business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to Michael Sansolo’s Eye-Opener last week bemoaning the fact that United is using the time usually given over to its safety video to allow its CEO to expound about its merger with Continental, a number of folks felt much the same way.

One MNB user wrote:

Michael clearly hasn’t flown Continental in awhile! Jeff’s CEO speech is the same thing that Continental has been doing since the Gordon Bethune era. (In fact, it’s always been fun to observe how quickly the tape changes when CO had a CEO change. I think the CEO’s like to know their face is in front of a bunch of captive passengers..)  This new process was started the day that Jeff S took over as CEO of the new UAL.

MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

I join you in your disgust of the airlines today. I feel we need to go back to when they were government controlled. The SEC and FAA should never have allowed all these mergers and acquisitions. Their are now less flights at more cost and very few direct flights.

Making airlines offer cheaper flights would help get the economy of the world going again by increasing tourism and business travel. We need to campaign for this and the benefit of the consumer!

MNB user Gary Loehr wrote:

I have heard the message and it is self serving corporate rhetoric.  The only thing I want to hear from the head of United is that flights out of Newark will no longer cost 3 times what the same flight out of LaGuardia (18 miles away) costs.  That would be relevant to many of the people on the plane.

MNB user W. Patrick McSweeney wrote:

While flying from Charlotte to Pittsburgh earlier this week, the flight attendant on a US Airways flight droned on and on over the PA system about signing up for an airline sponsored credit card that would grant 25,000 frequent flyer miles just for signing up.  Her monologue lasted two-and-a-half minutes (I timed it because the sales pitch drowned out the song that was playing on my iPod).  The volume was so loud and piercing and her sales pitch went on for so long I was wondering if any other passenger besides me was contemplating unbuckling their seatbelt, standing up and shouting “no more!” or taking an application just to stop the presentation.

FYI...I flew United to Las Vegas yesterday and saw the video that Michael complained about...and I have to be honest, I thought it was completely inoffensive. I’m far more annoyed by the constant pitching for credit cards by US Air flight attendants.

But that’s me.

We wrote last week about how Amazon now has an application for the iPhone that allows you to take a picture of any bar code and instantly find out what Amazon charges for the same item...and then order that item from the e-tailer with one click of a button.

Which led one MNB user to write:

I read your piece on the new Amazon comparison app for the iPhone... Sure, it was bound to happen.  And you know what else is bound to happen?  Retailers deploying existing technology to completely block this type of activity on their premises.  Of course, it is illegal for most civilians to use such devices, but it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that their will be some lobbying on the Hill to make it happen.  And when it does, I'll giggle... There will be yet another place where cell phones don't work and I will be able to add another large slate of places where I do not have to listen to all that yammering.

With all due respect...that is such a traditional way for retailers to attack such issues. Rather than dealing with the reality, it is easier to figure out how to block the signal.

In addition to being the worst kind of competitive denial, it also sets a store up for monstrously bad publicity ... because once it gets out that you’ve set up this blocking technology - and trust me, it will get out - the local media will be all over you, and the lawsuits will fly.

All of which would be unnecessary if you’d just decided to be competitive to begin with.

This is 21st century reality. Check out this email from an MNMB user:

We were out shopping and my husband mentioned that he had run out of toner for our printer at the house.  We were next to an Office Depot and I told him I would run pick some up.  I got there, found the toner I needed (no thanks to any help from the staff…) and thought it was a little high.  I whipped out my iPhone and found it 40 % cheaper and no shipping and no tax and asked the store if they would match Amazon’s price – they said no and I ordered it from Amazon standing in the Office Depot store.  It was at the house in two days.

Adding a bar code scan to the app only lets me look up an exact match easier…  I am all for doing business in my community, however, times are tough and a 40 % up charge plus taxes is a little more than I can justify.  I not saying I would have cared about the differential on price on a can of green beans…

What I usually find when checking on Amazon is that the “list” price used in stores is significantly higher than the actual manufacturer list price.  So the discounts offered in stores are artificial.

Some of you love him and some of you hate him. But I have to say that this email from David Livingston, commenting on my constant harping about the recessionary economy, fascinated me:

Do you really think we are in a recession?  I really can't imagine the economy being any better.  Two years ago I would agree with you.  But now with business booming and the stock market exploding?  I compare the stock market today to just 10 years ago and it looks pretty good.  Its nearly doubled in the past 15 years.  Gotta love it!!

There are an awful lot of people out there without jobs or prospects who might disagree with you. I’m glad things are working out for you, but I also am reminded of the great exchange in Broadcast News, when Tom Grunick (William Hurt) says to Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), “What do you do when your life exceeds your dreams?”

And Altman responds, “Keep it to yourself.”

And such a nice email from MNB user George Pruett, who apparently liked my review of “Painted Ladies,” written by the great Robert B. Parker before his deal last January. I mentioned that the Parker estate is looking for writers to continue his various series of novels, and Pruett wrote:

With your great writing skills and love of the Spenser novels, have you considered taking on an additional project of continuing the series?

I appreciate the kind words, but I think the Parker estate will be aiming higher than little old me. And I’m not sure my skills are up to the task. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to find time to write my own novel one of these days...
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