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    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Two technology stories today that KC thinks give us an inkling of where the world is going (or at least our cars) - one about a new Mazda that can detect when the driver suffers a health issue, and the other about how the iPhone and Apple watch may soon be able to tell when a car has been in a crash.

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    Really interesting piece in Fast Company about a new "53,000-square-foot food production facility in Emeryville, California that makes cultivated meat - real meat grown from animal cells, without the animal."  According to the story, :large glass windows offer a view into a warehouse filled with rows of metal tanks and tubes. Welcome to the anti-slaughterhouse: Upside Foods, the company that designed the center as it first commercial facility, will produce chicken, beef, duck, and other meat from cells grown inside bioreactors … The machines inside the building will be able to produce multiple types of meat, cultivating muscle tissue, for example, by feeding muscle cells so that they grow and multiply."

    The value proposition,  Fast Company writes, is that "the flavor of the food is exactly like traditionally produced meat, but without the same environmental impacts, animal cruelty, or the risk of pandemics born in factory farms (or bacteria that can no longer be treated with antibiotics because those antibiotics have been overused on farms)."

    But here's the really intriguing part of the story:  "Unlike a slaughterhouse, the facility, called EPIC (Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center) is designed to welcome visitors. Tours will begin in January, likely long before U.S. regulatory agencies give approval for the new meat to be sold on the market."

    I think that the transparency being offered by EPIC could be one of the things that could make this technology both more acceptable and accessible to consumers - it moves from the mysterious and scary to being something that science is offering to make our world a better place.  I, for one, hope I get the opportunity to visit - I've been to a slaughterhouse, which was not an experience I'd like to repeat, but I'd really like to see this.

    Also … the Emeryville location, it seems to me, carries metaphorical meaning as well as physical - it also is the community where Pixar, which revolutionized the movie animation business, is based.

    In other words, a place where Eye-Openers happen.

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    The New York Times this morning reports that "Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook, has discussed opening retail stores that will eventually span the world … The stores would be used to introduce people to devices made by the company’s Reality Labs division, such as virtual reality headsets and, eventually, augmented reality glasses, they said.

    "These devices are gateways to the metaverse, a futuristic digital world where people move from virtual to augmented versions of reality almost seamlessly."

    The Times reports that it has seen documents that suggest that star stores' aim will be "to make the world 'more open and connected' … They are also intended to spark emotions like 'curiosity, closeness,' as well as a sense of feeling 'welcomed' while experimenting with headsets in a 'judgment free journey'."

    The Times also provides some context:

    "Mr. Zuckerberg has talked up the metaverse as his company grapples with regulatory and societal challenges. Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistle-blower, amassed thousands of pages of internal documents and recently shared them with lawmakers and the news media. She has said that Facebook was not doing enough to protect society from the harms it causes. Her disclosures have drawn scrutiny from legislators and regulators, though it is unclear how strong her case is.

    "Skepticism about the metaverse also abounds. While Meta’s Reality Labs division has had modest past success with the Oculus Quest 2, a low-priced headset that was popular last year, virtual reality remains a niche market for hobbyists and enthusiasts. The hardware is often costly and can be difficult to use. Some people have reported that the headsets nauseate them."

    KC's View:

    Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but what nauseates me is the idea that Zuckerberg may end up being the emperor of the metaverse … which is pretty much what I think he'd like.

    It is interesting to see that physical stores are seen by the company as being important to craving out a path to this virtual/digital world, and one would be foolish to underestimate Facebook/Meta's capacity for creating something unique and compelling.

    But … it seems to me that as a species, we have a hard enough time dealing with the actual world.  I worry that the metaverse will end up being this place to which people - especially those of means - are able to escape in order to ignore the challenges of actually making the real world a better place.  

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Axios reports that the federal government yesterday announced that private employers - those with 100 employees or more - "must ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4, 2022, or face federal fines starting at nearly $14,000 per violation … Two doses of either Pfizer or the Moderna shots or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will be acceptable."

    The mandates are technically called the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for COVID-19 testing/vaccination.    

    More from the Axios story:

    "Fines for violating the vaccination rules could start at $13,653 each and go as high as $136,532 per violation if employers are found to be willfully non-compliant or repeat offenses. The amounts are in line with violations for other rules the agency enforces.

    The 21 states with their own health and safety oversight will have 30 days to adopt OSHA's standard or align with their own similar standards, officials said.

    "Employers should also give paid time for workers to get vaccinated or recover from any side effects. Companies are able to bill employees for COVID testing, however."

    Axios says that "OSHA will largely rely on complaints to investigate violations."

    Food industry trade associations expressed, shall we say, a certain skepticism about the mandates.

    Jennifer Hatcher, Chief Public Policy Officer and Senior Vice President, Government and Public Affairs at FMI – The Food Industry Association, released the following statement:

    “At a time when our economy is facing a constrained labor supply, supply chain disruptions and high consumer demand, we are very concerned with the impact on the food supply chain posed by the ETS, particularly for workers in no-contact or low-contact positions. As written, the ETS does not balance key issues like a lack of testing availability for employers and the likelihood of significant workforce attrition due to the mandate, particularly among truck drivers.

    "FMI believes the ETS will exacerbate an already existing shortage of transport and supply chain capacity, further slowing delivery times and driving up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers — especially given the 30-day window to comply with the majority of the mandate’s requirements as we approach the busy holiday season.

    “While we are encouraged that OSHA allows for enforcement discretion in the event of testing unavailability if employers can demonstrate good faith efforts to comply with the ETS, additional clarity is needed on what specifically the agency considers good faith. FMI is also disappointed that exemptions for low-contact- or no-contact workers that are vital to our food supply chain and are not a threat to public health were not allowed by the ETS (such as truckers and workers in food manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities with limited public interaction)."

    Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), offered this statement:

    “NGA and its members have supported COVID-19 vaccines and have been proud of their role to vaccinate their workforces as well as the communities in which they serve. We are concerned that this new mandate will add more stress onto the food industry at a time when there are acute worker shortages and significant supply chain challenges. Additionally, trying to implement this mandate during the busy holiday season places even more pressure on retailers and wholesalers. NGA had called on the Administration to provide greater flexibility for essential infrastructure industries like the food sector, since grocers play such a crucial role in feeding the country. While we appreciate the Administration’s inclusion of some of our recommendations, we are concerned that the rule’s rigid compliance requirements that go into effect during one of our industry’s busiest seasons will be a burden to many community grocers.”

    KC's View:

    Interestingly, a MetLife/US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Special Report, using survey results from Ipsos, said the other day that "almost two thirds of small businesses support COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The majority of small business owners say they are likely to or already require their staff and customers to show proof of vaccination."

    It also is sobering that "more than half of small businesses still see a return to normal as distant."

    It is this last sentiment that I think businesses need to think more about as they complain about the vaccine mandates.

    I totally get it - vaccine mandates (though they've existed for decades) suddenly seem draconian to some.  I really wish we lived in a world where they were not necessary, in which people accepted the fact that vaccines are a good thing, and that with freedom also comes responsibility and obligation.  

    But the simple fact is that the economy rises and falls with Covid infection numbers - and we all need and want the economy to get past the problems that we've experienced over the past two years.  And we should be smart enough by now to understand the danger of spiking the ball too early (a metaphor that you'd think a certain NFL quarterback would understand).

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    The Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that Publix is rolling out  Instacart’s Quick Picks program - offering grocery delivery in 30 minutes - across its stores in seven states.

    “Whether you burnt the pie and need a replacement, forgot the garnish for your favorite seasonal dish, or simply need another bottle of wine, Instacart and Publix have you covered,” the Instacart release stated. “As more families prepare to gather and share holiday meals, customers across the Southeast can rely on the incredible selection and rapid delivery available from Publix Quick Picks for all of their last-minute needs.” 

    KC's View:

    What's interesting about the Ledger story is how it seems to lump Publix in with all the other retailers using Instacart … which I'm sure is exactly what Publix wants.  It always makes sense for a retailer that wants to differentiate itself in any marketplace to offer me-too services that, in this case, Instacart also is offering through companies like Kroger and  Ahold Delhaize-owned banners.

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    The Associated Press reports that "the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a fresh pandemic low last week, another sign the job market is healing after last year’s coronavirus recession.

    "Jobless claims dropped by 14,000 to 269,000 last week. Since topping 900,000 in early January, the weekly applications have fallen more or less steadily ever since and are gradually moving toward pre-pandemic levels of around 220,000 a week.

    "Overall, 2.1 million Americans were collecting unemployment checks the week of Oct. 23 — down from 7.1 million a year earlier when the economy was still reeling from the coronavirus outbreak."

    In addition, the Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "the U.S. added 531,000 jobs in October, the Labor Department said Friday, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, as the labor market rebounded from a summer lull.

    "Job growth slowed in August and September as the Delta variant of Covid-19 raged and many workers—because of financial, health or other reasons—gave up the job search.

    Employers desperate to hire to meet strong demand from consumers are rapidly raising wages, dangling bonuses and offering more flexible hours. And households are spending down a big pile of savings that had been boosted by federal stimulus money and extra unemployment benefits.

    "All factors might be leading adults who hit pause on work life to resume the job search, economists say."

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Brush retailer John Lewis is out with its annual - and much anticipated - Christmas ad, which usually manages to charm some people and irritate others.

    You decide:

    KC's View:

    I kind of like it … I recognize that I'm being manipulated, but there's something charming and cinematic about it.  And what the hell, it's Christmas - and if we can't bet manipulated then, when can we be?

    Published on: November 5, 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 US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  47,187,256 total cases … 772,315 deaths … and 37,194,111 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  249,509,101 total cases … 5,048,497 fatalities … 225,958,995 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 78.4 percent of the US population age 12 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 68.1 percent being fully vaccinated.  The CDC says that 67 percent of the total US population has received one dose of vaccine, with 58.2 percent fully vaccinated.

    In addition, the CDC says, 27.6 percent of the US population age 65 and older has received a vaccine booster shot.

    •  Axios reports that "Pfizer's oral antiviral drug was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 89%, according to interim results from a mid-to-late-stage study announced by the company on Friday … Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool, as not everyone will get vaccinated against the virus and it may take years to fully inoculate people in certain countries - particularly given current gaps in global vaccine supplies."

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    •  Hy-Vee yesterday announced "the launch of Good Graces, a new private brand available at all Hy-Vee stores. The first line to launch includes a full range of gluten-free products for customers. The budget-friendly offerings exclusive to Hy-Vee provide high-quality, gluten-free products at an affordable price, which helps make a gluten-free diet more attainable for customers. 

    "A selection of more than 30 Good Graces gluten-free products are already available in all Hy-Vee stores, with an additional 60 gluten-free items in development … Additional Good Graces product lines are planned in the coming months."

    •  Ahold Delhaize-owned The Giant Company of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, said yesterday that it has signed a "long-term renewable energy supply agreement with Constellation, a leading competitive energy and energy solutions provider, to power its Pennsylvania operations including select stores, fuel stations, and perishable distribution center with renewable energy. The agreement will help The GIANT Company avoid more than 100,000 metric tons of Scope 2 carbon emissions associated with its energy use annually, the equivalent of taking nearly 24,000 cars off the road, according to U.S. EPA estimates."

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Remember ... for most of us in the US, this weekend marks the end of Daylight Savings Time and a return to Standard Time. On Sunday, November 7, at 2 am, it will be time to turn your clocks back an hour. (Assuming, of course, you have clocks that require manual changing.)

    Enjoy the extra sleep.

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New York Jets 45-30.

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Got the following email from an MNB reader:

    Regarding Giant’s test of selling expiring food at a discount, note that when stores “dispose” of food soon to expire it does not mean that it is literally thrown in the trash. Many times such stores give perishable items to food banks.  Time will tell if this initiative will could ultimately change that supply for people who depend on it.  Having seen high margin store branded goods nearing their expiration date distributed at food banks, no questing that selling products at a deep discount rather than writing them off as a donation is more profitable.

    On the same subject, from MNB reader Kevin Bamford:

    While I agree with your take that this is a good move by Giant, consumers and retailers would be better served by a universally agreed upon product expiration dating system that eliminates waste of perfectly good product.

    The other day we took note of an Associated Press report about how in a statewide referendum, Maine voters passed what is called "the nation's first 'right to food' constitutional amendment," declaring that "all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being."

    I didn't really know what to make of this, but one MNB reader decided to educate me:

    This question didn’t get a lot of airtime in the state, as most of the attention (and funds) was for a different question. However, if you dig even a little bit, this was a very deceptive measure that will likely cause issues. Here’s how the question appeared on the ballot:

    “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?”

    However, here’s how the amendment to the Maine constitution will read:

    “Section 25. Right to food. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

    It’s that first part that wasn’t on the ballot that will likely cause lawsuits. If people have a “…natural, inherent and unalienable right to food…”, who has the obligation to provide it to them? Now, this won’t lead to people/businesses being required to give food to anyone that wants it, but what if someone says SNAP benefits are inadequate? Or that there isn’t a food pantry close enough to their house? Or a supermarket?

    Legislators have taken to writing vague laws and simply letting the regulators fill in the details.

    Regarding Kroger's new paid membership program, Boost, one MNB reader wrote:

    "…most affordable free delivery membership…” is an interesting concept.    Remember, pre-Prime, when “free” was free?

    And, in response to our story about Southeastern Grocers cancelling its scheduled IPO, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

    I am trying to walk a fine line here.  While I am not surprised that SEG dropped their IPO, I also have a lot of friends who have worked there and are working there now.  But here is the problem…SEG was cobbled together years ago from a number of chains that had lost contact with the consumer over time.  These chains had failed to keep their assets in good shape, failed to invest in technologies and business practices that gave them a competitive advantage, and most recently have been plagued by private equity leadership whom we all know has a dismal record in retail turn-arounds.  Add to this that where they have their best stores is in very competitive markets and the remainder of their stores are in small communities that are being overrun by dollar store formats.

    None of this adds up to a reason for someone to invest in their IPO.  However, to be clear, there are very good and dedicated people in these stores and in the corporate offices…that is where the SEG value is…but that is a hard place to generate value for investors.  The only way for this to get better is for SEG to spend less time worrying about IPOs and private investor exit strategies and more time focused on their employees and consumers…’cause that is where the rubber meets the road in retail!

    Finally, as promised, here are emails responding to the ongoing commentary about how to deal with out of stocks, and the FaceTime commentary I did yesterday reacting to the person who questioned my credentials to be commenting on how supermarkets should do business.

    In case you missed them, here are the two relevant FaceTime videos:

    MNB reader Ira Kress (who, because he references his company in this email, should be identified as president of Giant) wrote:

    I’ve never written or commented previously about any of your articles or various opinions expressed therein, but I found myself wanting to do so this time.

    I absolutely LOVED your FaceTime video today.   I, like many, read your article about the out of stock challenges we are all experiencing, along with your recommendation on how retailers could turn this challenge into a deeper connection with their customers.   Sure, it may not be realistic – for every item, or every customer, or every time.   To me, that’s not what was important about your comments.   What was important, and what links directly to your FaceTime commentary today, was that your perspective was one of a CUSTOMER!

    Candidly, I too had no idea whether you had previously worked in retail or managed a supermarket.   I never thought about it, and never cared.   You are a writer and reporter, sharing his perspective on the various goings-on in this crazy retail world…and sharing his beliefs based on what you have experienced in and through retail, and through your many connections with leaders across our industry.  I appreciate that for exactly what it is.

    BTW – while we never implemented a “corporate edict” on the recommendation you proposed, we have had many, many managers take it upon themselves to do exactly that….take a customer name and contact them when the product they’ve been looking for comes in (long before the pandemic hit, during the craziness of the pandemic itself, and to this very day)….and those managers that have taken this level of personal responsibility and care for their customers in fact are the ones who have continued to build the personal customer connections you mention.

    Stay well, and keep the perspectives coming!

    Reacting to emails I've posted from people who explained all the reasons why what I suggested couldn't be done, one MNB reader wrote:

    Having worked in a variety of businesses other than supermarkets, I can attest that OOS is a problem common to all of them. After reading the statements disguised as excuses, I think there are too many people in this business who would rather say "it can't be done" than "it must be done."  Afterwards, when the business goes down the tubes, they wring their hands, blame the customer or anyone else they can tag, and wonder why they failed.  It's a recurring problem in every business, though. It's easier to make excuses than to work toward a resolution.

    Another MNB reader agreed:

    As to the out of stocks I would think that a retailer could hire a local college student or even high school student to develop a program that would start with a QR code on a display in the Out of Stock facing that would then lead to a landing page where the consumer could put their contact details and the name of the product.  Sure, not everyone would use it, but everyone would know the retailer cares.

    MNB reader Brian Harris wrote:

    Brilliant commentary my friend! Like you I’ve been asked that same question over my career. Our unique opportunity to talk with, observe with and listen to so many great retailers all over the world all these years give us such a unique perspective and credibility in being able to share our thoughts and ideas as we strive to move our industry forward. We simply would not have been able to do this if we had spent our career working in retail.

    From another reader:

    I am a long time appreciative reader.

    I’ve often thought of sending a note just to say “thanks” for your humor and pretty darn good insights.  I never did, but today’s FaceTime made me do it. 

    I never spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I was pretty confident that you had little experience in the business, albeit not evident in your knowledge or writing.

    At least 98.132% of the time, I agree with your assessment and commentary on most of the subjects that you discuss. 

    Where I believe that you earn credibility is your ability to listen, you do talk a lot (your job), but you listen more, ask provocative questions of the industries top experts and

    you always present your opinion, as your opinion, not of fact, even when they may be just that.

    I enjoy your humor, and on subjects that I may have a different perspective, you encourage me to think differently, which is healthy.

    I spent 45 years in the supermarket business, starting as a bagger & stock clerk until I could find a good job.

    45 Years later, I retired from the same company as the SVP, so much for the better job….

    So, please keep doing what you’re doing, your perspective may be better not having worked in the business, as often the customer is absent in C-Suite conversations.

    Bravo to you for addressing it, makes me more loyal.

    MNB reader Dale Tillotson wrote:

    Great honest face time KC now it is official you are the Howard Cosell of retail reporting and color commentary, Have a cigar my friend and keep on doing it for another 20 years.

    And from another reader:

    Howdy!  I’m a 30 year veteran of “working in grocery stores” and have to say that the guy asking the questions IS part of the problem.  Thinking that you can only know the answers because of your work history is old school way of thinking.

    When I worked for Central Market HEB we looked for people without produce experience.  Why?  They brought new perspectives & ideas to the department.  What they didn’t bring was baggage and a “this is the way we do it” mentality.

    I never had a thought about you working in the retail sector.  Why?  Because you BRING so mush MORE to the table!  Your perspective is YOURS and that’s what makes it great.  I enjoy spending part of my morning reading through MNB.

    I also happen to agree with your thought that started this whole conversation.  Is it a lot of work to keep up with and do it.  YES!  But the payoff could be a lifetime customer!  If they have kids then more lifetime customers.

    If it was easy EVERYONE would be doing it!

    And from MNB reader Steve Workman:

    I feel the need to respond to this morning's FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    Personally, I have worked in Retail my entire short career of now 40 years.  First job pushing carts and stocking shelves in the Watchung NJ Shop-Rite. Damn that hill looked a lot steeper when I was pushing those carts up it….

    Then after graduating college I worked for a year in my family owned Independent Retail Paint Store.  After that a 10 year stint reprinting Fortune 500 CPG companies Unilever and Entenmann’s bakery.  Then I found the Retail Service path.  First and an Entrepreneur, then representing several large, medium and small Third Party In-store Service Providers.  I am still at it today and am proud to say that the “Morning News Beat” is a daily read for me.  It is a big part of my morning routine, after my prayers of course.  I find that the content gives me a well rounded approach to my day with current happenings, impacts, technology advancements, insight, approaches and anecdotes all around the world of Retail.  There is also a lighter side with Sports Desk and Movie, Restaurant and Wine Reviews.  I repeat, a well rounded way to start my day.

    Since I am in Sales, I also read it for the opportunity to identify any prospective clients that may arise.  I have forwarded many a link to my prospects and current clients that I felt relative to our relationship.  Therefore, coming from a “Lifelong Retail Guy”, I am on the side of appreciating and respecting the content that you put out every day.  I look forward to it like I look forward to my first cup of coffee.  Keep it up!

    MNB reader Allen F. Wysocki wrote:

    Loved your Face Time this morning and I hope you continue to challenge the industry with ideas on things like out of stocks. I taught a sales class for over ten years and I believe I added value to the class, not because I was wildly successful as sales manager for a small produce distributor. In fact, we had a hard time making a go in this business, so I re-evaluated my life’s calling and ended up in academia. I taught sales with an eye towards what not to do. I became passionate about selling and had a mission to educate students that selling is a noble and rewarding profession if done properly.  Your dirty little secret is safe with me.

    And from MNB reader Tom Jackson:

    You handled that email regarding your Grocery experience, very well !!  You are an insightful person with the ability to communicate to various audiences. In my opinion, you do not position yourself as a technical writer. But, rather one who takes a practical and creative approach that I am sure stimulates productive thinking. Keep up the good work my friend!

    From another reader:

    KC, towards the end of your facetime, you suggested that some of us might now start listening to somebody else.  Wait, there’s somebody else who does what you do?!  Seriously, never wondered how much time or even if you have spent time working in retail.  Always knew from your very open communications that your background was in research and reporting and never gave me any reason to question the information and suggestions you have to offer.  So keep on making your observations and providing us with great insight!  I’ll stay around for your next 20 years…..that is, if you decide to continue offering us the choice well into what should be your (and my) retirement years!

    From MNB reader Rich Heiland:

    Thank you for your confession. I will still read and listen….Like you I started my career in journalism but before I landed there I worked in men’s clothing, hospitality, managed a big rock and roll beer bar. In newspapers I worked up to the CEO level. When I started my facilitation, training and consulting business I worked with an amazing array of companies that provided and ongoing graduate course in all things business. When I started to work almost exclusively with private practice optometrists, through a friend’s company, some of the docs were skeptical. They acknowledged my business background but wondered what I could bring to them because “you’ve never worked in optometry.” The first time I was asked that I thought for a second then answered “I come as your patient. I’ve been a patient all my life.” I told them “my vision of your practice comes from outside your tunnel.” Carry on…

    You'd think optometrists, of all people, could appreciate someone with vision.

    And, one more:

    Great stuff!  Keep doing what you are doing.  Over the years, you dropped enough hints to indicate you never worked in a supermarket.  Didn’t matter then, doesn’t matter now, you bring a great perspective and we get to choose whether to accept your view or think through it and come up with our own thoughts.  That’s what you do for us, the reader.  

    BTW if your flock flees, I have a job for you in the store I manage!

    Good to know.

    I was overwhelmed by the volume and sentiments of the emails I received on this one, and was reminded of what John Lennon said on January 30, 1969, after the Beatles played their final public performance in a rooftop concert atop their Apple Corps. recording studios:  "I hope we've passed the audition."

    Published on: November 5, 2021

    Each year about this time brings a new Jack Reacher novel, as author Lee Child has added new chapters to the extended saga of the former MP turned nomad, wandering the country with just a toothbrush (he has the clothes on his back and when he needs new ones, he throws out the old ones), taking odd jobs and finding trouble.

    As I noted here a year ago, Lee Child - the pen name used by Jim Grant - has pretty much given up writing the books, and has turned them over to his brother, novelist Andrew Grant, who uses Andrew Child for the Reacher series.  Lee Child's name remains on the books, but he says he's taken the character as far as he can, and now wants to work on an upcoming Amazon Prime video series about him.

    The problem for me was that last year's book, "The Sentinel," was disappointing … and this year's entry, "Better Off Dead," might have been better off not being written - it is paint-by-numbers Reacher, with Andrew Child checking off all the plot boxes but finding none of the surprise, charm and propulsive narrative that have characterized the books until now.

    I got through "Better Off Dead," but it was a bit of a slog, largely because the writing just isn't that good.

    I hate the idea that I may have to stop reading the Reacher novels, but there it is.  And there's a business lesson here, as once defined to me by Norman Mayne of Dorothy Lane Markets - a reputation is what you had yesterday, and today you have to earn it all over again.

    In the case of the Jack Reacher saga, there's a lot of work to be done to regain past glories.

    Just a quick note to thank all of you who wrote me yesterday to say Happy Birthday.  I appreciate it more than you possibly could know.

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

    Stay safe.  Be healthy.