business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB had a radio commentary that speculated about replenishment models that could upend the traditional supermarket business.

To which MNB user Ken Fobes, one of the smartest guys out there, responded:

What a novel idea, but certainly not new. Your are right that parts of this system were in the Anderson Consulting's SmartStore demonstrations. We were involved with industry visionary Glenn Terbeek (who was head of the consumer package goods and supermarket practice at that time) in helping to define the initial concepts and visions for the SmartStore initiative.

In 2000, the concept became a reality when we visually demonstrated the existing technology that enabled the digital kitchen and perpetual inventory in the SuperTECHmart edu-tainment exhibit at the FMI 2000 Convention and Exposition in Chicago for senior industry executives.

I was amazed then that, even though the exhibit received raves from these executives, that it has taken so long for so many of the initiatives we visibly demonstrated, to actually take hold in the industry. Finally, we decided that we need to take the next step, and in 2002, in my new smart home, we actually implemented our version of the Digital Kitchen and Perpetual Pantry (with some help and guidance from Microsoft, Symbol, Afterbot and MyWebGrocer).

Oh, and by the way, we had to do a lot of things manually (scanning items etc.). Think of the possibilities when the EPC eventually gets down to the actual consumer. Smart cupboards, refrigerators, pantries, etc. could have low voltage readers built right in and maintaining the Digital Kitchen and Perpetual Pantry could become as simple as using a telephone.

This is the future. It may not be new, but it also is not common yet, and while there may be able out there who will resist these sorts of ideas, but it is immutable and inescapable.

As for resistance to at-home scanning and automatic replenishment, MNB user Kevin Nolan wrote:

Don’t mistake wanting to make that “personnel connection” and/or the desire to actually talk to the people from whom they’re buying groceries with resistance to change or anti-progress! I’m guessing that the people that expressed this opinion are old school but not because they don’t like technology but, because they believe the retail business has already lost enough personality and humanity. I’m not suggesting this is the majority of the people but it is, obviously, some of the people.

PS- On the flip side…..this seems like a perfect application for the Apple iPhone!

Maybe. But here’s my question.

How many customers in a given day actually have a personal exchange of any note with the people who work in the nation’s supermarkets?


MNB user Marv Imus had some thoughts:

Hi Kev … I agree with you on this issue. I am a very happy user of’s replenishment for as many of the canned, boxed, bagged items I can get. Why not ? They don’t change the product in the can/box/bag enough for me to waste my time on them. But when it comes to fresh items, I am all for doing it myself. I am a foodie that wants to look at what local product is now available, when Navel oranges are is season and how they look, pick up an Indiana Cantaloupe and smell it, get the right size Vidalia onion, get the thickness of the Delmonico steak at 1 ½”, etc. I would love to empty my cart of all package goods and just focus on the really good stuff ! Now my time would be used to maximize the selection process and not in trudging down aisles to load my cart items that are necessary but are the same as the last time I bought them, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that … Boy would that make grocery shopping fun for me ! And I could always still check out new items or replacement products and my leisure … it’s coming but not fast enough for me!

Reported the other day that Barack Obama was asking Tesco to work with unions trying to organize is Fresh & Easy stores in the US, and I suggested that this is just a way to solidify support from organized labor. I also suggested that each of he major candidates should be asked to name one thing that he would do that would thoroughly annoy his base…because being willing to tick off your supporters ought to be a requirement if you are going to be president.

One MNB user responded:

You raised a great debate question. And if we had debates instead of joint press conferences, perhaps we can get that answer.

For now, we only have the candidate's actions to provide an insight into how they might govern as president. Obama votes consistently with his party, a lot more than McCain. When asked on a recent Sunday morning gab fest if he could provide an instance when he had crossed the aisle, Obama failed. It was a repeat of the classic Ted Kennedy moment from the 1980 Democratic primary.

In the most visible example of putting aside political difference, seven Democrats and seven Republic senators worked together to present a comprise that cleared the way for appointments for several federal judgeships. Obama was not one of the seven Democratic senators.

Obama bases his entire campaign on being the person who can change Washington's ways. He speaks his message better than any presidential candidate I have heard except for Ronald Reagan. However, when given the chance to act on his words, Obama fails consistently to follow through.

As to McCain, his campaign rests on the notion that he will end the money sloshing around Washington. Surprisingly, no one has brought up his involvement with convicted felon Charles Keating. McCain used his influence to hinder a federal investigation into Keating, a campaign donor. Many of McCain's contributors donate to his campaign in order to get face time before McCain's powerful Senate committee.

As to these candidates, when words fail to match actions, the best word to describe you is hypocrite. In November, we will find out if that word is also unelectable.

By the way, I am not voting for either of these gasbags.

We have to elect somebody

And another MNB user wrote:

Tesco is adding 750 jobs over the next three months. The Senator should be thanking them for their job creation in our weak economy. This is a democracy, and the NLRB is the forum for unionization. Let the employees decide. It is time politicians realize unions represent a very very small percentage of the American workforce. And, unfortunately, their biggest share is from government employees.

Another MNB user wrote:

Mr. Obama may want to think further ahead than just mustering up the support of organized labor in the southwest. He’s going after a company that is based within our strongest foreign policy supporting nation, Great Britain. Short term vs. long term politics. He’s a politician just like all the rest of them.

MNB user Mike Griswold wrote:

This is clearly an attempt to gather votes from a labor entity and not listen to the people. With 13+ people applying for each open position (Fresh & Easy claim) people are not disappointed with how Fresh & Easy treats their associates. No one other than the union is pushing for the union. I have spoken with over 100 associates who are not interested in or need the union. One more in a long list of reasons I will not vote for the senator.

Another MNB user wrote:

It would be naïve to expect that major organizations like The Trial Lawyers, Unions, and The Education Lobby are going to make a huge investment in Obama without expecting a return. The Obama organization just flipped flop on public financing for his campaign. They must assume that the money is coming from somewhere else.... and that he will have to deliver to keep the funds flowing.

Politically, it is surprising that he chose to scapegoat a foreign company that few constituents have ever hear of. More typically, he would have thrown a few thunderbolts at Wal-Mart and be done with it. Perhaps he is trying to placate the union chiefs while not scaring those in the political center. Whatever the rationale, he seems to be behaving as his stakeholders expect and it would be unwise to expect anything different.

Finally, to revisit the George Carlin one last time…

After our obit for Carlin earlier this week, one MNB user wrote in to say that one of the things he liked best about the comedian was his attitude toward religion and his expressions of skepticism about “an invisible little man living in the clouds.”

To which MNB user Al Kober responded:

I can guarantee you that he changed his mind one second after he died, when he met that "Little Man" face to face.

Perhaps. Or perhaps it is a woman living in the clouds.

I went back to check the original Carlin routine on this, and thought it was interesting, funny and thought-provoking:

Religion has actually convinced people that there is an invisible man, living in the sky, who watches everything you do, every minute of every day; and the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do; and if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, forever and ever, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and HE NEEDS MONEY.

It seems to me that there is a difference between being skeptical about the existence of God and being outraged by the apparent priorities of organized religion. Carlin may have been both, but his vehemence seems more specifically directed at the latter.

And there is even a pretty good argument that if there is a God, he or she may not all be thrilled with how organized religions are presenting his or her case.

Or, as an American troubadour once put it…

Where’s the church, who took the steeple
Religion is in the hands of some crazy-#&@ people
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples
The god’s honest truth is its not that simple
It’s the Buddhist in you, it’s the pagan in me
It’s the Muslim in him, she’s Catholic, ain't she?
It’s the born again look, it’s the Wasp and the Jew
Tell me what’s going on
I ain’t got a clue…

KC's View: