business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how Roundy’s has decided to start checking the ID of everybody who wants to buy booze or alcohol. Everybody – regardless of how they look.

We commented: While there will be people who are obviously over 21 and who will resent the request for ID, we think most people will understand and abide by the rules without complaint. (And some will secretly be thrilled to have to show ID one more time…)

MNB user Dan Raftery disagreed with our conclusion:

Get serious. This is a lawyer's idea about absolution of guilt. It is an unfortunate absurdity of retailing in today's litigious society. I hope AARP adds birthdates to their membership cards just so some people can have some fun during this new slow down at the checklane.

Another MNB user wrote:

Has common sense been completely abandoned?

Clearly, there is a need for retailers, concessionaires, etc. to have some rules and instruments to help them enforce the laws regulating the sale of tobacco and alcoholic beverages to those of legal age.

However, have we now come to the point where someone who is obviously old enough will be denied...

A.) the opportunity to buy a beer at a ball game

B.) the bottle of wine at the grocery checkout

…because they left their wallet or ID in the car or at home?

Methinks this is a bit of an over-reaction. People of reasonable intelligence can be trained to require ID's from those who appear to be underage (or whenever there is a doubt).

Another MNB user wrote:

Our experience shows small fraction of older shoppers will be very, very upset by the practice of compulsory ID check for alcohol and tobacco purchases. Although these vocal shoppers may represent only a scant slice of the customer base, the strength of their feelings on this issue can't and shouldn't be ignored. These are people's grandparents and parents - they tend not to suffer fools nor foolish rules. They also often relay their experiences to many, many people. It seems to me substituting "policy" for common sense or better training of front-end staff is a cop-out. In the end the only "policy" that works is service.

MNB user Bill MacDonald wrote:

My concern would be that by asking our associates to card everyone they'll "go though the motions" but not do the math. Add that to the disgruntled customers and nobody wins. The "under 30" policy seems more appropriate AND more effective.

Yet another MNB user wrote:

Most of the 50 year and up group will think Roundy's is run by a bunch of idiots. One more thing to slow down the checklane process. One more thing to lengthen an already un-enjoyable experience. Sad that training programs are probably neglected and sad that the frustration over the idiocy of "carding" a grandma will be taken out on the cashier who, by the way, the company implies is an idiot with this new policy.

True enough that this kind of blanket policy is necessary because checkout people can’t necessarily be trusted to do their jobs correctly. It’s a sad reality.

MNB user Denise Remark-Lundell wrote:

I was at a local grocer last week & the obviously 60-ish woman in front of me was purchasing wine. The store cards everyone & the rule is clearly stated at each register. When the quite young man cashiering asked the older woman for her ID he said, "Miss, may I see your ID?" She giggled like a schoolgirl! I don't know if that approach was the store's idea or the cashier's, but whatever, it was charming & it worked to disarm what could potentially be an uncomfortable situation.

A clever checkout person with the right attitude can make this work. Though, come to think of it, clever checkout people with the right attitude could solve a lot of problems for a lot of supermarkets.

We noted yesterday that we believe that Wal-Mart wants do dominate the e-commerce sector as much as it does the brick-and-mortar retailing biz. To which one MNB user responded:

They sure seem to be taking their own sweet time about it, if you ask me.

Yesterday, after reporting that for the first time debit/credit card sales have exceeded sales paid for by check, we commented that the irony is that much of the growth has been driven by the expensive ad campaigns run by credit card companies trying to get people to use their signature-based debit cards, which carry a higher transaction fee than the traditional PIN-based debit cards as well as are more prone to fraud.

We’ve always thought that these campaigns themselves are a fraud, because they’ve created a false sense of security. It is amazing how many consumers and retailers don’t even know that they’re paying higher fees on these cards…and when you tell them, they look at you like you have three heads.

We won’t use the things just on principle. If they won’t take our PIN-based debit card, we write a check…or use something even more anachronistic: cash.

Not everyone agreed with our logic. One MNB user wrote:

KC, many banks including 5th/3rd now charge up to a 50-cent fee for using a check card as a debit card. For the signature transaction, the retailer pays the fee, not the consumer directly. Certainly that can come back in higher prices to the consumer, but that .50 or the Discount and transaction fee does not hit the consumer bank statement.

We didn’t mean to suggest that the consumer is getting hit with a per-transaction surcharge. But there’s no question in our mind that these transaction fees result in higher prices for shoppers, because those fees have to get passed along somewhere.

MNB user Richard Lowe pointed out the advantages of using plastic:

There are no price reductions for using cash and I get air miles on my credit cards, plus free use of the money for 30 days. There are no additional charges if they are paid off every month.

MNB user Al Kober wrote:

I use plastic all the time, for everything I can. That gives me 28 more days to hold onto my cash. Then I pay the credit card off in full every month, electronically, (No checks or stamps needed) Then I get back 1% each year. Last year I got back over $400.00. I wanted to put my church contributions on the card too, but have not been able to do so, just yet.. I pay all bills automatically, so all I get is a paid notice. I write about one check a month and need no stamps.

I believe the higher they raise the stamp price, the less people will use them. Checks are the same. Takes too much time and plastic is quicker.

In our story yesterday about a new specialty grocery store that specializes in carrying groceries and frozen foods imported from the UK that has opened in San Francisco, we noted that “we love all things British, but we have to admit that this one caught us off guard…seeing as English cuisine isn’t one of the things you hear a lot of demand for…

One MNB user observed:

Under some circumstances "English cuisine" does ring as an oxymoron. However, that said, I was at Jungle Jim's in August & found in the British foods section, Uncle Ben's Tikka Masala, Mild Curry, and Korma sauces in glass jars. I bought one Tikka Masala and it was fabulous! I checked all over the Internet including the Uncle Ben's site & could not find a source from which to purchase more sauces. JJ's doesn't ship food unless it's a holiday basket. So a friend in Cincinnati bought a mixed case & brought it on a recent trip north to see me. If I had a ready source for this and other Brit foods that I like, I'd be a regular shopper. I think the idea for a British foods store is AbFab! (By the by, the Uncle Ben's sauces had no artificial colors, artificial flavors, trans fats, or preservatives.)

MNB user Steve Sullivan wrote:

I just wish I could get some of those great Irish bangers around here. Bangers and mash, a pint, a happy man!

And Irish breakfast sausage, looking out over the Dingle - the way to start off a morning.

Have a good one (gee, I’m hungry all of a sudden!).

Another MNB user disagreed:

In the movie A Fish Called Wanda, Kevin Kline’s character had it just about right when he says that England’s “…only contribution to fine cuisine was the chip.”
KC's View: