business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about the growth of screw tops on wine bottles, which prompted the following email from an MNB user:

I am one of the odd ones who manages to be both an Anglophile and a Francophile simultaneously -- so this should theoretically be an issue for me. But it's not.

I'm completely on-board with synthetic corks -- even the winemakers of France grudgingly admit that they are in some cases even better than natural cork.

There's an environmental push being made that the cork forests are a valuable ecological resource (because it's a renewable resource, etc., etc.), and there's some sort of wild cat that lives in the cork forests that will suffer if cork farming goes the way of the dinosaur. Plus, I have a collection of really cool corks I've had the pleasure of removing from their bottles over the years.

Composite corks are okay, so long as they don't crumble into bits and make a mess in my wine.

But screw tops? Sorry, screw-top wine is just linked way too tightly in my mind with the big bottles of California plonk my folks drank in the 70's (awful stuff!), cheap Lambrusco in college 'cause we couldn't afford anything else (ugh again), and airplane wine (For the Love of God, NOOOOOOOOO!). Ain't gonna happen in MY house!

Yesterday's MNB featured a piece about expected losses to be declared by Ahold. MNB user Etna Gray responded:

Unless they restructure their US Foodservice upper management in each location to actually focus on the customer instead of their career, it is very doubtful they will succeed.


We joked yesterday about Fleming's current "open door policy" meaning to many people that they shouldn't let the door hit them in the rear end on the way out, which prompted MNB user Joan Cole to make a serious point:

Please don't forget that the same open door policy may apply to sales representatives of all companies who have been calling on Fleming over the past several years! It's more than just Fleming employees who will be affected by the bankruptcy.

On the subject of obesity and personal responsibility, one MNB user wrote:

When do the parents of children accept responsibility for what the children are eating? We are a society of convenience and of dual working parents - if the child is lucky enough to have two parents that is!? McDonalds is easy and cheap, but nobody mistakes it for health food. Why should McDonalds be responsible for taking care of society's children? As much as I hate smoking, the tobacco lawsuit settlement is leading first to fast food and then to whatever is next on your list of 'things you like'?

Let's grow up!!

We also had a long story and commentary yesterday about Wal-Mart's fight with Contra Costa County in California, where a referendum will decide whether an ordinance against supercenter development will stand. MNB user Andy Casey had some thoughts on the issue:

Seems to me, the issue has more to do with the ordinance limiting what can be sold inside these stores rather than simply the size of the stores.

This ordinance is not about oversized stores and the attendant traffic, police, fire protection and general nuisance they may bring to the surrounding area. It would not, for example, preclude Home Depot, Sears or whomever from opening a 100,000 square foot design center store. As narrowly as it is written, this proposed law is aimed squarely at supercenters regardless of who operates them, and frankly, targeting a single type of competitor with a blanket prohibition is unfair.

As you point out in your comments, there are significant reasons to be against the various headaches any type of large, popular retail business brings. Where I live, the board of county commissioners recently turned down requests by both Wal-Mart and Target to build supercenters on a large urban highway because it would have raised traffic counts on that already burdened stretch of road to even worse levels. But before they turned them down, they looked at the merits of each application independently, solicited a tremendous amount of public input, and gave each firm the opportunity to make changes that would have made the project acceptable to the area. All parties had the opportunity to make their case, and then the commissioners did what we elected them for - they made their decision based on what they considered the greater common good.

Interestingly, sometimes these decisions are made by officials looking to protect local businesses. We also had a story yesterday about small businesses successfully competing with Wal-Mart through the art of differentiation, which prompted the following email from an MNB user:

It does my heart good to see stories like this. I particularly like the comment from the pharmacist that "Wal-Mart made me a better businessman. You look at ways to compete".

Certainly it is more refreshing (and useful) than the tired old saw of how Wal-Mart is ruining the world for everyone else. I wonder if there might be a lesson there for some of the larger chains trying to compete with Wal-Mart as well?


And, by the way, it does our heart good to write such stories…
KC's View: