retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a number of emails last week about Disney's proposed use of RFID bracelets by guests in its theme parks and questions being raised about this practice by elected officials concerned about privacy issues.

One MNB user wrote:

Although I would love to side against the Mouse, I don’t feel strongly about this.  You decided to enter the Kingdom – they are not stalking you in your  home (just don’t forget to take the wristband off!) or following you about in public.  I do think that there should be a ‘opt out’ that just gives you a basic wristband – like Easy Pass vs. Cash.  They have every right to try to find out what you like and don’t like, in order to make your future experiences better……..or to beam information down to that chip that subtly transferred from the band into your wrist………

From another reader:

While I agree that asking questions is important and appropriate, this is just another example of a Congressional member with too much time on their hands and who is prepared to over burden us with additional government regulation, chitter chatter, and blowhard chest beating.   Maybe we should put RFID wristbands on our bureaucrats and politicians to see what they are actually up so we can have Disney streamline the madness created by Washington.

MNB user Melanie Gaudun wrote:

With nightmares about losing my daughter (Kacey) in a crowd, I’d actually welcome child-tracking technology at a place like Disney, but for me, the parent, not for them.

From another reader, along the same lines:

I find it interesting the concern around privacy with Disney's RFID bracelets.  A few years ago I was vacationing at WDW with my husband and two young boys.  We were at a water park when our four year old dashed across a cement path and immediately disappeared into a large crowd entering the park.  By the time we negotiated our way through the crowd our four year old was no where to be found.

We enrolled the help of the lifeguards and other Disney personnel.  Everyone was very concerned about a four year old alone in a water park with no lifeguard or adult oversight.  However, we were all at a significant disadvantage.....the best description we were working from to find him was "he has blonde hair, blue eyes, and has a navy and white swimtrunks."

Fortunately, after four and a half hours of searching (and a completely ruined day at the park) we found him!   He had been jumping waves in the wave pool and other than a sunburned nose was completely safe.

I share this only to say, as a parent I am more than happy to let Disney know whatever they want about our park activities, if the bracelet can keep children safe and found quicker.  If we had had this technology available to us, it would have enhanced, not detracted, from our experience and their brand.
And that, my friend, is an eye opener.  (Wink!)

MNB user Mike Schrauth wrote:

Just spent three days skiing at Breckinridge, a Vail resorts property.  Their new EPIC pass is RFID based.  No need to hang a lift ticket of your jacket, just a credit card that is scanned as you enter the lift lines at the bottom of the hill and by automatic scanners as you load mid slope.  At the end of the day you can go online and see where you've spent your day.  Vail has created a series of awards for specific achievements, number of runs, number of lifts taken, total vertical feet covered and has created an online community for those who want to share.  Was my privacy violated?  No, it enhanced the experience and just might help Vail resorts create an improved experience down the road.

And, if you'd been hit by an avalanche, I'm guessing it would have been easier to find you.


I think the message here is that people are willing to embrace these kinds of technological innovations as long as they see them as improving their lives in some sort of relevant way. Like EZ-Pass. Sure, somebody knows when I cross any bridge or go through any toll. This can be a problem if I commit a crime and try to manipulate an alibi. (I've seen "Law & order" enough times to know this.) But it also makes it easier for me to get places faster, so using it is a no-brainer.

Unless, of course, I decide to commit a crime. Then, I'm using the cash lane.

We had a story last week about how a New Zealand economist is calling for the elimination of all cats from the island nation, saying that they are parasites that are preying on the bird population there, causing some to become endangered. He doesn't want the cats to be killed, just spayed or neutered so they can't reproduce.

Nor surprisingly, this generated some email.

One MNB user wrote:

As a cat lover (understatement), I found the Eye Opener about the proposal to eliminate all cats from New Zealand to be utterly horrifying.  I pray that this economist is just some crackpot looking for attention, or at least might be attempting to use an exaggerated proposal as a satirical means of drawing attention to the need for responsible pet ownership, in the manner of Jonathan Swift.

However, if this proposal gains any traction, I hereby call for an emergency airlift of all cats from New Zealand, followed by a prolonged nuclear bombardment of the country.  So, we’d have to learn to live without grapefruit-tasting sauvignon blanc…  (So there’s no confusion, my proposal was satirical.  You know, for the most part.)  Also, ALL pet owners should practice responsible pet ownership in the prevention of unwanted litters—cats AND dogs.

MNB user Kathleen Whelan wrote:

Keep them indoors – the cats, I mean.  As for Gareth Morgan, he should be kept indoors as well.  And away from microphones and social media.  And birds are not always that great ..has he never heard of Scarecrows?

From another reader:

My father refused to register and tag our dog because cats did not require registration.  He also thought cats should be required to wear bells to alert birds in the vicinity. More cowbell! He waited for Dinah to get ticketed so he could argue the case in court but Dinah was no tramp and did not wander. The day in court never came and the issue with cats has not been resolved.

And another:

When did having a purpose ever have a relationship to conservation?  That strikes me as biological arrogance on our part – the very same arrogance that conservationists blame for killing off endangered species in the first place.  “We’re responsible for destroying the habitats of all these species.  We have to reverse the meddling we’ve committed!”  But meddling is exactly what New Zealand’s trying to do.  The history of biology is replete with new species being introduced to established ecosystems, them fighting each other, and one winning out.  It’s inevitable that a predator would be re-introduced to that biome, so this drama would unfurl eventually anyways.  It has nothing to do with us, but rather with two species’ relative fitness to survive.  Why punish a flexible, intelligent, adaptable species for surviving to the best of its ability, in favor of a stupid, stubborn species that can’t be bothered to adapt to a new threat?  If we interfere, we’re meddling with evolution just as surely as if we headshot all the pandas, whales, and white tigers.

And cats are not parasites.  They’re part of the food chain, are capable of surviving outside of a host body, and can eat pretty much anything.  They’re an evolutionary success story, and a species likely to inherit the planet if we ever go the way of the dinosaurs.

Last week we had a story about McDonald's signing up with the Marine Stewardship Council to verify all of its fish that gets breaded, fried and sold as 'Filet-O-Fish' sandwiches are sustainably certified Alaskan pollock. In exchange for audits of its massive supply chain, McDonald's each year can sell hundreds of millions of fish sandwiches, and soon-to-be sold Fish McBites, in boxes with the council's trademarked blue Eco-label.

And I commented:

Sustainable? Certified Alaskan pollock? I'm actually shocked to find out there is any actual fish in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwiches...

To which MNB user Steven Ritchey responded:

I know  you were doing what you do, being a smart aleck.  But, McDonalds goes and does something I think is smart.  They aligned themselves with what I suppose is a trustworthy organization to verify the fish used in their fish sandwiches is indeed sustainable, that the Alaskan Pollock they are using is being responsibly caught, and not over fished.

You're right, this is a smart move by Mickey D's. And you're also right that being a smart aleck is what I do.

And, responding to a piece about what should happen to Shaw's, one MNB user speculated:

Or could Cerberus sell Shaws to Kroger, who is cash heavy now, and wants in the NE market…. Combine that with the other market Kroger is missing, Chicago/Jewel, and you have some serious dollars gained back in the sale for Cerberus.

Then to solidify Kroger entrance into the NE market, Ron Burkle works again with Bob Miller to sell Pathmark to Kroger…

Watch for it.

I will.
KC's View: