business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a Wall Street Journal report that Target plans to remove some of the items it brought in to help customers celebrate Pride Month, and will move remaining displays to less visible parts of its stores, as it reacts to a backlash that caused some of its employees to feel unsafe.  Target has been doing Pride Month each June for more than a decade, but this is the first time that the LGBTQ+ themed promotion has prompted this kind of backlash - people confronting workers in stores, knocking down Pride merchandise displays and putting threatening posts on social media with video from inside stores.

I commented, in part:

Well, the fact that Target is getting grief for this in 2023 after having had such offerings for more than a decade proves one thing:  not everybody is capable of personal growth, and that there are some folks who would like to take this country back to good old days that weren't good for a lot of people, and that didn't say much good about qualities such as tolerance, acceptance and love.

I don't blame Target for making this decision.  It has to protect its employees and other customers from this crap.  But the people who are confronting employees, knocking down displays and making threats online (which is what cowards do, because they find solace in anonymity and the embrace of their fellow bigots) ought to be arrested, charged and prosecuted.

As I've said here before, I believe in a "no tolerance" policy for people (organized and not) who shoplift and commit vandalism in stores - stopping small crimes is one way to prevent larger crimes.  And stopping these kinds of hate-inspired crimes - which is what these are - also requires a no tolerance policy.

MNB reader David Spawn responded:

This is a very sad story to read.  I worked for Target for 7 years and was always very proud of their stance in supporting Pride across the company, both in the store and in the workplace.  As an out gay man, I truly felt that Target supported me and wanted to create a comfortable and inclusive environment through their broad support of Pride well before it was common among other companies.

We have really hit a low point as a society when it is acceptable to resort to such cowardly acts that make people feel concerned for their personal safety.  What I fear most is that these low points will only continue to get lower until there is broader support from all facets of society that behavior that purposefully threatens others is unacceptable.

The problem is that in some circles, not only is this behavior acceptable, but actually a badge of honor.  In reality, of course, honor is something with which these people have no actual familiarity.

Another MNB reader wrote:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  These people are merely reacting to unpleasant things being constantly crammed down their throats.

Maybe.  But that doesn’t make their actions more legal or less reprehensible.

And what is "unpleasant?"  A retailer marketing to people who aren't like you?  Maybe we all ought to remember this passage from Scripture:

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:40 

I would remind you that Target's approach has been dictated by a desire to be a smart retailer.

Fortune has an interview with CEO Brian Cornell in which he makes the point that "I think the facts are in, the results for us, and the things we’ve done from a DE&I standpoint, it’s adding value, it’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests. And those are just the right things for our business today … I’m really proud of the work we’ve done in the DE&I space. Now, the fact that we talked about almost 2,000 stores, well, half of those stores are run by female store directors. Over 40% of our store directors are diverse. That component is so important, but it also reflects the consumer we serve. And when your team, your leadership represents the consumer you serve, I think good things happen. So I can see the benefits for our shareholders. I know that focus on diversity and inclusion and equity has fueled much of our growth over the last nine years."

One other note on this.  Apparently there was a story making its way across social media accusing the person who manufactured some of the Pride products of being a Satanist, which is the primary reason that Target was being targeted.

I did a little checking online, and the person being accused says that while he does manufacture some items that reference Satan, they all are tongue-in-cheek, and, in fact, none of those items were being sold by Target.  Plus, he says, he doesn't believe in Satan.  Also doesn't believe in God.  And thinks of the Bible as a "metaphor."

In other words, I think this is largely manufactured outrage.  Which, unfortunately, can be as potent as outrage about things that a) are real, and b) really matter.  The question is whether people will be quiet about it, or will they fight back against false and deliberately provocative outrage.  

I'd like to think that, in the words of poet Amanda Gorman,

"We've learned that quiet isn't always peace

And the norms and notions of what 'just is'

Isn't always justice."

Michael Sansolo wrote his column this week about how, while new rules have speeded up major league baseball games, it is incumbent on ballparks to make sure they have either enough people or the right technology - or both - so that concessions can get people in and out and back to their seats efficiently enough so they don't miss much action.

MNB reader Wayne Redfearn responded:

Michael Sansolo makes a very good point. MLB has established a time limit of 2 minutes and 30 seconds between innings. This makes is difficult to use the restrooms much less order, receive and pay for food, add condiments and return to your seat between innings. I see several solutions to address this problem… allow patrons to bring their own food and snacks into the ballpark (Anaheim Stadium allows this), hire more well-trained personnel at refreshment stands, pre-order food at refreshment stands for quick pick up, offer more pre-made food for quick pickup and hire more personnel to sell food in the stands as was once done at ballparks. The new rule changes are great!

And from another reader:

Live TV monitors in concession lines and the restrooms isn’t such a bad idea either!

Got this email from MNB reader Mike Moon about the manufacturer claim that electromagnetic interference is forcing them to eliminate AM radio from their electric vehicles:

The issue with AM radio in Electric Vehicles isn't the inbound AM signals that are all around us, or the radio itself. It's the electromagnetic interference coming from the EV's electric motors that turns AM radios into a static-y, hummy mess (ever had the AM radio on and drove underneath a power line? same issue). You'd think that with all the technology advancements we enjoy, that they could figure out how to fix this, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

On another subject, from MNB reader Jerome Schindler:

Have to give Target 5 stars for this one:

I needed paper coffee filters for a 4-6 cup coffee maker.  I stopped at Target near me, just going by, not a special trip.

That item was out of stock.  Later in the day, on the chance that they might have been in the back room and not on the shelf, I ordered them on-line for pick-up at that store.

Sure enough, the order went through.  A couple hours later I got an email saying they were out of stock at that location, but they were available at a more distant store.  But then they offered the alternative of having them shipped to my home at no cost, arriving in 2 days   All of that for a $4 order  (free on-line order minimum is usually $35).

The New York Times reported this week that the pandemic-era practice of making menus available to restaurant patrons via the use of mobile devices to scan QR codes seems to be ending.

I commented:

I never really minded the QR codes, though there is something tactile about holding an actual menu in one's hands - in some cases, it can actually be part of the experience.  I do think that there remains a use for QR codes in such situations, like for offering nutrition information or details about daily specials.  (Though a well-informed and opinionated member of the wait staff can be invaluable in such cases.)

I also think there is the opportunity for using QR codes for immediate feedback purposes - there is a company called that is doing this in a number of restaurants and other venues, and I think the technology has a lot of potential for supermarkets.

One MNB reader responded:

As we are so "socially connected" by digital devices, I made a self-imposed rule of not being digitally connected when I go out to a restaurant with my wife, family, or friends. The reason...just look around at those other tables. Heads down, zoned in on the phones. 

Like you, working from home for years (pre-pandemic) I yearn to be able to focus and pay attention to those I am physically with in the moment. You know like actually having some "Eye Contact". So leaving the cell phone in the car or at home, and even not wearing my iWatch is so refreshing even if just for an hour or so.

But...this has been an issue with my ability to get a physical menu since the pandemic. Most have either got me one or actually let me use their phone or if someone I'm dining with has one. 

So let's bring back the menus, and do the phone stack at the table (the loser buys the wine), gazing thoughtfully into the eyes of your wife/date, have a meaningful conversation with your friends and families, and influence better behavior to our kids/grandkids.

By the way, did you read that the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, issued a powerful public advisory yesterday warning of the considerable risks that social media poses to young people’s mental health.

I did.  And I think he makes an excellent point.

Responding to my rant against airlines that are starting to charge for paper boarding passes, one MNB reader wrote:

It is ridiculous with the airlines and their fees.  Price of tickets going up with less leg room and services.  Here is one that has just happened to me.  My wife and her father were going to go to California to visit some family.  Family emergency forced a cancellation of the trip.  My wife received credit for the tickets to use on another flight, however she also paid for a bag to check and seats with additional leg room (over $350) and that is not refundable.  They are making ridiculous sums of money and constantly look for government bailouts.  They need to be more closely monitored for sure as tickets shouldn’t be more than double than what they were.

I could be a little more eloquent, but definitely a little emotional on this one.

We took note yesterday of this Axios story:

"José Andrés, celebrity chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, and George Washington University are launching a research institute focused on the intersection of food production and climate change … The Global Food Institute (GFI), being announced today, identifies the warming planet as one of the greatest challenges facing the global food system."

"The world we live in today is confronted by a wide range of complex crises, and the global food system sits at the heart of each of them,” Andrés tells Axios in a statement.

I commented:

Anyone who doesn't think that the climate crisis won't have an enormous impact on our food supply is either blind, or just refuses to see.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Your statement reminded me of the saying that there are none so blind as those who will not see. Lots of that going around these days.

Yes, there is.

I actually was curious about the origin of that statement, so I went online and discovered that English playwright/poet John Heywood  is credited with writing it in 1546.

Before that, there was the Bible verse, Jeremiah 5:21:

‘Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not’.

British satirist Jonathan Swift use dit in his "polite Conversation" in 1738.

And singer Ray Stevens used the line, "There is none so blind as he who will not see,” in his 1970 song,  “Everything Is Beautiful.”

All of which probably is more than you needed or wanted to know.  But they had me at Ray Stevens, who had other memorable hits such as "Along Came Jones," "Mr. Businessman," "Misty," and, of course, my personal favorite, "Would Jesus Wear A Rolex?"


Finally, on Tuesday I did a FaceTime video following up on both a story about SNAP benefits being reduced and an MNB reader who decried the decision by quoting Hubert Humphrey.  Here is what I said:

MNB reader Bob Wheatley was kind enough to write:

Congratulations to you for one of the best and most poignant and powerful posts you’ve published.

Thanks.  After 21 years, it is nice to get one right every once in a while.