business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got an email the other day from MNB reader Jeff Gartner, who wanted to commented on one of the responses we got to the story about how the government has changed overtime rules so that millions of salaried employees are entitled to it:

Kevin, I just sighed, not in disbelief but rather in sadness, when reading one of your reader's comment "We will just figure their hourly rate based upon their current salary with their previously scheduled 45 hours … "

So, they feel it's ok to have their salaried employees consistently work 45 hours and not pay them any more than if they were working 40. And then they rationalize it by saying "it's a tight labor market." So obviously they feel no compunction taking advantage of their employees. My guess is they're also trying to fool their customers too with some sly pricing tactics.

And this is why there's such distrust of completely "free and unfettered markets." Just because you can doesn't mean you should. 

If I knew who this retailer was, I would never shop there. And certainly discourage others from doing so too.

Employees know when they are not valued. Employees know when companies see them as a cost, not an investment. And so, employers should not be surprised that when they behave in a certain way toward the people who work for them, those employees will turn around and not value the company where they are employed and do not feel personally invested in its success.

But of course, many are surprised ... because they simply don't get it.

Speaking of not getting it ... I got the following email from a millennial who wanted to address the criticism of his generation being a "snowflake generation" that melts in the face of any heat:

I have not been reading your commentary for long, because I am a millennial. I did not have a reason to before I graduated or when I was bouncing from job to job; call me a flake, but I needed to figure out what I wanted to do as well as maintain a salary that helped pay off my student debt in less than 2 years – see we aren’t all financially inept/irresponsible (and before anyone can poo poo this, I had more than the average (~$30k), depending on the source).

Anyway, I digress, I  have been trying to keep my mouth shut, but the over-generalizations about my generation has been irking me. Why should everyone who isn’t a part of it decide how we act and determine what kind of riff-raff we are? (Just want to point out that we didn’t raise ourselves or should we debate nature vs. nurture here...) One can’t always believe whatever news platform you consume and their reports on the self-centered, instant gratification of the millennials. Also, everyone by now knows that the news is still a company that is vying for viewership, ratings, and in turn, funding.

Yes, there are the stereotypes, but every generation has had their stereotypes. Maybe we are more staunch in our opinions, but we also have more platforms than ever before to get our opinions out and find people of like-mindedness. Perhaps it’s just my circle of friends or the university I attended, but I know even the people with the strongest opinions were willing to listen to the opposing view. If the opposing view was well-thought out, structured with facts, not just opinions, to back it up, they were willing to have a civilized conversation. I would say that it’s much more enlightening to understand both viewpoints, even if you disagree with one, then thinking “Life isn’t always going to be fair, and everyone you meet isn’t going to agree with you – face it and get over it.” We are not an apathetic generation; we were taught that we should talk about our feelings so maybe we are just a very obedient generation…?

I know I found a soapbox and occupied it for far too long, but isn’t that’s what is expected from a person in their mid-20’s? Perhaps, I am just venting or embodying the exact persona your other MNB reader was talking about, but once the other generations realize we are not too politically correct with no plasticity, possibly we could have that civilized conversation to discuss our dissenting views. Maybe we could even convince each other we are all humans with emotions and beliefs who just want to be acknowledged.

Just thought perhaps a millennial should be included in a conversation centered around them.

Good for you. I feel your pain, partly because I spend a fair amount of time with college students, and partly because of some of the criticisms were of educational institutions and the media that some feel have too much sway with your generation.

Responding to yesterday's story about Amazon's Stephenie Landry, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

This is a superb story that highlights (for the 1,000th time) something that gives Amazon a real competitive edge against most retailers.  They have a culture of innovation, not one that just tweaks the size of the deli plate, or highlights the cleanliness of the restrooms…no, this culture is about taking big swings and actively learning from their failures…in fact, relishing the failures.  This got me to wondering how many retailers, especially grocers where the margins are razor thin, have a committed and full-time innovation design team?  I am not talking about a research team who works on new line extensions for private label products, or even on new private label products…but a team that is trying to break the mothership, reinvent the business…and then has the management support and funding to “go be disruptive”!  I am afraid the answer to this question might be the “eye-opener” of all time!

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

I think you have taken a rather simplistic line of thought (and maybe callous) on the proposal to tax sugary drinks in Philadelphia. Certainly consumption of these highly taxed will decline, but by how much is really the question. I do think tax revenue projections might miss targets.  However I think it is unfair to question the commitment of supporters for free pre-K who are proposing the tax because they may or may not hit necessary revenue. In a city already highly taxed I see this as a somewhat novel approach to get revenue for a proven and needed program.  Let's face it - it's a "sin tax" - a 21st century sin tax. Such taxes do impact consumption but not stop it. Witness the high tax rates on alcohol and tobacco sales. Seems like plenty of consumption still going on with these products. Again, taxes might not hit projections but that would only mean even less of a"bad" product is being sold. Certainly an offset. For a guy who touts novel approaches/solutions you're coming off cynical here.

Cynical? Sure. Callous? I don't think so, at least not in this case.

And, regarding the new Google Home technology, one MNB user wrote:

In regards to Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s comment, ". . . The difficult part - and the part that will distinguish products from one another - is the experience that computers facilitate."  Amazon has realized that part of their ability to provide customer satisfaction is to take more control of the delivery system.  I’m waiting for the company who can impact customer service by ensuring the delivery system for computers (the internet-provider service) is delivering what is promised.

If Amazon can provide internet service via Echo or any other way, I’m there!  I changed internet providers about a year ago to Century Link because they promised a lower bill and better service than my previous provider.  When I asked THREE times if the $39.95 fee included all charges, they said yes.  My bill has run over $51 every month and was recently raised to over $54.  They had to lay a cable from the street to my house (11 months and three phone calls ago) and promised three times to bury it.  It’s still laying on my lawn.  When I called to see what sort of deal I could get when my contract runs out next month, they explained that they usually only give you any kind of break if you bundle with DirectTV.  (I don’t want DirectTV- that’s why I have Amazon Prime and Netflix.)   I was then transferred twice and then disconnected while I was waiting patiently for the rep to “check into my options.”   Three strikes – they weren’t transparent about the price, they didn’t deliver in completing the installation, and they didn’t provide follow up.

Cable TV is falling, and I predict internet providers may be crashing in its wake.  I’m ready to get off the Titanic now.

And, a challenge from MNB reader Christine Neary:

I saw your snippet this morning about Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger and had to laugh a bit. I’ve been a veg-head for years now. Veggie burgers have always had a strong stereotype of being, well, gross and cardboard-like. That is quickly changing, and I have to say that I feel Beyond Meat is the front-runner in this race. Their products are flavorful, have a great mouth feel, and are easy to prepare. (They are also gluten-free and soy-free, making them a great option for those with food allergies. And they are non-GMO.) Now, I’m a very picky eater—I hate beets, too. I’ve yet to try the Beyond Burger, but I’ve had the Beast Burger and several of their other products. Yes, these products are processed foods—but they have no cholesterol and are higher in protein than the average meat burger. And sometimes the convenience is quite nice.

So, Mr. Coupe, I challenge you to a burger … this weekend is Memorial Day and it strikes me that this may be the perfect opportunity for you to expand your palate’s horizons a bit. Toss one on the grill, load it up with your favorite toppings, and sink your teeth in!

KC's View: