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    Published on: September 7, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    Like many Baby Boomers, I have trouble remembering a time when the Rolling Stones didn’t exist.

    I can vaguely remember when they burst on the scene in the 1960s, challenging the Beatles while at the same time seeming to contradict their performing and lifestyles.  And I remember the Stones being studied as a business case in the 1990s when they reinvented their touring style to boost their financial power to unheard of levels.

    In one interview at that time, I recall guitarist and icon Keith Richards saying the band was essentially a “mom and pop business,” with Keith as the pop and singer Mick Jagger as mom.

    But in the past two weeks, we were reminded they were far more than the two faces up front.  That's a business lesson for all of us.  

    In late August, Charlie Watts, the Stones’ long time drummer, passed away and the tributes and obituaries made something unexpectedly clear. Sure, Mick and Keith are the faces of the Stones, but Watts, the unsung drummer who long rejected the rock star lifestyle, was the backbone of the world’s most famous rock band.

    In fact, if the articles about Watts are accurate, the drummer was in fact the pivotal reason why the Stones are THE STONES and the reason so many of their songs are instantly recognizable. Through the years, the line-up of Stones’ members has shifted due to death and retirement, but it’s possible that Watts passing may create the hole that cannot be easily filled.

    The truth about rock groups, including the Stones, is that they are always more than the faces and singers we seem to know. There are teams working with them to make performances and recordings take life in ways we can and cannot see. The wonderful documentary, “20 feet from Stardom,” focuses on the backup singers whose abilities and voices frequently provide the sound we listeners actually enjoy.  We know Mick Jagger far more than Darlene Love or Charlie Watts, but in countless ways the latter two are the reason we sing along with songs.

    As I read the tributes to Charlie Watts, it made me think of how his experience is so often overlooked and repeated in business. Nearly every business team features front line performers who might have the flash or personality to make things fly, but whose efforts would be for naught without countless unsung heroes making everything possible.

    Like Charlie Watts, they provide the backbone that is essential to success.

    And with that in mind, I think Watts’ passing provides companies, managers and even team leaders with an opportunity to think about, highlight and most importantly, celebrate the contributions of the unsung heroes among us. It might even be time to create “Charlie Watts” awards to focus on those who make broader success possible, but do so in a less flashy way.

    What we might well find is that our teams include far fewer folks with moves like Jagger and many more who simply know how to get the job done and deserve the spotlight a lot more.

    As the Stones’ say:  You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.

    Even among your team members.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports that delivery service Instacart, "which helped shift shoppers from supermarket aisles to smartphones, now is making a push into selling online advertising. It is hiring veterans from Facebook Inc.and developing platforms for video and other services, aiming to tap a multibillion-dollar digital advertising business that also is being pursued by Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co. ––some of its biggest customers."

    According to the story, "For Instacart, advertising is a way to boost sales and deepen its connection with users, executives said. Food and consumer brands’ spending on digital advertising is projected to rise about 32% this year, according to research firm eMarketer. Brands are leaning more on websites and apps to reach consumers, and less on traditional in-store deals and television spots.

    "Instacart’s ad business generated about $300 million in revenue last year; the company is seeking to increase it to $1 billion by next year, according to a person familiar with the matter."

    KC's View:

    I completely understand why a company like Instacart is moving in this direction.  It isn't alone;  DoorDash is another of the companies making a similar move.  The fact is that these companies struggle to be profitable, and they're looking to open up additional revenue streams that will improve their fortunes, not to mention making them look better when it comes to potential mergers, acquisitions and public offerings.

    What amazes me is that these companies' retail clients are countenancing these activities, doing business with entities that are eating away at dollars that might normally be spent with them.  This is an area that retailers used to guard jealously - heaven help any business that even appeared to get in between a retailer and promotional /advertising money.

    To be clear, the Journal story does say that Instacart maintains that "it doesn’t compete with retailers but rather helps them achieve higher sales and provides them with data on which items sell and how well. It said it gives retailers information on orders placed through the platform, working with them to analyze the data and ways to apply it. This helps retailers build better relationships with shoppers, and consumers benefit from cheaper deals."

    But in the old days, retailers would say that they'd rather have tangible cash than intangible benefits.

    Maybe retailers actually are getting enlightened.  Maybe, in fact, this is a "service for grocers that aren’t equipped to build their own tech platforms," which is also what Instacart says.

    But maybe many retailers actually are yet again handing over to a very ambitious and aggressive company information and dollars that will allow that company to become an ambitious and aggressive competitor.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    Reuters reports that Amazon "is planning to hire 55,000 people for corporate and technology roles globally in the coming months," according to CEO Andy Jassy.

    That’s equal, the story says, "to more than a third of Google’s headcount as of June 30, and close to all of Facebook’s.

    "Jassy, in his first press interview since he ascended to Amazon’s top post in July, said the company needed more firepower to keep up with demand in retail, the cloud and advertising, among other businesses. He said the company's new bet to launch satellites into orbit to widen broadband access, called Project Kuiper, would require a lot of new hires, too."

    At the same time, Reuters reports that Walmart plans "to hire 20,000 workers at its supply chain division ahead of the busy holiday season as the world's largest retailer and other major rivals battle a logistics and labor crunch.

    "The roles, a mix of part-time and full-time jobs ranging from freight handlers to lift drivers, will be offered at 250 Walmart and Sam's Club distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation offices, the world's largest retailer said."

    The story also notes that Dollar General is "looking to hire more workers at stores and distribution centers as well as truck drivers.  The discount chain, which has hired more than 50,000 employees since mid-July, is offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus to drivers as it expands its private fleet."

    KC's View:

    This is all happening at the same time as retailers are having to increase wages for employees.

    For example, CNBC reported that Walmart "is raising the hourly wages for more than 565,000 store workers by at least $1, as the retail industry faces a tight labor market going into the holiday shopping season … Walmart’s minimum wage will rise to $12, from the $11 hourly base it set in 2018. However, that is lower than the $15-per-hour minimum rate at rivals Target and Amazon."

    This all may level off as jobless benefits end, and pandemic (hopefully) recedes, and people are able to get back to work.   The pendulum does move, and eventually it will yet again be a buyers' market.  But I think businesses would be well advised to see these dollars as an investment, not a cost.  If the people being hired can be treated and empowered in a way that makes them feel as if they are invested in the businesses for which they work, all these dollars could add up to better working environments that result in better shopping environments.   That ought to be the bottom line goal.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    The New York Times has a story this morning about "a flurry of litigation by advocacy groups seeking to combat what they describe as a surge in deceptive marketing by food giants.

    "The misleading labels, the plaintiffs say, seek to profit off consumers’ growing interest in clean eating, animal welfare and environmentally friendly agriculture — but without making meaningful changes to their farming and production practices.

    "Class-action litigation against food and beverage companies hit a record high last year, with 220 lawsuits filed in 2020, up from 45 a decade ago, according to a tally by the law firm Perkins Coie.

    "The mounting wave of legal activism in part reflects the frustration of advocates who have made little headway in recent years convincing federal regulators to increase their oversight of the nation’s food supply — or even to provide definitions for words like 'healthy' or 'all natural.' Big Food, advocates say, has eagerly exploited the regulatory vacuum."

    The Times story goes on:  "The Organic Consumers Association, the Family Farm Action Alliance and the Animal Welfare Institute, among the nonprofit organizations behind some of the litigation, say that misleading and exaggerated marketing dupes consumers into believing they are supporting companies whose practices align with their values. But deceptive marketing, they contend, has a more pernicious effect: It ensures the continued mistreatment of millions of cows, pigs and chickens raised by Big Agriculture while harming the livelihoods of small farmers committed to more humane animal husbandry."

    The Times does note that the companies accused of misleading consumers uniformly say that the charges are without merit and that they are living up to the letter of the law.

    KC's View:

    If lawsuits end up exposing manufacturers are being dishonest and manipulative in terms of how they position, advertise and label their products, I would actually hope that these verdicts would hurt their businesses.  I have little patience for businesses that deceive consumers - saying a product is made one way when it is actually made in another, or saying that a product is from one place when it actually is from someplace else.

    I wish the regulations were more clearly and plainly written so that businesses would have less wiggle room;  simple and unambiguous regulation also makes it easier for businesses to live up to both the letter and the spirit of what is required of them.  It is good for everybody.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Walmart plans to partner with Instacart to provide grocery delivery in New York City, where it does not have any stores.

    According to the story, "Instacart shoppers will buy groceries at Walmart stores outside the city’s limits, then deliver those items to nearby homes, the companies said. The service won’t be available on the island of Manhattan.

    "Walmart has worked to expand its grocery-delivery and store-parking-lot-pickup capabilities during the pandemic, as demand for such services has surged and the company has tried to keep pace with Amazon.com Inc.

    "Last year Walmart formed a partnership with Instacart to deliver groceries in a small number of cities in California, as well as in Tulsa, Okla. Walmart also works with other delivery partners, including DoorDash Inc. and Roadie Inc. With those companies, Walmart workers gather orders, then hand off shopping bags to delivery drivers."

    KC's View:

    Walmart always has wanted to use e-commerce as a lever to get into a market - New York City - that it is has been prevented from entering via actual stores.  (Which I think is a crock, by the way.)  And so now it is using its Instacart to take another stab at it.

    There was a story a couple of weeks ago about how Instacart had entered into talks that might've had it acquired by DoorDash.  The talks ended, perhaps because the price tag was too high and perhaps because there might've been resistance from federal regulators to such. combination.

    I wonder if Walmart might be interested in buying Instacart.  After all, it is getting into the business of providing delivery services for third-party businesses, and this would just expand on those intentions.  It has money.  

    Probably lots of reasons not to do this, but in some ways buying Instacart might be even more impactful than buying Jet.

    Just wondering.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    Bloomberg has a story about how Amazon has signed a deal with Affirm Holdings that will enable the retailer "to help consumers finance large purchases" and "pay off splurges greater than $50 in monthly installments."

    According to the story, "The companies already began testing with select customers and will make the option more broadly available in the coming months."

    Two interesting things about this from the Bloomberg story:

    •  "Affirm is part of the growing bevy of startups that help consumers split up purchases into smaller installments. The options have exploded in popularity in the U.S. in recent months, especially among younger consumers. Americans spent as much as $25 billion using the plans in 2020 alone."

    •  “If Affirm captures just 1% of Amazon.com’s North America sales through this deal, it could add over $900 million, or 10%, to revenue.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    The New York Times has a story about a bill passed by ther California State Assembly and about to be considered by the state Senate that would "require warehouse employers like Amazon to disclose productivity quotas for workers, whose progress they often track using algorithms."

    The bill has been advancing through the state's legislature as critics complain that the accelerated growth seen by e-commerce companies, enabled by warehouse workers who, some say, have been exploited by employers.

    The Times writes that the bill "would require warehouse employers like Amazon to disclose productivity quotas for workers, whose progress they often track using algorithms."  It also would "prohibit any quota that prevents workers from taking state-mandated breaks or using the bathroom when needed, or that keeps employers from complying with health and safety laws."

    According to the Times, "The legislation has drawn intense opposition from business groups, which argue that it would lead to an explosion of costly litigation and that it punishes a whole industry for the perceived excesses of a single employer."

    The employer, in this case, is Amazon, which "faces growing scrutiny of its treatment of workers,"  but has not commented on the specific legislation other than to say that "performance targets are determined based on actual employee performance over a period of time” and that "they take into account the employee’s experience as well as health and safety considerations."

    California is ground zero for this legislation because it "plays an outsize role in the e-commerce and distribution industry, both because of its huge economy and status as a tech hub and because it is home to the ports through which much of Amazon’s imported inventory arrives. The Inland Empire region, east of Los Angeles, has one of the highest concentrations of Amazon fulfillment centers in the country."

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    The New York Times over the weekend had a story about how the "drought, megafires and heat waves" that have been "descending on the Pacific Northwest as the effects of climate change alter the landscape" have "forced farm owners, fieldworkers and state regulators to navigate newly extreme conditions."

    Nobody, the story suggests, has felt the impact of those extreme conditions as much as farm. workers.

    According to the Times, "Policymakers in Oregon and Washington have recently established safety regulations to protect workers … The rules, which took effect Aug. 9, require employers to provide access to shade and cool drinking water in farms and other outdoor places when temperatures reach 80 degrees, with additional requirements to offer more breaks and periodic wellness checks when it reaches 90 degrees.

    "The rules also require employers that provide temporary housing to field workers, like those with H-2A agricultural visas, to keep rooms at 78 degrees or below. Washington State this year created similar emergency rules to manage extreme weather patterns, joining Minnesota and California, which have also imposed heat safety regulations that apply to farms in recent years."

    But, the Times suggests, "the response can often feel improvised, and at times inadequate."

    You can read the story here.

    KC's View:

    One of the interesting notes in the story is about how climate change almost inevitably will create a shift in where things are grown - longtime agricultural communities no longer may be viable, and entire industries may have to move.

    The implications are almost too many to number.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    Axios reports that "labor unions represent a larger percentage of U.S. workers than at any time in the past five years, as the pandemic took its biggest bite out of non-unionized jobs … In 2020, 10.8% of all wage and salaried workers were members of unions, up 0.5% from 2019, according to government statistics.

    "That's the highest mark since 2015 (11.%)."

    It is, of course, a matter of percentages:  "The actual number of union members fell in 2020 by over 321,000, but the decline in nonunion jobs was much steeper."

    Axios writes that "the big question is whether labor unions can successfully adjust to the changing face of American work, which is becoming much more about service work than manufacturing."

    KC's View:

    If I were management, I probably would be concerned about this.  But if I were labor, and it were presented to me that I would've been more likely to lose my job during the pandemic if I were not a member of a union, it might make me think twice about how I'd cast a unionization vote.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    From the Financial Times:

    "One of the world’s largest port and terminal operators has warned the global shipping and supply chain crisis that is leaving shelves empty on the high street can be resolved only by a slowdown in consumer demand.

    "Morten Engelstoft, chief executive of Maersk-owned APM Terminals, said a 'vicious circle' had been created by surging demand putting strain on container groups, suppliers and logistics companies as they struggled to deliver goods."

    Engelstoft said, "“We need to work out how we break this vicious circle … We need lower [consumer demand] growth to give the supply chain time to catch up, or differently spread out growth. Over a long period of time, we will need to recover efficiency.”

    KC's View:

    Good luck with that, especially in a world where consumers want what they want, when they want it, how they want it.

    That said, greater transparency by businesses about the factors creating product shortages might have the effect of a better-informed consumer class, which might lessen the strains a bit.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    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…

    •  Here are the total US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers - 40,865,794 cases , resulting in 666,559 deaths and 31,335,278 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  222,072,484 coronavirus cases, with 4,590,620 resultant fatalities and 198,689,295 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 72.9 percent of the US population age 12 and older has received at least one dose of vaccines with 62 percent being fully vaccinated.


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "The number of covid-19 patients in hospitals in the United States has more than doubled since last Labor Day, a sobering statistic that illustrates how the delta variant has hampered progress in curbing the pandemic even as vaccines became widely available.

    "There were 38,192 people in hospital with the virus last Labor Day, on Sept. 7, 2020, at a time when the promise of a vaccine rollout was still a few months away, according to a Washington Post tracker. This figure has skyrocketed to 99,270 by Sept 6. 2021 — a 160 percent increase.

    "While the situation is not as dire as it was at the beginning of this year, when more than 3,100 people were dying of covid-19 daily in January, the rise in hospital admissions for covid patients is causing a strain on resources in many states. Hospitals in Florida and Mississippi have said in recent weeks that they are running out of ICU beds – which also affects patients who need other kinds of health care since they don’t have the space or staff to treat them."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the recent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has thrown back-to-school plans into disarray, temporarily driving tens of thousands of students back to virtual learning or pausing instruction altogether.

    "Since the school year kicked off in late July, at least 1,000 schools across 31 states have closed because of Covid-19, according to Burbio, a Pelham, N.Y., data service that is monitoring school closures at 1,200 districts nationwide, including the 200 largest.

    The shutdowns are hitting classrooms especially hard in the Deep South, where most schools were among the first to open, a possible warning of what’s to come as the rest of the nation’s students start school this month … School administrators are responding to the sporadic and unpredictable outbreaks with measures like new masking mandates, frequent testing and vaccine mandates for employees. Some say they hope a vaccine for children under 12 happens soon."


    •  Business Insider reports that "Costco has reinstated purchase limits on some products as evidence mounts that Americans are stockpiling once again.

    "The retailer posted a note on its website Saturday warning of 'temporary item limits on select items.'

    "Purchase limits became commonplace early in the pandemic to stop people panic buying and depleting stock. Their return signals that some people are starting to think about stockpiling again as COVID-19 infections climb in the US as the Delta variant spreads."


    •  The Daily Voice report that "McDonald's is preparing to close its indoor seating areas as cases of the delta variant increase across the United States … The fast-food chain had previously announced plans to reopen indoor dining in all of its franchises by Labor Day as long as there wasn't a resurgence of COVID-19, after closing it down in 2020 … The company has now told its locations to close indoor seating areas in places where the virus is spreading quickly."


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Childhood obesity rose significantly during the pandemic, according to a new study.

    "The greatest change was among children ages 5 to 11, who gained an average of more than five pounds, adjusted for height, according to the study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    "For the average 5-year-old (about 40 pounds), that’s a 12.5 percent weight gain. For the average 11-year-old (about 82 pounds), it’s a 6 percent weight gain, according to the study. Before the pandemic, about 36 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds were considered overweight or obese, and that increased to 45.7 percent."

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    •  Gulfshore Business Daily reported that there are expectations that Kroger could be serving southwest Florida via a pure-play e-commerce model by the end of 2022.

    “I don’t have a specific timeline, but I do expect it will happen within the next year," says Andrea Colby, Kroger’s e-commerce corporate affairs and communications manager.

    The story notes that Kroger "entered the Florida market this summer with the launch of a 375,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center in Groveland, just west of Orlando. Kroger also has 'spokes' in Jacksonville and Tampa, where products from refrigerated tractor-trailers from Groveland are loaded into refrigerated vans for final delivery directly to customers within a 90-minutes radius. To serve the Naples-Fort Myers area, another spoke location will be created, Colby said, noting that Fort Myers and Miami areas would be future spoke locations with warehouses designed to serve customers within a 90-minute radius from each location."


    •  From the Associated Press, a story about how Carrefour in the United Arab Emirates has "rolled out its vision for the future of the industry in a cavernous Dubai mall.

    "Like Amazon’s breakthrough unmanned grocery stores that opened in 2018, the Carrefour mini-market looks like any ordinary convenience store, brimming with sodas and snacks, tucked between sprawling storefronts of this city-state.

    "But hidden among the familiar fare lies a sophisticated system that tracks shoppers’ movements, eliminating the checkout line and allowing people to grab the products they’ll walk out with. Only those with the store’s smartphone app may enter. Nearly a hundred small surveillance cameras blanket the ceiling. Countless sensors line the shelves. Five minutes after shoppers leave, their phones ping with receipts for whatever they put in their bags."

    The story says that "the experimental shop, called Carrefour City+, is the latest addition to the burgeoning field of retail automation. Major retailers worldwide are combining machine learning software and artificial intelligence in a push to cut labor costs, do away with the irritation of long lines and gather critical data about shopping behavior."

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    •  Ghost Kitchen Brands announced that it is "expanding its relationship with Walmart as it opens its first U.S. location in Rochester, New York. The opportunity will make one-stop meal pickup or delivery available from up to 25 well-known and loved brands including many new additions to Ghost Kitchens’ roster, such as Costa Coffee, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken."

    The company said that the announcement "builds on Ghost Kitchens’ existing Canadian relationship with Walmart and will see Ghost Kitchens open in additional locations in U.S. Walmart stores over the coming months and next year. This includes expansion into Texas, California, Illinois and Georgia, among others. Ghost Kitchens allows customers to order freshly prepared restaurant meals for delivery or pickup while shopping at select Walmart locations. This unique omnichannel experience further strengthens Ghost Kitchens’ position as an industry leader in providing convenient and affordable restaurant solutions that customers have come to expect."

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    •  The Washington Post reports that millions of people in the US are losing their unemployment benefits this month "as federal aid expires, thrusting families and economy onto uncertain path … In addition to the more than 7 million people who will lose all their benefits, nearly 3 million more people will lose a $300 weekly boost to their state unemployment benefits.

    "The cessation of this jobless aid, first put in place by Congress nearly 18 months ago, could upend the lives of millions of Americans still struggling to find work at a time when the pandemic’s delta variant is wreaking fresh havoc across a number of states. It could also lead to a sharp pullback in spending, particularly in certain areas of the country, impacting a wide range of restaurants and other businesses that rely on consumer dollars."

    There is, of course, another argument, the Post writes - that "the extra benefits were contributing to a labor shortage and slowing the economic recovery, alleging it had become too lucrative for people to stay home rather than get a job."

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    •  Sprouts Farmers Market has named Lawrence Mollo, a member of the company's board and the former CFO of PetSmart Inc. and Under Armour Inc., to be its new CFO.


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Target CIO Mike McNamara plans to retire next year.

    The story notes that "McNamara is credited with bringing previously outsourced IT staff in house and using IT to ramp up same-day delivery and curbside pickup during the pandemic."

    A specific date has not been set fore the retirement, nor the name of his successor.


    •  Hyer, the on-demand labor app powering the gig economy, has hired Dan DelGiudice as Vice President of Business Development.  DelGiudice most recently was Vice President of Business Development for Target-owned delivery service Shipt.

    Published on: September 7, 2021

    Thanks for all of you who liked the series of FaceTime videos on a variety of subjects that I posted last week while I was taking some time off.

    Regarding the video about ageism, MNB reader Mike Moon wrote:

    We sold off and closed our supermarkets stores in early 2019. We had been owners for nearly 30 years, and my retail grocery experience stretched over 40. I was 56 years old.

    Our grocery ownership was not as lucrative as we hoped, so I was not able to retire - I needed to find a job. I put a resume together for the first time in 30 years, and had some professional help iron it out for me. After I looked at it, I thought, "Wow, I really have a strong skill set in a LOT of different areas, this looks promising". I felt my timing was good, as the unemployment level was really low, about 3.5%, and good help was hard to find.

    So, I sent it out to the long list of industry contacts that I had accumulated over the years.....and nothing. No replies, no calls, no interviews. I sent to LinkedIn postings, and searched the job openings on Monster, etc.....nada. 

    My assumption was it was a combination of 1.) my age (my resume didn't list my birthdate, but it did list my years of experience; people can do the math), and 2.) I actually think my broad skillset worked against me a little; I wasn't specialized enough. So many postings were looking for people with specific education and training.

    But my story does not have a sad ending. Today, I am doing consulting work, writing weekly grocery ads for a large group of stores. I can work from home, and I'm able to use all those years of experience when deciding what to promote and for how much.

    On the same subject, from another reader:

    From my perspective, in my organization, there is absolutely a push to reduce the over all age of the workforce at a corporate level (happened in the stores years ago). For example there was a very attractive VRO package offered a few years back. Since then there have been a few “restructures” that seem to have disproportionately displaced the older crowd. At 58 I am one of the oldest people I know in the organization and no one on my team comes close. In fact most younger than my kids.

    Now I am one of the survivors, I was slightly too young to qualify for the VRO and have been fortunate that the organization found value in what I do for them.

    What is interesting is… While the organization appears to be pushing us out, my immediate leadership is pressuring us to stay.

    Seems to be a disconnect in the perceived value of the experience from different levels in the organization.


    Regarding the video about robotics, one MNB reader wrote:

    This aired last night on my local PBS station.  Fascinating look at the impact of robotics/AI on the labor market.  I was particularly interested in how this has impacted farming – robotic tractors that farmers don’t even steer while meanwhile many occupations will be eliminated, like throughout previous “industrial revolutions”.  I figure its just a matter of time before Andrew Chang and other futurists predict, that there won’t be as much need for labor and people should just get checks to sit at home and play with their phones and there will not be a need for a Risk Manager at a small retail grocery chain in middle ‘merica.  Eventually our pinky fingers are apt to fall off as well……it's evolution baby!


    About the video noting that hotels now are considering the same à la carte pricing used by airlines, MNB reader Deborah Faragher wrote:

    You have so many good points in this piece.  It reminded me of an off-season trip my husband and I were planning to Amelia Island in Florida.  In our attempt to book the hotel, we learned there was a rather hefty fee for amenities.  When asked what those amenities comprised, I was told beach chairs and umbrellas, among other things.  I called the hotel to ask if those fees could be reconsidered as we would be booking in December when those amenities would not be of use to us.  Bottom line, we were told no, and, as a result, we stayed elsewhere.  So, to your point, hotels, and other businesses, could, and should, consider a la carte pricing that suits their customers’ needs versus annoying customers by charging for amenities that are never used.  My fear, however, is that the original prices are never rolled back to reflect the difference.

    MNB reader Dick Spezzano wrote:

    I think you are so right about what pisses off a customer and going a la carte will certainly be one of them.  Have you ever asked a resort what the "$25 Resort Fee" is for?  The usual response is the availability of the pool, fitness facility, room service, and other services. When you say you didn't use any of those services so I shouldn't be charged for them, their usual reply is "that they are available should you want to use them".  That pisses me off.  Spirit Airlines is one that charges for everything and that includes water during the flight.  I agree, the last "role model" to use is the airlines.  The people I talk to say their airline of choice is "the cheapest" because none are any better than the other.

    And from another reader:

    Although the airlines seem to be getting away with this à la carte type of program, I think it is a big mistake if the hotels start a similar system. It is extremely difficult to ask people to pay for any service or item after years of being offered these amenities for free. I understand that companies need to make up lost revenue but maybe patience is a better virtue. I think this ala carte system stinks!


    Got a number of emails about my video recorded in Bethel, New York, the site of Woodstock and, on August 27, a John Fogerty concert that Mrs. Content Guy and I attended.  The gathering of people - in an outdoor venue - made me wistful for the days when we could gather around without worrying about a highly contagious disease, and wonder why some people continue to resist getting a vaccine that has been proven top be safe, available and free.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    We saw John Fogerty in that very spot on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in August 2019.   I know positively he (and his family) gave a great concert and you and Mrs. Content Guy felt like teenagers rocking to the great sounds of Credence. 

    We could have no idea at the time of the bad covid moon that was rising.  Keep rowing in the right direction, Amen!

    And from another reader:

    My wife and I, along with two other couples went to an outdoor John Fogerty concert, here in Troutdale, OR, about 3-4 years ago. All I can say is that it was over 2 hours of the best music I have ever seen and heard. A truly iconic voice, and band who gave their audience the best concert most of us had ever attended. I hope you agree that your concert was one of the best you have ever heard.

    We do.

    And from still another:

    I know this feeling.  A couple weeks ago my husband and I hit the road from Austin to Albuquerque to see our first concert in years - Foo Fighters.  It was at an outdoor amphitheater and the breeze was reassuring. Both the crowd and the band seemed so genuinely happy to be there - the venue had not had a concert in 688 days.  The energy was incredible.  One of my top 5 concert experiences for sure! 

    It was great to be in an audience listening to music.  I'm looking forward to getting back to what Mrs. Content Guy and I jokingly refer to as our "RIP Tour" - in the last few years, before Covid, we've seen Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Carole King, The Eagles, and, of course, Jimmy Buffett.  Mrs. Content Guy saw Elton John (I was supposed to go with her, but had a speaking engagement that got in the way - so one of our sons went.)  Plus, with my daughter I've seen some younger acts that wouldn't qualify for the "RIP" list, like The Dixie Chicks (back when they had "Dixie" in their name, though we're anxious to see them when they return to the road) and Taylor Swift.

    Now that we've added John Fogerty to the list, we're casting about for who we'd like to see in the future.  I'm thinking Bob Dylan … and maybe The Who?