retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB yesterday took note of a Wall Street Journal report that the US House of Representatives voted 300-131 last week to end country of origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken, sending the measure to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain reception.  The Journal said that supporters of the move hoped "to prevent a protracted battle over the labels with Canada and Mexico."  The vote "follows a series of rulings by the World Trade Organization finding the labeling discriminates against animals imported from Canada and Mexico … consumer advocates, among the biggest supporters of the labels, say international trade deals should not trump consumers’ access to information about their food."

I commented:

I'm with the consumer advocates on this one, though I concede that the WTO does sort of put the US between a rock and a hard place.

My problem is with the base premise that labeling is discrimination.  That's nonsense.  Labeling is information.  Only people and companies afraid of consumers knowing the truth would argue otherwise.

If consumers don't seem to be factoring country of origin labels into their buying decisions, isn't that evidence that the labels are not discriminatory?  That said, they may want to use that information in the future, when it seems to be relevant.

One MNB reader responded:

On the flip side, doesn’t this create a marketing opportunity for US meat companies to position them as “made in the USA” or something like that? A “If you don’t see a Made in USA stamp, who knows where your food is coming from?” kind of angle?

From another reader:

Even without COOL regulations, grocery stores can still the do the right thing - tell their customers where the meat they’re carrying is from and how it was raised. And if you can’t verify, don’t carry it. 

But price trumps most things so we’ll see how that goes. 

MNB reader Olivier Kielwasser wrote:

Did Congress ask consumers what their preferences were on COOL regs?  I would think any consumer would want to be informed.  The question is, does potential discrimination against Canada and Mexico outweigh the information / transparency needs of US consumers, although in an age of over-information?

I repeat:  labeling is not discrimination.  It is information.

We also looked at a Los Angeles Times story about "Making The Cut," a new fashion series that will begin running on Amazon Prime next month, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, who used to to "Project Runway" together.

"The partnership between Amazon and Klum illustrates how the Seattle global giant can intertwine its two most notable divisions — retail and entertainment — and potentially produce new lucrative revenue streams," the Times wrote.  The goal is for people to be able to easily buy items they see on the show.

MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

As someone in marketing, I actually hate the idea of being sold too this blatantly through a show. I’m sure it’s a goldmine of potential for the companies that link up, but I , as a consumer, have no interest in watching an hour long commercial. Even if the adorable Tim Gunn is in it. 

The current Project Runway has always been about the product placement but has devolved into the program working around what the product placements and sponsorships need it to be. It’s lame. 

On the other hand, Netflix’s new show “Next is Fashion” is pretty refreshing. The only “product placement” I’ve been able to discern at this point (besides talking up the designer judges) is that the makeup artists are obviously using MAC cosmetics. 

Guess I’m just weary of the constant shilling by big corporations. Most of reality TV is now about what products they can sell or get sponsorships from to pay for their production costs and materials. 

I get your point, but I'm less offended by a show constructed to combine entertainment and commerce than I am by shows that are obviously getting paid for product placements, and handle those moments clumsily.

Yesterday we quoted a story from the New York Times:

"Pharmacy employees at Walgreens told consultants late last year that high levels of stress and 'unreasonable' expectations had led them to make mistakes while filling prescriptions and to ignore some safety procedures.

"But when the consultants presented their findings at Walgreens’s corporate offices this month, there was no reference to the errors and little mention of other concerns the employees had raised.

"That’s because senior leaders at Walgreens had directed the consultants to remove some damaging findings after seeing a draft of their presentation, a review of internal emails, chat logs and two versions of the report shows."

This prompted one MNB reader to write:

There are two movies I think people should watch, The Big Short and Spotlight. I rewatched them a few months ago and a take away I got from both of them was, the information was there you just had to look for it and there was a lot of people who knew about it but did nothing. To take another recent news item look at Wells Fargo, they knew what was going on but looked the other way, just recently paid a 3 billion dollar fine, their reputation is in the tank and it will take years to get the trust back from the general public. Walgreens and CVS already have a black eye with the opioid crisis they don't need another one for prescription errors because their employees are overworked.