business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB had a story yesterday about how a man claims to have found a deep fried mouse in a big of potato chips, which led us to make a wisecrack about “this never would have happened in “Ratatouille.”

One MNB user didn’t seem to think we took it seriously enough:

Foreign objects and food tampering are serious matters - unfortunately many food and drug companies have been through this drill. Years ago, a very popular bakery chain in the Baltimore area was hit with allegations of a dead rat found in a loaf of rye bread. It seems that the company couldn't respond quickly and appropriately to the charges - and had no PR plan in place. It wasn't long after all of the publicity and internal chaos that the formerly well-regarded and long-time family business shuttered their doors. It is possible that other factors may have contributed to the chain's demise, but there is a real lesson here - no matter how large or small or what "link" your company represents in the supply chain, you need to have some semblance of a plan in place and resources lined up, should one of these incidents erupt.

Nobody wants to ponder the consequences but it's been proven that one dead rodent - besides being unpalatable and maybe even unverifiable - can result in irreparable damage.

With the safety of our food supply being questioned (finally) at all levels, it is critical to have a plan and ensure that it is clearly communicated to everyone in the organization. Not in the future. Now.

True enough.

I got a number of emails yesterday questioning the comparison that one MNB user made of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to former Albertsons CEO Larry Johnston. Now, I should point out that most of these emails came from current or former Albertsons employees, and I can’t run many of them because they make charges that I can’t verify and could end up getting me sued. I have no reason to disbelieve them, and can only say that the depth of resentment toward the former Albertsons CEO seems to know no bounds.

Here’s one email I can use:

I would not say that LJ was “right out on the table” with everything he said and did. I worked at Albertsons for over 11 years and was at the speech he gave in the atrium of the Albertson’s Corporate Office right before Christmas when he said that the company would NOT be sold. All to excited cheering and applause. This is not an exact quote but his comment was something to the extent that “we are not going to let anyone steal a company we worked so hard to build.” It was only a short while later that the sale was announced. Some people saw it coming and others were very hurt. Mackey may have been very irresponsible in his actions but I hardly think you can compare the two.

I would agree with that.

And, continuing the discussion about the role of independent bookstores vs. chains and online vendors, one MNB user wrote:

Good point you made today about browsing in bookstores. Some retailers - particularly coffeehouses & bookstores - have done such a good job creating the "third space" atmosphere that people forget they are businesses and treat them like public parks.

Case in point - My wife & I used to take our 2 year old son to the local Barnes & Noble to play with the wooden Thomas the Train sets they had in the children's section. Every or fourth or fifth trip, if he had shared or played well with the other kids, I would let him pick out one of the wooden trains or a Thomas book to take home. Buying an occasional item was my way of rewarding my son for his good behavior and giving him a little treat. But I also felt that by buying the toys from B&N I was indirectly paying them for having and maintaining the sets. I believed that if the train sets didn't drive traffic and ultimately sales & profits, the stores would get rid of them, and I wanted to keep them around for my son. My wife thought it was silly to buy them. Her attitude was that if the store had the train sets out they were free to use and we didn't owe the store anything. A few weeks ago my son and I wandered into a B&N so I could get a coffee and he could play with the train set. It was gone. Recently I noticed 2 other local B&N's had ditched the sets as well. I guess more folks have my wife's attitude then mine. People often get a lot of enjoyment and value from the various amenities and atmosphere retailers create in their stores. But they forget that if retailers don't see a bottom line ROI from them, those niceties will go away.

On the subject of the AMA’s objections to in-store health clinics and the defense made by the clinics’ owners, MNB user Glenn A. Cantor wrote:

It is disingenuous of Kent Lillemoe, CFO of MinitClinic to suggest that they aren't trying to have prescriptions written at CVS in-store MinitClinic's filled at CVS. I can't imagine a nurse practitioner at a CVS-based MinitClinic suggesting to a patient that she take the prescription to have it filled next door or down the street.

(But) if the doctor members of the AMA provide accessible and affordable medical care, patient consumers would have no need to seek alternative care.

MNB user Elizabeth Archerd chimed in:

Mb>I'm sure I won't be the only one to mention this, but isn't it a bit odd for the AMA to be slamming any medical clinics for an association with a pharmacy? Every major clinic and hospital I know of has a pharmacy, so patients can fill their prescriptions on their way out after their exam. Don't many medical exams in traditional clinic settings result in a prescription being written?

Sounds like the problem is more about competition than medical care.

Excellent point.

Finally, on the subject of Wal-Mart’s abandoning the “cheap chic” approach that it tried to take last year in the apparel business, one MNB user wrote:

My little girl is 6 going on 15 and already quite the fashion queen, has already told the wife that she only wants to go to Target this year for her school clothes. My preference matters not since children grow out of their clothes before they can be laundered 3 times. When I asked her about buying clothes where we got her school supplies she said Wal-Mart was not up to date, this from a first grader. I can see my retirement fund fading away.

Just though you would find it humorous that a 6 year old knows the difference between cheap (Wal-Mart) and "chic" cheap (Target).

Girls – especially teenaged girls – tend to be another species. But it is my experience, especially from having a 13-year-old girl around the house, that it many ways they can be wise beyond their years.

Which scares the hell out me.

KC's View: