business news in context, analysis with attitude

As mentioned above, yesterday MNB ran a clip from a 1997 episode of "Seinfeld" that satirized the Post Office.

Some folks thought it was too soon.

One MNB reader wrote:

I'm a big fan of "Seinfeld," but I didn't get your joke. Mail-in ballots are being delayed due to budget cuts in an effort to influence the election or at least cast doubt on its legitimacy. It's a threat to free and fair elections. 

Is your point that the USPS is run by morons delivering catalogs and a "general" who would rather be playing golf? 

Another MNB reader agreed:

I usually find your daily FaceTime videos to be enlightening and entertaining. But by posting a lighthearted "Seinfeld" video, I think you’re communicating the wrong message and/or missing the point of the current postal service debate.

Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, what our current president is doing to destroy the postal service is about voter suppression and election sabotage. And that’s something that should concern all American citizens.

I get your point.  I was just trying to lighten the mood a bit.

MNB reader Deborah Faragher wrote:

Hi, Kevin.  Thanks so much for this clip.  I especially love that it features Wilford Brimley, who we lost recently.  Very fitting!

And from another reader:

Thank you Kevin!  That was perfect after all the weekend news, and even the morning news where I heard the House of Representatives was being called back into Session to deal specifically with the USPS situation.  You provided a great laugh and made my Monday much brighter!

MNB reader Gene Beaudoin made a serious point:

Suppose you or any company was told to reserve in the next ten years for 75 years of retiree health benefits? The universal answer would be: "Are you nuts?"   That's what the USPS was forced to do in 2006. So why 75 years now? And, how about a gradual change over to Medicare? Problem solved. 

This is accurate.  Congress has mandated that the Postal Service must prepay health benefits for its retirees for 10 years in advance, which costs about $5.5 billion a year.

In my neighborhood, that's what we call "a big nut."

And from another reader:

True story.   I live in a large city in East Tennessee with Several post office locations.  About 12 years age, the post office closest to my home installed and automated stamp dispersement machine and scale where you could mail small packages and buy stamps.  It was wonderful.  Never had to stand in line, it was a very quick in and out process.  Then one day I went in and it was gone.  When I finally progressed thru the line to the clerk, I asked  him why they took it out, he said it was in violation of the union contract so there you go.  It’s hard to make a 21st century business work when your processes are still in the 20th truly is a cluster…

I don't think the argument real is over whether or not the Post Office can be both more efficient and effective.  I think everyone will buy that.  The argument at the moment is whether the changes be made at the moment have anything to do with that.

I wrote the other day that if Instacart were to announce on Monday that it was being acquired by Walmart, on Tuesday virtually all of its customers would call to cancel their contracts.  But, I asked, what would happen on Wednesday?

MNB reader Joe Axford got it:

Wow KC, when you said what happens on Wednesday, it really makes your point!  What would happen is you'd have a lot of angry customers, for starters.  It's a process but they have to go to an in house model, like Hannaford for instance.  Even at 50K a week, minimum, times 52 weeks, times how many stores?  You're probably talking half a billion a year anyway.  That's a lot of money they're not making right now!

MNB reader Alan Shepherd of Washington State's Rocket Market had a thought about our Green Zebra story:

Just read your article on Green Zebra, been there many times and I like it a lot. We've been kinda pioneering this concept for 20 years though...we are in the heart of a neighbor on Spokane's south hill, we converted a gas station to a specialty food store and kept the gas pumps, helps to pay the bills. We have a wine club, weekly wine classes, (now are virtual via zoom), chef on staff, baristas, lots of organic produce and everything is as local has we can possibly make it. Local local local is our mantra for all products. During the pandemic we converted our seating area to a bulk foods area and purchased from our local restaurant supplier, never ran out of flour, grains, beans etc...We are installing a new register in that area today to handle our curbside pick up orders, and our online store is about a week away from being released into the wild. There is also a plan to do our own local delivery, not Instacart:)

Used to do an outdoor concert series in the parking lot 2 nights a week all summer long in the before times....

If I were there, I'd get in the car and come see you.  When we get to the "after times," I hope I'll be welcome.  I'd love to see what you're up to.

MNB reader Rich Heiland offered a note:

This week I am making my first client visit under COVID to an optometry practice. It’s a three-hour drive away, so no airplanes to worry about. To reassure my clients I just got my second COVID test – negative. I will be staying in a Hilton Garden Inn and told them I want a room that has not been occupied the prior 72 hours. And, I will wipe down the TV remote, other high touch areas. 

At the optometry practice everyone will be masked, we will keep the distance. The day I spend with the two doctors will be in a conference room at the Hilton – designed for 12-15 folks, but holding just the three of us. We did a massive amount of prep work by email and ZOOM conferencing. I am learning I can still do business, just not in the same way.

We had a story yesterday about how Ahold Delhaize says it is trying to raise its game when it comes to e-commerce, and I commented:

One of the the company's US businesses is Stop & Shop, which happens to have a lot of stores in my Connecticut backyard.  I'm a member of the company's frequent shopper program, so I'm on their mailing list.  And, I'm someone who is reasonably active in terms of e-commerce.

And yet … I would be hard-pressed to remember one communication I've ever gotten from the company trying to get me to use its delivery or click-and-collect services.  I get messages from Amazon/Whole Foods and Walmart all the time, but when it comes to Stop & Shop, it is pretty much crickets.

Maybe I'm wrong about this.  Maybe I've just slipped through the cracks.  But you can't sell what you don't market, and at a time when the pandemic has been ramping up e-commerce usage, they haven't done much to bring me into the fold.

One MNB reader concurred:

I agree - I get all sorts of emails from Amazon/Whole Foods, Shop Rite, Wegmans, Fairway.  Nothing from Stop & Shop.  And I have a little card on my keychain from all of these stores.

And finally, yesterday we took note of a Patch report that "the Connecticut Freedom Alliance has begun legal action against the state Department of Education's requirement that students must wear masks when they return to school this fall … The Ridgefield-based Connecticut Freedom Alliance is requesting the court to order the CSDE to rescind all requirements regarding the use of face coverings."  The organization wants to stop the state from mandating mask be worn by students in school, but it also wants to stop individual school districts from issuing such requirements.

I commented:

I'm thinking of starting my own organization - the Alliance For Freedom from Idiots.  We'd have a lot of causes, but in this case, I'd want to point out that these parents actually are teaching their children that their own desires are more important than the needs of the society at large, that selfishness is more important than selflessness, and that science is to be ignored whenever it is deemed inconvenient.  Masks help protect other people … and not only that, but they communicate the broader message that we actually all are in this together, as opposed to just being in it for ourselves.

One other thing:  Masks help protect teachers.  Without teachers, there is no education.

Connecticut is ranked fourth in the nation in terms of residents with advanced degrees, behind top-ranked District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Maryland.  (I'm an underachiever, BTW.  I don't have an advanced degree of any kind.)  But these people in the Connecticut Freedom Alliance suggest that having an advanced degree doesn't necessarily make you intelligent.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Kevin, you can sign me up for membership in The Alliance For Freedom From Idiots (AFFFI)!  As my father used to say, “You can treat ignorance; but stupidity is just stupidity.”

You got that right.

Maybe we could get t-shirts and hats made.

As a start … I just got the URL: