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    Published on: December 16, 2015

    "The Innovation Conversation" is sponsored by ProLogic: Leading the Industry in Loyalty Marketing Services for Independent Grocers.

    Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

    And now, the conversation continues...

    KC: Tom, since this is our last Innovation Conversation of the year, I thought it made sense for each of us to choose a disruptive technology-and-retail innovation from 2015 that strikes us not just as a game changer, but also indicative of broader opportunities and possibilities down the line - "killer apps," if you will, that have legs.

    The only rule is, neither of us can choose drones.  (Just kidding.  You can choose drones if you want to.)

    I'll go first.

    For me, I think the one that sticks out is the introduction by Amazon of its Dash Buttons, which allow consumers to reorder products by just touching a wi-fi enabled button that they place on or near relevant locations.  A button for Tide would attach to the washing machine, for example, or a button for Huggies would attach to a changing table.  While Amazon charges five bucks for each button, you get that amount back with the first order ... which means that yet again Amazon is developing a smooth, seamless, path-of-least resistance between the shopper and its online store.

    Part of the reason I think this is important is that it plays into the whole notion of Amazon creating an ecosystem in which it is, as often as possible, the first and best choice for shoppers ... but I also think it builds on the company's longtime broader strategy, which is to whenever possible make other retailers irrelevant, or at least an afterthought.  That's what Amazon did with its Subscribe and Save service, which allows for automatic replenishment by consumers of regularly used products ... and which remains a service that we find enormously useful in our household.  And now it is building on that with the Dash Buttons.

    Now, I understand that there are some drawbacks and inconveniences to the Dash Buttons.  You can't compare prices, can't even change sizes from what you've ordered before, and if you used these for a number of different products, you'd have buttons all over the house.  I wouldn't be surprised if they were obsolete in a few years.  But for me, they represent a broader strategic approach to customer-friendly marketing that is changing the game.

    What do you think?

    Tom Furphy:
    I agree that the Dash Button is an important innovation. It is spot on Amazon’s ecosystem approach to retail. We started working on them back when I was at there as a way to more deeply partner with brands and to expand the customer’s traditional shopping paradigm. At the time, Subscribe and Save (SnS) was our most successful merchandising program by far despite its several limitations, which we can talk about in a future Conversation. Dash wasn’t necessarily a direct extension of SnS, but it is certainly laying the foundation for a next generation of shopping where shoppers can engage with their retailer of choice in any number of ways that suit their shopping needs.

    Which brings me to my innovation, which is Amazon’s burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) strategy, led by the Amazon Echo. We talked about the Echo last month when challenging the thinking of several retailers that have agreed to offer it for sale. It is an Internet of Things (IoT), voice-activated, connected “hub” device that answers to the name “Amazon” or “Alexa”. Using voice commands, you can operate lighting, turn up or down your thermostat and operate any IoT connected device. It also allows you to verbally access the weather, check sports scores and ask just about any question. You can also order any product that Amazon carries. And all of these voice interactions are logged and used to offer better personalized shopping experiences.

    While this in itself is interesting, even more interesting is the platform that is being built underneath it. Amazon is building what it calls the Dash Replenishment Service (DRS). It’s a service that will accept a demand signal (i.e. order) from any IoT connected device. They envision a future where all IoT devices are connected to the Amazon platform via DRS. Refrigerators, coffee makers, smart pantries, washers & dryers, the Echo and any of a number of new ordering devices coming to market. The idea is that shoppers won’t have to remember to order many of the products that they buy regularly. Their devices and the DRS will take care of it for them. Plus, Amazon’s fulfillment network will physically exist in most markets and will be able to get the products to their homes quite inexpensively. It’s a natural progression in the buildout of the Amazon ecosystem and I think it gives us an intriguing peek into the future.

    KC: I guess here's what I don't understand. When you talk about the Echo and I talk about the Dash Buttons, and we both agree that they are strategic extensions of a marketing philosophy that was embodied in Subscribe and Save, it begs the following question:

    What the hell are traditional retailers doing to combat this strategic disruption of the marketplace in their stores and in their e-commerce offerings?

    And I guess the reason I find this question so perplexing, and don't really have a good answer to it, is that to this point I can't identify a single retailer that has successfully introduced its own version of Subscribe and Save.  Which leads me to another question ... if they can't or won't compete with Subscribe and Save, how will they compete with game-changing technologies like the Dash Buttons, the Dash Replenishment Service, and Echo?


    That’s a great question.

    To retailers’ defense, I will say that subscription programs like SnS are not easy to build. At Amazon, we had a very smart, dedicated team and a clear vision. And it still took us well over a year to build and launch the first version of SnS. And in the nine years since then Amazon has maintained a significant engineering effort toward SnS, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of hours of work to get it where it is today. Things like figuring out the correct replenishment interval, coordinating multiple products, changing sizes, flavors or scents, managing credit cards, managing deliveries, are all more difficult than they appear and all end up interrelated. Building those things into the engine and handling via the user interface is complex. Often customers end up with too much or too little of their subscription products, or end up with the wrong products and that causes them to cancel their subscriptions.

    Amazon still hasn’t gotten it quite right, but they are the best. Many other retailers that have been active in e-commerce have tried to launch a version of SnS. Some more successfully than others, but most without a great deal of success. It’s just hard to get it right. I do think you will see more retailers and manufacturers move into this space in the coming years. I know from speaking with several of them that they have subscriptions or “replenishment” in their plans. It’s where the shopper is going and they realize it’s important to help them get there. If you are a retailer or manufacturer and do not have this as part of your strategy, you may want to rethink your strategy.

    KC: Agreed. I write here often that what I think will make retailers successful in coming years is having actionable information and actually acting on it. The corollary is using that information to establish direct, enduring and encompassing relationships with customers ... which is what Amazon has done and continues to do with its ecosystem approach to retail. And I have to say that I think the companies that don't do these things, that don't engage with consumers using tactics like automatic replenishment programs, will find themselves playing checkers while innovative companies like Amazon play chess.

    And that's the wrong way, I think, to start the new year. But it'll certainly give us a lot talk about here.

    "The Innovation Conversation" will return in a couple of weeks. If there are subjects you'd like us to chat about in the future, let us know.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a "handful" of companies are utilizing a new approach to helping employees deal with health issues such as obesity and cancer.

    According to the story, they "are offering employees free or subsidized tests for genetic markers associated with metabolism, weight gain and overeating, while companies such as Visa Inc., Slack Technologies Inc., Instacart Inc. recently began offering workers subsidized tests for genetic mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

    "The programs provide employees with potentially life-saving information and offer counseling and coaching to prevent health problems down the road, benefits managers say."

    This seems like a natural extension of the move toward at-home DNA testing kits that allow people to find out what kinds of diseases they may be genetically predisposed to get. This concept hasn't caught fire yet, in part because of concerns that the marketing may be getting ahead of the science. But I've always felt that this kind of technology makes perfect sense, and that in just a few years it will seem entirely acceptable ... and will have enormous implications for food companies, which will begin to market themselves as being relevant to people with specific disease-related needs.

    There will be concerns, of course, that this kind of information will be misused ... and I guess some of those would be reasonable. But I'm not particularly worried ... and if a little analysis of my DNA can help me make it to at least 100, I'm okay with that.

    This kind of technological advance strikes me as the very best kind of Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    The Washington Post reports that Sam's Club president/CEO Rosalind Brewer is under attack for comments she recently made in a CNN interview that some have deemed to be racist.

    Brewer, an African-American female, was asked about how she tries to encourage diversity not just at Walmart, but also in other corporations. And she said:

    “My executive team is very diverse, and I make that a priority. I demand it of my team and within the structure. And then, every now and then, you have to nudge your partners, and you have to speak up and speak out. And I try to use my platform for that. … I try to set an example. I try to mentor many women inside my company and outside the company because I think it’s important.

    “And I talk to my suppliers about it. Just today we met with a supplier, and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian males. That was interesting. I decided not to talk about it directly with [the supplier’s] folks in the room because there were actually no females, like, levels down. So I’m going to place a call to him.”

    The story notes that "Brewer’s comments generated both praise and criticism, though naysayers drew more attention with the hashtags #boycottsamsclub and #boycottracistsamsclub."

    There was enough of an outcry that Walmart's president/CEO, Doug McMillon, issued a statement to clarify the issue:

    “For years, we’ve asked our suppliers to prioritize the talent and diversity of their sales teams calling on our company,” he said. “Roz was simply trying to reiterate that we believe diverse and inclusive teams make for a stronger business. That’s all there is to it and I support that important ideal.”
    KC's View:
    The story also makes clear that four out of the eight people on Brewer's executive team are white men ... which all by itself ought to put to rest some of the outcry.

    Most of what this proves, I think, is that some people are always looking for a fight. The people who are complaining about Brewer's statement are probably the same ones who said they plan to boycott Star Wars: The Force Awakens because the presence of a more diverse cast reflects an inherent prejudice against white men.

    White men should just get over it. We/they don't dominate the world the way we/they used to, and everything from business to popular culture is going to reflect this.

    Brewer wasn't saying that she was biased against white men ... just that businesses that want to do business with Walmart perhaps ought to better reflect the demographic makeup of the people they are trying to sell stuff to.

    Much ado about nothing. Except that petty people with big voices and exaggerated senses of their own importance always have a way of soaking up all the oxygen in the room.

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is pondering possible changes in its product review system, with spokesman Tom Cook saying, “We are taking a close look at our policies regarding activism reviews and are considering changes."

    The story notes that the policy shift follows a recent Times article reporting "on coordinated attacks by Amazon reviewers on Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago Monday. Lewis wrote 'Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness' to describe her journey after the massacre.

    "Dozens of reviewers — conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were an Obama administration hoax to push for gun-control legislation — savaged Lewis on the Amazon book Web page as a liar and opportunist."

    The Times writes that "Amazon declined to disclose details of the review system. So it’s unclear whether they would prevent attacks like those on Lewis.

    "One change the company has already made is the removal of its 'General Review Creation Guidelines' Web page. Those rules barred reviews with 'profanity or spiteful remarks,' as well as 'advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively.'

    "That page was taken down this week.

    "Instead, the company redirects Web traffic to its 'Customer Review Creation Guidelines.' Those rules are a bit more vague. Amazon, for example, prohibits 'Hate Speech & Offensive Content' without any mention of spiteful comments. That could allow Amazon some leeway in determining what’s suitable for its website."
    KC's View:
    When I took note of the original Times story, I suggested that the kinds of reviews being aimed at women who wrote about surviving the Sandy Hook experience were emblematic of a coarsening of civil discourse in America. In retrospect, I think that was an understatement. At the risk of being uncivil myself, I think these people are emblematic of the kind of slimy hate-mongers who, unfortunately, are able to use social media to promulgate uninformed and ignorant points of view.

    Nothing wrong with a reasonable debate about Constitutional issues. But these people are nuts. (Mrs. Content Guy is an elementary school teacher in Connecticut. What happened in Sandy Hook is not an abstraction ... though it shouldn't be for anyone.)

    As a frequent Amazon user and readers of customer reviews - which have from the beginning, been a game changer for the retailer - I have absolutely no problem if they want to change the rules so that reviews have to be written by people who actually have bought the products, and have to be relevant to the product being reviewed. I'm not sure this would protect the authors of the Sandy Hook-related books, but the bar ought to be at least that high for reviewers.

    FYI...I've been urged over the years to get rid of the edited and curated approach to "Your Views" and just put up a message board, which would take a lot less time on my part. But I see some of the stuff that comes across my laptop, and I respect the time it takes for MNB readers to peruse the site each day ... I don't want to abuse your affection and respect by wasting your time.

    It would require an investment of people and money for Amazon to take a more curated approach to reviews, and I know Jeff Bezos prefers algorithms to people ... but in this case, respect for the shopper ought to justify an adjusted approach.

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    The Associated Press reports that Chipotle founder/CEO Steve Ells yesterday made an appearance at one of the company's Seattle restaurants to talk about the company's new food safety procedures, saying that "it is impossible to ensure that there is a zero percent chance of any kind of foodborne illness anytime anyone eats anywhere," and suggesting that "they will never know for sure which item actually sickened more than 50 people who ate at their restaurants."

    However, Ells also said that "in addition to more testing along the supply chain, Chipotle is instituting more high-tech food tracking inside its restaurants and some new procedures, including cutting, washing and testing tomatoes at central commissaries to ensure they are as clean as possible.

    "Ells said the company's approach to food safety is similar to its focus on food quality and none of the new procedures are impossible or very difficult to follow. It's easier at some other chains to meet the highest food safety standards because everything is cooked, processed or frozen, which Ells said is not the Chipotle way."

    While the new procedures will cost more money, Ells said that neither customers nor suppliers will have to bear the cost, at least at the beginning; the company has told analysts that any price increases related to food safety costs won;t come before 2017.

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning, by the way, that "Chipotle expects to lower its use of locally sourced ingredients and is centralizing the preparation of some vegetables as it seeks to shore up food safety following an E. coli outbreak that sickened 52 people in nine states and a norovirus episode in Boston. The burrito chain hopes the steps can help it regain consumers who have shunned its outlets, eroding sales.

    Health officials haven’t been able to identify the source of the E. coli outbreak but say produce was the probable cause."

    Ells, the Journal writes, recently "described the chain’s new practice of dicing, sanitizing and hermetically sealing tomatoes, cilantro and lettuce in a central kitchen where they are tested for microbes and then shipped to restaurants. Mr. Ells said the extra steps don’t change the quality of the ingredients and that whole avocados and jalapeños will continue to be brought into the restaurants. The new techniques minimize the number of people and surfaces coming into contact with the ingredients."
    KC's View:
    I suspect that at some point Chipotle will face a Wall Street / MainStreet moment of decision, and it'll come before 2017. Sales and profits will be down, because of the damage to its reputation and the higher costs, and management will be under pressure from the investor class to raise prices.

    Let's see what happens. I'd like to think that Chipotle will stand fast, but the dark side of the Force is strong with the investor class, and resistance may be futile. (Boom! Star Wars and Star Trek references in one sentence!)

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    The Associated Press results that former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle is appealing his almost 16-year prison sentence.

    Fogle came to prominence when he lost an enormous amount of weight eating mostly Subway sandwiches, a feat that earned him a longtime and lucrative gig as a spokesman for the sandwich chain, recently was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of trafficking in child pornography and having sex with underage prostitutes.

    The argument is that the prison term imposed by the judge in the case was longer than the 12 and a half years recommended by prosecutors under a plea agreement; the judge could have given him a 50 year sentence. His term is to be served in a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado, that specializes in treatment of sex offenders.

    Fogle also will have to pay a $175,000 fine and submit to a lifetime of post-prison supervision as a sex offender.
    KC's View:
    Personally, I think Fogle is just lucky that "throw away the key" wasn't a phrase included in the sentencing statement by the judge.

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    • The Austin American-Statesman reports that Amazon now is offering restaurant delivery there, "providing one-hour delivery from more than 60 restaurants and food trucks through its Prime Now service ... The Prime Now service offers two-hour delivery of thousands of goods for no extra charge, and one-hour delivery for a $7.99 fee. It’s only available to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for fast delivery and access to other perks like movie and music streaming."

    • Retail delivery service Instacart yesterday announced a partnership with Pantry, the Boston-based recipe and ingredient kit company. Boston customers now will be able to order ingredients for recipes via Instacart and have them delivered within an hour.

    The recipe kits, the announcement said, are "pre-portioned and designed for both novice and advanced chefs, including recipe cards (with full color photographs), videos, kitchen essentials, pre-packaged spices, and farm fresh produce. All recipes can be prepared with basic kitchen tools in 20-45 minutes."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    CNBC this morning reports that department store chain Kohl's has announced that "it will once again keep its doors open 24 hours a day in the final countdown to Christmas. Starting Dec. 17 at 7 a.m., the discount department store will remain open for more than 170 hours straight, giving shoppers until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve to finish their shopping."
    KC's View:
    And, to steal a line from "SNL," in a related move, the Internet announced that it will be open all the time, forever.

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    Advertising Age has a story about a new study from Hunter Public Relations about food related stories that consumers identify as being the most important of the year.

    " This year's top story was fast food breakfast, a topic that was in the news plenty, given McDonald's launch of All Day Breakfast and new items at Taco Bell such as the biscuit taco," the story says., adding that "after fast food breakfast, issues important to consumers included the big recall of Blue Bell ice cream due to listeria issues, which ranked No. 2, followed by the expanding impact of the drought in the western U.S. on the food industry.

    "Food safety was ranked as the most important food topic, followed by nutrition. Also, 41% of those polled said they are trying to waste less food even though food waste was relatively low on the list, coming in as the No. 8 story of the year."

    The study also showed that "45% of Americans believe food and nutrition stories are more important than other news stories, up from 40% in 2014 and 32% in 2013. Among Millennials, the youngest group surveyed in this study and a key group for marketers, that importance jumps to 54%."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that Michael Jordan has decided to donate the net proceeds from two lawsuits against supermarket chains that used his likeness in advertising without his permission to 23 Chicago-area nonprofit charities focused on helping the area's youth.

    Jordan won an $8.9 million jury verdict against Dominick's, and then settled a suit against Jewel-Osco for an undisclosed sum. Even after paying taxes and attorneys' fees, the proceeds will certainly be in the millions of dollars.

    "I care deeply about the city of Chicago and have such incredible memories from my years there," Jordan said in a prepared statement. "The 23 charities I've chosen to make donations to all support the health, education and well-being of the kids of Chicago. Chicago has given me so much and I want to give back to its kids — the city's future."

    • The Journal News in suburban New York reports that while all of A&P's stores have been closed down, "the company hasn't given up hope on selling its last remaining supermarkets. The supermarket received U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval ... to bring in a third party to help market and sell 55 stores ... over the next month or two."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 16, 2015

    We got several emails about Michael's Tuesday column about A&P's decline into irrelevance.

    One MNB user wrote:

    If you are of a certain age, and I am, and grew up in a small town, and I did, A&P and IGA are forever a part of your past. Where I grew up in southern Ohio near Cincinnati, we always had Kroger as the "big store" but close-in to downtown, it was always A&P and/or IGA. I am a realist and I embrace and accept change. But also take comfort in living in nostalgia to a degree and those two brands will always be a part of my warm memories of a small town childhood. And, I will add, you always had a friend(s) whose dad or mom worked in one of those stores.

    From another reader:

    When I was getting my degree in Industrial Management at GA Tech back in the late 1960's, one of the cases we studied was A&P and how they managed to acquire companies while they were creating their private label A&P brand.  They gradually increased their orders from the small manufacturers until the orders got to be a pretty large percentage of the small manufacturers revenue; and then they would not order any, and the company would fail and A&P would purchase the company for next to nothing.  I guess at some point back then, they were industry leaders; not my kind, but definitely creating new ways for making money...

    Karma is a ... well, you know the rest.

    And from another:

    Thanks to Michael for bringing up the historical significance of A&P and the related case study in food retailing.

    About 25 years ago, as I was a potential candidate to become a store director for a privately-held major Midwestern retailer, the CEO of our firm told us the story of the massive growth and subsequent retrenchment of A&P as a lesson for us not to follow in our future careers.

    I wanted to better understand the circumstances, so I worked to find the book that told this story from the perspective of a former A&P employee. It took me a while to track it down on an inter-library loan as the title was “The Rise and Decline of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company”, and not the “rise and fall” title I mistakenly thought it was. I read the book a few years after its printing in 1986 and found it to be a compelling story of a company that did not sufficiently train, prepare, and refresh its management to sustain its strategies and philosophies over time.

    The book also did a great job of emphasizing the risks involved in taking a successful private company public and how the need to satisfy stockholders often conflicts with the need to satisfy customers. The now-retired CEO nailed it when it came to showing us an example of how not to run a business-----and it left me with a life-long lesson.

    I even got an email from Michael Sansolo ... who had a thought about how his column connected to yesterday's Eye-Opener, which was about Star Trek Beyond, which will come to theaters next summer:

    It just occurred to me that we had a great natural tie in between the eye-opener and my column. "Star Trek" could have/should have fallen apart years ago based on the lifespan of TV audiences, yet the franchise constantly remakes itself and finds relevance.

    That's the exact opposite of A&P.

    One boldly goes. The other didn't. End of story.

    We had a story yesterday about the dynamic pricing trend, which led MNB reader Bob Vereen to write:

    As a consumer, I would be very upset at discovering a store charged me more at one point than it might have charged me at a different time.   Should that ever happen to me, I would take my business elsewhere forever in the future.   I realize sales take place regularly; to me, that’s different than dynamic pricing.   Maybe I’m wrong.

    We also had a story yesterday about Martin's closing some stores in advance of the Ahold-Delhaize merger, leading one MNB user to write:

    Kevin, I think this is just the beginning of store closings with this merger. I live in a prime area where Food Lion and Martin’s overlap and if I was running one of the stores I would be nervous for my job. Over the past several years since Martins has replaced Ukrops there has been a definite decline in the stores. The produce in the stores is inferior to the local competition and the selection and in stock conditions have also declined.  If conditions do not improve I see a big problem for the merger from the Kroger, Walmart, Farm Fresh, Harris Teeters of the area for both Martin’s and Food Lion.

    Regarding new FAA rules governing drones, one MNB user wrote:

    I cannot believe in the terrorist climate we are in that drones are permitted whatsoever, much less by private individuals. Our common sense flies out the door with any hints of limiting commercial enterprise.  Presume this group making drones is already in bed with the NRA lobby.  Wow. That no speaks up about this floors me and cements what a land of powerless, helpless and stupid sheep we have become.

    From another, a different perspective:

    The .55 lb hurdle for this registration is ridiculously light.  Many toys will now need to be registered. Any quad-copter, helicopter, or airplane capable of carrying a payload or worthwhile camera is much heavier than .55 lbs.  The $5 fee and registration every three years is a barrier that will keep many kids from enjoying the hobby that can be a good teaching experience.  For a typical classroom of a STEM school this would be $150 just to register every student and their aircraft.  This is a government over-reach that will not provide any benefits as the people that register will not be the people you need to worry about anyway.  They might as well have made it a mandatory three day waiting period for purchasing and add to it that no one on a no-fly list can purchase a radio controlled aviation device.

    We had a story the other day about how Pizza Hut's new CEO is prioritizing speed over quality - his words, not mine.

    Got lots of words in response.

    MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

    I am certainly not an expert at marketing, but I am an expert consumer and I am with you. Mediocre pizza quicker/easier won’t have me increasing the amount of pizza I eat. Especially when it is also less of a value (in my perception). We don’t do pizza joint pizza very often, I make a pretty good pizza and it is fairly easy and a good value as perceived by me. I don’t see how this will make a difference. As far as the other two quick serve restaurants in their stable, I avoid both of them. Good Luck, but when you are in the food business shouldn’t food be your business, otherwise you aren’t in the food business.

    MNB user Mike Sonberg wrote:

    I think Pizza Hut needs a new CEO.  What's wrong with service and quality being important?

    MNB reader Jim Swoboda wrote:

    Apparently they can not do two things at once…..bad move.

    One of the things that I wrote about this was that I could not imagine anyone getting a pizza and saying, “That’s not very good, but at least it got here fast.”

    MNB user Jacob Eggers responded:

    Your comments on this hit it right on the head, I couldn’t agree any more about this.

    Not sure how you can make drive-thru more convenient. Or with Pizza Hut, they tell you 20 minutes to make a pizza, don’t show up within 5 minutes and expect it to be done. If you’re going to do that, might as well go to Little Caesars and buy their 5 hour old pizza for a 1/3 of the price. At least you know what you’re getting then.

    And from another:

    My wife and I always say ... " can't fix stupid."

    And another:

    Wow, their CEO is completely out of touch. We had Pizza Hut pizza at one of our meetings. I asked where it was from and when I found out I steered clear. There are far more convenient foods out there that actually taste good.

    And still another:

    What Yum Brands seems to be saying is that faster and better are mutually exclusive goals.  I don’t see how they are mutually exclusive, and in fact working on one would seem to improve the other as well.  What a bad message to send to the company’s employees about product quality.  Sell the stock now.

    And yet another:

    The new CEO that will be hired two years from now (because the predecessor was fired) will herald the return back to a focus on quality.

    Pretty good bet.

    And MNB user Scott Zeiher chimed in:

    Really??  Speed over quality?  That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard!  I am sure there are other factors that might come into play when it comes to speed of delivery, like maybe average distance of the delivery, population density, congestion, number of traffic lights????  Really?

    We had an exchange here the other day after I wrote that I'm not buying the blame game that VW seems to be positioning itself to play ... just as I'm not buying any product made by Volkswagen or its corporate brethren, Audi and Porsche ... though, I admitted that if I had the money to buy a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, my moral superiority and ethical condescension might fade away...

    One of our readers wrote in to say that he was successfully dealing with any internal conflicts about the company as he drives his new Porsche Targa 4S ... and I said I was happy for him.

    But another MNB user was not sympathetic:

    With all due respect, this sounds like rationalizing bad player behavior because your football team is winning.

    I get your point. But it is a Porsche...

    I got the following email from MNB user Daniel Hogan:

    In the past few weeks, I’ve seen you use the term “epistemic closure” in response to a few situations. I’ve done some Googling and even e-mailed my Logic professor from my freshman year of college for clarification, but I still don’t have a great understanding of the term. Could you further explain the meaning of “epistemic closure”? I’d appreciate it!

    I would refer you to a FaceTime commentary that I did almost exactly three years ago, which is when I first heard the term and embraced it as a term highly applicable to business. You can watch it here, but the basic definition is that it means being closed-minded, and being so hemmed in by your own belief system that you are unable or unwilling to accept anything other than what you believe as being possible or factual.

    And finally, an email from MNB reader Rich Heiland about the aluminum can shortage that is vexing the craft beer industry:

    OK. I am going to the ultimate beer snob here....craft beer in a can? A total disconnect.

    I'm with you ... I much prefer a long-neck glass bottle. But cans seem to be the coming thing...
    KC's View: