business news in context, analysis with attitude

There have been some questions raised about an interview we ran the other day about Wal-Mart with William H. Marquard, who, as a consultant with Ernst & Young, established and ran Wal-Mart's first-ever strategic planning process. But Marquard also was at Fleming, and some think that his role in that company’s demise disqualifies him from having a credible opinion about anything.

One MNB user wrote:

I think a lot of ex-Fleming folks missed your interview....probably about 30,000 of them, their families and their communities. You would probably have had more emails.

He was a much bigger part than you realize. Even after all this time there are still a lot of hard feelings. I was one of the lucky ones that was able to move on. I didn't lose my house, didn't get a divorce (of course I am not married), didn't have to pull child or children out of college or see a friend so depressed that they are no longer with us.

Of course Bill and Mark Hansen still have no clue. Many of the ex-Fleming execs fail to put Fleming on any of their resume.

Lot of passion and bitterness out there.

Another MNB user wrote:

On your commentary relating to Bill Marquardt, as a past Division President of Fleming (who departed before the meltdown) I agree with your observation that the demise of Fleming wasn’t done by one person.

Three’s the accurate number.

We suspect that Marquard is going to get smacked around quite a bit by MNB users in the next few days. If he’d like to respond, he’s welcome to. Because it is a good question – if he has culpability in Fleming’s demise, does he forfeit any and all credibility as an author and consultant?

That’s certainly a debate we’re willing to entertain in this space.

We’ve also had some emails about Albertsons and the new approach being taken to its management by Supervalu and its CEO, Jeff Noddle.

One MNB user had some thoughts about the good old days:

I work for a company that has supplied Albertson's for over 20 years. In one of the stores we supplied, a long time ago, we had a store manager who was a GOD! Joe Albertson actually came to his store when it opened.

This guy made total decisions for his store. We could literally sell anything into his store if we could convince him it would sell. And I am talking big sales.

This store manager ran a register for some time every single day. He knew his customers, including me, by name.

And his store was one of the single highest grossing Albertson's in the whole country while he was manager.

Hardly anything written above applies in any way to how supermarkets are run today.

We’re also getting a ton of email about our radio commentary about Marriott’s decision to test the notion of a women-only floor in one of its hotels.

MNB user Lee Ann Lehner wrote:

I enjoyed your article on whether it’s discrimination to provide women travelers with their own hotel floor. As stated by Marriott, this is for the safety and security of women. As a woman who has traveled not only for business, but for pleasure, I have to say, I don’t see this as discriminatory to have a floor only for women. Men do not need to worry so much for their safety when they’re alone as women do. Women, whether we want to admit it or not, need to be more careful than men when we are alone. The reality is there are men in this world who are a threat to women and not to other men. Suffice it to say that there are enough men who are uncomfortable being in the company of a gay man because they’re afraid they may approach them, yet they likely have the ability to physically match or overcome the gay man so their safety is likely not in jeopardy. It’s rare you hear about a gay man forcing himself on a “straight” man, yet it’s common to hear that a woman was victimized by a man. The reality of today is what makes it necessary for hotels like the Marriott to provide more security to a woman and I applaud them for it. When women stop being victimized by a minority number of men in the world, maybe we can stop feeling we need to take extra measures to be and feel safe.

Being concerned that this may lead to class and religious and gender discrimination, we must remember the reason for it – for the safety and security of the women. If the reason was to keep men or certain ethnic or religions out for the pure reason that they are different would be an entirely different story. As far as women being given a room on “their” secure floor to sit and have a drink or snack “without men”, it’s not so much that we don’t want men around, it’s that it’s the only way to know you can walk down the hall and have a drink and then return to your room in a safe environment, without worry that someone in the room/bar, will push himself on you or follow you to your room and harass you. I have been harassed and followed a couple of times out biking on a public path by men and it’s very uncomfortable and scary. All most women are asking for is not to be harassed when we prefer not to. Unfortunately, innocent men are impacted by this, but at least the impact to them is not life threatening. To decide between one gender being safe from bodily harm and fear while the other is “forced” to stay on the other many floors of a hotel or to sit in a bar without many women; I think anyone would choose the safety and security of one gender over the convenience of the other. But I’m sure it’s harder to take when you’re a man. I hope men will understand our plight instead of looking at it as a strike against them.

I do think, however, that the Marriott should offer EVERYONE the same pampering they’re offering the women on the secure floor. In my business travels, it was my experience that the men I spent time with out of town, enjoyed going out to dinner after working all day. It seems there are many women who prefer to just go back to the hotel and relax for the evening and the pampering that’s waiting for them at the hotel would be just one more luxury besides coming back to an empty hotel room where the evening is totally yours and you can order in dinner and maybe go for a swim or exercise – my idea of heaven when I’m traveling.

One MNB user asked:

How can it be "discrimination" when the consumer is the one who decides to participate or not participate?

Another MNB user wrote:

I read the piece about the women-only floor with mixed emotions. Part of me wants to cheer that Marriott finally gets it. Part of me is disgusted.

I've spend the last two decades in hardware and building materials -- so I'm no stranger to working with men, and am normally the only woman in the room, although that's changing. I don't generally give much time to the "women-only" organizations, as I generally find that if they spent as much time being really good at what they do as they spend trying to fit in with "the guys", there wouldn't be any issues. I've learned to swear fluently, laugh at filthy jokes, and how to stand up for myself when I think I'm getting a raw deal -- without forgetting how to act like a lady when the situation calls for it. It's been a good career, so far, and I've found that I get almost no harassment from the guys in the industry (and that's customers, suppliers, and colleagues, by the way) -- with only one or two exceptions in that 20 years, these guys are decent and have treated me as an equal, whether on a construction site, on a factory floor, or in a boardroom.

But. (there's always one of those, isn't there?) That does not apply to fellow travelers.

I learned very early in my career that I cannot go to the bar and have a drink -- either at the bar or at a table -- whether that bar is in the hotel or down the street. Evolution has not progressed far enough that I, as an unaccompanied woman, can go unwind after a miserable day (or celebrate after a good one). There is, without fail, some lunkhead (I almost said Neanderthal, but I think even the Geico caveman would have better manners) who thinks that I am looking for a good time and refuses to leave me alone, even when I have my nose buried in a book/newspaper/magazine, I tell him I'm not interested, I turn down the drink brought over by the bartender, and often even after I tell him flat out to go away and leave me alone. I just gave up and quit going to the bar years ago.

I could tell you all sorts of stories about despicable behavior from men who simply cannot fathom that an unaccompanied woman is not by definition lonely and in need of companionship (knocks on the door of my calls...etc., etc) ...but it's not the point.

It would be really nice to have a floor of a hotel where I wouldn't have to worry about who's in the elevator with me....who's in the hallway watching what room I enter...and where I could just go, sit down and relax with a drink without anybody chatting me up.

What's disgusting is that in 2007 that's still an issue.

By the way -- I'm not paranoid nor overly sensitive -- I've traveled all over the world by myself, without any sense of danger -- and these issues are far worse in the US than in most parts of the world (but not all, I'm quick to add). I'm also not so conceited as to think I'm that irresistible -- I'm attractive, but dismissed the whole beauty queen concept long ago.

Just some thoughts from the other side of this issue.

Thanks again for all the great insight -- I still find things regularly that make me say "Aha" -- or remind of things that are important to keep in mind about dealing with consumers -- concepts that far transcend the particularly industry one is working in.

Our pleasure.

We noted that while we thought women need to be safe, we might be annoyed if we got to a hotel, had a reservation, but were denied a room because the only rooms left were on the women-only floor.

MNB user Carrie McDonald wrote:

I'm not so sure this is a discrimination issue as much as a safety issue. The reality is that women tend to be targets for various reasons that don't need to be rehashed. As a female frequent traveler I would appreciate the efforts of Marriott to be aware and concerned for my safety. The added benefit of specific amenities tailored towards women's a nice touch.

As for room availability, I'm guessing you would rather know that your wife/mother/daughter/sister etc. has a safe place to stay while away from home. I am sure Marriott would do their best to accommodate you at another of their facilities.

Irritating, probably. Worth it, I would think so.

And MNB user Steve Sullivan chimed in:

What to do if there is only 'women only' rooms left? You could always go the "Bosom Buddies" route (Reference Tom Hanks/Peter Scolari). But I don't know if you should use the Buffy or Hildy outfit.

Geez. Now I can't get the picture of KC in a blonde bob wig out of my head.

KC's View: