Published on: March 2, 2023
Yesterday I had a story in MNB that took note of a Fox News report that the Attorneys General of 19 states "warned major retailers against the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) attempt to let pharmacies mail out the abortion pill, and said doing so would subject to legal action from the states."
At issue is the reading of a federal law that they say prohibits the selling of mifepristone by mail. Fox News wrote that "the Biden administration in early January developed a plan to change an FDA rule in a way that would allow companies with a retail pharmacy to apply for a certification to distribute by mail a two-step abortion-inducing drug.
"Prior to the rule change, mifepristone, the first pill used in the two-part abortion process, could be dispensed only by some mail-order pharmacies or by certified doctors or clinics."
The Attorneys General essentially are warning the retailers - including Costco, Walmart, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid - that they can expect legal action if they abide by the changed FDA rule, which is likely to be challenged in the courts.
It was, therefore, a relevant story to a segment of the MNB readership.
I commented, in total:
This is exactly where retailers want to be - caught in the crossfire during a culture war.
Cleary there are different opinions about federal law. I have no idea how retailers should navigate this particular landmine-laden landscape, except that, if choices must be made, they probably should do their best to satisfy most of their customers, choosing the reading of the law that supports that position. The courts then probably will sort it all out, but retailers can be reassured that they put their shoppers first.
MNB reader Steve Anvik sent me the following email:
“Choose a path the supports the majority of their customers”? Yikes, besides our differences in viewpoints re: abortion ending a life - why from a business POV would you advocate placing a company in the crosshairs of a state AG looking to make legal precedent?? Your true colors, which you deny, are showing. I dare you to print this view.
Well, first of all, you don't know me very well. I would've posted this email even without the dare.
Second, I don't think I am advocating that those companies should be "in the crosshairs of a state AG looking to make legal precedent." Those Attorneys General are doing that. it is then up to the companies to decide how best to react. I would argue that you have to advocate for your customers, though I would acknowledge that on this issue, taking any position creates the likelihood that the other side will be inflamed. Which is exactly what the Attorneys general are counting on.
This is not the place for an abortion debate. The reasons I made the point about retailers needing to do their best to satisfy most of their customers is that a) customer-centricity is the most important value for a retailer that wants to be essential, and b) surveys show that there is roughly a 60-40 split between U.S. adults who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (61 percent according to the Pew Research Center) and those who think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases (37 percent according to Pew).
This makes it harder for these retailers, not easier. I do not envy them their position, whatever decisions they make.
Finally, I wasn't aware I'd ever "denied" my "true colors," whatever the hell that means. I think I'm pretty much of an open book.
Weighing in on last week's discussion about store employees who don't stop shoplifters, one MNB reader wrote:
A lot of the reluctance of grocery employees to stop shoplifting is because the management forbids the staff to actively stop shoplifters for fear of injury to the employee or customers or misidentification as a shoplifter. Employees have been fired if they confront a suspected shoplifter.
I completely understand that. In the case we were discussing, though, the employee made a decision not to intercede because of a belief that the shoplifter needed the food more than the retailer needed the money. I simply don't think that this is an ethical decision - it was not the employee's money, and not the employee's decision to make.
On another subject, MNB reader Monte Stowell wrote:
Regarding your missive today regarding Target’s performance. It is plain and simple why their financial performance numbers were not better. Go onto a Target and look at the in stock position up and down the aisles. The out of stocks are horrendous. I would think Cornell would be having meetings with all the category managers and buyers in all departments and find out what the bigger issues are and how they could get back into stock sooner rather than later, especially in the food departments. The out of stocks IMHO, in the food department, are the worst of any major retailer here in the NW.
Regarding the bananas that are packaged so that there are items of varying ripeness…
… MNB reader Celeste Kososki wrote:
I had no idea that I was so cutting edge? I have been buying “orphan” bananas in various stages of ripeness for more years than I can count.
I don’t even put them together in a produce bag unless I have to so I can avoid “ripening” them on the way home if my trip gets too long or the weather is too hot.
And they don’t “live” near each other on my kitchen counter either.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that there isn’t much banana bread around my house these days. . .
And finally, this email from MNB reader Rich Heiland:
My first reaction to restaurants offering subscriptions was "cool." But then I thought about where I live, right in downtown West Chester, PA. I have something like 25 eating and drinking options with a few blocks of home - everything from coffee shops to bagel places to pizza to bars to fine dining. I don't know that I would subscribe to just one. We have lived here more than two years and there are still so many places with a walk, or even a short drive, that we have not sampled. Variety is the spice of life...
I agree with you about trying different places. But I always think about what used to be Etta's in Seattle, and how important it was for me to have what the Irish call a "local" when I was in town. I liked trying other places, but I loved being a regular, even if one who lived 2,894 miles away. (But who's counting?)