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    Published on: February 28, 2019

    This week’s FaceTime commentary is not available in a text version, because it consists of a conversation between Michael Sansolo and me. Readers of MNB are familiar with Michael’s weekly column, and while we talk almost daily, we rarely are in the same place at the same time. So when we ended up at the National Grocers Association Show (NGA) in Las Vegas, we decided to take advantage of the moment.

    As always, past FaceTime commentaries can be found on the MNB Channel on YouTube.


    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe
    At the risk of being accused of cheerleading for Amazon - something I hear from time to time when people think I spend too much time on MNB writing about the company - I do have a story worth pointing out this morning.

    For the record, when Amazon stops innovating, I’ll stop reporting on it. People who find Amazon coverage tiresome may not be appreciating the degree to which its disruptive habits are creating new consumer habits and new competitive realities with which they will have to contend. But I digress…

    eMarketer is now forecasting that by the end of this year, “51.3% of US households will be Amazon Prime members.”

    That’s more than half the households in the country.

    The growth represents about 5.2 million more households than last year, and the story says that “Prime's growth will be fueled by lower-income households and consumers attracted to the platform's new offerings. Expanding beyond the flagship Prime benefit - fast or free shipping - Amazon continues to diversify its value to customers.”

    I think that’s an Eye-Opener worth noting.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    CNBC reports that FedEx this summer will “begin testing a robot to handle home deliveries for partners ranging from Walmart to Pizza Hut … The battery-powered robots look like coolers on wheels. Cameras and software help them detect and avoid obstacles as they roam sidewalks and roadways at a top speed of 10 miles (16 km) per hour.”

    The story notes that “on average, more than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location. FedEx said it is working with its partners, which also include AutoZone and Target, to determine if autonomous delivery to them is a viable option for fast, cheap deliveries.”

    The partners will all need cities’ approvals before going ahead with the tests.

    CNBC writes that “FedEx is teaming up with DEKA Development & Research, whose founder Dean Kamen invented the Segway stand-up scooter and iBot stair-climbing wheelchair, for its project. The delivery company said the robots could become part of its SameDay service that operates in 1,900 cities around the world.”
    KC's View:
    It is really interesting to me to see how many companies are trying to a) solve the last mile conundrum, b) test various kinds of delivery technologies, and c) use new delivery technologies to solve the last mile conundrum.

    The idea of FedEx delivering a pizza is kind of interesting, and perhaps an indication of the degree to which delivery companies are going to move into new markets to compensate for the fact that Amazon is creating its own proprietary delivery infrastructure.

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    Marks & Spencer, which has been a laggard in the UK’s home delivery business, this week announced a joint venture with pure play Ocado, “belatedly giving M&S a home-delivery service while netting $1 billion for its fast-growing technology providing partner,” according to a Reuters story.

    “Under the deal,” the story says, “Ocado’s retail arm will become a joint venture with M&S, which will pay 750 million pounds ($1 billion) for its half share. M&S will defer 25 percent of the payment, which it will finance through a 600 million pound rights issue and a 40 percent dividend cut … The venture will trade as from September 2020 at the latest, following the termination of Ocado’s agreement with upmarket grocer Waitrose, which has supplied a large part of the products sold by Ocado since its inception in 2000.

    “Waitrose, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, said it will focus on its own online business, which it is aiming to double in size within five years.”

    Reuters goes on to point out that “although online supermarket pioneer Ocado has just a 1.3 percent share of Britain’s grocery market, its 7 billion pound-plus stock market valuation has been driven by its bespoke technology, which is giving retailers the infrastructure and software to compete with tech giants such as Amazon.”

    M&S chief executive Steve Rowe says that “the joint venture with Ocado is a long term proposition ... is transformational and does add shareholder value.”
    KC's View:
    Ocado clearly is a player in a variety of companies’ efforts to facilitate a greater ability to compete with Amazon and, increasingly, Walmart/Jet.

    I find myself wondering if it also becomes the connective tissue between a variety of companies. If Ocado does business with both Kroger and M&S, for example, does that set the stage for a strategic alliance of some sort between Kroger and M&S that allows each of them to be more competitive on a global basis?

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    The Detroit Free Press reports that Campbell Soup Co. has reached an agreement to sell its Garden Fresh Gourmet business to “an affiliate of Fountain of Health USA. Fountain of Health makes hummus, dips, salads, frozen desserts and other products.”

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Campbell bought Garden Fresh Gourmet in 2015 for $231 million, as part of what the Free Press accurately describes as its “ill-fated strategy to diversify its product lines.”
    KC's View:
    It is interesting to me that even as companies like Kraft Heinz finds itself in deep trouble because consumers are moving away from its brand of packaged, processed foods, Campbell - admittedly stung by some tough results, affected by its various ventures into fresher foods, and now looking to stanch the bleeding - is looking to sell off some of these brands.

    Different companies and different circumstances, to be sure. But their target consumers can’t be all that different, and I wondering if there is a fundamental misreading of what these shoppers want. Are these strategies and tactics rooted in economics and not consumer preferences?

    I’m not saying economics are unimportant. Far from it. But in the end, the customers have to come first.

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    The Boston Globe reports that Staples has decided to expand its investment in the co-working business, but is ending its three-year test collaboration in the space with Workbar, which now will become a competitor.

    Staples had opened Workbar spaces in three Boston-area stores, offering flexible office space at relatively inexpensive rent to freelancers. They talked at the time about an eventual national rollout, which would have pitted them against the likes of WeWork, but the test never moved beyond the three original stores.

    According to the Globe, “The demise of the partnership is just the latest sign of change in the fast-evolving co-working industry, which began a decade ago with startups like Workbar renting spare desks by the month to freelancers but has lately become a multibillion-dollar business targeting fast-growing companies that will pay a premium for flexible office space.”

    As it separates from Staples, Workbar says it plans to expand throughout the Boston area, “aiming to blanket Greater Boston to better serve local companies whose workers may prefer to skip downtown commutes whenever possible.”

    As for Staples, its chief merchandising officer, Peter Scala, says that the retailer “learned a lot from its partnership with Workbar and plans to roll out more co-working options at other stores, with more details expected soon.”

    The story goes on: “The company recently opened its first-ever co-working location — dubbed Staples Studio — at a store in Toronto. Rival Office Depot has also begun dabbling in co-working as both stores try to reposition themselves — and make better use of their valuable real estate — amid growing competition from online retailers.”
    KC's View:
    To me, the whole notion of Staples expanding into the co-working space makes a lot of sense, whether it does it on its own or as part of a partnership. It takes Staples beyond just selling products, and into the arena of providing critical, adjacent and relevant services to its core customers.

    Not sure that it’ll ever compete at the level of WeWork - largely because WeWork is kind of cool, and Staples never will be. I know I’d choose We Work over Staples, given a choice. But there probably are a lot of communities with Staples stores that will never look attractive to WeWork, and that’s a potential opportunity.

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    BizWomen reports that Unilever US’s Dove Men+Care business “has launched The Pledge for Paternity Leave, seeking signatures from dads and business owners with the goal of sparking change … the company says fewer than 1 in 5 American men get paid paternity leave from their employers, and many don’t take what leave they are allowed.”

    The story notes that “the U.S. is the only developed nation that doesn’t mandate paid parental leave for its workers. Only California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington and Washington, D.C. have paid family leave programs, but the amount of leave time and wage replacement varies, per the Society for Human Resource Management. Proposals have been made in New Hampshire, Vermont and Nebraska … Especially as Millennials and Gen Z employees have children or see parenthood in their near futures, paid parental leave has become a top employee benefit in a tight labor market, SHRM notes. As of 2018, the 20 biggest companies in the U.S. offered paid maternity leave.”

    Unilever’s Paternity Leave Fund is reported to be “giving $1 million, in the form of $5,000 grants through 2020, to help men who lack access to paid leave.”
    KC's View:
    I love this. It is right on brand message for the Dove Men+Care brand, and, I think, a legitimate policy position in 21st century America.

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    Reuters reports that Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller says that the company is “on track to meet a 20 percent U.S. online sales growth target this year as it opens automated grocery distribution points along the East Coast.”

    The story notes that last November “Ahold announced plans to roll out small, automated warehouses to increase order picking and cut delivery times, part of a revamp of its ecommerce business to help fight competitors like Kroger, Walmart and Amazon. Muller said several new centers will be opened this year, with a higher number in 2020, but gave no specific number.”

    At the same time, Muller said that Ahold Delhaize sees “more opportunities in the US” for acquisitions: “The market is consolidating. We have a strong base and strong brands along the East Coast.” The story says that “Muller has said the company hopes to make acquisitions to meet targets of 20 percent online U.S. sales growth in 2019 and 30 percent in 2020.”

    The comments came as Ahold Delhaize said that its Q4 US sales, including online, “rose to $11.17 billion from $10.89 billion a year earlier.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    • The Boston Globe this morning has an interesting observation - that every declared candidate for the presidency, at least to this point, favors at least some level of marijuana legalization.

    The story says that “all 12 official Democratic candidates, as well as the potential Republican hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, told the Globe they now support full nationwide legalization, Canada-style.

    “President Trump, meanwhile, has said he supports states’ rights to legalize.”

    Ten states - representing one in four US residents - have legalized cannabis.

    John Lapp, a Democratic national campaign strategist, tells the Globe, “There’s been a tremendous evolution — marijuana legalization, if you look back, was really something for fringe candidates … It’s just not very controversial at all now.”

    The story notes that “the political sea change has followed public opinion: About 62 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legal, almost double the 35 percent who said so in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center.

    “In addition, political analysts say, the changes in candidates’ views were driven by potential tax revenues and job creation, the popularity of reducing mass incarceration, and an aging population interested in the potential medical benefits.”

    CNBC reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “will hold its first public hearings on CBD in April as the agency weighs rules allowing companies to add the popular cannabis-based compound to food.”

    FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the story says, “floated what a possible framework might look like. He suggested high concentrations might be regulated as a drug that has more stringent oversight while lower concentrations could be categorized as food products that come with an easier review process.

    “He said the cannabis compound has possible therapeutic benefits and a regulatory process for pharmaceutical-grade CBD will give drugmakers more incentive to research and develop CBD-derived drugs.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    • Noting that “Walmart has long offered companies like Unilever, Kellogg Co. and Hollywood studios space to place ads inside its 4,600 U.S. stores” but “looked to an outside firm to sell space on its websites and across the web,” the Wall Street Journal reports that it Now “is in the process of bringing its digital ad business in-house … Walmart also plans to bring its store and digital ad teams closer together, using Walmart’s vast trove of shopper data to sell marketing opportunities in more parts of its sprawling business, including Vudu, its video streaming service.”

    The Journal points out that “digital advertising is a tough business that is dominated by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. But deep-pocketed companies with large amounts of data on their customers are in the best position to mount a challenge to that ‘duopoly,’ ad industry experts say. Amazon has already made significant inroads, and AT&T Inc. has designs on building a big digital ad business after acquiring media giant Time Warner Inc.”

    The story goes on: “Walmart will need to build a team of media and marketing executives that not only can sell ad space but also help its suppliers create ads for its properties - no easy feat for a large company that typically outsources such tasks.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    • Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co. announced yesterday that it has “rolled out online ordering with curbside pickup service to 100 stores in its Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods and FRESH by Brookshire’s banners.”

    The company says that after initially piloting curbside pickup in late 2017 at its FRESH by Brookshire’s store in Tyler, Texas, it “expanded the service to dozens of Super 1 Foods stores this summer. Since Dec. 2018, the company has introduced curbside pickup at 60 Brookshire’s Food Stores, including launches at seven locations today.”

    Brookshire’s expansion of its e-commerce business is being powered by Mercatus.

    Fortune reports that Cedars-Sinai Hospital “has launched a pilot program to test a new Alexa-powered healthcare platform called Aiva. With it, patients can use an Amazon Echo in their room to do things like controlling their televisions or call a nurse.”

    According to the story, “When a patient says something like ‘Alexa, tell my nurse I need to get up to use the restroom,’ the request will be routed to the mobile phone of the appropriate caregiver for that task. The hospital says that something like a pain medicine request would be sent to a registered nurse, while a request to use the restroom would go to a clinical partner. If a request goes unanswered, then it will be moved up the chain of command.”

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Amazon “is starting to let brand owners delete listings on its site for products they deem fake, marking a sharp shift in its struggle to fight counterfeiters that cedes some of its responsibility to other companies.

    “The online retail giant on Thursday launched a new anticounterfeiting program, called Project Zero, that it says would better protect brands from scammers by letting them designate listings for removal, rather than going through a cumbersome reporting process with Amazon. The company has been testing it with roughly 15 brands for a few months, and will now start inviting selected additional companies to participate. Amazon said it wants all brand owners to join the program eventually but declined to specify a timeline.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    …with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The National Grocers Association (NGA) this week presented The Clarence G. Adamy Great American Award, the association’s highest honor for government relations and public affairs efforts, to Rudy Dory, Executive Chairman at Newport Avenue Market, based in Bend, Oregon.

    Newport Avenue Market’s two stores, run by Rudy and his daughter, Lauren Johnson, is one of the nation’s great independent retailers, relentlessly focused on being first, best and/or different in everything they do. I’m thrilled for Rody’s recognition.

    • Also at NGA, the Women Grocers of America (WGA) presented the Women of the Year Award to Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, for her 30 years of dedication “to being a voice of small businesses, focusing on the independent grocery industry for the last 10 years.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “Dean Foods Co. said it is exploring strategic alternatives including the possible breakup of the biggest U.S. milk producer, as pressure mounts on dairy processors facing low prices and new competition from big retailers.” The company said that “it would consider selling itself, taking the company private, shedding some assets, forming a joint venture or pursuing a merger.”

    At the same time, the Journal writes, Dean Foods is going to implementing a series of cost-cutting measures. No timetable for all these changes has been set.

    The Journal points out that “competition from store-branded milk, cheese and other dairy products made by Walmart Inc., Kroger Co. and other grocers has grown. Inc. also recently started selling milk online under its Happy Belly brand. That is part of a broader push by major food makers to sell more store-branded products from cookies to ketchup. The trend is putting pressure on packaged-food makers such as Kraft Heinz Co. and Campbell Soup Co. in addition to Dean.

    • Starbucks has opened a new Reserve Roastery story in Tokyo, described as “a four-story tribute to premium coffee quality, innovation and human connection … The Roastery introduces customers to more than 100 unique coffee and tea beverages and merchandise, as well as a menu of artisanal Princi Italian fare for the first time in Japan. It also celebrates the Japanese culture of connection and craftsmanship through the first AMU Inspiration Lounge – from the Japanese ‘amu,’ meaning ‘knit together’ – to host community gathering events and is planned to become Starbucks first Specialty Coffee Association certified training location in Japan.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    Dick Churchill has passed away at age 99.

    Wonder why this is of note? Churchill, has it happens, was the last surviving participant in a March 1944 breakout from a German Stalag that later was dramatized in the film The Great Escape and the book on which the movie was based.

    Churchill, a British airman, did not make it to freedom; he was recaptured, as were all but three of the 76 prisoners who got out. (Fifty of those prisoners were summarily executed. Churchill later speculated that his life may have been spared because the Germans believed - inaccurately - that he was related to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 28, 2019

    The other day I took note of a Democrat & Chronicle report that Wegmans, as it continues its expansion down the eastern seaboard, plans to open its first store in Delaware, in Greenville, near Wilmington, probably in 2022.

    I commented:

    I assume that this will be Wegmans’ only Delaware store. At 115,000 square feet, it will be almost as big as the whole state.

    Which prompted MNB reader Bryan Silbermann to write:

    For the past decade or so, the citizens of Delaware, who appreciate world class retail food stores, have watched as Wegmans spread their wings from New York and landed in Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. But not little Delaware. We have felt like the perennial bridesmaid, never the bride. We’ve been teased by their proximity across our state line, we’ve been tempted to eat and drink at their in-store Pubs. Not a year has passed without talk of petitions to force Wegmans to locate a store in our state if they wanted to continue deliveries down I-95 to points farther south. Some Delawareans even considered asking Vice President Joe Biden to use his influence to convince the Wegman family that this was only fair play! (Remember the sign in a 1963 episode of Candid Camera: “Delaware is Closed?”)

    Last week, at a public meeting the developer revealed a plan to turn the vacant former DuPont office park into a mixed use community with a 115,000 square foot Wegmans store. More than 200 people cheered (I know, I was there)! How often do developers get met with applause by local residents?

    As for me, I’ve spent more than 10 years taking every opportunity to ask my friends at Wegmans - including the family - to find an appropriate location. I’ve even driven good friend Dave Corsi, Wegmans VP of Produce and Floral, to look at some sites over the years! Now powerless after losing the advantage of my pre-retirement role at Produce Marketing Association to cajole them, what do they do? They sign a lease to build a store whose front door Google Earth tells me is, as the crow flies, just 2500 feet from my front door. Dave claims he had no idea and played no part in the choice of location.

    Oh joy, prayers answered, days being counted. By the way, it’s not the size of the state that will limit the number of stores Wegmans might build: it’s the size of the population - just shy of 1 million people … who still get 2 Senators! I guess we will learn to live with just 1 Wegmans.

    Fore the record, I live in Connecticut … where there are no Wegmans.

    (I knew I’d get some grief for making gentle fun of Delaware. Couldn’t help myself, though…)

    We also took notice of a National Public Radio report on Walmart’s decision to change the job description for its greeter position, “replacing them with ‘customer hosts,’ who have expanded responsibilities, such as taking care of security or assisting shoppers.” The problem is that this change of responsibilities “appears to disproportionately affect workers with disabilities … the job of greeter has been a particularly attractive fit, as it isn't physically strenuous and is easy to learn.” The story pointed out that “the most widely shared story has been in Pennsylvania, where Adam Catlin, a Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy, is facing job loss after 10 years. Almost 4,000 comments have poured onto his mother's Facebook post, which asks people to call Walmart's corporate line to advocate for Catlin's employment.”

    I commented that this is an unforced error:

    Sure, Walmart has to the get the most out of its employees, but the money it is spending on these disabled greeters - which cannot be that much in the scheme of things - is an investment that puts a human and compassionate face on the company.

    Let’s be clear. The vast majority of Walmart shoppers have no idea who Doug McMillon or Marc Lore are. But the shoppers at the Walmart store where Adam Catlin works know who he is … and that ought to be worth a lot.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Just like any gift you might give, once you have done it, it is impossible to take we live in now no credit for what you are doing until you change it and offend someone.

    I heartily disagree with your characterizations. Walmart didn’t give these folks a gift. Walmart provided an opportunity, these people worked, and were paid for their efforts.

    People aren’t just gratuitously offended by this. They’re objecting to a policy decision that negatively impacts people in their communities.

    From another reader:

    Today’s story is another case in point for shopping and supporting good local biz.  Schnuck Markets, in regional STL, is a tremendous supporter of employing disabled workers.  One of my former paralegals recently called me in tears, so grateful for the Schnuck family’s commitment to our community.  Her son is 20 years old and functions at the mental capacity of a 12 year old.  He has been EMBRACED by the supermarket chain and is successfully integrated into their store workforce.  He has a feeling of accomplishment, the store gets some assistance, his mother is able to do her job with less worry, and they will forever be loyal shoppers.  The way corporations treat people matters.  A lot.


    From another reader:

    I read with interest your comments on Walmart’s decision and agree with your comment, “the shoppers at the Walmart store where Adam Catlin works know who he is … and that ought to be worth a lot.”

    People with disabilities can play a very important role in a store’s customer service.  My sister-in-law has CP and worked in a Starbucks basically clearing & wiping tables, keeping the napkins, milk and stirrers orderly, and talking to the customers.  The customers of that Starbucks knew her well.  So well, that more than a few came to her mother’s funeral services to give her their condolences.  Shortly afterward, her manager at Starbucks was replaced and the new manager eliminated her position as “unnecessary” (she obviously could not be a barista and she was “overhead” impacting his numbers).  From what I understood, many customer’s “voted with their feet” and moved their business to another local coffee shop and the manager was eventually replaced. By then, the damage was done.

    From yet another reader:

    Walmart has always done more to hire disabled than any other major retailer. I’m pretty sure they try to will find ways to continue using most of their current disabled employees but as demands for better customer service increase they may not be able use as many disabled workers and will hire fewer disabled workers.

    That’s a shame. One of a physical retailer’s advantages is the ability to put a human face on the services and environment in provides, and in this case, it seems to me, Walmart is making a mistake and getting deserved PR blowback.

    We had a story the other day about how there seems to be a growing consensus that Starbucks is likely to be “the first big chain to launch a line of cannabis-infused drinks.”

    I commented:

    Seems like a safe bet … this would be totally on brand for Starbucks.

    Though I wonder how how the company would develop guardrails to make sure that some people in certain circumstances cannot buy it. Truck drivers on the road, for that matter. Or any drivers on any road. Because if it serving of cannabis-infused coffee causes public safety issues, Starbucks could have some serious legal exposure.

    One MNB reader responded:

    How would a serving of cannabis-infused coffee cause public safety issue?  Cannabidiol is a natural constituent in cannabis and industrial hemp plants.  Unlike its notorious cousin THC, CBD is non-psychoactive: it does not get you high.  While industrial hemp may contain trace amounts of THC, at the most CBD must contain less than the federally legalized limit of .03%.  Most of the major companies also offer CBD which contains no trace amounts of CBD.   This way a person can enjoy the nutritional benefits of CBD without concerns of testing positive on a drug test.  Either way, CBD will not get you high or impair motor responses.   CBD is also considered the anti-venom for someone who may have consumed a THC infused edible, the CBD will reverse the effects.
    What CBD does is offer some amazing health benefits   Just like anandamide found in chocolate that many people crave, CBD activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain to bring nutrition to the often neglected Endocannabinoid system.
    Just like your muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular system, you have an endocannabinoid system.  This system is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and receptors in the brain that are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory, synaptic plasticity and motor learning. 
    There is a lot of confusion in the market regarding CBD’s.  Too many are confusing CBD with THC.   The confusion is understandable.  People want to call this “medical marijuana” which alludes to a connection with THC when there is no connection. 

    From an other reader:

    Your comments about the Starbucks CBD story really highlights how important it is that cannabis is legalized if only so we can finally do some serious research on it. CBD is actually completely separate from the part of cannabis that makes you high, hence why it’s currently legal. A truck driver who takes CBD isn’t going to make the world a more dangerous place since they’ll be totally sober; if anything it’ll save the driver from having to take prescription meds for back pain.
    It brings up an interesting question though as to where the line between medical and recreational cannabis use is. My hometown is currently cracking down on local coffee shops offering CBD in their drinks. The argument is that CBD so far has been advertised as a medical use drug-alternative and coffee shops aren’t pharmacies and therefore shouldn’t be selling products as if they were. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a coffee shop offering to put ibuprofen or Tylenol in my drink, would you?

    Regarding declining customer service scores in the supermarket industry, one MNB reader wrote:

    The results of customer satisfaction surveys do not surprise me. I am going to mention some comments that have changed my perception of Fred Meyer stores since Kroger has taken over.

    One, the out of stocks are clearly evident, probably 10 percent at any given time, signs all over the shelves saying this item not available.

    Second, their food advertising asking me to buy 5 or 6 items I order to save $3.00. My wife and I are empty nesters, and we do not need to buy multiple items to save $.50 per item. This type of merchandising is not acceptable, thus we find ourselves to go to other retailers to buy what we want, not forcing us to buy 5 or 6 items.

    Next, their produce departments suffer from high out of stocks when items are on ad. I have been a long time Fred Meyer customer and I would say that the Fred Meyer shopping experience is not what it used to be.

    MNB reader Bill Kadlec chimed in:

    My view . . . When it comes to bricks and mortar locations, I feel customer service is a weak point and could contribute significantly to the continued decline. Here’s a very recent example.
    I went to Petco to buy a replacement one of my dog’s favorite toys, the Kong Wubba. We wrestle with it and I throw it for him. The first visit was what I’ve come to expect. I didn’t find the specific item on the shelf. I had to hunt to find someone to help me to, maybe, go look to see if there’s one in the back room. When I asked, what I got was “We don’t have any.” I even had to ask about back room inventory. The answer to that question was, “Only what we have on the shelf”. She didn’t even ask what it was I wanted to buy. No clue. Just a complete lack of interest. SO, I bought one that isn’t the same but thought it might work. Unfortunately, after playing with it 2 times, it began to fall apart.
    I went back a few days later to see if they had gotten a shipment and exchange this flimsy one for the one I wanted originally. This time, the check out clerk was eager to assist. He asked me questions. He explained the delivery schedule without prompting. He went to the shelf and looked up the SKU so I could call in to find out if they’d gotten more before going to the store. He cared about me and what I was looking for. He gave me store credit for the broken toy since I didn’t have a receipt and he volunteered this.
    Example #2 is what things used to be like all the time. That creates customer satisfaction. Example #1 is what I’ve come to expect at most places. But, @ Costco, my experiences are usually aligned with Example #2.

    On another subject, from MNB reader Michelle DuFresne:

    Have been reading MorningNewsBeat for years and enjoy the commentary and perspective.  I couldn’t help but note and applaud your response in the “Your Views” section regarding the diversity in the Oscars awards.  What I also equally noted was the podcast that was clearly not diverse…..all white men.  I know our industry is better than that.

    A fair point. I accept and embrace the criticism, and can only suggest that you come back and visit us on Monday when we’ll have a new podcast posted.

    And finally, from MNB reader Peter Wolf:

    I was speaking with John Stanton of St Joseph’s University on the NGA show floor Monday. We reminisced about Murray Raphel and our times with him. He had me speak a few times at his Supermarket College events and I always remember his follow up thank you notes. Hand written and sincere accompanied by a picture from the event. I still keep each one of them. Truly a wonderful man!
    KC's View: