business news in context, analysis with attitude

I was urged yesterday by an MNB user to get off my high horse and change my opinion about reusable bags, since recycling of plastic bags is a better option.

I replied that riding a high horse is what I do for a living and that while recycling is always a good option, creating no waste is a better alternative.

One MNB user actually agreed with me:

What a lovely thought! Let's NOT try to reduce the amount of plastics we put in the city of Spokane's incinerators so we can all breath the toxins this progressive town puts out. Give me a break! If this reader is getting tired of hearing opinions that champion holding the earth, the environment and health above his poor woes of having to contend with his using reusable bags, well, might I suggest he stop reading those bag related paragraphs and wash his reusable bags a bit less often. He is wasting water and wasting period. Aristotle prodded on matters of ethics and morals, claiming he saw his duty to be "the gadfly on the horses back". Keep up the gadfly work, Kevin. We need a voice of reason to waft over the drone of me, me, me, me!

Lot of animal metaphors working there – apparently I’m a gadfly on a high horse.

Works for me.

We had a story yesterday about how the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has asked Walmart to stop running TV commercials claiming that shoppers can save $700 a year by shopping at its stores.

The NAD says that the commercial – which no longer is running – makes an overly broad claim that is not supported in every market. Walmart disagrees, though it said it would take the NAD recommendation into account when crafting future commercials.

The complaint against Walmart originally was brought by HE Butt.

One MNB user wrote:

HEB and Walmart are in a pretty fierce pricing battle, so it would be natural for HEB to dispute WMT's savings claims.

But another MNB user wrote:

It is interesting that H.E. Butt Grocery Company filed a complaint against Walmart for their advertising claims. I have watched HEB operate over the last 25 years in the most aggressive and predatory manner of any retailer in the 40 years I have been associated with the retail industry.

HEB has literally put dozens and dozens of smaller or weaker competitors out of business with incredible predatory pricing strategy aimed at specific competitors. Why someone has not called them out on this over the years is incomprehensible.

For HEB to file a formal complaint like this is the most bizarre action for a company that I would think would not want anyone to look closely at how they operate. Watch what they do not what they say!

Still another MNB user had some thoughts about price-driven advertising in general:

In Columbus, OH when I go to the local Kroger store there are two carts full of groceries - one displays the total cost at Krogers, the other the total cost at Giant Eagle. Of course the cost at Kroger is significantly lower. When I go to the local Giant Eagle store there are two carts of groceries - one displays the total cost at Giant Eagle, the other the total cost at Krogers. Of course the cost at Giant Eagle is significantly lower. Anyone with half a brain knows that these stores are cherry picking items to make sure they are the "winner". I am sure this shopping basket comparison trick goes on all over the country. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." [P.S. I doubt that any make the cart comparison to a local Walmart.]

Regarding Kodak’s decision to stop making Kodachrome film, MNB user Jim Swoboda wrote:

A sad day indeed.

Not sad because Kodachrome is going away, but because Kodak still faces becoming obsolete as well. The digital camera is often attributed to have been invented in a Kodak lab in 1975. Yet, who made it mainstream? Not Kodak. Why? Because the forces of status quo were to strong and those in charge of the film business likely squashed this new, threatening technology. The question is was Kodak in the film business to produce images/memories, or were they in the images/memories business and the media was not important, only enabling their customer to do what they desired, to capture images/memories? I suspect had the latter half of the question been explored, we would have hundreds of millions of old Kodak digital cameras laying around just like the old "Brownies" as those too were made obsolete by new innovations, albeit film versions.

How many other companies have missed this kind of change is astounding. The entire music industry risked irrelevance because they believed they sold CD's and LP's, not music. Hence, a young man with a computer almost put them under with Napster because music could be distributed in a new, cost effective way.

It's also is possible that is why the Detroit 3 are at the point of irrelevance. They appear to be in love with the internal combustion engine and cannot see any other way. Even when the new ways are within their own domains, the power of the status quo quickly buries or burdens them in ways they can not escape to become the next great idea. It takes an outsider without the baggage of the past. Just visit and perhaps see a glimpse of the not to distant futures.

History is there to learn from. Too bad too few do.

I bemoaned the fact that CLEAR, the company begun as a way of creating a system of registered travelers that would make it easier to get through airport security lines, reportedly has gone out of business.

My comment:

As one of those 165,000 CLEAR members, I can tell you that in the airports where the system was in place, it was worth every penny. And it strikes me as a real shame that the government not only didn’t get comfortable with CLEAR-like systems, but didn’t embrace the concept and find ways to make it work – especially for the business travelers who are on the road constantly.

Maybe we can blame the failure on bureaucracy, and maybe on the economy. But ultimately it strikes me as a failure of imagination, a failure to embrace innovation. And that’s a failure that can be found in too many organizations.

One MNB user cautioned:

Be open to the fact that maybe they had a great concept founded in creativity and innovation but they failed in their execution of the business plan…if so the concept will be back championed by another company.

Just because a company has a great idea…doesn’t mean they will execute effectively or efficiently…don’t be so quick to place blame for failure on bureaucracy or the economy or the lack of imagination and failure to embrace innovation (to whomever you were referring). Course, it wouldn’t surprise me if government bureaucracy killed this concept…

That would be my bet.

MNB user Rick Rector wrote:

As another of the 165,000, I couldn't agree more. Clear was a good example of a private business doing something the government should have done, but didn't have the imagination to think of. Now we frequent travelers will be back in the regular lines, which always seem to be full of people who've never been through an airport security line before. Bummer!

One MNB user wrote:

As a member of Clear I am extremely disappointed to see the news today. I have long maintained we are no safer with the TSA than the previous contractors. We have only succeeded in increasing the cost of security with more government employees. Over staffed and under performing. To find out they are part of the problem and not part of the solution comes as no surprise. My frustration is increased when I realize I just renewed a couple of months ago.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

Last week, you commented on Stewart and Colbert and the changes in viewership by ages. I commented about my own age helping to raise that median age. I decided to ask one of my fellow workers about his personal TV viewing habits since he is part of that ‘younger generation’. His first comment was that he said: “I don’t own a television”. This lead to a series of questions and understanding his personal behaviors. What I came to learn was that everything he watched, ranging from news to movies and sitcoms, was all available online. He had no need for a television to watch this media and preferred to spend his money on a stronger and faster computer than to have a fancy plasma HD television.

It was the kind of insights that you continue to discuss on the MNB but rarely seem to fit into my own personal behavior that I had to hear about from another generation. I feel like I am getting old.

Pretty soon, no one will remember Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob or replacing tubes in your TV on Saturday mornings to watch them.

What is this world coming to?

It continues to spin, that’s all. Nothing to fear. Lots to celebrate. The glass is half-full, my friend. Not half empty.

We continue to get email about our story saying that Reader’s Digest, a mainstay for decades on supermarket front end magazine racks, is facing difficulties in the print media business by reducing its frequency to 10 times a year from 12, and reducing its rate base from eight million to 5.5 million over an 18-month period. The company says it will compensate for the moves by rolling out a global web platform.

My comment, basically, was that Reader’s Digest larger issue would seem to be that it is a magazine written for old people…and I’m not sure how it stays relevant for the next generation of readers/consumers.

One MNB user wrote:

I’m not ready to trade my bathroom magazine rack for a Kindle just yet.

Even my much younger sister Amy chimed in:

I just read "Your Views" and have to tell you - I subscribe to RD. Why? Two reasons - it brings back great memories from when I was a kid and it's perfect for reading in the tub.

That’s almost more information than I need to have.
KC's View: