business news in context, analysis with attitude

More on the Supervalu situation...

One MNB user wrote:

I have to re-iterate what one user commented today regarding the lack of data driven decision making at Jewel.  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE PROBLEM AT THIS COMPANY!!!!

Data often paints a dark picture that absolutely threatens the prospects for high ROI and profit margins which is not good for people looking to meet their ROI and project approval targets.

In my view there is a universal LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY and the rosy outlook on everything is a failure to accept reality.  Leads everybody to continue to say things are good and ‘we are going to meet these targets’ to appease their superiors.

I see the data and it drives me insane that we continue to make decisions that are not in accordance with reality.

And, from another reader:

We have been told in the past that price reductions at our Supervalu stores would take some time to see value because in the first year at least, we would lose money and it’s not until we get our customers back with the lower prices that we could see any benefit. If it’s going to take 1-2 years to complete these reductions, I don’t see how Supervalu can be anywhere but in a worse financial state two years from now. The numbers don’t make sense.

Seems to be a theme...

Yesterday, MNB took note of aChicago Tribune reports that when Dan Cathy, president of the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, said that the company is "guilty as charged" for being anti gay marriage - a position at odds with the company's previously stated stance as not being anti anything - he managed to stir up a controversy that spilled out onto social media networks all over the internet.

I commented, in part:

He can say anything he wants as long as he is prepared to live with the reaction and possible collateral damage to sales. Which I suspect he is.

I personally disagree with his position. Too many people I love are affected negatively by such an attitude, and therefore I'll be avoiding Chick-fil-A for the foreseeable future.

My point is this. When a retailer stakes out a political or cultural position - on either side of an issue - he has to be prepared for the potentially divisive impact. That's not usually what retailers want to do, because disenfranchising a percentage of the potential base is not usually seen as good business.

Lots of reaction, not surprisingly.

One MNB user wrote:

I agree with you position on this issue.  People have the right to their beliefs and choose not to eat there.  The only thing I don’t like is when people of different beliefs are targeted for retribution such as threats and boycotts.  If Chick-fil-A doesn’t match your beliefs, don’t shop there.  I’m glad that is where you kept it.

I'm not sure I entirely agree. My decisions are personal; I tend not to be interested in organized boycotts. Or organized anything, for that matter. (It is the old Groucho Marx line: "I don't want to be part of any club that would have someone like me for a member.")

But that doesn't mean there is never a role for organized boycotts. There are times in our history when that has been the only response to oppression, and thank goodness some were brave enough to organize them and persevere.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I'm with you on the Chick story. I too have never patronized the organization so I can't boycott it. I did, however, sever my connection with Ameritrade after its founder said derogatory and inflammatory things through a superpac about our president. It was a satisfying thing to do, even though I know it had no impact.

From another reader:

If one in five people in this country are gay, then Dan Cathy offended 20% of his employees. I’m not sure that was a judicious thing to do. And I wonder how much of their sales come from the gay population?

We may find out.

And from still another MNB user:

As a long time MNB reader, I totally agree with your comments.  What strikes me as sad, and perhaps frightening, is how much blending of religion/politics and business there now appears to be.  I remember a time, NOT that long ago, when businesses felt no need whatsoever to dive into those social elements, and felt they ran their businesses for ALL of their customers, despite varying beliefs and life styles.  Now, we have to hear about what CEO’s think or believe ... who cares?  It’s their personal business, none of ours, but now they are making it ours.  Like you, I avoid these kinds of businesses as much as I can.  I think it’s a slippery slope, further dividing people in our society.

MNB user Bill Welch wrote:

I can defend your opposition to Chick-Fil-A’s view on Gay Marriage but please do not say that Chick-Fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich is “slightly-better-than-mediocre chicken”.  With that statement, you lose all credibility with your readers that work in the “Quick Service” food industry and most of the customers of Chick-Fil-A. Your bias is showing.

At Chick-Fil-A it is not just the product but the People and the level of service provided make a difference in their Value Proposition.  The culture is different there.  When you say thank you to the person at the drive thru and they say “MY PLEASURE!” with a wide and sincere smile.   At any other fast food joint the typical response is “no problem”.

You mentioned eating at Chick-Fil-A “while traveling on road trips between Mondays and Saturdays” since they are closed on Sunday.  This is evidence of another decision that Mr. Cathy has made based on his values and again this has an impact on sales.  You may disagree with his values but you have to respect a person and a company that stands by their values even when it affects sales.

I guess I have't found my Chick-fil-A experiences to be as satisfying as you have; frankly, I think the people are friendlier - and the food is better - at Burgerville. But that's maybe a matter of taste and timing. And if you think I crossed the credibility line with my "slightly-better-than-mediocre chicken," line, I can accept that criticism.

For the record - I have no problem at all with Chick-fil-A's policy of closing on Sundays. None. I think it is hard to maintain such a policy in these highly competitive days, but I respect the decision and the values behind it.

But another MNB user was even less supportive of my position:

As luck would have it, a new Chick-fil-A is opening down the street from my home. I’ll more than make up for your lost sales.

One MNB user wrote:

Refusing to eat at a restaurant because you disagree with one of the opinions of the owner is just about the shallowest, most-pathetic act of spite I've ever come across.  The only relevant opinion ought to be whether you think the food is worth the price.

What a way to go through life:  Tsk.  Tsk. Tsk!

Does that mean that if you knew a restaurant owner discriminated against African-Americans, or Hispanics, or Jews, or the Irish (a tip of the hat to Blazing Saddles here), it would be petty to not patronize that establishment for that reason?

And just for the record, I am capable of far more shallow, pathetic acts of spite than not patronizing a fast food establishment.

MNB user Gerry Buckles wrote:

For the millions that have been beaten into submission by political correctness to the point they are afraid to say that they are Christians and love God, that they hunt, that they eat meat, that they celebrate Christmas, that they Love the United States Military and a litany of other things, they see Dan Cathy as tremendously courageous and inspirational. Is it still ok to say courageous and inspirational?

I have to be honest here. Maybe it is because I hang out with the wrong folks, but I don't know anyone - anyone - who is afraid to say that they are Christians and love God, that they hunt, that they eat meat, that they celebrate Christmas, that they Love the United States Military. I also don't know anyone - anyone - who thinks people should not be proud to say that they are Christians and love God, that they hunt, that they eat meat, that they celebrate Christmas, that they Love the United States Military.

I don't know where you live, but where I live, all those things are perfectly okay. People on my street do many of those things. Some do all of them. In fact, there are people I love who do many of those things, and are unafraid to do so, or talk about it. I'm happy about that.

Now, I also happen to live on a street that is in a state where gay marriage is legal. That also makes me happy.

I totally get that not everybody feels that way.

But let me be clear. All I was trying to say yesterday that in making his comments, Dan Cathy was taking a risk. This might be a tempest in a teapot, and could go away. Or it might not. And in making those comments, I tried to be transparent about my own feelings, because if I am going to comment on a story, I ought to be clear about whatever opinions I have that frame that commentary.

Here was my favorite email from yesterday, though, from MNB user Dennis Ferguson:

I have enjoyed reading MNB for years, please, as much as possible, keep social views out of it.

I really don't care that you are gay, just keep reporting what is going on it retail.

First of all, I thought I was reporting a retail-related story. As for my social views, which were relevant to issue, I hope I made clear above why I expressed them.

As for your other point ... Mrs. Content Guy was a little surprised when she saw that email. She wanted to know if I had something to tell her.

(For a moment, it was almost like that great scene in In & Out, when all the students, rallying behind their teacher, start jumping up and shouting, "I'm gay!")

Again, in the interest of transparency - and only in the interest of transparency - here is what I think.

I have been in a traditional, heterosexual marriage for more than 29 years. It's been going okay. (You can ask Mrs. Content Guy for a second opinion, if you like.) I'm in favor of traditional marriage for those who want to engage in one.

Ultimately, if I really think about it, it is not so much that I am for gay marriage. It is that I don't think I have a right to judge whether gay people can get married or not. If they want to, let them. If they don't want to, fine. What they do - or don't do - has nothing to do with me. Gay marriage doesn't threaten my traditional marriage, or anybody else's, in my humble opinion. The only thing that threatens my marriage is if one of us does something stupid or careless.

Also to be clear ... I understand that when religion is brought into the picture, things get complicated. I am enormously sympathetic to this, and would never, for example, suggest that any religion should be forced to conduct gay wedding ceremonies. But civil ceremonies, I think, probably should not be subject to religious tenets.

I also want to be clear about something else. I understand that this is a complex cultural and social issue, and hard for some people to accept. I also am pretty sure that I'm not going to convince anyone who disagrees with me to change their mind, and I am equally sure that Dan Cathy isn't going to persuade anyone who disagrees with him to change their opinion. I also understand that I take a little bit of a risk even talking about these issues, but I think they are important and have a connection to business and ought to be discussed civilly and openly ... but I'm in a different business than Dan Cathy.

Dan Cathy made a business decision. Some will agree with it, some won't, and there will be an impact on his business, or there won't, and we'll see what happens next.

And now, I have to figure out how to convince Mrs. Content Guy that I'm not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it.
KC's View: