business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Michael Freese wrote in with some thoughts about the FTC suit against Amazon for "trickery" in how it lures and keeps Prime members:

I am a long time Prime member but do not use Subscribe & Save. Well….not exactly.

Oddly enough, this morning, before reading your comments on this, my Alexa device dinged with a notification. When I asked what it was it told me it might be time for me to order a coffee pod I rather consistently order. And it was right. I had just run out and probably would have ordered again in the near future but the Alexa reminder also asked if I would like the pods added to my Amazon cart and if so, would I like to purchase now. So I did.

So while not on Subscribe & Save, this functioned pretty much the same way. Geez…..half way scary.

I have no explanation for that.  But you're right.  It shouldn't have happened.

From another reader:

I'm not an Amazon member for a number of reasons.  However my daughters are. I asked them to purchase something and gave them my card to pay it. Now that purchase could have been for either of them. Several weeks later I saw a charge for Prime Membership on MY account.  I  disputed the charge and ended up with a new card as it was considered fraud. And a refund.

No explanation for that, either.

MNB reader Mark Heckman had an opinion about the rationale ("we need this to compete with Walmart") cited for the Kroger-Albertsons merger:

Citing competitive disadvantage as a rationale for a merger that would create even more competitive disadvantage (to every other retailer other than Walmart and Kroger-Albertsons) would seem to me to be a specious argument.  

I think they have to stay true to their mythical contention that this merger will lower prices and create good will towards the community of man.  If past is prologue, when this merger happens, stores will close, prices will stay the same —or go up, and fewer people will be working in the grocery industry.   

Got the following email about my TikTok piece the other day, which focused on how a TikTok influencer managed to make a quesadilla so popular that Chipotle had to add it to the menu:

1) If they weren't there would someone/something else fill the void so the Chipotle new might have lived on in another universe? 

2) If I'm not watching TikTok do I care?

3) isn't the federal government about to ban TikTok? Maybe I missed an announcement. 

Obviously I'm not visiting any Tic Tok site. 

Thankfully life goes on!

I'm not as TikTok guy either.  But I think it is important to recognise that influence can be exerted in a lot of ways by a lot of people.   Not paying attention would be an enormous mistake.

On the subject of in-store courtesy, especially at a Costco where they are going to start checking IDs, MNB reader Steve Anvik wrote:

Perfect! Treating the 99% of honest customers like the 1% of dishonest people is always a great strategy!

I can understand why it may be frustrating.  But another MNB reader reminds us of something important:

As the mom of a young adult who works at Costco...just a reminder that the person wearing a red vest and asking you (that's a general you, not anyone in particular) to follow the rules (wearing a mask during Covid, showing your  ID at the checkout, or any other Costco policy) is somebody's kid out there doing their job and enforcing a corporate policy made somewhere else by some other person.  

Yelling and taking out your self-entitled indignation on someone who's probably making less than you and simply asking you to do what you agreed to do when you signed up for membership doesn't make you special, it makes you a jerk.

Lot of jerks out there, unfortunately.

Responding to yesterday's story about how more Amazon shoppers prefer Walmart to Whole Foods for their groceries, one MNB reader wrote:

Whole Foods is such a “unique” or niche format, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many Amazon Prime customers don't prefer it as their primary bricks and mortar option. Unless Amazon drastically modifies the format, Whole Foods will never be a major competitor to WalMart.

On a related  subject, from MNB reader Kathleen Ottaviano:

I'm sure you've heard this before, but allow me to pile on.  Whole Foods was a great place to shop for groceries before they were purchased by Amazon. 

The employees at the store I shop are grumpy, the selection is poor and the variety in produce is dismal.  Looking for shallots on one trip I was told there must be a crop failure, because they haven't had them in weeks.   Hmm.....the Safeway down the street was and continues to be well stocked in shallots.   

Trader Joe's and Safeway are eating away at the dollars I previously spent at Whole Foods.   

Regarding the continuing popularity of farmers markets, one MNB reader wrote:

I've always wondered (to myself) why grocery stores (especially indies/regionals) don't set up a "farm stand" right in the produce section, allowing a local farmer (or community farm market organizer) space to sell their products. It would bolster the cred of the department, IMO, and presumably drive some higher-value traffic through the store. Done correctly it could grow sales (vs compete with offerings already on shelf.)

Love it.

And, finally, reacting to Dorothy Lane Market's planned Local Craft Beer Show, one MNB reader wrote:

Smart of DLM to put on such an event.  In a previous career, I was in charge of the marketing strategy for craft beer for a chain supermarket.  What I learned some 15 years ago was that independent grocers have a unique opportunity to celebrate craft brewers along with curated food selections for their shoppers to sample.  The possibilities are endless, and its an experience that you can own, in a way that larger chains or e-commerce entities cannot replicate.  Tying it to their loyalty only enhances the relationship DLM has with their customers.  I’m sure they are collecting data on who within their customer base attends, to personalize future events and promotions.

Look up "smart retailing," and almost certainly you'll see a picture of Dorothy Lane Markets - they're one of the class acts of the industry, and one that never gets complacent and continues to innovate, invent and invest.