retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Dave Parker responding to a story on MNB:

Nice to see that Walmart will donate $1.5 million upfront to Feeding America to help America's poor, and will match contributions from certain suppliers based on per-item sales up to $3 million. Should we be impressed? reports that the poverty rate in the U.S. in 2014 equalled 14.8% of our 321.4 million population, or 47.57 million poor people. Walmart's upfront commitment of $1.5 million equates to a donation to each poor person of $ 0.03. If the suppliers pitch in $1.5 million and Walmart matches, the total contribution to Feeding America will still fall short of a dime per person.

Robert Reich notes in his 2015 book, Saving Capitalism, that the Walton family heirs held more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined in 2014. Since the average Walmart Associate falls well below the 2014 Federal Poverty Level ($23,850 for a family of 4), Walmart would serve America's poor much better by raising the wages of their own employees. To put all this in clearer perspective, Arkansas Business reported in April 2014 that Walmart's new CEO Doug McMillon received a pay package of $25.6 million.

That certainly is an alternative perspective.

We continue to get email about the problems Stater Bros. may face as Aldi expands in Southern California. One MNB user wrote:

Stater’s success seems to have been due to lower pricing, medium quality, and geographical domination.  Aldi will beat them on numbers one and two and have the money and expertise to erode number 3.  Jack Brown is not stupid but he better be prepared for a harsh reality.  He is not facing a large chain with a by and large different demographic target.  I think customer loyalty and location are his best attributes to concentrate his efforts.  Fresh and Easy and Haggen’s are not even in the same league as Aldi in almost every respect.  Aldi is almost like lava flowing from a volcano, relentless slow advance until it covers a large area.  Just my opinion based on years in the market.

Kate McMahon mentioned in her column this week that a number of Facebook users criticized a product, to which one MNB user responded:

It was such a less-contentious world when people "criticized" products in the discreet old-fashioned way: By not buying them.

Those "discreet" days are gone forever. Get used to it.

On another subject, from MNB reader John Rand:

I saw the reader comment on your recent remarks about the atmosphere of bullying in America, as the reader noted this is not new and may be difficult to change.

True. But  I have a more hopeful perspective (call me a cockeyed optimist, if you want to cite a REALLY old movie soundtrack!)

American runs on a slow, grudging but steady process of creating consensus.

I remember when kids jumped around loose in cars and seat belts were an option you paid extra for. A bunch of people advocated for safety belts and particularly for child safety and after a couple of decades it gained steam. Eventually it became law, but not before it was already socially accepted as the right thing to do by a majority of people. When the laws were passed there were still objectors – but they no longer had the majority behind them, and the resistance largely faded.
The same thing happened with smoking inside buildings. What was normal became questionable. What was questionable became unacceptable. What was unacceptable became law. It happened with drinking and driving. It has happened with divorce, It has happened with sexual preferences, and most recently with marriage rights.

And of course it happened, with great strife and angst, to human rights and civil rights in the 60s. And like many of the above, it is still progressing, slowly, in fits and starts sometimes, but the direction slowly coalesces around a new social understanding, followed by law, followed by a long period of consolidation.

I suspect bullying, both the mental and physical forms, will be like that. You can see the awareness rising, organizations forming, dismay at certain behaviors being focused, as a sense of  what is missing from public and private discourse begins to move toward a new definition of what is no longer acceptable.
It is not new. But it is not immutable. It will change when a large enough number of people are willing to call it out, to hold up a hand and say “that is not acceptable behavior”. When enough people stand up to be counted on an issue, it changes society, because society is US, every one of us, and we have a vote every day, not just every four years. I have witnessed it and see no reason for it not to happen many more times.

If it doesn't happen again and again, we won't be making progress. We stop making progress, and that'll be the end.

Another MNB reader chimed in:

As the US continues to move away from God, we will continue to see more scenes like Pez Candy experienced and experience cruel/crude conduct. Watch the news, watch face book, watch outside your window at peak traffic times, watch how people act on subways – it’s happening everywhere and yes it is disturbing but from what I understand and have been told from folks who travel overseas, it’s worse in other countries that have moved away from God more than the United States.

You can blame it on anything you want to blame it on, but God’s word predicts it. What is really scary is that God destroyed evil societies in the old testament because they were so evil.  I hate to think what those societies were like but know we are headed there again, just not sure how bad it will have to get.

At the risk of getting myself in trouble with some folks, I'd suggest that while I completely understand the point you are making, it is important to remember that even people who do not believe in God or organized religion are capable of behaving like good and decent people, and not being cruel or crude.

At the same time, there are people out there who do believe in God and religion, though probably not yours, and they have corrupted those beliefs into a conviction that barbarism and violence and intolerance will cure all the world's ills.

I'm not worried about any deity destroying our planet because it is so evil. I figure we're doing a pretty good job of it ourselves.

Now, on to more weighty matters...

In writing about how Major League Baseball is finally going to allow the use if iPads in dugouts, I made a gratuitous reference to the National league Champion New York Mets.

Prompting MNB reader Jimmy Ducey to write:

Like any good Braves fan, I hate your Mets. What I do like is your old school loyalty and how you root for them win or lose. Unfortunately my Braves remind me of a business that’s making a big change in how it goes to market.

Sometimes there is some short term pain. So let me be the 1st to say, “Wait ‘til next year”.
Remember, the better the Mets staff pitches the harder it will be to keep them together. Winning is expensive!

Hey, losing is expensive, too. Sometimes more so.

In your case, you quite literally will be waiting until next year, because then you'll have a new stadium.  I'm looking forward to coming down next spring to see it … I've been to almost every MLB ballpark (including Fulton County and Turner Field in Atlanta … it has been a long project!).

Nothing better than a great baseball rivalry.  I've always hated the Braves, but mostly because Chipper would always demolish the Mets, especially at Shea.

From another reader:

I look forward to the day when baseball managers call their bullpens with a cell phone to bring in relief pitchers, instead of picking up the land-line phone in the dugout.

Amazing that this hasn't happened yet.

From MNB reader Kevin Hollenbeck:

I have loved baseball all my life and read your article about technology coming to the dugout.
I have coached my son through little league and them had the pleasure to watch him play in college. So while I consider myself somewhat of a purist, I love this idea and think it is about time.
In fact I think they should make some of this information available to the fans during the games. It would be great to pull up a spray chart of a hitter that a manager is looking at and see how they are pitching that batter or positioning the defense for that particular batter. Or be able to pull up the pitcher match ups against the reserves on the bench to see who you would bring up to bat as a pinch hitter?
One of the criticisms of baseball has been it is a slow game, while defenders of the game will talk about the beauty of the cerebral side of the game. I say baseball should embrace that is a more of a cerebral game but use this technology to allow the average fan to partake in all of the strategy and decision making that happens, pitch to pitch.
Hopefully they will use this to grow their fan base and not just keep it in the dugout.

Of course, if they tell the fans too much, the opposition will have access to it as well. This may be one of the places where too much transparency would not be a good thing...
KC's View: