business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB user Tim Muir had some thoughts about Wal-Mart’s “Site to Store” program…

I recently just used Wal-Mart’s site to store and I tell ya if it works like it did for me every time…I’m hooked.

I was looking at an items direct from supplier but did not like the $25.00 shipping (The item itself was only $56) When I found the item on Wal-mart site, I was initially going to get in my car and go to Big Store down the street and go hunting with the masses for my item…..then I noticed online the blurb about site to store and free shipping. I gave it a shot. Everything was done on website. I received a confirmation email that my order had been placed and that I would receive another email when the item was ready for pick up at my store. Ten days later I received my email that item was ready for pick up. As I walked in the front door my greeter pointed out the special “Site to Store” pick up area. Another employee was nearby and walked all the way back to the area (it was in the back of the store), she took my email, quickly retrieved the item, scanned the barcode on my email, checked my id, had me sign that I picked it up, put a security sticker on my item and I was free to go. I cannot tell you how good I felt by passing the checkout line of people. It was great. From parking to back to may car it was less than 20 minutes and that includes my stop to give change to the Salvation Army guy outside. When I got home I had a confirmation email already in my inbox confirming that I had picked up the item

Now I will say that if you do this it might not go exactly as smooth as this and to be careful of the following….
1. Your email has to work. That is how all notifications were sent to me and you have to print your email and bring it to store. So you don’t want the email going to a spam or junk folder. Rules are that you have to pick up item after a certain amount of days of email or items will be released for sale.
2. You must have ID. This makes common sense to me, but some people might show up with just the email and they will not release…remember the item is already paid for from the web site transactions.
If you are buying something for someone else that shares your email address or has access…be careful or you may ruin a surprise.

Thanks for the review.

I noted here last week that judging from the success of “Site to Store,” I was wrong in my earlier skepticism, which led MNB user Glen Terbeek to write:

How could a supporter of the "long tail" concept say such a thing? Shame on you! This is how the "tail-end" items will/can reach their targeted consumers effectively and efficiently in the future. The retailer that offers the store/Internet continuum will be successful in the future.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

For the record, I was skeptical because I wasn’t sure if people who ordered online would be willing to go to the store to pick up the products, I was wrong. (Happens a couple of times a day.)

We had a story last Friday about the implications that current childhood obesity statistics could have on the nation’s health care system in the future, which led one MNB user to write:

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the rising waters of our Health Care system and the breaking point we are facing.

Hospitals need to make a profit to ensure they keep up with innovation and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies will continue to be villainized for making money, and illegal immigrants will continue to tax the system. Now we have people going to the doctor more often because they are overweight or were as children. Great!

Change is coming and under our current system of corporate subsidized health insurance plans I feel it’s inevitable. Corporations are increasingly looking to reduce their expenses and often are replacing full time positions with part time as I’ve seen in our own company. Now before you argue that we have the best medicine in the world and that no one is turned away, ask yourself who is paying for it? As much as I hate the idea of socialized medicine, which I am not advocating for, it seems to be the loudest voice for change in the political arena. I’d like to see a third option where doctors and hospitals post their rates and compete for my dollar. As it is now, if you have insurance you get reduced rates. But is seems to me a cruel joke when the people least able to pay receive the highest bill.

I do think competition is the key and that it will take government interaction to get it rolling. Regardless of your political persuasion the stark reality is that corporations will continue to pursue ways to curb expenses. And with fewer people paying in through our current health insurance system, costs are going to go up and now faster than ever. I think this burden needs to be taken off the backs of corporations and get back to personal responsibility but with a heavy dose of competition and fairness in the system.

A breaking point is inevitable in my view.

There was story last week about food industry trade associations have joined with a number of Democrats to push for higher spending by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which led one MNB user to write:

I strongly agree with your comments on the additional FDA funding. Before any money is thrown at the problem, I would highly recommend they examine our country's vision (retailers, consumers, manufacturers) of what the FDA should pursue and clearly understand their mission (statement of purpose identifying the scope of operations reflecting their (our) values and priorities).

Another MNB user had some thoughts about the current system:

While the focus of the Eat Safe Food Act is on imported foods, e-coli problems this past year, spinach & beef, were all domestic crops and products.

Most of the imported safety problems were in non-consumable items like toys.

The e-coli in produce problems killed people... I don't recall (no pun intended) anyone dying from playing with tainted toys. Not to say that tainted toys are okay, but certainly the FDA and food companies need to make US food products safe for consumption.

We had a story last week about how, in the UK, Sainsbury and Wal-Mart-owned Asda have admitted to fixing milk and cheese prices and have agreed, along with a number of dairy firms. The two companies will pay total fines in excess of $235 million (US).

One MNB user responded:

The U.S. Congress has been fixing milk and cheese prices for some 70 years. In Pennsylvania you can go to jail for selling milk cheap. In Ohio you can go to jail for selling wine cheap.

Another MNB user offered:

I can’t believe you let this one slide without a comment. I could be mistaken, but aren’t these the same retailers who have asked their government to look into the anti competitive practices of Tesco?

What’s that old line…those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

It is my understanding that Tesco also has been accused of the same collusion, but published reports say that the company is denying the charges and plans to fight to accusations “vigorously.”

The debate/discussion continues about the use of McDonald’s coupons to reward good students in one Florida school district.

One MNB user wrote:

Just to chime in on this McDonald's debate (Happy Meal coupons for kids earning good grades in school): I do see your point about not wanting to encourage unhealthy eating habits, and I think it has a lot of merit; I also see the school district's point in wanting to incent kids to work hard(er) in order to earn this small reward, and I think that has a lot of merit as well. Call me a flaming centrist!

The only material objection I had to your viewpoint, expressed below the reported news item, was your commentary to the effect "this is horrible, horrible policy." The seeming "tenor" of your comment seemed excessive in light of the issue being, in my opinion, one which did have two-sided value, and therefore seemed to border on hyperbole. It bothers me to no end how often "political debate" in this country amounts simply to the single-minded search for something "the other side" has said or done which ostensibly smacks of hypocrisy, when, in many cases, I do believe, there is no great hypocrisy really there. But the popular perception seems to be that so much political advantage can be gained by always being on the offensive, and so what better way of getting & staying there than to go over the top in "smash-mouthing" the opposition (or whomever we may tend to disagree with).

People often talk about "the collapse of the middle class" in the US, and wring their hands about what this portends for our society, our economy, etc. I would submit that this tendency in political debate to constantly be seeking to fabricate perceived hypocrisy where none may really exist is, itself, a form of "a collapsing middle", and one with tremendously polarizing implications sooner or later. To seemingly be witnessing a major portion of US society "heading for the far left or the far right", just so as to set up camp and start pursuing a never-ending campaign to "discredit the opposition" through hyperbolic claims that their ideas smack with hypocrisy I don't believe is healthy societal evolution in the slightest. And to that end, I walked away feeling that your "horrible, horrible policy" remark on this McDonald's issue was case in point as to the direction public discourse is heading in this country. To quote (or paraphrase) Mr. Bush, the first, "don't like it...don't like it one bit." (Apologies to Dana Carvey.)

Gee, I thought I was just using the first colorful adjective that came to mind (twice, I grant you), not being hyperbolic and lowering the level of public discourse.


MNB user Keith Holzmueller wrote:

I prefer my local school district's reward, a free trip to Six Flags, but I think your evaluation of the Seminole Country program is too harsh. I've been know to take my sons to McDonald's to reward good behavior. I don't think I'm being horrible, as long as make these visits an occasional treat and not a regular occurrence.

Okay, maybe “horrible” wasn't the must judicious adjective to use…

Another MNB user wrote:

When I was in the grocery business, we had an ongoing promotion for the kids in our local schools. For each A earned on their report cards, they got a BIG RED APPLE. Still would be an excellent tool for grocers to do.

The general feeling seems to be that the days when apples were viable rewards for kids have passed us by.

Another MNB user chimed in:

Kevin, you might be surprised by the number of schools that do the very same thing, without official School board permission. Many schools quarterly award programs offer Carl’s Junior, McDs, Taco Bell, pizza discount books & coupons for various achievements. Teachers in the classroom give cookies & candy for right answers, assignments turned in early, attendance.... it's crazy!

And another MNB user wrote:

I understand your concern about rewarding kids or anybody for that matter with food! How about a free movie ticket, or a free movie rental, or a free admission to a zoo, or park of some sort. I think the school is missing that not all rewards have to be food. While student teaching biology I had a big basket of gift cards ranging from $5.00 (B tests) $10.00 (A test), and the students could come up a pick out what they wanted if they go the grade. It was awesome and they loved it.

I have to admit finding this all to be rather funny. Having been taught by the Dominican nuns in elementary school and the Irish Christian Brothers in high school, the reward for doing well and being respectful and reverent was not getting smacked around. (Not something that I was very successful at. I did much better with the Jesuits in college, who taught me to question everything.)

KC's View: