business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, sometimes known as “spychips” and the subject of some concern that it will be abused and could even be a tool of Satan, one MNB user wrote:

Of course there will be the predictable misuse. People with unpopular views will probably be subject to illegal surveillance…Parties in power will probably do all sorts of illegal things to maintain power and manipulate history. Imagine the Nixon White House with this kind of tool.

The real threat, however, is the possibility of cyber terrorism.

What if a few countries like China, North Korea and others on the "enemy" list pay for the creation of an anti-American campaign. Countries like India, for instance, are turning out computer professionals in numbers we no longer match. Suppose they target political figures with everything from identity theft to wiping out bank accounts and stock portfolios. Suppose they follow a key figure to a hospital and hack into the computer running his life support systems.

The dozens of real threats out there are REALLY scary, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Spy chips may not be an idea whose time has come until absolute security is guaranteed.

We wrote yesterday that we have to wonder how far backward our culture has to go in order to avoid “Orwellian implications.” Stop using credit cards? EZPass? Computers? TiVo? Cell phones? All of these technologies provide the opportunity for someone somewhere to track our movements…and we’re not willing to give up any of them. Our assumption has always been that if someone wants to infringe on our privacy, they’ll have to have a good reason and get a court order…though recent developments suggest that this may not always be the case. (That’s a whole different debate…)

To which MNB user Don Longo wrote:

You are so right. I recall that bar codes, when they first came out, were also linked to the Devil.

We had an MNB user yesterday writing about a nightmare experience shopping for graham cracker crumbs in a Safeway store…which led another MNB user to write:

I have had such experiences in stores and we no longer have Safeway stores in Kansas City. A while ago I submitted my view in this space for the importance of stores setting up a computer that customers can self-operate to locate products. It would seem that this could be supported by a software company that could market its product to any supermarket. The one thing that would be necessary would be data entry by staff of locations when products are moved. (Note, I did not say "if" products are moved, but "when" products are moved. In the ever-present pressure to increase sales, new locations for products seems to be the store's idea of the way to increase sales. NOT from my perspective. If I cannot find the wanted item, how can I buy it?)

As a person who shops without a list, I usually use the method of see the item, know I need it at home, put it in the cart. This works wonderfully well when things can be found in the same place in the store, or at least close to the same place. Try locating tooth picks, book or box matches, cup cake papers, and other items not in the cart on a regular basis, however. Each store has its own hidey hole for such things. Many people, like myself, do not have an hour on any given evening or weekend to locate items in a store or stores. The woman seeking graham cracker crumbs would have been far better off taking a box of graham crackers home, putting them in a plastic bag with a twist tie and rolling a can of vegetables over the crackers until they were crumbs. Guaranteed not to take an hour and definitely way lower on the frustration scale. Sometimes, however, the sought product cannot be obtained with improvisation. Once, I ran my legs off in a store trying to locate the refrigerated pickles. Several employees there did not even know what I was asking for. I finally went to another store where I knew where they were because I really needed the pickles. A huge time-eating experience.

If the stores had a locating computer, one could find out AT THE DOOR which direction to head, and even if the product is sold in that store before going any further. (What this would interfere with is the idea that I might walk past an item and pick it up while seeking something else.)

We had a piece yesterday about New leaf Community Markets in California, which led MNB user Phyllis Palmer to write:

I like that it’s apparent that a company like New Leaf…has 1) a sense of humor, and 2) imaginative people not bound by PC or PM (Proper Marketing) concepts.

Bring it on in this lackluster grocery environment! What a breath of fresh air!

On the subject of new layoffs planned by Kmart, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

Kmart was already running on skeleton crews. It will be interesting to see just how few employees they will try to get by with. CEO Eddie Lampert might be the last man standing when its all said and done. Wal-Mart is opening 300-400 new stores and Kmart is laying off ---- do the math.
KC's View: