business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a number of reactions to yesterday’s MNB Radio piece, “That Tim Of The Month,” which used my shopping habits as an example of how consumers can use subscription services to achieve automatic replenishment…and, in some ways, turn a retailer into a “middle man” who can be cut out of the system.

MNB user Dick Oakley wrote:

For several years I have wondered when retailers were going to start using the information they have on those of us who use their loyalty programs.

Your recent radio broadcast renewed my thoughts.

Why can't a retailer set up a system and a kiosk that allows me to input my loyalty data (either scan the card or input phone number) and then print out a "shopping list" of those top 25 items I normally buy?

Maybe they could cross index these top 25 items to ones on sale, brands they are promoting (paid for by manufacturers), etc. Putting together this type of program would entice shoppers to continue to shop brick and mortar stores, and maybe adding a free item coupon (Starbucks latte, etc.) would further entice them.

I expect some folks would fear they are being "watched" by Big Brother, but I believe there are a lot of harried shoppers who would welcome a little help in planning their buying trip.

Take this a step further into the future and make the shopping cart "smart" with a scanner for your loyalty card that quietly beeps or flashes when you get to one of your top 25 items, suggests an alternative item on sale or promotion, etc.

Make shopping fun!

Another MNB user wrote:

I get your point on building loyalty from a brand management point of view. Kudos to those companies. But, I have a simple question, at what price was your loyalty given based on your newly created "loyalty-based carbon footprint" Think about it? How many air/land-miles did you create? Remember the seventies when most people were "Pro-Environment" until it came time to open their wallet at the most people are "Pro-Sustainability (anti-carbon footprinting) to prevent global warming - as long as they are not inconvenienced.

You make an excellent point. I have considered the possibility that by having all these products – wine, shampoo, detergent, etc… - delivered to me in various shipments, I am having a deleterious impact on the environment. What I don’t know is how this impact compares to the impact of my driving to the store more often to pick these items up. And, of course, I can rationalize it by saying that the planes and delivery trucks were making those trips anyhow, so what is the harm of having packages for me.

As Jeff Goldblum said in “The Big Chill,” “Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”

MNB user George Butterfield wrote:

Hmmmm…..Retailers as Middlemen….never thought of them as that way…

When you think about it, though, that’s exactly what they are…which is why so many need to do a better job of establishing both real and perceived value in the experience. Otherwise, they can get cut out of the equation.

MNB user Richard Kochersperger wrote:

Great “inside” observation about your own shopping behavior…many consumers are moving in that direction. Thanks for enlightening your food industry audience. Unfortunately, many food retailers/manufacturers don’t get it.

I like to think that a lot of people in the industry just need the issues framed for them in a different way…which is what we like to do here on MNB.

Of course, not everybody agrees with the approach…

I’ve always thought that I am fair game for anybody who wants to criticize me for my attitudes, my opinions, or even my taste in food and wine. But even so, I was surprised to get the following email yesterday, which was linked to a story entitled “How To Beat Down A Black Sports Star,” which posited that Barry Bonds, OJ Simpson, Michael Vick and Marion Jones are all being unfairly persecuted because they are black.

The email read:

Why do I no longer read MNB? Relying too much on national media for one thing. A racist witch hunt against Barry Bonds for another.

And that was it.

Now, since this person doesn’t read MNB anymore (though apparently he hasn’t lost my email address), he missed yesterday’s email in which an MNB user “outed” me as a member of the “liberal media.” (I’m just glad he didn’t accuse me of being a member of the liberal media “elite,” because that’s something from which my reputation probably would never have recovered.)

Actually, it is an extraordinary week in which one can be accused of being both a racist and a liberal.

As for the racist is true that I have been extremely critical of Barry Bonds in this space. (Though the idea that anyone cares what I think about Barry Bonds is, to say the least, amusing.)

I double checked, and found out to my amazement that admitted gambler Pete Rose and in-denial steroid abuser Mark McGwire are white. So I'm changing my position, and now will support their going into the Hall of Fame, no matter what their sins. (Maybe they can go in on the same day, along with Jose Canseco. Rafael Palmeiro and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Now that would be an induction ceremony worth attending.)

I am, of course, kidding. When I consider players like Bonds and McGwire, I don't think I think about whether they are black or white. I think only about the color yellow – because if they were men of character and courage, they wouldn’t need the help of steroids, would not need to cheat when walking up to home plate to hit a ball while playing what essentially is a kids’ game.

In all seriousness, if you want to read a great piece of journalism about race, go find Michael Wilbon’s column about Sean Taylor for the Washington Post entitled, “Dying Young, Black.” It is a great piece of writing that deserves to be read, and thought about.

KC's View: