retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday’s story about how Whole Foods has benefitted from Amazon ownership, including increased traffic, one MNB reader wrote:

I believe It’s curiosity... and possibly prime members. But WFM has become just another grocery chain . Selection is shrinking; they are losing their Whole Foods’ core customer, the hard core natural / organic upper income , willing to try new things. I used to shop weekly or more for my family; now it’s a rare quick trip for 1-2 items..... haven’t set food in one for 3 months. Who won our weekly / twice weekly business? Sprouts. They have their act together - we are enjoying trying their private label “ everything” and they’ve expanded their selection to include many of our favorite items- that Whole Foods discontinued!

MNB reader Tom Murphy chimed in:

I would submit that the following quote from the article helps portent Amazon's next steps: "...Whole Foods is a niche, urban chain with only about 470 stores and little overlap with Walmart’s 4,000-plus stores and Kroger’s almost 2,800 locations that are mostly located in suburban markets."

Once Amazon feels comfortable with the Whole Foods experiment, they won't settle for missing out on the suburban markets owned by any of its competition.




We took note yesterday of a Wall Street Journal story about how baby boomers are “particularly self-conscious” about the words used to describe them, and different people feel differently about different words, which they see as labels.

One anecdote:

I had to shake my head a little ruefully when I read this story; it seemed so emblematic of what’s wrong about the culture in general and my generation in particular. We’re more concerned about what we’re called and how we’re defined by others than who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

I have to admit that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. The other day I was out jogging, and there was a young fellow walking several dogs in the opposite direction. I said, “Good morning” (I’m a friendly guy), and he looked at me and responded, “Good morning, sir.”

“Sir?” When did that happen?

I got over it, though. I’ve had to, since I’ve noticed that I get called “sir” more and more lately. I had to make a decision - be offended by it, or just realize that people are just trying to be polite. The latter seems like a far better way to go.


One MNB reader wrote:

I have to take issue with your dislike of the title, "sir".
 
Let me preempt my comments with some background. I was never in the military, nor was I raised in the south where etiquette and decorum seem to be prioritized. I was, however, raised to be respectful of all, and, as a child, respectful of my elders. This usually warranted addressing them as Mr. or Mrs..
 
As to the title, "sir", maybe this comes from 45 years of frontline retail, but, no matter age, I address every man as "Sir" and every woman as "Ma'am". If there's more than one, it's "Gentlemen" and "Ladies", as in, "May I help you, Gentlemen?" But I also address everyone the same way no matter which side of the counter I'm on. If I'm at the convenience store buying a pack of smokes from some 16 year old punk behind the counter, it's still, "Good afternoon, sir", "May I please have.....sir", and "Thank you, sir." From my point of view, it's general civility and respect. I'm no better than he, he's no better than I, even though, one is serving, the other one is being served.
 
Me thinks that you're too sensitive about your age.


From another reader:

I actually don’t think human nature has changed at all, notwithstanding longer life expectancy. I would guess a 40-year old 100 years ago would be shocked the first time he’s called ’sir’. We’ve all locked in our self-image at our charming and irresistible 25 year-old selves (guys particularly … guys in bars particularly) and are shocked when those inconvenient other people call it like they see it. Which we then ignore anyway.

What has changed is more aggressive marketing to ‘seniors’, and the youth-oriented culture trying to force us to act (or at least look) younger and younger. Seen any Country Time Lemonade or Bartles & Jaymes ads with old dudes hanging out on the porch? Didn’t think so. With apologies to Yogi Berra, seniors are younger than ever these days.

Other than ‘do these jeans make my backside seem large?’ (ably defused by the depiction of Mrs Incredible), no area seems as fraught as what to call seniors. The terminology and age range is all over the place. I do think that in general, positioning products and services as helpful to active people will be better accepted going forward than the ‘welcome to God’s waiting room, here’s your rocking chair’ approach.

Personal favorite: getting a ‘Wisdom’ discount at a hotel (15%)!. Least favorite experience: getting the squint from the counter person at McDonald’s, who makes the internal calculation and gives me the senior discount on coffee. I made her charge me full price.


MNB reader Georganne Bender wrote:

I’m still good with Baby Boomer, I’m not sure how I would respond if someone called me Perennial.” “Vintage” or “Golden ager”. It’s tough enough getting used to “Ma’am”.

A couple of weeks ago we tweeted something about Millennials. One came back and said they prefer now to be called “Young Adults.”

You’re right, the words used to describe us do matter.


One way in which the world has changed in terms of how people age was illustrated recently in a meme pointing out that Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Fallout is five years older than Wilford Brimley was in Cocoon.



On the subject of Walmart’s decision to claim products are out of stock when they’re actually just to expensive to deliver to online customers, one MNB reader wrote:

Years ago UPS would not deliver a package, when I inquire about it I was told by the UPS representative the shipper required a signature.  I thought that was odd since REI never required that before so I called the REI and asked them why they needed a signature for a $7.00 item, they told me they didn't  ask for a signature.  It must have been a new or relief driver since at the time I left my front door unlocked and the regular driver just open the door and slide the package in the house.  This happened to me several times with UPS always stating the shippers require a signature and in each time that was not the case.  To this day if I have a choice, I would use FedEx or USPS since I have lost trust in UPS because they lied to me on more than one occasion.



Finally, responding to Michael Sansolo’s column about how email is out and texting is in, MNB reader David Spawn wrote:

Based on the number of texting solicitations I received in the past week (at least 25% of the texts I received).  Maybe it’s more personal for some, but I have to hope there’s a spam text folder that I can figure out soon.
KC's View: