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    Published on: April 12, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    Hardly a day seems to pass without us all getting yet another lesson in how technologically enabled connections are changing the world in more ways that we could ever imagine. And quite honestly, not all those changes are great.

    A few weeks back, a business friend introduced me to the concept of DAOs or decentralized autonomous organizations, which in some cases are tied specifically to block chains but in many other ways simply help to explain how random groups of people now gather around common and unexpected interests.

    You’ve actually seen these examples in major news events. Consider the recent trucker convoys that gathered both in Ottawa, Canada, and then near Washington, DC. Neither was formed by an association nor any recognized group, but both clearly formed up pretty strongly.

    A little more than a year ago, a group of Reddit users coalesced around the idea of taking revenge on Wall Street traders by unexpectedly sending shares of GameStop stores into the stratosphere for a brief time.

    Just last week, Kevin wrote here on MNB about two similarly unexpected efforts. One was an organized protest (via TikTok) to put pressure on contract negotiations in Southern California and the other was the incredibly successful effort to unionize an Amazon facility in New York. In response to that second effort was an article about how organized labor is learning that disorganization might be today’s most potent tool.

    Chances are that this entire idea seems like a completely unwanted and unneeded exercise to you, making you wonder how your company could possibly avoid being the next target of any such effort. In truth, all of this is so new and so unpredictable that there is no playbook for how to combat such efforts, but awareness is an important first step.

    Let’s remember that viral isn’t synonymous with trouble or even unwanted publicity. Good news can travel pretty quickly as well.

    Last week the Washington Post ran an article about something that’s not actually all that uncommon, but is rarely found in media. It was a lengthy and beautiful story chronicling an unexpected and years-long friendship between a Publix employee in Florida and a very young shopper.

    The story explained how the friendship began and blossomed both inside and outside the store with absolutely no hint of maliciousness.

    It’s a wonderful story, but honestly, there are likely thousands just like it even inside Publix alone. What made this story different was how a post by the young girl’s parents went viral and led to a national spotlight on such a delightful tale.

    Again, there’s no simple lesson from this story other than the power of viral messaging. And perhaps the lesson in all of this is the reminder that we live in a brave new world where both good and bad news or all kinds of efforts—well-intentioned or malicious—can spread like wildfire.

    There’s no vaccine or booster for this virus, but stories like these are constant reminders of how the world has changed and is likely to go on changing for a long time to come. Forewarned is forearmed.

    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: April 12, 2022

    I read a piece in the New York Times about how a new app, WoodSpoon, is looking to disrupt the catering business in the same way that Uber and Lyft affected the taxi industry and Airbnb changed the hotel business.  Laws are being a challenged (which creates, to my mind, some food safety issues), but I also think some opportunities are being revealed of which traditional food retailers could take advantage.

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    Advertising Age reports on a recent survey looking at what global consumers want and expect from brands' reactions to Russia's war with Ukraine.

    The survey, conducted by McCann Worldgroup Truth Central, "found that customers are primarily looking for comfort and stability from brands during this time of global unrest -  a time when few consumers, or 28%, feel positive about the mood of the world. Some 77% of people surveyed said it is more meaningful to them that a brand reassures them rather than challenges them, and 79% of people believe brands have a role to play in bringing society together."

    "'We’ve seen trends in the data that people are looking for more reassurance, they’re looking for brands to understand their frustration,' said Laura Simpson, chief intelligence officer, noting that the emotional role that brands play in the lives of consumers cannot be ignored. Yet she cautioned that it is about balance. 'At the same time, it’s challenging for brands because you don’t want to fall into that trap of communications that start to feel too bland or ‘We’re all in this together'.'"

    AdAge writes that "the report also tackled the issue of cancel culture. Many brands have been called out publicly or on social media for continuing to do business in Russia. Nestle and Johnson & Johnson both saw consumer backlash earlier this month. J&J recently said it would halt the sale of personal care products in Russia. Simpson said most consumers remain divided on the subject of 'canceling' a brand - the report found that 49% of people believe cancel culture has gone too far while 51% believe people should be held accountable."

    KC's View:

    Forgive me, but this all seems a little self-serving from an arm of an advertising agency.

    But maybe that's just me.  Maybe that's really the way global consumers feel - they want reassurance from brands as opposed to moral certainty, and that roughly half those surveyed think that this thing called "cancel culture" has gone too far.

    I've always been a little skeptical about the way "cancel culture" is defined.  And I think that there are scenarios in which holding brands to account for their actions is overkill, and scenarios in which it is the very least we can do.

    Like, say, making a judgement about brands that put a priority on their bottom lines and continue to do business with a country run by leadership that commits war crimes.  Best I can, I'd prefer not to patronize companies that do that.  Seems like the least I can do.

    Calling it "cancel culture" strikes me as a facile and diminishing way to describe behavior - not always organized - by consumers who make moral judgements about companies and the people who run them.  Seems, in some circumstances, like the least we can do.

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    Coborn's has announced that it is partnering with DailyPay to give its employees "access to their pay as they earn it and are able to pay bills, spend, save, or invest on their own schedule."

    The move is similar to one made by Lunds & Byerlys late last year, when it came to an agreement with a provider called Ceridian.  Other companies offering similar services include Earnin, Branch, Even, and Payactiv.

    In the announcement, it was cited that "companies leveraging DailyPay as part of a financial wellness benefits package are able to hire up to 52% faster and retain employees 73% longer, according to a study commissioned by DailyPay. The benefit has become sought-after because, with the power of choice and control over their pay, employees are able to avoid payday loans or paying overdraft fees to make ends meet."

    KC's View:

    As I said when Lunds & Byerlys made the move, I love this perk.  There are a lot of people who live day to day, hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck.  And a program like this simply acknowledges this fact and creates a system that works for them, not for the employer.

    Which, in the end, works for the employer.

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    The Associated Press reports that Kmart is preparing to shutter its Avenel, New Jersey, store on April 16 … which will leave the company with just three open stores in the US.

    The remaining stores are in Westwood, New Jersey; Bridgehampton, on New York’s Long Island; and Miami.

    Kmart used to have well over 2,000 stores.

    KC's View:

    It is like Fast Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund guy who owns Sears and Kmart (and boy, does he have an enviable track record there!) has decided to prolong this retail death for as long as possible, drawing out the inevitable for as many years as possible.

    The deathwatch continues.

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    From the New York Post:

    "Interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reportedly lashed out at a coffee chain barista who was leading a unionization drive at one of the company’s California locations, telling the worker: 'If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?'

    "The alleged encounter between Schultz and the 25-year-old barista, Madison Hall, took place at Long Beach Airport on Friday, Hall has claimed."

    Schultz didn't exactly deny the encounter.

    He released a statement saying, “With significant pressures leading to the fracturing of our partner and customer experiences, I’ve been transparent about our missteps and the reason for my return – to reimagine Starbucks – built on our core values and guiding principles.  I have complete confidence that together we will restore the trust and belief of our partners and deliver an elevated Starbucks Experience to our partners and customers."

    The Post notes that "Schultz added that the 'collaboration sessions' with employees 'have not been without efforts at disruption by union organizers' - though he did not allude specifically to Hall’s accusations."

    Schultz has been reported to be taking a nationwide tour of Starbucks as he looks to combat - or at least slow down - the unionization movement that seems to be adding new stores on a regular basis.  As of now, some 200 Starbucks stores nationwide have begun the unionization process.

    KC's View:

    Schultz has been back in the job less than two weeks.  If his nerves are this frayed now, how's he going to feel after being back for two months, especially if he's not able to work that old Schultz magic?

    He might need a bit of a mindset adjustment.  May I suggest to him that unionization does not necessarily mean that employees hate Starbucks … that, in fact, not leaving to work elsewhere (and there are plenty of jobs out there) could mean that they feel a sense of ownership about the company and simply expect better/more of it.

    I'm not saying they're right, but I'm also not saying  that he's right.  I just think that the knee-jerk reaction - why don't you leave if you hate us this much? - may not be the one that demonstrates the emotional intelligence necessary to meet the moment.

    Published on: April 12, 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…

    •  The United States now has had a total of 82,103,067 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,012,461 deaths and 79,959,456 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 500,010,996 total cases, with 6,205,951 resultant fatalities and 449,849,851 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.2 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 65.8 percent are fully vaccinated … and 45.2 percent of fully vaccinated people have received a vaccine booster dose.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the risk of developing inflammatory heart conditions after Covid-19 vaccination is relatively low, two large studies found, especially when compared with the heart-related risks from Covid-19 disease itself and from vaccines against other diseases.

    "One study, an analysis of 22 previous studies, found that the risk of the conditions including myocarditis in people who received a Covid-19 vaccine wasn’t significantly different from that for non-Covid-19 vaccines such as those against flu, polio and measles. And the heart risk associated with Covid-19 shots was lower than the risk after smallpox vaccination … Another analysis published April 1 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the risk of cardiac complications including myocarditis, an inflammation of heart muscle, was higher in people after Covid-19 infections than after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine."

    •  The New York Times reports that "with new coronavirus cases low but rising sharply in recent days, the city of Philadelphia announced on Monday that it will reinstate an indoor mask mandate a little more than a month after lifting it, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so.

    "'This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic,' said Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s health commissioner, in a news conference. She acknowledged that the average number of daily new cases, currently at 142, is still nowhere near what it was at the beginning of the year, when the Omicron variant was pushing the seven-day average to nearly 4,000.

    But she said that if the city failed to require masks now, 'knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, then it will be too late for many of our residents.'  Over the past week, the city reported that the number of residents who had died of Covid-19 passed 5,000.

    "The mandate will go into effect next week. A spokesman for the city’s health department said it would end when case numbers and rates go beneath a certain threshold."

    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "How much worse could the US COVID-19 pandemic have been if vaccinations hadn’t arrived in the nick of time in December 2020?

    "Unimaginably worse, according to a study released last week. The researchers estimated that vaccinations by the end of last month had averted more than 2.2 million deaths, more than 17 million hospitalizations, and more than 66 million infections."

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    •  Cnet reports that "DoorDash is launching a new, discounted subscription plan for college students. DashPass for Students, announced Monday, will cost $4.99 per month -- half the price of the standard monthly DashPass subscription -- or $48 for the annual student plan option.

    "The student plan comes with several 'always-on' benefits: unlimited free delivery on orders above $12, DoorDash credits of 5% back on pickup orders from eligible restaurants, and members-only promos and exclusive menu items … All undergraduate and graduate students at accredited colleges and universities across the US are eligible for the $5 student plan."

    Published on: April 12, 2022

    •  Fortune is out with its annual list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For, and, as usual, Wegmans is the only retailer making the top 10 - this year, it is ranked third.

    The rest of the top 10 are Cisco in first place, Hilton in second, and then the balance of the highest ranked companies are Salesforce, NVIDIA Corporation, Accenture, Rocket Companies, American Express, David Weekley Homes, and Capital One.

    Other retailers making the list are Target (#12), Sheetz (#33), Publix (#92), and Nugget Market (#95).

    •  From CNBC:

    "Target is tiptoeing back into secondhand sales through a deal with resale company, ThredUp.

    "The big-box retailer confirmed Friday that it launched a page on ThredUp’s website in late March that includes listings of women’s and kids’ apparel, along with accessories. Some items are from Target’s private labels, such as kids’ clothing brand Cat & Jack, or its limited-time designer collaborations, such as one with Lilly Pulitzer in 2015, and others are from luxury brands not typically sold by Target. All are curated by Target from ThredUp’s inventory.

    "A company spokesperson said Target is in a 'test and learn' phase with ThredUp. She declined to share financial terms of the deal. ThredUp also declined to comment."

    CNBC notes that "this is not the first time Target has teamed up with ThredUp, an online consignment and thrift store. Target launched — and then shut down — an approximately six-month test in 2015. It allowed shoppers to get Target credit for gently used items that ThredUp was willing to resell."