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In yesterday’s story about Albertsons, we wrote that two points seemed evident: One is that Albertsons’ days as a proud retailing name are over. At this point, it is in its death throes, and all that remains is for the carcass to be picked over. The second is that however the company is sold and divided, the stores themselves have no real future until whoever or whatever owns them decides to create a compelling and differentiated shopping experience.

MNB user Greg Hall, who works for Albertsons, responded:

Are you nuts? Death throes? We’re expanding, we’re hiring, we’re paying dividends every quarter and if we’re in trouble what does that say about Safeway and Kroger? Safeway can’t unload Dominick’s and Kroger can’t get into New England and they’re higher priced than we are and their stock closed at $18.99 a share which is lower than ours. Our 52 week low is $19.26 which is still higher than what Kroger is trading at today. Also, what do you mean by differentiation? We’ve got Pharmacies, Gas Stations/C Stores, in store butchers who’ll cut your meat and steaks to order, people go out of their way to buy their meat from Albertsons and the produce is top notch. You can pay at our checkout lines with credit cards, debit cards, check or cash and you can buy stamps too. You can use self checkout lanes if want too. We’ve got the best lighted parking lots in the industry, we’ve got on-line shopping and delivery. And oh yeah, if the other guys are so smart how come it was Albertsons the scored the coup with Shaw’s two years ago when we bought them from Sainsbury (who needed the cash to support their UK operations)?

That’s why I disagree with you on your assessment of Albertsons.

That’s fine. We admire your loyalty.

We would ask why Albertsons is for sale, and not Kroger and Safeway.

And we would point to the words in this morning’s Albertsons story:

“Albertson's has been underperforming and its margins have declined steadily.”

MNB user Marv Imus had the following thought about online shopping:

This, I am sure, will come as no surprise to you but we did 95% of our shopping this year over the Internet. You could say we had a “google Christmas” or more appropriate an Amazoned Christmas. As for the 5 % not purchased, those were bought as spontaneous gifts while out at dinner, or visiting, and were not planned. It was great!

Of course we only spent with trusted sites and did not open any new accounts because all could be found at those trusted sites. As for daughter, she just emailed us her wish list that was on her home page and there we had all the “suggestions” ( with links ) we could ask for. For the next 20 years to boot!

And responding to Ken Fobes’ latter yesterday about his online shopping experience, MNB user Kevin McCaffery wrote:

I had the same experience as Ken Fobes; I shopped on line at a web site that also has brick and mortar stores.

The store is less than a mile from the house so I went in to see and touch the product I wanted to buy. I found the section that the product would have been in, but it was a mess boxes everywhere (none where the item I was looking for) I looked around for some “help” but the “help” in the store was minimal and the few people they did have did not look like they where going to be much “help”. So I went home ordered it on line, no lines, no waiting, no searching for a parking space, no burning gas. What could be better? The better the Internet gets the more irrelevant the brick and mortar stores become.

One MNB user had a thought about our piece yesterday about wireless retailing:

Regarding wireless card processing, I personally took advantage of it last night at a basketball game. Here in Oklahoma City in the Ford Center arena where the displaced New Orleans Hornets have been very positively embraced you can order and pay by credit card right from your seat via a handheld wielded by a waitperson (wearing an official's jersey). Your order is transmitted wirelessly and delivered to you in your seat. Pretty slick.

Sounds like a great way to enjoy a ballgame.

In a story yesterday about restaurant trends, we noted that table-top televisions have been identified by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) as a coming trend. Our comment:

While we understand that wireless Internet access in restaurants can be annoying to some people who actually show up without their laptops, we have to admit that this is an enormous benefit for people like us.

But table-top televisions? Give us a break.

One of the worst things ever to happen to the American culinary experience and the family structure was the trend that had people eating dinner in front of the television set. The idea that the culture would want to replicate that experience in a restaurant seems, to be honest, appalling.

MNB user Evan J. Zobel responded:

I have to disagree with you. One of the most enjoyable dining experiences for me was at a wing place in Columbia, South Carolina when we lived there. During the NFL season when my beloved Chiefs were rarely shown in the local market, I went to this wing place where each table had a small TV where one could watch all the Direct TV NFL game transmissions and flip between channels during commercials or to go to the channel that had the fantasy statistics continuously updated. This is far more intimate and enjoyable than the noise at some sports bars with limited televisions and seating is chosen by which game is being shown on which TV.

We suppose that in certain locations, like sports-themed restaurants, they would be appropriate. What worries us is that the trend expands beyond that.

Another MNB user wrote:

One of the delights of eating in restaurants is the opportunity for all parties to have a conversation, enjoy each other’s company, uninterrupted –and with no dishes to clean afterwards! Table top TV’s would make me cross that restaurant off my list of places to frequent. Wireless internet…..maybe have a section like the old “smoking sections” so those who want that can have it, and those who want a relaxing conversational experience can have that. (being in California, we have no smoking at all which is literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air!)

We’ll buy that. A laptop section in restaurants seems pretty smart.

MNB user Susan Garrett wrote:

My question is in regards to your view that is acceptable to have a laptop at the table but it is appalling to have a television at the table. What is the difference? Both are diverting attention away from the meal. I suppose for those who dine solo this might prove to be a welcome change from sitting alone, but those who are with family and friends should concentrate on sharing time together talking and being together.

The difference, at the risk of seeming self-absorbed, is that we spend 30 percent of the time on the road by ourselves and being able to check on email while waiting for the meal to be served is in our best interests.

We have no better answer than that.

KC's View: