retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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by Kevin Coupe

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

We're only nine days into the new year, so many of us who made resolutions haven't yet completely voided them by engaging in contrary behavior. I say "yet" because statistics show that very few people actually live up to their resolutions.

It occurs to me that rather than make resolutions for myself, it might be more interesting to make up resolutions for everyone else. Sure, they have even less chance as becoming reality as those I make for myself, but what the hell? This is sort of my "if I ruled there world list."

This list of 12 is by no means a complete list. It just is what comes to mind right now, and I reserve the right to update it or add to it in the future.

1. Retailers should not be allowed to post signs that a new store is "coming soon" unless they are absolutely sure that the store will be open within a month. "Soon" means "soon."

2. In markets where stores are on the sidewalk, businesses or their landlords should be required to shovel those sidewalks within two hours of the snowfall having stopped, or within four hours of sunrise during or after a snowfall. Penalties will include thousands of dollars in fines, and maybe even jail time.

3. Buildings that have public-facing clocks should be required to make sure that those clocks have the correct time. If the clock stops, or if the time changes because of daylight savings time, you have 24 hours to get the clock working or right. Once again, penalties will be fines and a minimum jail sentence.

4. If you have a charity, and someone gives you money, you don't send that person an email within two weeks asking for more money. Not cool. Send a thank you note. But wait an appropriate amount of time before asking for another donation.

5. The next Star Trek movie should have a completely original plot, as opposed to using villains and plot points from earlier films or the TV series. Go where nobody has gone before. This probably seems like an odd choice of rules for public policy purposes, but since there was a North Carolina town councilman who resigned from his elected position by submitting a letter written in Klingon, apparently we are at the point where fictional and reality-based cultures have converged. Besides, I can't resist a Star Trek reference.

6. Michael Sansolo noted the other day that there are studies out there saying that close to 20 percent of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Now, I'm normally a pretty inclusive person, but I'm perfectly comfortable saying that I don't think these people should be allowed to vote. (I'm not even sure they should be allowed to go outdoors without an escort, but that's a different issue.)

7. Every company should be required to have an ombudsman - a person who has as his or her job the responsibility for sitting in meetings where decisions are being made, but not to drink the Kool-aid, so he or she can raise his or her hand and say, "What the hell are you people thinking?" The job would be to make sure that senior executives don't live in a bubble of their own design, making a habit of epistemic closure.

8. New York should be required to have airports that are on the level of - or worse than - airports operated in third world countries. It's that simple. And anyone who has ever flown in and out of Kennedy or LaGuardia needs no further explanation.

9. One Sunday a year, everyone in the country should be required to turn off their computers, cellphones and other technological devices. Just for a day.

10. In Major League Baseball, from this moment forward, all use of performance enhancing drugs will result in an immediate 162 game suspension, no exceptions. On the second offense, you are gone … and any records you may have compiled are immediately expunged from the books.

11. Every public official - especially at the national level, but not limited to that - should be required during each year of service to come up with one big idea that will make the country better. I'm not talking about abstract big ideas, nor ideas that are purely related to either spending or saving money. But I'm talking about a concrete and actionable big idea for doing something - or creating an environment that will encourage people or companies to do something - that will make the country a demonstrably better place to live. And then, they have to develop a legislative proposal that is no longer than five pages long, and forge compromises that will make that proposal a reality.

12. Finally, retailers that post signs in their stores should be required to make sure that the words are spelled correctly, and that they use the appropriate words. Illiteracy in the service of commerce is not a sign of character.

Now, I know that some of you will point out that I make spelling mistakes here on MNB all the time. Which is true.

But I would argue back that I'm generally working without a net, and that retailers usually have the time to try to get things right. (Mistakes do happen, though, which is why I'm not proposing major fines or prison sentences for this.)

I'd also point out that in this case, I'm going to mimic the federal government. Since I'm making the rules, I'm also going to exempt myself from actually having to obey them.

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

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