business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote yesterday about a Los Angeles Times piece suggesting that in the Southern California labor negotiations, grocers are at somewhat of a disadvantage because they cannot play the “fear of Wal-Mart” card…and we commented that “if anyone at the UFCW really thinks that Wal-Mart is a lesser threat to the supermarket chains than it was four years ago, then they simply aren’t paying attention.”

MNB user Len Abeyta responded:

At least in the portion of the article you quoted, where does anyone from the UFCW say that Wal-Mart is any less of a threat? Again you continue to put a negative slant on the UFCW and continue your pro Wal-Mart rant. I glad that most of your readers have many other sources than yours for industry news otherwise they would only have your one sided view of everything in the grocery industry where Wal-Mart is the king jewel of the world and the UFCW is an evil entity, always on the make to destroy anything in its path, at the expense of its members.

Pro-Wal-Mart rant? Us?

We’re not sure that the folks in Bentonville would agree with that assessment.

We try to be fair. To everybody. We’ve picked on Wal-Mart plenty of times on plenty of issues, just as we’ve suggested that some union leaders may be more interested in their own power and influence than their members.

Another MNB user wrote about the unions:

Can't they understand how much business the non-union places like Costco have taken from the supermarkets?

Can't they see that the unrealistic demands the union has made on the auto industry has completely damaged our industry beyond repair where we're not competitive with a world market?

Can't someone see that long term, the best value and the best idea will win in a supermarket. Why should their union members get concessions that are inflationary and beyond what other industries offer.

Can't people learn from history rather than follow a lead from a union that is trying to protect their existence?

And a Southern California grocery employee who reads MNB wrote:

I work with some of the employees on the front lines, store staff, and category managers at these chains (as an account manager). I have not heard a single one of them support the idea of a strike, in fact, they feel completely unsupported by the unions, and would vote to completely do away with them – if they could! The consensus is the union dues are “stolen” from their paychecks, and they do not have a choice and are not allowed to attend meetings to make changes. If they want their jobs they “have” to be members.

And another MNB user wanted to set us straight:

The negotiations in Southern California are not only arguing about the HealthCare crisis. The big issue at this time is a two tier wage scale that affects employees who have been loyal long time employees to these companies only to be told that because of this "Tier System" that if they try to bid into a higher position that they will fall into the "New Tier" which will result in a lower wage than what they are currently making. What incentive do people have to try to improve themselves when it does not benefit them at all.

It is a complicated world.

We wrote yesterday about how former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, campaigning for the Republic presidential nomination, reportedly had no idea about what it cost to buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.

MNB user Terry Smith responded:

Perhaps, if Rudy is nominated and elected, he'll get the price of those two commodities to the numbers he estimated.

Remember, there are only two things politicians need to remember: 1. Make sure, whatever you do, position yourself to get reelected. 2. Don't forget number 1.

MNB user Jackie Lembke thought we were making a mountain out of a molehill:

I don't know that my husband who rarely shops for groceries would know the price of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk or a can of green beans. Alternatively he can tell you who is coaching where in football, baseball and maybe even hockey and I am clueless. It all depends on what you deal with on a regular basis.

And MNB user Brian Polk made a good point:

The American people should not be concerned if a presidential candidate doesn’t know the cost of break and milk. We should be concerned if the candidate doesn’t know the cost of war, the cost of recession, the cost of unemployment, the cost of illegal immigrants, etc.

Responding to our technology rants and “addiction to access,” MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

I hate to say this, but you did sound a bit snobbish. I do have broadband Internet access, but not cable TV or a satellite dish, or an iPod. I have nothing against those things, it’s just my finances are limited and other things are more important to me. I do have all the modern conveniences that I need such as electricity, running water, telephone and natural gas, no I don’t live in a cabin relying on a fireplace for heat. Not all of us need the latest and greatest in technology, and might I add, few of us need it, but a lot of us want it. I drive a 10 year old car and a 16 year old pickup truck, the food I shop for is basic food, I’m not a foodie. So don’t go making jokes about people like me being the Amish, or go looking down your nose at us because we are less technologically advanced than you are. Remember, we are consumers also, we shop for the things we need and there are more of us out there than you realize.

We can’t write back to everyone because there are hundreds of emails each week, but we did send back a note to Steve Ritchey because we were concerned that perhaps it wasn’t evident that we were trying to be funny, and even a little self-deprecating. To which he responded:

I just think we as CPG people need to be preparing for the younger generation that is more technology savvy than I ever will be, but also not forget we need to market to people like me who buy basic stuff and whose main concern is paying a fair price and the store having what we need when we go there. It really ticks me off when I go to a store and they have a large display of regular charcoal, and no lighter fluid, or during the holidays and they have a large Chex cereal display, but no seasoning salt to make the Chex Mix. I’m a huge believer in getting the basics down first.

Good point.

We loved this email from MNB user Rosemary Fifield, who responded to our observation that people without high-speed Internet “might as well be living in a cabin in the woods, typing on a manual typewriter, using a fireplace for heat and, when they talk about the horsepower of their vehicle, they’re really talking about the power of their horse.”

I found this extremely amusing since I DO live in a log cabin in Vermont, high on a hill surrounded by woods and off the beaten path. We didn't put in a fireplace, but my kitchen has a wood-burning 1920s cast iron cookstove that I use in the winter to warm the room as well as make fantastic slow-cooked meals, and it's a great back-up when a power outage disables my furnace. Believe it or not, by choice, we have no TV (cable is not available here anyway, so it would have to be satellite) and I do not own a cell phone. I haven't used a manual typewriter in years, though--I love my laptop too much- and we do have satellite Internet access. My husband makes maple syrup over a wood fired evaporator the way his grandfather did, but he uses GPS technology to map out his sugar orchard.

All of this is by choice, and that's what's so great about it. I pick and choose the parts of technology I wish to use to enrich my life, and I'm happy that I have that opportunity. What a great time to be alive!

Points taken.

Finally, we appreciated the following email from MNB user Ashley Page:

I generally read your Web site before I begin any other communication with the outside world. Just wanted to let you know how appreciative I am that your site offers pertinent information outside the grocery industry. I've watched an hour of local news now and not one mention of Kurt Vonnegut (tons about Jennifer Lopez, American Idol, and Anna Nicole Smith, however). Thanks for at least acknowledging that we've lost one of our great writers.

So it goes.
KC's View: