business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's story about how teens are taking up some of the job availability slack around the US, MNB reader George Denman wrote:

Our 14 year old grand-daughter whom we are raising secured a cashier job at Chick Fila at Kings Island this summer. She started out at $7.85 and within one week was making $10.00 per hour. She loves the job, the socialization, and of course the paycheck which is much bigger than the allowance that we provide today for doing her home chores. Our family has a gold pass to Kings Island so many nights after her shift we meet her there, eat dinner, and ride some of the great coasters like Orizon and the Beast. What’s also great is that she is off Sunday’s since Chick Fila is closed. She averages about 20-25 hours per week.

Good for her.

Yesterday we had an MNB reader who said that Market Basket in Massachusetts remains a holdout in the self-checkout trend, prompting another MNB reader to write:

I find it interesting that your reader would find it sad that Market Basket does not have self-checkout.  I find it refreshing.  There are major differences between the 2 chains, one is “Whole Paycheck” the other is “Whole Basket”.  One has 6 registers the other has 22.  One has limited selection the other has huge selection.  They both have service and are well stocked.  For me, give me Whole Basket.  I have greater selection, great service, and can get out of the store quickly with far less visits per week. Self service is a pain in the neck unless you have under 10 items.  And that is another indicator in itself. 

Funny how two people can read the same email and come to different conclusions - I thought that reader was happy about Market Basket being a self-checkout holdout.

Regarding Philip Morris's stated plans to get out of the cigarette business within the next 10 years, one MNB reader wrote:

After seeing other articles about this, I don’t believe the company plans to get out of the “tobacco game”, but are instead working on non-smoking tobacco products. I see this as an attempt to get ahead of the game while looking like they care about the health of a community more than their profits.

You're right.  Further reading does suggest that Philip Morris just wants to addict and kill people in other ways.

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

Kudos to the MNB reader that gave good insights to the hesitancy on the part of manufacturer’s to raise prices as it was my experience that raising prices was a last resort due to negative interactions with customers to get the increases put through.  When commodities and transportation costs spiked as they are now, I also saw management have to increase prices regardless of the pain to protect gross margins and quarterly results.

In my career it was amusing to me to see retailers raise retail prices to increase their margins or offset their increased costs and tell the manufacturer’s that retails are none of their business, shut up.  But when manufacturers raise prices some of the same retailer buyers take it as a personal insult and threaten retaliation to prevent the increase due to pressure from their management.

If inflation is really back, retailers and wholesalers will learn what they did in the 70’s that price increases, when enacted across the board, are a welcome opportunity to increase the value of their inventory, raise retail prices, make more money and still be competitive in the marketplace.

And, regarding the drop in e-grocery sales in June compared to last year, one reader wrote:

An interesting side effect of e-grocery sales dropping is the drop in delivery offers to Instacart drivers.  Many drivers were added last year and now there’s much less opportunity.  But the number drivers isn’t dropping off yet.

Same thing is happening with DoorDash and Uber Eats, average per hour is down as base pay has been reduced and more drivers are chasing fewer orders (and these drivers hate the Walmart and other grocery pickups which frequently don’t tip).  Many drivers are frustrated as many came to depend on this as their main source of income with job losses.

Yesterday, we took note of a Seattle Times report that "Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Adam Selipsky has launched an investigation into the business segment’s culture after more than 550 employees signed a petition accusing the cloud-services division of tolerating racial and sexual discrimination and harassment."

I commented:

It probably is worth pointing out that Selipsky has just returned to AWS after five years as CEO at Tableau Software.  (He was vice president of Marketing, Sales & Support at AWS for 11 years before that.)

But what this suggests is that the environment being described by the petitioners is one that festered while Andy Jassy was CEO at AWS.  Jassy, of course, has just succeeded Jeff Bezos as CEO of Amazon.

Could this come back and bite Jassy?  Certainly possible.  Stranger things have happened.

I'm not going to say this is going to occur, but it strikes me as entirely possible that if the situations described in the lawsuit are found to be systemic and that Jassy has some culpability, his tenure as Amazon CEO could be short-lived, and Bezos could be back in the CEO job.  I know this is a big leap from where the story is now, but it is the kind of thing that could happen.  

One warning to Amazon and AWS as they deal with this internal probe:  Keep in mind that the coverup always is worse than the crime.  Don't make that mistake.

Prompting one MNB reader to offer this criticism:

While it’s possible, it is a HUGE leap to tie a couple of alleged incidents…and as yet undocumented claim of systemic discrimination…to a CEO.

The rush to label every labor dispute a result of systemic racial or sexual discrimination is pandemic in our society. 

Certainly discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, but it is always better to gather facts before offering irresponsible speculation.

I get your point, but I sort of speculate for a living.  And I don't think it is inappropriate for me to point out that the current CEO of Amazon was CEO of AWS when these alleged incidents took place … and that if charges stop being alleged and become a matter of fact, it could put a hit on his reputation.  What's the old saying about where the buck stops?

To be clear, though, I labeled this all as speculation.  Though I think the broader point about corporate responsibility is worth making.

Finally, I got a bunch of email about my comments lauding the Cleveland Indians management for their upcoming transition into the Cleveland Guardians.

One person was a little snarky:

Well done.  Next, it’s time we address the Vikings, who plundered cities, raped women and slaughtered livestock, and the Buccaneers who boarded, pillaged and sank countless ships.    These were not very good people.  Is this who we want our children to idolize?  And let’s not forget about the team with the largest carbon footprint of them all - the petroleum guzzling NY Jets.  

I do love good snark.

MNB reader Duane Eaton wrote:

Thanks bringing back Cleveland Indian memories.  One of the first baseball games I attended at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium as a 10-year old kid in 1959 was the Orioles vs. the Indians.  Rocky Colavito was in right field, Jimmy Piersall in center and Early Wynn on the mound.  The player I recall most vividly was Piersall because toward the end of the game, in between pitches, he would sometimes run around in circles, both forward and backward.  I had no idea what was going on until my sister’s boyfriend told me he was trying to distract the hitter.  He was one of baseball’s true characters.

MNB reader Frank J Loffa wrote:

Thoroughly enjoyed your comments and thoughts on the Cleveland Guardians…a great topic that deserved your insight! It is time to move on! Also loved your comment regarding Rocky Colavito, forgot about that batting stance and challenge to the pitcher. Who else but Tom Hanks…enough said!

And from another reader:

Your memory of Rocky Colavito taking practice swings in the batter's box is correct.  I didn't remember it (although I do remember Willie Stargell taking similar swings) but found some video evidence.  The practice swings are visible several times in this video.  One instance is at just into 21 minutes.  Note the early versions of batting gloves.

Thanks for sharing the video - it's great.  (I think those may be golf gloves. )