business news in context, analysis with attitude

We continue to get a lot of email about the import of cheaper prescription medications from Canada, especially with regard to yesterday's story that the mayor of Springfield, Mass., was defying the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by continuing to import these medicines.

MNB user Jerry McKerrihan had one typical response to this:

God Bless Springfield, Massachusetts. I'm glad that they are willing to fight for what they believe is right. The drug situation is the US is getting out of hand and prices are skyrocketing. Someone needs to send a wake up call to the drug companies and this may be it.

While MNB user Jack Ericsson wrote the following "open letter" to Springfield's mayor:

Thank you for your outstanding demonstration of leadership in thumbing your nose at the FDA and the re-importation drug law. I now realize that citizens only have to obey the laws that they wish to obey. If driving through Springfield, citizens can ignore posted speed limits if they so choose. If ticketed, they can ignore paying it since it is cheaper to ignore. Citizens- pick and choose the laws you will follow and the ones you won't follow. The mayor is the shining example.

Regardless of the which side you are on in the controversy over drug pricing, you have shown us the way to anarchy. Wonderful.

MNB user Brian Fox wrote:

I have a very hard time believing the feds statement that brand name prescription drugs from Canada are any different or any less effective that what is available here. Why would big pharma go to the trouble of making a Canadian version, a European version etc. I think that is a scare tactic to keep the consumer "inside" the border on those purchases.

And MNB user Richard Lowe reported:

I checked out a prescription yesterday that Wal-Mart wanted $103 for and bought is online for $28.99 including shipping. Quite a difference I would

We also continue to get letters about the nature of work, of employment, and the relationship between employers and employees.

One MNB user, who asked not to be identified, wrote to follow up on an email we posted earlier this week:

I wrote to you earlier this week. I'm the guy who works for Safeway, Inc., until the end of next week, when I'm being laid-off, along with several hundred others, because business is down and the top executives, who made bad decisions, don't lose their jobs, while we do. Anyway, what I didn't include in my letter was that I/we are losing my/our jobs because these positions are being eliminated and sent "offshore" (your article's euphemism for the Philippines or India).

I agree with what you and the article said about the employees remaining. The people left behind here are not very confident about their longevity either. Their workload is going to be much, much greater, and there is this feeling that they are being kept to continue the transition of work from here in the U.S. to the "offshore" workers in those other countries.

I wholeheartedly agree with the final statement in your view: "there's nothing more upsetting to someone who has an emotional investment in their place of business than when an employer doesn't respect those feelings.". Everyone on my team, most of whom are gone next week, are feeling betrayed because we had that "emotional investment" in our place of business, and our employer rewarded us with this."

And another MNB user wrote:

Yes, you are right, the idea that an employee should be satisfied to be collecting a paycheck at all in difficult times, is nonsense. Despite your opinion and the opinion of others, however, the nonsense will continue. Having watched loyal, honest, hardworking, already underpaid employees suddenly dropped by the firing squad in our corporation, loyalty to the company and morale are ebbing within me and other employees. This, combined with ever increasing responsibilities, the pressure of completing work by a deadline, innovative ideas demanding more production, and the "Who's next, is it I?" tune playing in the back of one's head all leave the taste of ashes in the current employee's mouths.

Well-trained, experienced, thinking, productive employees are what makes a company successful. The oil in the machinery, however is pay commensurate with responsibility, benefits, respect, appreciation, and security. Repeated, unexpected layoffs drain the oil off like a hole in the crankcase. Keeping the corporation bottom line in the black, however, takes precedence over everything and Salaries seems to be the first line item considered for adjustment. Lean and mean will help the bottom line, but often leads to employee burn out or to employees doing insidious things behind the Corporation back. Unfortunately in today's job market, the solution of seeking other employment is an illusive dream.

Regarding our story about this year's wine harvest, MNB user Steve Frantz wrote:

Regarding the grape harvest . . . my sister and her husband have a small (<10 acres) vineyard that produces some great zinfandel grapes that are then turned into marvelous wine via Robert Biale et al. They picked yesterday and this year their acreage produced more tonnage than it ever has in the past. Of course with a single data point we can draw the line anywhere we want -- here's to a bountiful harvest!


Regarding yesterday's piece about private label growth, MNB user Joel Warady wrote:

It is not surprising that Private Label growth in Europe exceeds the growth in the U.S. Many years ago, European retailers made the strategic decision that if a product was going to carry their corporate or store brand name, it had to be innovative and better than similar products offered by the brands. Over time, the European retailer has conditioned their customer to expect higher quality and innovation at a better value than many national brands. As long as the US retailer continues to focus on National Brand Equivalent products only, private label growth will be slow, if not stagnant. When US retailers mistakenly assume that their consumers only want a product that is "as good" as the national brand, but cheaper, they are selling their consumer short. Studies have shown that the consumer will pay a higher price for a product that is superior and innovative, whether it is from a national brand or a retailer's store brand. A higher priced innovative product can also generate higher margins, and still remain priced below the national brand. Trader Joe's is a great example of a retail chain successfully executing this strategy. This strategy requires an investment of time due to the fact that consumers don't change behavior overnight. But the long-term investment will result in long-term gains, and ultimately more loyal customers.

On a different subject, one member of the MNB community wrote:

Just a comment about the comment you received concerning all the KK donuts in and around a KK bakery. The KK bakery made all those donuts and simply distributed them to the gas stations, grocery stores, etc. So the franchisee is not upset; that's his bread and butter. No KK bakery can sell retail all the donuts they produce in 24 hours so they sell wholesale (as well as for fund raisers) in order to maximize the capacity of the bakery.


And, the email keeps coming about the Atkins Diet, as MNB user Al Kober wrote:

There are many other "Diets, or life style eating changes" that come to play in this area. "Sugar Busters" has also seen an increase of exposure. Sugar Busters also promotes more protein and less carbs while almost eliminating all sugar. The ironic thing is there are still those who think that the only way to diet is limited to reducing fat and calories, while these new eating lifestyles put little emphasis on fat or calories but more on carbs and sugar. Look at the label, When fat is taken out of a food, sugar is increased to bring some of that good flavor back. Eating more carbs and lower fat foods will only work if the total amount of food eaten is reduced, while on the low carb and no sugar diet, the amount of food eaten in not as important.

And MNB user Don Sutton wrote:

The Atkins diet may be here for quite a spell. As the Grocery Manager of the #1 store in the state (NE) I run into a growing number of people seeking and requesting the Atkins Diet compatible foods. The Atkins Advantage bars took off immediately - faster than any diet or energy bar I've ever seen. Even some of the pricier items are doing well.

Bottom line: the sales are there and will continue to be there for some time to come become because it's the easiest diet to lose weight on and, to top things off, it can be the least expensive. The only real expense can be just the cost of the book.

How do I know?

For openers, since the middle of summer I'm down almost 35 lbs. People ask me what I'm doing and I tell them. |And this is possibly the best marketing help of all - there is a lot of excellent "word of mouth" out there. The naysayers I've talked to generally fall into two groups: those who haven't tried it and those lacking the will power to stick it out for the first couple of weeks (when things are a little Spartan).

Stores who don't get with the program are losing sales to those who do. I promise this is the case.

Remember, it doesn't have to carry the Atkins brand, it just has to conform to the program. Unlike many programs, you don't have to buy any of the suggested foods from the company. And for the occasional "cheater" there are pills that bind up around 70% the carbs in a meal - available at drug stores. You just take a couple about half an hour before eating. (My wife found the article on these in "Women's World," which we sell at our check stands.)

And that's another advantage - you can cheat and get away with it. I could have lost more than I have, by now, but a more laid back approach should produce the habits that will make it easier to stay with long term.

Once I went on the diet, and learned some of the ins and outs, I started recognizing things my customers we looking at and requesting. They share some pretty amazing stories about weight loss, themselves and others.

Guys, this is with us for the long haul. As we used to say in the sixties, partially in jest - "cop out, climb on, cash in."

Was that what we said in the sixties? We remember "Make love, not war…"

And finally, in response to yesterday's piece about the LL Bean Christmas catalog showing up before autumn officially has begun, one MNB user wrote:

I have a part time retail job and Monday they received shipment of Christmas gift sets. I visited my local TJMaxx store today and they have three isles dedicated to the holiday. Funny thing is that just last week they didn't have Halloween merchandise and now they have both. Sorry I am not in the Christmas spirit yet when most of the GREEN leaves are still on the trees and I don't have to wear a jacket.

Hell, we even thought it was a little early to put out the Halloween candy…
KC's View: