business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the issue of sustainability, one MNB user wrote:

While it is great that the savings in electricity from the use of the new CFLB's (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs), I have not seen any communication warning/steering consumers to the proper handling and disposal of CFLB's. Shouldn't we be concerned that as more and more of these type of bulbs are being placed into our daily garbage (due to lack of consumer awareness of the risks to ourselves and our environment), we stand the chance to counter or even dwarf the savings in electricity because of the increased mercury going into our environment.

I did not know this. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers information about how to deal with these bulbs on it site, and retailers might be well-served making it available to consumers.

MNB user Jessica Hui had some thoughts about the survey quoted in MNB last week saying that most consumers identify themselves as socially responsible shoppers who try to buy from companies that do the right thing:

This consumer response sounds much like surveys which find that 70% of people believe themselves to be above average. While it does indeed reveal the trend of consumers moving toward social responsibility, I (and probably the rest of the world) find it pretty ludicrous that 80-90% of the citizens of a country that continually tops all charts in emissions, pollution … think that their consumption habits are socially responsible and green. Green trending? Yes...but also strong trends of self aggrandizement and denial.

I’m cynical enough to agree with your basic thesis – that people say more than they do. But I’m hopeful enough to believe that at least the impulse to want to do the right thing will lead people in the right way. It may be baby steps, but hopefully they will be in the right direction.

I praised Starbucks CEO Jim Donald last week, while acknowledging that I have a pro-Starbucks bias. To which MNB user Ted File responded:

Kevin, yes you are a little biased, but guess what? For those of us who have had the privilege of knowing Jim Donald we tend to be extremely biased.

He is one sharp and intelligent operator, who understands the business from the inside out. Jim has been there before and (Starbucks) will continue to expand and change as the market demands or is ready to accept.

Jim Donald came up because of Starbucks’ decision to start doing some TV advertising to build customer count and transaction, which led MNB user Mike Griswold to write:

The biggest challenge I see for Starbucks is creating a TV message that is connected with the Starbucks culture and brand. Given they have not done this before, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

On the subject of the new Beaujolais nouveau, one MNB user wrote:

I'm glad to see you mentioned this wine, and chose not to pass judgment until you've tried it yourself. I usually pick up a bottle or two every November, not because it's a complex wine with layers of bouquet and flavor, but because it's a fun tradition. To me, it's a simple wine that signals the coming of the holidays. Does it compare to a 10+ year old burgundy? No, but neither does the price tag.

The wine critics that deride the Nouveau and make crass comparisons do the wine industry a disservice. Several years ago, when first getting interested in wines, I read the story of the Nouveau and found it pretty interesting. Some of the appeal isn't captured within the bottle, it's the tradition. I suppose we could draw the comparison to Wall Street analysts looking at retail stocks. Sometimes the hallmarks of a great company aren't found on the income statement or balance sheet. Sometimes you have to dig deeper.

Of course, I have gotten a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau that did taste like old socks: perhaps due to a bad cork or some other reason. The next bottle (same year) was fine.

MNB user Brian Hayes had some thoughts about my criticism of the new A-Rod contract:

I find it amazing that you and so many folks have this notion that Alex Rodriguez and athletes in general aren't "worth that kind of money", yet never seem to level that sort of criticism at, say, Jack Nicholson when he gets paid $20 million for a film or a George Lucas for making $300-$400 million a year. When's the last time you heard someone say, "That pampered George Clooney ain't worth anywhere near the $15 million he made on that last film!"? All are in the entertainment industry yet we always seem to save that line for the athlete. And when you say that the "financial model is warped" I'd sure like to know how. Baseball is healthy right now, and if an owner is willing to pay that salary then I'm sure they have the means to pay it, so what's the deal? As far as incentives go, you've got a great point though man. A-Rod will still sleep pretty well even if he doesn't make those incentives I'm sure.

I might disagree with you about baseball being healthy. The short-term financial model looks good, but it appears to me that there could be some serious long-range problems affecting the future health of the game. When only corporations and rich people can afford to buy decent seats to an actual game, that’s a problem. When playoff games are played on TV so late that a lot of kids cannot see them, that’s a problem. Both of these things occur so because they generate short-term revenue…but they run the risk of making the game irrelevant to an expanding number of people. That’ll kill the game in the long run.

One other quick note. I agree that a lot of actors are overpaid. But it is worth noting that when George Clooney does movies like “Good Night and Good Luck” and the current ‘Michael Clayton,” he works for scale – which ain't bad, but also ain’t the kind of money he makes for “Ocean’s Eleven.” He makes his money on the back end for these wonderful films – if audiences see them, he gets a piece of the profits. If they don't, then he at least has the satisfaction of knowing he did good work. That’s the way it should be.

KC's View: