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    Published on: December 11, 2013

    by Kate McMahon

    "Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

    O no, say it isn’t so.

    So the Twitterverse reacted to an idiotic tweet posted by SpaghettiOs last week to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

    The post featured a cartoon version of the SpaghettiOs mascot Mr. O grinning, licking his lips, jauntily waving an American flag and the line “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.”

    So many social media lessons here beyond the obvious: pause before you hit send. This move gives new meaning to the catchphrase, “Uh-Oh SpaghettiOs.”

    Where to begin?

    Let’s start with relevance, or in this case the glaring lack of a link between a canned Campbell’s pasta product and a day of infamy that claimed more than 2,000 lives and changed the course of World War II and history.

    Then there’s good taste. A tragedy such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11 should be remembered with somber respect, not a hokey mascot or product placement.

    AT&T learned that lesson the hard way in September when it tweeted “Never forget” and a screen shot of a smartphone photographing the beams of light from the World Trade Center bombing site. The backlash was immediate. AT&T yanked the tweet and posted a mea culpa, and the company CEO released a personal apology.

    As both AT&T and SpaghettiOs now know, Twitter is real-time communication that can spiral out of your control in no time. While SpaghettiOs only has some 12,000 followers, Twitter users such as actor/blogger Wil Wheaton (2.4 million followers) and comedian Patton Oswalt (1.5 million followers) retweeted with derisive commentary. Oswalt’s feed even set off photo-shopped posts of Mr. O at JFK’s funeral, on the sunken Titanic and at the Hindenburg disaster. He also quipped: "I know how we'll fix this! Somebody photoshop Mr. O shaking hands with Mandela!" -- damage control at the @SpaghettiOs Twitter feed.”

    SpaghettiOs' in-house team also got ripped for the 10-hour lag – which translates to 10 days in social media time -- before the post was taken down and replaced with “We apologize for our recent tweet in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. We meant to pay respect, not to offend.”

    In fairness, not all of the comments were negative, but the takeaway was a definite #fail.

    Since this is my final column of the calendar year, my wish for 2014 in social media is this: May your posts be relevant, witty, timely and prompt an “oh!” rather than “uh-oh” response.

    Happy holidays to all.

    Comments? Email me at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Digital Journal reports that Profitero, which provides and analyzes online competitor pricing data, has revealed that Amazon implements more than 2.5 million price changes each day - a rate of change that has increased by 10 times over the past year.

    That would be Eye-Opening enough.

    But it is the competition that provides an even bigger Eye-Opener.

    According to Digital Journal, "The extent of’s daily price changes is even more significant when compared with the number of daily price changes implemented by brick-and-mortar retailers Walmart and Best Buy. During November, Best Buy made a total of 52,956 price changes and Walmart a total of 54,633 price changes, highlighting the massive price advantage Amazon has over other retailers – and demonstrating why retailers need to be monitoring their online competitors' prices every day in order to deliver the most competitive price on the market and avoid losing out on sales."

    Now, it is important to keep one bit of context in mind … that Profitero sells services that these online competitors could use to gather actionable intelligence about what Amazon is doing, and what other companies must do to compete.

    But if its numbers are accurate - and they certainly seem reasonable to me, just knowing what I do about Amazon's algorithm-based approach to pricing - then these figures speak volumes about the changing nature of competition in the online world, and how it will affect the bricks-and-mortar world.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    Walmart said yesterday that David Cheesewright, president/CEO of its Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Canada businesses, will succeed Doug McMillon in running Walmart International.

    McMillon has been named to replace Mike Duke and president/CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc..

    The CNBC story notes that "if Wal-Mart history repeats itself, Cheesewright could be a top contender in the succession plan to succeed McMillon. Both McMillon and Duke were in charge of the company's international segment before being picked to head the Bentonville, Ark.,-based retailer."

    Walmart said that Cheesewright's Walmart career "began in 1999 at Asda, the company's UK operation, where he held leadership positions in operations, merchandising, logistics, strategy and format development. He was the chief operating officer for both Walmart Canada and Asda before being named CEO of Walmart Canada." Cheesewright was named to his current position in 2011.

    Both McMillon and Cheesewright will begin their new jobs in February 2014.
    KC's View:
    Cheesewright is going to have a full plate, especially if the bribery scandal comes back to bite the company on its posterior.

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    The Chicago Tribune reports that "Nestle's Northbrook-based pizza division, which makes DiGiorno and Jack's frozen pies, has cut ties with a Wisconsin farm after an animal rights group released a video of dairy cow abuse."

    According to the story, an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, went public with a video showing "cows being beaten, stabbed, dragged by a tractor and dangling in the air after being hoisted up." The video reportedly was shot at Wiese Brothers' Farm in Greenleaf, Wis., which provides milk to Foremost Farms, also in Wisconsin,which makes cheese for Nestle pizzas.

    Nestle said that it is committed to animal welfare, as detailed in its Responsible Sourcing Guidelines. Foremost Farms said that it will no longer buy milk from Wiese Brothers, while noting that it is just one of 1,800 farms from which it sources milk.

    Wiese Brothers released a statement saying that it is "shocked and saddened to see a few of our employees not following our farm's policies for proper animal care. We have zero tolerance for animal abuse. We are committed to providing optimal care and ask all our employees to demonstrate ongoing respect for every animal at all times."
    KC's View:
    Beyond the fact that such treatment of animals is utterly appalling, it is hard to imagine what someone must be thinking when acting in such a fashion. How were they raised? What were their influences? Who were their parents? The perpetrators of these abuses are poor excuses for human beings, and there is a part of me that thinks the most appropriate punishment would be for them to be beaten, stabbed, dragged by a tractor and dangled in the air.

    But here's the other thing. Wisconsin law, the story makes clear, "doesn't require two-party consent when recording — so it's legal to record someone in many instances without their knowledge." That's not the case in a number of other states, where the laws have been changed to make sure that such videos cannot be produced, and if they are, that the people who expose such abuses will themselves be brought up on charges.

    Such laws are as appalling as the behavior they are designed to protect.

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    Catalyst, which describes itself as a "nonprofit organization with a mission to expand opportunities for women and business," is out with its 2013 Census, finding that:

    • Women held only 16.9% of corporate board seats in 2013, indicating no significant year-over-year uptick for the 8th straight year. And only 14.6% of Executive Officer positions were held by women—the 4th consecutive year of no year-over-year growth.

    • Women of color continued to fare particularly poorly, holding just 3.2% of all board seats.

    • Ten percent of companies had no women serving on their boards; more than 2/3 of companies had no women of color directors.

    • Women held only 8.1% of top earner slots—again no change from prior year.
    Among the companies that are spotlighted by Catalyst as being more enlightened are Publix (where three out of nine directors are women), Target (four of 12 are women), and CVS Caremark (three of 11).

    “It’s hard to believe that at the end of 2013 we still see more than a few all-male corporate boards and leadership teams.” said Catalyst president/CEO Ilene H. Lang in a prepared statement, referring to companies such as Supervalu, Susser Holdings, and Nash Finch, which have no women on their boards. “Diverse business leadership and governance are correlated with stronger business performance, employee engagement, and innovation. Shareholders beware: a company with no women at the top is missing one of the biggest opportunities in the marketplace today.”
    KC's View:
    It is amazing that, in 2013, there are companies that do not have women on their boards or on their leadership teams. It is amazing that statements like "a company with no women at the top is missing one of the biggest opportunities in the marketplace today" even have to be made.

    On the other hand, maybe not so amazing. Because we all know that there are boards out there where the chief purpose is to rubber-stamp the CEO's behavior and cater to his ego, and to line the pockets of the upper management without concern for front line workers. Maybe this requires and old-boy network … because many women coming into such a situation would challenge orthodoxy and ask all the hard questions.

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    • In the UK, the Telegraph reports that Tesco is "exploring opportunities to put more products like wonky carrots and imperfect apples on offer to encourage people to buy them." The move comes as Tesco concedes that "up to two thirds of its food ends up in the bin, including 68 per cent of bagged salads, 48 per cent of bakery goods and 24 per cent of grapes."

    Tesco's position is that consumers have to be educated so that they understand that misshapen produce can be as tasty and nutritious as more cosmetically attractive produce.

    Bloomberg reports that Tesco has invested "tens of millions of pounds" to acquire a minority stake in Lazada, an online mall that sells nonfoods - including electronics, books, clothing, toys, homeware and cameras - in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    Consumer research firm Scarborough is out with a study suggesting that, as the Washington Post reports, " If you tend to vote Democrat, odds are you stocked up at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. If you call yourself a Republican, you were more likely to stock up at Wal-Mart or Costco. Independent voters are more likely to get their groceries at traditional grocery stores, like Food Lion, Publix or Albertson’s … The cross-referenced data show voters who always vote in local and statewide elections are more likely to shop at warehouse grocery stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, and specialty grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Those who don’t vote in local and statewide elections are more likely to get groceries from big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart."

    Other conclusions from the Scarborough study:

    • "The wealthier a household, the more likely its residents shop at a specialty grocery store. Households with incomes above $250,000 a year were more than twice as likely to shop at the more expensive specialty stores than the average consumer."

    • "Households with one or more teenagers were much more likely to shop at big box or warehouse stores than they were at specialty stores."

    • "Younger shoppers like bigger stores. Millennials represent a larger share of big box customers than any other kind of shopping center. Generation X consumers, who are between 30 and 49, make up a larger portion of shoppers overall — meaning they’re more likely to be doing the shopping for a household. Baby Boomers, between 50-69, shop more at warehouse stores than at big boxes, while the Silent Generation, those over age 70, are most likely just to head to the traditional grocery store."
    KC's View:
    I always think that such studies are both silly and fun.

    For instance, I live in a town with a very successful Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, as well as a busy Walmart and Costco just over the line in the next town … and yet the population is more than 50 percent Republican, less than 20 percent Democrat, with the rest being unaffiliated.

    One reads the stories as much to see where one varies from the stereotype and conforms to it … and the real lesson these days is that retailers should not think in terms of stereotypes, should not try to fit people into neat boxes, and should realize that individual shopper behavior can vary widely from what is perceived as group behavior.

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    • The Orlando Business Journal reports that Publix Super Markets plans to open a new store in Dr. Phillips, Florida, on December 19, that it describes as a new prototype, though it declines to go into detail except to say that it will have “some features different from any other stores in Central Florida.”

    The store is different enough from a traditional Publix store that the company will keep open a store that it has directly across the street on Sand Lake Road.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    • Safeway announced that it has named Brian Baer, most recently the president of its Dominick's division in Chicago, as president of the company's Eastern Division.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 11, 2013

    MNB took note the other day of an Associated Press report that a Colorado administrative law judge has ordered a Denver-area baker to make a wedding cake for a gay couple's wedding, despite the fact that the baker said that making such a cake would force him to go against his Christian faith.

    According to the story, "The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against shop owner Jack Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission last year on behalf of Charlie Craig, 33, and David Mullins, 29. The couple was married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake to celebrate in Colorado.

    "Mullins and Craig wanted to buy a cake in July 2012, but when Phillips found out the cake was to celebrate a gay wedding, he turned the couple away, according to the complaint."

    The attorney for the baker said that the order forces him to violate his religious conscience, but the judge said that even private enterprises cannot discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

    My comment:

    Discrimination is discrimination, and one should no more be able to refuse to sell to a gay couple than to an African-American couple. I know there are arguments about religious freedom, but it seems to me that people not be able to use religion as an excuse for intolerance. Besides, would it have killed the bakery to make the cake? The owners weren't be asked to be gay, or to be in a gay marriage, or to witness a gay marriage, or to vote for legislation that would allow gay marriage. They were just being asked to make a cake.

    To be honest, when I first thought about this story, I did have a few minutes when I thought that it would've been nice for the gay couple to simply have gone to another bakery, and for the ACLU not to have been involved. It would have been nice, it would have been less confrontational, and everybody would've been happy.

    But not really. Because discrimination is wrong, illegal and intolerable. And sometimes, people have to take a stand, and positions have to be maintained.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Wow I couldn’t disagree more with your view or with the judge who ordered the baker to bake the cake for the gay couple. Full disclosure: I have no issue with gay people. My oldest sister is gay and I love and support her in any way I can. But you can’t legislate intolerance out of every person, that’s just ridiculous.

    This baker runs a PRIVATE business and should be allowed to run it in a manner that allows him to stand up for his principles. While I don’t applaud his principles, I do applaud him for trying to stick to those principles. You even state in your view that “positions have to be maintained”. So it’s ok for the gay couple to stand their ground but not the baker because it’s a position YOU don’t agree with?

    To be clear … whether it is productive or not, both sides had a right to stand their ground. The judge decided which side was legally correct.

    And while you may not be able to legislate intolerance out of every person, you can legislate against intolerant activity.

    From another reader:

    I must strongly disagree with your view on this issue. People should have the right to serve those they want to. If it was a public entity, fine, but this is not. What are the limits of discrimination in the hearts of people stand up to their beliefs? Should this owner have to bake cakes for an abortion center, a white supremacist group, etc? Once again, INDIVIDUALS have rights within their lives and businesses to stand up for what they believe. If this was the ONLY cake place in town or was somehow cause injury to these men, you would have an argument. That is simply not the situation in this case.

    Except that people don't have the right to choose who they serve based on certain criteria. Or, we'd still have hotels and restaurants that would not accept African-American customers.

    And from another:

    The analogy of an African American couple and gay couple is a false comparison. The issue is not one of skin color or sexual preference, it is the forcing of an individual to violate their belief that marriage is ordained by the Creator to be between one man and one woman.

    Again … nobody asked the baker to engage in gay marriage, officiate at a gay marriage, or even attend a gay marriage. Just to bake a cake.

    And another:

    You are just flat out wrong regarding this ridiculous Judgement!

    Next thing you will expect is for a serious Minister of the Gospel that truly understands what the Bible has to say about this issue to be FORCED to perform Gay weddings!

    I believe to each his own, but for a Judge to force someone to go against their legitimate religious belief is an affront to Freedom of Religion as much as you and the secular Media's stance on supposed tolerance.

    You can't have it both ways Kevin. RIDICULOUS.

    I think it is a long jump from saying that a business has to serve everyone to saying that a minister or priest has to officiate at a same-sex wedding. And, in fact, I would never support such a position.

    Also…the Bible says a lot of things that seem out of step with the way the world works. Like it sanctions slavery. And the putting to death of people who work on the Sabbath. (One can only imagine what the Bible would've said about people who are forced to work on Thanksgiving.)

    And one other thing. "Secular" is defined as "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis," and as "not subject to or bound by religious rule; not belonging to or living in a monastic or other order."

    You'll probably disagree with me on this, but I want the mainstream media to be secular. There clearly is room for a religious media, but the big guys … they should be secular.

    I very much liked this email from someone I know who is gay and is married to her partner; they have been in a loving and committed relationship for more than 20 years.

    Here's the thing I don't understand - were we to have a "real" wedding, I don't think I would have any interest in going to a bakery that discriminates. Whether it's because of religion, sexuality, political views....Why even even give these narrow minded folks a platform to preach their hate? And by suing them they get their platform.

    Of course, anytime I hear someone talk about having their Christian values compromised I think of my dad - who I'm fairly certain believes Jesus would bake the cake himself.

    I'm a bit torn on my inability to angry about the bigots.

    To me, this email represents much of what I was thinking when I first saw the story. While I was irritated by the discrimination and what I saw as intolerance, my first thought was that it was a shame that the gay couple did not simply go to another bakery, and that the ACLU got involved … that perhaps they should've just turned the other cheek and moved on … that one should not let acts of bigotry interfere with a marriage, which is an act of love.

    But I'm not always good at turning the other cheek. Sometimes I do want to punch the other guy in the nose.

    But this email, which strikes me as highly enlightened, makes the point that sometimes, even in the face of intolerance, all you need is love.
    KC's View: