The other day I took note of a Democrat & Chronicle report that Wegmans, as it continues its expansion down the eastern seaboard, plans to open its first store in Delaware, in Greenville, near Wilmington, probably in 2022.

I commented:

I assume that this will be Wegmans’ only Delaware store. At 115,000 square feet, it will be almost as big as the whole state.

Which prompted MNB reader Bryan Silbermann to write:

For the past decade or so, the citizens of Delaware, who appreciate world class retail food stores, have watched as Wegmans spread their wings from New York and landed in Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. But not little Delaware. We have felt like the perennial bridesmaid, never the bride. We’ve been teased by their proximity across our state line, we’ve been tempted to eat and drink at their in-store Pubs. Not a year has passed without talk of petitions to force Wegmans to locate a store in our state if they wanted to continue deliveries down I-95 to points farther south. Some Delawareans even considered asking Vice President Joe Biden to use his influence to convince the Wegman family that this was only fair play! (Remember the sign in a 1963 episode of Candid Camera: “Delaware is Closed?”)

Last week, at a public meeting the developer revealed a plan to turn the vacant former DuPont office park into a mixed use community with a 115,000 square foot Wegmans store. More than 200 people cheered (I know, I was there)! How often do developers get met with applause by local residents?

As for me, I’ve spent more than 10 years taking every opportunity to ask my friends at Wegmans - including the family - to find an appropriate location. I’ve even driven good friend Dave Corsi, Wegmans VP of Produce and Floral, to look at some sites over the years! Now powerless after losing the advantage of my pre-retirement role at Produce Marketing Association to cajole them, what do they do? They sign a lease to build a store whose front door Google Earth tells me is, as the crow flies, just 2500 feet from my front door. Dave claims he had no idea and played no part in the choice of location.

Oh joy, prayers answered, days being counted. By the way, it’s not the size of the state that will limit the number of stores Wegmans might build: it’s the size of the population - just shy of 1 million people … who still get 2 Senators! I guess we will learn to live with just 1 Wegmans.


Fore the record, I live in Connecticut … where there are no Wegmans.

(I knew I’d get some grief for making gentle fun of Delaware. Couldn’t help myself, though…)



We also took notice of a National Public Radio report on Walmart’s decision to change the job description for its greeter position, “replacing them with ‘customer hosts,’ who have expanded responsibilities, such as taking care of security or assisting shoppers.” The problem is that this change of responsibilities “appears to disproportionately affect workers with disabilities … the job of greeter has been a particularly attractive fit, as it isn't physically strenuous and is easy to learn.” The story pointed out that “the most widely shared story has been in Pennsylvania, where Adam Catlin, a Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy, is facing job loss after 10 years. Almost 4,000 comments have poured onto his mother's Facebook post, which asks people to call Walmart's corporate line to advocate for Catlin's employment.”

I commented that this is an unforced error:

Sure, Walmart has to the get the most out of its employees, but the money it is spending on these disabled greeters - which cannot be that much in the scheme of things - is an investment that puts a human and compassionate face on the company.

Let’s be clear. The vast majority of Walmart shoppers have no idea who Doug McMillon or Marc Lore are. But the shoppers at the Walmart store where Adam Catlin works know who he is … and that ought to be worth a lot.


One MNB reader responded:

Just like any gift you might give, once you have done it, it is impossible to take back....world we live in now no credit for what you are doing until you change it and offend someone.

I heartily disagree with your characterizations. Walmart didn’t give these folks a gift. Walmart provided an opportunity, these people worked, and were paid for their efforts.

People aren’t just gratuitously offended by this. They’re objecting to a policy decision that negatively impacts people in their communities.

From another reader:

Today’s story is another case in point for shopping and supporting good local biz.  Schnuck Markets, in regional STL, is a tremendous supporter of employing disabled workers.  One of my former paralegals recently called me in tears, so grateful for the Schnuck family’s commitment to our community.  Her son is 20 years old and functions at the mental capacity of a 12 year old.  He has been EMBRACED by the supermarket chain and is successfully integrated into their store workforce.  He has a feeling of accomplishment, the store gets some assistance, his mother is able to do her job with less worry, and they will forever be loyal shoppers.  The way corporations treat people matters.  A lot.

Exactly.

From another reader:

I read with interest your comments on Walmart’s decision and agree with your comment, “the shoppers at the Walmart store where Adam Catlin works know who he is … and that ought to be worth a lot.”

People with disabilities can play a very important role in a store’s customer service.  My sister-in-law has CP and worked in a Starbucks basically clearing & wiping tables, keeping the napkins, milk and stirrers orderly, and talking to the customers.  The customers of that Starbucks knew her well.  So well, that more than a few came to her mother’s funeral services to give her their condolences.  Shortly afterward, her manager at Starbucks was replaced and the new manager eliminated her position as “unnecessary” (she obviously could not be a barista and she was “overhead” impacting his numbers).  From what I understood, many customer’s “voted with their feet” and moved their business to another local coffee shop and the manager was eventually replaced. By then, the damage was done.


From yet another reader:

Walmart has always done more to hire disabled than any other major retailer. I’m pretty sure they try to will find ways to continue using most of their current disabled employees but as demands for better customer service increase they may not be able use as many disabled workers and will hire fewer disabled workers.

That’s a shame. One of a physical retailer’s advantages is the ability to put a human face on the services and environment in provides, and in this case, it seems to me, Walmart is making a mistake and getting deserved PR blowback.


We had a story the other day about how there seems to be a growing consensus that Starbucks is likely to be “the first big chain to launch a line of cannabis-infused drinks.”

I commented:

Seems like a safe bet … this would be totally on brand for Starbucks.

Though I wonder how how the company would develop guardrails to make sure that some people in certain circumstances cannot buy it. Truck drivers on the road, for that matter. Or any drivers on any road. Because if it serving of cannabis-infused coffee causes public safety issues, Starbucks could have some serious legal exposure.


One MNB reader responded:

How would a serving of cannabis-infused coffee cause public safety issue?  Cannabidiol is a natural constituent in cannabis and industrial hemp plants.  Unlike its notorious cousin THC, CBD is non-psychoactive: it does not get you high.  While industrial hemp may contain trace amounts of THC, at the most CBD must contain less than the federally legalized limit of .03%.  Most of the major companies also offer CBD which contains no trace amounts of CBD.   This way a person can enjoy the nutritional benefits of CBD without concerns of testing positive on a drug test.  Either way, CBD will not get you high or impair motor responses.   CBD is also considered the anti-venom for someone who may have consumed a THC infused edible, the CBD will reverse the effects.
 
What CBD does is offer some amazing health benefits   Just like anandamide found in chocolate that many people crave, CBD activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain to bring nutrition to the often neglected Endocannabinoid system.
 
Just like your muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular system, you have an endocannabinoid system.  This system is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and receptors in the brain that are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory, synaptic plasticity and motor learning. 
 
There is a lot of confusion in the market regarding CBD’s.  Too many are confusing CBD with THC.   The confusion is understandable.  People want to call this “medical marijuana” which alludes to a connection with THC when there is no connection. 


From an other reader:

Your comments about the Starbucks CBD story really highlights how important it is that cannabis is legalized if only so we can finally do some serious research on it. CBD is actually completely separate from the part of cannabis that makes you high, hence why it’s currently legal. A truck driver who takes CBD isn’t going to make the world a more dangerous place since they’ll be totally sober; if anything it’ll save the driver from having to take prescription meds for back pain.
 
It brings up an interesting question though as to where the line between medical and recreational cannabis use is. My hometown is currently cracking down on local coffee shops offering CBD in their drinks. The argument is that CBD so far has been advertised as a medical use drug-alternative and coffee shops aren’t pharmacies and therefore shouldn’t be selling products as if they were. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a coffee shop offering to put ibuprofen or Tylenol in my drink, would you?




Regarding declining customer service scores in the supermarket industry, one MNB reader wrote:

The results of customer satisfaction surveys do not surprise me. I am going to mention some comments that have changed my perception of Fred Meyer stores since Kroger has taken over.

One, the out of stocks are clearly evident, probably 10 percent at any given time, signs all over the shelves saying this item not available.

Second, their food advertising asking me to buy 5 or 6 items I order to save $3.00. My wife and I are empty nesters, and we do not need to buy multiple items to save $.50 per item. This type of merchandising is not acceptable, thus we find ourselves to go to other retailers to buy what we want, not forcing us to buy 5 or 6 items.

Next, their produce departments suffer from high out of stocks when items are on ad. I have been a long time Fred Meyer customer and I would say that the Fred Meyer shopping experience is not what it used to be.


MNB reader Bill Kadlec chimed in:

My view . . . When it comes to bricks and mortar locations, I feel customer service is a weak point and could contribute significantly to the continued decline. Here’s a very recent example.
 
I went to Petco to buy a replacement one of my dog’s favorite toys, the Kong Wubba. We wrestle with it and I throw it for him. The first visit was what I’ve come to expect. I didn’t find the specific item on the shelf. I had to hunt to find someone to help me to, maybe, go look to see if there’s one in the back room. When I asked, what I got was “We don’t have any.” I even had to ask about back room inventory. The answer to that question was, “Only what we have on the shelf”. She didn’t even ask what it was I wanted to buy. No clue. Just a complete lack of interest. SO, I bought one that isn’t the same but thought it might work. Unfortunately, after playing with it 2 times, it began to fall apart.
 
I went back a few days later to see if they had gotten a shipment and exchange this flimsy one for the one I wanted originally. This time, the check out clerk was eager to assist. He asked me questions. He explained the delivery schedule without prompting. He went to the shelf and looked up the SKU so I could call in to find out if they’d gotten more before going to the store. He cared about me and what I was looking for. He gave me store credit for the broken toy since I didn’t have a receipt and he volunteered this.
 
Example #2 is what things used to be like all the time. That creates customer satisfaction. Example #1 is what I’ve come to expect at most places. But, @ Costco, my experiences are usually aligned with Example #2.




On another subject, from MNB reader Michelle DuFresne:

Have been reading MorningNewsBeat for years and enjoy the commentary and perspective.  I couldn’t help but note and applaud your response in the “Your Views” section regarding the diversity in the Oscars awards.  What I also equally noted was the podcast that was clearly not diverse…..all white men.  I know our industry is better than that.

A fair point. I accept and embrace the criticism, and can only suggest that you come back and visit us on Monday when we’ll have a new podcast posted.



And finally, from MNB reader Peter Wolf:

I was speaking with John Stanton of St Joseph’s University on the NGA show floor Monday. We reminisced about Murray Raphel and our times with him. He had me speak a few times at his Supermarket College events and I always remember his follow up thank you notes. Hand written and sincere accompanied by a picture from the event. I still keep each one of them. Truly a wonderful man!