business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    It's an oldie but a goodie:

    The single best thing to put into a pie isn’t apple, cherry or pecans.

    It’s your teeth.

    But there may be an even more important ingredient in any pie and it’s a reason why especially in the holiday season people connect food with memories and family more than any time of the year. That ingredient is love.

    Let me explain why I am feeling philosophical.  A few months back my mother-in-law passed away just a few months after her 100th birthday.  She lived a wonderful life with a legacy of family and a huge serving of memories, many centered on her pies. So much so that at her memorial service her children (my wife and three siblings) distributed her piecrust recipe to the attendees.

    With that memory still very fresh, it was hardly surprising that my wife shed a few tears this week while making her mother’s traditional Thanksgiving dessert, cherry pie. While baking she reached out to her siblings to discuss her feelings and they too chimed in on their baking and planned baking and shared stories about their mom.

    The food industry is in many ways a miracle of logistics, efficiency, customer service and more. But more importantly, it provides the basic needs of life; the food that sustains one and all. All year long we talk about the industry as a business with profits, loss, mergers, technology and labor. But what this industry sells is in so many ways so very different.

    Through the pandemic the industry’s place in America’s homes was suddenly cast in a new light as scarcity and worry suddenly thrust food stores and supply chains into everyone’s list of priorities and concerns. With restaurants largely shuttered, people returned to home cooking and baking in ways not seen in decades and with passion and importance that no marketing program could ever have built.

    And the industry now has to find ways to use that spotlight to keep those customer dollars flowing.

    But we also have to remember that food is more than fuel for the body. It also is the foundation of endless family meals and memories and in countless ways the traditions people hold near and dear family by family.

    So the secret ingredient in my wife’s wonderful cherry pie this year had nothing to do with the cherries, flour, sugar or butter.  The most important ingredient is one she can’t buy in any store.  It is the memories of how her mother taught her to make a flaky pie crust or properly measure shortening using displacement theory or every how to ensure that every last bite will always contain at least one cherry. 

    Every aisle of the store is filled with products that in turn are used somewhere to create their own memories around kitchen tables, family meals or even office cubicles that feed people’s memories and souls. That’s a recipe for business connection and success that no one should ever forget.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    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: November 23, 2022

    There was a mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, last night, which resulted in six fatalities.  It is unclear at this hour how many additional people have have been wounded.

    The shooter also reportedly is dead, and appeared to have committed suicide.  One report said that the shooter was a "disgruntled" Walmart employee.

    No motives have yet been established.

    This was the second mass shooting in the US in a week.

    Some context from the New York Times:

    "Mass shootings in the United States this year have come at a pace so fast that one community has barely started mourning the losses before another takes place. The shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., on Tuesday happened just three days after five people were killed at an L.G.B.T.Q. club in Colorado Springs.

    "A week earlier, three members of the University of Virginia football team were killed in Charlottesville, Va., by a former football player who opened fire in a garage, the authorities said.

    "The Walmart shooting was one of several attacks at American grocery stores and big-box retail outlets in recent years. In May, a teenage gunman in Buffalo shot and killed 10 people and injured three more, almost all of them Black, at a Tops supermarket, in one of the deadliest racist mass shootings in recent history.

    "Last year, a deadly shooting at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket left 10 people dead. Months later, another attack at a Kroger in Collierville, Tenn., about 30 miles east of Memphis, left one person dead and injured at least 14 others.

    "In 2019, a 21-year-old gunman stalked shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, leaving 23 people dead and 26 others wounded. Also in 2019, a deadly rampage at the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., by two perpetrators left four people dead in an antisemitic attack.

    "Before 2019, only one mass shooting, in 1999, took place in a supermarket, according to research by Jillian Peterson, a professor at Hamline University, and James Densley, a professor at Metropolitan State University."

    KC's View:

    This is madness.

    I'm sure there will be people who will offer "thoughts and prayers," but that is not enough.  Not even close.

    When I write about these stories, I'm always careful to explain that I do not come from a gun culture, so I do not have any sort of emotional connection to the ownership and use of firearms.  But I'm tired of offering that caveat.

    I'm sure I will get criticized for saying this, but I don't much care.  There are mass shootings in churches and schools and clubs and stores, and all I can think is that there are way too many guns out there.  I have no idea if the Walmart shooter got his guns legally or not, but I don't much care.  It just seems to me that there is something deeply flawed in the American psyche that we allow this to happen, and that we've gotten so used to it happening.

    Retailers and schools and churches and clubs are going to have to turn themselves into armed camps in order to defend their people, and I think there is something deeply flawed in a culture that somehow thinks that this is permissible.

    To be clear, I have no solution.  But there has to be a middle ground on which reasonable people can agree that will allow for the continued enshrinement of "the right to bear arms" and yet create an environment in which only qualified people can get them.  And I do wonder what the tipping point will be, and wonder why we haven't reached it yet.

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    Walmart-owned Sam's Club is out with a new holiday ad featuring - and produced by - comedian Kevin Hart.  Framed as a movie trailer, "Merry Like This" can be seen across social media platforms, on traditional media, as well as in movie theaters …

    You can watch it here.

    Published on: November 23, 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 US now has had 100,279,698 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,103,355 deaths and 97,841,752 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 644,110,837 total cases, with 6,629,523 resultant fatalities and 623,021,758 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 80.6 percent of the total US population now has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 68.7 percent. being fully vaccinated.

    I haven't posted a Coronavirus Update in a couple of months, but I find it a little distressing that the vaccine numbers have not moved up very much, with a relatively small percentage having received booster shots.

    •  Axios reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984 - serving under seven presidents, four of them Republicans and three of them Democrats - gave his last White House coronavirus briefing yesterday before retiring next month at age 81.

    "My final message … is that, please for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible, to protect yourself, your family and your community," Fauci said.

    I know there are folks who are glad to see him go, and who ascribe to him all sorts of malevolent motivations.  But to me, Fauci is a great example of a public servant, dedicated to science, public health, and to crafting effective public policy.  Without Fauci, and without policies developed in two different administrations that developed and then distributed effective vaccines, there would be a lot more casualties from the Covid-19 pandemic.

    When I finally got Covid last month, I had no concerns about getting very sick, about being hospitalized, or dying.  From my perspective, that is a victory for public health officials like Fauci.

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    •  From CNN:

    "Starbucks is closing the store in Seattle where employees were the first to vote to form a union in the chain’s home city.

    "A company spokesperson cited safety concerns, saying that 'unfortunately, despite several mitigating efforts, safety and security incidents at our Broadway and Denny store have continued to escalate.'  The spokesperson said that the store will be closing to customers on December 9."

    However, CNN writes, "union organizers see those decisions as the company’s effort to hit back against their efforts.  'This is the most clear-cut case of retaliation this company has shown closing a union store yet,' Starbucks Workers United said in a statement on the closure. 'Starbucks and Howard Schultz are playing petty games with worker’s lives. They lack respect not only for the rights of their workers, but for the law of this country'."

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    •  Fast Company has a story about Walmart's partnership with DroneUp, which "uses a range of drones produced by third parties" to "get consumers in a handful of states their lightweight goods in as little as half an hour."

    "DroneUp first partnered with Walmart late last year to offer on-demand delivery at three locations in Arkansas," Fast Company writes.  "Since then, Walmart and DroneUp have expanded their partnership to six states (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) to reach 4 million households. DroneUp declined to comment on the number of deliveries it’s done so far with Walmart.

    "DroneUp has set up a delivery hub at the participating stores, which includes a team of certified pilots that operate within FAA guidelines. The hubs operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to send eligible customers items. Consumers pay a $3.99 delivery fee and can order items totaling up to 10 pounds. 'Simply put, if it fits safely it flies,' Walmart executive David Guggina said earlier this year when announcing the expanded partnership."

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    •  The Boston Globe has a piece about retailers that are keeping more products under lock and key as they try to deal with a shoplifting epidemic.

    "If this sounds like a nightmare scenario for brick-and-mortar stores — already battered by the pandemic and e-commerce competition — you’d be right. Customers may hate seeing their shopping list behind lock and key, but retailers hate it even more … With shoplifting reportedly on the rise, many retailers face a lose-lose scenario: Leave merchandise unobstructed, and risk it being swiped, or lock it up, and risk deterring paying customers."

    According to the story, "The latter seems to be winning out: Nearly half of retailers said their 2022 budgets for loss prevention technology were higher than 2021, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation released in September … Some companies are pondering even more extreme measures: In late September, the chief retail officer at Rite Aid told investors that the chain is 'looking at literally putting everything behind showcases' in its New York City stores to deter rampant theft."

    The Globe writes that "loss prevention experts largely blame what’s known as organized retail crime — sophisticated crime rings that shoplift in bulk and re-sell stolen merchandise, often in online marketplaces like eBay or Facebook … The anonymity of the online marketplaces where they re-sell the merchandise," which makes it "a fairly low-risk, high-reward pursuit, and theft rings sometimes make millions."

    •  Kroger employees represented by the Teamsters have overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year contract that covers more than 1,500 Kroger truck drivers and warehouse workers nationwide and "provides significant improvements to wages, benefits, and working conditions.

    The Teamsters said that "for the first time, the national negotiating committee included rank-and-file members who work in the industry. Those members played an instrumental role in the bargaining process, attending negotiation sessions and providing feedback."

    The union said that "all five local supplemental agreements were also ratified, successfully addressing members’ top priorities. The locals which are party to the contract are Local 667, Teamsters Local 135 in Indianapolis, Teamsters Local 337 in Detroit, Teamsters Local 988 in Houston, and Teamsters Local 795 in Wichita, Kan."

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    Got the following email yesterday from MNB reader Lori Buss Stillman:

    I loved your commentary on Titan Casket and the service they provide. It’s a smart glimpse into a market sector most consumers are uneducated about, and only engage with at a time when it is difficult to separate heart and head.

    When my Dad was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2005, the doctors gave us only eight months to prepare for the inevitable. Part of my own grieving process was a focus on planning the best celebration of his life I could envision.

    As I started to research, I was stupefied by the cost of a casket, not to mention the entire funeral sales program. I did some research on state laws, alternative options and realized I was legally able to arrange for a casket from a private company and not have to be subjected to the funeral home prices.

    While I am embarrassed to admit I was willing to have a casket for Dad from (now defunct), their ability to sell the same Batesville $9,000 mahogany casket for $2,500 was hard to overlook. Of course, the planner at the funeral home challenged me, citing his inability to use a third-party provided casket that might arrive damaged or inoperable.

    When I asked him to show me his exact same casket on the spot, he said they were ordered from an outside warehouse and arrived within 24 hours. I asked him what he’d do if it arrived damaged.  Needless to say, he sold me the casket I wanted for $2,500.

    If Titan does nothing more than help consumers become more educated about the business behind the process of burying our loved ones, they are providing a woefully overdue service. 

    Sy Syms famously said, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” In this case, an educated consumer is the funeral industry’s worst nightmare.

    On the same subject, from MNB reader Rick Werner:

    My parents had the foresight to make arrangements for their end-of-life care and post-mortem needs.  They bought long term care insurance early and my father has relied on that for nearly a decade.  Without it, he would have run out of money long ago and the consequences of that would not have been anything I would want him to go through.  

    They also pre-paid for their cremation, which was fine when my mother passed.  My father now lives in a different city and the pre-paid cremation does not appear to be transferable.  He's less than 100 miles away, but are we going to move his body when the time comes?  

    This eye-opener got me thinking about how to manage your affairs after you've closed your eyes for the last time.  Good preparation can reduce the burden and allow family to focus on grieving instead of administrivia, but remember that you can't predict the future.

    Mrs. Content Guy and I invested in long-term care insurance about a decade ago.  If either of us dies suddenly it'll be a waste of money, I suppose, but in the event that we need the longer term attention, it is a source of comfort to know that it is there. 

    And finally, from another reader:

    Beyond the new-to-me “funeral rule”, there is the counter force of states like CA joining OR, WA in eliminating both burials and cremation, as environmentally unfriendly.  Composting your body is the new thing now!

    I'd like my remains - whether cremated or composted - to end up in a remote (and probably uncultivated) corner of a vineyard in the Willamette Valley.  Though that may end up being too big an ask.

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    The Boston Globe yesterday had a lovely story about 18-year-old Olivia Pichardo, who this week became "the first woman to make an NCAA Division 1 baseball roster.  Pichardo, a freshman at Brown, received the news from her head coach, Grant Achilles, in front of her new teammates, who cheered the announcement."

    According to the story, "There were no guarantees that Pichardo, who came in as a pitcher but will serve primarily as an outfielder for the Bears, would make the team. Achilles knew who she was before she touched down on campus. Through the school’s standard application process, Pichardo informed Achilles that she wanted to try out.

    So he gave the 5-foot-7-inch lefthanded hitter, who throws righthanded, the fall to show what she could do, giving her a chance to walk on."

    Pichardo came to organized baseball courtesy of her father, who grew up playing baseball on the streets of the Dominican Republic.  It was his goal that his daughter would have the opportunity to play organized baseball - not softball, but baseball - and he started the process when she was five years old.

    As for Achilles, her new coach, he tells the Globe, “Olivia, having to be honest with you, the only reason why we wouldn’t have kept her was because of the unknown.  Because of adding a girl. Because talent-wise, if she wasn’t a female, then it would have been really easy. I think she made it a really difficult decision in some respects, but in other respects, it couldn’t have been easier to add her.”

    KC's View:

    I know this has nothing to do with work … but I Ioved the story, and hope that Olivia Pichardo serves as a role model for girls and young women both in and out of baseball.  In fact, she sounds like she'd be a pretty good role model for boys and young men, too.

    Published on: November 23, 2022

    As noted in my FaceTime above, MNB will be on hiatus for the four-day Thanksgiving weekend.

    Have a great holiday ... a great weekend ... and I'll see you Monday, November 28.