retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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: