business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, we reported that Ahold was negotiating to sell its stake in a Chilean supermarket chain as part of its move to divest non-core operations. MNB user Bob McMath had a good observation about this turn of phrase:

"I think I have to ask what is a "non-core" business to Ahold when it is in the food business? It may be a loser in Chile -- but it should be a "core business" to Ahold!

"It would appear to be a sign they couldn't do anything with it, so they best dispose of it lest it go down the tubes, entirely!"

Fair enough.

On the subject of Internet sales taxes, MNB user Mark Boyer had a good metaphor:

"Internet sales tax for food is sort of like room service. You buy the food, pay tax on it, pay a service charge for delivery and then the bellman expects a tip."

Though we have to admit that this isn't a metaphor that raises our hopes about the lack of impact of Internet sales taxes…

A number of emails came in yesterday about our story regarding 7-Eleven's doughnut program and its desire to compete with the likes of Krispy Kreme and Subway.

One MNB user wrote:

"The problem that 7-Eleven has is quality control across their diverse chain of corporate and franchise stores. Maybe they can come up with the worlds best donut, and maybe they can achieve great delivery and customer satisfaction 80% of the time....but I will be willing to bet that they will have trouble with that last 20% the same as they always have. Old stale product, or product not available, or long lines, surly, untrained employees.... I'm not saying Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks or Subway are a whole lot better...but it seems that most of the time you go into a 7-Eleven wanting quality fresh food and a fast easy pleasant shopping experience and you come away wondering why you went in in the first place. It really would be great if 7-Eleven or anybody could achieve the best of Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks coffee, Subway sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, and consistent great service all under one roof."

Another MNB user noted that on the same day we wrote about "the wellness-izing of convenience stores" and the new 7-Eleven doughnuts, and wrote:

"One of these things is not like the other."

True. But isn’t the point that consumers are a diverse lot, and the customer has diverse and changing interests and desires, often determined by the day of the week and the time of day?

The aggressive retailer almost has to have both.

We posted an email yesterday from an MNB user who was amused by a story we'd run earlier in the week about French women cooking less than they used to. This particular member of the MNB community suggested that because the French only work 36 hours a week and "are the only folks on the face of the earth with a speed setting for 'saunter' on their running machines," maybe they didn’t really know what time stresses are.

Well, one of our favorite French women, Sophie Lavagne, wrote:

"Bonjour Kevin,

"I am a bit puzzled by the meaning of "The French are the only folks on
the face of the earth to a speed setting for saunter on their running
machines!!". What does that mean?

"Otherwise, indeed in France the work legislation is supposed to (establish) a 35-hour work per week. Actually this is much discussed and applied in very different ways (if at all) according to the industry/company...For example, I can choose between having Friday afternoon or Wednesday afternoon off (I picked Friday). My brother who works as an aeronautical engineer get the "normal" working week but extra holidays. It really depends, but thinking that the French only work 35 hours per week is not really true. We still do extra hours that are not taken into account: the job needs to be done!

"Also, there is a big difference between working/living in Paris and the surroundings from living in the "province" where lifestyle is more
relaxed and less stressed. I was always amazed to see that my sister, who
lives in the South of France, could take at work a 2 hours "lunch" break
(ideal for a good meal, shopping and tutti quanti).

As for Alan Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon", I have read some extracts. He
gives his account and point of view of France from his stay a few years
ago. The best remains to experience it oneself to really figure the

Actually, we think that anyone who criticizes the French for their 35-hour work week is just jealous. (Perhaps it is just that this a bad PR week for the France…its position regarding Iraq may have set some Americans' teeth on edge…)

Another MNB user wrote:

"I just saw an article saying that the birthrate is zooming in France, and that the 35-hour workweek seems to be the underlying reason, as people are spending less time at work. Putting this together with your data about French women spending less time in the kitchen, and it looks like the French are *truly* enjoying their leisure time!"

Vive la France!
KC's View: