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    Published on: May 26, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    Somehow it is appropriate that I missed pointing out yesterday that it was the 40th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Wars, which now is known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

    I think I may have told this story before, but for those of you who missed it ... I was a senior at Loyola Marymount University in 1977, studying film and writing movie reviews for the campus newspaper. Because LMU is in Los Angeles, I used to get invited to studio previews all the time ... and one day I got an invitation for a new science fiction movie that starred a bunch of unknowns and, for some reason, Alec Guinness. It looked impossibly cheesy, and so I declined the invitation. The movie, of course, was Star Wars ... and I ended up having to wait on line like everyone else to see at some theater in Westwood.

    It was, however, a good lesson that sometimes it is important to look beyond the obvious. Even then, I was experiencing Eye-Openers.

    There were a lot of stories yesterday about the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, but one of my favorites was on Salon, which marked the occasion by writing about another film that was released a month after - Sorcerer.

    Sorcerer was directed by William Friedkin, who was coming off the major hits The French Connection and The Exorcist. It starred Roy Scheider, a big star who had been in French Connection as well as Jaws and Marathon Man. And most experts expected that Sorcerer - a gritty, intense film based on the French film The Wages of Fear, about four men transporting nitroglycerin by truck through the South American jungle - would be the summer's big hit and probably a classic.

    Except that didn't happen. It is a pretty good bet that you've never seen Sorcerer, because it was a major disappointment. Audiences avoided it, and critics were not enthusiastic. While I actually like it a lot, and many critics have since reassessed it and found it to be an impressive piece of work, one of the things that became evident during the summer of 1977 was that Star Wars was in synch with the zeitgeist, and Sorcerer wasn't. Friedkin's career never really recovered, and Star Wars went on to spawn more movies, TV shows, and countless toys and other forms of licensed merchandise ... and marked a shift in Hollywood's approach to moviemaking, away from the auteur movement of the sixties and early seventies and toward spectacle and special effects movies that would have big opening weekends.

    Nobody expected it, but the business was fundamentally disrupted.

    That's an important lesson, and itself an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    Politico is reporting that Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives have decided to "drop language from a sweeping bank deregulation bill that would have eliminated a cap on debit card swipe fees, handing a major victory to retail lobbyists who spent months trying to kill the provision."

    The language was included in the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which Politico describes as "a sweeping bank deregulation bill" the passage of which has been a major priority for the GOP-dominated Congress.

    Politico writes: "GOP leaders decided to remove the proposal from the nearly 600-page Financial CHOICE Act after confirming Wednesday that it threatened support for the rest of the bill, multiple senior Republican sources familiar with the matter said ... The issue forced lawmakers to choose between the banks, which wanted to repeal the regulation from Dodd-Frank, and retailers, which were fighting to keep it alive. Both sides claimed billions of dollars were at stake, and in the end, the banks lost."

    In a statement released immediately after the decision was made public, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) president/CEO Leslie Sarasin said, ""We are thrilled to hear that the House of Representatives decided to maintain the pro-competitive debit reforms that have provided enhanced competition and lower prices since they were enacted in 2010. We are grateful to the many members of Congress who listened intently to their constituents about an incredibly complicated subject - routing and competition in debit card transactions - and understood that competition is critical, that the reforms are working and that they should be maintained."

    And Politico quotes Austen Jensen, vice president for government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, as saying that the decision should "finally put to rest any more efforts to repeal the debit reforms."
    KC's View:
    Good. I've maintained from the beginning that this was a battle of Main Street vs. Wall Street, and that there was absolutely no reason to side with the banks.

    The only thing I disagree with is the notion that this will "put to rest any more efforts to repeal the debit reforms." There are a lot of lobbyists for the financial services industry who have to justify their paychecks and expense accounts, and I would guess that even now they're strategizing about how to best revisit this issue.

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    Bloomberg reports that after several months of beta testing, Amazon has opened two AmazonFresh pickup locations to the general public in Seattle.

    One of them is in Ballard, a neighborhood in the northwestern part of the city; the other is in the Sodo neighborhood, quite literally in the shadow of Starbucks headquarters with easy access to the West Seattle Bridge.

    AmazonFresh Pickup is now available to Amazon Prime members who are paying an annual fee of $99 a year; it allows these members to order products online and pick them up at the locations in as little as 15 minutes.

    KC's View:
    It was to be expected that the AmazonFresh Pickup locations would open before Amazon Go, the company's checkout-free store that also is in beta test in Seattle. For the record, Amazon tested click-and-collect a long time ago, but I suspect this time it will be more successful, if only because time and consumer trends have caught up with Amazon's vision.

    If this works, it'll be interesting to see how Amazon rolls it out. I'm confident that they have a detailed plan for roll-out ... they're just waiting for the word.

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Markets said this week that it is expanding on the DLM Drive-Up click-and-collect service that it introduced earlier this year with a new delivery service that, along with a new and enhanced website, it is operating itself.

    "Earlier this year, our goal was to improve the overall experience of our online grocery shopping service. Now, we’re ready to move forward by enhancing the convenience factor even more,” said Patrick Arnold, DLM’s IT Director.

    According to the company, all grocery orders will be shopped from the DLM Washington Square location for both the curbside and delivery options; click-and-collect is available seven days a week, while delivery only is available on weekdays for the moment. There is a $5.99 Shoppers Fee applied to every order placed via For delivery, an additional $9.99 will be applied.
    KC's View:
    The thing that I admire so much about DLM is the fact that they understand the importance of controlling the entire process as much as possible; they know that their brand equity and value proposition are tied to being both different and better than everybody else, and that abdicating the company's role at any level would risk the critical and intimate connection it has with its shoppers.

    The folks at Dorothy Lane Market get it.

    Not everybody would do this, and not everybody can do this. But I do think that every company needs to think about this, and determine the places where it needs to be involved and where it does not. To me, picking and delivery are places where the store needs to participate, not outsource ... because this is where the store (if it is any good at all) ought to have differentiated expertise.

    Of course, if there is no differentiated expertise, maybe it doesn't really matter who picks and delivers product.

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is out with its annual industry survey, concluding that the organic sector "stayed on its upward trajectory in 2016, gaining new market share and shattering records, as consumers across the United States ate and used more organic products than ever before."

    According to the survey, "Organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in 2016, reflecting new sales of almost $3.7 billion from the previous year. The $43 billion in organic food sales marked the first time the American organic food market has broken though the $40-billion mark. Organic food now accounts for more than five percent -- 5.3 percent to be exact -- of total food sales in this country, another significant first for organic.

    "Organic food sales increased by 8.4 percent, or $3.3 billion, from the previous year, blowing past the stagnant 0.6 percent growth rate in the overall food market. Sales of organic non-food products were up 8.8% in 2016, also handily surpassing the overall non-food growth rate of 0.8 percent."

    And: "The $15.6-billion organic fruits and vegetables sector held onto its position as the largest of the organic food categories, accounting for almost 40 percent of all organic food sales. Posting an 8.4 percent growth rate, almost triple the 3.3 percent growth pace of total fruit and vegetable sales, organic fruits and vegetables now make up almost 15 percent of the produce that Americans eat."

    The survey also suggests that "organic is creating jobs. More than 60 percent of all organic businesses with more than 5 employees reported an increase of full-time employment during 2016, and said they planned to continue boosting their full-time work staff in 2017."
    KC's View:
    Ironically, the fact that organic has become such big business and continues to grow is one of the things that has hurt Whole Foods, which was one of the early proponents of the segment. More people want it, and so more stores offer it, and new companies get into the category. Which closes the window a little bit on where Whole Foods can effectively communicate its value proposition and differentiated advantage.

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    Earlier this month, we had a discussion here on MNB about the decision by the federal government to downgrade support for healthier school lunch programs, with some supporting the government's premise that kids don't like or eat healthy food, so it is better to give them less nutritious food that they actually will eat. Others disagreed. (I would be one of those - I think it is good public policy to, if you're going to provide meals in schools, to make sure that they are as healthy as possible and use it not just as an opportunity to feed kids, but also educate them.)

    Now, Yes! magazine has a story about the Oakland Unified School District in California, where for five years they have been "serving less meat and adding more fruits and vegetables."

    Yes! says that a new before-and-after study about the initiative "by the environmental nonprofit, Friends of the Earth (FOE), found that the district’s Farm to School initiative not only provided its 48,000 or so students with access to healthier foods, but that between 2012 and 2015 its overall food costs declined and its carbon footprint shrank. What’s more, kids are loving their new lunch choices. OUSD is drawing praise from environmental organizations, and other districts are seeing it as an example for how they can serve more organic meals, made from scratch."

    Close to three-quarters of the district's students - in more than 100 schools - qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches.

    The Yes! story goes on: "To cut down on the use as well as the cost of meat, they began serving a vegetarian menu once a week. On other days, they reduce meat usage by 30 percent, while also serving more fruits and vegetables. To meet the protein requirements in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition standards for school meals, they pair higher quality meats with a 10 percent increase in legumes ... The lunch menu in OUSD schools transformed from a smorgasbord of processed foods to local, organic options. School cooks season and roast antibiotic-free chicken in-house, instead of heating up pre-cooked drumsticks. They also substitute frozen vegetables with fresh sides, like carrot salads made from scratch."
    KC's View:
    Thanks to MNB reader Claire Tenscher, who sent me this article ... I agree with her, and the study's conclusions, that healthier food is not necessarily more expensive, and can be prepared in a way that will both appeal to kids as well as educate them about nutrition issues.

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    • Delivery service Instacart said yesterday that it is expanding into the Knoxville, Tennessee, market, with residents in 28 zip codes able to order from retailers that include Publix, Whole Foods Market, Petco, Costco and Kroger.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    We had a story yesterday about a woman who screamed racist obscenities at a Walmart, getting national attention on social media.

    It promoted MNB reader Hy Louis to write:

    I have had to encounter racism or what had appeared to be racism many times.  It is my opinion that racist people don't say offensive words to people when confronting them out shopping or wherever.  We all know that kind of confrontation could result in personal harm. Or things like being banned from Walmart.

    I've had a lot of experience with the mentally ill and usually these racial outbursts are something beyond their control.  Many with bipolar or turrets will often use offensive racist language. My elderly grandmother in a nursing home, who never expressed any racist behavior, suddenly was using some of the most offensive racist names toward her caregivers.  Then the next day she praised the caregivers and being so wonderful and then calling me names.  Posting these videos of the mentally ill on social media panders to uneducated people.  Usually young people who have not had a lot of experience dealing with the mentally ill.  They just assume these people are horrible racists and bigots.

    I have been called some very offensive names only to have another person pull me aside, apologize, and explain that the person had not taken their medication.  At least you did acknowledge that these offenders could be " emotionally disturbed."  I'm guessing 90% are and that shaming them on social media is wrong. I am hurt that you would encourage shaming these people,  calling them shameless, and "that on balance, this is a good thing."  To me this is no different that going into a nursing home and filming the senile rambling on when enraged and then labeling them shameless.

    Fair points. Though I do think that not everyone who is acting in a racist manner can claim mental illness as an excuse.

    The story yesterday about some organizational changes at Target quoted a memo saying that vendors will "be contacted by your current Target business leader to discuss any changes in how we will interact with you as a business partner, including new contacts, if applicable."

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    “Partner” - code for "it is going to cost you more money to do business with us."

    Loved this email from MNB reader Chris Grathwohl:

    Your columns often engage readers to widen their perspective, and lately your theme has been how important it is to avoid over-generalization.

    This morning I cite an example from the movie Sully, which I watched on HBO On Demand last night – a first for me who is admittedly behind the times in that I watch live TV more than most.

    The scene in the movie is an interrogation of the pilots by the NTSB.  The NTSB agent opens the proceedings with a comment about the flight crashing in to the Hudson River.  Sully quickly interrupts with a correction – “Landing.  We did not crash the plane in the Hudson; we landed it in the Hudson.”  He was clearly offended by the generalization that the only place a plane could land was on pavement.

    If this movie had been out before your book was published, I’m sure you would have found a business lesson or two within.

    Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) had some thoughts about Kate McMahon's "C-Story" column this week:

    Your headline (“C-story”) and the content perfectly captures  the success of the convenience and fuels retailing industry. I took a business-related road trip yesterday and visited c-stores for both breakfast and lunch. Both places had healthy options and both were delicious. They certainly fit the headline of The New York Times feature on our industry a few months back: “Gastronomy stations.”

    But what stores sell is only part of how they ultimately define success: they also have to tell their story, or in our case, their “c-story,” about how they improve lives and are part of the community. Our reFresh initiative focuses on sharing our industry’s story about both the food they sell and the communities they serve. Thanks for sharing your “c-story” about how our industry can both adapt to change and lead trends.
    It’s also worth noting that Wawa has previous connections to the nation’s capital well before it announced it will open stores in Washington, DC. Back in the 1830s, nearly a century before c-stores even existed, the company had a number of business interests and contracted a young attorney from Springfield, IL, to help with some delinquent accounts. Wawa still has the correspondence between the company and one Abraham Lincoln on display in its headquarters. Honest!

    Kate's column noted that both Wawa and Wegmans will be opening stores in Washington, DC, and suggested that this could be considered a 'Trump bump."

    One MNB reader wrote:

    It's gratuitous to attribute Wegmans or Wawa's interest in entering the DC market to the election of President Trump.  As a center city, DC's population has been growing for many years.  Wegmans has been considering entry into the DC market for at least 6 years, first at the redeveloping Walter Reed hospital campus, and now on Wisconsin Ave.  (The Wisconsin Ave. location has better demographics and is not isolated in the same way the WRMC campus is, plus Wegmans has dealt with that developer before--it happens that Wegmans committed to the same developer team for the WRMC bid, but that developer was not picked.)  

    Can't say why Wawa is interested in entering DC.  They have locations in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs and may see some advantages to extending their brand presence into the city.  I doubt it has much to do with Trump.  DC isn't a particularly noteworthy town for convenience stores, 7-11 is the predominate firm, but most of the stores are pretty ordinary, not anywhere near a new urban-market oriented store.  As for gasoline sales, for the most part the DC market is controlled by one distributor, and the gas station footprint is shrinking as sites are redeveloped into multistory properties.

    Myself, I am a fan of the upscale Parker's store in the Savannah Historic District.  It's a one-off store, super cool, the recently renovated store was just featured in Convenience Store News.  Wawa and Sheetz are nice and in the Baltimore market I like Royal Farms, especially their fried potato wedges, but none compare to Parkers.

    For the record ... the "Trump bump" line was a joke.

    So...yesterday's FaceTime concerned an encounter I had last weekend at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, where an usher at the ballgame thought I was old enough to be offered the opportunity to move out of the sun and into the shade. I didn't say anything because I knew she was just trying to be nice, but it sort of bothered me ... and it made me think about the danger sometimes about generalizing about customers.

    It also, I guess, made me sensitive about my age ... though I didn't realize it. However, a bunch of MNB readers did, and they made their feelings known.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Just read your Thursday 'Throwing Shade' commentary.  All I can say Kevin is that you really need to learn how to relax.  I've been reading your blog from day one and over the more recent years I have noticed as you have gotten older you have definitely become more grumpy and irritable.  In fact, they have a name for this - IMS, or "irritable male syndrome".   Unfortunately, you are showing all the symptoms.

    Please Kevin, take some time off and try to learn how to relax. It will do you, and your readers, a world of help.

    Another reader wrote:

    OK - Help me understand here...

    Someone makes a nice gesture, and you feel slighted because you were included with a group of "older" folks who were presented with the offer - Why? Because you don't want to be "considered" as a member of this group?

    I see this as a growing problem in todays society - everyone is so "sensitive" that a simple offer can now be interpreted as being somehow offensive. This effectively removes the term "random act of kindness" from existence. Suppose you drop your billfold on the ground, a stranger stops to pick it up and return it. By this logic, you will be offended by the gesture because they assumed you were unable to retrieve it yourself. Same scenario, same logic.

    Here's a suggestion - stop worrying so much about someone's intent or motive, stop taking everything as a personal slight, and simply say thank you for thinking about you and your welfare.

    It's OK to accept someone's act of kindness as "an act of kindness".  If this young lady would have had considered your point of view, she probably wouldn't have made the "offending" offer. Which, by the way, makes you just as guilty, because you assume everyone else who was asked was also offended by her "generalization".

    MNB reader Paul Miller wrote:

    In your opening you admit your age of 62, you admit you're even graying (a little) and that it all doesn’t matter to you because “I am who I am”.  Then you are upset when someone else offers you something nice (shade on a hot sunny day) based on your appearance of age.     Are you sure you ok with “I am who I am”?  in other words, I know I am getting older (I did not say ancient, decrepit, or incapable of taking care of myself) but it hurts if someone else views me this way.
    I guess this the world we live in today.  The Boomer/Gen X generations don’t want to be viewed as old, tired and needing assistance and the younger generation (Millennials) doesn’t want to be viewed as uniformed, lazy, ribbon getting participants.

    MNB reader Deb Faragher wrote:

    I recommend you save your sanity and avoid Publix. It seems they offer everyone assistance to their cars—regardless of age. Hmmm, or maybe I look older than I thought and it isn’t everyone! I’ll have to check it out next time.

    MNB reader Scott Dissinger wrote:

    I think you were just a little too thin skinned – which is a cross generation problem today on a lot of issues – if I can generalize?

    MNB reader Brian DeLonjay wrote:

    The Braves' Usher and what they are doing isn’t the problem, it’s your vanity! Remember, vanity is the constant enemy of our dignity.

    MNB reader Timothy Heyman wrote:

    When I hit 50, I started to receive AARP materials and enticement to join, laughed about it etc.

    When I hit 60 a few months ago, now I’m getting all kind of offers from funeral homes, not so funny, screw ‘em I plan to live to I hit 100.

    MNB reader Jeff Bentel wrote:

    You surprised me on this one. What is wrong with an usher asking an older person if they want to move to the shade? I'm only 2 years older than you and would have been ecstatic if an usher asked me to move in the shade. There will come a day my friend that you will write that someone didn't offer to reseat you, carry your groceries to the car, or open the door for you and you'll wonder why they missed an opportunity to help the elderly. I just hope that as we continue to age that people will offer help to us old folks.

    Another MNB reader put it succinctly:

    Grumpy old man.

    And, from MNB reader Chris Weisert:

    I struggle with why we cannot take things as we know they were intended?

    I think that pretty much covers all the emails on this subject that I got yesterday.

    To be clear, I said the usher was nice. To be honest, I was really sort of making fun of myself and my own (unexpected) sensitivity, while trying to make a point about generalizations. The commentary was meant to be lighthearted.

    I guess this was a swing and a miss.

    Oh, well. My kids always tell me that I'm only half as funny as I think I am. I guess they're right. Again.

    I also learned something about myself ... I am, apparently, getting grumpy and irritable.

    I'll have to do something about that. In the meantime, I have to shoo some kids off my lawn.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    One of the nicer moments of every spring is when a big box arrives from Carlton Cellars, the lovely Willamette Valley winery that is owned by friends of mine - Dave Grooters and Robin Russell - and where I am a member of the wine club.

    That box is always filled with wonderful bottles of wine that get me ready for the warm weather and spiritually prepare me for my annual summer adjunctivity at Portland State University. It's not that I need to be prepared, but it is nicer with wine.

    The box came a week or so ago, and so far we've enjoyed two of them ... the 2016 Auxerrois Reserve, which is a kind of sibling to Chardonnay that comes from a grape that originated in Alsace (which happens to be where one wing of the Coupe family originated) ... and the 2015 Pinot Blanc. We enjoyed the Auxerrois with a spicy shrimp-and-pasta dish, and the Pinot Blanc with Chinese food, but I think they'd both be great with pretty much anything, or by themselves.

    I'll have to get more when I get to Oregon. You can get them by going here.

    As I mentioned yesterday, I had the opportunity last weekend to attend the Atlanta Braves-Washington Nationals game at the new SunTrust Park in Atlanta. It was a way of once again being able to say that I've been to every major league ballpark ... I achieved this longtime goal last fall when on one weekend I managed to attend games in both Miami and Tampa, the two stadiums that I'd missed. But then, the Braves moved to a new ballpark in the suburbs, 10 miles from downtown, and the game once again was afoot.

    I'd give SunTrust mixed reviews. The park itself is nicely designed with good sight-lines, though it loses points for not being able to walk the entire circumference of the ballpark and always see the field. The hot dogs were great (with delicious onions as a topping), and the beer extremely cold - and neither was as expensive as they can be in such ballparks. The out-of-town scoreboard was very good, for the most part - there were some score glitches, but most of the time it had every game being played that day. (This is a big deal for me.)

    So that was all good.

    I wasn't nuts about the location, to be honest - I like ballparks where you can walk there from downtown. But when we passed Turner Field, where the Braves played for less than two decades before decamping for the 'burbs, I realized that it was not as close to downtown as I'd remembered, so maybe it isn't as big a deal as I thought. And I really like what the Braves have done with the plaza outside the stadium, where there are lots of restaurants and pubs and soon-to-be-opened retail shops; it sort of reminded me of Patriot Place, in Foxboro, and should be a magnet for locals and tourists.

    I'd rank SunTrust somewhere in the middle - it wasn't memorable enough to make my top ten, but a lot better than the ballparks that were in the bottom ten. I'm still working out the specifics, but I'd certainly go back. It was good fun.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 26, 2017

    Monday is celebrated as Memorial Day here in the US, and is a national holiday ... which means that MNB will not be posted.

    One other note. We have an out-of-town family wedding this weekend, and our travel back will make it next to impossible to post MNB on Tuesday morning. And so, MNB will take a four-day weekend, and will be back next Wednesday.

    Have a great weekend.

    KC's View: