retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On Tuesday, in this section, we carried an email from an MNB reader who wanted to comment on food labeling lawsuits. It said:

It was said that John Edwards, the infamous running mate of John Kerry, was responsible for driving up the cost of every prescription in the US by $1.00. His ambulance chasing tactics and ultimate lawsuits were simply added to the cost of doing business. Americans have long been consuming wood chips, chemicals, fillers, rat feces, bugs, dirt, hair and many other tastefully sounding things in their food for years. I for one could care less what additives are in our food, if I like it I will eat it. There is no denying that we have the safest food supply in the world and the lawyers will not be happy until it’s the most expensive.

I responded, in part:

I want to be clear about something here. While the reader who sent this email signed his name, and I could've used it, I've decided not to ...because this person works in the bakery business. I didn't think it would do him - or his company - any good if he gets quoted as saying that he doesn't care what's in his food - including "wood chips, chemicals, fillers, rat feces, bugs, dirt, hair" - as long as it taste good. (I suspect that his company's official position may be somewhat different.)

I got another email from him yesterday:

I must have hit a nerve with you. Being threatened to use additional information about me shows me more about your character than your content. Nowhere in my email did I state anything other than my views, and I purposely used the word “I” in my description of the situation. I will be happy to continue to provide you content but from my personal account in the future.

Well, you've hit a nerve now.

Let me be clear.

There was no threat involved.  Not at all.  For 15 years I have been assiduous about making sure that people - not companies - being identified, and then only when they wanted to be.  I only list companies when the person writing in makes a company-related point that is "official" in nature.  In fact, I will often not use names of people who write in … even when they've signed the email … if I think it might create problems for them at work or with customers/clients.  My goal is to protect my readers as best I can, not to victimize them for sharing their honest opinions.

In fact, this is what happened in your case.  I didn't use your name - though I've used it before when you've written in - because I didn't want your customers (or competitors) to be able to link your company to your comments.  That didn't mean that I could not comment on the irony of what you said … but let's be clear - there was no threat involved.  Not stated, nor implied.  And to suggest otherwise is B.S.

We got a lot of email responding to Kate McMahon's column about companies having to take stands on cultural issues, whether they want to or not.

One MNB user wrote:

Thanks for reminding me about the Target Boycott.  I have 8 daughters that twice in recent months have had to flee public restrooms where policies similar to Target’s are in place.  In both cases a male entered and used the women’s restroom (strange how my girls no longer enjoy deference or “rights” in this scenario).  After your reading your pro-Target-policy article, I straightway went to the AFA site to add my signature to the boycott.  I don’t expect to be understood, but I do intend to do my part to protect our society’s women and young girls.  Additionally, I find myself obliged to align to God Almighty’s obvious design specifications versus our increasingly godless social, political, and now commercial dictates.  Thanks again for the reminder.

We aim to inspire. And frankly, anyone with eight kids deserves enormous admiration.

However, I would point out that a man entering the ladies room is different from a transgender person using the rest room that coincides with their gender identity rather than birth gender. Just not the same thing.

Another MNB user wrote:

Target was pandering and nothing will get you in more trouble than that. Try honesty. It works.

Let me gently suggest that your email is based on the premise that Target was pandering, and that the North Carolina politicians who passed the law were not, but rather just were voting in a sincere, non-political way. Which could be true. However, it also is possible that the opposite is true - that the politicians were the ones doing the pandering. It even is possible that everybody is pandering.

I just think it is important to remember that it isn't only the people with whom we disagree that are pandering and insincere, and the people with whom we agree that are motivated by the purest of intentions.

At one point in her piece, Kate wrote:

Target's bet was that a message of anti-discrimination - that bias based on sex, race, age, religion, disability, sexual preference or gender identity is illegal and morally wrong - would be the one that is most resonant and most relevant to the majority of its customers, and that this majority only would grow.

Leading one MNB user to write:

Good piece but I would suggest using the term sexual orientation rather than sexual preference.

You're absolutely right.
KC's View: