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    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Stop the presses!  A website called The Markup has broken the news that retailers sell data generated through loyalty programs to manufacturers.  The story has been picked up in other media, and a particular target is Kroger, with the argument being that if it is able to acquire Albertsons, the households it can track could grow from 60 million to 85 million.  This is, of course, old news … but I have some thoughts about why it is generating more heat than light, and how retailers need to embrace their programs as a feature, not a bug.

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Amazon yesterday said that it has closed its $3.9 billion acquisition of 1Life Healthcare, owner of primary care organization One Medical, a deal that gives Amazon a strong potential foothold in the healthcare business.

    One Medical has about 815,000 members and 214 medical offices in more than 20 markets.

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy trumpeted the acquisition on the website yesterday, with people who signed on to buy something seeing the following letter:

    Today, getting great health care is often too difficult and inconvenient. Typically, you have to find a doctor, make an appointment a few weeks in advance, and drive 15-20 minutes or longer to the doctor’s office. When you get there, you wait in the reception area for a while, get called by a nurse into an exam room, wait another 10-15 minutes or so, and eventually see a doctor for only a few minutes who often then prescribes a medication. Finally, you drive 20 minutes or more to the pharmacy and wait for the medication to be ready—all while you or a loved one you’re caring for aren’t feeling well.

    It’s a lot of work; and let’s face it, the system isn’t working for customers or clinicians.

    At Amazon, we’re trying to improve the health care experience for customers. We started by building Amazon Pharmacy, with a broad selection of medications sent to you with reliable, free delivery. We then added RxPass, a new Prime benefit from Amazon Pharmacy, which for $5/month lets Prime members get as many medications as they need from a list of 60 medications frequently used to treat many common conditions—and shipping is free. We also recently launched Amazon Clinic, which offers a convenient, personalized, and affordable way to get medical advice and treatment for over 20 conditions (like migraines, allergies, sinusitis, and more) simply by messaging with a clinician—no appointments, no travel.

    Today, we’re excited to announce that One Medical has joined Amazon and our mission to make it dramatically easier for customers to get what they need to stay healthy. With One Medical, customers can connect with clinicians 24/7 via video chat or messaging if that’s most convenient. Or, customers can choose to make an appointment same day or within days to visit any of One Medical’s offices in many U.S. cities. If you need a specialist, One Medical works closely with lots of hospital systems and can help you get a referral and an appointment quickly. One Medical works with most insurance providers, and while you can of course get your prescription filled anywhere that’s convenient for you, you can also choose to have it delivered to your door by Amazon Pharmacy. This is how primary care should work.

    For a limited time, to celebrate One Medical joining Amazon, you can now join One Medical with a discounted annual membership of $144 for the first year (a 28% discount), the equivalent of $12 per month, for new U.S. customers.

    We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible. Customers tell us there is a need to radically improve the health care experience, and we think we can help. At Amazon, together with One Medical, we’re determined to help make it easy for you to get the care, the medication, and other products and services you need to get and stay healthy.

    Wishing you good health,

    Andy Jassy

    Amazon CEO

    KC's View:

    I know that despite all its current, well-chronicled problems, Amazon has to continue to grow and innovate.  That's what this is all about … investing in the future.

    As I read Jassy's letter, though, I do find myself wondering if Amazon, which is having issues living up to its two-day-delivery promises, is able at the moment to live up to its healthcare promises.

    It has made several forays with various healthcare initiatives, and they haven't quite worked out the way Amazon planned.  Now, maybe this will play out the same way as previous Amazon failures did;  after all, its smart phone was a dismal failure, but it learned a lot of things that allowed it to develop the Alexa-based smart speaker system. 

    But I'm not sure that I would've been so high-profile with my promises just hours after closing the deal.  It might've made sense to be a little lower-key … but it also may be that with this level investment, there is outside pressure to show results quickly.  If that's the case, Amazon has other problems.

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Axios reports that "Target is looking to get online orders to customers faster by expanding next-day delivery across the country," and plans to "invest $100 million to scale its supply chain sortation center network by opening six additional centers by the end of 2026.

    "Target currently has nine centers in Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia and Pennsylvania with centers in Chicago and Denver recently opening, the retailer said.

    Target said the expansion of its network 'provides a fast, efficient, reliable and low-cost delivery option for our business, benefiting both our guests and the bottom line'."

    According to the story, "Target said markets that have a sortation center will 'retrieve packages daily from a range of 30 to 40 local stores, depending on the market.'  The packages are brought to the sortation center to sort, batch and route for delivery to local neighborhoods by a third-party carrier or Shipt delivery route, depending on the lowest-cost carrier option, Target said."

    Target expects "to deliver 50 million packages through the sortation centers in 2023, which is double its 2022 numbers.  Up to 40% of Target last-mile delivery orders with Shipt are currently delivered by the next day."

    KC's View:

    Those who think that with the pandemic largely in the rear view mirror, the bloom is off the e-commerce rose and things like next day delivery will be less important, are largely mistaken.  At least, I think so … and believe that this will end up being a smart investment by Target.

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Axios reports that fast feeder Subway is partnering with electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure startup GenZ EV Solutions "to build electric car-charging 'oases' with green spaces, bathrooms and playgrounds."

    According to the announcement, "The brands envision a more seamless experience for EV drivers with the installation of Subway Oasis charging parks at select locations—charging canopies with multiple ports, picnic tables, Wi-Fi, restrooms, green space and even playgrounds. As part of a multi-year plan to rollout the Subway Oasis, smaller-format, fast EV charging stations will be piloted at select, new or newly remodeled restaurants across the U.S., starting in 2023."

    Here's how Subway illustrates what it has in mind:

    Subway® and GenZ EV Solutions, a leading provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions, are partnering on an EV Charging Oasis of the future. (PRNewsfoto/Subway Restaurants)

     "Equitable access to charging is essential to the adoption of EVs in the future, and Subway's scale will play an important role in democratizing charging infrastructure for millions of Americans," GenZ CEO Jose Valls said in a prepared statement.

    The bottom line, Axios writes, is that "charging an EV takes time, and today's charging areas often lack basic amenities … Facilities like these could turn charging stops into a chance to get out, stretch your legs and let the kids run around a bit."

    KC's View:

    There are a lot of factors coming together here.  Last year, you may remember, we reported on how Shell was rethinking its gas station network in Europe, testing the notion of "mobility destinations" replacing tradition gas stations as people's dependence on gas-powered vehicles declines.  Here's what Shell has in mind, illustrated by a converted petrol station in London:

    From Shell

    We know that JD Power recently wrote that "sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States rose by two-thirds in 2022, comprising 5.8 percent of all new vehicles sold. This represents a significant increase from the 3.2 percent market share in 2021."  

    Prices of EVs are coming down, as manufacturers cut prices because of increased competition - we're coming to the point where the price of an EV may be comparable to traditional gas-powered vehicles.

    I suspect that what Subway is envisioning is just one piece of a puzzle that will come together quickly, as retailers of all stripes look for partnerships and alliances that will establish them as viable options for people on the road who need to get their cars charged up.

    Michael Sansolo, who serves as the research director for The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (in addition to writing columns for MNB), has talked here about how one of the council's studies looked at Spar in Europe was asking itself a basic question:  How do we help customers fill  the time when they’re charging their cars, not filling their tanks?

    That is a scenario that many retailers have to think about, figuring out what their roles are.

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) Retail and Consumer Shipping Study 2022-2023 is out, reporting that "while overall customer satisfaction with the Retail Trade sector slips 0.5% to a score of 74.7 (out of 100)," significant ground has been gained by a number of retailers, especially those with a specialty focus.

    Some excerpts:

    •  "Customer satisfaction with online retailers improves 4% to an ACSI score of 80.

    "Chewy debuts with an ACSI score of 85, placing it atop not just online retailers but the Index as a whole. Amazon turns things around and moves into second place. The company’s score is up 8% to 84 after two years of declines to an all-time low last year.

    Etsy (down 2%) and Gap (up 5%) move in opposite directions and meet at 80, while six retailers finish with 79: Costco (unchanged), Kohl’s (up 1%), Macy’s (down 1%), Nordstrom (down 2%), Target (up 1%), and Wayfair (up 4%).

    "The group of smaller sites (unchanged), Best Buy (up 3%), and Newegg (up 1%) tie at 78, followed by Dell (down 1%), Home Depot (up 3%), and Nike (down 1%), each at 77.

    eBay (unchanged) is one of four retailers to score 76, including HP Store (up 1%), Lowe’s (up 1%), and Overstock (up 3%). With scores of 75, Apple Store (unchanged) and GameStop (up 3%) finish ahead of Groupon (up 3%) and Staples (down 4%) at 74. Walmart (up 1%) sits at 73."

    ASCI says that "Walgreens is last after plummeting 9% to an ACSI score of 69."

    •  "The supermarket industry remains stable with an ACSI score of 76.

    "Despite slipping 1%, Trader Joe’s still tops all supermarkets at 84. Costco (up 1%) and Publix (up 2%) move into a second-place tie at 82, ahead of H-E-B, which dips 1% to 81.

    Aldi and Wegmans both slide 1% to 80, while four grocers score 79: BJ’s Wholesale Club (up 1%), Sam’s Club (unchanged), Target (up 3%), and Whole Foods (up 4%).

    Southeastern Grocers remains near the bottom of the industry after dropping 1% to 74, tying with Albertsons Companies (up 4%) and Ahold Delhaize (down 3%). Giant Eagle falls 4% to 73, yet still outpaces last-place Walmart, which improves 1% to 71."

    •  "For the second straight year, customer satisfaction with general merchandise retailers is stable at an ACSI score of 75.

    "The wholesale warehouse clubs set the bar, taking the top three slots for customer satisfaction, with Costco, up 1% to 82, leading the way. Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club, both surging 4%, are next with scores of 81 and 80, respectively.

    "Three retailers tie at 79 — Kohl’s (up 1%), Macy’s (up 4%), and Nordstrom (unchanged) — just ahead of Target, steady at 78. TJX — which includes Marshalls and TJ Maxx — is stable at 77, matching the group of smaller general merchandise retailers, which improves 3%.

    "Among the low-end performers, Big Lots (up 1%) and Fred Meyer (up 3%) score 73 apiece, while Dollar Tree falters 4% to 71. Dollar General and Walmart share last place at 70, stumbling 3% and 1%, respectively."

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Instacart announced this morning a number of platform innovations that build on its evolution from a retail delivery provider to a business that enables greater connectivity and integration of various technological components.

    Among them, just in time for the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show in Las Vegas this weekend, is the announcement that there will be integrated fulfillment  offered to independent grocers who use Rosie, the provider acquired by Instacart last year.  "Rosie, Instacart’s white-label e-commerce solution for local and independent grocers, now allows retailers to use Instacart fulfillment services to pick, pack, and deliver orders," the announcement says.

    In addition, three other enhancements:

    •  "Carrot Ads expands with display ads, opening up new revenue streams for grocers - Carrot Ads helps small and large grocers alike establish and grow their retail media networks to capture new revenue streams on their owned and operated websites and apps. Grocers can now offer display ads, in addition to Instacart’s sponsored product solution, to connect CPG brands with consumers on their e-commerce properties, creating new opportunities for growth. Display ads enable national CPG brands to promote engaging, targeted, creative banners to raise awareness and consideration of products, helping to drive bigger baskets for grocers. Carrot Ads also gives grocers and CPG brands access to closed-loop measurement and insights – helping them both understand the strategies that drive the most value for their businesses."

    •  "FoodStorm support for items sold by weight enables digital ordering for more items - FoodStorm, Instacart’s order management system, now supports items sold by weight including all fresh food and prepared items typically found at deli and meat counters like deli meats and cheeses, premade dishes and salads, and specialty items like Thanksgiving turkeys and holiday hams. With this expansion, grocers can now support order management and offer digital ordering, pickup and delivery of their deli and meat departments through a single, connected platform. This creates incremental sales opportunities and reduces preparation pressure for retailers, and delivers a more seamless experience for customers."

    •  "Caper Cart remote management offers powerful and easy auditing tools for store associates - Caper Carts, smart carts by Instacart, can now be managed remotely in real-time via tablet, giving retailers a remote bird’s-eye view of their stores, making it easy to see how many carts are being used, what types of items are being shopped, and to flag issues for audit."

    The goal, says Chris Rogers, Instacart's Chief Business Officer, is to help retailers "evolve their online offering, create connected in-store experiences and develop an omnichannel strategy that supports the unique needs of their business and their customers."

    Instacart said that these new capabilities are already being used by wholesalers like Associated Food Stores and retailers including New Seasons Market, Niemann Foods, The Fresh Market and Uncle Giuseppe's Marketplace.

    KC's View:

    Two things.

    First, I think the strategy of offering retailers - especially independents - more nuanced and integrated solutions to their omnichannel needs makes a lot of sense.  The worst thing retailers can do is view these various solutions in silos.

    Second, Instacart's Chris Rogers will be joining me onstage during Sunday's Technology Innovation tracks at the NGA Show.  I hope you'll join us - we've put together a jam-packed agenda that I think will resonate with retailers and wholesalers. 

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    The Organic Produce Network (OPN) has released its  “State of Organic Produce 2022” Report, concluding:

    •  "While total organic produce sales increased by 3% and volume decreased by −3.7% year over year, the performance of the top 20 categories was quite variable as inflation and other pressures created a dynamic market environment."

    •  "The best performers in terms of year-over-year sales increases were onions (15.4%), cucumbers (11.3%), and potatoes (10.7%), while the worst performers were lettuce (−3.1%), celery (−2.3%), and bell peppers (−2.1%)."

    •  "On the volume side, the best-performing organic commodities year over year were grapes (6.9%), herbs and spices (6.5%), and cucumbers (2.7%), while the weakest were lettuce (−12.7%), avocados (−11.4%), and apples (−10.3%)."

    •  "The three bottom year-over-year volume performers all had significant contributing factors beyond inflation. Lettuce suffered aphid pressure in the desert due to warmer temperatures in Q1 and Q2 and was later dealt a devastating blow by INSV (impatiens necrotic spot virus) in the Salinas Valley in the fall/early winter; avocados had a lower-than-normal volume out of Mexico in the first half of the year; and apple supply was impacted by a very small Washington crop."

    •  "Two categories that bucked the organic produce sector’s overall trend of increased sales and decreased volume were fresh herbs and spices and grapes. Both categories posted year-over-year increases in sales and volume, with organic herbs and spices showing gains of 4.1% and 6.5%, respectively, and organic grapes showing respective gains of 8.3% and 6.9%. In short, last year’s highly inflationary environment wasn’t able to keep these two categories down."

    •  "When it came to the top spot by total retail sales, berries took the lead in 2022, edging out packaged salads ever so slightly with $1.561 billion in sales (packaged salad sales totaled $1.556 billion).  Bananas held on to their spot as the top volume mover with nearly 509 million pounds sold at retail in 2022."

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    •  From MediaPost:

    "In collaboration with sellers and manufacturers like BMW and Yamaha, Amazon is making hundreds of thousands of automotive and power sports parts and accessories from original equipment manufacturers available to U,S. customers.

    "The newly launched OEM Automotive Parts Shop aims to offer a streamlined and personalized shopping experience. It allows customers to shop genuine parts using Amazon Garage to filter selection for their vehicle’s year, make, model, and other specifications.

    "As they shop, customers can see transparent price listings for each item, as well as detailed product and fitment information directly from manufacturers and sellers to ensure they are purchasing the right product."

    •  From Engadget:

    "Amazon and Cochlear have teamed up on a new feature that streams audio directly from Fire TV devices to hearing implants, using the Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) protocol. It’s the first time a smart TV device can stream sound directly to a hearing implant processor."

    “When we talked to audiologists and customers who used hearing aids, and other experts in the field, the majority told us that the first thing you really want if you’ve got hearing loss is to be able to hear clearly the people around you,” said Peter Korn, director of accessibility for Amazon Devices. “The second thing you want is the ability to hear the television, to enjoy entertainment.”

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    •  From CNBC:

    "Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wants to help bring inflationary prices down by keeping his company’s own private brands priced low, telling CNBC’s Jim Cramer Tuesday that the company is 'not participating in a recession if there is one.'

    "' think we have historically shown that we can bring prices down,' said McMillon in a 'Mad Money' interview.

    "McMillon said he would prefer that Walmart’s brand partners and suppliers 'step forward' on their own to lower prices, but regardless he wants 'to play a role in helping get prices down' … McMillon told Cramer he was confident that Walmart’s lower-priced products could push other brands to bring down their own prices, even as Walmart and its peers face rising costs."

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Plant-based milk products may continue to be labeled as 'milk,' but should put information on their label explaining how they are different from cow’s milk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a proposal Wednesday.

    "The move drew mixed reviews from the dairy industry and its advocates, which want to prohibit nondairy milks from using the word 'milk,' but applauded the push to explain nutritional differences between cow’s milk and other plant-based options.

    "'Today’s FDA announcement is a step toward labeling integrity for consumers of dairy products, even as it falls short of ending the decades-old problem of misleading plant-based labeling using dairy terminology,' Jim Mulhern, chief executive of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a written statement. He said his group would work with lawmakers to ensure that 'plant-based imposters' won’t be able to use dairy terms. 

    "Plant-based beverages can label themselves as a beverage or milk derived from their primary ingredient, such as soy, almonds or cashews, the FDA said in its proposal. But plant-based beverages that call themselves milk should also explain how their nutritional content compares to cow’s milk, adding to their labels in a prominent place how they differ in levels of calcium or vitamin D, for example, the agency said."

    •  CNBC reports that Dick's Sporting Goods plans to acquire outdoor retailer Moosejaw from Walmart.  terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Walmart bought the brand in 2017 for $51 million, part of an e-commerce diversification program launched by Marc Lore, who then was running Walmart's US e-commerce business.

    According to the story, "The acquisition, a rare move for Dick’s, could help the retailer grow its presence in the outdoor market and develop its e-commerce footprint after its 2021 launch of Public Lands, which has a stronger brick-and-mortar focus … While Moosejaw operates about a dozen brick-and-mortar locations in the Midwest and near the Great Lakes, it’s primarily an e-commerce company that’s been around since 1992."

    The move also allows Walmart to rid itself of a non-core asset that had to be more of a distraction and rounding error than anything else.

    Published on: February 23, 2023

    Yesterday we picked up on a piece in Bon Appétit in which a Whole Foods employee spoke about she allowed shoplifters to leave the store because of deeply felt concerns about people too poor to buy food.

    I commented:

    I am sympathetic to the people who are hungry and don't have the money to buy food, and I'm certainly sympathetic to the employee who feels she is facing an ethical dilemma, and has chosen to not say anything.

    But I think she's wrong.

    Quite simply, the food isn't hers to give away.  It isn't even her boss's food to give away.  It belongs to Whole Foods - and despite the fact that it is part of a multi-billion-dollar corporation and can afford it, Whole Foods has a right to expect a certain level of institutional integrity from employees.

    Now, if Whole Foods wanted to say that certain kinds of shoplifting should go unchallenged, that is its right.  (Not a good idea, though, because individual employees will bring their own biases to specific situations, and it isn't fair to put them in that position.)

    In the end, unchallenged small crimes often lead to much larger crimes as people think they can get away with them.  It is where the fabric of civilized society begins to unravel.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I totally agree with you on this, Kevin. I found it ironically funny, that the employee interviewed could not make the connection that losses to the company can end up resulting in a loss of a paycheck. Perhaps she should familiar herself with the concept of “death by a thousand tiny cuts.”

    We also had a piece about how yesterday was National Supermarket Day, described in a bunch of press releases that I've received as "a National Day of Appreciation for our industry’s food retail employees, recognizing the essential role that grocery workers play at every level of the industry and across their communities."

    I commented, in part:

    Because I am by nature a wisenheimer, I'd like to mark the occasion by suggesting that this is way too little.

    If retailers don't think about their employees as being essential every day, then having a "day" won't do much, if anything, to create cultures of caring within their organizations.

    "Essential" is word that was thrown around a lot  in the early days of the pandemic.  Not so much anymore, I think.

    Essential-ness ought to be at the core of every food retailer's vision, strategy, tactics and employee relations efforts.  Every day.  Because the people on the front lines are way more important in terms of the customer experience than the folks at headquarters.

    And if you are a retailer, you ought to ask yourself if, within your organization, this is true?

    Ask the question.  The answer may be an Eye-Opener.

    MNB reader Tom Jackson responded:

    I strongly agree with you KC ---Everyday needs to be appreciation day for all employees (especially frontline workers). With a positive Culture, you can use National  Supermarket Day, to enhance or affirm what  management is doing everyday with their employees/associates. Anthony Hucker, CEO Southeast Grocers, might have said it best - “We are in the people business and we just happen to sell groceries”.  This National Supermarket Day, hopefully will be a clear reminder of what our commitment to our people should and needs to be. 

    MNB reader Tom Murphy had some thoughts on another subject:

    Really enjoyed your discussion of the NGA sessions and challenges for independents regarding data and innovation.  As you may recall, my grocery indoctrination came as VP of IT with Kroger during the 90’s.  But since then, most of my grocery work in consulting has been with small to mid-sized grocers, associations and/or wholesalers.  You touched on the challenge of culture regarding the need to continue to speed up and innovate in today’s market and economy.  Tom Furphy mentioned that large grocers have more resources to throw at this and the independents might struggle and require a bigger helping hand from their “technology partners”.

    In my experience, the bigger issue for independent operators is that they are generally made up of leaders and mindsets that play to merchandising and operations.  That in fact, the concept of building a strategy or technology/innovation roadmap for increased customer experiences…is totally foreign to them and completely outside of their skill set.  Additionally, their size and available resources probably precludes them from having those in-house capabilities.  Until someone comes up with a way to help these smaller grocers, they will struggle with this, just like you or I would struggle with putting together a category plan or building a store labor schedule…it is just not part of our capability…thus not part of our culture.

    The Associated Press wrote the other day about how "the government agency responsible for tracking down contaminated peanut butter and defective pacemakers is taking on a new health hazard: online misinformation.

    "It’s an unlikely role for the Food and Drug Administration, a sprawling, century-old bureaucracy that for decades directed most its communications toward doctors and corporations.

    "But FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf has spent the last year warning that growing 'distortions and half-truths' surrounding vaccines and other medical products are now 'a leading cause of death in America'."

    Califf makes the point that "almost no one should be dying of COVID in the U.S. today … People who are denying themselves that opportunity are dying because they’re misinformed … We’re now in a 24/7 sea of information without a user guide for people out there in society.  So this requires us to change the way we communicate."

    I commented:

    First, regarding Covid.  The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story about how, while "the US has dodged a major wintertime Covid-19 surge as the pandemic continues to recede into the background," the fact remains that "the death toll is still growing … the US  averaged about 400 deaths a day in a three-month span covering November through January, based on weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts of death certificates listing Covid-19 as the underlying or contributing cause."  That's a significant improvement - during the same period a year ago the number was 1,700 deaths a day, and the year before that it was 2,800.  But, the Journal notes, Covid-19 remains "among the major causes of death in the U.S. The disease ranked at No. 3 in 2020 and 2021, behind heart disease and cancer, and might rank there again in 2022."

    When I got Covid late last year and said so here on MNB, one of the first emails I got was from an MNB user who wondered if I was reconsidering my decision to be vaccinated and boosted.  Which struck me as absurd - the reason my case (like that of so many other people) was relatively minor likely was because I'd been vaccinated and boosted.  If it is recommended that I get another booster tomorrow, I'll get one, just like I get flu vaccines every year and got a shingles vaccines when the doctor suggested it.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of those 400 daily deaths are preventable, and can be ascribed to misinformation.  So I think that the FDA has that right.

    I'm not sure, however, that Twitter, YouTube and Instagram memes featuring Scooby-Doo and SpongeBob are going to be up to the task of remedying the problem.  Misinformation seems to be a plague on our culture, whether it has to do with health, politics or virtually anything else.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Whenever I see the term “misinformation” used, all I can think is that someone is telling me “you’re too stupid to think for yourself, so we’ll tell you what to think”.

    For every doctor/health care official who talks about the benefit of the Covid vaccine, you can find one who tells you the vaccine does nothing or that the vaccine is harmful. I made the decision to “vax to max”. I have good friends who have not taken the vaccine. I don’t classify them as “misinformed” or “stupid”. I view them as rational people who made a different decision them me.

    First of all, I'm not sure your information - that for every doctor who thinks the vaccine is effective, there is a doctor who thinks it is either ineffective or harmful - is accurate.

    But that doesn't mean that you should get the vaccine or boosters.  I would never suggest that it should be mandated.  

    That said … I was astounded the other day about a legislative proposal in Idaho that would make it a criminal misdemeanor to administer a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine in Idaho.  And all I could think was that whoever introduced that legislation must think that citizens of Idaho are too stupid to think for themselves, so they've decided to tell them what to think.

    Yesterday we took note of a report that "the Cincinnati Reds will wear an advertisement for the Kroger chain of supermarkets on their jersey sleeves during the 2023 season."

    I commented:

    I hate this.  It is the NASCAR-ification of baseball, and all about ownership greed.

    To be honest, though, I hate this less than the so-called ghost runner rule, which is now permanent - it means that extra innings have to begin with a runner on second base, which MLB says speeds up the game.  Which may be true, but it is a stupid rule - all about speed and nothing about the integrity of the game.

    One MNB reader reacted:

    I understand your perspective about the patch and the ghost runner as a baseball purist. I am surprised at the contrast between this take and the advice you often give to companies on your site.

    Is it corporate greed when impulse items (candy) are put in the check lanes or a shipper is put at the end of an aisle for some extra sales? You often remark on how companies need to innovate and meet the changing needs of their customers. It seems to me that what baseball is doing is 1. Acknowledging that it is easier to make more money off the customers they already have than it is to attract new customers. And 2. Gen X (Of which I am a part) and Gen Y are much less willing to sit through 3 hours of baseball than previous generations. They have identified a changing need in their customers and are taking steps to meet it. That seems very much like what you promote almost every day on MNB.

    But it's baseball.  The most important thing that doesn't matter.   (Thanks, RBP.)

    In the end, I can live with the patches, though I hope it is limited to just one - I would hate the idea of uniforms turning into brand billboards.

    But the ghost runner rule is just stupid.  And counter-productive … it just alters the fundamentals of the game.

    So, by the way, does the new pitch clock.

    ESPN had a piece the other day entitled "How MLB pitch clock would impact famous baseball moments."  Exhibit number one - Kirk Gibson's famous walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which took almost seven minutes to play out.

    You can read the entire story here.  But essentially, ESPN makes the point that all of those minutes were filled with high drama - Gibson was hurt and coming off the bench to pinch-hit, and the duel between him and Dennis Eckersley was called with extraordinary precision by Vin Scully on TV and Jack Buck on radio.  (I vividly remember where I was when it played out more than three decades ago - on a sailboat slowly making its way up the Hudson River, approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge, with a sky that was clear, and there was almost no noise save for Buck's voice echoing across the water.  "I don't believe what I just saw!" he exclaimed when Gibson homered.  Watch it on YouTube … even now, this is baseball at its best.)

    The powers that be screw with these moments at their own peril.