business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from Dave Heylen of the California Grocers Association (CGA), referring to a story we referenced yesterday:

In the San Jose Mercury News article “Groceries Fall in line with Palo Alto’s plastic bag ban” it inaccurately implied that the grocery industry “sued the city, arguing the ban would hurt the environment by resulting in more paper bag use.” The suit was filed by companies within the plastics industry. The grocery industry was not a part of the lawsuit. CGA and its members in the South Bay Area have been working with several municipalities to develop a plan that not only promotes reusable bag use, but also encourages the recycling of paper and plastic bags for those consumers choosing to use them.

Yesterday’s story about some retailers refusing to take personal checks, and my comment that this shift in policy won’t even be noticed by people younger than 30, got a lot of attention.

MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

For people under 30, check writing may be like the proverbial dinosaur, but there’s still a lot of us who don’t fit that profile, and while I seldom write checks anymore, a whole of those of a certain age still do. I know several people who are my age and maybe a bit older who don’t have a debit card and who don’t want to put their groceries on a credit card, they write checks. This may come under the heading of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

MNB user Tim Heyman wrote:

Being an independent owner of a supermarket for 8 years, I would have loved to stop taking paper checks at the registers. Not so much as for increasing speed of check out, but the costs associated.

Lag of cash flow waiting for checks to clear, with today’s computers consumers making their own fraudulent checks on their home computers, cost of service such as Tel-a -check.

I had the County District Attorney tell me that it would be beneficial to me to stop cashing payroll checks, again fraud on consumers being able to forge checks on home computers, businesses not being able to cover etc., that his time needs to be spent on more pressing matters. He stated for me to let the banks be banks and handle this. How could I argue? My time was just a pressed, it was not good for business for the store to stop cashing payroll checks but it did cut down on payroll and related costs.

Even with cash you have the problem with counterfeiting, it’s not a large problem but it does happen. With credit cards there is the thief of the cards, but with bank debit cards…. once the pin is put in, it’s a legal transaction, never bill backs.

I noted yesterday that this shift takes place at the same time as the Wall Street Journal reported about a New York restaurant that has stopped taking cash…which led MNB user Adrienne Kramer to write:

You left out that American Airlines has gone “cash-less” on all of their flights. What is the world coming to?

United, too. Just FYI.

MNB user Michael Freese wrote:

I, for one, hate people writing checks in front of me but the retailers should also be concerned about the people, mostly under 30's, that use debit cards to buy a pack of gum. This costs me as well as that retailer.

We continue to get email about the story saying that United Airlines has started selling privileges formerly afforded to its best frequent fliers, and my contention that this undermines the whole definition of a frequent flier/shopper program.

One MNB user wrote:

I'm confused. What difference does it make if the special treatment is paid for or given without charge for being a valued customer. Is it you don't want anyone else to get the special treatment unless they've "earned" it? How would you know if a particular person bought or earned their perks. Maybe you'd like the airlines to hand out badges that say "I earned it". Sounds to me we've got some ego issues here.

But I do know it, because United is selling it both online and in the terminals.

This isn’t about ego. This is about rewarding people for loyalty, and creating an atmosphere that compels people to be more loyal to one company/vendor/airline.

And, by the way, there is a tangible impact of this new policy. If people can buy the privileges, it means the express lines and best seats that used to be reserved for best fliers now will be more crowded and less available. And that isn’t smart.

MNB user Ken Wagar wrote:

I often take the time to write and challenge you when I think you have miss-spoken or are incorrect about something so I thought I should also let you know that I agree 100% with your comments regarding the United Airline changes. You are right on and I do believe there is a lesson involved for any business.

Interesting email from another MNB user:

A little off the subject, but the first airline to allow soldiers in uniform to board the plane first (regardless of seat selection) will strike an emotional advantage with its customers, frequent or otherwise.

Agreed. Very good idea.
KC's View: