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    Published on: December 16, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    All Things D reports that research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) has come up with some interesting numbers that highlight Amazon's business strategy:

    • CIRP estimates that there are some 20.5 million Kindle e-readers being used in the US, and that four out of ten Amazon customers own one.

    • And, "CIRP estimates that Kindle owners spend $1,233 per year on Amazon compared to $790 per year for Amazon shoppers who don’t own one of the company’s e-readers or tablets. Kindle owners aren’t necessarily buying more at a shot, but are buying more frequently."

    Now, this doesn't mean that Amazon should lower prices on Kindles or even give them away as a way of generating more content sales … because right now, the balance seems to pretty much on target; if people with less disposable income had them, it almost certainly would lower the amount of money being spent using them.

    But it certainly suggests Amazon's broader interests when it comes to controlling the supply chain as much as possible. For example, will it be long before Amazon starts selling its Amazon Fresh services aggressively via Kindles? It isn't hard to imagine that the company could develop applications that will make the whole online grocery experience both more functional and more fun.

    It'll be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal judge has approved the proposed %5.7 billion settlement of a 2005 class action suit filed by merchants against MasterCard and Visa over credit card transaction fees, saying that the deal was fair - despite the fact that a number of the plaintiffs opted out of the settlement, calling it flawed and promising to appeal the decision.

    Since the settlement - which has been embraced by Visa and MasterCard - was announced a year band a half ago, critics have said that it won't stop the card companies from manipulating fees in the future, and will prevent signatories from suing the card companies in the event such manipulations happen.

    But Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn wrote in his opinion that he believes that the settlement will not only allow merchants to file lawsuits in the future, but also will enable them to exert greater pressure on the card companies to lower their fee structures.

    Among the companies and organizations disagreeing with that assessment and filing an appeal are the National Grocers Association (NGA), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and 7-Eleven.
    KC's View:
    My general rule on this one is simple - if the banks think it is a good idea, it probably isn't. And I've never understood how a settlement can be approved when so many of the plaintiffs aren't willing to settle.

    But this probably is why I'm a pundit and not a banker. (That, and a woeful inability to do math.)

    That said, I do note that in his ruling, Gleeson wrote: “For the first time, merchants will be empowered to expose hidden bank fees to their customers, educate them about those fees and use that information to influence their customers’ choices of payment methods."

    This may not be the best settlement, but any move in the direction of transparency - including signs that inform customers exactly how prices are affected by credit card fees - is a good one.

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    Internet Retailer reports that Tom Forte, a senior analyst at Telsey Advisory Group LP "who has been following Amazon for years," expects that Amazon will expand its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service to New York City, possibly "as early as mid-2014."

    Forte suggests that even though such a move would bring Amazon Fresh directly into competition with existing e-grocers such as Peapod and FreshDirect, Amazon will have the advantage of a known brand that can be built on existing New York City customer relationships and data that it can mine to target potential shoppers.
    KC's View:
    It's all about the data, and Amazon's willingness to use it. Though I'm not entirely persuaded that New York will be the next stop on Amazon's Fresh expansion - because failure there would be very public and might actually affect its stock price, which most people seem to agree is higher than its results would merit.

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    The New York Times reports that booksellers are looking at the current holiday season with mixed emotions.

    The good news appears to be that e-book sales have leveled off, "giving publishers and bookstores hope that consumers’ appetite for print books will be renewed during the most crucial sales period of the year."

    But the bad news is that between the shortened holiday shopping season and the need for bricks-and-mortar stores to compete on price with Amazon, traditional bookstores will continue to find it hard to make money. And perhaps as big a problem is the lack of a potential blockbuster; there is no Steve Jobs biography that will drive both planned and impulse sales.
    KC's View:
    Let's keep things in context. While by some measurements e-book sales may be leveling off, the numbers noted in this morning's Eye-Opener suggests that at least for Amazon, Kindles have less to do with e-book sales than broader sales trends. I don't see any reason for traditional booksellers to celebrate.

    BTW … I discovered something interesting on Saturday night. It was late, it was snowing like crazy, there was a fire in the fireplace and I was sipping a glass of Zinfandel while finishing up a book - "Double Down: Game Change 2012" - that I was reading on my iPad using the Kindle app. When I was done, I picked up the next book on my list … Michael Connelly's "The Gods of Guilt" … which I have in the physical version, because Connelly is one of the few authors for whom I reserve actual space on my shelves. And I found that it was almost hard to read an actual hardcover book ager having spent time reading an e-book.

    Maybe it was because one came right after the other. Or maybe it is because, at least for me, the e-book experience is preferable. But I found myself wondering about this when seeing the comment about e-book sales stagnating. My sense is that this could just be a temporary phenomenon.

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    The New York Times has a long piece about a controversy in France that erupted when it was revealed that IKEA conducted hundreds of investigations into the lives of its employees over the past decade, prompting an investigation by a regional court in Versailles into whether the company broke the law.

    Here's how the Times frames the larger story:

    "A review of the court records by The New York Times indicates that Ikea’s investigations were conducted for various reasons, including the vetting of job applicants, efforts to build cases against employees accused of wrongdoing, and even attempts to undermine the arguments of consumers bringing complaints against the company. The going rate charged by the private investigators was 80 to 180 euros, or $110 to $247, per inquiry, court documents show. Between 2002 and 2012, the finance department of Ikea France approved more than €475,000 in invoices from investigators.

    "The case has caused public outrage in France, not only because of the company’s large consumer following in this country — Ikea’s third-largest market after Germany and the United States — but because the spying cases occurred in a country that, in the digital age, has elevated privacy to a level nearly equal to the national trinity of Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité.

    "So far, there have been no accusations that such surveillance occurred in any of the other 42 countries in which Ikea operates, and it remains unclear why the French Ikea unit is purported to have engaged in it so extensively. Very little of the surveillance yielded information Ikea was able to use against the targets of the data sweeps. But court documents indicate that investigators suspect that Ikea may have occasionally used knowledge of personal information to quell workplace grievances or to prompt a resignation."

    IKEA already has conducted an internal investigation, and several high-ranking executives have lost their jobs.
    KC's View:
    Go figure. In the US, we wring our hands about the NSA. In France, at least at the moment, it's IKEA.

    The thing is, there probably are all sorts of legitimate reasons for companies to launch investigations, especially if there are security and fiscal issues at stake. But there also apparently are cases like when the company's deputy director of communications and merchandising had to take sick leave because of a severe case of hepatitis C, only to lose her job after the company spent a lot of time and money trying to determine whether she was faking it. That puts a human face on the controversy, and it is not a face that is friendly to the retailer.

    I suspect that this is not an isolated case.. It probably isn't just France, and it probably isn't just IKEA. They just got caught.

    But for me, the broader issue that needs to be considered … which is what happens within any organization when management views employees as liabilities rather than assets, and when management views the people on the front lines with suspicion rather than trust. Such an approach, in my view, erodes the infrastructure necessary to make any such enterprise work.

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    The New York Time reports this morning that "by the middle of this century, Britain could become one of the world’s big wine producers, as global warming moves the limits of viticulture ever farther north." In fact, the fact is that "English sparkling wines have recently been beating Champagnes at international competitions … the British wine industry has been growing at double-digit rates for a decade and doubling in size over the last 30 years."

    Here's how the Times frames the story:

    "Any climate change that benefits the British wine industry is still highly speculative and would not compensate for the broader environmental hazards that many scientists say would accompany continued global warming. And more parochially, the country’s vintners still have many obstacles to overcome, including a cumbersome taxation system and the lingering stereotype that in the land of ales and stouts, English wine simply cannot be taken seriously.

    "But there is no question that in recent years, British winemaking has benefited from warmer, if more erratic, weather. Britain’s climate is warming faster than the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group. In Sussex, in southeast England, the average temperature in 2013 is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than it was for most of the second part of the last century.

    "According to scientific projections, Britain can expect wetter winters, drier summers and less snow and frost. In this way Britain is joining a list of prospective new wine countries that include China, Russia and even the Scandinavian states."
    KC's View:
    I think that the folks who don't believe in climate change ought to be prohibited from drinking the wonderful wines that warming climates make possible.

    Seems like a reasonable rule to me.

    Published on: December 16, 2013

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

    Reuters reports that employees in three Amazon logistics centers in Germany were expected to go on strike today, "in the middle of the crucial Christmas holiday season, in a dispute over pay that has been raging for months." In addition, German unions have sent a delegation to Seattle, where they are expected to stage a protest at Amazon's headquarters there, and a fourth German facility is scheduled to see a strike on Tuesday.

    The German unions have accused Amazon of underpaying its warehouse employees. However, Amazon has said the employees are being paid above-average salaries based on logistics benchmarks.

    All I can say is this. After the German workers who've gone to Seattle are done with their protest, they should wander over to Etta's in the Pike Place Market for some good crab cakes and excellent beer and wine. And when they get to the bar, they should ask for Morgan, my favorite bartender ever…

    • The Financial Times reports that Carrefour plans to spend the equivalent of $2.7 billion (US) to acquire 127 malls in France, Spain and Italy which it says will put it in the ranks of Europe's biggest mall operators. According to the story, "Carrefour hopes that owning both the malls as well as the hypermarkets within them will give the group further income to pursue its planned renovation of 150 of its 220 French hypermarkets over three years," which it is counting on as a way of helping it reverse a falling sales trend in its hypermarket-reliant business plan.

    Bloomberg reports that "Procter & Gamble Co. plans to re-organize its overseas business units as Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley works to cut costs at the world’s largest consumer-products maker, said three people briefed on the matter.

    The maker of Pampers diapers and Crest toothpaste is weighing a merger of its Western European unit with Eastern and Central Europe to create one group for the continent, said the people, who requested anonymity because the plan won’t be unveiled until 2014. P&G’s Indian business will combine with the Middle East and Africa to form another group, the people said.

    "The streamlining, which follows similar moves by other consumer-product companies, is an attempt to accelerate sales growth and reduce costs. Some senior management staff in Europe could lose their jobs, according to two of the people."

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that Walgreen could be the big winner in the decision by Safeway to close down or sell its Dominick's chain in Chicago, as the drug chain looks to close a deal to obtain Dominick's pharmacy records for stores not being sold to either Mariano's or Jewel-Osco.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    • Safeway announced what it calls "a comprehensive initiative to make its online grocery shopping website more accessible and usable for Safeway shoppers with visual impairments.  The site enhancements are the result of collaboration between Safeway and several visually impaired customers.

    "Safeway has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 level AA as its accessibility standard and has already made significant enhancements to its online shopping website to meet this standard and will continue to do so over the next year."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    • The Coca-Cola Co. on Friday announced "the sudden departure of Americas chief and onetime CEO candidate Steve Cahillane," according to a story on Fox Business. Coke said that Cahillane left "to pursue other opportunities," but the story suggests that Cahillane was the victim of weaker-than-expected sales trends.

    Fox Business reports that "as part of the organizational changes, the North American business will be broken into a traditional company and a bottler operating model. The two operating units will be called Coca-Cola North America and Coca-Cola Refreshments.

    "Coke said the North America segment will be led by J.A.M. 'Sandy' Douglas, who will stay on as global chief customer officer. The refreshments business will be helmed by Paul Mulligan, who will report to Irial Finan, president of the Bottling Investments Group. Also, the Latin America Group, which is led by Brian Smith, will be folded into Coca-Cola International."

    And, the story notes, "With Cahillane out of the picture, Coca-Cola international chief Ahmet Bozer now emerges as a potential successor to CEO Muhtar Kent, who has served as CEO since 2008."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    • Peter O'Toole, the eight-time Oscar nominee who became an enormous star with his portray of the title character in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, and who went on to memorable performances in films such as The Ruling Class, Becket, The Lion In Winter, and My Favorite Year, has passed away after a long illness. He was 81.

    The various obituaries this morning note that despite his hard-living reputation - O'Toole was part of a class of enormously talented and carousing British actors in the sixties and seventies that included Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Robert Shaw, Albert Finney and Peter Finch, O'Toole actually went on the wagon in the mid-seventies - after stomach surgery revealed that alcohol had so eroded his intestines that to continue to drink would kill him.

    • Tom Laughlin, the actor/filmmaker (the Billy Jack series of films, about a part-Native American, Vietnam veteran turned Western sheriff) and political activist/quixotic independent presidential candidate, has passed away. He was 82.

    Gosh, I haven't seen "Billy Jack" since it was first released in 1971, and don;t even remember it that well. But I was interested this weekend to read what novelist Ace Atkins wrote on his website: "For those who've read my books and have seen the Billy Jack films, it should be no surprise I owe a great debt to Mr. Laughlin. When I first spoke to my editor at Putnam about creating a new series, I told him I wanted to write a post 9/11 Billy Jack. The films are ass-kicking action, thought-provoking, and socially relevant. Billy Jack takes on greed, bigotry, and corruption. He is a moral man in an immoral world who lives with dignity, teaches racial tolerance, and knows to never conform or give up the fight. Laughlin's character continues to inspire and entertain and will do so for endless generations to come."

    Go figure.

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    Time to take my medicine…

    On Friday, I took note of a holiday promotion by Canada's West Jet Airlines, in which the company set it up so that some 250 passengers boarding a flight had to tell a kiosk what they wanted for Christmas while getting their boarding passes scanned; when they went to collect their bags at their destination, they found that everything they'd asked for was waiting for them on the luggage carousel.

    The entire process was captured on video, and posted to YouTube; at this point, it has been seen by more than 19 million people … which means that West Jet has gotten a lot of free publicity, certainly in excess of what it cost them to buy all those presents (which ranged from socks and underwear to flat screen televisions … it all depended on what people asked for).

    You can see the video at left. And it admittedly is heartwarming…

    But, I commented: I cannot shake the feeling that all this promotion does is reinforce the notion that you can always get what you want … at least sometimes.

    At the risk of being accused of being a Scrooge, I watched the video and only could think that the people getting these presents were all people who could afford plane tickets.

    And that maybe the socks and underwear and flat screen televisions and all the other presents might have been better distributed to people who actually are needy.

    I don't want to diminish the effort, or the results. But I can't help but think that maybe West Jet missed an even bigger opportunity here.

    Now, I very quickly got deluged with email suggesting that, yes, I am a Scrooge who has missed the point.

    One MNB user wrote:

    You've probably already had a dozen emails to this effect, but NPR reported yesterday that WestJet vowed to supply tickets to a needy family if the video on YouTube received 100K views.  It received that before the end of the day...I'm assuming they're going to make good on their promise…

    I thought the video was incredibly heartwarming -- because it renews the idea of the magic of Christmas and makes us all remember that just because we can't reach out and touch a physical presence called Santa...doesn't mean that he and his magic don't exist.  (Ask Virginia!)

    There's probably more than a few people on that plane who forewent a lot of things for themselves so they could afford that ticket...and more than a few who never got what they wanted from Santa.

    As someone who still hears the sleigh bells ring (reference Polar Express) -- I BELIEVE.  Don't sell WestJet short for helping someone else believe, if only for a little while.

    And from another:

    I don't disagree that there was a bigger opportunity to help people in need, but was this about giving or about cementing customer loyalty and affinity for the brand. I had never heard of West Jet but if I had an opportunity to fly them, I would probably strongly consider it.

    Won't the people that West Jet surprised think twice before flying another airline even if it costs a little bit more? I know I would.

    And another:

    OMG, ENOUGH already. I’m so tired of people trying to find the negative in everything. This was a great gesture even if it was also a promotional opportunity for West Jet … This wasn’t a plane filled with Millionaires / Billionaires was it? It was most likely hard working people either doing their job or vacationers who worked hard for the money to take the flight. Yes this is the season to remember those less fortunate but why is it so wrong anymore in this country to be successful or to be offered a gift just because “someone” thinks you could “afford” to buy it yourself.

    MNB reader Robert Mahon wrote:

    Yes, you are are a Scrooge.

    MNB reader Peter McNaughton wrote:

    Yes every one there "could afford a ticket."

    But even those who can afford a ticket….can use  a little help every now and then….as well as a little Joy.

    First chance I get…I am flying West Jet.

    From one reader:

    How could you watch the Westjet video which you described as truly heartwarming, and then say maybe they shouldn't have given their guests the presents, they should have given them to "people who needed them"?  Of course Westjet, and its guests, and you and I should generously support the charities that help the needy - not just at this time of year, but all year round (and from what I know about Westjet, an employee-owned company with a heart, I bet they do more than their share).

    But to say that no one who isn't truly needy should get Christmas gifts undermines the spirit of a holiday that celebrates family, friends and community.  And unless you tell me that you aren't giving any gifts to Mrs. Content Guy and the Content kids because you're giving them all to needy people instead, I think you're being unfair in your criticism.  The Westjet video is one of the most brilliant marketing pieces I've ever seen - whoever came up with the idea deserves an even bigger Christmas gift from their employee co-owners, because they've reinforced the brand image tremendously in a way that everyone but Scrooge would think is brilliant.  Go get an egg nog and a candy cane and lighten up - Merry Christmas!

    And another:

    They wanted to take care of their market. The wanted to expand their market. They were focused on their market. Most of their market has access to Facebook and You Tube. I’m sure that some of the profit that they generate from their market is donated to those that have needs, but are not their market. I am not sure how West Jet can do both at the same time. This activity does not preclude their responsibility to use some of their profits to help the less fortunate. This activity was focused on their market and it worked!

    MNB reader Kathy Hogard wrote:

    You must be cranky!  Too much shopping?

    You completely missed the point here.  I’ve been reading Morning News Beat for a while now and if I’ve learned anything from you it’s to be continuously looking for innovative ideas for your business to attract more consumers.   Well, that’s exactly what West Jet did!  And brilliantly I might add.  That video brought me warm and fuzzy feelings including happy tears!  I was so thrilled to see the looks on those people’s faces.  It gave me goose bumps!  And marketing wise, it will take a lot for me to have bad feelings for West Jet – ever!  And your commentary didn’t even touch on that! 

    So let’s talk about the folks on those flights – the children, elderly, and Moms and Dads.  I would be willing to bet that many of them scraped and saved to have enough to purchase those plane tickets.   Sure, there are probably others who can afford to fly but remember, most of us work hard for a living and we don’t have the luxury to decide on a whim to get on a plane tomorrow.  We have to budget for the privilege.

    But let’s go with your thought – that perhaps the gifts would have served better going to the needy.  At this time of year, there are folks that need extra help.  I don’t know about you but I do the best I can to help not just during the holidays but all year round.  I hope most do and we all know there are certainly a plethora of programs that work solely to help the needy.  That’s a good thing. 

    As for me, I can afford to buy most of the things that I need or just plain want but still have to plan and save for them.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t love being surprised for no reason at all with something, someone knew I wanted and went out of their way to get it for me.  And – I love to do that for others too.  I love to see the joy on their faces.  Not just the needy but everyone. Finally, who knows, perhaps the people who got their Christmas wish will pay it forward.  Think about it – all those folks that were just taking a trip and an airline who will never be forgotten by them because of a unselfish, generous act that made their day and now close to 19 million have seen the video and just like me probably got goose bumps too.

    What could 19 million people bring to the world if they all pay it forward somehow – to all classes of people?  That, Kevin, is an eye-opener!

    From MNB user Tom DeMott:

    Mr Scrooge, bah humbug! Don't be a Grinch; just celebrate the joy of giving and perhaps many of the thousands who view your site will be inspired to give to those less fortunate as well. Merry Christmas, everyone!

    And from MNB reader Frank Fay:

    Read your comments and watched the video of WestJet.  What immediately came to mind was the movie with Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment and the “Pay It Forward” thought process.  If these folks are inspired, which they could be, then they pay it forward and the world becomes a happier place. It has to start somewhere with someone, right!

    Extra credit for a movie reference…

    MNB reader Marcheta Luey wrote:

    It was a BRILLIANT way to covertly (well, not so much) market themselves!  I mean, 19M viewers?  I watched it (before reading your blip) and, oh by the way, Mr. Scrooge, you haven’t the slightest idea what this organization does or does not for charitable organizations in their markets.  So, stand back and let us herald their good work.  After seeing it and never having heard of them, I wanted to know where they fly and might I have that opportunity.  See, it worked!

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I myself thought while wiping tears "I wonder if the guy who asked for underwear wishes he'd asked for a new iPhone".  I also wished I'd been on that flight and tried to think if asked what I wanted for Christmas what my answer would be?

    I thought most of those on that flight looked like 'the family next door'.  Most likely buying the family plane tickets for that flight came at a lot of thought and perhaps a lot of saving.  Needless to say if they didn't HAVE a digital camera or a flat screen t.v. they couldn't afford one!  And maybe every child should in his lifetime get exactly what he asks for that he knows he most likely WON'T get when asking.  "Seriously?"  That might be my favorite moment, my favorite uttered line, in the video.  The happy surprise to open a gift this little boy only wished for 2 hours prior.

    I do not begrudge these West Jet customers their gifts.  And though I often think big companies should do more for the less fortunate maybe behind the scenes they actually do and we just don't know it.  But for the 5 minutes that I watched that video I thought it was a very fine gesture and it made those people smile and have a little more faith in the kindness of strangers which is wonderful anytime of the year but admit Christmas we are all a little more thankful for things.

    Perhaps it was done solely as an advertising tool but I refuse to believe that.  Maybe because it is Christmas, maybe because I want to believe there are people in the world who really do want to give without receiving.  The story and video made me smile and cry and gave me hope that there are people who care about other people.

    And I still am not sure what it is I myself would have asked for.

    From another:

    Have you never heard of the Salvation Army kettle and their bell ringers? How about the Marine’s Toys for Tots? Get off the Amazon web set and drive down to a brick and mortar shopping center with collection points for food shelves, bell ringers and even people singing carols. Open your heart and your own wallet and stop telling other people how to give unless you are a government bureaucrat in training.

    Ah…what would discourse be without an anti-government shot?

    And a cultural shot from another reader:

    You're out of bounds with your airline Christmas thoughts. Or ... you're an out of touch east coast elite.

    And a slightly personal shot from another:

    Give me a break. You’ve become so biased and your commentary has really slipped in the last year or so. I’m starting to view your blog the same as I do the rest of the mainstream media. If this had been one of your pet retailers, like Amazon or Apple, you would have reported this as brilliant and had no complaints. You really need to find your way back to the reporting and commentary that made MNB great or I’m afraid you’ll risk becoming irrelevant.

    And another:

    You really are becoming a stick-in-the-mud old fart.  Can't anybody do anything without you complaining about it?  West Jet Airlines (like most organizations) has donated many thousands of dollars to various charities throughout the years.  In addition, if you did a simple Google search, you'd find that they have donated many free airline flights to various events such as Haiti recovery assistance, etc.

    You really need to relax and drop the pessimistic attitude you're starting to show more and more.  You're only in your mid-50's - stop acting like such an old fogy.


    Now, to be fair, not everyone disagreed with me.

    MNB user Mike Franklin wrote:

    It’s not Scroogish to think that the promotion might have been seen as more altruistic if the passengers were asked what they would like to give to the less fortunate among us, and those gifts were given to the less fortunate in their name, but…

    In reality, the bifurcation of the haves and have nots is becoming the norm. So, you are not the Scrooge…scroogism is becoming part of our culture, and that makes me sad.

    And from another reader:

    I'm with you, Kevin.  You expressed my sentiments about the West Jet promotion exactly.  After seeing countless Facebook posts about how this video "made me BAWL"... and "I'm totally CRYING my eyes out...", etc., I admit I had to see what it was all about.

    I agree that it was a brilliant PR move..and it was clever...and it was fun...but move me to tears?  Not so much.  I never cry when everyone in the entire studio audience at "The View" or "Oprah" (or whatever shows are on when I'm working) goes home with a free iPad, $500 gift cards, or a whole bag full of Martha Stewart's newest craft gadgets, either.

    And I'm known to get misty-eyed just by being asked if I prefer paper or plastic.

    From MNB reader Elizabeth Archerd:

    We are not Scrooges to wonder why piling on consumer goods for people with enough cash, as you noted, to pay for a flight, should count as some kind of "true spirit of Christmas." Yeah, my eyes teared up too - a product of well-time music and camera shots of teary recipients and cute kids. It's formula and I felt manipulated even as my tear ducts betrayed me.

    And from another:

    I say bah humbug to everyone that thinks you are Scrooge.  I think you nailed it!  That West Jet promotion would have been better had those gifts gone to people that could not afford plane tickets!

    And another:

    I totally agree with you!!  Thanks for putting this out there.  You are not a Scrooge at all.


    I've thought a lot about this over the weekend, and I don't think I was being an old fart or an old fogey or even being particularly pessimistic. I honestly do think that if Apple had given free computers to people shopping in an Apple Store, or if Amazon had given gift certificates to its top customers, I would've had much the same reaction.

    That said, I wasn't particularly fair to West Jet … I judged its approach to charity without knowing its broader policies, and that was hardly generous of spirit.

    In musing about this, I've concluded that my personality is a sort of odd mix of cynicism and optimism. After all, I'm a guy who has cried watching Love Actually and About Time, two of the least cynical movies ever made. On the other hand, I remain concerned about the possibility that the shining city on the hill may now be situated on a cliff that is increasingly impossible to scale, and I worry about the long-term implications of decreasing social mobility.

    I'm not a guy who thinks that it is cool when Oprah gives away cars. I'm someone who gets annoyed at baseball games when kids scream at ballplayers to throw them a ball, as if they are entitled because, after all, their parents were wealthy enough to get seats where they actually can be that close to the field. I don't even like lottery tickets … I just have problems with a "something for nothing" culture.

    Does this make me Scrooge? I don't think so.

    Part of my goal on MNB is to sometimes make the generally unpopular argument … and I think I did that here.

    Was it a fair argument to make? I continue to think so?

    Could I have been more generous of spirit? Sure.

    Should I have been more generous of spirit? Maybe.

    Am I sorry I wrote what I wrote?


    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2013

    In Week Fifteen of the National Football League…

    San Francisco 33
    Tampa Bay 14

    Seattle 23
    NY Giants 0

    New England 20
    Miami 24

    Buffalo 27
    Jacksonville 20

    Chicago 38
    Cleveland 31

    Kansas City 56
    Oakland 31

    Green Bay 37
    Dallas 36

    Arizona 37
    Tennessee 34

    New Orleans 16
    St. Louis 27

    NY Jets 20
    Carolina 30

    Houston 3
    Indianapolis 25

    Philadelphia 30
    Minnesota 48

    Washington 26
    Atlanta 27

    Cincinnati 20
    Pittsburgh 30
    KC's View: