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    Published on: April 22, 2020

    Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

    Tom Furphy and Kevin Coupe talk today about the importance of not just learning the lessons being taught by the pandemic crisis, but quickly applying them to the competitive situation at hand.  It is a cliche, but it is absolutely true - the pandemic that is upsetting buying habits, shopping preferences and reshaping customer behavior in both a micro and macro sense, is an enormous opportunity - and to the speedy innovators will go the spoils.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    "CO2 Blues."  Stressed out by toilet paper, hand sanitizer and paper towel supply chain issues?  Just wait.  MNB Content Guy just saw a story about another category that, if expected shortages materialize, could create a different level of hoarding.  Attention must be paid!

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    From Glossy:

    "For retail service company Neighborhood Goods, closing its three stores wasn’t the end of the world. Co-founder Matt Alexander said the company had raised enough money — $11 million in 2019 — to get by for the near future and isn’t in any danger of shutting down. Where the threat lies is in Neighborhood Goods’ reliance on the success of its many brand partners. It rents retail space to them, taking a percentage of their in-store sales.

    "To help its existing and potential partners in the long-term, Neighborhood Goods is planning a new project called The Commons, a rent-free and rotating space within each of its three stores for brands, artisans, artists, musicians and chefs to set up shop. Brands have to apply for the limited free space, which will be given out with a preference for smaller local brands that have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus. The Commons will open when Neighborhood Goods’ stores reopen."

    I love this.

    In fact, I think it could be a model for what a lot of retailers could do to help suppliers - especially small and local businesses - as we move into a late-pandemic and post-pandemic world.

    If a retailer could create sections for those businesses that would have a different economic model - designed to get those vendors back on their feet - it might be a powerful creative, economic and social statement, focused on a common and greater good.

    And an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    Kroger yesterday announced the release of a new report, "Sharing What We’ve Learned: A Blueprint for Businesses," which it says is designed "to provide actionable recommendations for retailers, restaurants and food service companies, manufacturers, logistics and distribution centers and other industries to consider as they start crafting plans for safe work environments while the COVID-19 risk persists."

    The report, including downloadable creative assets, is available here.

    Kroger says this is just the first installment in a series that it anticipates being undated as time goes on and new lessons are learned.

    “With nearly 2,800 grocery stores, 35 manufacturing plants, 44 distribution centers and 460,000 associates across the country, Kroger has learned and continues to learn a lot while keeping our stores and supply chain open and serving America during the pandemic,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman/CEO, said in a prepared statement.  “As an essential business, we have led with our Purpose: to Feed the Human Spirit and have taken extensive measures across our footprint to safeguard our associates, customers and supply chain. We are sharing what we’ve learned to help businesses begin to reopen safely and in sync with their respective state plans … We decided from the onset of this crisis that transparency, agility and responsiveness would be our guiding principles, and we are now sharing what we’ve learned as an extension of our values."

    Many of the recommendations, the company says, "can be adapted for any industry sector, and the Blueprint provides a set of distinct, deliberate processes for several key sectors, including: Retail, Manufacturing, Distribution Centers/Supply Chain, Food Service/Restaurants, and Office environments."

    KC's View:
     

    A smart move … in the tradition of a rising tide lifting all boats.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    The Boston Globe, in a piece that concedes that even as restaurants start to reopen in Massachusetts, it will "be far from business as usual," with "reliance on delivery and takeout" continuing and far fewer restaurants being open, takes a look at what the landscape may look like.

    "In phase one, expect limits on seating capacity. Tables will be spaced farther apart, menus will likely be single-use, and hosts and diners will be encouraged to wear masks while checking in … diners may be required to make reservations with a time limit, and he expects walk-ins won’t be allowed. Dining with someone you haven’t been quarantining with might be out of the question.

    "Phase two might also bring closer tables and larger seating capacities, while phase three could allow walk-ins, the reintroduction of buffets and self-service, and an overall scene that more closely resembles the one that existed prior to COVID-19."

    Restaurateur Kathy Sidell tells the Globe that “restaurants are quickly trying to adapt to what the needs are of people at home, and it’s kind of this heat and serve thing, or a DIY, make-your-own pizza or put your own pasta dish together,” she said. “I think that won’t stop. If anything, we’ll have [restaurants] bottling their own sauces and selling whatever it is that they’re known for in a bulk kind of way if possible, a family-style kind of way.”

    And one of her brethren, Jonathan Gilman, "believes that companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash will retain the influx of people who signed up and used their delivery services during the pandemic. Whether this hurts or helps restaurants is a point of contention. Despite announcing various relief measures during the pandemic — DoorDash reduced commission fees for independent restaurants, and Grubhub suspended commission fees — many delivery apps charge a commission as high as 30 percent. Some restaurateurs are hoping the recent exposure of these numbers will prompt public backlash and reduced fees in the future."

    But, the Globe writes, "Amidst the financial losses and devastating closures, some chefs and restaurateurs are starting to see a silver lining. When restaurants reopen, it is hard not to imagine a continuing sense of camaraderie that has snowballed throughout the past month. Guests might be more willing to look up from their phones and talk to their neighbors. Innovation, which has become a necessity for restaurants during this time, will continue to thrive."

    KC's View:

    This may be about the Boston restaurant business, but it sounds like a scenario that can play out across the country.   Old business models have to give way to new innovations and approaches that compensate for the fact that this is going to be a long haul.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    The New York Times this morning has a story about the continuing problems facing American malls…

    "At a time when retailers should be putting in orders for the all-important holiday shopping season, stores are furloughing tens of thousands of corporate and store employees, hoarding cash and desperately planning how to survive this crisis. The specter of mass default is being discussed not just behind closed doors but in analysts’ future models. Whether that happens, no one doubts that the upheaval caused by the pandemic will permanently alter both the retail landscape and the relationships of brands with the stores that sell them.

    "At the very least, there is expected to be an enormous reduction in the amount of stores in each chain, which once sprawled across the American continent like a pack of many-headed hydras.

    "Department store chains account for about 30% of the total mall square footage in the United States, with 10% of that coming from Sears and J.C. Penney, according to a January report from Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm. Even before the pandemic, the firm expected about half of mall-based department stores to close in the next five years."

    Among the steps being taken by retailers:  "Le Tote, a subscription clothing company that acquired Lord & Taylor last year from Hudson’s Bay, said in a memo on April 2 that the chain’s entire executive team, including the chief executive, would be let go immediately. It also suspended payments of goods to vendors for at least 90 days, citing 'immense pressure on our liquidity position.'

    "Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, extended payment for goods and services to 120 days from 60 days and, according to Reuters, has hired bankers from Lazard to explore new financing."

    KC's View:
     

    It was happening anyway.  Now, the mall business is just on fast-forward … with the added problem that a severe recession may even cripple the A-level malls that many thought were safer.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the US as of this morning, there have been 819,175 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 45,343 deaths and 82,973 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 2,572,807 confirmed coronavirus cases, 178,551 deaths and 701,557 reported recoveries.


    •  From this morning's Washington Post:

    "Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season.

    “'There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,' CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. 'And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.'

    “'We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,' he said.

    "Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers."

    Yikes.


    •  Some international notes from the Associated Press:

    "Small shops reopened Wednesday in Berlin as a few nations began easing coronavirus restrictions to restart their economies, but trepidation expressed by some workers and customers indicated a return to normality is still a long way off.

    Restrictions were also being eased in Denmark and Austria. In France, long lines built up outside the few McDonald's drive-thrus that started serving customers again … Although some former virus hot spots like Italy, Spain, China and New York have seen a reduction in their daily death tolls and new hospitalizations, other areas are facing a resurgence of the new coronavirus. Singapore, once a model of coronavirus tracking and prevention, saw an explosion of new cases and announced Wednesday it would extend its lockdown into June."

    The story goes on:

    "Spain, one of the world's worst-hit countries, was grappling with how to allow children out of their homes for the first time in nearly six weeks. The country's death toll reached 21,717, behind only the United States and Italy, after 435 more deaths were reported Wednesday. Spain has over 208,000 confirmed infections.

    "Both numbers reflect the plateauing of the nation’s outbreak over recent days as a result of Spain's strict home confinement rules. Yielding to pressure from parents, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is allowing children to go outside again beginning Monday."

    And:

    "Pakistan recorded its largest 24-hour increase of more than 700 new cases Tuesday and saw another 533 cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 9,749 infections and 209 deaths.

    "India partially eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns this week, but public health officials fear a surge in cases. The country is planning to use wristbands fitted with a contact-tracing app, Arogya Setu, to help people identify their risk of infection."


    •  The Seattle Times reports that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has "announced a road map for reopening Washington’s economy that could soon allow the return of some elective surgeries, outdoor recreation and certain construction projects.

    According to the story, "Inslee said that data on cases of COVID-19, the outbreak caused by the virus, were beginning to look favorable.  If that continues, Inslee said elective surgeries could begin again soon, as well as some outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, the governor’s office has agreed upon a plan with the construction industry and labor unions, 'allowing limited return to construction with safety measures in place,' he said."

    The Times goes on:  "Inslee’s three-part plan includes massive statewide testing, teams of workers performing contact tracing, resources for mental health and homelessness and a phased-in reopening of certain businesses, while practicing social distancing.

    "The plan would make sure the state could quickly tamp down new outbreaks of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, reopen the economy in phases and help workers and businesses recover from the economic downturn.

    "The governor has emphasized that his decision to lift temporary restrictions such as the stay-at-home order — which shuttered thousands of businesses and maintained a ban on large gatherings — will be driven by public-health data."  And while Inslee has laid out the criteria for beginning to reopen the state, he has not set a date certain;  the stay-at-home order is now scheduled to be lifted on Monday, May 4, but that it seems to be by no means set in stone.

    Washington, despite being the state where the first case of Covid-19 was detected in the US, seems to have done an excellent job in avoiding the kind of public health calamity that has hit places like New York.  That's not to say there hasn't been pain, not that it won't continue.  There has been, and will be more.  But the state's approach to dealing with the pandemic at this point seems to have been effective.


    •  KXAN-TV News reports that "H-E-B announced on Tuesday that its stores across Texas will extend their hours to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting April 27.  The grocery giant cites improved supply and product availability as factors for the change, after it previously scaled back hours in order to handle major demand due to COVID-19 pandemic preparation shopping."

    The story notes that H-E-B also says that "product limits will begin to be eased and certain departments, like the bakery and deli departments, will reopen."


    •  Interesting editorial from the Financial Times today in which is calls for global business changing from  a "just in time" mentality that stresses efficiency to a "just in case" approach that provides greater flexibility and effectiveness.

    "The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed the thin margins on which much of global business runs," FT writes.  "Highly indebted companies, working from lean inventory, supported by just-in-time supply chains and staffed by short-term contractors, have borne the brunt of the sudden blow. They will now suffer the rolling, longer-term impact of its unpredictable consequences."

    FT goes on:  "Companies must transform their supply chains from just in time to just in case models. The pandemic has underlined the need for suppliers and customers to work together. Afterwards, it will be up to larger survivors, in particular, to help support the smaller and weaker components of their supply chains, rather than pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbour approach that destroys the chain altogether."

    FT  also argues that it is critical to "reinforce the networks of people that underpin their success. This will be a challenge when many will have to lay off staff just to survive. But it is arguably the most crucial element of a post-crisis strategy. Just as companies built purely on the brittle web of the gig economy may collapse, so those that have maintained a safety net of loyal and adaptable full-time workers are more likely to pull through and will be better prepared to ride out future disruption."

    Exactly.  I think I've been saying some of this stuff for awhile now - what it really comes down to, if you look at the bottom line, is starting with the customers and working backward from there.  If you do that, you design the supply chain you need, not the one you want for efficiency's sake, and you have the network of people you need, not the one that meets an arbitrary goal for labor factor reduction, which is how many executives are judged.


    • Coca-Cola Chairman/CEO James Quincey told CNBC this week that "easing restrictions on business during the coronavirus pandemic needs to be done with an understanding it may not last.  'We shouldn’t assume that each step forward is permanent necessarily'," he said, adding that we must "be cognizant that there could be steps backward in some countries as the virus flares up again."

    Coke's Q1 numbers "benefited in that period from consumers stocking up on products in response to stay-at-home orders, but warned it expects a 'material' impact in the second quarter due to movie theater and restaurant closures."


    Netflix yesterday said that it added 15.8 million subscribers during its first quarter - more than twice as many as it had projected - ending up with close to 183 million global subscribers.

    The company conceded that the growth may be temporary, fueled by the fact that so many people are at home because of the pandemic.

    But, executives said in the company's letter to shareholders, “By helping people connect with stories they love, we are able to provide comfort and escape as well as a sense of community during this pandemic.  So our focus has been on maintaining the quality of our service while our employees around the world adapt to working from home.”

    I must admit that I still don't know what "Tiger King" is, and "Too Hot To Handle" sounds awful.  But this still seems to be a case of being in the right place at the right time, when people have plenty of time to indulge their guilty pleasures.



    And a note from the Content Guy…

    As apprehensive as I am about all the reopenings being phased in around the country - I'd love for things to go back to normal, too, but I worry about more infections and hot spots breaking out, which could send the economy and culture into a tailspin - I must admit that it sometimes is reassuring to see the small signs that people are reaching for some sort of normalcy.

    Like the sign I saw in a local coffee shop this week:

    Or the email I got from Patagonia:

    I worry though.

    I think it was George Orwell who once said that "progress is not an illusion.  It happens."  But, he added, "it is slow and invariably disappointing."

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    The PBS NewsHour has an excellent piece about Powell's, the iconic independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, which was forced to close by the pandemic .  The story, reported by correspondent Tom Casciato, points out the store's unique relationship with both customers and writers, and looks at the challenges with which it is dealing.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    Content Guy's Note:  The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is having an enormous impact on people of all ages, backgrounds, and places around the globe;  some are having shared experiences, and some are individual to specific people and circumstances.

    Among the people I've been thinking about are the young people who have just started or are about to start their careers, and who now may be facing enormous uncertainty and questions about what comes next.

    I decided to reach out to some young people I know - some of them former students of mine at Portland State University in Oregon, as well as at other schools with which I have developed relationships - to ask them to answer a pair of questions:

    •  How has the pandemic has affected you personally or professionally?

    •  How do you think the world - including but not just the business world - should be different whenever and however we come out of this.

    This series of occasional guest columns continues this morning with a contribution by Justin Gaines, a 2019 graduate of Siena College, who writes the following about his educational experience:

    "Throughout my college years I came in contact with and took classes with professors and individuals that would shape my outlook and pathways in life. Professor Russell Zwanka was one of these individuals, I took 3 classes with him and had the opportunity to compete in a food marketing competition in San Diego, CA at the NGA conference under his leadership. I could not be more thankful for all that Siena has given me and the experiences I was able to take with me as I moved on to my next steps in life. It’s professors like Zwanka that make the cost of tuition worth it.

    by Justin Gaines

    Oh, what a year it has been so far since my graduation last May. Post graduating from Siena College with a B.S. in Accounting and a B.S. in Marketing I have dived into my career as an Insurance Agent specializing in commercial products targeted towards small to medium sized businesses, independent grocery stores, and farms (it’s crazy how much being able to reference what I learned in Food Marketing has helped build relationships with farms and small independents!).

    As an extrovert, this time has been especially tough on me emotionally and mentally. A video chat or phone call does not even come close to comparing to a face to face hangout with friends. I am used to meeting with clients face to face all day, and then going and hanging out with friends after that; so to go from that to a few video chats and phone calls is a radical social change for me- but a necessary one given the situation.

    I am sure we have all heard our fair share of conspiracy theories and thoughts on how this will affect the economy long term, or how it will affect the upcoming election.  I will avoid entering into these talking points unless prompted and stick to my own personal experiences and what I know.

    Luckily for me from a financial perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected me too much financially.  I am considered an essential employee, and while businesses are closed down and/or going through hardships, it is not a time when people would cancel their insurance policies. This time has actually given me a ton of opportunity to meet with clients that otherwise would be so busy that our meetings would be cut short or limited to 15-20 minutes. Now I can get clients on the phone or video chat for an hour and really explain what they have coverage for and what they don’t, resulting in better educated clients and a firmer understanding of what I can do for them as their insurance provider. 

    I was able to settle into a career choice that left me financial stable during these times, my family has not been effected by the virus yet and hopefully isn’t; and since we had to slow down a little, I have been taking the time to reach out to individuals I have lost contact over the years with due to my busy schedule and often times poor prioritization of plans. 

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the individuals that are forced to engage with the public everyday for work or to care for their loved ones, the healthcare workers, grocery store employees (man, that moved so quickly to elevated status in society!), emergency response teams, farmers and agricultural employees, those effected by the COVID-19 virus, and the class of 2020. I cannot begin to imagine the depth and scope of what each of these groups is going through; but the sun will rise tomorrow, and many hidden gems and rays of sunlight will shine through this tragic situation we are all living through. Stay safe everyone and God bless you all!

    More to come.  Stay tuned…

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    •  From Bloomberg:

    "Google will make product listings on its shopping service free, part of a broader push to expand in e-commerce and mount a bigger challenge to Amazon.com as the COVID-19 pandemic drives more consumers online.

    "The Alphabet unit will let merchants post their wares on Google Shopping for free regardless of whether they pay for Google ads. Before, these listings were all sponsored, meaning merchants paid Google every time someone clicked through to their website from a Google product listing.

    "The move may reduce advertising revenue initially, but it could also entice more merchants to use Google Shopping in the long term. The company turned the service into a paid product in 2012 and it has grown into a huge business, generating billions of dollars in highly profitable revenue."

    The story notes that Google "will still sell shopping ads, which will give merchants the option to appear in paid slots above the free listings. Product ads will also continue to appear on the main Google search results page, while the free listings will only show up in the less-popular Shopping search tab."


    •  The 2020 SXSW Film Festival may have been cancelled by the pandemic, but Amazon has confirmed its plans to show some 40 shorts, features and episodic programs - all of them available to all Amazon customers, not just Prime members.

    Variety writes that "the virtual festival will stream from April 27 through May 6," though it notes that the move is somewhat controversial.  "Giving any Amazon user access to unsold, independently financed content for over a week was seen by many as a deterrent to buyers, who need exclusivity to motivate customers to watch new movies," the story says.

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    •  The New York Times writes that "Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday agreed to pay $25 million to resolve criminal charges accusing the fast food company of serving tainted food from 2015 to 2018, sickening over 1,100 people in the United States, federal prosecutors said.  The fine was the largest ever imposed in a food safety case, the Justice Department said in a statement."

    Chipotle had been charged with "two counts of violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by 'adulterating food while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce,' prosecutors said."


    •  USA Today reports that the financial problems that are hitting the US Postal Service because of the pandemic, which could result in some operational and/or structural changes to the Post Office, could have "ripple effects" on FedEx.

    According to the story, "FedEx remains closely tied with the ailing Postal Service as both a major customer and provider. Alterations to the USPS may translate to risk for FedEx … The Postal Service is FedEx Express’ largest customer, FedEx noted in its report — FedEx Express provides domestic air transportation for USPS first-class and priority mail. It also offers transportation and delivery for the USPS internationally."

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    Esquire has a story about actor Stanley Tucci, who it describes as being "eternally cool" … and maybe even more so now that a video that he made from isolation about how to make a Negroni has gone viral.

    This isn't just an actor/writer/director indulging himself.  Tucci, in fact, has serious culinary cred - he co-wrote, co-directed and starred in Big Night, one of the best movies about good ever made.  And, he's written two cookbooks and once owned a tavern/restaurant in the New York City suburbs.

    But this video is just charming … and, I think, a good lesson in what marketers ought to be doing in this time when people are physically disconnected but capable of and even yearning for virtual connections.  I don't think I've ever had a Negroni, and I've certainly never made one … but Tucci makes me want to do both.

    Smart marketing.  I hope Tucci does more.

    (Full disclosure:  I've met Tucci a few times, think he is a lovely man, and years ago he had a passing interest in a screenplay I'd written.)

    Published on: April 22, 2020

    MNB reader Philip Herr had some thoughts about my conversation with Trestle's Jennifer Johnson, and other subjects that have come up on MNB:

    Hi Kevin, loved the story. And yes, I thing Millennials and younger folks are as bright and attentive as any generation. (Us included.)

    I really have been thinking about what the virus has been doing to society. And yes, when we come out the other side, much will have changed. But for now to try make sense of things, I revert back to an old standby — Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I believe we have all “slipped” down a level or two. Probably operating for much of the time at survival mode, with a deep hankering for social needs.

    And for the most part — except for our Fairfield County neighbors who seek to have a great appearance — not much in the “Status” level. About the only folks who are likely to feel any sense of Self Actualization are the ones keeping us alive. And well deserved.


    Got the following email from an MNB reader about the situation in which some stores find themselves:

    The other side of the coin, when someone in a higher role says: all shoppers must wear masks, only one shopper to a cart, one way in  one way out. There aren't any teeth in the ruling. It is left to the stores to "piss off" their customers. It becomes a confrontational situation. Very unfair to the teammate manning the door. You cannot legislate good morals, that's what parents instill and adults must remember. My teammates have been in too many huffs and puffs because people do not like to be told what they must do. But I am very proud of my team and their actions, work ethic, and how much they lay on the line daily.


    And from another reader about my characterization of people who seem not to care about following shopping guidance:

    Funny Kevin, regarding your observation about who is compliant. I view it differently.

    I shop at Jewel/Osco, Meijer and Aldi here in far northwest suburban Chicagoland. I try to shop early when the store, during “Senior Hour,” in the hopes that the stores will be less crowded. I notice that probably women are the most compliant with the Covid-19 restrictions. And that 10% that doesn’t give a ____, are MEN, mostly 45 – 65.

    Yesterday, at Meijer, as I was going in I noticed this guy who rides the same train going into Chicago as I do, exiting with his wife. She was wearing a mask, but he wasn’t, and he avoided making eye contact with me. And I know this guy somewhat. He approached me with a cold-call presentation at the Kane County Flea Market a few years ago, and I remembered him on the train ever since. We nod and sometimes say hello. He’s a tall guy, and he frequently spreads out across a couple of seats. (I hate that . . . a seat hog, although I’ve never seen him deny anyone a seat if he was approached). He’s just that guy who thinks he special. And that’s the rub . . . what is it with these people who think they’re so special that they don’t have to adopt PPE? It’s all the same crowd, they’re probably out at some rally protesting that their personal liberties are being infringed on by the stay at home order.

    SCREW YOU! I don’t care what risks you want to make with your health, but by not wearing masks and adhering to distancing standards you’re putting me at risk.

    How selfish! You may perhaps get your wish. I don’t want to see anyone suffer with Covid-19, but folks, that’s just plain karma playing out.  


    One MNB reader agreed with my FaceTime observation yesterday about the lack of mail:

    And it takes more time.  It took 8 days for a birthday card to get from Portland Oregon to Northern California.  It contained a gift card.  Should have taken 4 days maximum. Missed the birthday.  Next time I will send it all online.  I doubt the 16 year old cares if there isn’t a physical card. 

    The 16-year-old probably doesn't even know what a stamp is.

    I suggested yesterday that the move away from paper promotions, ads and coupons that come through the mail because of the pandemic ought to be sustained when things get back to some semblance of normal … it would be more cost-effective, would allow companies to be more targeted, would be more environmentally sound and would be a simple acknowledgement of how people live their lives.

    MNB reader Bill Tierney disagreed:

    I think there is merit in part to what you say, yes less paper is environmentally sound, but until we have the ability to touch every person everyday like the USPS does I feel you idea is flawed.

    That said, the USPS itself utilized electronic medium itself in today's world so working in concert rather than total abandonment seems like a better solution.

    From NAPLES FL to NOME AK,  from YONKERS NY to YUMA AZ, the USPS goes, but not all regions are served with reliable or any internet so you are excluding people from being able to being served equally in today's  environment.

    Yes Kevin I am pro USPS were I served for 36 + years and still today I mail something each and everyday.

    P.S.  Check out Informed Delivery from the USPS......great way to see what's heading to your mailbox each and everyday

    And when the USPS folds because of a further decline in volume what do people without internet access do?

    I am not saying that the USPS should be shut down.  In fact, we need it to survive so that people are able to vote by mail, which I think is critical these days in terms of maintaining a robust and participatory democracy.

    But I'm not sure anyone would argue that the current business model is working.

    As a taxpayer, I would have no problem actually putting a small percentage of my taxes to the USPS, which perhaps could engineer some sort of innovative partnership with private delivery companies to create an entity more efficient and effective.

    I think we continue to prop up a system that seems to have structural issues … I'd look to naming a two-pizza team of business leaders that would be charged with taking three months to come up with a new USPS - if you were designing a postal service from scratch, for this moment and for the future, what would it look like?  

    And then go from there.  Look forward, not backward.

    (Which is what a lot of companies should be doing right now.)