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    Published on: July 31, 2020

    KC offers kudos to Schnucks, which has been working with local St. Louis restaurants, including a number of black-owned restaurants, allowing them to create grab-and-go meals to be sold in its stores, with both adds variety and interest to its fresh food selection and helps the restaurants stay viable in tough times.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Amazon's plans to launch 3,236 satellites into low-Earth orbit, which will then be able to provide satellite-based broadband service to remote areas of the US and the world that traditionally have had trouble accessing such services, have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

    The initiative, dubbed by Amazon as Project Kuiper, has a projected cost of more than $10 billion.

    Engadget reports that half the satellites have to be launched by 2026, with all of them in the sky by July 2029.  Amazon reportedly also has agreed to "de-orbit" the satellites within a year of the date that they have completed their mission, as opposed to within 20 years, which is the NASA standard;  this accelerated pace is key to addressing what is called "Low Earth Orbit’s growing space debris problem."

    Now, if you know anything about this stuff, Amazon is hiring - there are 110 jobs on Project Kuiper posted on its website.

    FYI … the project is named after the Kuiper belt, an icy region outside the orbit of Neptune, named after planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper.  (I was curious, and thought you might be, too.)

    And one other point, that to me is the real potential Eye-Opener.  This didn't come up in this week's Congressional hearings, but Project Kuiper would seem to be right in line with Amazon's goal of being uniquely embedded in consumers' lives.  I wonder how many US citizens who didn't have it before will get high-speed internet because of Amazon … and I wonder how this might factor into how lawmakers decide to deal with regulation.

    Just wondering.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart, looking to eliminate costs and streamline its US business, is laying off "hundreds of workers in its store planning, logistics and real estate units" as it looks to integrate its bricks-and-mortar and online businesses.

    In an email to Bloomberg, a Walmart spokesperson said, "We are continuing on our journey to create an omni-channel organization within our Walmart U.S. business and we’re making some additional changes this week."  The goal, the spokesperson said, is to increase “innovation, speed and productivity.”

    Bloomberg writes:  "The move is an acknowledgment that Walmart is simply not opening many new stores in the U.S. anymore, so it doesn’t need as many people to find new locations and design them. It’s also part of a multi-year streamlining effort that has sought to simplify its U.S. operations and consolidate its brick-and-mortar and online divisions."

    CNBC provides some additional context:

    "Walmart is trying to turn its e-commerce business into a profitable one. It’s made a series of organizational changes and announcements in recent months. In late February, the company merged its buyer teams on the store and online side to decrease conflicts over the pricing of products online and in-store. It struck deals with secondhand apparel and accessories site ThredUp in May and with Shopify in June to expand the assortment of goods and add new brands to its website.

    "It announced in May that it would wind down its brand. And it’s expected to launch a subscription-based service called Walmart+ to better compete with Amazon Prime.

    "Online sales have become even more crucial for the retailer during the coronavirus pandemic. Walmart’s e-commerce sales in the U.S. shot up by 74% in the first quarter, which ended April 30."

    KC's View:

    I've been arguing since the beginning of the pandemic that every company - no matter how big or small - has to be different in some way coming out of the pandemic than it was going in.  Walmart is simply doing what it must - adapting to an accelerated e-commerce environment and getting its various operations in line with consumers need and wants.

    This is very smart.  It probably also isn't the end of its moves … Doug McMillon seems to understand that even Walmart has to be a work-in-progress.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "Employers across the country are being sued by the families of workers who contend their loved ones contracted lethal cases of Covid-19 on the job, a new legal front that shows the risks of reopening workplaces.

    "Walmart Inc., Safeway Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and some health-care facilities have been sued for gross negligence or wrongful death since the coronavirus pandemic began unfolding in March. Employees’ loved ones contend the companies failed to protect workers from the deadly virus and should compensate their family members as a result. Workers who survived the virus also are suing to have medical bills, future earnings and other damages paid out.

    "In responding to the lawsuits, employers have said they took steps to combat the virus, including screening workers for signs of illness, requiring they wear masks, sanitizing workspaces and limiting the number of customers inside stores. Some point out that it is impossible to know where or how their workers contracted Covid-19, particularly as it spreads more widely across the country."

    You can read the story here.

    The Journal writes that "the cases are part of an unfolding liability threat facing U.S. companies of all industries as many resume operations after having employees work remotely or being shut down altogether for months.

    "The coronavirus relief bill that Senate Republicans unveiled this week would make it harder for workers to sue their employer if they get sick on the job. The proposed legislation protects companies, schools and churches from being held liable for coronavirus infections beginning in December 2019, unless they acted with willful misconduct or engaged in grossly negligent behavior.

    "The bill would cap punitive damages, set a clear-and-convincing-evidence burden of proof and raise requirements for personal-injury lawsuits. It would also push such lawsuits to federal courts, which potentially are more favorable to defendants."

    KC's View:

    I am conflicted on this one.  I think there are plenty of cases in which companies tried to do the right thing, but made mistakes because of changing circumstances and evolving intelligence.

    But I also think there were cases in which companies were not necessarily motivated by what I would consider appropriate priorities.  

    I'd like to see the latter companies pay a significant price for their actions, but I am not confident in the system's ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    On Wednesday, CEOs from four of the world's biggest and most powerful technology companies testified before a US House of Representatives subcommittee looking into antitrust issues in the sector.  On Thursday, one of them - Amazon - demonstrated the extent to which its economic fortunes have been buoyed by the pandemic.

    Amazon said yesterday that its second quarter revenue was up 40 percent to $88.9 billion, with profit doubling to $5.2 billion, driven by pandemic-induced demand that stressed even its systems.

    The Wall Street Journal notes that profits increased despite  "coronavirus-related costs, hiring hundreds of thousands of workers, increasing pay and taking dozens of steps to ensure warehouse safety after facing early criticism from some employees. Amazon’s workforce now exceeds 1 million people and it is the second-largest employer in the U.S."

    The other thee companies also reported quarterly numbers.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    •  "The global pandemic dealt a rare losing hand to Google’s venerable digital advertising operation, pushing revenue down compared with a year earlier for the first time in company history … Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., reported advertising revenue of $29.9 billion for the second quarter. That metric, which includes ads on Google’s own properties as well as those placed on other websites, fell short of the $32.5 billion haul a year earlier."

    •  "Facebook brought in $18.7 billion in revenue in the quarter, up from $16.9 billion a year earlier and beating analyst expectations of $17.34 billion, according to data from FactSet. The 11% growth is a sharp deceleration from the average gains of nearly 25% annual growth that the company had posted over the last four quarters.  Earnings rose to $5.18 billion, or $1.80 a share, compared with the $3.96 billion, or $1.39 a share, expected by analysts."

    And from CNBC:

    •  "Apple reported a historically strong quarter on Thursday, including $59.7 billion in revenue and double-digit growth in its products and services segments, blowing away analyst estimates in a period deeply impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The company also announced it plans to give investors three additional shares of Apple per share already owned at the end of August as part of a 4-1 stock split.

    "Apple saw widespread retail closures during the quarter, especially in the United States, but touted both work-from-home trends and strong online sales as delivering a boost to overall operations."

    KC's View:

    I see those numbers, and I keep thinking about how each of these companies' CEOs kept saying, almost plaintively, to the subcommittee, words to the effect of, "We're not really that big."

    Yeah.  Right.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    There has been a lot of speculation about what food retailers are going to do with their cold bars, hot bars and salad bars now that the coronavirus pandemic has made such installations somewhat less palatable to the consumer public.

    ShopRite of Carteret believe sit has found a solution - Sally the Salad Robot, which it says "offers a contactless and individualized salad bar experience at a time when many people are looking for alternatives to traditional salad bars. Sally uses groundbreaking, advanced robotics and self-service technology to prepare and dispense made-to-order salads and healthy meals."

    Sally actually has been around for several years - TechCrunch ran a story about Chowbotics, the company behind it, several years ago:

    KC's View:

    Sally may simply have been ahead of her time.  I wonder how many retailers are looking back at pitches they got a few years ago and dismissed, thinking that those ideas may in fact be ideal for the reality in which we now all find ourselves.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) said yesterday that it has been informed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) that the 2020 NACS Show, scheduled for October 11-14, cannot take place because of the pandemic.

    “It is with heavy heart that we make this announcement,” said NACS president-CEO Henry Armour. “We had worked closely with the health department with jurisdiction, the LVCVA, our official partners, vendors and other stakeholders to develop a world-class ‘city within a city’ that prioritized safety for our attendees and staff. At the same time, there are issues beyond our control that led to this decision."

    Armour said that NACS will instead offer an all-new virtual experience.

    "Given all the disruption we have faced in 2020, it’s also essential to keep our industry moving forward,” he said.  “We invested in new platforms that we intended to roll out in 2021 to supplement our robust education and networking offer. We have fast-tracked implementation of this comprehensive series of virtual offerings to support our industry’s pressing need to stay connected and to bring our community together until we are able to resume in-person events."

    Details to come…

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 4,634,985 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 155,285 deaths and 2,284,965 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  17,499,767 confirmed coronavirus cases, 677,184 fatalities, and 10,956,538 reported recoveries.

    •  Herman Cain, the onetime CEO of Godfather's Pizza who went on to become a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has passed away at age 74 after having contracted the Covid-19 coronavirus.

    Cain had tested positive for the coronavirus on June 29.  He also was a cancer survivor, but it is unknown the degree to which underlying conditions contributed to his death.

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "As more major U.S. retailers require their customers to wear masks, a growing number of store employees are being confronted by unruly and sometimes violent customers who refuse to comply. Now, the head of the largest union representing retail workers said businesses have unfairly burdened their employees with enforcing mask-wearing policies, to the detriment of workers and customers alike.

    "Employers bear the responsibility to provide a safe workplace, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who called for companies to hire security to enforce a store’s mask policies or task members of the management with the role."

    I think most people would agree that front line personnel should not be charged with dealing with recalcitrant, selfish and often irrational customers.  I understand why many retailers with mask mandates are not enforcing the policy - it puts their employees at risk - and why many executives with whom I have spoken argue that the mandates need to come from lawmakers … customers are less likely to ignore them if they have the power of law behind them.  There always will be some people who have a misguided and narcissistic view of what "freedom" and "patriotism" mean, but one hopes that most people would at least follow the law.

    •  The New York Times reports that "coronavirus cases in New Jersey, which just a week ago had plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again, fueled in part by outbreaks among young adults along the Jersey Shore.

    "In the past seven days, New Jersey has recorded an average of 416 cases per day, an increase of 28 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a database maintained by the New York Times.

    "The increase has worried elected leaders and public health officials who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "Tyson Foods is launching weekly on-site coronavirus testing for employees at all 140 of its U.S. production facilities, making it one of the first major American employers to commit to such regular and expansive testing of its workforce.

    "The food conglomerate behind Tyson, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm has grappled with outbreaks of the novel coronavirus at its meat-processing plants that have sickened thousands of workers and led to supply chain slowdowns … With face masks, temperature checks and hand-sanitizer dispensers now common in American workplaces, systematic testing shows the lengths to which companies may go to ensure the safety of their workers — and ultimately their customers — as U.S. coronavirus infections surge past 4.4 million."

    It also illustrates, the Post suggests, the degree to which "the nation’s piecemeal response to the pandemic has forced businesses to take a more proactive approach to a public health crisis that has resulted in a recession."

    •  USA Today reports that McDonald's "announced a partnership with the Mayo Clinic on Thursday for COVID-19 infection prevention best practices."

    "I think Mayo was a natural place for us to go. They are renowned for their medical expertise," McDonald's president-CEO Chris Kempczinski tells the paper.  "I'm not a doctor; I sell burgers and fries. And to be able to get the advice of someone like the Mayo Clinic to make sure we keep people safe made a lot of sense."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "weeks before classes resume, coronavirus outbreaks linked to college campuses are becoming a growing headache for administrators.

    "At the University of Southern California, at least 40 coronavirus cases have been linked to an outbreak at the school’s fraternity row, officials said Thursday. Meanwhile, Colorado State University suspended football team workouts after eight players tested positive, and another outbreak was linked to a fraternity house.

    "Preseason workouts are also on hold at Rutgers University, where 15 football players are infected with the coronavirus. Six of those cases were detected through mandatory testing in the past week, and an on-campus party attended by several of the athletes might be to blame, reported.

    "A cluster of a dozen cases at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., are likewise believed to be the result of an off-campus social gathering where no masks were worn and students failed to practice social distancing. The outbreak included some students who were on campus to help lead orientation programs last week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

    "Many other colleges refuse to disclose how many of their students have tested positive, making it harder to determine whether outbreaks are happening."

    For the record, the colleges refusing to disclose their case numbers are not doing so because the levels are so low.  It just doesn't work that way.

    One other thing.  I've had some MNB readers ask why I'm spending time writing about the schools situation, suggesting that it isn't related to business.  But I would disagree.  If kids can''t go to school, it will affect the workforce, and it also will affect people's consumption and purchase habits.  And if they do go back to physical; classrooms, I am completely persuaded (and I say this as the husband of a teacher and the father of another) that this is going to lead to spikes and resurgences all over the country, which is going to affect the economy, which is going to affect business.  Make sense?

    •  Some other coronavirus notes from the Washington Post:

    • "Despite experiencing milder symptoms, children may carry as much of the coronavirus in their respiratory systems as adults, according to a new study published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics."
    • "An Indiana school that reopened Thursday had a student test positive for covid-19 on the first day of class, as battles over returning to classrooms continued to rage nationwide.

    "Some school districts in central Indiana resumed in-person classes this week, making them among the first in the nation to do so. At Greenfield Central Junior High School, the emergency response protocol immediately got put to the test when administrators learned that a student had tested positive midway through the school day, WTHR reported. The student was isolated at the school’s health clinic while officials reviewed schedules to identify any other students who might have been exposed and notify their parents."

    • "Nepal is reopening Mount Everest to international visitors in an attempt to make up for lost revenue after the country closed its borders in March.

    "Lockdown restrictions in the Himalayan nation were lifted last week, and Nepal is now open for tourism, 'including mountaineering and trekking,' officials told AFP. International flights will resume on Aug. 17."

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "Dunkin’ Brands Inc. expects to close up to 800 underperforming U.S. stores this year as it tries to shore up its portfolio in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "The company had previously announced the closure of 450 stores within Speedway gas stations. But the company said Thursday it’s targeting an additional 350 stores, most of which are unprofitable. Closing the restaurants would allow their franchisees to reinvest in newer stores in higher-traffic areas, Dunkin’ Chief Financial Officer Katherine Jaspon said during a conference call with investors."

    The company says that the units being closed are eight percent of the fleet, but just two percent of sales.

    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that "California Pizza Kitchen Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest restaurant chain to try to cut debt as it grapples with the pandemic … The company, which operates more than 200 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, has reached an agreement with a majority of its senior creditors on a restructuring plan. It’s looking to reduce its debt by $230 million, more than half of the total, and raise additional funding from existing lenders to buttress its balance sheet, according to court filings."

    •  From ESPN:

    "The Philadelphia Phillies have canceled all activities at Citizens Bank Park, including a weekend series against the Blue Jays, after a member of the coaching staff and a member of the home clubhouse staff tested positive for the coronavirus, the team announced Thursday.

    "The Phillies said no players have tested positive.

    "As a result, Saturday's doubleheader and Sunday's game in Philadelphia have been postponed, said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who told reporters that his team plans to remain in Washington for the weekend after completing their series Thursday with the Nationals … The Phillies have not played since Sunday. They are currently not scheduled to play until a four-game series against the Yankees -- in New York on Monday and Tuesday and at home Wednesday and Thursday."

    ESPN notes that "the new positive tests Thursday come after an attendant for the visiting clubhouse tested positive after a weekend series against the Miami Marlins, who have had 19 positive tests in the past seven days."

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Costco announced yesterday that it has signed a deal with Instacart that will expand on a two-month pilot in Ontario and bring same-day delivery to 76 warehouse stores across Canada.

    The announcement makes the point that "consumers in Canada can now shop from Costco's wide assortment of items including fresh produce, meat and seafood, snacks, deli, frozen goods, baby and pet essentials, and more on the Instacart marketplace with or without a Costco membership. The companies have also launched Costco's new Canadian member-only website – built and powered by Instacart Enterprise – featuring member benefits and access to same-day delivery via Instacart."

    I've never seen numbers on this, but I would love to know how many non-Costco members who shop the store via Instacart are then converted to having Costco memberships.  Because I've always had a little trouble understanding why Costco - for which membership fees traditionally have been a strong revenue source - would want to encourage non-members to shop there.

    •  The New York Times has a piece about a group of activists in France "that has succeeded in suspending construction at a site that campaigners and a senior local official say is earmarked to become a logistics hub" for Amazon.

    From the Times story:

    "In France, disparate anti-Amazon forces – including local activists, environmentalists, trade unions and members of parliament - are coming together to battle the world’s largest online retailer. In some instances, they have received funding from some of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists. The aim: to stop the e-commerce giant from expanding its presence arguing the U.S.-based company destroys retail jobs, exploits workers and harms the environment – arguments Amazon rejects.

    "Amazon opponents scored a high-profile victory in April when, following a separate legal challenge brought by trade union workers and backed by environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth, a French court ruled the firm was not adequately protecting its employees from COVID-19. Amazon, which disputed the court’s findings, responded by closing its French warehouses and distribution centres for 35 days. The company has since agreed a deal with unions and re-opened the hubs, but the ruling has emboldened the company’s critics elsewhere – including in the United States."

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    •  Reuters reports that "India’s Flipkart said on Tuesday it plans to offer 90-minute deliveries for groceries and home accessories, as the Walmart-owned online retailer goes head to head with in a key growth market for e-commerce.

    "Flipkart said its hyperlocal service, dubbed Flipkart Quick, will also sell mobile phones and stationery items, taking it a step further than Amazon’s quick-delivery service that mainly offers just groceries."

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    •  CNBC reports that Coca-Cola "announced it will release a hard seltzer under its Topo Chico brand later this year."  after an initial roll-out this year in Latin America, "Topo Chico Hard Seltzer will launch in the United States in 2021, making it the company’s first foray in alcoholic beverages in its home market for the first time since it sold its Wine Spectrum business in 1983."

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Published reports say that after just 16 months as chairman of Lidl US, Roman Heini has left the company to "pursue other interest" and "spend more time with his family."

    In a LinkedIn posting, Heini wrote, in part, "that I have gotten to spend this time working with people who are so motivated and upbeat is a blessing I hope you have shared, and will continue to share … Brick and mortar retail in the US is at a crossroads. This team can play a fundamental role in shaping the direction the industry takes. You are in the driver’s seat, and I can’t wait to see where you take the company in the future."

    Further details about his departure, or plans for a replacement, have not yet been disclosed.

    I have one, small question:  Do you know anyone who, after the past 4-5 months, wants to spend more time with his or her family?  Because I don't.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    Responding to a recent story about how much more expensive some take-out restaurant meals are compared to when you eat-in, MNB reader Joe Axford wrote:

    Hey KC, I used GrubHub for the first time last week.  A small Chinese food takeout order, 3 appetizers, total cost $28.10.  After fees from the restaurant, GrubHub, taxes and tip the total ran to $45.00.  Should have picked it up myself, lesson learned!

    On another subject, from MNB reader Jim Antrup:

    Enjoyed your FaceTime about Dixie cups,  (I missed yesterday as I took a couple of days off), but hearing you this morning I just had to share this.

    I work for a Pie company and we previously produced  a Bourbon  Chocolate Pecan pie, several years ago when the decision was made to remove the Bourbon the name was changed to Dixie Pie (nobody seems to remember why Dixie was chosen)). I can’t count the number of  questions I have encountered as to what a Dixie pie is (it is a Pecan base with Chocolate and Walnuts). We have even received comments on our website from consumers who inadvertently picked up the wrong pie (they look very similar) and questioned who  changed the formula of Pecan pie and added chocolate. Anyway to make a long story, last month we made a decision that Words do matter and we changed the name of our Dixie Pie to Chocolate Walnut Pie. We explained to customer that  by being descriptive we now are communicating to the consumer what is actually in the pie. I think a win on both parts.

    Another MNB reader had another take:

    Thanks for the video on Dixie Cups… you are ahead of the curve. When does this insanity stop? Someone will likely call for a name change on Dixie cups. I hope the owners have the courage to push back. Accusing Trader Joe’s of racist labels by using some fun, entertaining names like Trader Jose, Trader Giotto, etc is absurd. Capitulating to the mob must stop.

    I want to be clear on something here.  I was not saying that the "dixie" in Dixie Cups was inherently racist or not racist.  I was just curious about its origins, in view of recent events and increased (and often appropriate) sensitivities.

    I have no problem with Trader Joe's changing the names of some of its ethnic products, if the conclusion is reached that they suggest cultural stereotypes that are inappropriate as we move into the mid-21st century.  They're not capitulating.  Just trying to be sensitive.

    I think we need a little more of that in our world, not less.

    Responding to my criticism of a TV commercial for a office park company that seemed oblivious to current realities, MNB reader Michael Fetterer wrote:

    As a Norwalk (CT) resident (and a resentful subscriber to Optimum / Altice), I’ve seen those RD Scinto ads as well.  The one you spotted was posted to YouTube in May 2019, and obviously produced before that, long before COVID-19 even spawned.

    Yes, ads like that are a bit awkward now, and they really stand out when others have launched new creative with current messaging about how the business is looking out for your health.  Scinto is probably much more worried about how the heck they’re going to get their occupancy rates back up in a post-COVID world.  But to your point, perhaps pulling the old ad campaigns and replacing with more timely content is exactly what they need.

    Which is all I was arguing.

    On another subject, from MNB reader Monte Stowell:

    First, it is great to have Major League Baseball back. I hope we can get through the original 60 game schedule, the playoffs, and hopefully, a World Series. MLB has done the best they could do with all the safety protocols they have in place. Despite that, the Miami Marlins have had several players test positive for the Covid-19 virus, and several games have been cancelled. 

    Imagine now, the NFL games. A heavy contact game, especially on the defensive and offensive lines. The sweat, the spitting, saliva, the physical contact, etc. I cannot imagine the NFL having a full season with  the aforementioned ways of players getting the Covid-19  virus. Stay tuned, we shall see. Maybe there is just too much money at play not to have a season.

    Regarding the Universal-AMC agreement that will get more movies onto TV faster, MNB reader Dan Blue wrote:

    As someone who’s using the months of lockdown to finish my basement to put in a home theater, I am very happy to hear this.

    MNB reader Richard Lowe sent me the following email:

    You do a great service for us all every day!  Like CBS Sunday Morning, I love reading MNB everyday!

    So what Jeff Bezos needs to do and must do is step up to the plate with his billions that have been made off the backs of his employees is pay every last one of them a reasonable living wage too they can all hold their heads up high!!!!!!

    Can you get this message to him?

    You may be overstating my access.  On the other hand, it is possible that you just delivered the message yourself.

    And finally, this email from a reader about my suggestion that Walmart's new "Ask Sam" voice assistant for employees ought to adapted for consumer use:

    I agree with the guy who puts together and writes this daily newsletter.  WM should develop this app for their shoppers and create using Sam’s voice.

    I agree with him, too … at least most of the time.  But I'll certainly let him know.

    Published on: July 31, 2020

    Palm Springs, at first glance, seems to be a little derivative.  (I'm going to try to do this without too many spoilers, but it is going to be hard.  I'll try not to tell you anything that isn't in the trailer.)  It has the same foundational premise as the classic Groundhog Day - the lead characters find themselves in an infinite time loop that causes them to repeat one day over and over.

    Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are the unlucky couple - not a couple, actually, just two people attending a Palm Spring wedding who have a chance encounter that results in them being in the loop - unable to escape, unable to die.

    I'm not going to tell you more than that, except to say that unlike Groundhog Day, which was all about Bill Murray's character finding redemption, Palm Springs is more of a relationship movie in that the two characters have vastly different approaches to dealing with their dilemma, and we get to watch those play out.  Samberg is very good, but Milioti actually is revelation in her role, showing some shades that I've not seen from her before.  And JK Simmons is excellent in a key supporting role, though it seems redundant to use the words "JK Simmons" and "excellent" in the same sentence.

    Palm Springs sort of feels like a Twilight Zone episode directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara written while on drugs … but to my mind that sort of works for it.  It isn't Groundhog Day, but it is pretty good. 

    My wine of the week:  the 2019 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, from NewZealand.  I'm not always a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, which often can seem too strong on the grapefruit notes, but this one is smoother and more balanced - it is crisp enough to stand up to hot and humid summer nights.

    That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    Stay safe.  Stay healthy.