business news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding yesterday's piece about the state of supermarket frequent shopper programs, MNB user Matt Weeks wrote:

I agree with your rather politic summary that in spite of the complexity and difficulty of the effort, the industry should continue to try harder.

This article really illustrates the lack of mainstream industry expertise in the hardcore consumer marketing, predictive analysis and related skills-set. In fact, there are hundreds of talented executives around the country who are steeped in such blending of traditional consumer-driven marketing “ideas” and entrepreneurial energy, and also happen to understand and be expert in the handling of the data analysis and systems management that has emerged over the last 15 years. These people just happen to be in other industries.

Shame on the “CRM,” POS, Advertising and other systems firms that sell these Maserati-like systems to Retail firms that are only equipped (from a management standpoint) to drive old Chevys. While I like classic cars, I need a new and faster one to beat my competition in these days of ever-increasing competition, and ever-shrinking margins.

Shame on the big Retail firms for lacking the leadership and insight to pull from outside their close-knit industry and obtain the required expertise. It seems that the word “insular” still accurately describes some executive suites.

“Not invented here” is the death-knoll to anything connected with technology. The leadership lesson is that if it’s “hard” to do and “complex” to implement, that is no reason to give up or tolerate mediocrity. Apparently that’s still “too hard” of a concept to pick up. Sad, really, since the earliest adopters and practitioners of the current best practices are due to grab market share and consumer delight.

Regarding our continuing coverage of Ahold's problems and attempts to extricate itself, one (obviously disapproving) MNB user wrote:

Are you sure you don't get a paycheck from Ahold? You sure are extremely concerned about their future being bright and free from blemishes. You could get a job with a better company than them.

We already work for a better company…not because it is "better," but because it is "ours." (Mrs. Content Guy says that we don't play well with others…)

As for being sympathetic to Ahold, we're not sure that the many people that we've criticized over there would agree with your characterization. We actually think we've been pretty tough on them.

(We'd say we've been "fair and balanced,' but we'd probably get hit with a lawsuit by Fox News…)

In a piece yesterday about Wal-Mart facing possible unionization of one of its Canada stores, we wrote, "Last time Wal-Mart faced this issue, it was when a bunch of meat cutters decided to unionize…and before you could say 'Bentonville Behemoth,' the entire company was switching to boxed beef, therefore eliminating any need for meat cutters."

We misspoke.

MNB user Tom DeMott wrote:

I need to clarify your comments below; the last part of your first sentence should read, “the entire company was switching to case ready beef…”

Boxed beef is most commonly used by food retailers and you need meat cutters to process, tray, wrap and put it into the case. Case ready beef, as the name implies, already comes packaged and ready to put in the case.

Thanks, Tom. Sorry about the error.

In response to that same story, MNB user David K. Bennion wrote:

Don’t be surprised to see drastic measures if this store unionizes. If I were running Wal-Mart, I would immediately shut the store down, leaving all the employee’s jobless. I’d rather cut my losses in this market than let the disease of unionization spread throughout the company. One of the things that has made Wal-Mart so successful is their efficiency and ability to drive down costs, passing the savings onto the consumer. I’ve talked to many Wal-Mart associates, and all are happy with the company. Unions would only create inefficiency and increase expense that the consumer would have to pay for in higher prices. This flies in the face of what Sam Walton and Wal-Mart is all about.

In response to a story earlier this week about Meijer signing a new deal with the union representing many of its employees, and our commentary wondering how and Meijer could do that in an environment where its major competitor is the assiduously anti-union Wal-Mart, one MNB user responded:

Perhaps Meijer sees the value in paying good wages in hopes it leads to reduced turnover, improved store operations, and better customer service? I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one . . . but then again, they do operate in the most unionized state in the country.

We're not questioning Meijer's wisdom. Just musing out loud about the possible implications.

Another MNB user, however, was not impressed:

Will these pay raises give Meijer associates better attitudes? Will customers receive better service? Will the cashier greet me with a hello? I ask for good service, not great! Our Meijer (Northville, MI) doesn't seem to understand what hiring nice, friendly, happy to have my job people are!

What will these raises do to company overhead? Will the produce be worse than it already is because Meijer can't afford to purchase decent product?

Maybe I'm exaggerating or being too harsh, but realistically speaking, what exactly are these raises going to do for the people who spend their hard earned money at Meijer?

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

I have never written in before, but you made mention of something in today's news brief that I had to comment on. You mentioned the word Chipotle. With all of the McDonalds news lately, it seems that they are not getting much positive press on this miracle of an eating establishment (ok, miracle may be overstating things, but the word Chipotle make my mouth water).

Here in Arizona, they are popping up everywhere, and my office building has responded in droves. I personally recommend the Carnitas, or the white meat combo (Carnitas with extra Chicken added for a small fee).

I think that as this chain grows, we will be hearing more about Chipotle!


Finally, in response to our story yesterday about a new McDonald's format going up in New Orleans, and our comment that we couldn’t understand how anyone could eat there in a city with so many fabulous restaurants, one MNB user wrote:

Early morning in New Orleans -- Black ham biscuits (for the uninitiated - the sugar-cure crust and top layer of their oven-roasted ham -- get there early as it goes fast!) and strong coffee at Mother's.


Followed by a leisurely stroll before a mid-morning snack of piping hot beignets and more strong coffee at Cafe Du Monde.


Our point exactly.

Is there anything better?

We love the smell of beignets and coffee in the morning. They smell of…victory. (Meaning we survived last night's Big Easy meal and carousing on Bourbon Street…)
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