business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB reported that Arizona food retailers are investing in gas pumps as a way of competing with similar operations set up by Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

In addition to Safeway and Albertsons, both of which are using gas to generate traffic, Basha's Stores have now joined the fray by using a program that rewards its customers with free gasoline at Chevron stations.

In our commentary we noted that "retailers such as Basha's are desperate to find ways to compete more effectively with the Nation of Wal-Mart. And sometimes you have to match the Bentonville Behemoth's moves.

But you have to believe that smaller, regional chains such as Basha's are better served by the things that they do that Wal-Mart does not."

But Basha's Christie Coleman thought we were off-base on this one.

The philosophy behind our marketing programs is not always about Wal-Mart. We are focusing on our customer not our competition in this case.

We treat all programs of this nature as Bashas' way of rewarding our customers. Gas is over two dollars a gallon here and our customers need relief. So we provide that. It is as simple as that.

Point taken.

We have developed this habit, whenever we read or hear a story, of immediately trying to figure out the Wal-Mart connection. That may be a bad habit…though we think that nine times out of ten, for better or for worse, there is one.

But we accept your admonition.

By the way, one MNB user admonished us on a different issue:

You contribute to the view of Wal-Mart by constantly using the term

On occasion - sure - but you seem to use it a lot. That lessens who you are.

Be bigger.

Boy, we can't get a break today. (It's like dealing with the in-laws…)

Actually, we checked our definition, and see that "behemoth" is defined as "something that is enormously big and powerful." We also sort of liked "Bentonville Behemoth" because it sounded like an over-the-top wrestling name, which appealed to our somewhat warped sense of humor.

But we've probably overused it. Our new favorite is "Nation of Wal-Mart." Though maybe "nation" is thinking too small…

Regarding our recent story about the Bush administration suggesting that people who assemble hamburgers in fast food joints might be more appropriately classified as being in "manufacturing jobs" as opposed to "service jobs," one MNB user wrote:

What a crock! Moving the burger makers jobs from the service sector to the manufacturing sector is just a 'robbing Peter to pay Paul" tactic.

I guess it is ok to do anything to make your numbers look good for the election year.

In response to our story about Albertsons' move to embrace a Six Sigma approach top excellence, one MNB user wrote:

Albertsons' problem in Florida is that no one knows what they stand for. What is their identity? Service, meats, produce, cleanliness, pricing, new items? New items are a revolving week they carry it and the next week they don't.

As a customer, you get tired of having your favorite item not available. Shelf pricing is inconsistent and front end service is non existent. Publix has the market on service

On the vendor side, Albertsons is more concerned about selling you their media program than selling groceries. None of their programs sell product because price points are not right. All of a vendors trade funds go into paying off last years unauthorized deductions.

Publix's success is that they focus on selling groceries. That approach would benefit Albertsons.

They need a lot more than a Six Sigma class.

One MNB user wrote us about the California labor situation:

If you really want to see the So. Cal grocers strike at its worst, you should c'mon up to Bakersfield. Up here we have the legendary(!?) Save Mart, the store that operates locations that come straight out of the 1970s (they use 1970s Lucky, Albertsons, Alpha-Beta, and Fry's layouts and looks in most of their stores) This is a store you must see to believe. They run a number of locations that haven't been renovated from whomever they bought out, and they do it well. They command something like 60% of the Fresno market, and then they have FoodMaxx (The ex-Fleming Food4Less stores), all of which are making a killing in town.

The Ralphs, Albertsons, and Vons all are pretty much ghost towns.

One MNB user wrote yesterday that “Supervalu employs a national customer service center for all of our retailers rather then the regional models and it is many time better then what could be offered in the past.”

To which another MNB user responded:

It might be better for Supervalu but if you ask a retailer that is not close to Minneapolis, they would disagree. Response to issues is slow if at all. Customer service has defiantly decreased and the distance is telling. Consolidation may be efficient but, in this case, not better.

Reporting about Japan's tenth case of mad cow disease, we asked yesterday if Japan really has more infections, or just a better tracking system than the US. One MNB user responded:

I don't doubt that we have more cases of mad cow in the U.S. than we know about, but 100% testing is a silly response. I can't imagine the cost and bureaucracy that it would take to test every cow. Of course you would also have to hold the carcass or segregate it's products until the testing was complete. The easy answer is to quit feeding our cows parts of other cows' nervous systems (or any cow parts for that matter). The disease would soon disappear if we could only enforce this single rule. It is also possible for the disease to be spread from the mother to the calf, but I understand that this is uncommon.

As far as the transmission to humans, the answer is equally simple. Don't eat cow brains! Would cow brains really be so terrible to give up?

And another MNB user wrote:

Or could it be that the U.S. Government isn't being honest with its citizens? How many cases of the human variant of Mad Cow have been reported to the public in the U.S. since 2001? Did any of these cases make the nightly news or did the CDC keep U.S. cases quiet?

And finally, regarding Albertsons' decision to create a "centralized customer service operation," one of our favorite people, Glen Terbeek, wrote:

Isn't "centralized Customer Service Operation" an oxymoron?

KC's View: