of  our diminishing republic.

    Funny that you put it that way.

    Mackey spoke his opinion. People who disagreed with him expressed their opinions.

    I'm really tired of people who see one opinion as "the truth" because it matches their world view, and refuse to even consider the possibility that people who disagree with them may have a point to be considered.

    Epistemic closure, I think they call it.

    Responding to one of yesterday's stories, MNB user Ben Ball wrote:

    Talk of “experiential retailing” and “an experiential shopping experience” confuse and bemuse me. Oh, I get the jargon alright – but what is really being said? Shoppers have a “shopping experience” NOW. Every time they go into the store. They just don’t like it. To change the “shopping experience” you must make tangible and meaningful changes to the store and the way it works. You can’t change the shopping experience. You can only change things that change the shopping experience. This conversation reminds me of the holy grail of strategy wonks from years back – to seek “sustainable competitive advantage”. There is only one competitive advantage that is sustainable – and that is continuous innovation and improvement. Everything else can and will be copied – better, faster and cheaper.
    As a consultant now myself, I’m sure I am as guilty as any of using what Dad called “25 cent words” to communicate. It seems that some folks won’t listen unless you do. But it also seems that we get in the way of our own progress when we conceptualize things that are, in fact, tangible. Maybe we do that because changing the tangible stuff is hard work.

    I get your point, and you are right that all shopping trips are, in fact, experiences. But I still think it is a good idea to pay attention to "experiential shopping experiences" that transcend much of what is out there today.

    Also, to be clear ... I may write about experiential shopping, but I'm no consultant.

    Finally, I had a story about the hiring by Tesco of a new CEO for its Malaysian business. In the piece, there was a typo - it said "haired" instead of "hired" - which I corrected when it was brought to my attention.

    Most of the emails about the typo simply mentioned it, suggesting that I should fix it if possible. But one, from MNB user Bill Back, was a little more elaborate...

    I would think that in these enlightened times, multi-national companies would not be concerned about the appearance of their leaders. To read that Tesco has "haired" their new CEO of the Malaysian operation is surprising and some one should get to the "root" of the problem. I believe there may be a bigger "cover up" story to unfold. Tesco should not be able to sweep this under the "rug". Maybe Tesco will open a "Hair Club for Men" inside their stores.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I'm glad you didn't just "comb over" this "piece" of information. If necessary, I would be willing "to pay" for the rest of the story.

    Keep up the good work. I especially appreciate that you spell check your righting. To many writers are getting lazy and making spelling errors.

    Puns noticed. Point taken.

    To be clear, I spell-check everything. For some reason, that did not get picked up.

    And to be fair, I can - and often am - accused of a lot of things. But laziness is not usually one of them.

    But I'll try to do beter. I mean, better.
    KC's View: