business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Friday, in my usual “OffBeat” rant, I wrote, in part:

I want to be very clear about this, because I am a person who depends on my sponsors for the financial support to keep MNB going.

Under no circumstances will I ever think of my sponsors as french fries, and if I lose one, I would never think - or say - that it is like “losing a couple of French fries in the container when it's delivered to you at the drive-through ... You don’t even notice it.”

Not only would that be a dumb thing to say to departing sponsors who had been supportive of me, but it would be a supremely arrogant thing to say to existing and potential sponsors, who rightly could expect greater appreciation and even discretion.

Of course, there are a lot of things that I would never think or say out loud. And when I think about it, suggesting that my sponsors are as disposable and insignificant as french fries probably is just the beginning of what I would not say or think.

This was not a political statement. It was a statement of business principles. However, there were a few people who had no idea what the hell I was talking about ... and for them, I will clarify.

Last week, Rush Limbaugh, in saying that reports of sponsors jumping ship were inaccurate (those reports came after he was criticized for using certain terms to describe a woman with whom he had a philosophical disagreement), said that losing them was like “losing a couple of French fries in the container when it's delivered to you at the drive-through ... You don’t even notice it.”

One MNB user thought I got it completely wrong:

I think you missed the whole point of the Sponsor/French Fries article.  Maybe you only got to see part of the article taken out of context…..or maybe MNB hasn’t reached this level of sponsorship to fully appreciate the point…yet.  It was simply an analogy to help the common person like myself understand how things really work vs. how the main stream press presents a headline or article.  Basically confirmed my decision to stop getting/believing my news from mainstream TV/Newspapers.  I trust outlets like MNB and Fox News to present it to me “fair and balanced”.
When I first heard the headlines of “lost sponsors” from the mainstream outlets….I thought…Wow, this has turned into some serious outrage….but the link below put it all in perspective for me.
Here is the full article if that was the case:

Well, you got one thing right.

I don’t have as many sponsors as Rush Limbaugh.

But you got a few things wrong.

First of all, I don’t claim to be balanced. I try to be fair to all sides, but I don’t hide my opinions, nor do I suggest that I am always right and people with whom I disagree are always wrong. I probably learn more from the people who whom I disagree than I do from those who have positions that I would share.

Second, the link you provided isn’t to an “article.” It is a defense, and while it may be completely accurate, it is hardly objective. It is in his best interests to shine the best possible light on the situation.

Another MNB user wrote:

Regarding your comments today referring to sponsors as french fries by Rush Limbaugh...I'm assuming you made those comments without all the information on the subject. The "sponsors" Rush was referring to aren't even necessarily sponsors to his show.  He doesn't know who they are nor do business with them. In most cases he doesn't even get paid by them. They are local sponsors who buy ads on a radio station. Their ads may or may not even appear during his show.  These sponsors called the radio station and said they don't want their ads to appear during Rush's show. The radio station doesn't lose money either though because they just swap an ad that was to appear on Rush's show to another show and swap a new one in.  Additionally the radio station has had to move about 43 sponsors off of Rush's show out of around 18,000. That is less than french fries...that's a couple of grains of salt on one of the fries.

It is true that Rush has lost a couple of his national sponsors, but these were not the ones he was calling french fries. BTW, one of the national sponsors who left, Carbonite, has seen their stock plummet 12% since they announced they were pulling ads from Rush.

The media is making this out that sponsors are flocking away from Rush and he is losing money and popularity, neither of which is true. Rush has the most popular and lucrative show on the radio. Even with all the controversy actual sponsors that pay him are still flocking to his show.
I'm guessing that you would want all the details of the situation to present to your fans.

Actually, nothing you say changes my mind about my original statement. The sponsors who asked the individual radio stations to take their ads off the Limbaugh show may not have been direct advertisers, but they still paid money to the stations, which in turn used that money to help buy the show for them to air. They lose that revenue, and they have less money to spend.

My original point remains. Someone spends money on me, and I don’t think of them as insignificant. We may disagree, and if a sponsor decides not to be in business with me anymore, I shake their hand and say thank you for the good times, and I hope they’ll come back in the future.

I think that’s smart business.

To do otherwise is hubris.

But hey ... that’s just my opinion.

And it has nothing to do with politics or even the comments and attitude that set off the controversy.

MNB wrote on Friday about a report saying that Walmart was all hat, no cattle when it comes to its environmental initiatives. MNB user Blake Steen had some thoughts about this:

Let’s take a look at the real line in this story.  “The chain also regularly donates money to political candidates who ‘consistently vote against the environment,’ according to ILSR.”  So if you send money to a republican candidate that makes your store less sustainable? The story loses all credibility with that statement. First of all how do you “vote against the environment”? If they truly are falsely advertising sustainability and Wal-Mart is not doing what they are saying that is one thing, and I applaud this nonprofit for calling it out.  There is no need to bring politics into the message.

I suppose that the point was that if a company makes a big deal about environmental initiatives, but then supports candidates that seem to have different priorities, it seems entirely justifiable to question whether it is sincere or just playing a PR game.

Without passing judgement on Walmart, that doesn’t seem like such an outrageous position to take.

There was also a story last week about Walmart being concerned about out-of-stocks, which led one MNB user to write:

What is interesting is that several years ago under David Glass leadership, David addressed the company on this issue. His concern was not the out of stock percentages but rather what were the items that made up the percentage. That there was a big difference in being out of Tide vs. Aunt Penny White Sauce. That being listed on a out of stock report is different than being really out of stock (physically) on the shelf. That study showed ( as done by Safeway a few years back) that out of stock on own brand alone can cost you quite a bit in the profit column. So to bring this back up now to their associate is showing me that they have not had their eye on this issue for some time. Be real interesting to see who will be holding the “extra” inventory, Walmart or the supplier, I’ll bet the supplier…….

Another MNB user wrote:

Such a conflict those WalMart managers must face!  For years the policy being drilled into them:  Keep inventories low, low, low!  It became such a mantra that it was apparent to anyone with a little business insight that WalMart did not care that a certain item was out; they sold too much of everything else for it to make a difference.  So now the thought is one out-of-stock multiplied throughout the department, store, district, state, country, company can really add up.  Wow!!  I've been seeing (and saying) that for years.  But, I guess it's only a good idea when the executives think that it's a good idea.

And, from another reader:

I am "semi-retired" so maybe it's ancient history. I thought one of Walmart strengths was on time deliveries throughout the system. To me the combination of out of stocks and loaded back rooms is "interesting".

It looks like the wrong items in the wrong places.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

I suppose it's a case of to each his/her own, but I for one am baffled by the reader whose vitriolic letter against Ron Johnson and the changes at JCPenney ran in today's 'Your Views'. Another similar letter a month or so ago, written by a woman who intimated that she and her fellow women shoppers were not intelligent enough to understand Penney's new, simplified pricing structure.  I don't get it.

Over the past several years--admittedly as my body and I have entered our 40's--my clothes-shopping world has distilled down to three stores: Lord & Taylor, LL Bean, and JCPenney. Penney's has clothes that fit, are decent quality, are priced well and--very important--don't make me look like I'm trying too hard to look like a teenager.  However, their stores tended to be cluttered and their staff was frequently pretty lackluster. Not that Sears or Macy's or *gasp!* Nordstrom did any better.

Recently my spouse and I made a trip to the mall specifically to use a gift card to another store and we stopped in at Penney's while we were there.  What a pleasant experience! Visually, the store looked much better, but it was hard to say why except that it was uncluttered, bright and easy to shop. It was not "'A' blouse on a glass shelf", and there was ample stock and selection, but gone was the overcrowded feeling and the extra tables, bins and stacks that get in the way.

Furthermore, we were greeted warmly and genuinely by sales people in the departments and guided to the cash wrap when we were ready to ring out.  Even the checkout seemed to go smoother and quicker than usual. It was all kind of small stuff, but it made a big (positive!) impact on us.

Oh, and who doesn't love Ellen?!

KC's View: