retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of Jet, from MNB reader Dustin S. Hughes:

First time emailer…

Admittedly I haven’t spent much time perusing Jet’s website, but in the first few minutes I already see the same thing I continue to see at Amazon (at least on the grocery/household supply side):  the prices are NOT low at all! 

With 25 years in the grocery business, I know what is a reasonable price for a 24 rolls of toilet paper & what is a HOT price.  The prices on Jet in that category & several other household areas are not even reasonable.

That said, I am a HUGE Amazon fan, for all of the reasons you’ve detailed frequently.  I’ve been giving them my loyal business for 17+ years, so I might get roped into giving Jet more of a chance.

But initial offerings aren’t compelling enough.  Oh, and one last big thing!  $35 minimum for free shipping hurts, especially when we’re comparing so specifically to all that Amazon Prime offers!

As I mentioned above, I got a lot of email about the minimum wage issue.

One MNB reader wrote:

Kevin I love MNB but I feel the need to chime in whenever you write about minimum wage.   It is ironic that you praise the $15/hour minimum wage decision in New York on the heels of another story about how this is backfiring in Seattle.  In Seattle this wage increase was partly sold on the premise that it would lighten welfare roles.  Instead, workers have demanded fewer hours so they don't exceed the income levels that would cause them to lose their government handouts.  Why would a person work 40 hours a week when they can achieve an equivalent income working 20 hours a week with government subsidies.  Welfare is typically (and conveniently) left out of the minimum wage/poverty discussion.  If the government is truly interested in helping the working poor in our society there is a clear path - reduce welfare rolls so assistance is given only to those who honestly need it and prevent illegal immigration so wages are not artificially deflated.  With these two policies enacted you will find that Americans will do the jobs that they apparently will not do now and they will be paid a living wage for doing them.

I got a number of stories citing the Seattle situation, but to be honest, I've read a bunch of stories about Seattle and Sea-Tac, and the results to this point seem to be mixed. Or, more accurately, that it is too early to tell. And I certainly have not seen stories about an enormous number of people asking for fewer hours so they can stay on the government dole.

This isn't to say there aren't some people doing this and some anecdotes to support your position. There are. But I'm not sure it is as widespread as you suggest.

MNB reader Kyle Nelson wrote:

Enjoy reading your views each day! I hear/see a lot of the minimum wage stuff and  linked to fast food workers.  This would be effective for all places of employment in these cities, correct? This would include grocery store (Wal-Mart/Target/Wegmans, etc. and retail workers at mall stores like Penney’s and Macy’s for example, correct? The checker at your grocer scanning your bag of fries should make the same as the person making your fries it seems.

No, it wouldn't ... at least not in New York, where the increase only affects fast food workers.

Which I think is ridiculous.

MNB reader Bruce Tobias wrote:

My thought about the Fast Food Wages. I think this is discrimination again this one sector of business. I worked part time at a McDonalds restaurant 4 or 5 days a week and fulltime at a food processing plant in western New York.  It was my choice to work at McDonald’s. I could have worked somewhere else part time if I didn’t like the job or the wage they offered. But by taking the job I was agreeing to the hours and wage they offered. Sure at times the conditions were hot and the work was fast paced, but I don’t think it was worthy of $15 dollar an hour, it is just ridiculous.

Frankly, I think there are a lot more laborious, challenging, stressful, and technical jobs out there that pay less than $15 an hour such as healthcare workers, teacher aids, landscapers, manufacturing workers, etc. The fast food jobs are not intended to be a career. The jobs do not require a lot of technician skills or a college degree. Fast food is a good place to start in the workforce or get a supplemental income.  What is next,  all pizza parlors and hair cutting chains have to paid $ 15 hour.  Why not all food service and restaurant business?

Fast Food workers is not going to change the state of NY.  Cuomo should take a look at what he and his predecessors have done to the at one time Empire State. Take a look at the towns across the state, they are run down, there are no jobs, the factories either closed or left because Albany taxes the hell out of us.  People are leaving NY to go to TX, FL, and NC , where they are business friendly and have lower taxes.

This is just another way these Politicians try to get votes. Albany Serves NYC not upstate or western NY. So I guess $ 15 dollars an hour at McDonald or Burger King will make everything better.  Why not lower taxes for all business sectors and residence and then maybe business will move back and create good paying jobs and people will have more of THEIR money to spend and help spire business growth.       
I love Beautiful Western and Upstate New York State. It is sad to see what it has become.

MNB reader Mike Moon wrote:

The folks looking for a higher minimum wage may well win the battle, but lose the war in that this will result in an overall loss of jobs. If a business feels it can afford to spend 10% of it's revenue on labor, arguably one of the few controllable expenses we have, why is it assumed that we can all of a sudden afford to go to 12%, or 15%? We can't. The budget is the budget, which means that if the cost of labor rises, the hours spent on labor must be reduced. This affects non-minimum wage earners as well, as the bottom moves up. There is such a thing as bottom line, and I don't know many (any) grocery operators who can afford such a bump in their labor budget.
I know there is exploitation of workers out there, people who have been in their minimum wage positions for a long time, but most of the minimum wage jobs in my company are entry-level, get-started kinds of jobs. I've had several minimum wage jobs early in career, and I never expected them to support me long term. I knew that if I wanted to make more money, then I needed to make myself more valuable to my company and either move up or move on.

MNB reader Chris Utz wrote:

Politicians who want to double fast food wages to $15 per hour probably have increased tax revenue as an ulterior motive, in spite of their concern for individuals’ well-being.  Unfortunately this will probably cause some smaller companies to go out of business.  It will also encourage a more rapid transition to ordering kiosks and robotic food preparation.  The net effect will likely be lost jobs for less skilled workers.

MNB user Doug Galli wrote:

What this does not point out is that this also affects convenience stores that sell food to go. They cite large franchise corporations can afford it, but it is not the franchise corporations that pay the local workers. It is the single store franchise owners that are simply middle-class people that have put up the risk in buy a business hoping for a better life to pursue the American Dream. This will impact every business in New York that hires from the same labor pool because they will have to increase their wages to compete for the best workers. This was simply our New York State Dictator, er… Governor circumventing the legislative process to kowtow to the Service Employees Union to garner votes. There is no altruism in his motivation. This will open the door for the unions to organize retailers because of the higher rate of pay will make it more palatable for the workers to pay union dues. This is a bad move and will prove out over the next 5-7 years.

I encourage Mr. Coupe to come and spend time with me as we attempt to make a profit in Western New York competing with reservations, trying to comply with the myriad of both state and federal laws and regulations so we can give back to our associates and invest in upgrades, technology and all of these other great things that he speaks of that retailers should be doing.

Chiming in on the discussion about the urbanization of Bentonville, Arkansas, so Walmart can attract more young talent, one MNB user wrote:

One of the things Walmart can’t seem to fix is what it costs to fly to XNA (Bentonville). I oversaw the Walmart and Sam’s team in a previous life, and flew to Bentonville a couple of times a month. While we were trying to keep our costs of managing the business in line with Walmart’s procurement strategy, the airlines serving the area hosed us. And of course the flights were all full, so what could you do?
Many of the “younger employees” Walmart hopes to attract will be driving to Tulsa or Kansas City (approx. three hours each way) for personal air travel because they simply won’t be able to afford (or at least stomach) the airfare. Maybe that’s part of the strategy; get ‘em there, and then make it too costly to leave. Also, I suspect if you polled the nicer restaurants in the Bentonville area you’d find that a disproportionate amount of their dollars come from travelers on expense accounts.
I suspect the lift of the ban on alcohol created revenue for Walmart’s stores too, but didn’t investigate.
Whining aside, the Crystal Bridges museum is a must-see. Truly a destination if you like American Art. Probably the greatest collection of American art in one place. All thanks to Helen Walton, one of Sam’s kids.

I have two words for you: Walmart Air.

On another subject, from another reader:

The young person who wrote you about having McDonalds serving breakfast all day long really put a smile on my face. I thought millennials were all about eating healthy foods. Pancakes and Egg/Sausage McMuffins do not ring up as healthy food fare. How about a bowl of oatmeal, granola,or a bowl of some kind of healthy cereal, milk, a glass of OJ, and a favorite seasonal fruit? The cost per serving is a lot less than Mickey D pancakes or a breakfast sandwich and a heck of a lot healthier. Yes, I am a guy who worked his way through college, paid my own tuition, rent, etc. and did not have parental financial help. The blessing was that I was taught by my brothers and sisters how to cook my own meals as a young kid.
FYI, my parents died when I was 13 and 14.

On the subject of Walmart reducing hours at stores that used to be open 24 hours, one MNB user wrote:

As a Millennial, I find this to be rather disappointing for Wal-Mart. As a recent college student it was incredibly convenient to visit a Wal-Mart whenever I needed some late night energy drinks or a few of my friends and I were up late and just needed well anything. Recently I found myself in an area where the local Wal-Mart is not open 24 hours a day. While it is true that it may have only been a few times a month that I would need to purchase an item at midnight the Wal-Mart failing to be open has had more consequences than just those few sales. I am talking about loyalty, since Wal-Mart is not open whenever I need it I have had to look into other convenient stores around the area and find their selection. Now instead of visiting Wal-Mart I instead prefer to go to those convenient stores.
Wal-Mart making this move is unfortunate because it will dissolve the illusion that anything you may need can be bought at anytime at Wal-Mart. And the lack of this convenience may encourage shoppers to visit other stores and develop a sense of loyalty with them over Wal-Mart.

Responding to yesterday's FaceTime piece about not making assumptions, one MNB user wrote:

I couldn't agree with you more. You need to keep an open mind and an open heart. As Sargent Hulka said "I don't care where you come from, I don't care what color you are". We need to start each interaction with the 8 most important words you can say to a customer: "Good morning! What can I do for you today?"

Extra credit for the movie reference.

And from MNB reader Amy Holsinger:

Regarding the fiancé/ee slip-up…

To your credit, there isn’t really an audible difference in the word when you’re in conversation with somebody. A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a female coworker who is engaged to a woman. She mentioned how her adoring brother was struggling with talking about his sister’s wedding because he felt like “fiancée” wasn’t an accurate description when spoken! He landed on saying “my sister and her soon-to-be wife.” My coworker found the whole thing hilarious – I think she’s mostly just excited to be getting married J
Thanks for the reliably interesting content and thoughtful insights!

And finally, on a more sobering note, MNB reader Mike O’Donnell wrote:

I just found out that an old friend – and a long time food industry pro – passed away suddenly last week: Jeff Larson – Innovative Food Group.

He was from Toronto, most recently working as a consultant, but Jeff had done product development all across the USA and Canada for over 30 years. Mostly working on protein projects with us meatheads.

He worked on President’s Choice programs and, at one time,  was part owner of DPI  -- Destination Products Inc.

Jeff touched a lot of lives and I wanted them all to know he passed quietly last week. He was not a Facebook or Twitter guy, so we need an old school shout out to let his comrades in the lower 48 know.

Thanks for letting me use your platform to salute an old friend, industry pro and a great guy.

KC's View: