business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB had a story last week about how Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is asking the city’s Public Health Commission not to allow retailers such as CVS to open in-store health clinics; Massachusetts state health officials have decided to allow the clinics, but Menino continues to resist. Meanwhile, Boston’s Public Health Commission has voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to a ban of trans fat from French fries, doughnuts, and other food sold in restaurants and corner stores.

My comment: These two attitudes would appear to be counter-intuitive. While the argument against in-store health clinics is that it interferes with patient care, I just don't see it. Rather, I think it simply makes basic treatment available to consumers in an accessible and affordable format. Isn’t that what better health care is supposed to be about? I can’t help but feel that the attitude toward health clinics has more to do with political pressure being brought by doctors and hospitals, which itself is probably rooted more in the profit motive than in the Hippocratic oath.

One MNB user responded:

As I read your view on this article, I almost fell out of my seat! The words were almost verbatim what I was thinking. Although in-store clinics certainly will not solve healthcare issues in this country, why not let people with limited or no access to healthcare this opportunity? I seriously doubt the D of H would allow substandard facilities to operate under the guise of health clinics.

The politics really boils down to $$$. Apparently CVS didn’t grease Mayor Menino up enough.

MNB user Dale Tillotson wrote:

Not sure what oath the mayor of Boston is sworn to, but if it has anything to do with the serving of the people, then he has turned it into the hypocritical oath.

Another MNB user chimed in:

If memory serves me right, the various medical workers unions have been loyal contributors to The Mayor’s campaigns. It looks like they are getting their return on their investment. No doubt they perceive that low cost easily available professional medical care would be a threat to their high-cost time consuming alternative. It has been said that the US spends more per capita on medical care than the rest of the developed world. I’m sure that politicians fighting efficiency moves like this is one of the reasons.

Another MNB user wrote:

Funny how we look to ban trans fats to help consumers make their personal decision to eat donuts made with these ingredients, but have trouble banning cigarettes to help those consumers.

Tangentially, we also got another email about cigarettes…this one about Wegmans’ decision to ban the sale of all tobacco products:

Quite possibly Wegmans may be more concerned with future lawsuits based on the fact that supermarkets are big tobacco pushers (in some smart litigators’ eyes). So eliminating the butts not only differentiates them from others, it also keeps them out of future impending lawsuits. May sound a little conspiratorial, but I bet it’s correct.

Not sure I agree. I think the lawsuit ship has sailed….if someone were going to try to hold retailers responsible for people’s tobacco addiction, it would have happened a long time ago.

On the subject of making reusable bags available to customers, MNB user Lucretia Nesbitt wrote:

Just thought you might want to know ...

At my local Wal-Mart here in Dallas, TX, there are reusable shopping bags for sale for $1.00 per bag. They weren't canvas, but made from recycled materials. The tag on them stated that 4 soda bottles were saved from landfills in the making of each bag. The bags were located at each cash register and self-check station and our cashier actually seemed knowledgeable about them as well!

Got the following email from MNB user Bill Bodine:

I really enjoy your newsletter. As a person who is responsible for industry affairs for a farm organization, I always appreciate the chance to read the thoughts of those in the food industry who reside further up the value chain. I rarely feel the need to comment, but in today’s edition I noticed one comment that compelled me to respond.

In today’s “Your Views” was the following:

“Regarding a study saying that low-fat and nonfat dairy products may be linked to higher incidence of certain cancers, one MNB user wrote:

‘It would be interesting to find out if these studies were done on non organic milk which is filled with hormones and antibiotics which are known to cause cancer. My bet would be that it was.’

It concerns me greatly when I see comments like this based completely on false information. ALL milk, regardless of how it is produced, naturally contains hormones. In fact, there are no significant hormone differences between organic or non-organic milk. The primary differences between the two types of milk are the farm practices used to produce the milk and the price.

As for antibiotics….there are NO antibiotics in milk. When a tanker load of milk arrives at a bottling facility, it is tested for antibiotics. If ANY antibiotics are found, the entire load is disposed of and not used. Again, this occurs regardless of the method of production. So there are not antibiotics in milk….organic or non-organic.

It causes me heartburn to see people attack products when they have little factual knowledge regarding the production practices used. This is becoming a common occurrence with food products as fewer and fewer people understand how food is grown.

And, we got one more email worth noting, this one from MNB user Chuck Lungstrom:

I was very intrigued by your comments concerning Jim Donald and the qualities he possesses as a leader. I could not help but be reminded of another great leader in the grocery industry, Howard Dickelman, that sadly has recently passed on. Howard was the CEO/Board Chairman of Schultz Sav-O Stores, Inc. Howard was also Secretary/Treasurer of Topco Associates and on their Board of Directors. Howard served the Piggly Wiggly National Operators Association as Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President and President.

Howard Dickelman truly defined the term leader. His leadership style caused the people that knew him to want to follow him. We wanted to do good for him and the company he ran because of the respect and dignity he would treat everyone he came in contact with. Howard made a point of visiting every store in his company on a regular basis. It didn’t matter if I had not seen him for several months or longer, Howard always seemed genuinely glad to see me and he even remembered my name….every time. It was not just me, that’s the way he was with everyone in the company. When I progressed on to help the company in setting up and opening new stores, we all looked forward to that special moment just before opening when Howard would make his rounds, checking out the store. Our goal was perfection and even though we may not have achieved it, Howard made us feel that we had and gave us the positive motivation that took us into the grand opening with confidence. Howard was the consummate gentleman. The culture that he created for the company was one of family. We all felt that we were part of a large family and Howard made us feel that we were all important to that family.

In this world of efficiency vs. effectiveness, it is very gratifying to know that companies, like the one Howard Dickelman ran, can survive and be successful and still maintain a culture that causes employees to enjoy their work and customers to enjoy the shopping experience that is created for them.

I know that I am not alone when I say that Howard was a giant in this industry and will be sorely missed.

KC's View: