business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got several emails in response to yesterday's story about c-stores testing dollar store sections in some of their stores, including one from MNB user Todd Hale of ACNielsen:

ACNielsen Homescan research shows that C-stores are the only channel where males account for greater share of shopping trips than females. On the other hand, females drive a higher share of shopping trips in Dollar Stores than most traditional retail channels.

This is a great idea to bridge the gap and create a more female-friendly C-store format.


Regarding then possibility that Canada's Jean Coutu Group might bid for Eckerd, one MNB user wrote:

Those of you who know the Jean Coutu Group, know that management isn't afraid of a challenge, and if buying the whole of Eckerd were the right thing to do financially, they'd do it, and the scale wouldn't intimidate them.

We wrote yesterday about America's sometimes irrational obsession with low prices, and retailers' tendency to commoditize anything and everything they can. MNB user Steve Grossman responded:

As I have been saying for years, Americans like low prices, it like putting a carrot in front of a horse. IKEA and Wal-Mart give the consumer what she/he wants, lower prices.

Until the USA wants to support it's own workers and or with a combination of workers, working for less, we will continue to be in disconnect. The average American Public cannot have their cake and eat it too.

And regarding complaints about jobs moving offshore, often illustrated by the fact that technology customer service calls are routed to Bombay, one MNB user responded:

What's even worse than talking to people in Bombay, is the poor customer service they give. I have been having some computer trouble lately, and every time I call the "help line" they ask one question "did you re-boot?" When I say I've tried that several times, the next suggestion is "I think we need to re-format your hard drive." Is this a joke? There is no option between re-boot and re-format my hard drive. This has happened 5 times!

I can understand cost savings by exporting, but not at the expense of customer service or product quality.

We wrote yesterday that, based on the Super Bowl antics, "the whole Jackson clan ought to be put out to sea on a raft with no sail and no food."

To which one MNB user responded:

Kevin, aren't you a bit fast with your comments here? While I do not condone some of the antics that Janet's brother is known for, but I do think you are going a bit overboard on your comments that I copied here.

Whatever you might think of Janet Jackson's one breast, which was not totally exposed anyhow, and whatever intention both of the singers had, not sure why you did not mention Justin's name who did the actual deed.

Grow up Kevin, life is too short anyhow to care what Janet allowed to happen and what Justin actually did. Aren't there more important topics you can write about?

You're right. Put that Justin Timberlake guy on the same raft.

And nope, we think that one of the things that makes this forum different is the fact that we all can comment anything we want. (We'll never forget the barrage of email we got when we said that "Bull Durham" was the best sports movie ever made…clearly, a lot of MNB users share our enthusiasm for a broad-brush approach to sharing ideas and opinions.)

Finally, in a piece about Wal-Mart being the focus of much criticism yesterday, we referred to the comment made by one of our son's friends about Wal-Mart being "evil," to which one member of our community responded:

A 16 year-old boy having a serious POV about Wal-Mart.......excuse me, but as once the parent of one I'd only buy that if it was about sports of girls, or, maybe, if his parents wouldn't buy that latest CD or DVD he wanted the last time they shopped there.

Of course, his parents might be a reporter or columnists, or even a labor official....

Kevin, Wal-Mart is prime fodder for columnists, reporters and analysts today because it is big, and busy. If you want to stir up a controversy you write or say something about the biggest target in sight. Everybody; well almost everybody, in shopping distance of a Wal-Mart shops there and immediately recognizes the name and will be somewhat interested in what they see or hear about it.

I could care less about Michael Jackson but I listen a little when his latest is on TV news or scan an article in the paper. But to say it affects any decision I make on entertainment is utterly nonsense. The millions of people shopping Wal-Mart today are the same millions that were there yesterday, last week or month. That many new shoppers aren't invented that quickly to think that each day brings new ones to the store.

All-in-all, I have to believe that most Americans don't pay a lot of attention to what's in the news when it comes to shopping. They shop where they want to shop. Wasn't it reported that beef sales didn't adversely react to the latest "mad-cow" news? Much the same with all the recent news stories about what a bad company is Wal-Mart.

It's going to take more than a few journalists (and I use that term very loosely) to cause an effect at Wal-Mart. It's going to take a few hundred-millions shoppers, and I don't see that happening any time soon.

Maybe not.

But part of the problem is that when journalists write stories that bring into question Wal-Mart's behavior or attitudes, apologists for the Bentonville Behemoth immediately start questioning their journalistic ethics. While not every journalist has pure motives, it is equally true that not every Wal-Mart executive/employee/apologist has pure motives. This is a legitimate debate, and the moment either side forgets that the other side may indeed have a legitimate point of view, that's when civil discourse breaks down.

For example, if we're reading the beginning of this email correctly, you obliquely called us a liar, suggesting that no 16 year old would ever make such a reference to Wal-Mart. For the record, we don't have to lie about this stuff…we get so much material on a day to day basis that there's never any reason to make things up. We don't question the fact that you’re being honest about your opinions, and we're offended by the fact that you would accuse us of being anything less than honest.

The reason 16 year old kids might make such references is that they're all networked into the world via the Internet in a way that is hard to even imagine. They're seeing tons of information from an enormous number of sources, and they are forming opinions and attitudes based on what they're seeing and reading. In some ways, they're a lot more sophisticated than people our age…and if we don't work that knowledge into the way we behave as people and companies, then we are making a huge mistake.
KC's View: