Published on: January 12, 2021
Yesterday's FaceTime video was about how the late Feargal Quinn, who founded the iconic Irish supermarket chain Superquinn, used to say, "Never let the accountants win" … in other words, don't make the mistake of prizing efficiency over effectiveness.
Got lots of email about this.
MNB reader Mike Carter wrote:
While working at HEB, I was on a task force to improve customer service. We went to Ireland to tour Feargal’s stores and visit with him on his philosophy … He was so passionate about taking care of his employees which would then translate to wonderful customer service.
From another reader:
Kevin, I loved the message of today “Don’t let the accountants win”, and it dove tails with a phrase I often used in our organization who were “accountant-like” as “Directors of Sales PREVENTION”.
One of the great things about prompting these memories is that it does something that my friend Anne O'Broin calls, "Keeping Feargal in the present tense."
By the way … I checked, and you can get a copy of Feargal's must-read book, "Crowning The Customer," on Amazon - in paperback and for your Kindle.
MNB reader Beatrice Orlandini wrote:
Not only "don't let the accountants win"…
During one of my (many) visits to Superquinn my group was met by Feargal himself and he was very gracious in answering all our questions.
Someone asked him what criteria he used when selecting new employees.
Did they require specific skills? Years of experience?
No, the only thing he searched for were "people skills".
It can take you days to learn how to cut meat, but in the end everyone gets there.
But people skills... either you have them or you don't.
That's why - especially in the golden years of Superquinn - it was always such a joy to visit their stores.
My friend Beatrice also wrote to me about my headline - Molto Buona - used for the "Your Views" note about opera singing in an Italian supermarket. She wrote:
I hope you don't my my giving you private Italian lessons.
Buono (masculine) or buona (feminine), means "good", especially referring to taste.
In this case it would have been more appropriate to say "molto bello".
When speaking in general we use the masculine unless it is obvious that we are referring to something explicitly feminine (e.g. a view is "vista" => feminine).
This said - and I apologize for always sounding so pedantic when it comes to anything Italian - anything that livens up the shopping experience is always a good idea.
Mind? Are you kidding? My name is Kevin Coupe, and your name is Beatrice Orlandini … I think I'm well advised to take any advice about Italian that you're willing to offer.
I must admit that I don't speak Italian … I know just a few words. If I had a better ear for languages and some extra time, Italian would be the one I'd want to learn.
One of my favorite words - in any language - is grazie. There is something lovely and musical about the word, and I often will use it instead of saying 'thank you." My kids - and, if I'm honest about it, Mrs. Content Guy - all roll their eyes when I do it.
But I don't care. Just saying grazie gives me pleasure.
Or, piacere. (Hope I got that right.)
Responding to our mention of Tommy Lasorda's passing, MNB reader Bob McGehee wrote:
I don’t know if this is true or just a urban legend BUT:
Tommy Lasorda said he wanted a place on his headstone to put the Dodger’s schedule every year. His thinking was as people were visiting the cemetery or even his grave, he would be able to let them know if The Dodgers were in town so they might catch a game.
A true supporter even beyond life.
I know he said it. I have no idea if they'll do it.
One MNB reader had a response to my piece about Instacart's new CFO, the likelihood of an IPO, and why the clock may be ticking on the company's value proposition:
As (almost) always, agree with your assessment of the story. In my new role as Grocery Front Line Essential Worker (a.k.a. low person on the totem pole), I’m evaluating your posts at the store level.
Instacart treats their shoppers like s$&t. A former event planner was nearly in tears as she struggled to find the “Artisanal Bleu Cheese” crumbles her customer wanted. If the Shopper needs to suggest a substitute, the Customer must approve! That means texting, messaging, whatever and waiting for a reply. And the clock is running! The shoppers get dinged for going over. And my manager, one of the most outgoing people on the planet, remarked that if one more person stuck a phone in his face (English is often not their first language), he was going to smack them. And, when the Shopper ditches the items cut specifically for them, who pays?
Love to be able to charge them back. Thanks for entertaining my rant !
Finally … yesterday MNB noted that Donald Rouse Sr., the co-owner of Louisiana-based Rouse's Markets, is facing criticism and boycott threats because it has been reported that he attended the rally in Washington, DC, last Wednesday that devolved into an invasion and ransacking of Capitol Hill.
Rouse said he attended the rally, but did not go to capitol Hill, and was appalled by the violence and destruction.
I commented, in part:
I have no idea if Rouse joined the mob that invaded the Capitol last week. I'm willing to take him at his word, but he'd better hope that no video shows up that contradicts that position. If so, potential boycotts will be the least of his problem - he's likely to end up being visited by the FBI.
Not only are we seeing stories from all over the country about people being arrested for being part of an invasion of the Capitol last week that is being widely described as seditious and insurrectionist, but we're also seeing stories about companies firing people who have been identified as being part of the mob. (Ironically, many of these people have identified themselves - they went on social media and bragged about their behavior, often with pictures. Members of the bozo fringe group QAnon, who made up some of the mob, apparently are not very good at staying anon.)
Taking political positions is one thing. Protesting is one thing. Civil disobedience is one thing. I get it - I'm a child of the late sixties and early seventies. But what we saw last week was something else … and I suspect the repercussions will be felt for years.
I pointed out that there are numerous companies that now are backing off political donations, and quoted the Wall Street Journal as saying, "The violence at the Capitol appears to have companies scrambling to figure out how to react as they increasingly realize that this is not an ordinary political dispute and the option of sitting on the sidelines grows increasingly unsatisfying."
One MNB reader responded:
There are 74 million of us and allot of those own businesses, so we must fight back in every legal way possible.
I think the most important word in your email is legal. Seems pretty clear that the law enforcement community is persuaded that the folks who invaded the Capitol were way outside the bounds of what is legal.
From another reader:
I find it more than a bit ironic to see you and others blasting Donald Rouse for expressing his views. Where were you when politicians and practically every Hollywood elite was aligning themselves with radical BLM and Antifa thugs as they actively engaged in violence against the Police, government and private businesses?
It was okay then, but heaven forbid if the average American opposes the anti-American radical left wing extremists working to destroy our country.
You have been fortunate to live in a period of our history where opposing views were allowed. That period is quickly coming to an end.
The hypocrisy is a bit overwhelming.
I would suggest that you go back and read what I wrote. At no point did I "blast" Donald Rouse for expressing his views.
In fact, I think I was pretty careful about not getting political. (Well, other than my crack about QAnon. But those folks are just nuts.)
I simply said that I hoped Rouse is being accurate in how he characterized the extent of his participation, because there could be legal (and business) repercussions if it is proven otherwise.
I reported - fairly, I think - that there are people in the markets he serves who clearly were going to hold him accountable for his opinions and participation in the rally. That's their right, just as it is his right to express his political opinions. But he's a retailer, dependent on the good feelings and approval of customers, and so when he does so, he runs a risk.
To be honest, I got a number of other emails on the subject of the Capitol Hill melee and the broader subject of the domestic terrorism, but I'm not going to run them because they will take us down a political rabbit hole from which it will be difficult to emerge and I don't want this subject to dominate MNB.
I only mentioned it because of the Rouse story, and will only come back to it when there is a retail/business component that makes it worth reporting.