business news in context, analysis with attitude

We often write that we think one of the big problems with this industry is that companies often treat their employees like liabilities, not assets. One MNB user disagreed:

Are employees assets or liabilities? Ask your accountant. Employee salaries show on the ledger as a liability. Our expectation is that the employee will do something of value for the company. Our hope is that the employee's actions will create permanent value for the company.

To refer to an employee as an asset is actually to diminish the employee to chattel. We have laws against that.

We believe in the honest exchange of ideas and that we should respect each other, even when we disagree.

But that said, we have to say that this is the biggest load of hooey we’ve ever heard. (But we respect the hooey and your right to express it.)

Employees perform better when they believe that they have value, and they are seen as an asset. That doesn’t make them slaves…it makes them partners in a very real sense.

This kind of obfuscation and rationalization is what hurts the food industry most.

Not that we feel strongly about this.

We wrote yesterday about Gap Inc.’s plans to launch a new brand, Forth & Towne, which will target baby boomer women aged 35 and older, who want stylish age-appropriate clothing and a less frenetic shopping experience.

In our commentary, we noted that we were reminded of years ago when Mrs. Content Guy complained that she couldn’t shop at Gap anymore because the company had changed. Which left it to us to make the delicate point that maybe it wasn’t Gap that had changed, but she who had gotten older. (Not the smartest point to make to a wife, but we’ve never gotten big points for brains…)

To which MNB user Philip Herr responded:

I'm with Mrs. Content Guy on this one. A few years ago Gap totally lost its way, alienating so many people (like our wives) who had built their business during the mid to late 90's. Gap chose to go after a younger target, bumping up against Old Navy and leaving their traditional shopper disillusioned. In the last couple of years they have come back and reinstated the basics that made them so attractive before.

Oh, sure. She already outranks us, and now she has support in the MNB community.


We wrote yesterday about celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s attempts to bring better, healthier food to British public schools, and said that “these are the kinds of initiatives that the US supermarket industry ought to get behind…creating a population of young people who know how and why to eat better will only help business…and it would put supermarkets on the side of the angels.”

Not everyone agreed.

MNB user Susan L. Gadd wrote:

This is crazy. Why do we, the General public, insistent on blaming everyone but ourselves for the obesity in children? Kids eat 1 or 2 meals at school. The rest of the time they are home. Parents and children need to be responsible for what they put in their mouth. You make a choice every time you eat something. It is all things in moderation.

I grew up in Southeastern Ohio on a farm. There were a total of 6 in my family. My mom cooked 3 times a day and we went to McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Burger Chef. We had meat, potatoes, vegetables, cakes, pies, and cookies. It was glorious food!!!! No diet, low fat or Low carbs foods. None of us were fat, more on the thin side and none of us are today. We worked, rode our bikes, played badminton, softball, kickball in our yard. Walked the quarter of mile to the barn. We did something all the time.

Too many kids are sedentary. Sitting…playing video games…hanging out. Yes, we can be better educated on what to eat and how to fix it. I commend this guy in England. But the bottom line is you, and only you, are responsible for what your hand takes, puts in your mouth and how much of it.

We don’t disagree with most of what you wrote.

But the fact is that there are more obese kids out there today than ever before. We can keep saying that these kids and their parents need to be responsible, but somehow the right information and the importance of using it seems to be slipping through the cracks.

The school is a great place to do some consciousness-raising, and maybe turn some kids around, and maybe even create customers for life.

By the way, kids and their parents ought to have the responsibility for making sure the kids read “The Great Gatsby” instead of Marvel comics…but we’d be annoyed if schools didn’t teach what is perhaps the greatest American novel ever written. Mental health and physical health are connected…it is all part of helping kids become educated, fully rounded individuals.

(By the way, we try and read “Gatsby” once a year…just because it reminds us of what artistry and great writing really is. If you haven’t read it since high school, we recommend going back and giving it another look…because reading “Gatsby” as an adult because you want to, not because it is homework…is an entirely different experience.)

One MNB user thought that our notion of getting supermarkets involved with initiatives like better food in schools was a pretty good idea:

You’re so right about this. And from a financial perspective, it makes sense, too, if only the supermarket companies would take a moment to realize it. What I’ve learned from my years in the business is that the dollars are in the perishables, and the perishables like fresh meat and produce tend to be the healthiest choices. Wouldn’t it seem to make sense for members of the food-retailing community to band together to push these healthier choices in schools? If not for the public-good, then at least for the bottom line? (And they could always pretend to have our best interests at heart, true or not.)

We wrote yesterday that the American Family Association (AFA) has announced that it has lifted its boycott of consumer packaged goods company Procter & Gamble, a boycott that was announced because the group was offended by P&G’s sponsorship of gay-themed television programs such as “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The organization said that more than 400,000 people had signed a petition pledging to boycott P&G products.

P&G would not say whether it actually changed its sponsorship decisions, but said it was glad that the AFA had decided to lift its boycott.

Our commentary:

People have a right to buy or not buy any product they choose, and groups certainly have a right to organize boycotts based on whatever criteria they like. And we certainly understand why P&G doesn’t want to rile up either side of the political aisle or cultural divide. After all, it isn’t good for business.

That said, we sort of wish that P&G – which has endured other boycott threats from irrational types charging that it funnels profits to Satanists – had been a little more dismissive of AFA. Would it have been so terrible for P&G to say, “we market to everybody, because everybody buys toothpaste/laundry detergent/whatever, and we’re not interested in knuckling under to the illegitimate demands of any fringe group, whether liberal or conservative.”

MNB user Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

No, KC - it would not have been terrible to say, " We market to everyone, because everyone buys our products". What it would have been was risky and innovative, and dare I say, bold... Qualities sadly lacking in many large companies. And gee, maybe by standing up to special interest fringe groups, they would have actually appealed to the majority of consumers!

Another MNB user responded:

Money talks. There was a time when it was not necessary for consumers to use the power of money to speak to advertisers using things not suitable for family viewing to advertise their products because advertisements used to be rated G.

Sadly, that is not the case any more. Advertisements are often distasteful. Companies quietly support things that are distressing to the majority when they come into the light. Letting the company know that there are other ways to advertise is now necessary. Speaking out against things companies quietly support, that are not supported by the majority should be done.

Large, powerful companies recognize the voices of those speaking when it affects the bottom line. The company then can decide if it wishes to continue on its current path with less customers or alter its current course of action.

Few people take the time to write letters to corporations. It is easier for many to vote by reaching for a different product in the grocery story. I agree that some things are unfounded, like the Satanist rumors about P & G.

It is important for those starting such a boycott to verify the truth before garnering support. When the truth is verified, as in this most recent P & G issue, customers have spoken. Sure, there are people who do not care what kind of advertising a company does or what issues it supports. There are also many people who do care about that kind of thing and those people should let their concerns be known.

There are many issues today that if they came to a vote, would be defeated.

Yet these issues are being forced upon the majority by a minority group using behind the scenes tactics to make them come to pass. Our country was founded on the principles of democracy where the majority rules. In a situation where that is not the case, those on the side of the majority must not be silent.

If it takes voting by boycott, so be it.

We support the notion of democracy, and even the right to boycott…even in the face of filibuster.

What we don’t understand is that P&G didn’t tell the AFA that it didn’t knuckle under to irrational threats.

You write about distasteful advertising. Maybe we’re having a senior moment, but we can’t ever remember P&G producing a tasteless commercial. The AFA wasn’t objecting to ads, just to their being run on programs that they object to.

We just think it is problematic for P&G – or any other company – to give these guys any sort of credibility…especially when all P&G wanted to do was sell soap to people who happen to be gay.
KC's View: