business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a City AM report that Tesco plans to close 13 of its more than 200 stores in Hungary as part of its broader moves to make the company more profitable." The story noted that "major retailers in Hungary face new legislation in the country that would enforce the closure of loss-making chains after two successive years of losses, as well as rises in food inspection costs." 

And I commented:

What a concept! If stores don't make money, they have to be closed...

This prompted MNB reader Bob Warzecha to write:

Let’s hope that Amazon doesn’t set up shop in Hungary since Amazon has not made a profit yet.

And reader Jim DeJohn wrote:

You had an interesting comment for the MNB’s Tales of Tesco section.  You said “What a concept! If stores don’t make money, they have to be closed” .  Would you also apply this to online areas? – since I believe Amazon has yet to post a profit – would you recommend they be closed as well?  Just food for thought…

Is that my own petard upon which I am being hoisted?

First, I'm not sure that countries should be passing legislation that establishes whether or not retailers should stay in business.

Second, I would point out that Amazon makes a ton of money ... they just keep investing it in new initiatives and technologies.

On the subject of Apple Pay, one MNB user wrote:

I’ve beat on this drum before.  Having been hacked numerous times with retailers I shop first where Apple Pay is taken and only use credit cards elsewhere for fraud protection.  I changed from Publix to Winn Dixie for this very reason and it is no coincidence that the line I was in having multiple users of Apple Pay was breezing through checkout.  I used my debit card in this checkout with no worries of hacking.  If Whole Foods builds closer to where I live I will happily shop there using Apple Pay.  It is sad, or very short sighted and self serving as a more appropriate description, that supporters of Merchant Customer Exchange just get further behind and lose customers to those who do take Apple Pay.  By the way, my pharmaceutical business has left CVS and now goes to Walgreens……..same reason.

We had a piece the other day about how union organizers are continuing to push for higher wages for retail employees, leading MNB reader Randall Mahon to write:

How do you define, “Sharing the Wealth” from a Union president? I believe through progressive taxes, welfare programs, and charity that the “wealth” is shared. This week, President Obama wants to give “free” community college to every student who passes high school: “free”??? The minimum wage jobs are what they are: low skill positions. The workplace is always looking for people that sharpen their skill sets to become valuable to many employers. Working at a fast food restaurant is not a way to gain skills, unless you aspire and work towards being a manager. This type of mindset is what gives this current generation the Entitled Ones...

For the record, I hate the phrase "share the wealth." It sends the wrong message ... the discussion about the minimum wage ought to be about how much people need to make in order to support themselves and their families. Even low-skill people need to have a roof over their heads and food on their tables; ideally, they'll also be able to clothe their children and find a way to send them to college so they can achieve the American dream. (Note that I said achieve the American dream ... not have it handed to them. Because I fervently believe that this is all most people want.)

I do think, if I reading the coverage correctly, that you may be mischaracterizing the community college proposal. I'm not sure I understand the economics of it, but the philosophy behind it is that the US decided at a certain point in its history that it was going to make a free public education available to all its citizens, through high school ... at the time making the US the best educated nation on earth. Now, a high school education is not enough ... and the theory is that to be competitive as a nation we have to find a way to get more people a college education. (I suppose that one way to justify the cost is to say that all these people who get a free community college education hopefully will get better paying jobs, pay more taxes, and contribute more to a thriving economy.)

I am cheered that the federal proposal is modeled on programs in Tennessee (where they have been championed by a Republican governor) and Chicago (where a Democratic mayor has led the way). Now, I understand that there will be concerns about whether such programs should be federal or state-run, and that's a perfectly legitimate debate to have. But this is not, in my opinion, about catering to an entitled generation.

Yesterday we had an email from a Portland, Oregon, reader who lamented the fact that Dunkin' Donuts is expanding in China without doing so in the Pacific Northwest. I responded that Portland residents are lucky enough to have Voodoo doughnuts and Stumptown Coffee, and should not complain.

Which led another MNB reader to write:

In Portland, Voodoo doughnuts obviously has a legacy and great appeal – my favorite is the Marshall Mathers.
However, the place is very touristy – where to go if you don’t know where else to go. At least some of the enjoyment is based on the perception of scarcity and unique designs – both great elements.

But when you were last adjunct-ing in Portland (or during your next trip) I hope you patronized some other establishments that may surpass Voodoo – at least in the flavor/quality department 🙂

Pip's: Tiny doughnuts with amazing glazes, like honey & sea salt. Plus the owners are very generous and involved in the community.

Blue Star Doughnuts: Not tiny doughnuts that are just gourmet through and through (with a price to match). Choices like creme brûlée or Pistachio cheesecake with raspberry hibiscus glaze – and my favorite Apple Fritter ever, plus a maple-bacon creation that puts Voodoo to shame. These are food-porn doughnuts that taste as good as they look.

Honestly, those are probably now well-known champions, and doughnut hipsters would balk at going somewhere so gauche and commoditized 🙂
Wow, I just went to a lot of work to recommend doughnuts for no personal gain. I … I think I’m in love.

I now have new places to add to my list for next summer. Though, to be honest, I have to go easy on the doughnuts these days...
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