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    Published on: December 14, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how to turn my topic this week into a business lesson.  But go figure.  I did.

    This week is amazing for my family as we have one person (my dad) turning 95 and another (my mother-in-law) turning 100. We know how lucky we are and I planned to write something about these two special people.

    But it was the days running up to these birthdays that a business lesson became evident.

    When we went looking for appropriate birthday cards, my wife was disappointed at the limited selection for either age. Granted, there isn’t a huge population of people hitting those milestones, but it struck me as a missed business opportunity.

    After all, improved health and the aging population are combining to help more people than ever reach these milestones. Plus, it seemed to me that many of the people buying and mailing greeting cards the old fashioned away probably are themselves old.

    Once again, I am apparently incorrect.

    The Washington Post reported last week on a growing trend among millennials to send greeting cards and yes, do it by snail mail.   It seems like yet another example of how younger generations are bucking conventional wisdom and returning to old habits with all kinds of new wrinkles.  (This is happening in all sorts of weird ways.  The Financial Times had a piece this week about how young people who want to dress up are adopting ascots as their neckwear of choice.  Ascots?)

    According to the Post, young adults are sending cards, but not like those we’ve all been sharing for year. Like many other products - think micro-brew beer - they are opting for more personalized, unique and costly greetings. Just as vinyl records are suddenly in fashion again, so are greeting cards, just not in the way we may remember them.

    Not surprisingly, traditional card companies like Hallmark are finding ways to incorporate current technologies, including QR codes that can link to custom videos, into greeting cards. And like so many other things, today’s cards can help create an experience unimagined in the past.

    It’s a clear reminder that consumers still crave uniqueness and authenticity in virtually everything they do. They want quality, they want experience and they want to spend money in ways that make them feel special. Thanks to Covid, we are seeing a resurgence of home cooking, baking, sewing, bicycling and, so it seems, apparently greeting cards. 

    The key for retailers is to lock in these gains and to build lasting relationships with the generations that are going to dominate the aisles for years, if not decades, to come.

    So sure, there is a growing market (happily including me) buying cards for aging parents. But it seems there’s a much larger market for sharing sentiments in a new and more personal way. I think there’s good news in that for all of us.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    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: December 14, 2021

    In New York City, FAO Schwarz is offering customers the ability to get access to the store, complete with guided tour, a couple of hours each morning before it opens to the public.  The cost:  $260, all of which goes to a charity, "Candlelighters NYC," which provides emotional and financial support to children with cancer.

    All of which is great.  And it gave KC an idea for how retailers can offer a new service that will differentiate them in the eyes of their shoppers.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    The Information reports that Amazon, in both the US and UK, has been "quietly been laying the groundwork to become a major player in a less visible and potentially more lucrative area: the grocery-delivery market, which in the U.S. has largely been the domain of Instacart."

    Here's how The Information frames the story:

    "Over the last year, Amazon has launched a new business in the U.K. - referred to internally as Amazon Fresh Marketplace - that bears a striking resemblance to Instacart. Prime subscribers can use the Amazon app or website to order groceries from two major U.K. supermarkets, with same-day delivery fulfilled by Amazon Flex drivers.

    "The Information has learned that Amazon plans to expand the online grocery-ordering and -delivery program throughout Europe and in the U.S. in 2022. That will put it in direct competition with Instacart as well as other companies expanding in app-based grocery deliveries, such as DoorDash and Uber."

    The story notes that "Amazon has been experimenting with grocery delivery for more than a decade now," and in fact it flirted with delivering groceries for other retailers in local markets several years ago, before it had in place the infrastructure that it has now.  That left Amazon largely focused on delivering its own products, but an expansion such as the one being planned by Amazon, the story says, "would reflect the strategy that will intensify what is already shaping up to be a bloody battle for market share in the grocery deliver sector next year. Already app-based restaurant-delivery services like DoorDash and Uber’s Uber Eats are ramping up their grocery-delivery efforts. Earlier this year, DoorDash announced a deal to deliver groceries for the Albertsons supermarket chain, and Uber recently acquired grocery-delivery firm Cornershop."

    The story says that "Instacart has already made clear it will respond to Amazon’s entry into the market by casting itself as a more reliable ally. Instacart has said it sees Amazon as a major threat to the grocers it partners with, because Amazon’s Whole Foods is a direct competitor."

    KC's View:

    I'm sure we will discuss this in tomorrow's Innovation Conversation with Tom Furphy, but my first reactions to this are:  a) it totally makes sense for Amazon to do this, and b) like Instacart, it is a kind of Trojan Horse with which retailers should be leery about engaging.

    I've been expecting Amazon to offer its growing delivery network to other retailers, and while there may be cases in which it would make sense, giving Amazon any sort of access to shopper data is a prescription for disaster.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Kroger "is eliminating some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees," telling employees that "it will no longer provide two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract Covid-19, unless local jurisdictions require otherwise. Kroger will also add a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other nonunion employees."

    The story notes that Kroger is making these moves "as U.S. businesses face continued uncertainty over federal vaccination mandates. Rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in November require employers with 100 or more workers to ensure employees are vaccinated or take weekly Covid-19 tests by Jan. 4.

    "Whether those rules, which were targeted by lawsuits across the country, will take effect is uncertain. Last week, a U.S. court blocked the plan to mandate vaccines for federal contractors. General Electric Co. and others have since suspended vaccine requirements for employees. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati is considering whether to reinstate the administration’s rules for employers."

    KC's View:

    The argument here, since the moment federal vaccine mandates were announced, has been that the feds were giving businesses cover - that they could get tougher in their own mandates and blame it on the Biden administration.

    I think this is a good move by Kroger, and I hope other businesses follow its lead.

    I've been saying here for some time - and we have this conversation below in "Your Views" - that insurance companies ought to tell people that if they don't get vaccinated and get Covid, their medical expenses will not be covered.  And the government ought to tell people that they can't claim unemployment benefits or any other government benefits of they're not vaccinated.

    We had a story yesterday about organized labor demanding greater Covid protections from retailers.  Step one ought to be to require employees to be vaccinated, and the unions ought to be on board with that.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    CNBC reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has begin an investigation into the "deadly collapse at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois … The collapse was caused by a tornado Friday that devastated the area.  Six workers were killed, one was injured and 45 people were rescued safely."

    According to the story, "OSHA has six months to complete its probe, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and/or health regulations are found, OSHA spokesperson Scott Allen told CNBC in a statement. The agency has had compliance officers at the warehouse since Saturday to provide assistance, Allen said."

    The story notes that this is standard operating procedure for OSHA in such cases.  Amazon also has launched an internal investigation into the building collapse.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    Fox Business reports that "two Starbucks locations in Boston on Monday petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections to unionize," a move that comes days after one of the company's stores in Buffalo, New York, voted to join a labor union.

    In a letter to CEO Kevin Johnson, employees at the two stores wrote that "like the partners in Buffalo, Arizona, and beyond, we believe that there can be no true partnership without power-sharing and accountability … We are organizing a union in Boston because we believe that this is the best way to contribute meaningfully to our partnership with the company … We want to ensure that our voices are heard and that we have equal power to affect positive change for our store, district, and company."

    The story notes that "the Boston employees are seeking to vote on being represented by Workers United, a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union – which is the same one the unionized Buffalo location joined. Another Buffalo store rejected unionization last week, while the decision at a third remains up in the air amid a conflict over voter eligibility."

    Johnson has said that unionization at the company's stores "goes against having that direct relationship with our partners that has served us so well for decades and allowed us to build this great company."

    KC's View:

    This isn't exactly venti level unionization, but it does have to be a little troubling to the folks in Seattle, who have always promoted the image of a company where employees are recognized, appreciated and celebrated.  

    It may be that this image is more rooted in the past than in a current reality, but it also may be that these unionization moves are more reflective of where the organized labor pendulum happens to be at the moment.  Either way, it seems to have small but significant momentum.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again.  What's the over/under on when Howard Schultz tries to return to the company?

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    The Washington Post has a story about how a unionization effort at a single Dollar General in Connecticut, which takes place in the context of broader labor unrest around the country …and offers at least one path that could be available to Starbucks, which is facing a similar movement.

    The Post notes that "all over the country, workers who had labored through a global pandemic for low pay and meager benefits were concluding that they deserved better from their bosses. Wages were rising and a wave of strikes was sweeping across the country, hitting iconic American brands such as Kellogg’s and John Deere."  In Connecticut, the Post writes, there was about to be "one of the most lopsided battles of the ongoing low-wage-worker revolt.

    "On one side: six Dollar General employees, most of whom were making the minimum wage or just slightly above it. The group included a community college student, a struggling musician who had recently moved back home and two single moms, one of whom was Parsons. On the other: a company with yearly revenue approaching $34 billion, more than 157,000 employees and 17,683 stores, not one of which was unionized."

    You can read the story here.

    KC's View:

    Spoiler alert:  The unionization vote at one Dollar General store succeeded.  Dollar General went to court to challenge the validity of the 4-2 vote.  Dollar General fired an employee who was responsible for the unionization movement.  And then, Dollar General closed the store - it was the only place in town other than a c-store that sold frozen food, snacks and canned goods - based on what it said was an “assessment of the store’s future profitability.”

    I don't think this is a path that Starbucks is likely to choose, but it certainly offers one option that it available to it … and you know that the company's efforts in that one case will reverberate all over the country.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    Crosscut has a story about the Pacific Place shopping mall in downtown Seattle, just a block east of Nordstrom's flagship store, which because of both the impact of the pandemic on bricks-and-mortar retail and change sin consumer behavior that were in motion before Covid-19 changed the world, has seen an exodus of almost all the major and even minor retailers that had locations there.

    The mall is trying a different approach to revitalization, the story says.  Instead of the fancy boutiques and chain stores that used to be there, shoppers are finding "art and handmade objects by local artisans.

    "On the shelves of the former Kate Spade store now sit — alongside fancy French soaps, stationary, books and vintage treasures — ceramic miniatures by Sharon Jewell, sculptural jewelry by Joan Cihak and Lauren Grossman and rustic pottery by Karra Wise, all local artists whose work is for sale at locally owned indie shop Orcas Paley. Next door you’ll find a brand-new retail outlet of Debonair Decor Couture, a 1-year-old local clothing label that also sells pop-art-style artworks depicting music stars and celebrities. 

    "A couple escalators up, Destination Maternity and Teavana have been replaced with boutiques dedicated to jewelry, art, home goods and gifts designed and handmade by artists. In the former Victoria’s Secret, new Black healing and art space Wonder of Women has hung paintings of history-making Black women in the niches formerly taken up by brassieres and frilly panties.

    "Part of a pop-up program meant to reinvigorate the dormant five-story mall, these small, indie businesses and art nonprofits are here on temporary leases to fill the spaces left behind by chain stores — at, yes, bargain prices … Although Pacific Place started its 'Pop-Up & Grow' program prepandemic, it has proved especially popular in recent months, as downtown emerges from the pandemic and small businesses are, as ever, looking for affordable rent."

    KC's View:

    I'm familiar with this location, which has been plagued by bad luck - there was a multimillion dollar renovation designed to make it more appealing to nearby South Lake Union workers and residents (many of whom work for Amazon and other tech companies).  But before the renovation was completed, Covid hit … and things only got worse from there.

    Hard to imagine that in an expensive, high-end location like this that a pop-up strategy is a long-term solution.  But maybe it does give management some time to tread water while they figure out what to do long term.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    Terrific story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a new pizza delivery service there called Muncho, founded by an investment banker who got frustrated when he couldn't get a pizza delivered at 10 pm on a Sunday.  Adam Chain decided the answer was "tricking out a van with an oven to bake pizzas en route to a customer and developing an app that allows ordering and payment."

    He got a chef to design "a pizza that could be par-baked, refrigerated, and heated," and then "persuaded four Philadelphia-area investors to put up $150,000 for the beta version of what he calls 'the dream of pressing the button and next thing you know, food shows up at your door.'

    "Muncho took shape quickly over the last year, Chain said. With the first round of funding, he acquired a Dodge Ram van and had it wrapped in a red and yellow logo, and bought an oven and a fridge. He had the mobile app built."

    According to the story, "Chain leased kitchen space at the Arsenal, a business center in the city’s Bridesburg section, and began handing out fliers in the Fairmount and Spring Garden neighborhoods — specifically, the 19130 zip code — to drum up business for his first test, which launched in August.

    "After that, Chain went back to tinker. The second Muncho pilot launched Thanksgiving weekend, with the van starting each day at 5 p.m. with a fridge full of pizzas from the commissary and roaming the streets till 10 p.m. or sellout.

    "Chain said he was developing robotics to help automate some steps, which should smooth the process. When an order arrives on the app, the driver must pull over and climb into the back to put the chilling pizza into the oven for its six-minute bake. Once at the customer’s door, the driver must find a parking spot, pull the pizza from the oven, cut it and box it, and deliver … Chain said he was working on another round of funding ($2 million to $3 million) to expand throughout Philadelphia in 2022. He is looking to franchise zip codes, similar to how FedEx uses contractors to operate its 'pickup-and-delivery' routes, and expand Muncho offerings to salads and desserts. After that, he wants to open in other cities."

    KC's View:

    Another example of how innovation can emerge in the food space … and how, if the project is appropriately funded and the test well executed, it might have legs.

    The question is, does this idea prompt traditional retailers to think differently about how to grow their businesses?

    Published on: December 14, 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 United States Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  51,018,282 total cases … 819,315 deaths … and 40,154,700 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  271,213,566 total cases … 5,331,805 fatalities … and 243,899,415 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76.6 percent of the US population age five and older, and 72.1 percent of the total US population, has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 64.8 percent of the five-and-older population and 60.9 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.

    The CDC also says that 29.2 percent of the US population age 18 and older and 26.9 percent of the total population has received a vaccine booster dose.

    • From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "Preliminary laboratory tests gave encouraging signs that Pfizer Inc.’s experimental Covid-19 pill could work against Omicron, the company said.

    "Pfizer also said Tuesday that a final analysis of late-stage study results confirmed the drug, named Paxlovid, was 89% effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in adults at high risk of severe Covid-19.

    "The positive results come as the Food and Drug Administration reviews whether to clear use of Paxlovid in high-risk adults, a decision that could come before the end of the year."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that Britain had registered its first death of a patient with the omicron variant, while U.K. health officials warned that the new version of the coronavirus was spreading at jaw-dropping speed.

    "'I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,' Johnson told reporters during a visit to a vaccination clinic in London. He urged people to quickly increase their protection with a booster shot.

    "Long lines formed outside vaccination clinics Monday, with people waiting to get a first, second or third dose.

    "The prime minister’s office did not immediately offer any details about the person who died — age, vaccination status or any underlying conditions.

    "It’s possible that this death is the first in the world to be officially tied to the new variant, though that in itself is of limited significance. There may have been others in which the virus wasn’t genetically sequenced to determine the variant involved."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "California will again require masking in all public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status as it confronts rising case rates ahead of the winter holidays and uncertainty about the Omicron variant.

    "Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said Monday that masks will be required in all public indoor spaces for one month beginning Wednesday through January 15.

    "The state will also require those attending large indoor events to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before the event. Previously, the window was 72 hours. People who use a rapid antigen test must take it within 24 hours of the event.

    "In addition, state officials are now recommending that all travelers entering the state get tested within three to five days of arriving."

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Washington Post has a piece about what appears to be a confusing and inconsistent pricing policy at Barnes & Noble, where prices for some books are lower online than in stores … though employees have been empowered to offer the lower price to customers who ask for it.  But if they don't ask, no such luck.

    It gets even more perplexing.  When you go on the Barnes & Noble website looking for a book, a pop-up ad for the same book at an even lower price can appear - from Amazon.

    And people wonder why customers are choosing Amazon instead of traditional stores?  This is nuts … it exploits customers who have not done their homework, and opts for the short-term revenue generated by a pop-up ad over the long-term benefits of being a consistent, reliable and shopper-centric brand.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) announced yesterday that it is canceling its planned January 30 - February 1 trade show in Chicago, "given the rise and uncertainty of the Omicron variant and overall surge of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and abroad, as well as the reinstatement of travel restrictions."

    PLMA had already postponed the show from November to January because of Covid.

    PLMA said that it still plans to have its  PLMA Global online event March 28-31, and its annual Chicago show November 13-15, 2022.

    I never understood why they would schedule a trade show in Chicago for late January.  Even if Covid and its variants had not been a problem, it was likely that weather would have created other issues.  I don't think this cancellation is reflective of the broader meeting environment as much as it is specific to PLMA;  I think organizers are going to have to emphasize safety, but I think most will go forward.

    •  The Boston Globe this morning reports that warnings are being circulated in Massachusetts that "up to 90 percent of the eggs currently being supplied to the state will disappear from shelves in 2022 unless the Legislature changes upcoming new standards for those that may be sold in Massachusetts supermarkets.

    "Without legislative action, eggs born of hens that have less than 1.5 square feet of space could not be sold in the state, a standard industry experts say is strict enough to effectively destroy the market."

    No yolk.  (Sorry.)

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    •  United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) announced that Mark Bushway, a regional president with the company, has been promoted to the role of chief supply chain officer.

    •  Pure-play online grocer Farmstead said yesterday that John Shaw - most recently the senior director for International Sourcing & Support at Peapod Digital Labs, and before that the Director of Strategy & Chief of Staff for Global Business Services at Walmart - has joined the company as Head of Supply.

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    Responding to our story about the Amazon warehouse hit hard by the tornado, and the questions being raised about some Amazon policies, one MNB reader wrote:

    This is a tough one! I was on duty (Full disclosure: I am in Southeast Missouri, so we were in the bullseye too) I am the store manager. I was glued to the weather forecast, my phone and had teammates throughout the store looking at their phones with my blessing. We have an emergency plan, and location in the store. I made sure everyone that was working was refreshed on the action plan and location. Here is the caveat; because of my job I religiously watch the weather forecast. Be it storms, heavy rain, snow, whatever. It all affects my business. It also affects the safety of our teammates. We didn't close the store because of impending weather, we were watchful. Would our emergency location protect us in a catastrophic tornado? Seriously doubt it, and I hope we never put it to the test. I refuse to be an armchair quarterback on this, nobody knows how they would respond in those situations. All you can do is be prepared. My heart goes out to the stricken areas.

    One MNB reader had a thought about Kellogg's decision to start hiring replacement workers to replace a labor force that has gone out on strike and rejected  a recent contract proposal:

    Bold statement by Kellogg on hiring permanent workers for vacated positions by strikers.  I wonder if Starbucks would look to the same direction if need be?  The only loser in these situations is the employee.

    I'm not sure that Starbucks would do that;  such a move would seem to be contrary to its hard-won image.

    Another MNB reader pulls on this string, however:

    Just a question.  What happens if Starbucks determines that these 3 baristas are no longer profitable?  Buffalo is the second largest city in NY, however, it is the 11 poorest city in NY.  If you add villages and Burroughs they drop into the 30’s.  I would hate to see the 100 people be out on the street because of unforeseen repercussions from a positive union vote.

    Continuing the discussion about Starbucks' union issues, one MNB reader wrote:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the SEIU seeded the staffing of the Starbucks with a few union oriented employees over time to work this from the inside.   I am also surprised that

    Starbucks couldn’t win the argument with NLRB that the appropriate voting unit was a bigger geographic area than just one store. 

    If this is NLRB stance across the country, that is not good news for Starbucks, which needs to invest in some very competent consultants like yesterday.  

    Or, maybe it needs to figure out what the problem is and address it.

    From another reader:

    While I applaud the efforts of the Buffalo area Starbucks stores and their bid to go Union, I have two points I would like to bring up. 

    1. The are hundreds of not thousands of SB that are already Union. Any SB inside a grocery store, at an airport, etc. are all run by union employees that are part of that locations local. As someone who was a supervisor for multiple locations that fall into this category, I can’t tell you how many times I had baristas get just enough training and time in with us so they could then go get hired on at a better wage with less rules and union oversight at a corporate SB store. Having to be union was always stated as a factor to their leaving. 

    Which leads me to point 2.

    2. I hope the new union can negotiate a better deal then what the current SB union associates get because it’s not great! Lower wages, longer apprentice hours between pay increases, no ability to accept tips, etc.

    The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and if we are to really bring our country into a new era of union pride and sense of ownership they will need to do better then what we’ve seen from the UFCW’s and Teamsters over the last 20+ years. 

    On another subject, from an MNB reader:

    Interesting the announcement regarding Giant launching Ship2Me digital marketplace at the same time AHOLD / USA struck an agreement with Instacart.  Hmmm.  Is anyone talking to each other over there???  Silos at their best.

    I expressed a certain skepticism the other day about CVS being able to deliver on its stated goal of being part of the primary healthcare continuum, prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Saw your comment about CVS’ customer service and wanted to share a story from the other day. My wife and I were getting our Covid booster shots at a local CVS and while the pharmacist was taking my information he was having an expletive filled, ranting discussion with one of the pharmacy techs-F***this and F*** that with a few of the other words you can’t say on TV. Now, I know all of the bad words and have used them myself on occasion, but never at work in front of a customer.  I was also told to wait 15 minutes after the shot to make sure I didn’t have a reaction and no one checked on me or released me. They have a long way to go if they want to push further into being a primary care provider.

    MNB reader Mitch Hill had a comment on our Covid coverage:

    In less than a year the US has lost in excess of 800,000 lives to COVID-19. This exceeds the total number of people lost to AIDS since its inception.  The saddest part is that there is a vaccination that will keep people from dying.  Yet influential members of our society make outlandish and untruthful claims and seem perfectly happy to watch their fellow citizens die from this terrible infection.  What will historians think 100 years from now?

    Probably that we are the opposite of the Greatest Generation, and that we put the lie to the popular definition of American Exceptionalism.

    In another pandemic-related story, we reported yesterday that 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."

    One MNB reader responded:

    The hypocrisy of this demand is laughable! How about if the retailers demand vaccinations for all of their teammates!  What would be the union's stance? We support your right of self governance? Or hey we asked that the retailers better protect you, so we support them demanding the vaccinations! It truly is amazing that stuff makes it public. Common sense is so uncommon. Full disclosure:  I've been vaccinated 3 times. 

    Another MNB reader agreed:

    The union wants a stronger response, how about mandatory vaccinations?  Oh wait, when the union members balk at that, the union will run to their defense, citing overreach.

    Some of those chains already require mandatory masks.  I see their workers wearing them under their nose or worse on their chin only.

    This is a two way street.  

    I am totally on board with mandatory vaccinations for retail employees - and it ought to be part and parcel of any moves by retailers to make workplaces more safe for workers and customers.

    Then again, I'm a hard-ass on this.  As far as I am concerned, insurance companies ought to tell people that if they don't get vaccinated and get Covid, their medical expenses will not be covered.  And the government ought to tell people that they can't claim unemployment benefits or any other government benefits of they're not vaccinated.  

    This is about us all having a responsibility to each other, and to doing what we can to maintain the public health.  If you don't like up to that responsibility, you don't get benefits.

    Yesterday we took note of a Bloomberg report 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."

    MNB reader Jeff Williams responded:

    The Amazon statement is so indicative of a tech response.  Thats a non-answer in my opinion.  "Some code made something happen and people couldn’t do stuff.”  It is either bravado that they think they can just make statements like that because we won’t understand tech and folks will shrug it off or they really don’t know.  Not sure which is scarier.  Doing the right thing is never wrong, and transparency is always the right thing.

    Keep up the great work KC!  Been loyal for 20yrs and you have helped guide my knowledge throughout my career along many stops.  Congrats on 20!!

    Thanks, Jeff.

    And, regarding my continuing criticisms of retailers doing business with Instacart, MNB reader Rickard Werner wrote:

    Tell us how you really feel!  I'm with you:  IC looks like a classic Trojan Horse:  A convenient solution to a complex problem with lots of long-term downside.

    That's what I think … and what I'm going to keep saying, at least until the current structure of retailer-Instacart relationships goes the way of Priceline for Groceries, which I also said was the dumbest idea I'd ever heard.  (And was right.)

    Published on: December 14, 2021

    In Monday Night Football, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 30-23.