business news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the decision by General Motors to close 5 plants and lay off more than 14,000 employees, from which I drew several business lessons, one MNB reader wrote:

There is another lesson in this story: The decision to bail out a badly managed GM with more than $50 Billion in public funds only delayed the inevitable. Government subsidies to flawed companies who have lost touch with their key customers and fallen behind their free market competition is bad public policy. Consumers decide what they want. Companies that deliver products that fulfill those desires better than competitors do will survive and flourish. Those that don’t shouldn’t be subsidized by government intervention.

MNB reader Larry Ishii wrote:

I cannot agree with you more.

This situation also points out the importance of relativity. You mentioned low gasoline prices (or, lower). But for this retiree, when I got married in 1969, gasoline was 23.9-cents a gallon. And, if I filled up, I got a free coffee mug as well. So, I will keep my Chevy Cruze as long as I can so $3.50-per-gallon gasoline does not drive me to the poor house.

From another reader:

I am a long time reader and appreciate your insight.  There is a GM plant near me that is not impacted by the 14K layoffs – the local news reported this story last night.  My observation is that during MNF last night, I saw a GM commercial in prime time almost more often than I saw plays by each team in the game.  I am a former grocery ad guy, so I get the need for marketing, etc., but I couldn’t help but wonder how much those prime time ads were costing versus the ROI and if reductions in the marketing budget could have saved some jobs?  Not bashing GM at all – it just struck me as bad timing for the ads.

Responding to my piece yesterday about Facebook’s Portal system, which seems badly timed at best because of the company’s transparency and trust issues, one MNB reader wrote:

Just read your column about Portal. I totally agree with you on every point.

But, to me, it is related to a larger issue. When I was in high school, I had to do a paper on a great book. Our list included "Modern Prometheus" or what we all commonly refer to as "Frankenstein". Little did I know how important its message would be as I grew older.

While Portal is technology that should be dealt with cautiously and with forethought given the potential it represents to be so invasive, there was another very scary development in China, which if true, could change mankind forever. 

That would be the power or ability to engineer genes to control the traits of newly born babies. The implication of such ability could be Modern Prometheus becoming reality. We can easily see from Mr. Trump how such power in the wrong hands can be used in such damaging fashion.

We had a piece yesterday about how a relaxation of water testing regulations may be leading to the rash of E. coli contaminations, which prompted MNB reader Ron Pizur to write:

This administration’s plan to Make America Great Again by rolling back regulations may be going in the wrong direction.

My view is that knee-jerk dismantling of regulations is a mistake, as is knee-jerk imposition of regulations. In this case, though, the relaxation seems to not be consumers’ best interests.

Finally, on the future of Amazon Go, from MNB reader Randy Evins:

First, I think the concept of Amazon Go is spectacular....that said it is an extremely tall order to think it’ll work mainstream. I used to be a meat supervisor a long time ago and I had East LA as a part of my territory. Can you imagine what that would look like. On the weekends our stores were PACKED with families, their grandparents, their cousins, their children....It was an event. At the end of the day it was chaos all day and I can assure you, no one EVER put anything back on the shelf where they acquired the product. So while it’s really cool tech, and the concept will work as a convenience store for geeks like myself, it’s not likely going to get Kroger, better yet Northgate Gonzales, to jump in the water.

It won’t be for everyone, it won’t be for every store, but to underestimate the potential impact of checkout-free technology would be a mistake, I think.
KC's View: