business news in context, analysis with attitude

Good email from an MNB user about the connection between food and health:

This premise – that our food affects our health - is exactly what the natural products industry was founded and built upon.

We don’t have “health care” in this country. We have sick care. Education and prevention should be the cornerstones of our health care system. Naturopathic physicians practice and promote this, as do chiropractors. Yet the insurance industry doesn’t cover these in any significant way, nor promote the education they present. And taxing sugary drinks is NOT a good solution! We have to educate on why choosing a healthier option is in the best interest of the consumer, and taxing it is NOT going to solve the cause!

It appears our approach has been to deal with symptoms, not causes, at so many levels. I think this is what John Mackey was trying to communicate, and I agree with him. I am not an employee of Whole Foods, and actually don’t shop there regularly, since I have other great stores closer. But I am in agreement with what he said, and what I understand his bigger picture vision to be.

And, on another subject, one MNB user wrote:

With regard to banning drugstores from selling tobacco in San Francisco, I think your readers are astute enough to recognize a slippery slope set up when they see one. If we are to accept the notion that anything which is deemed detrimental to your health should not be sold in a drug store, then the shelves of Walgreens, CVS, etc. are going to become mighty bare. Last time I checked, these stores flogged salty snacks, sugary sodas, candy and prepared/processed foods loaded with all kinds of nasties. Do the powers that be get to tell the stores to stop? It's not that far of a next step!

Another MNB user chimed in:

From a strictly legal point of view, governing authorities have the right to place health, safety and welfare restrictions when regulating licensed activities. Prohibiting the sale of products that kill you seems to be a reasonable restriction to a license to dispense medicine. The challenge regarding the application of the regulation seems to be a strong one. As written, it’s like requiring a standalone liquor store to deny anyone under 21 while a grocery store selling liquor needs to only restrict those under 18.

And another MNB user wrote:

You are right about a lot of key comparisons. What about grocery stores with pharmacies, what about other products that are deemed unhealthy or what about banning cigarette sales all together? If 100% of people who smoke become addicted and die, then I guess one would have a more credible claim, but that is not the case. Even though I am not a smoker and think it is a weird and stupid habit, it is someone’s CHOICE to be weird and stupid. I do not think the government, city or legal system should be acting as the parental decision-maker.

I say this because one day someone will think the Diet Coke that I like to drink is no longer healthy and should not be sold in the store that I shop…and what about cigars, liquor and beer? What about every processed food with fructose and hydrogenated oil?

How about letting the BUSINESS decide on the image of their store and what items they want to carry to enhance that image. Otherwise, everyone else needs to stay out of it and let consumers influence the item mix with their wallets.

Regarding a controversy in China involving Walmart, one MNB user wrote:

The item about Wal-Mart's "nightmare scenario" where a gang of unruly security people -- Wal-Mart employees or not, still to be determined -- apparently beat a female customer to death outside a Wal-Mart store in China brought to mind last November's Black Friday item from Valley Stream, NY when a gang of unruly customers trampled a store employee to death. In both situations, Wal-Mart itself is singled out as ultimately responsible for the terribly unfortunate outcome; however, the circumstances almost cannot seem to be more different.

Should Wal-Mart (or any retailer, generally speaking) be criminally (and/or civilly) responsible for the unforgivable acts of its employees while on duty? Should it be similarly responsible for such acts if the perpetrators in question were merely contracted to Wal-Mart? Fair questions, to be sure.

Should Wal-Mart (or again, any retailer) be criminally (and/or civilly) responsible for the unforgivable acts of its customers while seeking to patronize the store? Arguable, I suppose.

But at some sociological level, I can't help but feel that the fact that Wal-Mart (or whatever retailer du jour might find themselves in this sort of paired situation) will ultimately be made to take the fall in both cases, and what does that say about us as a civilization? We hear a lot about "taking personal responsibility over one's own actions", a lot if it rather shrill, holier-than-thou, guilty till proven innocent sort of opinion. Yet here, where is the righteous indignation over the acts of Wal-Mart's Black Friday customers? Why have they seemingly been given such a total free pass, after such inexcusable behavior? Can it be that we as a society, when push comes to shove, really walk the walk about personal accountability only when it relates to someone else who we don't care about (or more to the point, don't care for)? But, heaven forbid, never to ourselves? Or to those we choose to side with, however closely or distantly they may be associated with us?

Situational ethics can be a terrible thing; easy to apply, maybe even easier to abuse for one's own political convenience. Something in the juxtapositioning of the above two Wal-Mart news items is out of whack from a personal accountability standpoint; yet, I don't hear anyone talking about it. That scares me.

I don't think we gave the customers a pass here on MNB. I think I may have described them as animals.

Bu that doesn’t change the fact that to some extent, retailers do encourage such behavior at certain times of the year. There is more than enough culpability to go around.
KC's View: