Published on: October 7, 2020
Got the following email from MNB reader Tom Murphy:
You mentioned how something Amazon had done well (rapid, consistent delivery) raised the bar, and the risk for the industry. I had an amusing experience along those lines last week at a Total Wine & More.
My wife and I had ordered a couple of cases online for curbside pickup (a mix of Oregon and Washington wines of course). When I parked in the pickup area, there was a sign indicating the need to text my slot number to a phone number…which I did. Next to me was another car in a curbside pickup slot who had the driver’s door open and was waiting. Shortly, a service clerk came out and took two cases to her…upon speaking with her, he turned and came around to me to confirm they actually were mine.
As I started to back out, the woman in the car yelled at me…”I’ve be waiting for ten minutes for my order. I thought they knew you were here like they do at Amazon Fresh”!
For those readers who have never used Amazon Fresh, once you sign up and use them the first time, they capture your license plate number. In the future, you just pull in, the camera picks up your license plate number and messages a delivery clerk to bring out your order.
Appears that curbside pickup has been hacked by Amazon!
Like I said. Even if you are not competing with Amazon, you may be competing against expectations that it has created.
On another subject - a piece by Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein about stakeholder and shareholder capitalism that I recommended to you yesterday - prompted the following email by MNB reader Tim Murphy, who I don't think is related to Tom Murphy, who wrote the email above. (I'm leaving the capital letters and punctuation as is, because I don't want to be accused of changing the emphasis and nature of his email.)
Longtime (original?) subscriber, first-time commenter:
Your characterization of the recent Washington Post piece by the (activist) columnist Steven Pearlstein as “excellent’ and “nuanced’ is sorely misguided. He is a longtime “Inside DC” apologist who, unsurprisingly, believes ‘DC’ can solve most of our problems.
Now most sentient human beings have come to the realization that this is untrue, and cannot be true.
The extended ‘Stakeholder Argument’, espoused by the (now) beclowned Business Roundtable, is nothing more than a sad, sorry effort to appeal to the angry, politically correct (?) masses now running rampant in our nation. Hey, we need to take care of the employees … and the managers … and the suppliers … and the customers … and the neighbors … AND anyone else who believes they have a stake.
Any rational economic being understands that Milton Friedman had it right: “THE SOLE PURPOSE OF ANY ENTERPRISE IS TO MAXIMIZE SHAREHOLDER VALUE!”
Why? Because THAT is the ONLY way to solve that insoluble problem of competing, at-odds interests!
More importantly, if the enterprise can so maximize … the REMAINING stakeholders will NECESSASARLIY, be duly rewarded … though perhaps not to THEIR complete satisfaction.
If you believe otherwise, just WHO is to ‘satisfice’ the competing interests involved? The CEO, who might have his personal favorites? Some of the Board Members, who have theirs? The Mayor? The Governor? Goodness gracious, let’s just call up Kevin freaking Coupe to see what he thinks the enterprise should do!
If I have not convinced you of the folly of ‘The Stakeholder Argument’, I apologize for having failed.
But remember that CAPITAL (i.e. ownership/shareholder interest) ALWAYS flows to successful enterprises … who create profits (shareholder returns) BY TAKING CARE OF THEIR OTHER STAKEHOLDERS.
First of all, let me thank you for your loyalty. I hope it doesn't end here.
It isn't that you haven't convinced me - though, to be honest, I'm a fan of the stakeholder capitalism model.
It's just that it seems that you didn't read Pearlstein's column … which, if I understand it correctly, suggested that it would be wrong to straitjacket capitalism into either a stakeholder or shareholder model.
Seems to me that it can go two ways. You can manage a business to reward shareholders, and trust that rewards eventually will flow to other stakeholders. Or, you can manage a business to take care of stakeholders - which, in the case of retailing, would include employees and customers - in the belief that if employees are happy and take care of customers, it will result in a business that will reward shareholders.
Now, you may want to suggest that the Business Roundtable is "beclowned" (a word with which I am unfamiliar, though I get your point), but I'm pretty sure that the stakeholder model is similar to one that was espoused by Jim Sinegal. Worked out pretty well, I think.
So we're clear about what we're talking about, here's the test of the Business Roundtable statement:
Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.
Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services. Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services that underpin economic growth.
While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:
• Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
• Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
• Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
• Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
• Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.
Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.
This statement was delivered in August 2019, which probably explains why Pearlstein went to great pains to point out that this a statement of intent, not achievement … a beginning, not an end.
I read that statement, and I don't see it as particularly radical. Rather, I see it as a statement by people who strike me as trying to work within the realities of a world in which there is enormous polarization and economic disparity, believing that the engine of free enterprise (not government) can make progress in addressing social and fiscal issues.
Works for me. Doesn't sound like the product of a beclowned institution in any way, shape or form.
One other thing.
For the record, if anyone were to call me up to find out what they should do, I'm happy to offer an opinion. But then again, I do that for a living. People who disagree with me can take their best shot. And often do.
Yesterday's piece about a kind of modern automat that, mixed with a ghost kitchen, offers a glimpse of one vision of how the restaurant industry will operate in a post-pandemic future, prompted memories of visiting the old Horn & Hardart on East 42nd Street and Third Avenue in New York City.
MNB reader Rich Heiland responded:
When I was around 10 or 11 my dad, a theatre director at a small college in Ohio, took me to New York City for the first time on one of his theatre tours. What wow'd me? The train ride? Nope. The hotel? Nope. The tall buildings? Nope. It was the automat. I never had seen anything like it and it was cool beyond belief. My dad told me later I kept bugging him to eat all our meals there and when I got home I asked why our small town didn't have an automat. Thanks for the memories!
My question is, did he take you to the theatre? And if so, what did you see?