Published on: December 3, 2018
I keep railing against companies where senior execs manage to walk away from disasters without feeling pain, even getting bonuses, while front line employees get screwed.
MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:Years ago there was a solution for companies that lined the pockets of their managers at the expense of their employees…it was called unionization! Now, even though I am liberal, I am not a big fan of unions as they tend to create an us vs. them mentality that stifles innovation, productivity and competitiveness. IMHO, this is was killed the auto industry and destroyed Detroit. However, I have worked for several unionized companies myself (only once being in the IBEW as a young computer programmer for a public utility). In general, corporations that have unions generally deserve them…for either past or current reasons.
We need a new corporate structure that makes both manages and employees partners in the success of the company…oh wait, isn’t that profit sharing and employee ownership?
Regarding retailers that no longer take cash, one MNB reader wrote:I was at a banking seminar and the question was asked about the demise of cash. The speaker immediately responded with a quick “NO”. When pressed for an explanation, the rational was “there will always be a need for anonymous transactions. We exchange goods/services for cash. No records, no trail of any type.” Rather spooky but real world nevertheless.
Oh, good. Monetary policy is being dictated by lobbyists and the Sopranos.
MNB reader Mark Phillips wrote:Interesting (and not that surprising really) article on more and more retailers not accepting cash. I ALWAYS carry some cash, because there are inevitably some establishments that I have a “sixth sense” about the security of their card processing equipment. Regardless of government mandates for requiring chip processing, have you ever noticed the irregularities of the equipment itself and the practices merchants use to “authorize” your identity? Almost laughable. Some have virtually none, some want your ID, some have you sign while others don’t, etc. Lastly, I was (almost) shocked when I noticed a transaction that still inscribed my actual credit card number (allegedly banned years ago) on an independent restaurant receipt. I crossed it out, sought out the owner and advised him to update his equipment or face a big fine. And told myself I should have used cash, which I’m sure HE would have preferred anyway!
We had a story last week about how bankrupt Sears has identified 505 store locations that it would like to sell as a group next year, which would help it reduce debt and costs and find a path to some sort of survival; it also is hoping for rent reductions from sympathetic landlords.
I commented:Good luck, especially selling them in one fell swoop. I would imagine that there is a lot of distressed real estate in this group, in part because Sears has driven the value of the stores into the ground through mismanagement and incompetence, and in part because the whole mall business model is facing nine miles of bad road anyway.
One MNB reader responded:Have you thought of this- maybe a REIT buys the whole lot, seeing they see that Sears has driven the value down, and with their expertise they can make a nice return on a “good buy” and spruce up the properties?
They still have to deal with the problem of malls become distressed properties in general.
On an other subject, from MNB reader Tim McGuire:The idea that “we shouldn’t do anything about climate change because other countries aren’t doing enough” is equivalent to being in a leaky lifeboat and refusing to bail the water out of the boat because there are other passengers who aren’t bailing the way you think they should. You may feel justified in doing nothing but you’re still going to drown.
MNB reader Glenn Cantor has a suggestion for CVS, now that it has acquired Aetna:Provide in-store or web-site based live video feeds to Aetna customer service reps who can provide health insurance answers. Be part of the solution.
I had a piece the other day about a new marijuana delivery service that is cropping up, promoting one MNB reader to write:“Big business, high hopes, and definitely an Eye-Opener.” “High” hopes? Pun intended?
I have images in my head of what the delivery vehicles might look like…similar to Domino’s or the Bug Zapper guy…It will be interesting to see whether they go discreet worrying about reactions from the general public, or whether they cater to their target market…
We’ve had a couple of pieces recently about what we called “an ongoing and pitched battle taking place in Oregon over the legitimacy of a wine brand that claims to be from the Willamette Valley, but is not. Now, federal regulators have ruled in favor of Oregon winemakers seeking to defend their terroir
The wines in question were made and bottled by Copper Cane in Rutherford, California, with a label saying that the source of the grapes was “the Willamette region of Oregon’s coastal range.” The clear implication was that this was a pinot noir from the Willamette Valley, which it was at the very least questionable.
When this claim was questioned by Jim Bernau, founder and principal owner of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Copper Cane owner Joe Wagner’s response was to file a petition “to rescind Willamette Valley Vineyard’s nearly 40-year-old trademark” and claim that Willamette was now “a winemaking region, and were no longer worthy of a trademark.”
Now, Wine Spectator
reports that “Wagner can no longer reference specific Oregon appellations on his Oregon wine labels. That's according to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which has pulled its earlier label approval for Wagner's Elouan and Willametter Journal Pinot Noirs. The wines, which are made with Oregon grapes but produced in California, have been mired in controversy over their use of Oregon's appellations, or American Viticultural Areas (AVA), on their labels and packaging.” The move essentially reinforces federal labeling rules requiring “that a wine must be produced in Oregon in order for it to display one of Oregon's viticultural areas on the label. Wines produced in neighboring states may only use the broader Oregon designation.”
MNB reader Katianna Sokol responded:I often read your MorningNewsBeat and it has proved quite enlightening. As someone relatively new to the agriculture world, it has helped me learn some of the nuances of the happenings in the industry. I did have a few thoughts, however on this Oregon Vintner’s lawsuit.
My gut reaction was that the ruling was, in simple terms, unfair. While I recognize the desire for transparency and honesty, the grapes, as your share, are in fact *grown* in Oregon. While winemakers do have influence on the product through their decisions of yeasts, additives, etc, wine drinkers know that the earth in which the grapes grew, the climate in the area, and the overall grape growing experience often hold the heaviest weight in a wine’s ultimate palate.
There are a multitude of wineries that, for one reason or another, send out grapes to be custom crushed elsewhere. I do not think that noting where the grapes were grown is a lie—even a white one.
That being said, I have not delved deep in the lawsuit and its workings, and I have a majority of my experience with wineries in Washington and California, so I am of course open to hearing how my instinct could be misdirected. Regardless, I thought it was worth reaching out.
MNBB reader Greg Steven disagreed:Totally agree with your assertions, and appreciate the outcome … Labeling in the US is a hypocrisy. We claim China steals our technology IP, yet we steal everyone else’s food IP, or allow inordinate number of fake products into our stores.
As a consumer I want to find something I like and be able to trust that it is what it is, and that other products made the same way or in the same region, will likely follow suit. It’s for convenience. It’s because I appreciate the farmer who prunes his vines, limits his yield, and doesn’t manipulate his wines. It’s because I don’t want Gallo to be the only producer. I don’t want to be duped into buying a knock off product that emulates the real thing.
Labels, accuracy, and…. Tradition/terrior/quality… matter.
On another subject, from another reader:I enjoyed the piece about Sierra Nevada’s new beer to help those hurt by the fire. My household is located in Asheville, NC and one of my roommates works for SN at their second location in Mills River. He told me that a large portion of employees that work at the original location lost their homes in the fire. This is more than just a story about a company donating money to a cause, it’s about a company that values the lives of its employees and other people in the community. This will likely make a lot of people SN drinkers for life.
And, another observation, from MNB reader Steve Workman:Your piece on phone booths made me recall the Outdoor retailer Show in Utah few years back. It was the last show in Salt Lake after a 23 year run. If you recall, the Industry rebelled against the removal of Historical Monuments supported by the Governor as presented by President Trump. One of the Trade Show Exhibits, I believe it was KEEN Footwear, had an operating phone booth, the classic Red frame with glass all around (London like). They were promoting the cause and anyone could step into the booth and call the local representatives and voice their opinion on the ruling. I was impressed with their creativity.
The show ended early on the last day when every booth closed down about 4 hours early and a huge crowd marched downtown Salt Lake to the Capital to show solidarity. The show moved to Denver and now they reap the benefit of the Hundreds of thousands of dollars associated with Hotels, Restaurants, etc. that Trade Shows bring and the have two a year, Winter and Summer.
Anyhow, it shows that phone booths can be relevant in certain context.