retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader John Phillips regarding my United Airlines commentary:

I agreed totally with your POV on the United handling of the customer pulled off of the Chicago flight- you made the point (rightly) about how other CEO’s should view this circumstance and make changes so they can avoid a similar issue.

One point I would add to this is that as more corporations outsource certain activities to third party providers (as was the case with United and the people who physically- some would say violently pulled off the customer) it certainly places you at the mercy of how the third party manages the customer interface. Those individuals, who were clearly overzealous in managing this interface with a customer, placed United in an awful situation which resulted in a hit to their brand and likely a 7 figure settlement with this flyer. I will avoid United at all costs in the future based upon the fact that they clearly don’t put the customer first in the way they act and based upon the quality of their product.

MNB reader Chris Utz wrote:

I’ve had poor service with Delta as well.  I had a 6am flight that we had boarded; but the plane just sat.  After a long while the pilot came on and said they were waiting to take a flight crew to Chicago.  We sat there for about 1.5 hours, while 2 other scheduled flights left for Chicago on time.  I guess they only wanted one late plane to report to the FAA.

Another time I had a 6am Delta flight to Houston.  I asked if I could change to DFW, since a client wanted me to do something there.  Delta said they would gladly change destinations, for only $943…  I found a United round trip flight from IAH to DFW for $250 that I could make, so I scheduled it. 

The Delta flight was late “due to weather” which I later found out was mechanical problems.  Delta refused to put me on another carrier, to DFW or IAH.  After about 40 minutes, I heard my name called for a flight to LaGuardia that was ending the boarding process.  I ran to catch it, finally arriving in Houston at 10pm (over 12 hours late).  I had an unbillable day and hotel expense… 

When I called United about the missed flight, they apologized for Delta and changed my flights, at no cost.  Guess who I prefer to fly with; If I absolutely need to fly... 

Delta sent an email a few weeks later, asking how I liked their service from MSP to IAH…  I told them, that in the future, I would try to avoid Delta, if at all possible.  I told them I felt like the passenger in “Airplane” who was trying to hang himself.  Delta sent me 2,500 bonus miles, about a month after the event. 

I took a Business Class flight to Europe last winter which was wonderful.  However, I’m mostly in coach for business travel, where I feel like a sardine, or perhaps cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse.  Considering how we are treated by the airlines and the TSA, I try to avoid air travel if possible.

We had a piece the other day about how outlet malls seems to be succeeding even as a lot of traditional malls are in crisis. Which prompted one MNB reader to write:

Great timing. I found myself at a Tanger outlet mall in Commerce, GA on Sunday. While the access was the worst I have ever seen for anything retail (you had to drive almost 1 miles after getting off of the highway - and they have to lease a giant billboard on a side street pointing people in the right direction), I did take note that the parking lot was mostly full.

After going in to check out an Under Armour golf polo ($65) I decided to check Amazon just for fun. Amazon was selling a variety of golf shirts from $10-40, and would have saved me the time/trouble of getting in and out of that mall. I left the center feeling that retail was in serious trouble - and I am surprised to read this report today. It will certainly be interesting to see if they can continue to grow sales while many retailers struggle.

Proving that pretty much everyone is susceptible to disruption.

On another subject, from another reader:

Strikes me that Kroger is a more likely acquirer of Whole Foods than Amazon, and from the outside it seems that Kroger and WFM are in a long term romance.  Weren't there rumors of a possible merger 2 years ago?  And 6 months ago, WFM said it would utilize Dunnhumby to analyze customer data and category trends.  And more recently, a Harris Teeter exec is being considered for the board.  It just seems that Kroger is much more likely to launch a takeover than any other retailer.  Maybe it's a situation where the people who know aren't talking???
KC's View: