business news in context, analysis with attitude

I referred above in my commentary about a Kroger story to an email I got implying that because I write about a certain e-commerce company so much, I am ignoring the good work being done by companies (such as Kroger).

The email was from MNB reader Chris Utz:

AMAZON, AMAZON, AMAZON….  When I read MorningNewsBeat, it seems that all you ever write about anymore is AMAZON.  The preponderance of your articles appear to be about AMAZON, or at least mention an AMAZON reference.  I have an idea.  You could rename your blog AMAZONnewsbeat.

Perhaps modern journalism is going the way of non-AMAZON bricks and mortar retail?  If so, your audience members who don’t work at AMAZON will continue to shrink, as non-AMAZON jobs continue to dry up.  You might get some AMAZON readership from AMAZON office workers.  But probably not so much AMAZON workers in the sweatshops that are AMAZON Distribution Centers.  AMAZON Distribution Center workers are too busy emptying their AMAZON bottles, since they aren’t allowed enough time for an AMAZON bathroom break.

The word AMAZON appeared 43 times today in your blog.  I was only able to use the word AMAZON 21 times here; and that’s including the Subject line.  Enough already!

Have an AMAZON day!

Fair point, I think. But…

I’m always aware of how much Amazon gets covered here. To be honest, sometimes there isn’t much I can do about it … on some days, Amazon is relevant to a numb er of stories about innovation and disruption, and ignoring them would be punditry malpractice on my part. Often, I’ll try to group a bunch of them together in E-conomy Beat, just so it won’t become overwhelming. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

I also think I’m aware of the mixed blessings that Amazon brings to the marketplace and the economy. But they’re perhaps the most innovative company doing business these days, and I think my coverage should be seen by anyone not working for Amazon as cautionary tales about the competitive threat.

For the record, the word “Amazon” appears 10 times in MNB today, other than in your email.

“Kroger,” on the other hand, appears 30 times. (Then again, who’s counting?)

I appreciate the perspective, though … it always helps when folks make me think about such things. The one thing I don’t want to do, though, is by-the-numbers reporting and commenting. There’s enough of that out there.

On the subject of the US Postal Service’s continuing problems, one MNB reader wrote:

It doesn’t surprise me to see the USPS continue to post significant losses. In my view, they fail to treat the operation as a service rather than a product. (Exhibit A: Their one solution is to raise stamp prices.) Within the past several months, we have had USPS packages delivered to our neighbor’s porch (multiple times), Amazon packages marked as “delivered by USPS” arriving 1-2 days later, and a mail carrier bypassing our mailbox completely if delivery requires an extra 2-3 steps outside of the vehicle. They will claim that they cannot exit the vehicle by law, due to safety concerns…unless they are delivering a package. We live on a cul-de-sac in a small gated community with very little traffic.

By contrast, my children know and love “Tommy Truck,” the UPS gentleman with the friendly smile who always delivers packages to our front door and even honks his horn for the kids as he drives away. We have come to love Tommy so much, we even bought him a gift card for the holidays. He knows our name, so he doesn’t deliver our packages to the wrong address. He’s as busy as the mail carrier, but he once stopped to help us unload a heavy (non-UPS) furniture delivery. I couldn’t tell you the name of our USPS carrier, and apparently, he/she couldn’t tell you our names either. Therein lies the problem…

All excellent points, You’d think that USPS folks would realize that their jobs are endangered and that they need to go above and beyond.

MNB fave Glen Terbeek wrote:

One way the USPS can reduce its loss significantly is by delivering “ordinary” mail 3 days a week instead of 6. With the impact of email, on-line billing and banking, etc; our experience is that 80-90% of the mail we receive today is advertising and other non-date critical mail. Who needs every day delivery for these items? They could easily redirect half of it’s routine delivery staff to the more time critical delivery items that have higher fees. If UPS and FedEx can do it, why can’t USPS do it?

Yesterday, MNB took note of a USA Today story about another racial bias incident that broke out in a coffee shop. This time, it was at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop in Riverside, California, where a customer confronted another customer - a female who was wearing a black niqab (headscarf) and identified herself as Muslim - and made racist comments.

The shop’s employees only got involved when the barista refused to serve the man, saying that he was being disruptive and racist.

I commented, in part:

Who are these people who somehow feel they are entitled to demonstrate their bigotry out loud, and who appear to show no sense of shame when their acts and statements are being captured on-camera? It is bad enough that they have such ugliness in their hearts, but our country has hit a new low when people give voice to it and somehow feel that they’ve done nothing wrong.

One MNB reader responded:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for calling this out. This is something we all need to do and I applaud both you and the barista. I’m glad you have the forum you do so your commentary is seen/heard by a greater number than most of us are able to reach.

On another subject, from another MNB reader:

<>b>Yesterday I was in a Sears store for the first time in decades and it was a bizarre experience. My husband and I were shopping for a window air conditioner when we pulled up to the store, and he said, “This is Sears? It’s so small.” We went in and asked the young man who was on the floor to show us what they had. Nothing - they would have to order it. Then he suggested we go to Lowes (less than a mile away) because, "they always have a good selection and good prices." My husband commented that he was sending us to the competition, and he said, “that’s where I would go…”

The conversation that followed was really sort of sad. The young man told us, “Since we’ve lost our owner, nothing has been the same. And we’re closing the store anyway…”

We don’t like big box stores and Lowes was not a successful experience. We actually found what we wanted at our locally-owned Ace Hardware for not that much more money. And, no, ordering online was not an option… even for $50 less. Of the customer reviews given on Amazon, shipping problems/damage was pretty much the majority of low reviews. The others seemed to be complaining about noise - but then have you ever known a moderately priced window air conditioner not to be fairly noisy?

Finally, I got this email from MNB reader Jeff Gartner, who has been reading for years here (and in both my books) about Etta’s in Seattle, and its estimable bartender, Morgan:

We’re in Seattle visiting our middle daughter and her family. After a half day trip to Bainbridge Island and back, we went to Crabby hour at Etta’s. We dropped your name, and sat near the bar.

Although Morgan had his Monday off, our bartender Jennifer was fabulous. So were our Limoncello spritzer drinks and our appetizers of oysters, shrimp toast and soft-boiled eggs topped with crab.

All delicious, thanks for the recommendation.

Jennifer knew you as the guy who includes Morgan in your blog and books. Perhaps you’ll mention her now too in your column.

And now I have. Nothing speaks so well about a restaurant experience than consistency of excellence.
KC's View: