retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of genetically modified salmon, which I said ought to be labeled as such if it is allowed to be sold for human consumption in the US, one MNB user wrote:

We let plants & animals breed in the wild – where we have the potential for killer tomatoes – all types/forms of mutations & strains, yet let us modify one gene in a lab, where we have testing and all such checks & balances - yet you want the Industry to label genetically modified – like something is wrong – what’s wrong is this thinking?

How about defending technology and all the goodness it has to offer  – and not just today’s consumers but our ability to supply good food products at reasonable prices to all people of the world!  This should be our worthy challenge.  Not fear mongering.

To be honest, I'm having a little trouble following your train of thought, but I reject the notion that accuracy and transparency in labeling is the same as fear-mongering. (Salmon has to be labeled as farmed or wild. Why not genetically modified?)

I'm a little surprised that someone who reads this site would suggest that I'm anti-technology "and all the goodness it has to offer." That is far, far from the truth.

I actually think that if there is any fear in the marketplace, it is on the part of people and companies who do not believe in transparency, and apparently do not believe in their ability to explain why a product is genetically modified, what the benefits are, and why people should want to buy it.

Your seeming inability to make that case is no reason to not require transparency and accuracy.

Responding to our piece the other day about what Cub has to do to survive and regain its competitive footing, one MNB user wrote:

I’m one of the 1,100 people in MN who were just laid off from Supervalu.  I have always shopped at Cub because it’s the most convenient & I supported my company, not because it’s the best.  I was a little surprised when a former co-worker of mine asked if I was going to continue to shop with Cub.  I hadn’t really given it any thought, but I imagine many laid off employees will go elsewhere now that they have no loyalty to the parent company…and no longer have the 10% discount.  Hmmm…maybe I’ll have to take a trip to Rainbow & check things out.

Another MNB user had some thoughts about Brian Audette, the president of Cub:

As someone who thankfully left the company before the ship sank, I will say this.  I used to work in a department that reported up to Brian when he was on the Independent side. He was very respected, humble, and had something that was lacking at the Director level and up recently, common sense.  He is one of the few remaining Executives that I would actually trust to make the right decisions there.

We reported that Mike Duke is getting a 14 percent raise, which led one reader to write:

Mike Duke gets a 14% raise! I would never deny anyone to make as much as someone is willing to pay you. However, my guess is Walmart is not giving its other hard working employees nearly that type of increase. I'm sure their 2-3% merit increase does not feel so great right about now.

To follow up on this point, the Huffington Post had a commentary yesterday calculating that "it would take a full-time hourly Walmart employee, who earns $12.67 per hour according to the company's website, more than 785 years to earn Duke's annual salary. That's up by about 100 years from Duke's 2011 pay package of $18.1 million. This calculation is probably on the low side, as it assumes a Walmart employee works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, never takes vacation and doesn't pay taxes."

'Tis true that people have a right to make whatever they can, but it also is true that just because you can do something does not mean you should do something.

It is at least fair to say that when it comes to calculating his own worth compared to that of his employees, Mike Duke is no Jim Sinegal.

Yesterday, we reported that Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced this week that "over the last fiscal year they gave more than $1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions, making it the first time Walmart or any U.S. retailer has achieved that level of giving. The growth in global giving was largely due to increased in-kind donations in the U.S. to local food banks and families impacted by disasters."

I commented:

I was going to make a joke here about how one of the reasons Walmart had this much money to contribute was that so much more was available once the bribery fund was shut down.

But I decided that would be mean. And the fact is, this kind of altruism is a good thing, and people and companies that make such contributions deserve better than to have some moron like me making fun of them for doing so.

I'll find another reason to poke a little fun at them. Tomorrow.

MNB user Rich Goldschmidt responded:

You are right on two fronts. 1) This level of corporate donation is a ‘first’. 2) You are also right not to make a joke of it – it would be really wrong! (Although, you did it anyway).

Many Fortune 100 corporations have stubbed their toes. No one has donated as much as Walmart. KC, you need to provide balance in your reporting! I have the picture of Walmart Tractor Trailers lined up to support Katrina victims in New Orleans. They were there before our government responded. To provide reporting value, you need to evaluate holistically.

I recognize that fairness often is in the eye of the beholder, but I think I do my best to be fair to Walmart. I have a lot of respect for much of what the company does, but that does not mean I cannot ask questions, suggest hypocrisies, and poke a little fun at them.

Let's be clear about something. In my heart, I am a wisenheimer. I make fun of almost everything.

Another MNB user wrote:

Regarding the Wal-Mart article where over 1 billion cash and in kind contributions were provided by the retailer, I cringed and wondered if credit was being given to where it wasn’t due. I want to know how much Wal-Mart gave from its coffers and how much it collected from generous customers. I want to know which retailers are giving back to the communities and which ones are collecting money for the "goodwill credit.". There is a fine distinction between collecting money and donating resources and money. I want to see more transparency so we can give credit to where it is due. If the article read Wal-Mart collected x millions of dollars from customers for charity AND donated x hours/x dollars for charities, it would have been a totally different story. This type of transparent information should be for all companies, I’m not trying to single Wal-Mart out.  

One a side note, here is another pet peeve…

I work for a company that is asking employees to track their charitable hours OUTSIDE of work and report it to the company. That way, the company can say “See, our employees donated this much time to charities” which in my mind is the company trying to take credit for something it didn’t help with. It would be a different story if the company was donating our time while on the clock, but to track people’s hours while off the clock just reeks of hypocrisy.

We had a piece the other day about how some are predicting the end of the cupcake craze. Which prompted MNB user Joye Crosby to object:

I’ve been in the Bakery business since well...a long time.  Cupcakes aren’t going to go away.  They are going to remain as a staple in a “real bakery”.  You know the place, they make breads, cakes, pastries, donuts, wedding items, and yes cupcakes.  This is a place where there is some choice of what to buy.  We have been here since the beginning and have had to evolve and change like all businesses.  My advice to the Cupcake only stores is to look at likely partners to enhance their offerings.  Maybe a soft yogurt or ice cream shop?  Maybe add other bakery items like cakes?

If they choose not to do this, then you can always go back to your neighborhood bakery or supermarket with a bakery and probably find cupcakes and other choices you may like even better. Enjoy....

To be fair, I think the prediction was actually more about a possible/likely end to the cupcake craze as it relates to stores that only sell cupcakes. Stores like yours will always have a place in their communities, I hope. (Some of my fondest childhood memories have to do with Mueller's, a wonderful bakery in Bay Head, on the Jersey shore. Though it had more to do with the crumb cake than the cupcakes.)

Regarding the promotion being run by Stew Leonard's, in which the retailer offered a $200 gift card to the customer who could write the funniest caption for an actual picture of Jerry Seinfeld leaving the store with a basketful of groceries, one MNB user wrote:

I agree, great move by Stew’s with the Jerry Seinfeld pick and enjoyed your entry.   Being a fan of the show, I couldn’t resist entering myself and went with...

“I can’t believe the old lady got the last marble rye!”

Good one!

And another reader suggested:

“Whoops, a Porsche is the wrong car to drive to Stew’s.
And another:

I realize you aren’t running your own contest here…and I suspect I won’t be the only one…but couldn’t resist throwing my own caption here too.
“Marble rye, black and white cookies, chocolate and cinnamon babkas, mulligatawny, jambalaya, Bosco, drake’s coffee cakes, beef-a-reno, Ovaltine, muffin tops and everything I need to make a big salad!  Shopping done.”

KC's View: