business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email responding to the story about the Whole Foods employee who didn't do anything about shoplifters because the perpetrators seemed hungry and the company can afford it:

OMG……..reading that story just made me drop my jaw to the floor.

I spent twenty-four years of my life chasing people down without hesitation whenever I or my employees saw someone shoplifting, many times without consideration for my own personal safety.   I can’t imagine that I could be working with a staff of people today who would think that it was okay for someone to leave my store without paying for their order because ‘it was a donation to someone who really needs it.’   Four of those twenty-four years were spent working in a store in a neighborhood that was far from affluent…..but we focused every day on maintaining the basics of being clean, well-stocked, friendly and intolerant of shoplifting.    We were fortunate to also have good cooperation with the local law enforcement authorities.  

Two thoughts on this immediately come to mind:  

1)  This situation requires much more education of employees on the part of the employer.  From the top down, the employer needs to be talking about the slim profit margins in the grocery industry (even if you work for a multibillion dollar business….) and the effects of shrink on that profit margin, whether it’s the result of out-of-date products that are donated to charity, poorly handled product damaged at store level, or items that are shoplifted from the store.    Most of all, employees need to understand that the biggest long-term effect of shrink is unemployment----because no retailer is going to continue operating a location at a loss for very long.   That leads me to…….  

2)  I wonder where this store is located as it immediately brought to mind the discussions being held in cities like Chicago with ‘food deserts’ where retailers won’t maintain locations in impoverished areas because they can’t overcome the amount of shrink they incur and the city is trying to hold retailers’ feet to the fire about having made promises to serve those customers.  If these are the attitudes being held by both the store staff and its customers, it’s no wonder that food stores can’t/won’t stay in business in those neighborhoods.  

There are obviously no easy answers in this discussion, but a whole lot of communication with employees, community leaders, and law enforcement authorities would be a good place to start.  

I also got some pushback on my commentary about this week's observation of National Supermarkets Day.  I wrote:

Because I am by nature a wisenheimer, I'd like to mark the occasion by suggesting that this is way too little.

If retailers don't think about their employees as being essential every day, then having a "day" won't do much, if anything, to create cultures of caring within their organizations.

"Essential" is word that was thrown around a lot  in the early days of the pandemic.  Not so much anymore, I think.

Essential-ness ought to be at the core of every food retailer's vision, strategy, tactics and employee relations efforts.  Every day.  Because the people on the front lines are way more important in terms of the customer experience than the folks at headquarters.

And if you are a retailer, you ought to ask yourself if, within your organization, this is true?

One MNB reader responded:

To heck with Valentine's Day.  Every day should be a day of love!  To heck with Christmas.  Every day should be a day that we see as a gift to be opened and cherished!  To heck with Mother's Day.  Mother's should be honored every day too!  

In reality we go about our days and embrace our routines.  And for a lot of people it's a mindless exercise to live life  day to day.  So I do believe we need the special recognition days and let's not convolute the message here.  Sure we "should" be seeing every day as special and every person and employee as special too.  It's just not realistic.  

We honored our Team Members yesterday at our supermarket and they enjoyed the bagels, cookies, pizza, coffee, and camaraderie too.  Food brings people together, right!   However if this was how it was every day?  It wouldn't be all that special anymore.  It would be part of the routine and especially part of the expectation.  Still we can try to make every day special.  It just isn't as easy as it sounds.  

I get your point, and I'm sure your team members will spend the next year eagerly looking forward to the bagels and coffee you'll be serving on February 22, 2024.  

My point is just that the "these people are essential, and they enable us to be essential to our customers" attitude of the pandemic has subsided a bit … and I think that it should be a cornerstone of every operation.

(By the way ... would making "every day a day of love" be so awful?)

I got the following email responding to my FaceTime video about the "shocking" revelation that grocers are selling shopper data to manufacturers:

This is just too funny ! And you are so correct about old news. How old you ask ? Let’s go back to 1987 when Price Chopper Supermarkets launched the Advantage Card program. We sold it with many benefits for customers - no more clipping coupons to enjoy savings, dollars spent equaled points that could be used to discount groceries, or donated to organizations and schools for their use. Having a card earned you discounts at amusement parks and minor league sporting events.

Later on it tied in with Computers for Education programs (remember them?). Or on Earth Day just show your card and get a free seedling for your kids to plant. The benefits never stopped, only evolved. Later on would come fuel rewards programs.

From day one we publicly emphasized our privacy policy to protect customer data. Reporting back then would seem primitive compared to today but we did measure with things like the decile report or the bathtub report. In 1996 Brian Woolf ( Customer Specific Marketing )  recounted some of the start ups by various companies. The section on the Price Chopper program does capture the basics but in fairness it was adopted from a 1995 presentation at a MasterCharge conference by one of the VP’s from Financial Services. Doesn’t have all the dimensions but that was never the intent of the VP. He did a nice job. So if you do the math that all started over 35 years ago, sort of like looking back to the future.

PS - you are 100% right about baseball!!

You are one of the few folks who agreed with me about baseball.

One MNB reader wrote:

I have the opposite POV than you on extra innings change for MLB.

As a season ticket holder with the Cubs for the past 8 years, I have come to love the 10th inning change with a runner on 2nd for each teams’ at bat.  In my view it has (along with pitching to minimum batters rule)  forced managers to change their game strategy and be more aggressive in the 9th inning.  Also observed that Cubs crowd gets more passionate in the extra inning as we expect runs to be scored quickly.  Overall a good improvement for those of us who love to watch games at the ballpark.

From another reader:

To echo the previous reader regarding the changes to baseball, the game has changed.  And whether we want to hold onto the gold old days of baseball, or embrace that a new audience likes that likes the game differently; it will change.

I don’t like that football has all these special rules for tackling, but CTE studies taught me why they need to be in place.  I don’t like the way basketball has eliminated the pure center and the low post game.  But I know that this is how the game is played internationally.  And I as well did not like the “ghost runner”.  But knowing how MLB values pitchers and what we know about arm rest; I understand it is equally about protecting pitchers as well as reducing 15+ inning games.

I also don’t like that I’m priced out of going to as many games as I used to.  And I am sure I like that streaming services are owning the broadcasts, forcing me to pay for what was once “free”.  But that needed to change too.  Embrace the change; lest you become that person lamenting how much better things were in the “good old days”.

And from another:

The average length of a baseball game in 1950 (when I first fell in love with the game)  was 2 hours, 23 minutes. In 2022 the average length was 3 hours, 5 minutes.  Our local little league has declined from a 1000 to 600 in the last 14 years. Other fast-paced sports like soccer and lacrosse are filling the void. Baseball is losing its audience with young people. If MLB doesn’t make changes to shorten the games, baseball will continue to decline in popularity. Kudos to the new rule changes including the ghost runner. 

I completely agree with the observation that baseball isn't making these changes to appeal to people like me.  I'll be dead soon, and baseball needs sustainable appeal to younger people, and these rule changes are seen as necessary to make that happen.

But I reserve the right to selectively engage in curmudgeonly behavior about certain things.  Manual transmissions in cars.  Movies that don't depend on CGI.  Wine in bottles, not boxes.  And some baseball rules changes.

Doesn't mean I'm always right, or that everybody should think and feel the way I do.  I'm just not going to "go gentle into that good night," but plan to "rage, rage against the dying of the light."