retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following note from MNB reader Bryan Silbermann:

Thanks for your reference to Adam Gopnik’s masterfully-written New Yorker article “Straightened-Out Croissants and the Decline of Civilization.”  Reading it made me laugh, salivate, and reflect longingly for more insight like this in our world.

Perhaps sentiment like this is behind the appeal of irregular curves, spirals and bumps of Inglorious produce displays … where people find joy in celebrating what’s less than perfect, more like nature intended, less than extruded, more like intrinsic.  Might it be that civilization as we know it stops the decline by finding salvation in the glory of Mother Nature?

Following our criticisms of Sears, one MNB user wrote:

Just wanted to share. This morning I researched the best vac for my son who lives in Florida, I live in Massachusetts.  That best vac happened to be a Kenmore model.  My habit is then to open Amazon, and "one-click" it, and direct it to my son's address.

But I took a quick moment to read some reviews, one of which said it was cheaper on the Sears site.  I looked, and sure enough it was $60 less, and free click to pick up at the store.

The process for ordering was easy, and as well as setting up the notification process for my son.
They've since notified that the item is ready for pick up.  That my son just has to pull into the special pick up parking spaces, launch the app, scan the barcode in his text, and they guarantee the item will be at the car in under 5 minutes.

I'll report back on the final pick up and just how easy it was.

Here's the thing, under the radar, Sears has a great reputation for a number of their brands, they were $60 less than had I "one-clicked" on Amazon, and they seem to have an excellent process in play for "click-to-pick up" at a nearby store.

I'll admit I've not set foot in a Sears in years, but I have to say I was impressed with them for today's transaction.

Keep us posted.

On another subject, from another reader:

First, I drive a hybrid and buy a lot of organic foods, so I’m not anti-environment. But I am against mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients, which I believe to be safe, productive, and sometimes and in some ways environmentally preferred.

I was struck by this part of your commentary:

a) include the ingredient in their products, b) label the products as such, and c) do whatever is necessary to educate consumers about why this ingredient is a good thing and why people should buy their product. But that's not how they view this. It is easier to try to scare the crap out of people about costs.

I think all of these arguments can be turned around. To a) and b), manufacturers are currently free to label their products non-GMO. To c), you could make a case that the Corn Refiners Association is trying to educate people (although your skepticism about their objectivity is not misplaced.)

And to the use of scare tactics, isn’t that exactly what the anti-GMO camp is currently doing

Concerns about mandatory labeling are real, including both the packaging redesign costs, and the reverse halo effect that could lead to reduced use of GMO’s and the corresponding reduction in crop yields.

If being non-GMO is a positive attribute, why not just let manufacturers label their products as such, and call it good? Consumers could assume that products without that labeling do contain GMO ingredients, and could make informed choices accordingly.

To be honest, I'm tired of the labeling debate ... and as I've said here before, the easiest way to resolve it is to mandate that everybody should label their products as either "contains GMOs" or "no GMOs." It'd be transparent, and it'd be over.

Regarding the ongoing battle between Apple and federal law enforcement officials, MNB reader Tom Herman wrote:

I too am in general support of Apple.  Apple should not be required to hand over technology that would allow law enforcement to unlock Apple phones.  At the same time, I am in favor of the government paying Apple to create a separate firewalled department that will unlock Apple phones with a court order with law enforcement waiting in an adjacent room for the unlocked phone to be handed back to them.  This would require a court order for every phone they request to be unlocked.

An MNB reader accused me the other day of showing contempt for my readers when I criticize them (sometimes with what he viewed as excessively blunt language). Prompting another reader to write:


I don’t think so.  I used to publish a trade magazine and the owner, objecting to an editorial I had written, said, “You can’t win any points by standing on top of the mountain and throwing stones at your audience.  You have to stand beside them and point the way up that mountain.”  I think that’s what you try to do, sometimes irreverently.  More or less.

I hope so. But I do think that sometimes I throw stones ... not out of contempt, but because sometimes that's the only way to get people's attention.
KC's View: