business news in context, analysis with attitude

I wrote flippantly the other day that Amazon Prime is a way of getting people to spend money so they can spend more money. MNB reader Chris Utz objected:

I use Amazon Prime.  I don’t just ‘pay for the privilege to spend more money’.  That’s what happens with a Costco and Sam's Club membership.  Amazon Prime provides value with their membership fee.
I get expedited ‘free’ 2 day delivery service, for a product cost that may be nominally higher than purchasing the same item elsewhere.  Purchasing from another would site most often requires shipping fees, which negate any price savings, unless you meet a minimum spending threshold.   If you reach the threshold, usually $100 you get free UPS Ground shipping, which takes several days.  Worst of all is free shipping from the US Postal Service, which takes an eternity do be delivered. 
I’ve sent birthday and Christmas presents (wrapped for a small fee) and had Amazon delivered them several states away in 2 days.  I’ve also sent textbooks, replacement Apple chargers and the like directly to my daughter’s dorm, at a price less expensive than her school bookstore, usually with 2 day Prime delivery.  I have a friend who similarly uses Amazon Prime to ship presents to relatives in Europe.
An Amazon Prime membership also provides free online movies, television series and other content similar to what Netflix provides.  At $7.99 per month, Netflix costs just a bit less than Amazon Prime.  Compared to Netflix Standard Service at $9.99 per month, or Premium Service at $11.99 per month, Amazon Prime is much less expensive.

You are preaching to the converted.

On another subject, the new SmartLabel technology, one MNB reader wrote:

You are correct. Food manufacturers needed to communicate with consumers from the beginning on several issues, not just artificial ingredients. If more had built relationships from the beginning they would be in a more understanding place now. Here is the product you requested with the trade-offs. If you want natural, shelf life is compromised. If you want shelf life, this is the ingredient list it takes to get there. Artificial does not have to be bad, but it does have to be explained in a non-combative way. It isn’t pushing back, it is communicating. Too many food companies thought they were exempt from some of the issues because you have to eat. They seem to have forgot, that the consumer can choose what to eat and who makes the food. As you are fond of saying, tell a compelling story with transparency and honesty and you can create a loyal consumer.

And from another reader:

High-value consumers are demanding more transparency from the products they purchase and the companies producing them. If brands were truly interested in providing consumers what they want and respond to the consumer’s request for more transparency, they would simply put the nutritional information on the label for all to access and not bury it in a code, placing the onus on the retailer and consumer to hunt for the information they seek. At the end of the day, the winners will continue to provide nutritional values on the label and the shoppers will continue to drive the market with their dollars. SmartLabel Technology may have won the battle, but it will certainly lose the war for the brands seeking success in the marketplace.
KC's View: