retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader about the minimum wage issue:

Given all the variables, I don’t imagine we’ll ever really know for sure whether raising a minimum wage has a positive or negative effect on the economy.  But it would be interesting to see what effect a maximum wage would have.  How about a $250,000 maximum annual salary?  Put the millions paid in executive bonuses, golden parachutes, stock options, etc. back into the companies and divide it among the rest of the employees.  I’m thinking that would have a very interesting effect on the economy.

Gee, I didn't know Bernie Sanders read MNB...

(Just kidding. We kid because we love.)

From another reader on the same issue:

KC, I can tell you first hand that the Los Angeles $15.00 wage has hurt the city. We deal with a number of large operations that have simply moved their production facilities to the surrounding counties and saved money. What was once produced in the city now is produced elsewhere to the chagrin of the politicians. This is a very real and legitimate concern and you should understand that. This so-called “living wage” is only meant to be temporary while you try to better yourself.

When I was 16, I cleaned out fryers at McDonalds for a years and all I thought about every day was how I could become a manager. When I got into sales all I thought about was how I could better myself and move up the corporate ladder. I passed this desire to my children to make sure they understood that you could always do better. I taught them to never count on others for their success nor blame them for their failures.

I respect your achievements. I do think we make a mistake, though, if we paint people who are asking for a higher minimum wage as being takers who don't want to work hard, don't want to achieve or excel, or want something for nothing. I just think that is dreadfully unfair.

And from another reader:

As a California manufacturer of Consumer Goods we are already at a competitive disadvantage with manufactures in other states, because of high wages, regulatory compliance and taxes. I used to worry about how we were going to compete with imported goods from Asia or else ware now I am worried about how we are going to compete with other American companies.
It is one thing if you’re a fast food restaurant or grocery store and your competing with other local business in your area, what the minimum wage is does not matter, because you have a captive audience.  In this case it would be a somewhat equal local playing field.  But if you sell Walmart and other major retailers “Made in the USA” products,  how can you pay almost double what other companies are paying in wages, increased workers comp insurance , taxes etc.. and remain competitive.  The person that is now making $15 per hour will have to be paid $20 per hour and up the ladder. It will force companies doing business on a national level to have to move out of California to remain competitive.  Our business has been in California for 30 plus years and we would be forced to start over in another state and our 200 plus employees would have to find another job.  As usual there are two sides to the story, but someone has to make people aware of both sides. And yes I am empathic to our employees cost of living, but if they lose their jobs will they really be better off?

And another:

If one ascribes to the belief that raising the minimum wage is good then why stop at $15?  Maybe it should be $20 and if that is better, then maybe it should be $50?  You get the point!

I do, but with all due respect, I think it is specious ... and about as relevant to the discussion as a maximum wage.

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

Absolutely agree with your assessment on the Overstated Millennial piece.  While there are many real differences regarding how/when/where they get their information and communication, the reality is that the behaviors of a particular generation are largely driven by the socio economic factors of a particular stage of life.  Maybe unfortunately, my 20-something economical, social, political and moral behaviors in the late 80’s, were not that different than my kids now at the same stage.  And, while my parents rarely held back their shock and disapproval, I’m pretty sure their behaviors in the 60’s were viewed as equally radical to the prior generation.

Time, is a great equalizer.  Mark Twain’s quote comes to mind, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.

We forget the lyrics too quickly.

Yesterday MNB reported on how, in Athens, Georgia, Kroger has a story with a unisex bathroom that has the following sign on the door:

That store offers a unisex bathroom that has the following sign on the door:

"We have a UNISEX bathroom because sometimes gender specific toilets put others into uncomfortable situations. And since we have a lot of our friends coming to see us, we want to provide a place for our friends who are dads with daughters, moms with sons, parents with disabled children, those in the LGBTQ community, adults with aging parents who may be mentally or physically disabled. THANK YOU for helping us to provide a safe environment for EVERYONE."

I commented:

There are two parts of this story that I think are most important.

First, the use of the words "our friends." That's huge ... because it recognizes that Kroger isn't taking a clinical, dispassionate view here. In the best of circumstances, customers should be treated as friends ... even customers we don't necessarily understand or who are not like us.

The other word that's important is "everyone." The best thing about Kroger's approach is how Kroger makes it not just about the LGBTQ community, but about everyone.

I admire what Kroger is doing here.

MNB user Tim McGuire responded:

Great move by Kroger here.  I hope they quickly do the same in their stores in North Carolina to point out the stupidity of the state legislators there.  Why do people work so hard to divide the world instead of unite it?

Usually because it ignites the base. Or because they can't help themselves because of their own prejudices.

And from MNB reader Christine Neary:

I’ve never been more proud of working for Kroger than I am right now.

As much as right-wing media wants to label transgender people as monsters and freaks, as predators, as things that go bump in the night, the simple truth is that they are people. They are people who face daily struggles the rest of us will never be able to fully understand. They are people whose safety is in question on a daily basis - especially when it comes to the most basic of human needs, like going to the bathroom. I understand concerns over safety - all of us do expose ourselves to a certain level of vulnerability when relieving ourselves, but I have never been able to find a single verifiable and trustworthy report of a transgender person behaving inappropriately in a restroom. It’s a toilet. Have a seat, do your thing, and move on with your day. I’m delighted that the Athens store management has taken such an open, compassionate, and HUMAN approach to this.

Finally, MNB reader Ken Wagar had thoughts about my rant the other day about the bullying mentality that seems to have infected the country:

I absolutely agree with your comments on Bully America but my first reaction to it was. No sh**, where have you been? This is not a criticism of you it is just the fact that such behavior is pervasive and we see it reflected daily in many schools, many work places and in politics at every level. It is modeled for us all of the time. In some respects this horse is already out of the barn and we don't seem to have any idea how to corral it. Even bringing the issue up in a group of people often leads to arguments that are much more aggressive and hurtful than is needed.

I fear we have lost civility in this nation and that it is quickly getting worse rather than better. I hate to be a pessimist but I'm baffled at how we move forward in a more positive manner. I am glad you brought the subject up but worry as to whether we can find answers to such issues.

Gotta keep looking.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
KC's View: