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Lots of email about the Maryland bill requiring Wal-Mart to spend an amount equal to at least eight percent of their payroll on health care benefits, or pay a penalty to the state’s health insurance program.

One MNB user wrote:

While I agree with your comments on the Wal-Mart healthcare bill in Maryland and your thoughts on how Wal-Mart might react, I think the bigger issue is "do we really want this type of help from the government"? Where does it stop...should we legislate that Wegmans use thicker plastic cups in its Maryland store delis to "protect" our constituents from spills? Should we legislate in CA that all employees must have business attire allowances? Again, where does it stop? I have more faith in free enterprise and capitalism when it comes to regulating business practices than I do in the bozos in matter which party is in control. The former is driven by the employee and consumer, the latter is driven by the need for soundbites (Example: the Alito hearings where the committee spent more time talking than asking questions), egos, and the quest for votes...often from the vocal minority at the expense of the silent majority.

It is a sad day in Maryland!

MNB user Andy Casey wrote:

But the truth here is that WM really is right when it says legislation like this doesn't address the problem of healthcare for the uninsured. (Everyone please note, I didn't say WM's healthcare policies are right). There are numerous problems that make this approach terrible public policy, including:
- What is magical about 8% and 10,000 employees, and more specifically does anybody really think if the legislature is able to make this stick it won't be 10% and 5,000 employees in a few years? They will consider it "found money" for sure.

- Are they really saying to all the uninsured out there that if you don't have health insurance "just go get a job"? I bet most people in that situation have already thought of that. But not just any job, get one at a large employer because if they aren't big enough we don't care whether they provide insurance or not (and a lot of them don't).

There is a real crisis with healthcare in this country, and we need to demand our legislators work for real solutions rather than pretending they are working on it by passing the ball back and forth with private industry like a hot potato.

Another MNB user wrote:

Funniest thing I heard about this Maryland health care law was this morning on the radio when a WMT spokesperson patiently explained to the radio interviewer that the reason WMT spent less money on health care for its workers was that they were “younger and healthier” than other large groups of employees. I bet it’s news to the actuarial folks that being an hourly employee at WMT makes you less of a health risk.

Links up nicely with the flap some time ago over them trying to drive out employees who were less young, less healthy, or just less willing to work for less money.

I don’t “hate” Wal-Mart – but they have to learn to become better at how they project their power and the perception of that power – as it is, they have pioneered Everyday Low Public Image – EDLPi.

MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

I really doubt that some low wage unskilled worker at Wal-Mart will wake up tomorrow with a complete healthcare package. Most likely Wal-Mart will react aggressively. I don't see them closing stores but rather just firing about 8,000 employees and hiring them back through temporary staffing agencies. These people will no longer be Wal-Mart employees but employees of a staffing firm.

This should buy them some time until the next election giving Wal-Mart time to hand pick the next group of legislators and finance their campaigns.

And another MNB user wrote:

Hard to imagine that government is now legislating how a business will do business. Government should be focused on revamping our totally dysfunctional health care system-- one that simply needs to change.

One thing some folks fail to understand--- if you impact profitability of a business (or businesses), that alone will be more detrimental to employee's prosperity.

And-- I don't even want to get started on the lack of confidence I have in how the money would be used for those companies that would pay into a general fund. Yeah, right.

And yet another MNB user wrote:

The article states “There are 786,000 uninsured people in the state of Maryland and less the ∏ of one percent work for Wal-Mart” as if this is a good thing. Simple math shows that to mean approximately 3,900 people employed by Wal-Mart in Maryland don’t have insurance. I think that’s shameful.

We had a story on Friday about how Albertsons management seemed to be willing to restart the process of selling the company, which led one MNB user (and Albertsons employee) to write:

Why just last week we heard they ( upper moorans…management) said that they were “committed” to revitalizing the company… At this point being an employee I wish “someone” up there knew if we were coming or going???!!! They make WAY too much to be so wishy washy!!!

On the subject of the future of foods, one MNB user had some thoughts:

I am actively involved in nearly every part of these trends. On a business level, I am the buyer for Organic Produce for a major retailer in the Southeast and can see the changes in our customers in just the past year regarding Organic purchases. I can agree with this insight. On a personal level, I have joined Weight Watchers for the first time in my life and am committed to losing the excess baggage. In doing this, I have become very conscious about what goes in the mouth and what kinds of foods I like to eat. I count calories, dietary fiber, and grams of fat. So far, this has been rather easy for me and I am proud to say that I have dropped 13 pounds in the first 13 days on the program. Part of my dietary program includes a more focused eye on eating whole grain foods, specifically multi-grain lite breads with meals.

If I can be considered as part of a greater movement, my own observations would easily agree to all of the "likely" food trends.

We had a piece last year about how Starbucks has a new marketing agreement with Lionsgate Films to promote a film in-store and also sell DVDs and soundtracks. This led one MNB user to write:

So, Starbucks is looking to invest in the film industry... Does this mean they want to be featured in the films (their stores or coffee that is), or that they want to get some return for their investment? Just like any other investor in any other project.

Personally, I hope they do well.

Not because I'm a huge fan of Starbucks. In fact, I refuse to drink their over-roasted, burnt coffee.

I do think the opportunity is there to capitalize on all the exposure they could bring to a film. They could be putting posters up, or even putting sound bytes in the stores through speakers.

It could have a negative impact on the coffee sales if it's not done right. If that's the case,... then they just paid for exposure in the film. Just like buying advertising space on a bus. Not everyone sees it, but those that do may be prompted to go buy a cup of coffee.

I can't find fault in anyone that is looking for ways to maximize their potential.

And another MNB user wrote:

Maybe Starbucks should purchase Blockbuster. I'm guessing they are a better deal with each passing day. If you were to combine the two then you would have a compelling reason to visit a Blockbuster, and Starbucks could save some money on building new stores. Otherwise, I'm not sure there is one now.

We disagree. Blockbuster is a perfect example of as 20th century company…and Starbucks is a 21st century organization.

Anyone should be afraid of investing in Blockbuster. Very afraid.

We wrote the other day about how New Yorkers are less overweight than the national average, which prompted MNB user Kathie Fusting to write:

It's no surprise that only 53% of New Yorkers are overweight compared to the national average of 65%. New Yorkers walk everywhere. It isn't just what we eat, but how active we are that determines our weight. We could eat McDonalds every day and not gain a pound as long as we burn the calories through physical activity.

Speaking of which…

We had a story on Friday about how McDonald’s is working to modernize its store designs, changing uniforms and improving menu boards as well as adding comfortable seating fabrics, zoned Wi-Fi areas and dimmer lighting” in an effort to be more like hipper competitors like Starbucks and the Panera Bread Company. McDonald’s reportedly wants to make the stores more appealing to adults as well as kids. It will create zones in its units that will make some sections more attractive to people in a hurry, and some more appropriate to people looking to linger.

We commented: “They’d have to dim the lights real, real low if they want to get us to linger. We find it difficult to believe that there is anything cultural going on here. It is just an effort to put on a new face.”

MNB user Gary Cohen agreed with us:

They’d have to REALLY dim the lights at McDonalds so you couldn’t see what you were eating….of course, once you taste the food, you would know where you are.

But we got a lot more email from people who thought we were being a little harsh.

One MNB user responded:

McDonald's have had one of these stores here in Australia for about 12 months (near Gosford, NSW), and early last year started rolling these out across the country. They would have to be the most "hip" chain of restaurants anywhere. And KC -- I hate saying this -- but they would have to have the best coffee too. Consistent from Restaurant to Restaurant, no burnt flavoured beans, always delivered with a smile, and within budget. What's even better is now the parents and the kids can go to one place, and both walk away happy. This has probably been a 15 year journey for McDonald's Australia, and was certainly noticed by McDonald's worldwide when they appointed (the late) Mr Bell. If they can pull off what they have done here elsewhere in the world, they will certainly become the chain to mimic again.

MNB user Sam Civiello wrote:

My dad and his pals hang there all the time. They’re retired professionals from various fields and anyplace would be happy to have them. I’ve asked why they go there and never get an answer!

When I’m on the road I go to Panera Bread for a good, quick lunch and FREE high speed wireless.

And an occasional MNB user who signed herself “Mrs. Content Guy” wrote:

Your comments seem a little harsh about McDonald’s trying to improve its ambiance.

Even fast food restaurants deserve a chance to improve their décor and make it somewhat appealing to eat there. I’ve been to one of the new McDonald’s and I appreciate their efforts to improve...although I have to say...we didn’t linger.

She’s always been a more charitable soul than we are.

This also explains why the kids are happy when we go out of town. Because we don’t take them to McDonald’s…and she does.
KC's View: