business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got several emails yesterday regarding our story about lawsuits targeting beer makers for being responsible for underage drinking; the suits suggest that the companies’ ads actually encourage such behavior. Our comment was that while it seemed like a legitimate issue for a parent to decide, we ultimately feel that it is our job as parents to guide our kids to make smart decisions…and our kids’ job to live a responsible life.

One MNB user wrote:

More parents need to voice opposition to the acceptance of teenage drinking/drugs/sex. Thank you for speaking out.

Another MNB user wrote:

If a parent really thinks their child is so highly impressionable that an advertisement could lead them to illegally obtaining and consuming a specific brand of beer than why wouldn't they blame themselves for not taking the time to inform these highly impressionable children to abstain from drinking Beer. I believe the basis of these suits are solely to extract money from these companies and not to protect the well-being of youths or check on inappropriate target marketing.

Parents should be held responsible for their children consuming beer before the companies they are targeting.

Allowing parents to question marketing strategy and target market may be admissible but allowing them to take money from these companies is an abuse of the justice system and sets a bad example for other people to follow.


Actually, we don’t question the motives of the parents. In some cases, they’ve lost children…they are living with a lot of pain, and they are looking for answers.

There is a tendency to look everywhere but the mirror at such moments. But sometimes, one’s own reflection is the most painful thing to behold.

So maybe we could cut these parents a little slack on the whole motivation thing.

Yet another member of the MNB community wrote:

I totally agree with your comments on this subject and the responsibility that we as adults must hold. The simple language excuse that "they made me do it" is not reasonable and courts should not entertain this notion. I would also like to add that I would be in support of a change to our drinking laws.

I do not understand the magic of 21 in our society when at 18 one is consider a legal adult, can vote, can marry, can give their lives for our country. Are they not old enough to make decisions about consumption regarding alcohol?

Perhaps 18 is too young as many are still in high school and under their parent's roofs so therefore 19 may be more appropriate. But the taboo that is placed on the product creates more lure and also creates more covert drinking experiences that can lead to dangerous situations.


A friend of ours once pointed out that the problem with putting the drinking age at 21 was that most people learn to drink in college…and that by making it illegal, you actually deprive them of a valuable part of the educational experience.




Interesting responses to the our story yesterday about the conditions placed on retired Wal-Mart vice chairman Tom Coughlin now that he has left the company. (We referred to it as a “corporate muzzle.”)

MNB user Mel Mann wrote:

You have to wonder what's so dangerous to an honest company a person can't even talk about it. Catch-22 effect: Do we litigate because companies are so secretive, or are companies fearfully secretive because of so much
litigation?

Boardroom meetings must be pretty bland.


Wal-Mart’s biggest nightmare must be that it has to go through a Disney-style trial one of these days. It’d be fun to watch, though.

Another MNB user wrote:

The fact that Wal-Mart has muzzled Coughlin shows exactly how quickly Wal-Mart learns from other people's mistakes. Wal-Mart people are keenly aware of the fact that a very large Southeastern retail supermarket chain once invited the CEO of a non-grocery retailer to sit on their board. It seemed like a great collaboration, in that this new board member could provide sage advice on how to improve purchasing and merchandising processes, while ostensibly getting exposed to ideas on how to treat inventory as perishables and move it faster.

In a perfect world, this collaboration would have made both companies stronger due to the sharing of ideas and best practices. Unfortunately, in our imperfect world, the new board member drained the company of a lot of ideas and contributed little to the advancement of the grocer. After studying the successful grocer's business model and gaining access to the most proprietary information and future plans of the company he went back to his own corporation with great insights in how to get into the grocery business. To make matters worse, he then targeted the very company he learned from and has been successful in pushing them to the edge of bankruptcy. Gordon Gekko would be proud.

Although such underhandedness seems like an unlikely Hollywood plot for a corporate espionage movie, Wal-Mart knows it could happen to them. They realize that there really are people who are that underhanded and unprincipled. In fact, the guy who sat on the board was none other than Sam Walton. And his well-intentioned but gullible prey? Winn-Dixie, a company now in a struggle to stay alive against Supercenters and Neighborhood markets. A place where Wal-Mart insiders brag that they kept a picture of Frank Lazaran (now removed as CEO) on a wall of companies they have targeted for extinction.

Check out the facts yourself. Sam was removed as a board member, but not until after he squeezed Winn-Dixie for all they had to offer. I'm not saying Winn-Dixie's fate can be blamed on Sam's ruthlessness alone, but it shows what sort of character he really was. And it is the legacy he has left. Coughlin could easily be cut from the same cloth as Sam Walton, which is no compliment outside of the fanstasyland known as Bentonville.


Yikes.
KC's View: