business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how Toys R Us announced that it will match advertised prices from bricks-and-mortar competition, as well as the prices on its own website. It will not, however, match prices offered by Amazon and other online retailers.

I commented:

If Toys R Us won't match prices against Amazon, and won't match prices on the really popular stuff, what the hell is the point? Toys R Us clearly wants to compete in a world where people don't have access to the internet, and don;t have access to all the kinds of price transparency that online retailers routinely make available. Unfortunately, that world no longer exists.

There are a thousand good reasons not to go to Toys R Us during the holidays. Luckily, my kids are old enough that I don't even have to consider it. But this just cements it.

Talk about marketing myopia. Management ought to be taken out and flogged.

One MNB user pointed out:

Kevin, while I think Toys R Us is on death watch, this is big for them ... FYI, Walmart nor Target matches Amazon either…

That doesn't make them right.

MNB user Tom Robbins wrote:

Add to the list of disadvantages, their store are poorly stocked and horribly dirty. Add to that, my grandchildren enjoy picking out "suggestions" for me on line. Flogging might be too kind for the management.

MNB user Kevin McCaffery wrote:

Wait. So if you catch Toys R Us selling an item for less on there own web site they will do you the favor of matching the price? One would think that they would have checked that out for you and saved you the time and energy…I see more vacant buildings in our future if this is the game they are playing..

And another MNB user wrote:

I just find it hard to believe that Toys R Us doesn’t seem to think Amazon is a direct competitor.   Besides the non-price match policy, Toys R Us also has extremely poor return policies, especially when you purchase from their on-line site.  All I can say, I am extremely thankful for companies like Amazon, that actually make shopping a pleasurable experience.  I’d love to look in a crystal ball and see what companies like Toys R Us will look like in 5, 10 years.

You don't have to wait. Just check the most recent P&L statements filed by Borders. They may be pretty similar...

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

On the continuing saga of Supervalu...I, for one, would welcome the day when the assets are sold and the what's left of its shell is put out of its misery. If for no other reason than we wouldn't have to listen to the never-ending discussion of (perceived) past successes, current mismanagement, and all of the steps leading to its demise. The fact is that 95% of all new businesses fail, and about 2/3 have a lifespan of less than 40 years. Supervalu - and especially Albertson's - hasn't been relevant for decades, a fact that many other analysts in the popular press have recently acknowledged after painful visits. The idea that Supervalu, of all companies, would have strategic assets is almost comical. I do, though, feel sorry for the employees...

To be honest, I hope that somehow Supervalu survives and even thrives - either under current ownership or some other entity. For one thing, I know people there, and I like them. I'd love the company to make a comeback, because they deserve it. For another thing, it'd be a great story ... and I love a great story.

We also continue to get email about the subject of gender discrimination, which some people think exists and some people think is just a fictional construct created by women unwilling to work hard, be patient and not be troublemakers. It is a fascinating and ongoing conversation.

One MNB user wrote:

The notion of men making more than women or being promoted at higher rates than women not being proof of gender discrimination is false. In United States employment law, the doctrine of disparate impact holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate “adverse impact” on members of a protected class. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines adverse impact as a “substantially different rate of selection in hiring, promotion, or other employment decision which works to the disadvantage of members of a race, sex, or ethnic group.”

Smoking guns in gender discrimination cases rarely exist.  There aren’t memos or e-mails outlining a policy of paying women less or not promoting women.  The proof is in the results.  Are women being paid less for the same work?  Are men being promoted in higher percentages? As much as someone may think they haven’t seen or experienced gender discrimination, if the answer to these questions is, “yes,” then they have.  The fact that people don’t realize they are doing it is a large part of the problem.  Ignorance of the law is not a legitimate defense.

These cases are not about redistribution of wealth or victimization.  This is not tax policy or welfare reform.  It is about statistical evidence of discrimination. There is a reason these are tried in courts of law and not a boardroom (where, on AVERAGE, senior executives are likely to be made up of 71.9% men with the board of directors likely being 87.7% men, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence).

Another MNB user wrote:

I think you hit the nail on the head.  Just because I’ve never personally witnessed gender discrimination, or race discrimination in the work place, doesn’t mean it never happens.  While I don’t like our litigious society either and have no desire for petty lawsuits, there is nothing petty about gender or race discrimination in the workplace, and sometimes, the legal system is the only means victims have to make their voices heard.  If  you are qualified, you deserve the same chance as anyone else, regardless of gender, and if you are a woman and your company pays you less for the same job because you are woman, shame on them, they deserve to be sued.

In the day, you could trust George Carlin to be outrageous, you could also expect him to skewer whatever he found was wrong.  I’ll never forget a particular rant about American govt. and how this country is built on BS, and as an example he used the Declaration of Independence, where it says that all are created equal, yeah, except for blacks, Hispanics, Indians and women (I’m cleaning it up a bit.)  That the framers of the Constitution  had the idea that only white landowners like themselves should have the right to vote, and people that is embarrassingly and stunningly full of $^&%.

You could always depend on Carlin to strip away the varnish and put it in a nutshell.

MNB user Jenefer Angell wrote:

I would agree that there are probably many situations where discrimination is subtle and not intentional – and yet even if done unawares, it’s still inappropriate, and our flawed legal system is one way to raise awareness about those subtleties that may improve the lot of women in the future. But because it’s so hard to prove, I don’t expect the Costco case to be much more successful than the Walmart case for these women, even if it’s true.

From another reader:

I have tried to stay out of this, but today’s comment sent me over the edge.  It started out on the right path…most gender bias is not intentional…then derailed into an absurd argument that maybe it really is okay.  I agree that gender bias is unintentional.  I happen to believe that men choose other men because there is an intuitive comfort level when a group of men are together.  The same is true of women.

I was recently the only woman in a diversity training with 20 middle-aged white men.  They disagreed with my assertion that they are more comfortable with men.  I asked them if they thought it was comfortable for me to be in that room, total silence.  Then I asked them how often they wanted to be the only man in the room at a baby or bridal shower, I saw a few light bulbs go on.  The next question I asked them was: Other than at work, how often were there NO women at a gathering they attended?  The last question was…how many of you have to ask your significant others for permission to have a “guys night” or all male event?  Lots of light bulbs went on.

Obviously some of my questions were based on stereotypes, but that isn’t the point.  The point is that other than at work, most of us live gender-diverse lives day in and day out so why is it that most food industry businesses are dominated by men?

When we work with people who challenge our comfort level, we produce greater results because group-think is less likely to occur.  It is the diversity of opinion and thinking that leads people to find great solutions.  So it really isn’t okay that corporate America is filled with leaders that are the same man with a different face.  I am not the victim, our businesses are the victims.

The problem that some readers seem to have is with another reader who suggested that if discrimination is not intentional, then it really isn't discrimination.

Another reader chimed in:

I have to say that your last reader in the Your Views section of your blog on 10/2 has a rather myopic view of the world.  Though I have seen a limited number of scenarios that indicated gender bias in my working life I can say that I saw many instances of it in my mother’s career.  For decades she worked in a highly male dominated industry and was not only passed on for promotions in favor of less qualified males, the last three companies she worked at in this industry didn’t even have a female in their top 5 positions!

Also, for this readers sake: equal taxation of the wealthy is neither redistribution or Socialism.  It’s fairness.  Plain and simple.

And still another MNB user offered:

As I was reading this guy's comments the first thing that went through my mind was Congressman Todd "It's about freedom" Akin must be an MNB reader.

Assuming it wasn't the gentleman from Missouri, the next thing that occurred to me was, based on the overall tone of his comments, this fellow wouldn't have recognized "actual" ("legitimate"?) gender discrimination if it did happen right in front of him.

From another reader:

Every now and then, a comment from a reader just shocks me for its tone-deaf worldview.

Ok, now I understand, if the bias is unconscious or deeply ingrained in the system.. well that is just the way it is. Women, minorities, LGBT people …  stop all this wining and move on.  The convoluted logic of this argument certainly provides a window into the core issue that cases such as this attempt to address.

Well, if you liked the "if it isn't intentional it isn't discrimination" email, you're gonna love this one, from another reader:
The creation of protected classes and the promulgation of perceived bias and discrimination has unintended negative consequences......employers are scared and hesitant to work with these groupings of people.  I'm a firm believer in that all people are created equal but.......the nice thing about hiring heterosexual, Christian white males is that no matter how you treat them, they can't turn around and sue you.

Well, actually they can. But they don't. Because you've turned them into the ultimate "protected class" - not in the way that the courts have defined it, but in reality.

Save me from people who use statements like "I'm a firm believer in that all people are created equal but..." The way I see it, there's only one way to make that statement: "I'm a firm believer in that all people are created equal." Period.

You've essentially created, or seem to want to create, a pretty little bubble where heterosexual, Christian white males can reign supreme without fear of having their world view challenged, and where the only real fear is of letting people in who don't fit into their world view. It is a bubble where diversity is the enemy, and where we only have to hang out with people who look and think like us. The world as it actually exists must be a scary place for you, though it must be reassuring for some heterosexual, Christian white males to get together with other heterosexual, Christian white males and complain about how the "other people" are ruining this country...

You poor bastard.
KC's View: