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    Published on: December 13, 2021

    One of the results of the pandemic is that it has created a general unease among Millennials, which is then prompting them to write wills and assign healthcare proxies.  KC writes that it is important to remember that these are not just "Millennials."  These are our kids and our employees.  Attention must be paid.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    Instacart's president of just three months, Carolyn Everson,, said on Friday that she will step down at the end of the year.  

    Both sides aid the decision was mutual, with Everson saying that it was "the best decision for the company and for me personally."

    Bloomberg writers that "Everson was part of a wave of veterans from Facebook, now known as  Meta Platforms Inc., who joined Instacart in the last year. She worked at Facebook for a decade and spent much of that time closely working with Fidji Simo, who left a top post at the social networking giant to become Instacart’s chief executive officer in August."

    There have been some reports that Everson was unhappy because while she wanted to focus on consumer relationships and maximizing data usage, her portfolio instead included overseeing retail, advertising, business development, human resources, legal and partnerships.

    KC's View:

    Who knows what the truth is?

    We may find out at some point, but the question that I'd ask, if I were a retailer, is what this all means in terms of Instacart's ability/intention to compete with me with a standalone retail offering that does not depend on me as a retail client?  What does this all mean in terms of Instacart's ability/intention to use my customer data for its own purposes, ability/intention to hype its own brand at the expense of mine, and ability/intention to access manufacturer promotion dollars that used to go to me?

    Just asking.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    One of the many tornadoes that slammed six states over the weekend formed in the parking lot of an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois, on Friday night, ripping off the roof of the depot, collapsing two 40-foot-high concrete walls, and killing six people.  About 45 people made it out alive, reports say.

    However, as the New York Times reports, logistical issues complicated rescue and recovery efforts there.

    "The more than 250,000 drivers like Mr. Harris who fuel Amazon’s delivery network do not work directly for the company but instead are employed by over 3,000 contractor companies. On Saturday, Mike Fillback, the police chief in Edwardsville, said the authorities had 'challenges' in knowing 'how many people we actually had at that facility at the time because it’s not a set staff.'

    "Only seven people at Amazon’s site were full-time employees, said a Madison County commissioner who declined to give his name. He said most were delivery drivers in their 20s who work as contractors."

    The Times also notes that "the tornado coincided with a peak in the company’s work force. Americans’ reliance on Amazon soon turned the deaths at the delivery depot into a focus of the public as the tornadoes’ toll became clear over the weekend."

    Two other related stories emerged over the weekend.

    From Bloomberg:

    "An Amazon.com Inc. warehouse collapse on Friday night that killed at least six people has amplified concerns among its blue collar workforce about the return of the internet retailer’s mobile phone ban in work areas … Amazon had for years prohibited workers from carrying their phones on warehouse floors, requiring them to leave them in vehicles or employee lockers before passing through security checks that include metal detectors. The company backed off during the pandemic, but has been gradually reintroducing it at facilities around the country.

    "Five Amazon employees, including two who work across the street from the building that collapsed, said they want access to information such as updates on potentially deadly weather events through their smartphones -- without interference from Amazon."

    And from the New York Post:

    "Jeff Bezos on Saturday night said he was 'heartbroken' over the deaths of at least six Amazon employees in an Illinois warehouse hit by a tornado Friday.

    "The Amazon founder was blasted on social media earlier Saturday for failing to mention the deadly incident in Edwardsville while cheering on his latest group of space tourists in an Instagram post.

    "'The news from Edwardsville is tragic,' he finally said in a statement on Twitter at around 9 p.m. 'We’re heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones.'

    "'All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis,' the post continued. 'We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site'."

    KC's View:

    To be fair, there isn't much that Jeff Bezos could have done on Saturday to help affected employees and contractors.  And, Bezos isn't the company's CEO anymore.

    But, like it or not, Bezos remains the company's face and voice, as inextricably linked to Amazon's image and performance as Steve Jobs was to Apple's.  I think if I had been his public relations person, I would have suggested that on Saturday morning it might've made sense not to be gushing online about his latest spaceship trip.  Just as a matter of perception and perspective.

    Bezos always has made a big deal out of Amazon's being a customer-centric company.  At this point, a huge percentage of the country's population uses Amazon, and I think that maybe he runs the risk of appearing like an out-of-touch oligarch.  I'm not sure that's fair, but it is very real risk, and worth avoiding.

    Oh, and one other thing.  I'd make a big deal - now - out of ditching the cell phone policy. 

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    The Washington Post reports that the CEOs for 20 major US retailers, including Best Buy, Target, Nordstrom, Home Depot and Dollar General, have written to leadership in the US Senate and House of Representatives asking them "to help combat a wave of smash-and-grab robberies by cutting off the resale pipeline for stolen goods, which they say is enabled by online marketplaces that don’t do enough to verify the identity of sellers."

    The story notes that "the retail industry has been rocked by a spate of 'flash mob' robberies that can involve dozens of masked thieves swarming into stores with crowbars, guns and other weapons. Retailers ranging from Louis Vuitton to Best Buy to Home Depot have been hit, with some incidents resulting in injuries: Two Nordstrom employees were assaulted and one was pepper-sprayed Nov. 20 after an estimated 80 people rushed the Walnut Creek store."

    The letter says that "criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers," and that "this trend has made retail businesses a target for increasing theft,” hurting "legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers, and has greatly increased consumer exposure to unsafe and dangerous counterfeit products."

    KC's View:

    It seems to me that it shouldn't take an epidemic of smash-and-grab robberies to shut down pipelines for stolen goods - that ought to be a baseline for the conduct of commerce in a civil society.  And I do think that retailers have a responsibility to make sure that they are not enabling such pipelines by asking too few questions about product provenance.

    But if we need to have legislative action at the federal level, let's have it.  

    BTW … I also fundamentally disagree with the California laws establishing that the theft of merchandise under $950 is a misdemeanor and is almost never prosecuted, with the only exception being if the theft is committed by organized rings planning to resell the good.  Bad message.  Theft is theft.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) said that it "sent a letter to CEOs of top U.S. retail and grocery companies - including Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods and many others - calling for immediate action to protect workers and customers amid the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and the growing winter surge of virus infections."

    UFCW International President Marc Perrone wrote:  “America’s essential workers have had to contend with an ongoing deadly pandemic that has upended their daily lives as they have put their health and safety at risk every single day. For nearly two years, the threat of COVID-19 has persisted and evolved, even as many of America’ largest food and retail companies have relaxed their safety measures. With the new COVID-19 winter surge and emergence of the Omicron variant, it is critical for our nation’s largest retail and food employers – including Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and Whole Foods – to take immediate steps to protect essential workers and members of the public during this holiday season."

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    From the Boston Globe this morning, a story about the rapid growth of dark stores in the city:

    "Promising to shuttle bananas or ice cream to your apartment in 15 minutes, these companies are renting storefronts and turning them into packing centers, then employing couriers on e-bike or scooter to make deliveries within a mile or two. They’re wildly popular in Europe, South America, and Asia. Scores have opened in New York City.

    Now they’re coming to Boston, where a half-dozen of these companies — with names like Getir, BUYK (pronounced 'bike'), and JOKR — have opened or announced plans to in recent months, taking storefronts in Downtown Crossing, the South End, and Cambridge.

    "In a sense, instant delivery companies are a perfect reflection of our times … Amazon primed us to expect deliveries within two days, or faster. Early-pandemic isolation trained consumers to order groceries online. Takeout became essential, sparking a wave of 'ghost kitchens' that only serve meals for delivery. And many traditional retailers vanished — especially in downtown areas — leaving a glut of empty stores that landlords are eager to fill.

    "But some worry about what these companies might mean for Boston, and the streets they occupy. There’s a big difference between a traditional store you can walk into and a warehouse with covered-over windows and a stream of e-bikes coming out the door."

    The Globe notes that the dark store movement is "powered by huge sums of venture capital investment — $5.8 billion in the first nine months of 2021, according to research firm CB Insights, on top of $496 million last year and $1.1 billion in 2019."

    KC's View:

    I agree that the dark store movement has the potential to have an enormous impact on neighborhoods, though I do think that they will be just a component of retail, not the whole thing.

    But I also believe that, as simplistic as it might seen, if you want to be retailer that people want to go to, then you actually have to be a retailer that people want to go to.  That's on you - not the consumer.  In the categories where it makes sense, and in which a retailer can create for itself a compelling and differential advantage, then you actually have to do it.  

    Compete is a verb.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    The New York Times reports that Vishal Garg, the co-founder and CEO of Better.com, who earned considerable criticism when he fired 900 employees during a single Zoom meeting, is "taking time off" following "the very regrettable event."

    The news was announced by the company's board of directors in a memo to the company's remaining staff on Friday.

    Garg had told the staffers on the Zoom call that "if you’re on this call you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately."  Subsequent reports said that all the affected people saw their computer access immediately shut off, and that Garg accused people of stealing from the company by working only two hours a day - an allegation that some challenged by noting that some of the laid off people recently had been rewarded with raises and promotions.

    KC's View:

    This is one of those cases where the board had to step up - the company was taking a beating in the court of public opinion, and Garg sounds like a real piece of work.  The next step should be replacing him.

    MNB reader Debra K.W. Topham sent me an email over the weekend suggesting that this could reflect a growing number of cases of "narcissistic personality disorder mistakenly perceived as ideal leadership," and this could be another pandemic for businesses?

    I think that is savvy observation.  I think some of these so-called leaders have breathed way too much of their own exhaust, and don't understand that in the end it is a lot more rewarding, though admittedly a lot harder, to create a culture of caring within an organization.

    But I also think it isn't just in business.  There is a lot of narcissistic personality disorder going around, and a lot of people putting their eggs in questionable baskets.

    Published on: December 13, 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…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 50,801,455 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 817,956 deaths and 40,003,674 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 270,568,501 total cases, with 5,324,867 resultant fatalities and 243,332,707 reported recoveries.  (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76.5 percent of the US population age five and older, and 72 percent of the total US population, has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 64.7 percent of the five-and-older population and 60.8 percent of the US population, has been totally vaccinated.  The CDC also says that 28.9 percent of the 18-and-older population and 26.6 percent of the total US population has received a vaccine booster dose.



    •  The New York Times has a story about the degree to which older Americans have suffered because of the pandemic - 75 percent of the people who have died because of the coronavirus in the US, or one in 100, have been 65 and older.

    The Times writes:

    "In both sharp and subtle ways, the pandemic has amplified an existing divide between older and younger Americans.

    "In interviews across the country, older Americans say that they have continued to endure the isolation and fear associated with the pandemic long after tens of millions of younger and middle-aged people have gone back to work and school and largely resumed normal lives. Older people are still falling seriously ill in great numbers, particularly if they are unvaccinated, and hospitals in the Midwest, New England and the Southwest have been strained with an influx of patients this month. Worried about their risks, and the ongoing warnings from health officials about the added dangers for older people, many of them are still curtailing travel and visits with grandchildren, and are dining out less."

    The Times adds:  "By now, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older, after heart disease and cancer. It is responsible for about 13 percent of all deaths in that age group since the beginning of 2020, more than diabetes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia."

    As someone who at least demographically fits into the definition of "older American," I find this maddening - how many of these people might not have died had there not been so much misinformation and disinformation about vaccines and masks?  



    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Covid-19 is surging in many parts of the country in the wake of Thanksgiving, with Christmastime gatherings on the horizon.

    "Health authorities in some hard-hit states, like Vermont, New Jersey and Maine, say people who became infected after traveling or gathering indoors for Thanksgiving are likely adding to the Covid-19 numbers. By Saturday, some 34 states had higher seven-day averages for new cases than they did before Thanksgiving, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with some of the biggest increases in the Northeast.

    "Epidemiologists believe colder weather, which draws people back inside where respiratory viruses can more easily spread, plays a big role."



    •  NBC News reports that New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul, saying that "stricter measures are needed to curb COVID spread across the state" because of new concerns about increases in hospitalizations and worries about the Omicron variant."   As of today, in New York State, if you are inside in any environment that is not your residence and does not require vaccination to enter, you must wear a mask.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    •  Bloomberg reports that Amazon said that "automated processes in its cloud computing business caused cascading outages across the internet this week, affecting everything from Disney amusement parks and Netflix videos to robot vacuums and Adele ticket sales.

    "In a statement Friday, Amazon said the problem began Dec. 7 when an automated computer program - designed to make its network more reliable - ended up causing a 'large number' of its systems to unexpectedly behave strangely. That, in turn, created a surge of activity on Amazon’s networks, ultimately preventing users from accessing some of its cloud services."

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Oregonian reports that "grocery workers at Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers stores in Oregon have voted to authorize an unfair labor practices strike, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 said Saturday night.

    "Workers plan to go on strike beginning Friday morning if union leadership and management don’t reach an agreement on key bargaining issues."

    Negotiations with Kroger, which owns both chains, are scheduled to continue this week.



    •  USA Today writes:

    "For the first time in its 71 year history, the production line for Junior's Cheesecake sputtered and came to a halt on Friday, Dec. 3.

    "The company's baking facility stayed closed Saturday before reopening the next day. But production at the New Jersey-based facility came to stop again Thursday. 

    "The culprit? Not enough cream cheese."

    The nation's cream cheese shortage struck yet again.

    According to the story, Junior's "gets its yearly 4 million pounds of cream cheese from Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Between supplying cheesecakes for its mail-order business, its restaurants and around 8,000 supermarkets across the country, Junior's Cheesecakes uses around 40,000 pounds of cream cheese in a day and a half."  At this time of year, the demand is even greater.

    The story says that "it could be some time before things return to normal for Junior's Cheesecake."  The cream cheese supply chain could take as long as three months to return to normal.

    This hurts my heart - I love cheesecake.  Doesn't hurt my stomach much, though, because it is just one of those things that, the older I get, I find I should eat less and less.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    On Friday, Hy-Vee announced "the retirement of its Vice Chairman and President of Hy-Vee Supply Chain and Subsidiaries Jay Marshall, following 39 years of service, as well as the retirement of its Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Mike Skokan, following 35 years of service."

    Those retirements have prompted the following promotions:  Jeremy Gosch, the company's president, retail operations and co-chief operating officer, to president and chief operating officer, Hy-Vee, Inc.;  Aaron Wiese, president of digital growth and co-chief operating officer, to vice chairman of Hy-Vee, Inc. and president of Hy-Vee supply chain/subsidiaries;  and Andy Schreiner, chief accounting officer, to senior vice president, chief financial officer, treasurer.

    Published on: December 13, 2021

    In Week Fourteen of the National Football League…

    Baltimore Ravens 22, Cleveland Browns 24

    Jacksonville Jaguars 0, Tennessee Titans 20

    Las Vegas Raiders 9,Kansas City Chiefs 48

    New Orleans Saints 30, New York Jets 9

    Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington 20

    Atlanta Falcons 29, Carolina Panthers 21

    Seattle Seahawks 33, Houston Texans 13

    Detroit Lions 10, Denver Broncos 38

    New York Giants 21, Los Angeles Chargers 37

    San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 23

    Buffalo Bills 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33

    Chicago Bears 30, Green Bay Packers 45