business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Monte Stowell:

Regarding Target’s latest sales results. If you have not been in a Target for awhile, the reason their sales looked dismal is simple. Of all the major retailers, their out of stock position in many food and non- food categories was horrible. Thank goodness for DSD food vendors to make some the shelves look full, as many of Targets competitors made their shelves look full by filling the voids with something. The pandemic has not been good to Target compared to other major retailers. In other words, they do not have the mojo they once had. Not just my opinion, but also to many of  our friends and family.

We had a piece yesterday about Albertsons testing two stores with only self-checkout, and my question was why the company isn't leaping past that to checkout-free stores.

One MNB reader responded:

There is one big issue for many of us consumers who shop at Albertsons or Safeway We can download Digital Coupons to our smartphones, and bingo, we go through the self checkout line or a line with a checker. I would say that more than half the time the damn Digital Coupon does not work. You have to get a checker to come over and fix the missing Digital Coupon. This happened yesterday when my wife and I downloaded 3 Digital Coupons, and none of them came off. We had to drive back to the store to get the correct amount downloaded to out Mastercard, which was almost $13.00. Just wondering how many other people do not take the time to double check their receipts.

Bottom line for me for Albertsons/Safeway, you still have some work to do to make the customer experience totally seamless and a positive one.

From another reader:

Just had this discussion with a sales rep in New England the other day.  We discussed Market Basket vs other retailers.  To shorten a long discussion, the conclusion is that self-checkout, in our opinion is a sales killer for the stores.  When you have man (person) hour requirements, to have people on registers that produce small orders, they don’t pay for themselves.  That is why stores went to the “self-checkout”.  Now stores are leaning on this even further, trying to position this as a great thing for their customers, which actually what happens is they are forcing the basket size down because people are not going to stand at a self-checkout for a full basket trip and struggle through “oh this doesn’t scan”, or I need help and have to wait for the “standing by” associate to help.  Exception, MB.  They don’t do self-checkout and are totally committed to service.  That is why among other things, when they open a store in a market, they eat the lunch of others around it.  In your column you consistently talk about how retailers have to adjust, this would be an easy adjust, and keep people coming back. 

And from MNB readerDuane Kolsrud:

Despite using the self-checkout at my store in Minnesota, I have issues with stores going full self-checkout.

It is excruciating watching older clientele try to navigate the machines- heck, it's painful regardless of age if they are new to the system. 

Can they make the PLU stickers a bit larger for items in produce so one can actually read the number vs. guessing what type of apple they should choose from the menu? The one thing that consistently works at self-checkout is the little red light above the register.

I realize they are saving on labor costs but there is something to say about good customer service(a lost art in retail these days).

And if they genuinely save the stores money in the long run, then it's painful to be paying over $6.00 for a 12-pack of Coca-Cola.  

And from MNB reader Steven Ritchey:

So Albertson's needs to take the plunge into checkout free stores.

Easy for you to say.

I'm in stores daily, and I hear and see the pushback on self checkout now.

My take is that if they do this, either total self checkout, or checkout free stores, they need to demonstrate greater service elsewhere, that those employees are being put to work in other parts of the store and not just laid off as not being needed anymore, because that's where the pushback is coming from, is people believe self checkout means the customer is doing the store's job for them, yet not seeing any difference in the prices they pay.

Just food for thought.

Finally, I got a number of emails regarding yesterday's FaceTime, in which I opined about an email from an MNB reader responding to our stories about all the things put at risk by climate change - including parmesan cheese and arborio rice production, as well as the glass used in wine bottles - by asking if I'd be willing to solve climate change issues by consuming Rice-A-Roni, processed and inferior parmesan cheese, and boxed wine.  I said I would, though it would hurt.  I also suggested that people who would suggest such an unlikely scenario probably don't take pleasure from grating fresh parmesan, stirring a risotto, or opening a bottle of wine.  And I extended it to driving a stick shift - it is almost impossible to buy a car with a manual transmission these days, as we become a society in which the cars drive us as opposed to our being able to feel the road as we shift from third to fourth to fifth…and I did the FaceTime video while driving my convertible Mustang, which has a manual transmission.

As I said, a lot of emails showed up, many of them about the neighborhood in which I was driving

MNB reader Henry Stein wrote:

I enjoyed your Facetime Video about choosing Rice-A-Roni or Boxed Wine if mandated or highly suggested to help in climate change efforts.

But I have to confess, I was distracted by the 10,000 sq. ft. homes you drove by. I bet Boxed Wine would not be an option made in that CT neighborhood…..

MNB reader Jody Schweer wrote:

Not sure where you were driving but I think I need to live there.

And from another reader:

Jeez, what a nice neighborhood you were driving through, lots of McMansions. Being a blogger with attitude must pay pretty well!

And MNB reader Linda Reiring wrote:

Remember when Nancy Pelosi shared her lockdown experience in the early stages of the pandemic with a video taken in her very large gourmet kitchen that her personal chef manages?  It wasn’t very relatable and created some backlash with her constituents.  Well…I didn’t hear a word you said in your FaceTime with the Content Guy video today.  I just kept looking at the incredibly beautiful and quite large homes in the background.  There’s a lot more Rice A Roni household budgets out there than freshly grated parm and fine wine households.  Not all of your readers are in the 2%. 

To be clear, I'm not in the two percent, either.

That's not my neighborhood and certainly not my street.  It's my town, but I live on the other side of the tracks.  We've been in the same house for 38+ years, on a short dead-end street … it would've been really boring for me to drive on my street, back and forth, over and over … plus, I wouldn't been able to get the car into fourth gear…

Speaking of the car, one MNB reader wrote:

Have no problem with anything you said…..I’m with you except, I will not give up my manual transmission hardtop.

Viewers want to know, “What u be driving there?”

That's my eight-year old grey Mustang convertible, which I got when I turned 60.  (Before that, I drove two Miatas over a period of 20+ years.  Also with manual transmissions.)

Another MNB reader wrote:

Interesting you choose to respond to a climate change email while driving a fossil fuel car… 

Fair point.  Just FYI, it does get 30 MPH on the highway.  But I do feel a little guilty about it.  (Mrs. Content Guy drives a Mini hybrid.)

And, from MNB reader Michael W. Bruce:

Well, you did pretty well with watching the road, but, what about “Hands on the Wheel”?

I know, with all your zest and enthusiasm you couldn’t express yourself fully without both hands in motion.  Loved the ride, almost like being there with you!

I'll tell you a funny story.  After I recorded the video, I stopped at a store, and when I came out, there was a gorgeous navy blue BMW Z4 parked next to me.  I was admiring it when the owner came out, and I told him how much I liked his car.  He told me that he liked my Mustang, but when I suggested that his car outclassed mine, he said, "But yours has a manual transmission - I couldn't get that on mine."

Go figure.  (He didn't offer to trade, though.)