retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Chris Utz about the expansion of services by the US Postal Service (USPS):

The Post Office will be delivering fish?  Not to my home.  The term Post Office conjures up an image of a tedious, slow, experience, complete with long lines, but never enough employees.  Standing in a line of 20-30 other people, who also want to get on with their lives, one would love to hear a cheerful: “No waiting at Window Two”  as you can experience this at most successful retail establishments…

Instead, one trudges slowly forward, down a cold granite hall, hoping for the bored employee to utter a dismissive: “NEXT”.    This  Monolithic Government Service Experience is replicated when trying to get a Social Security Card, or perhaps license tabs at the DMV.

I once asked a Post Officer if I could trade part of my 100 stamp roll of old Postage Stamps for properly valued stamps as the price had changed.  “We don’t take stamps back was the rejoinder.  He ended up selling me some 1, 2  and 4 cent stamps so I could add them to an envelope.  I still have most of them.

Offering More? Better? Different?  I think not.  I know that there are many hard working friendly postal employees doing carrier delivery, but I would NEVER trust the US Post Office to deliver something as perishable as seafood.  I want my fish FRESH please.

No question that the USPS has a long way to go, both in terms of culture and infrastructure, for it to achieve the service levels that its leaders are talking about. And fish wouldn't be the place where I'd start. But ... it seems to me that this is the direction it needs to take if it has any hope of relevance in the new world.

Got an email from another reader about Blue Bell's return to ice cream coolers in select markets following the listeria outbreak that caused all of its products to be recalled:

The issues at Blue Bell were on-going and ignored. Listeria, in the dairy world is a daily threat.

On another subject, MNB reader Jim DeLuca wrote:

My local business paper, Rochester Business Journal, ran a question about the new SEC rule about corporations being required to publish the pay ratio between the CEOs and the basic line worker.  A majority of voters thought transparency would be good.  However, most of the published comments were negative; that it was just another intrusion into private business.  Of course many people jumped in with why not do this for lots of different sectors.  One person included the military in his comment.  So I took about 2 minutes to look up that data and learned that a 4 star general makes 13+ times as much as a private.  Certainly the benefits for rank include better housing and maybe better military medical.  Plus extra pay is due for combat, paratroops etc which is also probably more for higher rank.

But overall I was amazed to learn that the pay ratio leaders of the "employees" who keep our country safe, who are expected to risk their lives and the lives of their "employees" was so low; probably less than the CEO/employee ratio from back in the 1960's...

Let's say that the lowest-level person in an organization made $50,000 a year. In that organization, by your reckoning, if it played according to the same rules as the military, the CEO would make $650,000.

That sounds like a lot of money to me. Now, I have no problem if the CEO also had stock options that would reward him or her if the company does well.

But how many CEOs make far more than that and don't get the job done, don't leave their companies better off than how they found them?

Robert Reich, who is quoted in a story above, recently wrote another column in which he said, "Consider that in 1965, CEOs of America’s largest corporations were paid, on average, 20 times the pay of average workers. Now, the ratio is over 300 to 1."

I was pointed in the direction of this quote by MNB reader Tom Kroupa, who also referenced in his note a previous email by an MNB user defending CEO pay:

I cannot believe that MNB reader Cynthia Fisher can justify the pay for CEO's. Of course we agree it should be higher, but the ratio is much higher today than ever, and the employees in most companies have not been sharing in the profits. Dare I say that it is rigged for the top income earners, and the  Cynthia Fishers of the world make excuses to justify their high pay. The worst argument is that CEO's create jobs. Its the employees who create jobs via their own purchasing power. Even Henry Ford knew that when he increased his employee pay to $5/day over 100 years ago.

Again, let me be clear about this. I have less of a problem with CEO pay than I do with highly paid CEOs who make it their mission to drive down employee pay. I think that creates a dangerous financial and cultural dynamic.
KC's View: