business news in context, analysis with attitude

We received the following email from an MNB user about ongoing charges that Wal-Mart forces employees to work overtime "off the clock":

Concerning the overtime issue at Wal-Mart, I have personally experienced three incidents where the cashier has shut down with a line and announced their apologies, but that they do not get paid for working past the end of their scheduled shift. Each instance happened at three different Wal-Mart locations so there is definitely a push on the labor cost issue. What about customer service? One of these times, I stood in line for ten minutes and then after standing in line for almost ten more, I left my cart when that cashier was worried about working past the end of their shift. My time is worth money too.

On the one hand, we would share your annoyance, and wish that checkout people would feel enough of a responsibility to keep working until the work is done…though it probably isn’t fair to expect them to work if there's no money in it (especially when the employer has more money than most large countries). So perhaps the blame is more accurately assessed to Wal-Mart, for not creating an environment in which employees feel that kind of responsibility, and managers feel free to have them log the overtime.

Which puts a little bit of a tarnish on Wal-Mart's carefully cultivated family image. It also suggests a possible weakness that can be exploited by competitors.

On the subject of marketing to men, one MNB user wrote:

I am a Retired Meat manager. (Publix Supermarkets) About every 3 years, Publix used to send the market managers to a cooking school. It might be a 1 or 2 day session but we were brought up to date on a variety of cooking methods.

This helped us greatly serving our customers, too bad the company stopped doing this.

However my 3 sons are great cooks and at 64 I still cook 3 times a week
at the house and the wife of 43 years loves it.

Teaching your sons to cook may be one of the greatest gifts you could have given them, in our humble opinion.

We continue to get email about Kmart's decision to get rid of its self-checkout systems. MNB user Dennis Barthuly wrote:

Personally, I don't have a problem with consumers, that are comfortable with the procedure, being afforded the opportunity to speed up the checkout process. I'd much rather have a retailer spend money on "customer service managers" that are roaming the store and available in the aisle where the consumers have their questions and where they ultimately make their decisions. By the time they get to the checkout counter, the sale has already been decided, pro or con. Having someone come down the aisle and STOP and ask if you are finding everything or if they could ASSIST you in any way, is going to portray a feeling of customer care and concern, far beyond an impersonal contact behind the scanner.


Another MNB user added:

It's my opinion that they were tired of paying for NCR hardware, services and support when they are coming out of bankruptcy. There are a lot cheaper solutions out there and self checkout using the Cadillac of systems was a pretty stupid thing to be doing given the demographics of their consumer group. Who sold them on this anyway?

We've had more than our fair share of stories lately on both Krispy Kreme and trans fats…so it probably was inevitable that we got an email from an MNB user that tied them together:

Okay, it’s one thing to ignore nutritional trends toward eating better and fighting obesity based on the premise that once in a while you want to have junk, whoops, I mean “comfort” food like doughnuts. And, Krispy Kreme is certainly doing a smashing job of providing millions of those so-inclined with their daily, weekly, or monthly fix, as the case may be. But, do they have to do it with fat that’s now proven to be truly bad for us—i.e. trans fats? Here’s
what they fry them with (taken directly from a Krispy Kreme FAQ web page link.

Our doughnuts are cooked in 100% vegetable oil shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil).

Hydrogenation is the culprit in trans fats and, as many now know, increase the risk of heart disease by virtue of how they’re made (info that’s been floating around health food circles for a long, long time says TFs are even carcinogenic, but I don’t think the FDA has gone that far). So, maybe KK should be planning for any eventual backlash against their bad fat/high fat practices to solidify their market position vs. hastening their decline as more and more health-conscious people finally deal with their addition to fat-laden sweets.

Never happen you say? Hey, I grew up on glazed doughnuts (and every kind of junk food known to mankind), but eventually you have to deal with the facts as they appear on your bathroom scale, and acknowledge the possibility of putting your ticker in harm’s way for the sake of a 30-second sugar high. Mainstream news has appropriately jumped all over the obesity epidemic and congress is even getting on the bandwagon with legislation aimed at educating kids about better eating. So I don’t think it’s too far -etched to extrapolate that a future customer base may want something a tad healthier to wash down with their antioxidant -rich green tea. Maybe Krispy Tofu?
KC's View: