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    Published on: February 16, 2022

    Content Guy's Note:  Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and a national political figure for the past dozen years, will be delivering the keynote address at the National Grocers Association annual show in Las Vegas on February 27, 2022.  In advance of his appearance, Gov. Christie agreed to engage in an extended conversation with me about branding lessons from politics that can be applied to business … how he would address the multiple challenges of inflation, supply chain problems, labor issues and antitrust … and how to manage and lead even when facing daunting headwinds.  He also talked about his favorite Democrat and Republican, and even (as a minority owner of the New York Mets) spoke about the labor issues facing Major League Baseball.

    I hope you enjoy my conversation with Gov. Christie.


    If you want to listen to our conversation as an audio podcast, click below.

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    The Boston Globe has a piece by Chaseedaw Giles of Kaiser Health News in which she writes about how supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods often reinforce poor food choices, as opposed to stores in more affluent communities, that point shoppers toward healthier options.

    She uses as her laboratory the Boston area:  "When I flew home for Thanksgiving, I enlisted my mother, Lilie — who always cared about her kids’ diets — to help with more research. I have vivid childhood memories of her scouring multiple grocery stores — often traveling to different parts of town — for the freshest ingredients when none were available close by. We set out one Sunday last fall to buy 12 items on a simple 'healthy eating' shopping list at five locations of Stop & Shop.

    "First the good news: We were able to find every item we wanted at each store. But, just as I’d experienced in LA, healthy foods were easier to find in higher-income."

    Giles goes on:  "At the Brookline location, each aisle started with low-fat, low-sugar choices like Crystal Light and V8, and the candy section was minuscule. In Somerville, the produce section was spacious, leaving plenty of room to browse the bins of guava and dragon fruit.

    "Our next Stop & Shop was in South Boston — a working-class, Irish Catholic community. It was strikingly different than our first three stops. The organic section consisted mostly of breakfast bars and cereals. The produce section positioned caramels, candied apples, and pumpkin-spice doughnuts in a bin alongside regular apples — at the bargain price of two packages for $3. The 'International Foods' aisle sold everything you need for a very American Taco Tuesday, while a big part of this section was dedicated to Italian and Irish foods."

    But, "in the Grove Hall neighborhood in Dorchester — a predominantly Black neighborhood with a median income of $55,000 — the offerings were downright dispiriting.  Soda was displayed prominently near one entrance. And as we walked the aisles it seemed that many of the 'sale' items were sugary soda products, chips, or cookies. This store had a dizzying array of snack food options, including 20 kinds of Oreos. And there wasn’t an organic food section at all."

    You can read the entire analysis here.

    KC's View:

    The comparisons are stark, but give Giles credit for acknowledging that "Stop & Shop has started to try to redress the inequity, with changes coming first to its Dorchester location, including an in-store dietitian. The Grove Hall store also sends out an ad circular that features promotional pricing on better-for-you items, which may include fish, vegetables, and fruit. It has joined the Fresh Connect food prescription program that allows participating doctors to prescribe to patients a prepaid Visa card that can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables."

    So Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop is trying … though the story also points out that it seems to be caught between two impulses.  On the one hand, it has a stated commitment to healthier foods, but there's also a marketing imperative toward localizing stores so they reflect a community's buying habits and preferences, which means that stores in poorer areas may be less aspirational than in wealthier neighborhoods where people have had greater exposure to better-for-you foods.

    The story also makes the point that manufacturers pay for product placement, and may be more willing to pay for better placement of healthier products in stores serving affluent communities.

    The broader point is that retail and CPG brands are commercial enterprises making "largely commercial decisions" that "make it more difficult for people in low-income areas to eat healthfully, encouraging those with poor diets to continue the habits that landed them with diet-related illnesses."

    But I wish that folks would see aspirational marketing - to everyone - as a good long-term commercial strategy, feeding into building relationships with shoppers as opposed to just being transactional.

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    Fast Company has a piece about Josh Hix, the former CEO of meal kit business Plated, who "thinks there’s still opportunity in the food space.  'The thing what kind of got lost in a lot of the meal-kit media, in my opinion, was there was big churn, but the people that it worked for, it worked really well,' he says.

    "His next act is Season Health, a platform that works with dietitians to develop meal plans, replete with recipes, aimed at helping them manage and hopefully reverse the course of their disease. Once the meal plan is designed, Season coordinates food delivery to patients through its partnerships with grocers. The first two diseases the company is starting with are diabetes and chronic kidney disease - in 2017, diabetes cost the country an estimated $327 billion in health services and lost productivity - but Hix expects to expand to other areas like maternity health, heart health, and cancer. To date, the company has raised $11 million in funding."

    The story notes that "Season is coordinating meal plans for patients at several health systems: Geisinger, CommonSpirit Health, and kidney-focused telehealth provider Cricket Health. The program is currently available to patients in Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, though the company plans to be available nationwide by June this year."

    And, there's this context from Fast Company:

    "We’ve always known that what we eat is important to overall health, but doctors and researchers increasingly understand that food has a remarkable ability to shape health outcomes. This isn’t just about eating your fruits and vegetables: It’s about eating specific foods to yield specific results. A simple example of this is eating berries, which are richer in antioxidants than other fruits. A small study from 2010 compared the heart function of people eating the same amounts of fruits and vegetables, but with differing degrees of antioxidants. Those with an antioxidant-rich diet saw improved function in the cells that line the heart and blood vessels, lowering their risk of heart disease. What scientists have learned is that antioxidant rich diets are good for heart health, but the antioxidants must come from food. Supplements don’t have the same benefits as eating foods rich with antioxidants."

    KC's View:

    A great example of something that we've written about here before, specifically as practiced by another startup, Sifter.  Anything that helps consumer sort/sift through the massive number of products in the food system, turning an almost incomprehensible mass into a list that is relevant to their lives, is a smart thing.

    In some cases, people are going to be able to make their own choices about purchasing criteria, and in others, they will work with professionals to make targeted choices.  Either way, it is an enormous service … and it all goes back to something we've talked about a lot here on MNB over the years:  It is critical to be a resource for shoppers, not just a source of product.

    When I read this story, and think of it in terms of the Stop & Shop story that precedes it on MNB this morning, I see opportunity.  With a capital "O."

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    We've run a number of national Super Bowl commercials this week, but an MNB reader pointed out that we missed one - a regional commercial from a Texas icon that was aimed at a Texas audience (the only folks who can shop in its stores).

    It's terrific work.  Enjoy.

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    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 79,639,934 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 949,269 deaths and 50,565,047 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 416,591,750 total cases, with 5,859,567 resultant fatalities and 339,459,166 reported recoveries.  (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 64.5 percent is fully vaccinated … and 43 percent has received a vaccine booster dose.



    •  From the Boston Globe, a story about the "cognitive dissonance hitting New Englanders as they navigate what could be a turning point in the pandemic.

    "After more than 300,000 vaccinated Massachusetts residents got breakthrough infections during the Omicron surge — but few became seriously ill — there’s a growing sense that COVID may finally become endemic like the flu, a part of everyday life to be lived with, not hidden from.

    "Multiple cities and towns took steps last week to rescind mask mandates in public spaces and even schools, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu set metrics to lift the proof-of-vaccine requirement. A national poll found that 70 percent of Americans have accepted that 'we just need to get on with our lives.'

    "Those moves have made people question what a more-normal world means for their wallets. For some, Omicron was a sign that life may never return to normal, with another variant always lurking around the corner. For others, the past two years have forever changed how they think about money.

    "Businesses are eager to see customers return in full force, without fear of surging COVID waves and pandemic-era restrictions. But new habits die hard. And the worrying economic trends that have emerged during the virus’s reign are here to stay, at least for a while: Inflation. The Great Supply Chain disruption. Mass resignations. A labor shortage."

    All of which sort of reinforces how I've been thinking about the after-times.  At the risk of sounding like Yoda, I think it all comes down to this:  "There is no new normal.  There is only reality."



    •  From the New York Times:

    "As the Omicron wave continues to rapidly recede in the United States and new cases plummet to their lowest levels since September, more businesses and two of the biggest music festivals have dropped mask restrictions, as have a growing number of states and cities … On Tuesday, Tyson Foods and Walt Disney World and Disneyland became the latest big businesses to loosen their mask requirements. They joined Walmart and others that have quickly eased restrictions as caseloads decline and states like New York and California end mask mandates.

    "And, in a turning point for the struggling live-events industry, the organizers of the outdoor music festivals Coachella and Stagecoach said on Tuesday that they would not require attendees to be masked, vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus."



    •  Call this some of the unfortunate results of how the pandemic has changed America:

    Axios reports on a new survey from home improvement marketing firm CraftJack saying that "some 60% of remote employees work from the toilet at least once a week … 25% say they work from the toilet daily, answering emails and messages and attending virtual meetings."

    The survey also says that while "teleworking has allowed everyone to relax a bit while on the clock … there's a big difference between ditching makeup and ditching showers … 46% of remote workers are showering less than they did when they were working in person. 41% are washing clothes less, and 26% are brushing their teeth less."



    •  Another story about the reverberations of the pandemic, from the New York Times:

    "Some were burned out. Some were unhappy. Some were disillusioned. Some wanted their lives back. Some truly and genuinely wanted to spend more time with their families. All, in their own ways, decided that they’d had enough with the intense demands that come with being a senior executive, and walked away.

    "As the Great Resignation sweeps the American work force, it is low-wage workers — particularly those in the service industry — who are making up a majority of the turnover. Insufficient pay, poor working conditions, pandemic burnout and the opportunity to earn more elsewhere are all playing a role in creating a historically turbulent labor force. Some 4.5 million people left their jobs in November, a million more than in any month before the pandemic. The total in December was nearly as high.

    "But the urge to resign is not confined to frontline workers. Chief executives, chief financial officers and other C-level executives are walking off the job, too. And while some are inevitably leaving one role to take a new one, some are dropping out altogether, at least for a bit.

    "Many of the executives leaving top jobs are fortunate enough to quit without having to worry about how to pay their bills, and they say their decisions aren’t driven by finances. Instead, they are propelled by a mix of needing a break, reassessing the role of work in their lives and wanting to pursue new ventures."

    I must admit to being amused by this, since over the years more than a few times when commenting on departures of senior executives who say they "want to spend more time with their families," I've asked if those family members really want to spend more time with them.  I say this from experience - I've been married almost 39 years, and have long said that the marriage thrived because I traveled about a third of the time.  The last two years tested us.  We passed the test, but it was an unexpected stress test.  (We mostly passed the test because Mrs. Content Guy is a person of great forbearance.)

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    •  Empire Company Limited, parent company to Canadian food retailer Sobeys, has announced that "its fourth e-commerce customer fulfillment centre will be located in the Greater Vancouver Area of British Columbia."  The Ocado-powered facility, the company said, will benefit from new technology that "comes with more efficiencies and a lighter environmental and carbon footprint. For example, the new generation bots are five times lighter and require less energy and power to achieve the same throughput as the previous generation. Ocado has recently announced a range of innovations, which will be available for Empire to consider in future CFC automation and efficiency improvements."



    •  Pure-play e-grocery retailer said this week that it has launched its operations in Chicago, making it the company's fifth market, after San Francisco, Miami, as well as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.



    •  UK-based global travel retailer WHSmith has opened its first US store, in New York's revitalized La Guardia Airport.  And, the company said, "This new store offers the convenience of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, offering travelers a convenient, checkout-free shopping experience, with an expansive variety of on-the-go snacks, beverages and everyday travel essentials. With just a dip or a tap of a credit card, customers can enter the store, pick up their desired items, and leave without waiting in line. As travelers shop, Just Walk Out technology determines what they take from or return to the shelves, and the credit card they used will be charged for the items they took after they leave the store."

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    •  From the Washington Post this morning:

    "Poultry operations in Kentucky and Virginia were confirmed to have birds infected with a highly lethal form of avian flu, federal agriculture officials said Monday, days after a flock of turkeys in Indiana tested positive, raising worries about a wider outbreak in the country.

    "The most recently identified infections occurred at a Tyson Foods commercial broiler in Fulton County, Ky., that has 240,000 chickens, and in a backyard flock of mixed species in Fauquier County, Va. Kentucky officials said they were also waiting for the results of tests on a flock of turkeys in Webster County.

    "The infections come after 29,000 turkeys were destroyed in Indiana once officials detected the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, last week in Dubois County. Federal officials said the Indiana outbreak was the first confirmed case in commercial poultry in the United States since 2020.

    "The developments raise concerns that avian influenza could affect more poultry operations in the United States, which is the world’s top producer of poultry and the No. 2 exporter in volume, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. They also come as the United States is seeing higher than usual inflation rates in necessities such as food."



    •  USA Today reports that Kohl's is adding another 400 units to the list of its stores with Sephora beauty departments this year, adding to the 200 that opened last year:  "From Alaska to Wisconsin, the 400 stores will span across 36 states. California is getting the most new Sephora at Kohl’s locations with 46, followed by Ohio at 30, and Texas and Illinois each will get 26 new beauty shops at Kohl’s stores.

    "By 2023, the companies plan to bring the Sephora at Kohl's “experience” to more than 850 of the more than 1,150 Kohl's stores."

    The story says that "Sephora at Kohl’s shops are replacing Kohl's current in-store beauty assortment.  The beauty destinations inside Kohl's stores will occupy about 2,500 square feet near the store entrance. They will sell makeup, skincare, hair and fragrance products."



    •  The New York Times reports that "the Senate on Tuesday narrowly confirmed Dr. Robert Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, a key federal agency that has been without a permanent chief for more than a yearlong stretch of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "The vote was 50-to-46, with six Republicans crossing the aisle to support him while five senators who caucus with Democrats opposed him. One senator voted present.

    Dr. Califf, who is 70, is expected to be sworn in this week. He faces a looming flurry of decisions — including intense scrutiny of a coronavirus vaccine for children under 5 and reviews of e-cigarette applications like Juul’s bid to stay on the market."

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    An obit of note from the New York Times this morning:

    "P.J. O’Rourke, the conservative satirist and political commentator who was unafraid to skewer Democrats and Republicans alike in best-selling books like 'Parliament of Whores,' in articles for a wide range of magazines and newspapers, and on television and radio talk shows, died on Tuesday at his home in Sharon, N.H. He was 74."

    "The cause was complications of lung cancer."

    The obit goes on:

    "Mr. O’Rourke’s political writing was in the caustic tradition of H.L. Mencken. As writers and commentators go, he was something of a celebrity, welcome on talk shows of almost any political bent and known for appearances on NPR’s comedy quiz show 'Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.'

    "He was a proud conservative Republican — one of his books was called 'Republican Party Reptile: The Confessions, Adventures, Essays and (Other) Outrages of P.J. O’Rourke' — but he was widely admired by readers of many stripes because of his fearless style and his willingness to mock just about anyone who deserved it, including himself."

    Published on: February 16, 2022

    Yesterday I wrote about how there is a story making the rounds about how an Instacart shopper for a retailer, put out by what she viewed as "ridiculous" instructions from a customer, decided to go on TikTok to ridicule the customer….and that rant went viral, gaining well over 100,000 views.  The reaction from the Instacart shopper, as well as people responding to the rant, can be described (generously) as dismissive of the customer, suggesting that she needed to do her own shopping and stop making unreasonable requests of Instacart employees.

    I was appalled, and explained:

    Were the customer's requests over the line?  Sure.  One might even say they were outrageous.  However, let's not forget that this is the customer.  Retailers are not supposed to be in the business of mocking their customers in public, and certainly not on social media.

    When was the last time you read about a retailer "getting even" with a customer and thought to yourself, "Gee, that's a good thing."

    By the way, one interesting thing about the stories I read was that the retailer involved never was named.  Now, if I'm the retailer, I think to myself, "How great is it that our name never came up."  And then I think to myself, "Wait a minute. This shopper, unreasonable as he/she may be, is supposed to be my shopper … and now the business with which I have contracted to provide certain services is out there mocking him/her?  And how did I get so disintermediated from the store-shopper relationship that I seemed to be irrelevant to the experience?"

    Even if the customer was unreasonable, it may be that he/she had a previous bad experience, which led to those demands. (The text of his/her messages suggests that this is precisely the case.)  By going onto social media to mock the customer, at no point was any effort apparently made to address whatever those concerns happened to be.

    If I am that customer, I'm pissed off.  At Instacart.  At the shopper.  And almost certainly at the retailer with which I thought I was doing business.

    If I am that customer, it seems entirely possible that I am going to tell people about it.  I may even go on social media to complain about my treatment.  And I'm likely never going to do business with that retailer again, nor will I want to do business with any retailer that offers Instacart.

    Which may be fine with the retailer and Instacart, but everybody loses, because what could have been a teachable moment when it comes to food safety ends up just being a rant-filled cluster…well, you know.

    There are ways to get rid of troublesome customers.  This is not one of them.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Kevin-------

    Having spent almost 25 years of my life as a bagger, cashier, and store manager, I have my own opinions on this one.   

    First and foremost, this customer’s instructions were NOT over the line or outrageous.   Everything that she was asking of the Instacart employee falls in line with the basics of bagging groceries, based on how I was taught as a young’un and how I taught hundreds of people over the years that I was in management.  It is a very reasonable expectation for a customer to ask for the soap to be separated from the edible items, to ask that the cold things be kept together and insulated if necessary, and to wrap and protect packages that are juicy or bloody.   I did it every day and expected my employees to do the same.   Our management staff and cashiers would make a point to observe our baggers and point out both good and poor execution on their part in an attempt to reinforce the training.   It’s difficult to maintain a high standard, and many employers aren’t willing to put in the effort or just don’t care.       

    Fast forward 23 years since I left the grocery business……..many employees are taught how to bag groceries by watching a video, if they receive any training at all.   (Our son followed me into the business within the past five years while a student, and he could attest to this.)    Customers are being expected to check themselves out more and more, as well as they are expected to bag their own orders.   The few employees who attempt to bag groceries for customers don’t understand the simplest fundamentals of how to fill a plastic or a paper bag properly to reduce the number of wasted bags.    I can’t count the number of times when I allowed someone else to bag my order that I would re-bag the items before leaving the checkstand and cut the number of bags used by half or more.   Now I find myself actively discouraging anyone else from touching my stuff as it is being checked out and I do it all myself.   I appreciate their offers, but……..

    In your writing you have not attempted to hide your opinions from your readers that you believe grocers who use delivery services such as Instacart are making a deal with the devil as they co-opt the retailers’ customers and make them their own.    This story is further evidence that this relationship is not beneficial for the retailer because the lines have become blurred as to what employee is working for which company and who is ultimately responsible for this public relations fiasco.   I have tremendous empathy for the customer here as she is very possibly someone who would like to be able to visit the store in person and bag their own order, but isn’t able to do so for whatever reason.   She likely knows the difficulty of trying to request a refund for items that are melted, damaged, contaminated, etc. without being able to go into the store and she is simply attempting to prevent the need to have to make one of those calls, in addition to avoiding the disappointment of receiving merchandise that doesn’t arrive in acceptable condition.   Who knows?   If you follow her instructions properly, maybe she’s a great tipper.   

    Most of all, (and I realize that this is likely a generational difference on my part) the idea of using social media to call out a customer such as this one is unconscionable.   Especially when it is highly unlikely that the Instacart shopper has walked a mile in the customer’s shoes.  God forbid that employee should ever have to depend on the kindness of others to fulfill their essential needs.    I’ve often said that someone like that Instacart employee or the industry expert should be forced to take their punishment by being a skilled care patient in a nursing home where they would truly understand how it feels to have to rely on someone else to conduct the basic activities of daily living.

    Shame on them.

    Another MNB reader chimed in:

    A new restaurant opened near me in an almost defunct shopping mall. It has a very cool vibe and the menu is enticing and I was very keen to try it. I’ve been following the restaurant on social media since before they were even open and I’ve been rooting for their success, up until now.

    It seems that they are tacking a 17-20% “fee” onto the diners’ tabs in order to help defray the costs of their employees healthcare. What?? Diners are getting angry at these fees and the fact that they are not well explained. One diner sent in a private e-mail to the restaurant stating their displeasure at these fees (I’m paraphrasing here). That diner did not take to social media to put the restaurant on blast; they sent them a private e-mail. The restaurant then decided to post this man’s e-mail, including his email address, on Instagram and tear him apart. At the end of their rant about how he’s an idiot and they don’t need his business, they included things like #joshsucks #getalife etc.  For a new restaurant starting out, those types of business practices really rub me the wrong way. I have since unfollowed them on social media, have told all my friends about what they did, and have zero intention of patronizing their business. I don’t see a bright future for this place if this is the kind of people they have running it.

    And, from MNB reader Cyndi Metallo:

    Hi Kevin - What an informed customer and unfortunate response from the shopper. 

    Most will agree that the retailer is responsible for the quality of the product until it reaches the customer, but in cases like Instacart that becomes murky.  Food quality, delivery time and the customer relationship are out of the retailer’s control.  The FDA is currently reviewing ways of ensuring regulations are met in the direct to consumer channel, it is a challenge.

    This customer has obviously had bad experiences with online shopping and is clearly communicating what will satisfy them.  If only all customers would be so clear!  The truth is, most customers are not this informed about the food safety and quality issues that are introduced with the grocery delivery.  Recent research by North Carolina State University identifies some statistics that may surprise retailers, direct to consumer delivery companies and most of all, consumers!

    Carefully monitoring and managing the temperature and duration of deliveries will provide a positive experience for the customers resulting in greater retention rates – in this case for both Instacart and the retailer.  This is the type of problem we help solve at Varcode.  A simple, low cost Smart Tag that tracks time over temperature can provide data and facilitate an instant two-way conversation between the customer and retailer.  Ultimately, providing safe product and a satisfied customer.

    Note:  I let this semi-commercial slip through because it made sense within the context of the broader comment.

    From another reader, a different perspective:

    Some quick thoughts on this….First, these order pick-delivery services are designed for efficiency and for the masses.  The expectation that anyone can think that they can customize this service to meet their specific needs is off-track, and this should have been communicated to the customer.  We all want to feel special, and maybe will pay for it, so Instacart and any others may need to offer a VIP service at a premium.  Look at the” MDVIP” model with doctors to get an idea of how this operates.  If you want special attention, it comes with a price. 

    I’ll leave the TikTok piece of the story for others to discuss.  I wouldn’t have shared it that way, but that seems to be the norm now.

    Fair points about the opportunity for a VIP service.  But none of that was communicated to the customer by the retailer or by Instacart … and I still maintain that the public laceration of a customer just doesn't make sense.  In fact, I'd call it retailing malpractice.



    On the subject of unionization efforts at Starbucks, MNB reader Thomas Murphy wrote:

    Okay, I know this is probably naive, and likely impossible, but given that Starbucks appears to be losing the unionization battle one store at a time (like being nibbled to death by ducks), maybe Starbucks needs to become less transactional and more strategic.

    What if Starbucks allowed any store that wanted to join a union...to join one, agreeing to work with one or two select national unions (maybe international) like the airline have for pilots.  Then work with the union(s) to set up a single standard contract and negotiate with a small number of entities on a regular basis.  Now, you have common rules across all stores, although likely variable pay scales based on geography and markets, and a single overall response to union/employee needs.

    The overhead most unionized retailers have at HQ, local offices, and individual stores has got to cost more than actual losses from working with a union…

    Yeah, sounds great…but impossible…maybe I’ll just go back to my edibles! 🙂



    Regarding the ongoing discussion of supermarket workplace wages, one MNB reader wrote:

    Regarding the front-line workers at retail.  Yes, their jobs are important.  Yes, they are the face of the company at the ground level. But they are non-skilled jobs, and that is the disconnect that is missed here.  These are entry level jobs and should not be viewed as a job that you take to solely support your family.  They never have been and shouldn’t be now.  They are training positions that teach younger people entering the job force how to deal with people, handle money, be responsible to show up for work, etc.  Or as a second job, for someone that needs additional income.  They should not be your destination job goal.  Now, with the entitled worker and the “minimum wage” being set at twice the levels of 2 years ago, the only thing that has changed is the perception that people have been convinced through media influences, that they are hero’s entitled to be paid more for performing the same entry level work.  There is a reason these positions are called “entry level”. 

    "Never have been?"  I'm not sure that is entirely true.  I think there was a time when working in a supermarket - using, by the way, skills I certainly don't have - was an honorable job in which people could spend their lives.  I think your characterization of "entitled workers" is unfair and, to be honest, naïve.

    The wage discussion has emerged because of a report from the Economic Roundtable says that "about 75 percent of Kroger workers said they were food insecure, meaning they lacked consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. About 14 percent said they were homeless or had been homeless in the previous year, and 63 percent said they did not earn enough money to pay for basic expenses every month."

    Another MNB reader had a very different perspective:

    Great piece, Kevin! Sad too. Imagine the irony - that thousands of food workers could go without enough to eat. That's even more sad given the world we operate in. The pandemic has created a booming business for many of our nation's largest big-box food retailers, who have capitalized on conditions in spite of supply chain bottlenecks, mask mandates, and social-distancing protocols. Just two years ago, frontline workers were rightly lauded as heroes nationwide. "Hero" is a great label, but you can't eat it. 

    Two newspapers of record - the L.A. Times and New York Times - have now covered this story in as many months. Hopefully this will draw much-needed attention to the reality of many food workers, who often work part-time with no benefits. By contrast, food cooperatives are mainly staffed by full-time employees with full benefits, the foundation of any career. I've been working at a food co-op for more than 20 years. 

    When it comes to food access and any degree of financial security, a full-time job with good benefits is a good place to start. If even tiny food co-ops can do this, there is no reason the monolithic chains can't.