business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to Kate McMahon's column yesterday about our experiences at Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, one MNB reader wrote:

We had the exact same experience on Sunday at 11:30 in suburban Denver, CO. It was so awful that even if the sandwich was the most amazing thing ever, and it was not, we will not be back. I felt sorry for the employees who were clearly set up for failure, and were not handling it well. Popeyes had all the time in the world to get the relaunch perfect. Instead, it was a disaster that caused more ill-will and bad press.  As we waited for over an hour, I kept asking myself how they could have screwed this up so badly. It is simply mind-boggling. I am sorry to hear it had not improved by Monday.

Regarding the possibility that Walgreens Boots Alliance might go private, one MNB reader wrote:

Most of these private equity deals result in fewer outlets, less service, more cash for the investors and a major release of employees. It is step 1 to emulating Sears!

On another subject, from MNB reader Brian Blank:

I noted your mention of the CVS/UPS drone using a cable and winch to deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps, and how you prefer Amazon’s little parachutes.  Yes, I think the idea of tiny parachutes captures the imagination, I can think of a number of practical reasons against it.

Number one:  wind.  Lightweight little packages with sails attached…heaven knows where your pills will end up!  Second, all those parachutes would just end up in the landfill and/or killing turtles in the oceans.  Also, 3…that’s a lot of added expense as compared to the cable/winch setup.  But yeah, the idea of little parachutes does take some of us back to the little cartoon of Major Nelson’s space capsule in the opening credits of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I was thinking about drone deliveries and how it may change the design of houses.  It would be much easier and secure for a drone to land on top of a house.  It makes me wonder if housing designs in the future will incorporate a rooftop landing pad, which in turn would require stairway access through the attic to retrieve the packages.

Regarding my Eye-Opener about American cheese, MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

American cheese may be about to have its moment?


As someone from Wisconsin, I can tell you that American cheese and local foods have been “having a moment” for years.

Of course, we’re a flyover region, so we’ll just keep quiet and keep producing some of the best cheese in the world. More for us!

No passport required.

On another subject, from MNB reader Pamela Nyberg:

I am glad that McDonalds (and I guess, Walmart) held to their own rules of conduct for Easterbrook.  Throughout my career in retail, I’ve been surprised when I see one set of rules applied to senior executives and another set to everyone else.  While I can’t say it is going to make me patronize either business more, it does raise my opinion.

And finally, from MNB reader Pat Patterson, regarding the Kroger rebranding:

I speak as a former Kroger store manager comparing today’s Kroger and the several light years ago when I worked “in the stores.”  I live in a strong Kroger market and see many failings on at least one front in a company that started my retail career.  This short fall is employee training.

In 1971 as a management trainee I was sent to Cincinnati to keep the stores open during a strike.  I was impressed by the training facilities that division had for stockers, checkers and baggers.  Store level employees would spend several days doing dry runs at this facility before going on the floor.  A common practice at that time across many if not all Krogerland was for checkers to do at least a day processing test orders before being allowed to go live with real customers.  Baggers received training in such basics as cans go on bottom, not on top of the eggs or bread.  Just a few of the practices in place for employees who would have customer contact.  Quite possibly the only contact customers had with our multi-billion dollar company.

What my wife and I have experienced today in our local Kroger are employees who don’t seem to be aware of Kroger policy, cannot perform what were basic job functions, etc.  As an example, my wife spent twenty minutes to get a refund when overcharged for a gasoline purchase.  It took three separate customer service employees to come up with a number, and they still didn’t have it right.  Another incident, when an item scanned at a higher price than posted the checker and a customer service employee were unaware of the policies relating to this situation.  On another occasion I asked a grocery clerk about the location of an item and got an “I don’t know” with no effort to offer any further assistance.

I do come from a generation that expects customer service, rather than being surprised when it happens.  Given the service levels at Walmart, Aldi and other low price low service operations training and service I see as an area where Kroger can explore this void.  Yes, competing with the convenience of online and telephone ordering is a problem, but there are still a large number of customers who see brick and mortar as their desired experience.

KC's View: