business news in context, analysis with attitude

As always, there are opinions about Kmart, as expressed by this member of the MNB community:

“The real world is Kmart is unfortunately dead in the water. I personally don't see any way out for this company. They have not defined a customer profile, have no momentum going at all, and in my opinion will be liquidated within 2 years.

“I wonder out of the 1800 stores just how many…are actually making a profit. I would not be surprised if the answer was none. It is not like it is one region doing badly, so (they could) close it and move on.

“This company has severe problems. My only hope is that the poor cashier that has 20 years of service doesn't get put out in the cold. I am hoping that Wal-Mart or Target do the right thing and offer something to Kmart employees with a lot of years of service when the company does fold. But I'm not so sure they do the right thing for their present employees so why would I expect them to be right by someone else’s employees.”

While we appreciate the sentiment, we’re not sure it is fair to suggest that if Wal-Mart or Target don’t give a 20-year Kmart employee a job with attendant seniority, they somehow are not doing the right thing. Life, unfortunately, doesn’t work that way.

We got an email responding to our reference of an aphorism from Wayne Dyer that says:

”You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

MNB user Tom Kroupa wrote:

“We can apply Wayne Dyer's secret that you quoted to politics as well. And, it starts with us. If we expand our minds then we can see more possibilities in solving problems. Who knows, maybe we won't create problems with a mind that is more open?


To quote a well-known Vulcan philosopher, “There are always possibilities.”

Last Friday, we ran a story about how Wal-Mart pulled a doll manufactured by Mattel that portrayed Midge, Barbie's long-time friend, as being married and pregnant. While the doll had on a wedding ring, apparently there was some concern about the character endorsing teenage pregnancy because it was sold separately from its ‘husband.’

One member of the MNB community responded:

“All I can say is give me a break -- I personally visited a Wal-Mart store this holiday season and I saw many more things to be worried about influencing young teens and little girls than Midge being pregnant and sold separately from her husband.”

We’d agree.

Another MNB user wrote:

“It astounds me that in this day, pregnancy is still treated with such disrespect and lack of acknowledgement by executives of certain firms. Give me a break! Are we so naive that we, as shoppers and the children of those shoppers, can't see, touch and/or buy a representation in a toy of a pregnant woman - with or without the guy doll in the same box? It's not the parents buying the pregnant Midge toy for their children that are causing teenage pregnancies to soar. And it's not the child who plays with the doll either. There are numerous other social and cultural factors at play - including a sexist "stick-your-head-in-the-sand and perhaps pregnancy won't happen" attitude.

“Mattel, as the manufacturer of a pregnant doll, might even be providing more enlightened parents with exactly the opportunity needed to explain the actual facts of life to their children, instead of ignoring them or providing the "stork ized" version. In many European countries, small children are taught reproduction by their parents (and reinforced in their schools). Children are aware of how they came into existence from an early age. What is being reinforced by Wal-Mart is a watered down, sanitized Ozzie and Harriet view of the world - with guns and ammo in aisle 9. At the same time, children struggle with the overt sexual exhibitionism and innuendo of their favorite record industry acts on MTV and other mainstream media - targeted for teens but watched by scores of Barbie-playing youngsters. Time for Wal-Mart to get real. Ignorance is obviously not bliss for too many teenage girls that didn't get the low down on safe sex, let alone what it takes to have and be in good relationships.

“And if there are consumers that don't like the doll, then, don't buy it! I would imagine that there are plenty of consumers who don't like guns but who still shop at Wal-Mart.”

We continue to get mail about our comment last week that just as home improvement stores are targeting women to expand their customer base, supermarkets ought to be targeting men.

MNB user Don Sutton had some thoughts:

“The biggest problem with getting guys to get into the domestic culinary arts is the lack of understanding the male mindset. If I were to write a cookbook for guys I'd name it the Martian Cook's Book (ala “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”).

“We don't approach cooking the way women do.

“Women are taught to approach it as an act of love for their families. Guys approach it as a project. We assemble our plans (recipes), our tools, and our components. Then we build a meal. We get into kitchen tools the same way we get into workshop tools. We want to know at least a little about the chemistry of components and some of the theory. How do you know when to cook something at 350 degrees and something else at 400?

“Even meal planning is a game plan exercise. Each should have a main course, a fruit, a veggie, some dessert, etc. Once you lay out the game plan you plug in the components. (Pork on Monday, beef on Tuesday, etc.) And when we go shopping we plan for a certain number of days. We buy a main course for each day, a veggie, etc. Then there are the special things for the kids, like homemade donuts on Saturday mornings. A tube of biscuits, a small paper sack, and some powdered sugar and they can participate.

“I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Nobody has really caught on to the formula-yet. When they do, you'll see kitchen tools in Home Depot and Lowe’s and you'll see some male oriented items in the grocery stores, like cooking videos.

“Looking back on my own experience in the early 80's as a single dad with custody of two kids, I can guarantee you that about two grams of common sense and a teaspoon of creativity is all that keeps this from happening.”

There is the basis for a great marketing scheme here -- a DIY section of supermarkets designed just for men’s approach to meal compilation.

MNB user S. Kirk Lammert wrote:

“On the subject of men and supermarkets; although it may not be "socially acceptable" in one view for men to cook, I actually know quite a few men that either share the cooking duties with their wives or are the majority household "chef". And these guys are not hiding from the shadow of ridicule. At my company this year, just as many men as women brought in home-baked holiday goodies that they themselves made. There is so little in today's society that an individual can do to bring self-recognition and pride in ownership. Maybe this is one way of righting that balance.”

MNB user Bob McMath, founder and director of NewProductWorks, wrote:

“People seem to forget that more men seem to be the chefs today that people talk about than women chefs.

“I remember when our youngest son was attending Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. He and a roommate were taking student housing with a kitchen. The summer before, we suggested in order to do it right, he needed to learn to cook. During the summer, Wednesday night was HIS night to provide something for our family of six.

“Every Wednesday night, we had pizza -- sent in from a nearby pizzeria, of course. So when he went to college that fall, we discovered his girl friend of the previous four semesters or so came in each night and cooked for him and his roommate. When we visited and stayed in his apartment, she still came in and cooked for all of us!

“But he didn't end up marrying her, I might add. And even today when his wife is away, in many cases he has pizza again with his two youngsters.”

Good thing that Emeril didn’t travel down that particular road.

MNB user Dick Lowe wrote:

“I love to cook, it is my creative expression. In fact I have been buying the groceries for the past 20 years and planning and cooking the meals. I am amazed at how much a deal most everyone makes over this.

“First, I only shop about 20 - 30% of a store. I buy almost no processed foods, so never venture down those isles. I shop the weekly ads and keep a pantry, refrigerator, and freezer full of the basics. I shop Aldi's, Marsh, Kroger, Wal-Mart, The Good Earth, and Trader Joe's at least on a monthly basis. We eat very economically, fresh, wholesome foods with great variety and ethnicity. We are what we eat! Fresh squeezed orange juice and fruit with homemade Musselli and yogurt every morning, Homemade breads and baked goods. Fresh salads and vegetables. Generally preparing any dinner in less than 30 minutes and any other meal in 5 - 15 minutes. Most meals a planned on the spur of the moment from several choices. What ever suits our mood at the time.”

We think this is great…though it is referring to cooking as “creative expression” that often scares guys away. It may be that for us, but we never think of it that way.

We shop and cook because that’s how we get supper on the table. A woman does that, and she’s doing her job. A guy does it, and he’s being creative or being a gourmet chef.

Ultimately, it’s sexist.
KC's View: