business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a number of emails about the decision by former Wal-Mart executive Tom Coughlin to plead guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion, and our questions about what these kinds of ethical lapses say about Coughlin and executives like him.

MNB user Matthew Smith wrote:

I think the biggest ethical problem plaguing the business world (and really all of humanity) is that we see people like Ken Lay, Bernard Ebbers, Jack Abramhoff, and Tom Coughlin and think "shame on them" instead of "shame on us." They are by no means alone in their transgressions, not by a long shot. Until we stop projecting our ethical failures onto the few that have been caught, we will never repent of our own lust, anger and greed.

MNB user David Livingston wrote:

The only reason we even know about this is because it involves Wal-Mart, which the media goes nuts over. If the same thing had happened at Wegmans perhaps only 5 people in the country would know about it. I think we are going to see more and more bad news from Wal-Mart simply because they have over a million employees and there is just no way that all of them will play nice.

Just think, one in over a million Wal-Mart employees gets nabbed for scamming $500k. How many of our 535 congressmen and senators have misappropriated at least $500k? I like the odds at Wal-Mart better.

Two points:

1) The same thing didn’t happen at Wegmans.
2) That’s the price you pay for being the biggest company. You’re also the biggest target.

We also had a story yesterday about a small baker in Italy who managed to send McDonald’s packing simply by offering better food. Writing about his specialties, MNB noted that “anyone who can read the following words - “mortadella, mozzarella and eggs or scamorza cheese, eggs, basil and tomato, as well as fèdda, a local version of bruschetta — toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and salt and covered in chopped tomatoes” - and not get immediately hungry better go see a doctor. Because they’re probably dead. And if they read those words and still have a hankering for a Big Mac, they ought to se a shrink. Because they’re insane.

One MNB user responded:

I read this just before I went to lunch and nothing in our cafeteria looked or sounded good. If I could, I would be 'on the road to Altamura' myself right this minute! Good for Luigi and his fellow villagers for showing us Americans that the mouse can fell the elephant!

But MNB user Al Kober disagreed:

Doesn't do a thing for me, sorry. But neither does the Big Mac. If it were Burger King or Wendy's .... maybe. But make it a big thick, juicy, flavorful, well-aged, Prime, Certified Angus Beef strip steak..done medium rare, Baked sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar, (maybe substituting cholesterol free butter and brown sugar twin), fresh asparagus with cheddar cheese sauce, Fresh baked rolls, and my wife's home made cole slaw... Now you’re talking. Add a little warm, peach, bread pudding covered with vanilla sauce for desert and a cup of Melitta coffee, and it’s even better.

And, we got a few emails about the story concerning Colleen Wegman. MNB user Michael A. Casciano observed:

Colleen does not mention, but it is clearly a strategic advantage for Wegmans, that they have adopted an EDLP strategy for center-store items.

Although they have limited their selection to the top items in any particular category, their customers know that their every day price can compete with the promoted and every day shelf pricing of their competitors over the long haul. Fresh, low prices and the best place to work in the US.

Any questions?

And another MNB user wrote:

Being privately held looks good to me. If you grow 3% and are profitable and have solid operations, the Wall Street boobs can't say "not enough growth, cut heads, cut expenses, merge functions" (AKA running your chain into the ground- see the growing list of grocery retailers).

KC's View: