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    Published on: April 18, 2022

    Over the weekend, I attended my first Broadway show in more than two years - "Take Me Out," the Second Stage revival of a terrific 2002 Richard Greenberg play that manages to capture some fundamental truths about both baseball and homophobia.  (More about that later this week.)  But when I got to Broadway, what I really was thinking about was how the theater community was working to make audiences comfortable and at ease in a post-pandemic world.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    Bloomberg reports that "in a seven-minute video set to be sent to Starbucks employees Friday," CEO Howard Schultz took aim at previous management, saying that "“I think there’s been a lot of false promises over the last few years -- those days are over … We’re going to make promises that we can keep, we’re going to make promises that are real.”

    Schultz also said that "there’s been many short-term decisions that have had an adverse long-term effect on the company. We’re going to reverse that. We’re going to make much better long-term decisions that are going to have a short-term benefit for you … We are going to fix the near-term problems like maintenance people not showing up on time ... and we’re going to fix the bigger issues of training, wages and the other issues facing the company."

    Bloomberg writes that Schultz said he based his comments on "feedback he received from employees around the country in recent meetings he dubbed 'co-creation sessions'."

    The comments came as Schultz endeavors to slow and eventually shut down a burgeoning unionization movement that has led to employees at some 200 of the Starbucks' 9,000 US stores to organize.

    KC's View:

    Where to start?

    It would appear that Schultz has decided to throw everybody under the bus, without regard for either the official company line that accompanied his return to the CEO job or the other people in the company who were there before he returned and, presumably, will help him implement his plans.

    Apparently, Starbucks' position that Schultz's successor/predecessor, Kevin Johnson, was planning to retire anyway and that there was no particular urgency to the CEO change, was not entirely accurate.  Apparently, there were real problems of efficiency and effectiveness that had infected the company culture, requiring Schultz to make them right.

    And interestingly, considering that Schultz has been making vague threats about how he was going to create a better compensation/benefits program for non-union employees than would be available to unionized employees (though negotiators may have something to say about that), and at one point suggested that union-friendly baristas ought to work someplace else if they hated Starbucks so much, he now seems to be blaming previous management for decisions that led to the union movement.

    Here's the thing.  I think it seems entirely reasonable to observe that Starbucks' corporate priorities may have shifted over the years, or that circumstances led management to make short-term changes that were not good for the company's long-term prospects.  I don't even have a problem with the idea that Starbucks needed someone with deep connections to the brand's DNA to help recalculate the company's trajectory and reorient its priorities.

    But, to both steal and reuse a line from an MNB reader, it does seem like Schultz has had way too many lattes containing way too much caffeine, all of which is feeding his considerable ego.

    It is just that Schultz seems to be doing the opposite of leading.  He's bullying, swaggering, appearing to think that he can make changes purely by force of will and personality.  I'm not sure he is fooling anybody … because when he throws "previous management" under the bus, everybody else has to be thinking that they could be next.

    And, by the way, "co-creation sessions?"  Just the phrase, used in this scenario and under these circumstances, seems like so much hooey.

    I hope that Starbucks' board, having released the Kraken that is Schultz's monumental ego, has already decided that it needs to find a permanent CEO sooner rather than later, that allowing Schultz to stay in the job longer than necessary is simply unacceptable.

    I also think that there are lessons here to be learned by every board and every CEO, about the importance of optics and words, especially in a world where an internal video produced by Starbucks on Friday morning ends up on Bloomberg and elsewhere by Friday afternoon.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    Axios reports that the California legislature is considering a bill "that would cut the workweek to four days for companies with more than 500 employees … California's AB2932 would change the definition of a workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours for employers with more than 500 employees, and require overtime pay for eligible employees after that."

    According to the story, "Proponents say a four-day workweek, which has been tried in Europe and is popular with many workers, would boost productivity, work/life balance, and mental and physical health.  Opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce, say it would be a financial disaster, with companies having to hire more people — when they're already having trouble hiring."

    Axios notes that passage of the bill - at least at the moment - seems like a "long-shot."

    KC's View:

    Count me among the opponents.

    This is the kind of stuff that gives liberals a bad name.

    I cannot imagine what the rationale is for California making this kind of legal change, which not only would cost companies a lot of money, but would also create upheaval for a lot of companies' operations and cultures.

    MNB readers know that I am all in favor of companies being more compassionate toward their employees … that they need to treat workers like assets and not costs … and that for too long executive compensation packages have been way too generous when compared to the frugality mindset often employed on the front lines.

    But unilaterally saying that anyone who works at a company with more than 500 employees needs to be paid overtime once they go beyond 32 hours?  This just strikes me as unreasonable and badly timed especially in view of broad staffing shortages.

    I believe in creating as pro-worker environment, but the worst thing a government can do for workers is create an anti-business environment, which this does.  A little balance would be nice.  I also believe that judicious government regulation is not necessarily a bad thing … but this is way over the line.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    There is a terrific story in the New York Times this morning about how a Dollar General store manager went from being one of its top employees to a fired dissident who now is "trying to build what she calls a 'movement' of workers who feel overworked and disrespected and is encouraging Dollar General employees to form a union."

    Here's how the Times frames the story:

    "In January 2021, Mary Gundel received a letter from Dollar General’s corporate office congratulating her for being one of the company’s top-performing employees. In honor of her hard work and dedication, the company gave Ms. Gundel a lapel pin that read, 'DG: Top 5%.'

    "'Wear it proudly,' the letter said.

    "Ms. Gundel did just that, affixing the pin to her black-and-yellow Dollar General uniform, next to her name badge. 'I wanted the world to see it,' she said.

    "Ms. Gundel loved her job managing the Dollar General store in Tampa, Fla. It was fast-paced, unpredictable and even exciting. She especially liked the challenge of calming down belligerent customers and pursuing shoplifters. She earned about $51,000 a year, far more than the median income in Tampa.

    "But the job had its challenges, too: Delivery trucks that would show up unannounced, leaving boxes piled up in the aisles because there weren’t enough workers to unpack them. Days spent running the store for long stretches by herself because the company allotted only so many hours for other employees to work. Cranky customers complaining about out of stock items."

    Frustrated and feeling unheard, she decided to post a six-part video on TikTok, in which she "laid bare the working conditions inside the fast-growing retail chain, with stores that are a common sight in rural areas," conceding as she did so that she could get in trouble for her videos.   But, she said, "Whatever happens, happens. Something needs to be said, and there needs to be some changes, or they are probably going to end up losing a lot of people."

    One of her videos was viewed 1.8 million times.  And something did happen - she got fired.

    The Times writes:  "Ms. Gundel was instantly transformed from a loyal lieutenant in Dollar General management into an outspoken dissident who risked her career to describe working conditions familiar to retail employees across the United States … Dollar General soon fired her. She was let go less than a week after posting her first critical video, but not before she inspired other Dollar General store managers, many of them women working in stores in poor areas, to speak out on TikTok."

    Dollar General released a statement:

    "In a statement, Dollar General said: “We provide many avenues for our teams to make their voices heard, including our open-door policy and routine engagement surveys. We use this feedback to help us identify and address concerns, improve our workplace and better serve our employees, customers and communities. We are disappointed any time an employee feels that we have not lived up to these goals and we use those situations as additional opportunities to listen and learn … Although we do not agree with all the statements currently being made by Ms. Gundel, we are doing that here."

    You c an read the entire story here.

    KC's View:

    First of all, Dollar General is full of it.  If management really cared and wanted to learn, it would've kept Mary Gundel inside the tent, empowering her to help identify and solve the problems.  That might've given her a better understanding of the broader problems, and given them a different, front lines-centric appreciation for the issues.

    Gundel went public not because she didn't care, or hated the company, but because she loved her job and the company - enough to risk her career.

    C-level execs who do not get that ought to lose their jobs.  It is that simple.

    Go into a competitive battle with an army of people like Mary Gundel, and you can conquer the world.  If I were another Tampa-area retailer, I'd reach out to her immediately … tap into that passion, and use it to create a business model more in synch with front line realities.

    We have an email from an MNB reader below in which he says that "I find it hard to believe that workers at a Starbucks have brutal working conditions … Never have been and never will be a fan of unions … Workers today don’t realize how good they have it."

    But I think the email misses the point of what may be happening here - that companies have become so big and c-suite-driven that they have become largely disconnected from the front lines and customer experience.  These things, in executives' minds, have become abstract, not tangible reflections of what the business's priorities should be.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    •  From the Los Angeles Times:

    "Whipsawed by the pandemic, spurred by fury over wage stagnation and alarmed by inflation, Southern California’s unionized grocery workers gained their biggest pay raises in decades Thursday as they ratified a new contract with the region’s largest food chains.

    "The three-year contract’s overwhelming approval, by 87%, followed strike authorization votes two weeks earlier by union locals representing 47,000 employees at 540 Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

    "After four months of bargaining, Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs, and Albertsons, which owns Pavilions and Vons, agreed to raises of 19% to 31% over current pay levels for most workers. Part-time employees, about 70% of the workforce, are guaranteed 28 hours weekly, up from 24."

    •  The Houston Chronicle reports that "Kroger Houston Division announced that associates at 106 Kroger stores in the Houston area have ratified new labor agreements that settle nearly two years of negotiations over wages and benefits. The agreements represent a $65 million investment in wages and an annual contribution of about $75 million to ensure access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage."

    •  The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 342 announced that some 1,800 employees of FreshDirect - the online grocer acquired by Ahold Delhaize about 15 months ago - have "overwhelmingly" voted to unionize.

    The workers, a group that included everything from butchers to order pickers, are employed at three FreshDirect locations, in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

    •  The Washington Post reports that "workers at Apple’s flagship Grand Central Terminal retail location in Manhattan have begun to formally collect signatures to form a union, according to a newly updated website launched by the organizers, setting the stage for a showdown between the iPhone maker and the employees who sell them.

    "The organizers, who have dubbed themselves 'Fruit Stand Workers United,' say they voted Feb. 21 to affiliate with Workers United, a national labor union that has supported the successful unionization efforts of Starbucks employees around the country."

    The story goes on:  "If the organizers of Fruit Stand Workers United are successful in gathering enough votes to form a union, the Grand Central location would become the first of Apple’s retail stores to do so. That would add the Cupertino, Calif., company to a growing list of corporate behemoths, including Amazon, Starbucks and Activision-Blizzard, facing a wave of unionization efforts in a labor landscape that has fundamentally shifted in the wake of the global pandemic. At least three other Apple retail locations are in the process of forming a union, according to employees who who spoke on the condition of anonymity to keep their jobs."

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The United States now has had a total of 82,316,348 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,015,451 deaths and 80,202,314 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 504,834,324 total cases, with 6,223,645 resultant fatalities and 456,066,165 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.3 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 65.9 percent are fully vaccinated … and 45.4 percent of fully vaccinated people have received a vaccine booster dose.

    •  Bloomberg reports that "a Covid-19 breathalyzer test with the ability to provide diagnostic results in three minutes has won emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Thursday.

    "The test, made by Frisco, Texas-based InspectIR Systems, is authorized for those 18 and older and in settings where samples are both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals or mobile testing sites. The device is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, the FDA said, and works by detecting chemical compounds in breath samples associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

    "The agency said the test was validated in a study of 2,409 people, where it correctly identified 91.2% of positive samples and 99.3% of negative samples. It performed similarly in follow-up tests focused on the omicron variant. The breathalyzer’s sensitivity is comparable to that of rapid antigen tests, studies show."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Health officials are leaving it up to people to assess if they need booster shots, whether to wear a mask and how long to isolate after a positive test. Businesses, schools and other entities are scaling back specific guidelines as they prepare for a return to normal.

    "The question of when older adults should get a second vaccine booster is the latest example of the government shifting decisions from broad-based community outreach to personal choice. People 50 years and older can get the additional booster at least four months after their first, but health authorities aren’t pushing those eligible to get the shots.

    "The actions represent a shift from two years ago when government officials responded to the pandemic by shutting down cities, limiting capacity in public places and mandating social distancing. Then, they lacked effective treatments, vaccines and widespread testing to fight the pandemic. Now, as those tools help dent the worst outcomes as the virus continues to spread, the response is becoming more tailored to people’s own health and appetite for risk, according to public-health experts."

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Seattle Times writes that "in his first letter as CEO of Amazon, Andy Jassy maintained that when it comes to worker safety, Amazon is simply average.

    "'Our injury rates are sometimes misunderstood,' he wrote. Amazon is 'about average relative to peers, but we don’t seek to be average. We want to be best in class'."

    The Times notes that a recent report "from a coalition of labor unions — the Strategic Organizing Center — analyzed data Amazon has submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and found that in 2021 the rate of injury at Amazon warehouses went up about 20%. Compared with other warehouse workers, Amazon employees needed about 19 more days to recover from injuries.  The serious injury rate at Amazon warehouses in 2021 was 6.8 per 100 workers, compared to a rate of 3.3 per 100 at non-Amazon warehouses, the SOC report found.

    "In his letter Thursday, Jassy said Amazon actually splits its workforce into two categories when comparing itself to other industry leaders: its warehouse workers and its courier and delivery service.

    "Amazon’s injury rate was higher than its warehouse peers — 6.4 versus 5.5 — but lower than its courier and delivery peers — 7.6 versus 9.1."

    Jassy wrote that "we’ve been dissecting every process path to discern how we can further improve.  But, we still have a ways to go, and we’ll approach it like we do other customer experiences — we’ll keep learning, inventing and iterating until we have more transformational results.

    "We won’t be satisfied until we do."

    I've been arguing here for a long time that if Amazon brought as much innovation to its distribution facilities and labor relations as it does to so many other of its businesses, it would be transformative - not just for Amazon, but for many businesses that would instantly have to change in order to measure up.

    Maybe Jassy gets it.  I hope so.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    •  Fox Business reports that "Wegmans announced on Thursday it will completely eliminate the use of plastic bags at all of its groceries stores by the end of 2022, hoping to combat pollution caused by plastic waste … The grocery chain will incentivize customers to use reusable bags by charging 5 cents per paper bag, 'an approach that has proven successful in New York and other markets'."

    •  The New York Times reports that "retail sales rose 0.5 percent in March, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday, climbing for the third consecutive month as prices continued to increase across the country.

    "The uptick followed spending increases of 0.8 percent in February and 3.8 percent in January. Higher prices for goods were probably inflating the sales data, according to economists, with the latest Consumer Price Index showing prices rose 8.5 percent in March from a year earlier."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, but remained near historically low levels as employers held on to workers in a tight labor market.

    "Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, rose to 185,000 during the week that ended on April 9, compared with a revised 167,000 the week prior, the Labor Department said Thursday. New claims had fallen to the lowest point since 1968 in early April."

    •  Eater New York reports that Asian grocery chain 99 Ranch Market has opened its first New York store, at the Samanea New York mall in Westbury, Long Island.  The 45,000 square foot store is said to include "thousands of Asian grocery staples and a food court."

    99 Ranch Market operates 56 stores in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    •  Bloomberg reports that grocery delivery startup Gopuff has hired Maria Renz, an executive with two decades of experience at Amazon, to be its new senior vice president of North America.

    The story notes that Renz most recently was Executive Vice President Consumer Finance and Wealth Management at digital lender SoFi Technologies, but before that had numerous roles at Amazon, including Vice President of Delivery Experience and Vice President, Technical Advisor to the CEO.

    •  SpartanNash announced that Yu Ying Seah has been named Vice President, IT Global Applications.

    The announcement notes that Seah has been working with SpartanNash "as an independent contractor within the Enterprise Applications Office, where he has been pivotal in the journey of modernizing how SpartanNash’s IT team delivers services to the business."

    •  Enmarket, the 129-store convenience store chain based in Savannah, Georgia, announced that Matt Clemens, the company's vice president of marketing, has been named president.

    Clements succeeds Brett Giesick, who recently was named COO for Colonial Group, Inc., the Savannah-based group of companies that includes Enmarket.

    Published on: April 18, 2022

    Responding to my piece and commentary last week about a new study of Amazon Prime members illustrating the power of automated replenishment systems, MNB reader Matt Nitzberg wrote:

    Thanks for your recap of the study! In addition to loyalty (for retailers) and convenience (for shoppers), subscription and auto replenishment models have important systemic benefits. 

    For retailers and brands, this can include more accurate forecasting and decreased reliance on promotion. And, particularly for categories with recommended (but often-ignored) usage patterns, steady and effortless resupply can increase “compliance“ and consumption, and create better consumer experiences. 

    One (older) study that showed men often use the last razor blade in a pack for the same duration that they use the first three or four combined, because “razor blades“ never got on the shopping list. And in categories like vitamins, the largest and most persistent growth opportunity is consistent daily dosing. I may be an outlier, but knowing that my next 60-day supply of vitamins will soon be on the way is one factor that drives my daily usage. 

    We also continue to get a lot of email about Starbucks' unionization issues.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    One of your consistent views that I appreciate is relentless focus on how changes at any retailer will have a positive impact and be valued by their customers.  What is your POV as to what, if any, changes that the individual Starbucks’ store unions will ask for and their impact on customers’ experience and perceived value of Starbucks?

    To be clear, I am not confident that unionization is some sort of panacea that will improve store experiences and labor relations.  For a whole host of reasons, it may make things worse, not better.  But retailers have to accept some level of culpability for how things have gotten this way … and if they're not in the middle of a labor crisis, should act now to prevent one from occurring.

    From another reader:

    Having a number of experiences at union organization attempts the one thing I can say with certain confidence is the Starbuck employees will need to look very closely at the promises made by company leadership and the union leadership. None of the statements should be taken with absolute trust.

    MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

    From what I'm reading and hearing, it sounds like Starbucks, and in particular Howard Shultz need to hire a COO, Chairman Optics Officer.  I couldn't hurt.

    I think Shultz needs to remember or at least realize something, if employees are being talked to by unions, and deciding they want to vote to unionize, it means something either is wrong, or employees feel something is wrong.  Either was means there is a problem, either in how they are treated or how they perceive their treatment by the company they work for.  What he is doing isn't helping, it's making things worse.

    As anyone in retail should know, perception frequently becomes reality in people's minds.

    Finally, as a Store Manager I once worked for told us, "If it doesn't happen on the front end with the customer then my efforts, the companies efforts don't count, we've lost, if ti doesn't happen in the checkout and with the last people our customer sees, we've failed.

    If it doesn't happen on the front line, it doesn't happen.  I don't care how many cute programs a company comes up with, how well their stores are designed, how sharp their pricing is, how much knowledge their systems give them on customer behavior, if it doesn't happen on the front end, they are losing sales, they aren't being as successful as they could be.  If the front line worker doesn't feel valued by their employer, they simply aren't going to be a happy, effective employee.  It's not all about money, though being paid well helps, it's also in the attitude companies have toward their employees.

    There is a WalMart Neighborhood Market down the street from my church, it is convenient so I'll stop there after church on Sunday for a few things I can get cheaper there.  After every trip, I get a survey from the store in my email.  The survey asks about my store experience, the quality of the products I bought, and they ask about specific items I bought..  My response is always that WM has nothing to do with the quality of national brand products, and that their customer service stinks, is mostly non existent and is the reason I don't do more shopping in their stores.  I only go there when it's to my advantage, not for my major grocery shopping.

    And from another:

    Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that workers at a Starbucks have brutal working conditions, compared to the beginning of unions in our country so long ago. People in factories were working under atrocious conditions. My Dad was a blue collar worker that avoided unions because he would rather deal directly with the owner. Throughout my career, I have never felt the need to be represented by a union. I would work or not work, get a raise or not based on my performance. I worked for great bosses and poor bosses. I have worked my entire life in retail. I tell everyone retail is not for everyone.

    I feel the same way about teacher’s unions. I served 15 years on a School Board and in my experience unions only really exist to self-perpetuate their own existence.

    Never have been and never will be a fan of unions.

    Workers today don’t realize how good they have it.

    On your last point … I am the son of a teacher who later became a principal, and who until the day he died was covered by medical insurance that he received because of contracts negotiated by his union.  (Of course, in his later years he also said how much he hated unions - my dad was gifted with many things, but a sense of irony was not among them.  Must've skipped a generation, because I have enough for about six people.)

    I also am the husband of a now-retired teacher … and the father of a teacher.  I've spent some time in academia, though, to be fair, compared to others in my family (I also have sisters and a brother in the education game), I am but a dilettante.

    That said, I would agree that unions protect bad teachers, which is unfortunate.  But they also protect good and great teachers … though not nearly enough these days, to my mind.  I've covered school boards as a reporter and watched them as a taxpayer, and it is my impression that some members are more interested in their own politics and indulging their own biases (I can think of at least one current member of my local school board who exemplifies this characterization) than in really focusing on teaching and learning.

    BTW … I'm also fed up with federal and state education departments that stress teaching to the test rather than encouraging independent thinking.  So I have plenty of disdain to go around.

    But unions only existing to perpetuate their own existence?  That's way too broad a brush, I think, that ignores the reality of what is happening here.

    Last week, we took note of a Bloomberg piece entitled "Tesco Is Being Way Too Pessimistic About Inflation," in which it argues that while "Tesco Plc has become the first British food retailer to warn about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis," it is "worth remembering that inflation — even at a 30-year high of 7% in March — isn’t all bad for grocers."

    I commented:

    Of course, grocers cannot appear to be enjoying inflation too much, or taking advantage of their customers.  It is a balance that has to be struck in reality, but also a situation in which optics matter.  (Maybe companies need a new COO position - Chief Optics Officer.)

    One MNB reader responded:

    I agree with your comments on this story .  Yes grocers are seeing an increase in sales.  The Wall Street journal recently reported that the Grocery Industry is experiencing a 6.4% increase in sales.  We are seeing an increase in sales at are our stores too.  What the Bloomberg article and many other publications fail to mention, however, cost of goods, utilities, supplies, and wages have also increased. What most reporting is ignoring is the impact on the other side of the ledger.  Do not misunderstand my point.  This is not me signing the blues.  I acknowledge there are companies who have/doing  very well on the bottom line and CEOs have lined their pocket quite well. I am not writing to debate that.   My perspective is from a smaller grocer’s point of view, a small local grocer who admittedly did very good during the pandemic, and now taking those earnings and investing in employee wages and capital improvements. 

    While the industry is seeing an increase in sales dollars, are the stores actually seeing an increase in units sold?   I suspect not.  Inflation is out pacing take home pay, gasoline is up 48% the past 12 months, groceries are up 10% the past 12 months.  The amount of money consumers have to spend is getting smaller.  Shoppers are trading down, shopping for multiple stores for deals.  Independent grocers cash flow  is decreasing for many of the reason previously sited.  Their investment in their employees, stores, and community dwindle.

    I argue that inflation “isn’t all good for grocers”.

    From another reader:

    This is an interesting view.  But I have just one question, if the sales increase because of inflation are they truly gaining.  If you think about the process, the reason they are having to raise the price is because they are paying more for the product because of the inflation that is being passed on to them.  They are also raising price to offset for other costs they are incurring that are higher.  So, in the end, are the stores really gaining?  If these inflated sales figured are adjusted for inflation and then compared to the sales over the past year, even though the numbers look better, did they really gain anything or are they just passing monies along?

    We had a piece last week taking note of a Fox Business report that Amazon told its third-party sellers yesterday that "it will soon implement a 5% "fuel and inflation" surcharge on top of existing Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) fees, saying the move was in lieu of making a permanent fee increase … While fuel surcharges are common for shipping firms, this is the first time Amazon has added such a fee amid the persistence of soaring inflation driven by high gas prices."

    One MNB reader responded:

    So, Fuel surcharges are certainly understandable in this environment….one has to wonder a little about the calculation.

    If there is a need to have a surcharge (temporary charge due to cost factors) instead of a simple increase, then where is the transparency as to WHEN the surcharge would go away?

    Fast Company last week had the results of an anonymous survey of close to 1500 c-suite executives around the world in which 58 percent of them admit to "greenwashing," or making unsupportable sustainability claims.  In the US, it is actually worse - 68 percent admitted it.  To me, this is a combination of two sins - not doing what needs to be done when it comes to sustainability, and lying.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Surprised?  Not surprised.  These C-Suite characters should be required to take Greta and a group of US kids the same age on a camping trip and let the kids have a chance to ask the tough questions most BOD’s or C-Suite seems capable of addressing.

    Responding to last week's piece about accident rates at Amazon warehouses, one MNB reader wrote:

    Regarding the view on the potential that the increased accident rate at the Amazon facility was related to understaffing, our experience supports that view.  When we decided to change our approach and increase staffing based on both turnover and a chronic pattern of injuries which had resulted in obscene workers compensation premiums, our safety record became virtually perfect and our workers comp premiums plummeted.  A more supported workforce, higher morale, and less turnover was the result.  We are paying about 300K less in workers comp premiums annually and about 300K more in wages and benefits.  Ask yourself, would you rather pay the Team Member or the premium?  The answer has been pretty simple, for us.  

    And finally, on another subject, from MNB reader Angie Criswell:

    I was very happy to read about the FMI nominations; I cheered out loud for two of the nominees.  I live just outside of Keene, NH, so was very happy to see our very own Monadnock Co-op on the list.  It is a very warm and friendly place to shop, enhanced by its small footprint.

    I have also had the pleasure of working for Meijer store nominee Rob Vassar in several Ohio and Kentucky locations.  Rob is a savvy businessman, sets very high standards, then coaches, counsels and mentors his team to achieve store goals.  Rob’s ability to connect with his customers is second to none.  Meijer stores are generally huge.  It’s very difficult to make a 200,000+ square foot super center feel like your local family-owned grocery store.  Rob has made that happen in every store he has ever worked, for both the team members and the community.  The welcome and inclusiveness Rob shows every day is felt by all, and he treats every customer like a long lost friend.   I am very proud to have worked for him; he is a gem.