business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday’s piece about Starbucks’ involvement in the music business and some lessons it might offer retailers, MNB user Brian Richardson wrote:

Regarding the piece about the music industry. I feel that I have been personally involved in the evolution of the music industry as a consumer. I could not live without my iPod. I would be seriously disturbed as an
individual without iTunes. I haven't bought an actual CD in 2 years. Being a Starbucks consumer as well, I personally think their primary success in this venue is due to the fact that they play the CD's constantly, and if you are a "sit at a table with your laptop or good book for a couple of hours" patron, you really begin to enjoy that ambiance and replicating that ambiance in the home would be pretty appealing. Most music consumers do not use iTunes or MP3 players as you and I, but to someone dropping 3 and a half bucks on a mocha (I tend to stick to the buck fifty straight coffee) and a 10 dollar bag of beans, an incremental sale of a sixteen dollar album for a gift or self is really no big deal, and I suspect this is the pattern for the majority of their sales on music. Kudos to Starbucks.

We wrote yesterday about the McDonald’s turnaround, but one MNB user felt that the changes are overstated:

I see no evidence of the turnaround at the McDonalds restaurants in my area, particularly regarding cleanliness. We are usually greeted with dirty floors, messy self-serve beverage areas, overstuffed trash cans, and filthy bathrooms. Also, the service we get is rarely fast food anymore. We hardly ever encounter adequately trained employees, which translates into longer lines and unhappy kids. On the positive side, we like the healthier alternatives in the kid's meals such as apple dippers and milk.

Regarding Martha Stewart’s resiliency, making a deal for a new television show even while serving a prison term, one MNB user wrote:

It is interesting, yet not surprising, that the people who are able to turn= what seems like a terrible situation in to a positive situation, are often times the most successful in life. We should all start to look at life’s disappointments as opportunities to learn and improve ourselves, and not just a road block to personal happiness.

But another MNB user had a better idea:

On the issue of Martha, where are the reality shows now while she is in prison? I'm sure there are plenty of reality show junkies that would watch Martha in her day to day life in prison.

Pay-per-view, baby. She’d make a fortune.

In response to our piece about Wal-Mart being sued for using a computer to shave time off people’s time-cards, one MNB user wrote:

What's next? Computer chips attached to employees that spy to ensure that there is no talk of unionization??? How far are they willing to go to shoot themselves in the foot? Is it too much pressure from investors? Are they cannibalizing their own sales and need to find new ways to satisfy investors or are the top wallets not heavy enough? Maybe all are right.

But another MNB user had another explanation:

Here's the deal - we all know that it takes say 5 minutes from the time you quit work 'till the time you punch out on the timeclock. Same when starting to work. So Wal-Mart is just making that adjustment to more accurately reflect the actual time worked.


MNB user Ron Stanaitis weighed in on the ongoing debate about British food:

Got a chuckle out of the reaction to your British food joke. I was hired a few months back to write a long feature about the excellence of British foods for Grocer Today magazine and the British Consulate. I too thought the food scene was bleak in Britain. I joked excellent British food was an oxymoron like “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp.” However I soon learned the place has come a long way from mushy peas and bangers and mash.

Canadians have always had a love affair with British food probably stemming back to Canada’s strong British heritage. In fact Canadians consume three times of the amount of British food on a per capita basis compared to our U.S. neighbours, according to Steve Dawson, managing director, of Food from Britain (FFB), North America, a market development consultancy for British food and drink companies. His job is to help build UK and international business for food and drink manufacturers.

We also made a crack about the quality of Disney food, which prompted a couple of dissents:

MNB user Dave Lighthall wrote:

We can't speak for Disney Land, Kevin, but we can say that the food at Disney World here in Florida is pretty darn good. Several of the restaurants, in fact, enjoy high Zagat ratings...and were recommended in last Sunday's Orlando Sentinel List of Best in Orlando. The wine lists in some of the restaurants are comprehensive and, in a few cases, feature some off-beat but tasty varieties. All in all, it's not cheap eating...but it's good eating with lots and lots of choices.

MNB user Gretchen Murdock wrote:

Actually we had a wonderful meal at Epcot in the Mexican area at Disney World. We still talk about it today and that was several years ago. It probably wasn’t good for our cholesterol, though.

Good thing we didn’t make a joke about a British restaurant at Disney World, or people would be really upset…

And we continue to get emails about the “card everyone” concept.

MNB user Sue DeRemer wrote:

The year I turned 40, I spent my birthday weekend with friends in Black Mountain, North Carolina, trying to lift the depression I was feeling over getting old. That weekend I went to the local Ingles Market, to buy some wine. The sweet little old lady behind the checkout counter carded me. I laughed, thinking she was surely joking! But that made her angry, and she sternly requested some form of ID. So, I fished out my driver's license, and handed it over. She very carefully studied my license… then me… then my license…

This woman single-handedly ended my depression over turning forty. I think the only people (or maybe the only women) who will be upset with this policy are underage people trying to purchase alcohol.

Another MNB user wrote:

On requiring ID's for us AARP members to buy beer and wine, I wish I had a driver's license showing a 1986 birthdate. I'd bet over half the time it would slip right by the check out clerk. Unfortunately even simple math is generally beyond the capabilities of today's high school graduate.

We wrote yesterday about the studies suggesting that a lack of sleep can lead to being overweight. Lack of sleep, apparently, results in a reduction in leptin, a hormone that tells you that you aren’t hungry anymore, and an increase in ghrelin, which tells you that you are.

To which one MNB user responded:

Where do we get this leptin pill? Wouldn't that seem like the killer product now?

Sure would.

Another MNB user wrote:

What’s next…a high fiber sleeping pill?

And yet another MNB user wrote:

My study suggests that the more hours you are awake, the more time you have to eat. It's that simple.

Good point.

Finally, responding to last week’s movie review of “Sideways,” MNB user Frederick Arnal wrote:

Loved your review of the movie "Sideways". Had a chance to visit our daughter in Santa Monica a few weeks ago and she surprised us with a "Sideways" weekend. We toured the beautiful vineyards near Santa Barbara where the movie was filmed. Stayed overnight in Solvang and dined at the featured restaurant, The Hitching Post. Then, the next evening, we saw the movie. Absolutely loved it. I'm not a critic but this film is the closest to "flawless" that I've seen in a long time. (Though I have to admit that I have a special fondness for movies about people with angst probably due to the fact that I'm a backslid Catholic with a Jesuit education.)

I unhesitatingly recommend the Hitching Post as one of the best dining experiences we've ever had on the West Coast not to mention the terrific Pinot Noirs and Syrahs.

Try to schedule a side trip the next time you're in LA (take 101 north and get off at 154 to the Santa Ynez Valley. It's really worth it. Thanks for breathing new life into the memories.

Our pleasure. We have an affinity for backslid Catholics with Jesuit educations…
KC's View: