business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    Today I'm reporting from the Delta terminal in Detroit, where the revolutionary Parallel Reality technology is being tested.  It is great, the height of customization, and in many ways expectation-setting.  At some point in the future, there will almost certainly be two realities.  One will be occupied by retailers who embrace these technological marvels.  The other will be occupied by retailers that don't.  But I'm not sure they'll be parallel.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    by Michael Sansolo

    It’s probably the simplest truth about every challenge any of us face in any way possible: the need to adapt our methods, our skills and our approach to ever-changing problems. A rigid adherence to even the greatest skills can work for a while, but as conditions change we all must change with them.

    In support of that argument let me cite two current examples from the far flung worlds of baseball and the war in Ukraine, with both leading to the same answer.

    Baseball always provides wonderful food for thought such as the lesson Kevin offered in a FaceTime last week. Yet there may be an even better lesson to consider from this year's New York Mets pitching staff.

    (A note here.  MNB readers probably should be prepared for a plethora of New York Mets citations, allegories and metaphors this year.  Tom Furphy, KC and I all are longtime Mets fans.)

    During the off-season, the Mets signed pitcher Justin Verlander to a lucrative contract and it’s an easy to justify. Verlander has long been one of the best pitchers in the game and just last year was honored as the top pitcher in the American League. 

    However, there is this small issue: Verlander is 40-years-old, an age at which most professional athletes are retiring or already a few years into retirement. But Verlander is clearly thinking differently.

    Despite his incredible success in recent years, Verlander recognizes that he needs to adapt to best use and protect his aging body, so he is trying to master a new pitch - the change up - that will put less pressure on his arm and give him a way to stay successful even as his usual arsenal of pitches begins to fade thanks to his age. As the Athletic recently reported, he’s studying with Nolan Ryan, a legendary pitcher who used the exact same approach to extend his career to age 46.

    Verlander understands he must adapt or retire.  He's choosing the former. 

    In much more stark terms, the fighters in Ukraine are taking a similar approach. As the Washington Post recently reported, the undermanned and under-armed Ukrainians have managed to repeatedly blunt an expected quick Russian victory in their year-old war by continuously adapting their strategy. '

    The two very different stories provide a clear lesson to the rest of us who face far less life-threatening issues than the Ukrainians and far less lucrative ones than Verlander.  Both stories offer us a clear reminder of the importance of recognizing the changing conditions we constantly face, the changing realities in our skills and abilities and the need to constantly learn, grow, evolve and adapt.

    In so many ways, the past few years have demonstrated the necessity of being agile and flexible thanks to the endless challenges of the pandemic followed by economic uncertainty. Those challenges are continuing to force companies to adapt on the fly time and again.

    It’s an endless reminder that the single worst phrase to use in baseball, war or business remains: “we’ve always done it that way.” Just remember, adapt or die is far more accurate and useful.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    by Kevin Coupe

    I got an Eye-Opening email from an MNB reader this week that I wanted to share:

    I was in the Kansas City airport, the 2nd day of the “new” airport. Down in baggage claim of all places is an Amazon Go store. Now I don’t know what title the people assisting shoppers are called (mentors, geniuses, etc.) but they had two working that 2nd day. I was more than a bit surprised at the mature lady on the right, she has cane and as I noticed limited mobility. Her age is at least 70 or at least on either side of 70. 

    Labor issues are an issue but can this lady really help all the people younger and more digitally native shoppers with app/software downloads and issues? Would I feel better working through the app struggle with her or a 25 year old with green hair?  Probably the latter for me but I may be in the minority. Does Amazon want a lady that might have worked in a grocery store in 1969 when she was 16 helping shoppers new to the technology? I guess it is all perception and she may have completed a great career in IT and be very capable and is doing this for fun and to meet people. I really doubt that since she is working at a Amazon Go store in an airport but who knows.

    Here's the picture.

    First of all, I agree that this is an interesting place for a new Amazon Go store, especially at a time when Amazon is closing a number of stores in its fleet.  But, if we accept that it isn't an experiment if we know how it is going to turn out, it may simply be that Amazon is testing a number of different and even unconventional locations for the Go stores, tapping into what it hopes will be consumer demand.

    Second, regarding the store's admittedly mature employee.  I take your point about whether this person, at least on the face of it, is the best ambassador for Go-style technology.  In fact, we don't know if she is or not.  She may be incredibly talented at a) engaging with people, and b) teaching customers about technology.  It may matter more if she's good at (a) than (b), since (b) is sort of self-evident.  And, the fact is that if she indeed is 70, that means she was 40 in 1993, which was when Amazon was the early stages of development.

    It may be that I'm taking this observation a little personally.  I'm not that far from being 70, and I think I could explain Go technology as customers.  (You should've seen me explaining the Parallel Realities technology to other Delta passengers in the Detroit airport yesterday.  I was terrific - though I suspect Mrs. Content Guy would've observed that I belonged in a Progressive Insurance commercial, cited by Dr. Rick as a bad example of how to behave in public.)

    Here's the bottom line, in my view.  I think we have to be a little careful about how we evaluate people's abilities based on their age or, quite frankly, other stereotypical characteristics.  You may be right - she may have the job because she has a heartbeat and nobody else was available.  But she also may be the right person for the gig, which all by itself could be an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    Common Dreams reports that "a progressive coalition of more than 100 unions and consumer advocacy groups from across the United States has come together to build the 'Stop the Merger' campaign, a national and state-level effort to prevent Kroger from acquiring Albertsons and establishing the country's most powerful grocery cartel.

    "On Tuesday, the coalition announced the launch of, which includes information about the negative impacts of the proposed $25 billion merger between two of the nation's largest grocery chains, testimony from unionized grocery workers and elected officials, and tools for people to express their opposition to the potential deal."

    In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the coalition writes that if approved, the merger would likely "lead to store closures, worsen food deserts, increase prices for consumers, and destroy thousands of unionized grocery jobs … This deal is an antitrust travesty and it must be stopped."

    KC's View:

    I don't think there is any question that the FTC as it currently is constituted is going to be more sympathetic to these arguments than at other times.

    I'm not sure this adds up to a rejection of the merger.  But I think it may be more complicated than some expect.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Inflation eased in February but remained stubbornly high, presenting a challenge for the Federal Reserve as it confronts how to slow the economy with higher interest rates at the same time it moves to stem banking problems.

    "The consumer-price index, a closely watched inflation gauge, rose 6% in February from a year earlier, down from a 6.4% gain the prior month, the Labor Department said. It was the smallest increase since September 2021. When excluding volatile food and energy costs, prices advanced a slightly slower 5.5%. Economists view so-called core prices as a better indicator of future inflation.

    "Monthly data showed price pressures persisted in many corners of the economy. Core prices increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in February, the largest monthly gain in five months. Shelter costs rose 0.8% over the month, matching the largest monthly gain since the 1980s.

    "Economists said Tuesday’s consumer-price index report underscored the urgency of the Fed’s inflation fight. Several said they thought it made officials more likely to raise rates next week by a quarter percentage point as long as the banking sector didn’t appear to come under additional stress ahead of its rate decision."

    The story notes that "the inflation report showed prices for airfare and lodging also rose in February. Gasoline and food prices both increased last month, but at a slower pace than in January. Consumers paid less last month to heat their homes, and prices for medical services and used cars also fell."

    KC's View:

    What I'm hearing this morning is that the banking crisis may prompt the Fed to either not raise interest rates next week or raise them less than it otherwise might have, which could end up being good for the stock market.

    Who knows?

    I keep thinking about what Andrew Ross Sorkin said recently on CNBC:  Sometimes good news is bad news.  Sometimes bad news is good news.  Bad news often is bad news.  And rarely, good news is good news.

    So, what are these new inflation numbers?  Who knows?

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    H-E-B announced that it is working with Thumbtack, described as "the modern home management platform," to feature branded displays in-store that "allow H-E-B customers to scan a QR code to find and access local pet service providers while shopping. Available pet services include dog walking, grooming, pet sitting, training, and more."

    According to the announcement, "In addition to launching pet services, Thumbtack is offering its Thumbtack On-Demand feature in select H-E-B stores, which allows consumers to find and hire local handyman, lawn care and cleaning services at a 10% discount. The initiative makes home services professionals available to H-E-B customers so that Thumbtack can help people seamlessly care for their homes."

    This is Thumbtack’s first move into physical retail.

    KC's View:

    It has long been an article of faith here that the successful retailers will be the ones that go beyond being just a source of product, but evolve into being a dominant resource for shoppers.  That's exactly what H-E-B is doing here.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    The New York Times reports that a class action lawsuit has been brought by a Chicago-area man against Buffalo Wild Wings, charging that "the restaurant chain is falsely advertising its boneless wing products, which he says are more like chicken nuggets."

    The Times writes that "on its website, Buffalo Wild Wings describes its boneless wings as 'juicy all-white chicken' that is lightly breaded. The lawsuit points to two competitors of Buffalo Wild Wings, Domino’s Pizza and Papa Johns, that offer similar products. Those companies, it says, explicitly state their boneless offerings are made from chicken breast meat."

    The lawsuit is "seeking a jury trial and damages, injunctive relief, restitution and declaratory relief."

    KC's View:

    The suit apparently says that the plaintiff ordered the boneless wings at a Buffalo Wild Wings and was shocked, shocked to find out they weren't actually wings - and so, like every other person, he immediately went out and got a lawyer and filed a lawsuit.

    On the one hand, this is profoundly stupid and reflective of a litigious component of American culture that is distasteful.

    Now, I also have to admit that I've argued here many times that things ought to be what they are, not something else.  So at some level, the suit has a point - though when I've had boneless wings, it never has occurred to me that they were the ingredients for a lawsuit.   I hope that whatever court this ends up in, the plaintiffs get a couple of bucks in restitution, and nothing else.

    Maybe they just ought to call them "wingless wings."

    In the end, this says more about the culture than Buffalo Wild Wings.  And what it says about the culture is plucked up.

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    •  CNBC reports that "Amazon revealed a trio of satellite antennas on Tuesday, as the company prepares to take on SpaceX’s Starlink with its own Project Kuiper internet network … Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit, to provide high-speed internet to anywhere in the world. The Federal Communications Commission in 2020 authorized Amazon’s system, in which the company has said it will 'invest more than $10 billion' to build."

    "The tech giant said the 'standard" version of the satellite antenna, also known as a customer terminal, is expected to cost Amazon less than $400 each to produce … An 'ultra-compact' model, which Amazon says is its smallest and most affordable, is a 7-inch square design that weighs about 1 pound and will offer speeds up to 100 Mbps. In additional to residential customers, Amazon plans to offer the antenna to government and enterprise customers for services like 'ground mobility and internet of things'."

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    •  Gordon Food Service announced that "it will open six new Gordon Food Service Stores in the greater Houston area to serve local restaurants, food operations and the public. The new Gordon Food Service Stores are the first Texas locations and the most opened by the company at one time."

    Gordon Food Service describes itself as "the largest family-operated broadline food distribution company in North America … primarily designed to provide chef-quality food products to restaurant owners and foodservice professionals of all types," as well as "cater to home shoppers with an assortment of packaged and fresh produce and goods."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Honda Foods "plans to shut down two of its poultry plants and lay off nearly 1,700 workers as it tries to improve its chicken operations that produce about one-fifth of the U.S. supply … The Springdale, Ark.-based meat company said production would be shifted to other Tyson plants. The company said the closures were part of a broader plan in its chicken division to improve operations and use full available capacity at each plant."

    The story points out that "Tyson reported last month its biggest percentage drop in quarterly profit in over a decade. Its long-dominant chicken business is under increased pressure as the company’s profit margins fall from historic highs during the pandemic."

    Published on: March 15, 2023

    •  Walmex, the Walmart-owned Mexico and Central American business unit, has announced that it plans to invest some $1.5 billion this year in its operations, with close to a third of it going into new stores, and 45 percent going into remodels.  

    The CapEx number is about 27 percent more than last year's budget number.