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    Published on: June 28, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    As is my custom at this point in the calendar, I'm going to take a little time off. But this year, there will be a difference. Let me explain...

    Like last year, I'm going to spend the entire month of July in the Pacific Northwest, where I'll be team-teaching a class in retail marketing at Portland State University.'s Center for Retail Leadership. And, just like last year, I'm going to take the first two weeks of July off, in part to get settled in and in part to explore the Pacific Northwest with Mrs. Content Guy - we're going to head up to Vancouver at some point (she's never been), plan on doing some hiking and kayaking, and always are looking for Portland-area wineries to visit, in case you have any suggestions.

    This year, however, I'm going to change things up a bit. And I hope the result will be a series of Eye-Openers.

    Instead of essentially posting a "gone fishing" sign on the site for the next two weeks, I decided that I would conduct a series of e-interviews with business thought leaders who I like and respect, and who have something to say. "The MNB Interview," which will run each workday over the next two weeks (except July 4), poses the same 13 questions to nine different people, with one luminary featured each day. I sent each person the questions, and requested that they answer at least 10 of them; I told them that their answers could be as short or long as they wished, and as serious or irreverent as they liked. What I was looking for was a window into how they think and feel.

    Among the folks who agreed to participate: Kroger's Dave Dillon, Dorothy Lane Market's Norman Mayne, Price Chopper's Neil Golub, and Senator Feargal Quinn, the founder of Ireland's legendary Superquinn chain.
    I think this is going to be pretty cool, and a nice change of pace as the summer begins. I'll be interested, as always, in your reactions to the series.

    But I'm not taking the whole month off. (Some will see this as good news, others as bad news.) MNB will return on Monday, July 15, with all new stories and commentaries. Between now and the 15th, in addition to the "MNB Interview" series, the MNB archives will, of course, be open.

    I may post the occasional note or picture on Facebook if the spirit moves me, but for the most part, I'm going to go off the radar. I hope you'll welcome me back with open arms when I return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    The US Senate yesterday passed comprehensive immigration reform that combines a long-term path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants with significantly bolstered border security. The vote was 68-32, with 14 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democratic majority, a move that was seen as giving the bill a bipartisan patina.

    However, passage in the US House of Representatives is seen as much more problematic, as conservative House members seem unwilling to consider the Senate bill, and the GOP leadership has said it will not bring up the bill on the floor if a majority of the Republican majority is not in favor of it.

    Upon passage of the bill, National Grocers Association (NGA) President and CEO Peter J. Larkin released the following statement:

    "I applaud the Senate for passing comprehensive bipartisan legislation today to overhaul American's immigration system for the first time since 1986. While no bill is ever perfect this legislation is an important step in the right direction by embracing comprehensive reform that addresses the real challenges facing our nation today, while ensuring protections for employers acting in good faith.

    "It's time for Congress to do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform that encompasses the principles approved by NGA's Board of Directors. It's now time for the House to follow the Senate's lead by passing a bi-partisan, comprehensive bill. NGA looks forward to continuing to work with the House of Representatives to do just that."

    And Tom Stenzel, CEO of United Fresh, said:
    “We applaud the Senate for seizing the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other sectors of agriculture. This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain, and boost the economy. We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”
    KC's View:
    Maybe I'm just cynical, but it just seems totally unlikely that the House will pass anything even remotely similar to the Senate bill, which is a shame since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill, if it became law, could reduce budget deficits by $200 billion in the first decade, by another $700 billion in the second decade.

    The ultimate problem seems to be gerrymandering - congressional districts that have been drawn so that members of the House only have to appeal to their bases, and don't have to seek broader, cross-party appeal. In the GOP, many office holders are concerned - with justification - that they will be challenged from the right in primaries, and for political reasons, they have to occupy the most conservative positions so that they don't face such challenges.

    That's not to say that there are not principled reasons to oppose immigration reform as it has been cast by the Senate. But it seems to me that we will, in the end, be a richer country for smart immigration policies that combine better enforcement with a path to citizenship. (I also think, quite frankly, that the national policy ought to be to staple a Green Card to the diploma of every immigrant who graduates from college here. In the big picture, they make us better, and stronger ... not weaker.)

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    Schenectady, NY-based Price Chopper Supermarkets said yesterday that it has created "a new Shopper and Digital Marketing Department that will concentrate exclusively on building shopper marketing programs and leading the company’s digital strategy.  This team will concentrate their efforts on building incremental sales and customer loyalty through comprehensive marketing and merchandising programs focused on key selling occasions and themes utilizing the company’s digital properties and traditional marketing vehicles."

    The company said that the "department will be headed up by Heidi Reale, director of shopper and digital marketing. The Shopper and Digital Marketing team includes Maritza Santos, senior shopper marketing coordinator; Meagan Handford, brand marketing manager and Megan Finin, digital marketing coordinator."
    KC's View:
    Sounds very smart to me. These functions are a) critical, and b) ought to be intertwined within any organization.

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    The Washington Business Journal reports on how, while Giant and Safeway continue to dominate the Washington, DC, supermarket business, there is some erosion taking place as so-called "non traditional sellers of grocery items" - such as discount stores, drugstores and convenience stores - continue to grow their sales.

    According to the story, based on a market study from Food World, "Giant and Safeway's combined market share fell to 36.77 percent for the 2012 period, down from 37.33 percent in 2011. The market share of the "alternates," which include general merchandisers and convenience stores, grew to 30.34 percent from 29.65 percent last year."
    KC's View:
    I think we ought to get rid of phrases like "non traditional sellers of grocery items," just because it paints certain companies as being on the fringe. Increasingly, these non traditional companies are mainstream sellers of food items. It seems to me that consumers don't think that way ... and therefore retailers ought not think that way.

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    Investors Business Daily has a piece about Chris DeRose, co-author of "Judgement on the Front Line," who says "he knows why the No. 1 e-tailer succeeds: a customer-centric culture that lets all employees, from CEO Jeff Bezos on down, test new ideas that better meet customer needs."

    It is all, he says, about experimentation.


    • "I think Amazon has a point of view that's deeply embedded in the company. It will win with the customer by doing a series of small bets that give it insight on how to build that long-term customer relationship. Bezos likes to say he never wants to reach a point where he has to make a 'bet the company' situation as a result of failing to be innovative for too long.

    "Bezos encourages a 5- to 7-year vision. From the outset, he has encouraged employees to think long term, reportedly telling them to think about how they can impact the stock price in five years because nobody can meaningfully affect today's price."

    • "Before an experiment starts, there has to be a defined customer need that it's addressing and there has to be an ability to measure the change. This reportedly goes back to an epiphany Bezos had in the mid-'90s when he realized the Internet provided the ability to measure customer behavior like never before.

    "Like most companies, early executives at Amazon tended to argue about things like who should get prime real estate on the website or whether to use TV advertising. After the company committed to an experimental, data-based approach, they began testing these instead of debating them."

    • "Experimentation is rooted in the customer-centric culture that Amazon has created. They work backward from the customer experience. Bezos has always been extremely sensitive to how everyone in the company impacts the customer experience. For example, early on he would go to the warehouses and talk to employees about how their work was one of the most tangible elements of the customer experience — do customers get the right product, on time. He symbolically leaves an open chair at some meetings to represent the 'customer's voice.'

    "The insight that Bezos had was that customer preference didn't need to be subject to opinion or subjective interpretations of focus groups. Experimentation is rooted in a fact-based approach to innovating around building long-term customer relationships."
    KC's View:
    Yet more evidence, I suppose, that I'm totally in the tank for Amazon. (That'll be the criticism from some quarters.) But I just think the foundations of the business model - putting the customer experience at the forefront of every business decision, thinking about long-term sustainable profitability instead of short-term, Wall Street-driven revenue, learning from and acting upon data, and being willing to challenge virtually every facet of the business model in the search for greater relevance - make a lot of sense.

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    China Daily reports that Tesco is launching an online shopping business in China, offering free delivery from stores in Shanghai.

    The story notes that Walmart already is in the space via its majority ownership stake in Yihaodian, the Chinese e-grocery store.

    "Tesco China's online shopping service will enhance our role as a multi-channel retailer and provide better shopping experience for customers in the digital age with integrated retailing service," Paul Ritchie, Tesco China CEO, tells China Daily.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    The Associated Press reports that in the wake of the controversy surrounding Paula Deen, the celebrity chef who has admitted to making racially insensitive remarks, Target and Home Depot announced that they no longer will sell Deen-branded products.

    In addition, diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk said that it and Deen "mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now."

    Ironically, Deen's relationship with Novo Nordisk was the matter of some controversy itself, since the chef - who specializes in butter-laden fatty foods - only revealed her own diabetes when she got an endorsement deal with the company.

    Deen already had been dropped by Walmart, Smithfield Foods, and Caesars Entertainment. However, not everybody has abandoned her - Deen's cookbooks have been moving steadily up the best sellers list as the racism controversy has unfolded.
    KC's View:
    I thought that columnist Gene Robinson of the put it well this morning, in addressing what seems to be Deen's total obliviousness about racial attitudes in this country, which has become increasingly clear pretty much every time she opens her mouth...

    The woman is 66, not 96. She was all of 7 when the Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Board of Education decision, which means she’s had plenty of time to get used to it. She has spent her adult life in an America where black people are not compelled to be subservient to whites. She has made her fortune in an America where most people, white as well as black, consider warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia for the days of slavery and Jim Crow to be highly offensive.

    I’ll put it in terms that someone who missed the last 50 years might understand: All black people are uppity now. Every one of us, I’m afraid.

    I hope she figures it out, because anyone that fond of the deep-fryer can’t be all bad. A period of silence would be a good start. My advice: Eat some hush puppies. And don’t talk with your mouth full.

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    Got several emails about yesterday's story about how Cerberus Capital Management is bidding to acquire the 200-store Harris Teeter supermarket chain, and my comments about how I was concerned about the possibility Cerberus might somehow try to align Harris Teeter's operations with those of the more price-driven chains it acquired from Supervalu.

    MNB user Steve Hensley wrote:

    I agree with your take on this one.  Combining HT with the SuperValu operations will screw up both.  HT has always been a well-run, value based operation here in the Carolinas and Virginia.

    Mark Heckman wrote:

    I agree whole heartedly that Harris Teeter could do much better than selling Cerberus, given that investment firm's lackluster performance with Albertsons.  I certainly can understand while Cerberus would want a premium asset like HT in their portfolio, but there is no evidence that Cerberus has sufficient retailer acumen or strategy to build on the foundation that Harris Teeter has established. What is far more likely is the scenario where HT would serve as the "cash cow", offsetting Albertson's likely mediocre performance, off course until the cow has no milk left to give.

    MNB user Doug Campbell wrote:

    Cerberus is a bottom line investment group (can you say high paid bean counters) and Harris Teeter is a well run, profitable grocer.  This cannot be a good thing for Harris Teeter customers, employees or the industry in general.  Short term, it might make stockholders some money.  If they put Supervalu anywhere near Harris Teeter...!

    MNB user Chris Utz wrote:

    I think Cerberus would not try to combine management of Albertsons and Harris Teeter; especially since your article indicated it would keep Harris Teeter management intact.  Rather, they are probably considering economies of scale in terms of total purchasing power.  This was one of the positive arguments when Supervalu acquired Albertsons. 

    Supervalu also elected to keep Albertsons largely intact; rather than try to change management and reinvent ABS corporate culture, which may have made the combined company more competitive.

    Cerberus, by the way, is a mythical three-headed dog; with a serpent's tail, a mane of snakes and lion's claws, that guards the gates of Hell.  Perhaps an appropriate name for a company that purchases troubled supermarket chains...

    Now, let's move on to the subject of Paula Deen's travails...

    MNB user Herb Sorensen wrote:

    Your general PR advice on Paula Deen is right on, but the whole world seems to want to ignore this issue: "young African-Americans in her restaurant kitchens often use that kind of language."

    Trashing a white person's career for behavior that is glibly excused for black persons is serious racism.  I realize the problem is complicated.  But every time this occurs, damnation needs to be equally spread, in my opinion.

    I get your point, but I don't think I was glibly excusing anyone or anything. I find use of that language to be reprehensible, no matter who uses it. I don't listen to music where the word is used, nor do I like watching standup where the comic throws the word around so casually. I understand the rationale for it, but I still have major problems with hate speech of any kind, from anyone.

    MNB user Mark Polli wrote:

    I understand and agree how wrong hateful the N –word and other words are to people of all races.

    I also understand that Paula’s comments were 20 to 30 years ago.

    At least admit, there is no freedom of speech. You are mandated to speak within guidelines of what others deem appropriate.

    Perhaps we should examine the tax return records of all those critical of Paula Deen. We may find that while at one time Paula Deen was disrespectful of another race at the highest level that those critical of her could be disrespectful to their country at the highest level. The point, was as people who may live in glass houses should not throw stones.

    I have to admit that I don't understand this sort of response.

    To begin with, in a lot of ways I don't think it is her comments of 20 and 30 years ago that have gotten her into trouble. It actually is her total cluelessness now about those comments, and lack of understanding about how the world has changed.

    But your comments about political correctness really concern me, as does your connecting this issue to the IRS controversy.

    This is not a matter of government mandate of political correctness, and then investigating people who violate those standards. In fact, this is really about free market forces, pre and simple.

    I also would point out that just because you philosophically disagree with someone does not mean that the person with whom you disagree is disrespecting the country. But that's probably another issue.

    MNB user Bobby Clemmons wrote:

    Well, this is certainly a big news item this week and I see that there is a lot of division here.  I certainly don't use the word but when I was young it was pretty common to hear it in the South.  In fact, my dad who was the most unbiased person I knew, used the word routinely and when I questioned him about it when he was older, he said it was the only word that was used to describe the race when he was a young boy growing up in the South.  Didn't make it right, but it was just the way it was.

    On the other side, he probably hired more African Americans than anyone in his similar position in management.  Paula is somewhat a victim of  her culture but that doesn't give her a free ride. The mistake she made compared to those companies who threw her under the bus is that she got caught.  Public relations plays a big part in business today and the companies had to respond to such a wide reaching story even though it's probably only the tip of the iceberg, and rather minor compared to some events that have gone on in the past.

    Is it more wrong to use the N word or deny a man a job because of his age or not hire someone because he talks funny?  We are a judgmental people and sometimes we say things through our actions rather than our words that are far more damaging.  Finally, the person filing the charges and the attorneys will probably get more than they deserve and in the end it will all be about money.

    Is this really an either/or situation? I don't think so.

    I'm not going to judge your dad. Not my place.

    But I can judge a little closer to home. The woman who is related to my father by marriage can, on occasion, express the most disgusting beliefs through her use of language to describe African-Americans, gay people, and pretty much anybody who does not fit her idea of what real Americans should look like or be like. I don't give a damn how old she is - it is unacceptable under any circumstances.

    Here's what I think. As human beings, we have a responsibility to evolve, to learn, and to grow. Just because I thought something 20 or 30 years ago doesn't mean I was right, and doesn't mean that I have to think the same thing today.

    When we're trapped by old attitudes, that's when we get intro trouble.

    Responding to yesterday's FaceTime commentary that used a presentation by Steve Spielberg and George Lucas about being willing to change in order to create a metaphor for business, one MNB user wrote:

    I found it odd that Spielberg & Lucas would ramble on about all of the "Big Changes" headed our way, but then remind us of the power of the story. "The future is gonna be so crazy and wacky unlike anything we know...but don't forget that it is still the thing that matters!"
    Your translation: "The lesson is clear. Stay true to the core mission. But be willing to challenge virtually everything else about the business model. Because if you don't, somebody else will. And that somebody else, as it happens, will be the competition."
    And you also note: "Be willing to totally reinvent themselves in order to stay in and sustain the business."
    I think the point that most people overlook here--perhaps even you-- is Willing. Yes, you should be willing to consider innovation. But that doesn't mean you necessarily ought to. And in many, many cases people who mistakenly act on these considerations suffer dire consequences. Think of all of the hundreds of millions of dollars folks in the food business foolishly wasted on Second Life. Remember Second Life? Sort of like Cameron's Avatar lite...
    At the end of the day, food retailing is about the food. Should you consider all manner of little changes popping out on the horizon?  Sure. Why not. Worth thinking about.
    But when I look at best in class food retailers, the thing I notice is that their unwavering focus is on delivering great new products--or old favorites like your meatballs.
    And most of them are relatively slow to adopt to things like virtual pay, social media, blah blah...Not because they are cautious or anti-innovation, but because they are focused on the thing.
    I often feel as if you are so excited to jump ahead of the "willing" that you forget that a box of technology and innovation will never compete effectively against the thing.

    On the subject of obesity, and the American Medical Association (AMA) decision to label it a disease, which Kate McMahon addressed in her column this week, MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

    I have hesitated to comment on this as there is a fine line between allowing people who have a real defect or infirmity that causes obesity and creating another set of victims that can claim that their lack of will power and/or series of continuously bad choices is someone else’s fault.  I am not a fan of allowing personal responsibility for an individual’s well-being to be dumped onto an already stressed medical and healthcare system. From the research I have done and been involved with around healthy eating, this appears to be much more of a choice than a disease.  There are clearly people who have something wrong with them that creates this scenario (thyroid issues as an example) but I am not comfortable putting these folks in the same group with the people who choose to overeat, not exercise, eat food that is way too high in bad stuff (although once in a while an In & Out Burger is pretty good) and exhibit other types of bad behavior that are controllable.

    To potentially make this better, the AMA will likely need to provide some additional definitions around this being a disease – what conditions that cause obesity are the true disease (where obesity is an outcome of some other condition other than bad choices) and where obesity in and of itself causes the disease (diabetes, joint issues, heart disease, etc.).
    Tough problem – but the key is that most people have a choice on their eating and drinking habits as well as their exercise habits (look at Jarrod the Subway guy) and if they are a bit overweight (or even a lot overweight) start somewhere to change the behavior that led to the condition.  This will identify whether obesity is the result of something or is causing something.

    From another reader:

    I read your article on obesity with interest mainly because I have struggled with it for most of my childhood and adult years. I think, having reached the later part of my 50’s, that I have made a significant lifestyle change. Believing that my body could not continue to keep the fight with what I perceived to be a losing one. I have for a long time considered obesity a disorder, anything but a disease.

    Over the years my view has changed. Granted, we are bombarded by various ads and promotions advocating the virtues of food available to us and we certainly make our choices in relation to what we put in our mouths. However, it is difficult to accept that heart, diabetes and all other forms of related diseases are considered such yet we fail to distinguish obesity as a disease. It is a disease that is symptomatic of today’s society. It should be treated as such….

    MNB user Rich Heiland wrote:

    I agree with both you and Kate. However, I can't totally discount it as a "disease" if we use the mental illness approach and look at a variety of disorders and addictions. I think many people overeat from an addiction that may have complex underpinnings.

    I also think that we need to consider the role poverty plays, in terms of the kinds of food lower income people buy. They buy that which can be extended, go further and much of that tends to be high in carbs, starch, calories, et al.

    I also think we need to be careful about talking about what responsibilities people can take on. A friend on Facebook said everyone on Food Stamps should be given a copy of "Diet for a Small Planet." Really?  How many of those people would actually read that book and how many of them could afford to implement what is in it. 

    I think we need to face up to the reality that for a lot of people the "healthy eating" lifestyle is a fairly elitist one. I like to think I am a part of it, but I also know it includes things that under our current system and the reality of poverty, a lot of the people who need it most can't access it.

    I don't pretend to have solutions across the board. It's a complex tapestry. Disease, I think, has a place in that tapestry along with how we really do, as a society, view poverty and those trapped in it.

    From another reader:

    On obesity as a disease: here's what troubles me about the AMA declaration: as you mention, Kate, the slippery-slope personal-responsibility aspect.  If Step 1 on this slope is the American Medical Association facilitating people [some people, here; not all by any means] now being able to say, "Don't hate me because I'm fat -- because I let myself let this happen; no, pity me because I'm sick; now throw help [$] my way," can't Steps 2 thru infinity then become, say, the American Psychological Association labeling racism, sexism, ageism, bigotry, and all kissin' cousins thereto as "diseases", because, after all, who would ever willingly manifest any of these evil behaviors, thereby facilitating people being able to say "Don't hate me because I'm a racist, or a sexist, or an ageist, or a bigot, or a whatever; no, pity me because I'm sick; now throw help [$] my way"?  All such possible outcomes, I would say, would be unintended consequences that we as a society really don't need right now.

    And another:

    Two points, one for Kate and one for Kevin…
    With regard to whether the AMA has a financial interest here, the answer seems an obvious “yes”. But the real danger lies one step beyond, in the observation from Hank Cardello that that food companies may be seen as the antagonists. When that happens, the tort lawyer industry gets involved. And we spawn a whole new wave of “class action suit pursuit”. I hope Kraft learned a lot from their days with Philip Morris.
    As to Kevin’s song lyrics (good one!) my favorite version of the insight comes from Will Rogers when he said “it ain’t what we don’t know that’s killing us – it’s what we do know that’s wrong!”

    And still another:

    People need to be held personally responsible! Too much of most anything is bad. Here in Mexico it seems as bad if not worse than the US. Too much coke, too much food. Yesterday I was in the grocery store as school had just let out and it was mobbed with children buying and eating food. A group of 6 was sitting around a table digging into a gallon of ice cream. Not one looked like they needed it!

    And from MNB user Martha Quinlan:

    It sounds to me as if you assume that all obesity is caused by people recklessly gorging on “double-double cheeseburgers, large fries and 64-ounce Dr Peppers”.  That is a very narrow-minded perception of the issue at hand.  Are you obese?  Have you ever struggled with losing weight? There are people like me, who restrict caloric intake, and ramp up physical exercise, to little avail.  It is certainly easy to boil everything down to “calories in need to be less than calories burned” to lose weight, but you can’t lose sight of the many physical complications, environmental conditions, and economic restrictions we face that thwart those goals.

    My boyfriend had a heart attack when he was in relatively good physical condition.  As a result, he is tackling a new weight problem, that has come from age (hormonal changes) and medication regimen.  He never had to work out before to maintain his weight, but he had to join a gym to help stave off the added pounds. It hasn’t helped much.  My point is, don’t equate obesity strictly to gluttony/sloth – there is much more to it than meets the eye.  There are many other causes and conditions, which is why I think designating it as a disease is a valid step in developing effective treatment and reversal.
    Here’s a puzzlement from me: Do  you believe alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases, or just lifestyle choices?

    Clearly those are diseases. Though, I suppose it could be argued that they stem from lifestyle choices and evolve into disease.

    Here's the point that Kate was making, and with which I agree. This is a complex issue, and it does not seem fair to say that obesity is always a disease, nor that it always is a matter of lifestyle and discipline. It would seem that by assigning a single label, the AMA over-simplifies something that should not be drawn in black-and-white.

    Responding to yesterday's story about counterfeit foods becoming more available, one MNB user sent in the funniest email of the day:

    Whew!  Thanks for the info and the best excuse I can think of to only buy top-shelf vodka.  You made my day!

    My pleasure.

    Regarding the Men's Wearhouse story, MNB user Russell (Rusty) Findlay wrote:

    For the last 15 years I have been a loyal Men’s Wearhouse customer…Why? Because of their folksy, easy going, seem to care about me attitude. Any of their stores in the country, I visited, seemed to be the same. Their willingness to press a suit when I was traveling, just tickled my Customer Service ideals.
    Yesterday, was my oldest son’s 42 year old birthday and we made a date for me to give him a birthday president…Where? Jos. A. Bank…If Men’s Wearhouse and George Zimmer can’t figure out how to co-exist I can figure out how to shop somewhere else.
    I know one suit, one customer is not very important, but it may indicate a beginning trend.

    And from another reader:

    On the subject of the Men’s Warehouse and your comment about the mistake of them focusing on Wall Street vs Main Street, from what I’ve experienced over the past 20+ years, that speaks for the majority of companies today. Why else would companies pay over the top salaries to executives while claiming they would need to reduce their workforce if forced to pay minimally increased minimum wages to their front line workers?

    The greed at the top has so much more impact on a company’s bottom line than paying a couple dollars more an hour to their lower-paid workers, yet they want others to believe that will break the bank vs the millions they get for many times having done nothing or having brought a company to its knees. If companies focused more on Main Street, there wouldn’t be so much greed at the top, there would be less unemployment, less need for government assistance and programs (after all isn’t that what most conservatives want), more opportunity to live the American dream, more money being spent, i.e. increasing demand, which is what businesses should be focusing on. Demand is what grows business, yet their pay scales do just the opposite.

    Finally, I don;t want to spend a lot of time rehashing the meatball/customer service story, except that I want to point out that...

    Rosina's sent me two cases of meatballs, which I promptly delivered yesterday to a local homeless shelter. I thank the MNB community for prompting me to do this; it was a very good idea. I also think, however, that if I'd said originally that they were sending me the meatballs but that I was donating them to charity, I would've sounded like a terrible prig.

    This was never about meatballs. It was always about customer service. And I continue to be surprised by the controversy my original comments generated.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I have hung around your site for 10 years.  What we are seeing here is the social media transformation.  Your session and message is reaching more people and thus opinions that are going 9 different directions.  Welcome to the real impact of social networking and meatballs.

    MNB user Brian Baker wrote:

    Your point was not lost on me, but as generally happens, too many people are concerned with “political correctness” instead of listening to the true issue/problem that occurred.

    Customer Service is an “endangered species”. While there are many great associates/employees  in the stores I frequent, consistent good/great customer service is hard to find these days. The only way to improve poor customer service is to let the retailer know that you want better service. Sometimes the truth hurts!

    Your PoV is always refreshing – while I may not always agree – your articles and commentary challenge the reader to really think instead of being a “lemming” and following the crowd. Keep up the great work and I will keep reading!

    But another MNB user wrote:

    Thoughts arise from the meatball reader reaction...  I sense that inside, you had and have clear and consistent motives, you were a customer with an experience, that you shared. You wanted to use it as a teaching moment, to extrapolate for your audience to learn from.

    But MNB has grown.  You have a large audience.  With growth, and exposure, comes added responsibility.  You are not a small operation anymore, and you have the potential to influence a much wider audience.  Therefore, like those who become "famous" or who grow their circle of influence, we expect more from you. We expect you to be higher, better, different from the more invisible and anonymous among us.  Like actors ,public officials, spiritual leaders, we expect more from you.  You are no longer just a guy writing a blog.  You are a leader.  You may think its not fair, but it is a fact.  By your sheer scope of influence, you are more intimidating than another with a smaller sphere.  I sense, after reading all these years, you are quite sincere.  I think you don't realize just how large an impact you make.

    In your core, you may not think or desire to influence buying decisions, or movie, wine and book choices.  But, you do.

    You flatter me.  But I'm unsure what you want.  Should I stop making specific references to specific companies?  Should I stop sharing my own experiences, for better or for worse?  Or should I just stop accepting free meatballs?

    I'm not being a wisenheimer here.  I get your point, but I'm not sure what your conclusion is.  

    I'm perfectly happy to influence where and what people eat and drink, what they read, and what movies they see.  I'm even happier to influence how they think about such things.  But can't I still do all those things and be just a guy writing a blog?
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 28, 2013

    So before I go off on vacation, let me make a few recommendations to you....

    • "Bad Monkey" is the latest comic novel from Carl Hiaasen, and the perfect definition of beach reading. It starts with a bang, as a man's arm is fished out of the sea, and then spins into unexpected areas, as the events leading up to the victim's death are investigated by a former cop who has been busted down to restaurant inspector., and who wants to earn his badge back. As always is the case of a Hiaasen novel, the characters are sketched out in bold colors, the Florida and Caribbean landscapes are portrayed in evocative tones, and he brings a sardonic eye to human frailties and compulsions. "Bad Monkey" is funny and great ... I enjoyed every page.

    • If you get a chance, try to find and watch "Mel Brooks; Make A Noise," a wonderful documentary about the filmmaker that was featured on PBS's "American Masters" series. Brooks remains an American treasure, perfectly willing to be lowbrow for a laugh, but also possessing a depth that puts his comedy in a different sort of context. And the testimonials about his work - coming from the likes of Carl Reiner, Nathan Lane and Cloris Leachman - are both affectionate and very funny.

    • "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee," Jerry Seinfeld's internet series, is back for a second season, and it is exactly what it says it is. Seinfeld, driving a different car each week, picks up a comedian and they go out for coffee and talk. The thing is, the talk tends to be hysterical while getting to the essence of what makes certain people funny, and Seinfeld has a genuine appreciation for the work and skills of other comics. The first two episodes this season featured Sarah Silverman and David Letterman ... and they are laugh out loud funny.

    I've also enjoyed the return of two cable series this summer...

    • It is the final season of "Burn Notice," the tongue in cheek spy series that has long been a success on USA, and this season things have turned a little dark and a little sad as we follow burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) as he tries to get back in the good graces of the country that has spurned him, protect his friends and family from becoming collateral damage, and maybe even save his soul. Since it is on USA, I'm pretty sure that things will turn out all right in the end ... but I must admit that this season, the writers have made me wonder a bit.

    • And, it is the second season of "Longmire," the modern western series that follows the exploits of Walt Longmire, a Wyoming sheriff played to taciturn perfection by Robert Taylor. The landscapes are forbidding, but no less so than some of the human interactions, and the writers continue to fashion strong mysteries that serve to illuminate, a little bit at a time, Longmire's character strengths and inner demons. Good stuff.

    Finally, here's a wonderful wine recommendation for you - the 2011 Legado del Conde Albarino, which we had the other night with a seafood risotto. It was perfect, with just enough spice to stand up to the meal. And, it'd also be perfect as a sipping wine on a hot summer evening.

    That's it for this week ... as noted above, for the next two weeks we'll be running our special "MNB Interview" series, and I'll be back with fresh, hand-crafted news and commentary on Monday, July 15.

    Have a great couple of weeks .. enjoy "MNB Interviews" and the beginning of summer ... and I'll see you soon.

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: