business news in context, analysis with attitude

Two reports from the field…

One MNB reader wrote:

Had to run into Dollar General on Thanksgiving Day, against my wishes. One clerk just came in at 3 pm, to relieve a clerk. The clerk that was being relived had worked all day by herself, no break, no lunch, didn't even get to use the restroom. That is illegal, and should be talked about. I wonder if the executive level of Dollar General worked stores over the holiday to help out? How many of them went without these basic worker needs? At some point this will boil over for them, and be a huge issue. You can only push people so far. When you operate at a bare bones level, worker rights and pay suffer.


On another subject, from another MNB reader:

I laughed when I read your quote from Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer of Walmart US about how the company is “agnostic” about whether people shop online or in its stores.

I was talking with friends on Saturday about their Black Friday adventures. They had gone into Walmart to purchase a laptop which they saw online. The manager in the electronics dept wouldn't honor the sale (same laptop, just a $300 different) so my friend had to order it online and pick it up from the SAME store. I think Walmart has a situation with the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  Steve may want to believe that they are agnostic about where people shop but if Walmart won't honor their online sales in the store, people are just going to leave frustrated.

No question. You have to deliver on the promise, and sometimes business models are engineered not to. Walmart is no exception, and in fact, because of its size and tradition, much of the company is genetically engineered to resist anything that challenges its legacies.

The instinct to be format agnostic is correct. Institutional implementation may be lacking.

Another MNB reader chimed in:

I always was puzzled by stores treating their online division like a competitor. If you bought something on line you couldn’t bring it to the store for an exchange or refund, got it in the mail had to mail it back. They weren’t using all their resources and losing one of their competitive advantages. Now they figure it out?  

On another point, I always thought of an agnostic as an atheists hedging their bets.

In a business context, I think a lot of retailers are trying to figure out how to hedge their bets without really making a commitment; they’d like to be a little bit pregnant.

In a religious context, though, I’ve always though of agnostics as actually having an open mind … having an opinion, but leaving open the possibility that they could be wrong.

Finally, regarding the Elton John Christmas ad we posted last week, an MNB reader wrote:

This ad touched me in two ways: First, I became a die-hard Elton John fan at the age of 12 and have never lost my love for his music. Second, as a grandfather now, I have an eight year old granddaughter learning piano and two grandsons (10 and 12) about to get guitars for Christmas. I firmly believe that music is one of the most important things in a young person’s life, and I want my grandchildren to have a lifetime of enjoying whatever kinds of music they love, the way I have with Sir Elton.

I hope your grandsons don’t read MNB; I’d hate to have ruined Christmas morning for them.
KC's View: