retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of responses to yesterday's FaceTime commentary, in which I railed against what I thought were the idiotic ravings of a guy who equated women who use litigation and legislation as a last-ditch option to get fair treatment in the workplace with women who "fornicate" their way to the top.

I wrote, in part:

I'm not a litigious person by nature, but I'm smart enough to know that some things need to be litigated. I don't believe that government can solve all our problems, but I'm old enough to know that sometimes we do need laws to make sure that everybody has the same rights. Do I think that sometimes courts and legislatures can be overused, and that sometimes people take advantage of their situations and want something for nothing? Sure. But somehow when a white guy does that, he's crafty, ambitious and motivated. When women do it, they're manipulative and bitchy. But the idea that this clown - and I say that with apologies to actual clowns everywhere - would equate legislating and litigating with fornicating … well, I think that tells you everything you need to know about his view of the world. Essentially, he's fornicated up. If you get my meaning.

I can only hope that as my daughter embarks on her professional life, she will work for people who will afford her all the opportunities and chances that they would give anyone else. That they are nurturing, respectful and challenge her to be better and more brilliant every day. Heck, I hope the same for my sons. Not all their bosses will be thus, but I hope they get their fair share. And I hope none of them will have to deal with people such as this neanderthal - and I say that with apologies to all actual neanderthals - who bring such antiquated mindsets to the workplace.

One MNB user wrote:

Kevin, I’m a college educated female and I’ve been working full-time for 30+ years.  This issue is beyond frustrating for many women.  We live in a man’s world.  I was hoping things would change during my working life, but I’m not optimistic.  Think it will always be that way.  I feel sorry for your daughter and others her age.

From MNB reader Stacy Dye:

Just want to say THANK YOU for standing up for women in business, especially in this industry.  After reading your article, I had a flashback of an experience that happened to me at the NGA Show in Las Vegas a few years ago.  At the time, I was about 8 months pregnant.  I had a gentleman walk up to me in our booth and tell me that I was “putting my career on hold” because I was having children.  After resisting the urge to physically harm him, I explained that I’m actually the mother of three children, and I still have a very successful career which has, in no way, been affected by my pregnancies or motherhood.  In fact, my husband is a stay-at-home father who fully supports everything that I do, takes amazing care of our children, and cooks and cleans so that I can be my best at work. 
I really hope that the person who wrote the email to you is the same person that said this to me…because it would make me sad to know there are two people this stupid.

MNB reader Lyle Walker wrote:

Well said!  I remember at the first FMI Future Connect, Trudy Bourgeois, CEO of the Center for Workforce Excellence, moderated a session on 'diversity within the grocery industry'.  Standing before an audience of mostly middle-aged white men (self included), she started the discussion by telling everyone in the room, "This room does not represent the shoppers you serve".  It was a hugely powerful statement that made you think how different (and better) business could be with a more diverse set of skills/insights on the business.

MNB reader Anne Evanoff wrote:

Kevin, thank you for saying what you said in your Face time – I mean it – THANK YOU.

From MNB reader Mary Schroeder:

Thank you for saying what needs to be said.  I see these things as an Old Broad (with no apologies to Old Broads anywhere, we know who we are) and just sigh and hope my granddaughters are not faced with this type of behavior and antediluvian though process.

And another:

I really, really look forward to your commentary each day that it is published!  I thank you for the thought provoking vision(s) you write about and seemingly "open yourself up to post column" comments/commentary.

I have been an avid reader for probably three years plus and again - - - thank you!

I have two daughters; ages 23 and 26 (about the same ages as your three offspring) so I can relate to your comments on many fronts.

Your 10/30 Face Time is your "best ever A #1" commentary!  I do also hope that my daughter's never, ever have to work with that thoughtless, mind numbing type of "knucklehead" (And I say that with apologies to all actual knuckleheads)…

And still another:

I have a pretty good idea who sent you that rather ugly email, as I’m sure many long time readers do.  Discrimination can work both ways, I used to work for a female director, who while I liked her, if you were male, you weren’t going anywhere in her department.  All her promotions to management went to females, even if the male counterpart was better qualified.  I want to see a world where it doesn’t matter if you are male, female, black, brown, white, where race and gender don’t matter, where the same job for the same experience pay the same, where we are all given the same opportunity regardless of gender or race.  We’re not there yet, but we are getting closer.

Discrimination is stupid, no matter who practices it.

And here is a news flash. Women are as capable of being stupid as men.

From another:

That was fornicating awesome!

Another MNB user had a different take:

Your targeting of "middle-aged, white guys" left me frustrated with your logic. 

It's wrong to be prejudiced. Period. Your example of female execs at Safeway being let go shows your bias as you've shared that they are friends of yours and you may have crossed the line from opinion to activist in attacking MAWG's. 

People run companies, and people make personnel decisions every day. These decision makers do not have to correlate their decisions with your ideological perception of how the world should be. You pontificate that the executive suite should necessarily reflect the workforce or society. Maybe. But these execs are free to choose the best people for the job. When did the standard become that execs should look like the team? Who made that rule? I'm not against it, but I don't think that it's a litmus test for leadership.

As a middle-aged white guy, I'm disappointed that political correctness is becoming the norm, while conservative principles are demonized. We come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I would agree that some balance is a good thing. I do believe that choosing the best person for a job regardless of race, gender, age, etc. is the right thing to do. Are more middle-aged, white guys going to get those jobs? Maybe. But there are probably more qualified guys in this pool because they have more experience than others. It may not feel right to you, but that's history and reality.

Look. Smart companies will choose the best people to lead their companies without regard to political correctness. What we have is a lack of leadership in business today. I'm convinced that if we fix our leadership issue, we put in place people of all colors and stripes that will choose the right people to fill other leadership positions in their companies.

A couple of things.

First, only one of the women to whom I referred - Larree Renda - would be considered a friend. And it isn't like we're good friends … I've just gotten to know her a little bit recently. I don't know Diane Dietz at all.

Second, my point about management reflecting the customer base is not a result of personal bias, nor is it political correctness. I think it is smart business …

Third, whether conservative principles are being demonized depends on where you sit. I know liberals who think that liberal principles are constantly demonized.

Fourth, you might be surprised about where I am on the political spectrum. My politics are a lot more complicated than you might expect.

From another MNB user:

Even though I find myself in agreement with your assessment of insuring that your daughter and all others, “will work for people who will afford her all the opportunities and chances that they would give anyone else”, I also find myself wondering why we continue to place such emphasis on our differences and not what we have in common.  I tire of the constant references to variations in skin tone, origin of birth, sex, what we choose to do hopefully in the privacy of our homes, what church we attend or don’t, how we vote, etc. etc.  The fact is both biologically, and in so many other ways, we have far much more in common than we do differences.  From the dawn of time, humans have experienced diversity, but can we not spend more time focusing on unity, or as Dr. King could say, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Another MNB reader seemed to agree with my sentiments, but not the length to which I went to express them:

We can all take a lesson from Mark Twain: "I would have written that shorter, but I didn't have the time"

Lose your cool, don't ramble.

And from another reader who disagreed with my comments:

Your chronic holier-than-thou sermoneering certainly does get tiresome.

First, I think the word is "sermonizing."

Second, and I mean this with all respect, people are welcome to worship in any church they want, and listen to what ever sermons they choose.

This is what I do. Been doing it for almost 13 years. Going to keep doing it until I run out of gas, or until people stop reading.

On the subject of Apple CEO Tim Cook's essay about being gay, one MNB user wrote:

Good for Tim Cook, for coming out of the closet, I know some will say they’ll never do business with Apple again, and while it’s stupid, it’s their right, however,  his admission will  bring others into the fold.

But MNB reader Frederic Van Roie had a different thought:

Why are private matters such as sexual orientation to be displayed publicly in the business world? And why is that “commendable” to do so?

Would he publicly come out and divulge an affair with a mistress with the same purpose? It’s very PC but I don’t need to know nor should I care.

It bothers me that these private matters are pushed and hailed in the public’s face.

To be honest, I find it a little disturbing that you equate admitting an affair with a mistress to being open about being gay.

They're not the same thing.

Listen, it'd be nice if we lived in a world where such things did not matter. But they do matter. And I found it particularly moving that Cook seems to be very specifically thinking about young gay people growing up in cultures where they are not supported and loved, and in fact are bullied and victimized or, at the very least, marginalized. That seems to have been his experience, and he wants to give those young people someone with whom they can feel a connection, who can give them some hope.

Cook is only being public because there remains in this country a high degree of intolerance, though I think it is changing. Perhaps even more importantly, Apple does business is countries where homosexuality is illegal … and Cook's personal statement creates political and cultural implications.

Is all this commendable? I think so. in fact, I fervently believe so.

On another subject, MNB reader Jack Traynor wrote:

Thanks for another hilarious link regarding John Oliver’s sugar consumption video.
Good stuff – keep ‘em coming…

I will. I promise.

And, on the subject of mobile payments, MNB reader Karen Shunk wrote:

I was reading your article on the MCX/Apple Pay competition, and noted your comment that the definition of Customer-Centric can be fuzzy.  Not so! 

I work for a standards organization (ARTS, a division of NRF), that has worked very hard to understand Customer Centricity and produce tools to help retailers determine if customer centricity is the correct strategy for them, as well as resources for how to achieve it.  (By the way, good customer service is not a substitute for Customer Centricity.)

Customer Centricity differs from Product Centricity.  Apple is a classic example of Product Centricity - they built a better mousetrap and the world beat a path to their door.  Customer Centricity rests on something more difficult - determining who your best customers are (you can also say “profitable”, “core” or “target”) and shaping your business to meet their needs.  Determining who your best customers are is hard enough, but gaining insights from your interactions with them, and then putting them into practice in your business is really hard.  You want to shape your assortment, make meaningful offers and actually cultivate a relationship with these customers in a way that is mutually beneficial. 

I can’t really think of a company out there that is truly customer centric.  Kroger probably does it best in this country, Tesco is often held up as a good example in Europe.  In fact, for a minute I thought Tesco was going to make a run at it with Fresh & Easy here in the US.

I would urge anyone who is interested in Customer Centricity to check out the work of Peter Fader at the Wharton School.  We did a webinar with Professor Fader last month.  It is unsponsored and informational … We like to say that the customer used to be a passenger in the retail transaction - now they’re the driver; if you don’t think Customer Centricity is for you, you should at least be able to say why.

I know this is quite a tangent from your MCX/Apple Pay story but I just had to say something!  Thanks for the good work - I truly enjoy reading your newsletter every day.

Not tangential at all. Thanks.

On the subject of the World Series, one MNB user wrote:

Being from KC it was sad to see the home team lose.  Madison Bumgarner’s performance cannot be touted highly enough winning 3 of the 4 games needed.  Having said that, it was a magnificent season for the Kansas City Royals starting with winning the Wild Card game in spectacular overtime fashion to break a 29-Year post season drought, then sweeping the A’s and then the Oriels to make it the World Series, and then to extend the drama all the way to game 7.  It was also historical.  The Royals have the record for winning the most games in the Post Season without actually winning the Series. Quite a feat, thank you Kansas City Royals for such an memorable season!

And another:

As a lifelong Giants fan I feel blessed to have seen the team win three World Series titles especially after resigning myself to the fact, many years ago, that perhaps I’d never get to see them win the whole thing.  Beyond the fact that I’ve enjoyed seeing “my team” win three titles perhaps even more gratifying seeing them win with the mix of players that make up the team.  In each of their championship seasons they’ve done it with a diverse mix of veterans, rookies and journeymen…both foreign and domestic.  However, there is a common characteristic that everyman has shared on all three of those clubs…a complete lack of ego.  They truly seem motivated to play for three common reasons: each other, a city/fan-base that loves them and a love of the game of baseball.  To steal a phrase from you…”there is a business lesson” in there somewhere but I’m just too elated right now to figure out what that is. 

And finally, a comment about the new governmental investigation being conducted into Tesco's accounting practices, MNB reader Jule S Andrews wrote:

So the investigation was launched by the “Serious Fraud Office” – really?  Is that down the hall from the Ministry of Silly Walks?


Extra credit for a funny line with which to finish out the week!
KC's View: