retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about the resurgence of "made in America" marketing, which prompted one MNB user to write:

I'm old enough to remember when "Made in America" meant something. They use to brag about it in Walmart. It's time we do it again and stop funding countries and people who want to do us harm. We might not be able to stop the beast but we certainly can stop the funding!'

One of the big challenges about "made in America" products is that a lot of companies claim it but don't certify it ... because they can't. So I suspect there will be some fallout on that issue even as companies and consumers focus more on American-made products.

Responding to our piece the other day about how Tiffany is marketing engagement rings to same-sex couples, and what this suggests about marketing to the broader LGBT community, one MNB user wrote:

At a dinner over the holidays a conversation started about homosexuality, and what one of the guests said was “the abundance of things gay.” Someone asked if anyone knew what percent of the population was gay. I guessed that it was somewhere in the teens. They suggested I look it up.
I was surprised. You may find a source that was different than mine, so I would suggest you look it up.
A couple of thoughts I believe worth sharing:

Homosexuality has been a big discussion in the United Methodist Church, and it is so divided that it might cause a fracture because there are churches that staunchly ascribe to the “homosexuality is a sin against God” stance. Our church takes a view that we are to love one another regardless of our any differences to sexual orientation. It is hard to believe it is such a lightning rod issue.

My 27 year old son asked me recently if any of my beliefs from when I was near his age had changed over the years. Homosexuality was on the short list. Immigration and government were two others that quickly came to mind. It has been interesting hearing how others have responded; tee it up some time.

I thought I did tee it up.

You are right that the LGBT community is smaller than a lot of people think. The nationwide average is said to be 3.5 percent of the total population, with denser pockets in certain states. Those are Gallup numbers, though I'm not entirely clear if they include people who are gay but have not come out of the closet.

But civil rights are civil rights. I'm not aware that there are any provisions in the Constitution saying that you only get civil rights if your percentage of the population exceeds a certain point. And that seems to be the position that more and more jurists and legislatures are taking.

I am sympathetic to people who have trouble with some of these issues because of their religious beliefs; it makes it a lot harder to be tolerant and accepting of social changes when your priest or minister offers spiritual guidance that points in a different direction.

But I've always felt that religious beliefs are distinct from what the law can and should allow. And I think right now that the broad cultural acceptance of same sex marriage is something that cannot - and should not - be reversed. The Tiffany ad is just another indication.

As I said the other day, my only agenda here is to suggest that this new acceptance really offers marketers an opportunity to sell more stuff to a demographic they may have been ignoring.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

I stopped by my local Chipotle for lunch today -- bummed a little by the "No Carnitas" sign (they're my favorite) -- but it didn't dissuade me.  Tried the Sofritas tofu -- not as good as the carnitas, but still very tasty (and getting me to say nice things about tofu is a big accomplishment).

Asked the young man behind the counter if they were getting any blowback about the carnitas -- he said no, people are being really understanding, and are happy that Chipotle has made such a stand.  He said business hasn't been affected at all.  (granted, he's not a manager, but if he's standing there taking orders, he knows...)  He also added that it makes him happy that he's working for a company willing to draw a line and defend it, and his wide smile told me that he was absolutely sincere.

Score points for Chipotle.

Regarding US Postal Service customer service, one MNB user wrote:

I thought I would share yet another USPS story with you!

Mailed two boxes last Saturday.  Insured both, and was told they would arrive (from MSP) in Chicago on Monday.

Monday came and went.  Online still said they were due to arrive any moment.

Tuesday came and went.

Wednesday came and went.

It's now Thursday night.  USPS online (attached) still says they are coming LAST Monday.  When you try to speak to a human being, you are put into phone hell and told that no one there can help you, and to listen to the tracking information given on the message (Monday the 12th).

I just got back from my neighborhood post office.  They think they both are lost, and that I should file a claim.  Aaargh.

I'm giving them until tomorrow COB, then I guess I'll file the claim.  So much for 1) delivery estimates and 2) online updates!

Good luck.

Responding to my piece yesterday about William Shatner's one man show, one MNB user wrote:

I saw this show with my wife – she treated me as I am a huge fan. If you recall the first reboot of Star Trek with Chris Pine – when they are trying to beam the Vulcans up from the planet being destroyed – which they were struggling to accomplish - Chekov said the very same “I can do that” and ran down to the transporter room to try and make it happen.

Good commentary and lesson today. I really do admire how Shatner does keep reinventing himself and he doesn’t appear to be afraid to do that.

Just FYI...Sansolo and I, being unrepentant Trekkies, checked. In fact, Chekov utters that line not when he is beaming up the Vulcans, but when beaming up Kirk and Sulu while they are plummeting towards a planet without parachutes.

A small difference, but we wanted to be accurate.

Got lots of email about yesterday's Eye-Opener about the Icelandic beer made from whale testicles. I objected to the beer largely because I have a problem with any product being made from an endangered species, but also said that I was appalled that they did not give the beer a name that, in my view, would have been perfect: Moby Dick.

One MNB user weighed in:

Trademark issues. But Bollocks Brew is available…


And from another reader:

LMAO at this. You are hilarious. And I’m with you - using endangered species as an ingredient? Unforgivable.

And another:

Dude, I gotta love ya. I don't come close to reading anything in business (or any other topic ) in which the writer has such cheesy irreverence. Keep it coming.

I don't often bust out laughing when I'm reading something but I did this morning.

FYI...I'd rather have this sort of praise than any other.

And from still another reader:

I assume it's the Peter principle your invoking for not trying this Icelandic craft brew.

Thanks for the comic relief from a business news letter.

One viewer accused me earlier this week of being pretentious, saying that this is why I don't appreciate the charms of Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's.

My response:

Can I be pretentious sometimes? Probably.

I wanted to make sure I had the definition right, so I checked. Webster's defines the word as "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed." I wish I weren't pretentious, but I have to concede that I'm not all that important and probably don't have that much talent.

But when it comes to doughnuts or coffee or hamburgers, I think better is better. I think that Stumptown coffee is better than Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and that In-n-Out and Shake Shack burgers are better than McDonald's. Good wine and beer is better than cheap wine and beer. Does that make me pretentious? I don't think so ... because preferences often are a matter of taste, not better. I also think that when it comes to issues like this, it isn't pretentious if I'm right.

Though just saying that probably makes me pretentious.

C'est la vie. (In the interest of full disclosure, that's most of the French I know.)

Leading one MNB reader to write:

That’s more French than I know and your comments on pretentiousness cracked me up.  Keep it coming.

And another reader offered:

I took two years of French in high school and visited France for a week.   Therefore, I know a little more French than you do.    
“Je suis Kevin Coupe!”

Merci beaucoup.

Finally, I got the following email from MNB reader John McGuire:

I really enjoy your emails and attitude every day!  I have a millennial home from college and I was showing her your Thursday “FaceTime with the Content Guy” spots over the past several weeks and her perspective was that coming from your home kitchen wasn’t really professional.  I mentioned that you do report from other locations at times.  We’ve talked about your Thursday editions the past 6 to 8 weeks which I believe all have been from your kitchen.  I do have to agree that I enjoy a mix of the locations and reporting from appropriate locations do add some interest to your reports, although I’m more interested in the content.

There are much bigger issues in the world, but it was an eye opener to me that my daughter had an issue with it.   We spend a lot of time figuring out how to reach and stay relevant to millennials and I thought you might be interested in her perspective.

I am interested, and it concerns me a bit when a millennial doesn't like something I'm doing ... because I want to be relevant to them.

That said ... at the risk of seeming defensive, which I'm really not ... I guess I'd point out a couple of things. First, my kitchen is a lot nicer and more orderly than my office. So when I'm not on the road, it seems like a better place to do it. (Plus, I waited 30 years to redo that kitchen. I'm kind of proud of it. Be glad I didn't decide to show off our new bathrooms...)

But more importantly, I guess my response would be that I kind of like the informality of doing FaceTime from the kitchen. (I prefer "informal" to "unprofessional.") That's because I've always thought of MNB as an ongoing conversation, not a newscast ... so I try to strike an appropriate tone.

I'm just glad your millennial only criticized the kitchen. If she had taken a shot at my jeans and flannel shirt, I would have been devastated...
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