retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday I took note of a New York Times story listing the number of public library systems - in places like Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Diego - that have either eliminated all late fees on borrowed materials, or adopted amnesty programs that largely have the same effect.

Some of the libraries are saying that they have come to the realization that to be able to lend out books and other materials, they have to get them back - and a lot of people may not be bringing things back because they don't want to pay fines that have grown to unhealthy proportions.

I commented, in part:

It seems to me that libraries and librarians have to realize that they must compete for people's time and attention.  

Every competitor in every venue, it seems to me, needs to look at systems and procedures and figure out where the consumer friction is - and then act to eliminate it.  In so many ways, library fines are the very definition of friction.  It simply makes sense to eliminate them, even if they've been part of how libraries did business forever.

In fact, that may be the best reason to eliminate them.

MNB reader Gail Ginther responded:

You don’t visit a library much, do you? You’re assuming that everyone has great online access from home.

In many rural areas libraries offer online access for people to use for job search, government filings such as unemployment, and a place to download data or read their email since they can’t get a good connection at home.

Libraries are resources for home school families, as well as providing space for gathering, meetings, socialization.

Libraries provide live help to those trying to do family research and explore local history. They host programs of all sorts from live music, history presentation, business development, to family story hours and toddler play time to give stay-at-home moms a chance to connect with each other.

Every time I walk into my local library there are teens in the meeting rooms doing homework or just hanging out with their friends, families browsing the children’s area, people checking out DVDs and audio books. They have had two well-planned expansions of the physical building over the past 15 years, a focal point in the middle of the town which is our county seat, in easy walking distance of most of the town residents.

Your East Coast snark is showing.

Snark?  I'm not sure that it was snark that was showing.  After all, I wasn't being critical.  Maybe a little ignorant.  Or showing some coastal smugness.

We actually have a vibrant local library in my Connecticut town.  But I would argue that if librarians think they have an unassailable business model, they're making the same mistake as a lot of businesses.

Yesterday we ran a story that I never expected to get a comment about:

In San Diego, at the National Grocers Association (NGA) convention, the Women Grocers of America (WGA) presented the Woman of the Year Award to Jennifer Graff of Columbiana Foods/Giant Eagle.

One MNB reader responded:

Am I the only woman feeling like it’s 2020 so why in the hell do we need a separate organization to recognize woman in my industry? I understand that the grocery has been dominated by men, and I’ve certainly had my share of meetings where I was the only woman (including one last week where the contractor introduced the general manager and myself as the ‘lady bosses’), but until woman can stand on the same stage with the men we work alongside, we are doomed to be “other” and less than.

I suspect you are not the only woman who feels that way.

Regarding Amazon's opening of a new full grocery store in Seattle that utilizes Amazon Go-style checkout-free technology, MNB reader Jeff Weidauer wrote:

We know that Amazon makes most of its profit from AWS and Prime subscriptions. I suspect that the plan here is to license the technology rather than build a bunch of stores. That’s where the real money is.

No disagreement here,