retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about the mainstreaming of electric vehicles, which prompted the following email from MNB reader Jesse Sowell:

Last week I drove a Tesla from SoCal to Dallas, about 1400 miles. It's a car trip I've made probably 50 times (decades of living in SoCal, with family in Texas), but this was the first time in an EV. Observations:

Tesla's Supercharger network is ubiquitous on interstate highways. On this trip there was a station about every 100 miles, and always right where I needed one.

Most Superchargers were right off the highway along the frontage road, none more than one mile away from an exit ramp.

Many Superchargers were in the parking lots of truck stops or convenience stores. The big chain gas-sellers are already preparing for life with fewer customers at the pumps.

The trip took about three hours longer than if I'd been driving a gasoline powered car, for charging stops. But I was less tired at the end than on my previous trips, possibly due to having to stop for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours, and getting to walk around and decompress while doing so.

Most people just drive to commute, and can charge an EV overnight at home, less expensively and more conveniently than taking an ICE vehicle to a gas station. Range anxiety should only be an issue on long trips, and my experience is that the infrastructure is being put in place to remove that obstacle for most people, as well.


We took note of a New York Times report that "one of the largest food safety companies in the United States illegally employed more than two dozen children in at least three meatpacking plants, several of whom suffered chemical burns from the corrosive cleaners they were required to use on overnight shifts, the Labor Department found.

""The department filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court in Nebraska on Wednesday against Packers Sanitation Services, which Judge John. M. Gerrard swiftly ordered on Thursday. The injunction requires the company to stop 'employing oppressive child labor' and to comply with a Labor Department investigation into the practice … The Labor Department found that Packers employed at least 31 children, ranging in age from 13 to 17, who cleaned dangerous equipment with corrosive cleaners during overnight shifts at three slaughtering and meatpacking facilities: a Turkey Valley Farms plant in Marshall, Minn., and JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington, Minn. … According to court documents, the Labor Department believes Packers may employ minor children under similar conditions at other plants."

I commented, in part:

What kind of company does this?  What kind of people running a company do this …

I really hope the injunction is only the first step, assuming these charges can be proven.  Not sure if this is proportional or not, but when kids are exploited this way, companies ought to be put out of business and the so-called adults who run them ought to go to jail.  (I always wonder in these cases - do the company leaders at such places not have children?  Or do they just consider other people's children to have less value than their own?)

One MNB reader responded:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle" in 1906 to expose the appalling working conditions in the meat-packing industry.

His description of diseased, rotten, and contaminated meat shocked the public and led to new federal food safety laws.

To no one’s surprise, industry fought tooth and nail.

Public sentiment won out, and it’s my hope that your column is a first step in shining a light on this issue.


Responding to our piece about TikTok entering e-commerce, one MNB reader wrote:

While I have no doubt that this has great potential for success given how many people find "why has no one invented this before" type of products on TikTok, the elephant in the room is the regulatory environment for the app. With skepticism over TikToks use of user data for allegedly nefarious purposes, I can't help but wonder if handing over credit card data could be potentially problematic.


On another subject, from MNB reader Catherine Gipe-Stewart:

As e-commerce options widen and strengthen, I’m curious if consumers will opt for the easiest and/or cheapest option, and if this will dip the growth a bit before it grows again? For example, my house got tired of paying $10/mo+ for Instacart, and when Instacart charged us $50 in fees on our last Costco order (percentage-based, not flat fee), we cancelled membership. But, Walmart and Target we can both order from for free and now can do same day pick up. Since quarantines are more of a past phenomenon, pick-up works great for our house and I can put my order in on a work break and pick up on the way home.


A note from an MNB reader about our piece regarding the creation of Chief Purpose Officers at some companies:

Too many chiefs?

CEO

COO

CFO

CAO (Accounting)

CIO (Innovation)

CIO (Information)

CISO (Information Security

CHRO (Human Resources)

CRO (Risk)

CEO (Equity)

CMO (Marketing)

CPO (Product)

CDO (Data)

CEO (Experience)

CPO (Purpose)

You're right.  It's gonna get crowded in there.


I did a FaceTime the other day about the new production of "1776" on Broadway in which all of the roles - America's Founding Fathers - is played by a woman, many of them women of color.  This approach (probably done best in "Hamilton") takes a musical with some dust on it and gives it a fresh perspective.  And, of course, provides a business lesson.

One MNB reader wrote:

I’ve got mixed feelings about art recreating history.  I see the benefit of new interpretations, but sometimes it appears too heavy-handed to make a point.  I’m all for diversity in casting people—they’re actors after all.  Recently I saw the excellent London production on film of “Straight Line Crazy”, a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes that is opening soon on Broadway.  I loved Robert Caro’s book about Moses, “The Power Broker.”  The production created a pivotal supporting role played by a black woman as an architect working for Moses later in his career (1950’s).  She was excellent but I couldn’t help feeling that inventing a character to play a moral compass that had no physical or actual relationship to the way Moses worked was a bit too much for me.  But then I heard two women behind me discussing the play saying they didn’t know much about Robert Moses, but they liked the play.  A lot of people don’t know much about our Founding Fathers today either.  And it’s art, not history.

MNB reader Dave Ahrens wrote:

My wife Maria and I did a short trip to NYC last weekend to visit our son that has lived there for around 15 years.

We had gorgeous weather and checked off a bunch of our lists – including some firsts.

LIST of To Dos:

•  bagel w/cream cheese lox and capers at a Manhattan deli.

•  a slice on the street

•  Junior’s plain cheese cake

•  lots of subway trains and walking

•  Central Park and Tavern on the Green

•  Times Square

•  Macy’s (always need to ride the wooden escalators)

FIRSTS:

•  Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island

•  The Edge

•  Broadway Show – to go with your FaceTime, we saw “Death of a Salesman” at the Hudson Theater.  I was intrigued to see this from the perspective of a black family in the late 40’s. Willy and Linda Loman were GREAT.

•  I enjoyed my first Broadway experience – including the slice of pizza and cheesecake we took back to our room.

I love visiting NYC.

You did a lot on a short trip … and I'm sure NYC loved having you.