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    Published on: May 4, 2020

    Will businesses try to convince consumers that the pandemic was all a dream when it begins to recede?  Will consumers want to be convinced that it was an anomaly, an outlier, and not some "new normal."  KC ponders these questions, and more.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    MarketWatch reports that the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives on Friday called for Amazon founder-CEO Jeff Bezos to appear at a hearing and answer questions about how his company uses sales data for third-party vendors when developing its own private label products.

    The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Amazon employees have been using sales data for products marketed by independent sellers on its site as a way of deciding what private label items it should make and market, and how much it should charge for them.  If true, that would not just be in conflict with stated company policy, but also at odds with sworn testimony by an Amazon executive at a 2019 Congressional hearing.

    "If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the Committee about the company's business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious," the committee's letter to Bezos said.

    To this point, Bezos has not been subpoenaed, nor has he publicly responded to the invitation.

    KC's View:

    As I said here when the story broke in the Journal, if Amazon is assuring third party vendors that it won't use their sales data to make decisions about competitive private label items, and it is doing so, that would be wrong.  And if Amazon assured Congress under oath that it doesn't do this, and it does, that could be more than problematic.  It could be a crime.

    Amazon is doing what every retailer does.  It looks for high-performing brands and, where it makes sense, knocks them off in a private label version and undercuts them on price.  Amazon probably is doing it better and faster and with greater impact, but that's par for the course.

    (I'm happy to testify to this effect, if anyone is interested.)

    But … I have to believe that if Bezos does not accept the invitation, it quickly will morph into a subpoena, and he won't have any choice.  I, for one, would love to attend those hearings for the entertainment value alone.  It seems clear that Bezos and Amazon are taking on fire from both political directions, though for different reasons.

    The New York Times, by the way, has a piece about Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a liberal Democrat who represents much of Seattle and who sits on the Judiciary Committee.  Jayapal argues "that the internet giant exploits workers and abuses its market power. Those criticisms have become louder during the coronavirus pandemic, which has made the public more dependent on Amazon’s store and put the workers who keep it humming under intense pressure.

    "But no other national elected official with Ms. Jayapal’s liberal politics has a district filled with Amazon’s corporate employees, who could be skeptical of her criticism but have become increasingly concerned about the company’s treatment of workers in its supply chain."

    You can read that piece here.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    A number of retailers this weekend announced that, in response to concerns about a potential meat shortage stemming from shutdowns of major processing plants because of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, they would be limiting the sales of meat products.

    "Costco has implemented limits on certain items to help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need," the company announced.  "Our buyers and suppliers are working hard to provide essential, high demand merchandise as well as everyday favorites."  NBC News writes that this includes meat, which "will temporarily be limited to a total of three per member for beef, pork, and poultry selections."

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that "Giant Eagle is limiting the quantity of ground beef and advertised meat products that individuals can purchase per transaction," though the company says that the move "is due to increased demand, rather than decreased supply."

    Giant Eagle says that "to discourage bulk purchasing and ensure that we have product available for as many guests as possible, we are temporarily limiting the number of ground beef and advertised meat products guests can purchase at once. In a single transaction, guests are able to purchase two packages of ground beef and up to two of each meat item advertised in our weekly circular."

    CNN reports that Kroger is imposing is purchase limits on ground beef and fresh pork in some stores.  "We feel good about our ability to maintain a broad assortment of meat and seafood for our customers because we purchase protein from a diverse network of suppliers," said a Kroger representative. "There is plenty of protein in the supply chain. However, some processors are experiencing challenges."

    WHEC-TV News reports that Wegmans is limiting sales of "Family Pack 80% Ground Beef" and "Family Pack Boneless Skinless Breast" to two per order.

    Wegmans says the "Coronavirus is impacting meat supply across the country, but we do not expect to see a shortage of meat proteins available to our customers. Although we may not have every product cut or variety available for the next few weeks, we are working hard to source all the products we can to ensure our customers have plenty of options in our meat department. We are confident supply will stabilize as time goes on. Until then, we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments to our sourcing strategy as necessary."

    And, a reality check from The Hill:

    "The country's beef output has decreased at a more significant rate than what plant closings due to the coronavirus pandemic originally suggested, signaling that the current beef shortage could continue after the plants reopen.

    "According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cattle slaughter dropped 37 percent this past week compared to what it was year ago, Bloomberg reports. This is higher than the 10 to 15 percent capacity that meat plants around the country have lost due to the pandemic.

    "In the same vein, hog slaughter was down 35 percent from a year ago, more than the 25 to 30 percent estimate from the shutdowns."

    KC's View:

    It doesn't really matter whether retailers are limiting meat purchases because of high demand or low supply - because high demand is connected to concerns about low supply.  Much of this is perception, but that doesn't matter either, because perception becomes reality.  And then reality feeds perception.

    Published on: May 4, 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 1,188,826 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 68,606 deaths and 178,594 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 3,582,889 coronavirus cases, with 248,567 deaths and 1,160,131 reported recoveries.

    •  The New York Times this morning reports that President Trump "predicted on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country might reach as high as 100,000 in the United States, far higher than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to begin reopening the shuttered economy.

    "Mr. Trump, who last month forecast that 60,000 lives would be lost, acknowledged that the virus had proved more devastating than he had expected but said he believed parks and beaches should begin reopening and schools should resume classes in person by this fall."

    •  The New York Post reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given "emergency approval to a COVID-19 antibody test that boasts near-perfect accuracy …Swiss drugmaker Roche said the new test, which determines whether someone had a past infection, has proven 100% accurate at detecting antibodies in the blood and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of them.

    "The company said the test requires intravenous blood draws, with higher accuracy than finger-prick tests."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Americans began trickling back into shopping malls Friday, wearing masks and facing new rules … Malls, restaurants and movie theaters in Texas and roughly a dozen other states emerged Friday from the coronavirus lockdowns that have fueled six weeks of economic paralysis, leaving business owners, workers and consumers to make calculations about what normal should look like amid an ongoing public health crisis … More than half of America’s governors have relaxed restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus. But the reopenings are largely piecemeal and vary in scope."

    The story notes that "the landscape is even more muddled within states, with many large cities extending stay-at-home orders even as they are lifted in more rural areas. Officials in Nashville, Denver, St. Louis and other cities have told residents to stay home even as their states have moved to reopen. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has insisted the entire state follow his plans to reopen, even though mayors in cities such as Austin and Dallas have balked."

    But, the Post points out, public health experts "have warned that premature openings could lead to a resurgence of the virus, which has killed more than 64,000 Americans."

    •  The Seattle Times reports that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said last Friday that "he would extend Washington’s stay-home order through May 31, but is seeking ways for some businesses to open before then, as he and state officials try to keep the new coronavirus from roaring back."

    The story says that "the governor has cited a slew of models and metrics that inform his decision-making, including the daily number of new confirmed cases, as well as COVID-19 fatalities, hospital data and projections for how the virus may spread. But Inslee has not given specific numbers he’s looking for before easing restrictions. He said he wants a combination of favorable numbers across the data.

    "In the plan issued Friday, Washington’s economy and social life would reopen in four phases, with some types of businesses ideally beginning to reopen in mid-May as the first phase even as the stay-home order remains until the end of the month.

    Those businesses include retail stores able to offer curbside pickup. Automobile sales and car washes would reopen, with some restrictions. The governor also intends to allow drive-in spiritual services with one household per vehicle."

    Each phase for reopening, the story says, "will take at least three weeks, an amount of time long enough, the governor said, to let officials see if the approach is working."

    The Times story notes that "demonstrators, among them Republican lawmakers, have rallied against the governor’s stay-at-home order. Protesters on Friday gathered at the state Capitol. One carried a sign that read: 'FEAR IS THE REAL VIRUS.'

    And, "GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman along with some others Friday filed a lawsuit against the governor in federal court, alleging that Inslee’s stay-home order has imposed 'unacceptable tyranny'."

    •  The Boston Globe reports that under a statewide order issued Friday by Massachusetts Charlie Baker, "Millions of Massachusetts residents will be required to cover their faces when they shop for groceries, take public transportation, or even go for a jog if they can’t distance themselves from others … The mandate takes effect Wednesday, and adds to the raft of directives the Republican governor has issued, including shuttering thousands of businesses through May 18, as part of his bid to slow the still-proliferating COVID-19 disease."

    Baker closed all of Massachusetts' schools for the rest of the academic year two weeks ago.

    •  Also from the Boston Globe:

    "Don’t iron those business clothes or reactivate that monthly T pass just yet.

    Safely resuscitating an economy laid low by the coronavirus likely will be painfully slow and require a gradual return to the workplace supported by mandatory face masks, social distancing, and an expansion of state testing that could cost $720 million a year.

    "That is the sobering assessment of a high-powered Massachusetts business group - backed by research from top medical academics and professionals - that has the ear of the advisers who Governor Charlie Baker will rely on as he weighs how and when to begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions … As states such as Georgia and Texas push to reopen quickly, the council’s report said a cautious and methodical approach is needed in Massachusetts absent universal testing or a COVID-19 vaccine, which is at least 18 months off. There is no guarantee that Baker would follow any or all of the recommendations, but the report does echo his generally cautious approach to managing the crisis."

    •  The New York Times reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that all schools in the state will remain closed for the remainder of this academic year, with decisions about summer school and the fall semester to be made down the road.

    I live in Connecticut, and it is a matter of continuing frustration that our governor, ned Lamont, has not made a similar declaration.  Frankly, I don't know what the hell he is waiting for - New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, all of which border Connecticut, have all decided to keep their schools closed for the rest of the academic year.

    Bringing kids into the schools between now and mid-June would be a pointless exercise, with it being almost impossible to practice necessary physical distancing - it would not only put the students at risk, but would definitely put the teachers at risk.  As the husband of one public school teacher and the father of another, I find this to be an unacceptable gamble.

    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that "the coronavirus pandemic has left Washington’s farmers with at least a billion pounds of potatoes they can’t sell, a new crop growing without any buyers and millions of dollars in debt they have no way to pay.

    "The state’s fertile Columbia Basin produces nearly a quarter of the potatoes grown in the United States, 10 billion pounds in 2019. The vast majority — 90% — were turned into frozen French fries and shipped to restaurants, some in the United States but mostly to Asia."

    The Times writes that "as it turns out, getting rid of a billion pounds of spuds isn’t easy — or cheap. It usually takes Washington farmers a year to sell that quantity to grocery stores … Washington potato farmers hope the U.S. Department of Agriculture will step in and buy their billion-pound glut, then donate the potatoes to food banks or even cattle ranchers as supplemental livestock feed."

    But even if someone is willing to take all those potatoes, moving them "would require filling at least 20,000 tractor-trailers - and paying for fuel."

    In reporting on a potato glut in Belgium, MNB last week called folks to eat more french fries in solidarity with our Belgian brothers and sisters.  Now, it appears that a similar crisis is happening closer to home.  So let us band together…

    "So comrades, come rally

    And the last fight let us face…"

    •  The Seattle Times reports that "Amazon told its corporate employees working from home since early March that they 'are welcome to do so until at least October 2,' raising the prospect that one of Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods could be largely deserted for another five months.  The extension of the work-from-home guidance applies to 'employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home,' according to a message the company sent employees Thursday."

    The Times goes on to note that "Amazon’s decision to let engineers and other office staff keep working from home through at least Oct. 2 was another blow for struggling merchants in downtown Seattle and Bellevue, which have been virtual ghost towns since the coronavirus crisis emptied the cubicle farms in March."  It also "could signal a broader trend toward extending work-from-home practices. Other white-collar employers are realizing that returning to the workplaces is likely to require extensive precautions — and pose heightened health risks — even after business gets the all-clear from Gov. Jay Inslee."

    The story notes that "Amazon has taken steps to support small businesses surrounding its South Lake Union and Bellevue offices, providing $10 million in grants and rent relief to more than 800 small businesses, it said as part of its quarterly earnings announcement Thursday. A company spokesperson had no updates on the disposition of these programs going forward.

    "The company had also pledged to continue paying contracting companies who employ some 10,000 people to clean, secure and staff reception desks at its corporate offices during the work-from-home period. The spokesperson said Thursday it will continue paying for that work."

    •  CNN reports that Uber "plans to require drivers and riders to wear face masks or face coverings when using the platform in certain countries, including the United States … Executives approved the new policy in a meeting this past week, according to a person familiar with the matter, and the requirement is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

    "As part of the policy, Uber is in the process of developing technology to detect if drivers are wearing masks or face coverings before they go online and start accepting trips, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy decision was just made recently and has not yet been introduced."

    •  The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story about how "the coronavirus shutdowns are giving scientists an opportunity they never thought they would have: to see what would happen to the planet if the world’s economy went on hiatus.

    "The result has been drops in air pollutants to levels not seen in at least 70 years, easier breathing for people with respiratory ailments and consistently clear views of landmarks often obscured by smog, such as the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles and the Manhattan skyline."

    You can read the piece here.

    I know we can't shut off the economy forever.  I don't want to.  But it seems to me that as a culture we all have to learn from this experience, and have a sense of where the world needs to go if we are to make a fragile planet more sustainable, not less so.  We need to examine every facet of our lives in the context of what we have learned, and we ignore these lessons at our own risk.

    •  Little League International has decided to cancel its World Series and various regional tournaments for first time in the organization's history.

    2021 was originally supposed to be the playing of the 75th Little League Baseball World Series, but the organization says that the celebration will now take place in 2022.

    •  Lovely story in the Wall Street Journal about Gio Gelati in San Francisco, where owner Guido Mastropaolo has embraced a mission - to cheer up the aging Italian population that lives in the city by delivering free gelato to residents isolated by the pandemic.  (Also to local first responders, it should be pointed out.)

    "For these 'old generation' immigrants - many of whom live alone, speak little English and have helplessly watched deaths from Covid-19 in their homeland soar above 25,000 - free gelato can provide some solace.  'In Italy we have two antidepressants: espresso and gelato,' says the 59-year-old Mr. Mastropaolo, who opened Gio Gelati 2½ years ago."

    Molto bene.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    The New York Times reports that  Paul Kruse, the former CEO of Blue Bell Creameries, has been "charged with conspiracy in connection with his repeated efforts to cover up what became a deadly outbreak of listeria in some of the company’s products in 2015."

    In addition, the Times reports, "the company pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products and agreed to pay a total of $19.4 million in fines, forfeitures and civil payments - the second-largest amount ever paid to resolve a food safety case, officials said … Prosecutors charged that Blue Bell, which is based in Brenham, Texas, about 75 miles northwest of Houston, distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under unsanitary conditions and contaminated with listeria monocytogenes."

    The Times story says that Kruse "learned from state and federal officials as well as third-party labs that test samples of at least seven company ice cream products made at two different plants had tested positive for listeria, court papers said.

    Yet, prosecutors contend, he repeatedly minimized, ignored or tried to cover up the problem products, which included Blue Bell Great Divide Bar and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie, despite concerns raised by company employees and customers, including a Kansas hospital and a Florida school."

    KC's View:

    On October 12, 2016, I commented about this story:

    I know that loyalists seem to believe that in the end, all this stuff won't hurt Texas-based Blue Bell. Maybe that's just a sense that Texans have a stronger stomach for this stuff than other people.

    But I think the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that this is a company that may have systemic problems with how it sources and makes its products. And I know that Blue Bell has had enough problems that I (admittedly, not a Texan) cannot imagine ever buying its ice cream. Ever. Again.

    A couple of weeks before that I commented:

    The fact is that Blue Bell didn't just have to recall its products last year, but also seemed to be slow in understanding that transparency in such matters is an absolute requirement if one is to maintain the trust of consumers.

    Now, to be fair, I have to admit here that I did not understand the degree of loyalty that many consumers feel about Blue Bell, so I underestimated the company's ability to come back from its food safety troubles. I don't want to make the same mistake twice, so I won't go predicting dire consequences for the company ... especially because this seems to be a different issue than last time around.

    That said, a brand is responsible - legally, morally, ethically - for food safety up and down the supply chain. The "a third party did it" line may be an explanation, but it is not an excuse.

    To use a Latin proverb I've often quoted here over the years, "Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes".

    At some point, this food safety bell can't be un-rung.

    I also know this. I can't imagine any circumstances under which I would knowingly consume Blue Bell ice cream.

    And in January 20-16, I wrote:

    I know retailers who felt that Blue Bell mismanaged this crisis almost from the start. Not sure if this mismanagement will reach the level of criminality, but it'll be interesting to find out.

    I guess we got our answer.

    I'm still not from Texas.  And I'm still never going to eat any Blue Bell.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    The New York Times reports that "preppy-with-a-twist" fashion retailer J. Crew is expected to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as today, with expectations that it will turn the company over to its creditors.

    The story says that J. Crew "would be the first major retailer to fall during the coronavirus pandemic, though other big industry names including Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney are likewise struggling with the devastating toll of mass shutdowns."

    The company has been in negotiations for weeks about how to handle its mounting debt  The Times writes that the company "was carrying a debt burden of $1.7 billion based on a leveraged buyout in 2011 by two private-equity firms — TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners — even before the coronavirus brought clothing sales to a near-halt in the 182 stores, 140 Madewells and 170 outlets it was running as of early March. And it had struggled to adapt to changing consumer tastes."

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that "high-end cookware chain Sur La Table Inc. is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing after the pandemic forced it to close stores and cancel cooking classes, according to people familiar with the matter.

    "The chain, with about 125 stores, is also pursuing a sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public."

    KC's View:

    It somehow is completely unsurprising that J. Crew has accumulAted so much debt since being acquired by a pair of private equity groups.  It is a pretty good bet that both those groups have covered their own fiscal rear ends even as the company went into the tank.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    Good piece in Fast Company about the potentially fatal blow being delivered to the department store business by the pandemic.  An excerpt:

    "After a century and a half, the American department store appears to be headed toward the grave. These glittering emporia that once drew crowds with fashion shows, concerts, and lavish holiday windows are going out with whimper, not a bang—an apparent victim of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic."

    It isn't a new problem.  They have "been in declining health for a decade, as they became less relevant in the landscape of American life."  But now, as they try to fight their way out of the pandemic crisis that closed their physical stores, most from a position of weakness, they are facing a potential death sentence.

    "Analysts at Cowen say that Macy’s, Kohl’s, and J.C. Penney will only be able to withstand a few months of store closures before running out of cash and ending up in the same boat" as Neiman Marcus, "which is currently contemplating bankruptcy or a fire sale."  And "Nordstrom may have about a year," analysts say.

    You can read the entire story here.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

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

    •  The Wall Street Journal has a piece about then increasingly complicated e-grocery business, which has gone through the roof because of the pandemic.

    An excerpt:

    "In many cities, in-store shoppers face long lines to enter, empty shelves for high-demand provisions and other stressed customers trying to maintain the sanctioned 6 feet of distance. Meanwhile, online, you peruse goods from the comfort of your couch and the haul is dropped off right at your front door. It’s not just about convenience: For high-risk people, essential workers and working parents, it’s a lifeline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends home delivery or curbside pickup if possible.

    "That’s why delivery slots are getting scarce - and slot squatting is becoming a national pastime. With Instacart orders more than six times higher than they were at this time last year and stores limiting in-store traffic, you need to be quick to click. You also need to be careful: Some people are resorting to potentially harmful auto-refresh browser extensions and scripts."

    You can read its survey of various options here.

    I know that some of you are getting tired of me beating this drum, but I would just point out that in its survey of retailers offering e-grocery options, the Journal; treats Instacart as a retailer, not as a service provider.  Which would, if I were a retailer trying to maintain consistent and differentiated brand equity that extends from the store to delivery/pickup options, scare the hell out of me.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    •  Publix Super Markets said that its sales for the just-ended quarter were $11.2 billion, up 16.1 percent from $9.7 billion during the same period a year ago.  Same-store sales were up 14.4 percent in the period.  Publix estimated that $1 billion of those new sales were a result of business generated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Net earnings for the quarter, however, were down 32 percent to $667.3 million, compared to $981 million in 2019.

    "Never before have we experienced a more challenging time," said Publix CEO Todd Jones. "Our associates’ efforts to serve our customers and communities have been nothing short of extraordinary.

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    •  United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has hired Jim Gehr, most recently president of DHL’s Retail North America unit, as its new chief supply chain officer. 

    •  Drinks Holdings, which describes itself as the "operator of the nation’s only Wine as a Service (WaaS) platform," announced the hiring of Hans Holmer - a 27-year Walmart veteran who most recently was Senior Director of Regional Transportation of Walmart Transportation - as its Vice President of Operations.

    The company says that the move comes as "consumers are overwhelmingly embracing the convenience, curation, and value afforded by beverage alcohol e-commerce."

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    On Friday, MNB reported:

    Amazon said yesterday that its first quarter sales were up 26 percent to $75.5 billion compared to the same period a year ago, but also reported that Q1 net income was down to $2.5 billion, from $3.6 billion a year ago.

    CEO-founder Jeff Bezos said in a prepared statement that the "current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced."

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    If  $2.5 billion net income  is “hard times”, then sign me up.

    Regarding the meat shortage, MNB reader Mike Bach wrote:

    I think it's worse than is being reported, candidly.  No news service seems to be interested in reporting this story…until it’s a crisis, I guess.

    The 4 main packers have a virtual monopoly on cattle. A few years ago when Puerto Rico had the hurricane, IV fluids for animals and people were very difficult to get because so many were made in PR and the plant shut down. We have allowed the Chinese to control manufacturing of an astonishing percent of our drugs. Either the drug itself is produced in China or their components. (Ditto with dietary supplements..)

    Several farmers who feed out cattle either at home or in commercial feedlots are sitting on cattle ready to go to market today or last week and no packer buyer will even look at them. Every day they have to keep feeding them while the quality goes down along with profits (or actually, they will lose more than they were already going to).

    It is like having ripe vegetables rotting in the fields.  It's hurting the American farmers.

    Competition is a good thing. It doesn’t happen when we allow so few companies to control so much of the business, as is happening in the meat processing business system. Ditto the airlines. Or, concert ticket distributors. An endless list of monopolies / oligopolies exist when one really thinks about it…but not US retail, which is why pricing and service are competitive points of difference.

    Responding to the stories and emails we had last week about the Belgian potato shortage, and our call for everyone to eat more french fries in solidarity, MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

    Great point! I know a lot of our local breweries and distillers are having tough times. So just got some Shiner. Thinking about Tito’s vodka - made with taters, right?

    And another MNB reader wrote:

    I was SO sure you (or a reader) would come back with the suggestion for alternative methods of reducing the potato overage, that I didn’t write.

    However, MY vote is to distill them - quarantine makes me think more vodka.  

    I like the idea of vodka, too … but my understanding is that Tito's is made with corn, not potatoes.  Just FYI.

    My FaceTime on Friday was about this story:

    One MNB reader responded:

    I loved FaceTime today.  You have a pretty good voice too.  And, as Sally Field said “we really really like you!”

    Another wrote:

    Oh fear not, we get you.

    Thanks Kevin, nice job as Thenardier, btw!

    MNB reader Glenn Cantor wrote:

    You have a good singing voice.

    But, from another reader:

    Don’t quit your day job!

    Published on: May 4, 2020

    I'm happy to announce that on Friday, at 8 pm EDT / 5 pm PDT, we're going to do it again … our third MNB Virtual Happy Hour.

    I'm scheduling this one a little later in the day to make it easier for west coast readers to join us.  (You can, of course, join in no matter where you live.)

    The folks at GMDC have once again agreed to sponsor and host it, and I'll have a link and instructions for you later this week.

    Hopefully, you can put it on your calendar … choose a libation for Happy Hour … and then prop up your laptop or warm up your computer on Friday for a conversation and a drink.  (You don't have to let me know you're coming, but it would be nice to know.)

    More to come…