business news in context, analysis with attitude

So I’m in my hotel room watching the coverage of the coming hurricane, and so-called experts are saying that gas prices could go as high as $5 a gallon because of the storm’s impact.

Sound like a self-fulfilling prophesy to us. What I don’t understand is that people were saying this well before the storm hit, well before the extent of damage and refinery delays could be determined. And what’s I’m absolutely sure of is that gas prices are going to go up long before the storm actually hits the coast of Texas – in fact, even before the refineries were closed down.

Most Americans, I think, have no problem paying higher prices when there are shortages or the cost of supplying products actually goes higher. What they take issue with, and become suspicious and hostile about, is timing and lack of credible information that just don’t seem to add up.

That’s a good lesson for any marketer. To look at not just the story, but how the story needs to be communicated to consumers so that bonds of trust between shopper and shopkeeper are not violated.

One of my favorite proverbs translates from the original Latin to: “Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.”

Of course, this proverb only applies if the marketer applies as much importance to the shopper as it does to the shareholder and stock market.

If one thing has been demonstrated by recent events, it is that not every retailer thinks that way.

This week’s coverage of the Jet Blue airplane that had to land at Los Angeles International with compromised landing gear provided another reminder of why marketers have to be utterly honest and above-board with consumers. Modern technology makes total transparency not only possible but likely. As my mother used to say to me, “if you do it, I’m going to find out. So don’t do anything you don’t want me to know about.” (And she didn’t have the Internet. Heaven knows what she would have been able to find out if Google had existed before she died.)

How do I connect this to the Jet Blue event? The passengers on the plane were able to watch the whole thing play out by watching MSNBC at their seats…watching from the outside as the plane burned off fuel, listening to the numerous anchors, reporters and analysts as they discussed the emergency and what could and might happen.

In some of the coverage after the plane landed, one pilot I heard told a reporter that while the Jet Blue pilots could have turned off the TV system, that would have raised anxiety even more. “My first rule in these cases is that I always tell the passengers the truth,” he told the reporter. Letting them watch TV coverage of the event was a way of keeping everyone and everything honest.

Two full days in Seattle this week. Talk about heaven on earth.

Weather was gorgeous. Food was fabulous.

One of my new faves: applesauce doughnuts at Top Pot on 5th Avenue. Yummm…So good that they’re sinful…and actually better than anything I’ve ever had at Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. Thank goodness I live 3,000 miles away, or it could become a problem.

And, as always, I made a visit to Lola for the single best breakfast served anywhere in America – octopus braised in red wine and served as a kind of gumbo with hunks of bacon, enormous hunks of toast, potatoes and a fried egg.

And a quick dinner at the bar of Etta’s, where I had the always impressive black bean and smoked ham soup with tomatillo salsa, crab cakes with green tomato relish, and an amazing dish that consisted of seared "day boat" scallops, pence orchard peaches, westphalian ham, arugula, and ginger honey. Washed down with a smooth 2001 Snoqualmie Syrah (actually, several of them) and topped off with a Granny Smith apple dumpling with cinnamon ice cream.

Y’know, when I write it all down, it doesn’t seem like such a quick dinner.

Don’t tell Mrs. Content Guy. She thinks I was working all week.

I did have to laugh at one thing, though.

On the downtown theater marquee, there was an enormous ad for a production of “The King & I”…starring Stephanie Powers.

Now, I’m assuming that Stephanie Powers is playing Anna and not the King of Siam.

But isn’t she, like, 90 years old at this point? And her character is supposed to have a six-year-old son.

She was playing “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” back in 1966.

The only person that I thought could legitimately play the King opposite her – and make the ages work – is Yul Brynner.

And he’s been dead for 20 years.

You know what looks like a coming city?


Not nearly as big as Seattle, of course, but there seems to be a lot of development going on. A new convention center, a new light rail system, and what seems to be a significant amount of downtown building and rehabilitation.

And, according to a number of people, housing costs that are a fraction of those in Seattle. (For now.)

While I was in Seattle, I heard the same joke told four times by different people. The only thing that changed was the name of the sports team used – twice it was the Seahawks, twice it was the Mariners.

But either way, it expressed the soul of the Seattle sports fan.

Here goes…

I made an enormous mistake the other day. I left two Mariners/Seahawks tickets on the dashboard of my car, parked it on the street, and then forgot to roll up the windows and lock the doors.

When I came back, I found four tickets there.

That’s all, folks…

Have a good weekend.

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