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More comments from the MNB community about the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which opponents say would give unions an unfair advantage as they look to organize companies not currently unionized.

MNB user Jerome R. Schindler wrote:

The issue I see with doing away with the secret ballot is that peer pressure and intimidation is effective in getting many people to "sign" that card. It is obvious why union organizers are so afraid of the same method we use to elect our president, the secret ballot, because that is how people can truly express their preference. Let's even the playing field - let employers have the right to get the employees to sign a "no union" card. I'll bet the unions would fight that tooth and nail.

You'd think that union certification and decertification could play by the same rules.

Another MNB user expressed a common skepticism about management:

Maybe employees would fell better if the executives and directors were paid a more proportionate wage and benefit package? There is definitely a lot of discrimination. They put the pants and skirts on just like everybody else. There is plenty to go around if they were not first in line!

And another MNB user chimed in:

First of all, one of your readers was commenting on the "so called 'freedom of choice' act," I know it is semantics, but the correct bill name is "Employee Free Choice Act," which then leads me to think that perhaps they have not really read the bill or researched it. I tried to research it based on that name and the "Freedom of Choice Act" is in regards to abortion not union organizing. That being said, (#2) I agree with you, Kevin, based solely upon my readings of your column, which is primarily presented from the Wal-Mart position, that the Democrats would not typically support this, nor would I. They typically support individual rights and would not support "non" secret ballots. So I rest here now, while I download the summaries of the "Employee Free Choice Act" and maybe hope to report later. Typically reading these acts from the Library of Congress, drives me to drinking ( a fine Malbec from Argentina would be nice!).

Not a domestic wine?

I’m a little concerned, by the way, that you think that I am writing “primarily from the Walmart position." Not sure that the folks in Bentonville would feel that way. And for the record, I’m a lot more concerned about the three-store or ten-store independent that is doing its absolute best for its employees, and suddenly must face unionization threats that could put them out of business.

MNB had a piece yesterday about the increase in private label sales in the US, which led MNB user Todd Sinclair to write:

Good comments re: private label..... In reality, you don't need to look further than Canada to see the value of strong private labels that are as preferred as national brands. High quality, large category shares and even the "invention" of new segments have been the hallmark of the Loblaw Companies "President's Choice" for a very long time.


And MNB user Ken Wagar wrote:

To me the most interesting thing about your remarks today regarding Private Label were the three places you indicate you shop for groceries: Costco, Trader Joe’s and Stew Leonard’s. No traditional supermarket of any kind mentioned.

Whether intentional of not, it seems to me there is a message there for the traditional retailers of the US.

I wish I had your choices, No Stew Leonard’s or Trader Joe’s in Central Florida and the nearest Costco is 50 miles away.

I often make that point when I speak...that I am able to satisfy almost all of my grocery needs through non-traditional retailers. (I forgot to mention, which increasingly has become a retailer of choice for bulk items.)

So if the local Shaw’s and Stop & Shop are mediocre, I have choices.

Commenting on a story that talked about supermarket chains lowering their prices and creating new promotions to create customer loyalty, I wrote yesterday:

These indeed are “the latest tactics grocery stores are using to compete for customer loyalty.” That’s the problem. Because I don't think that anything close to customer loyalty comes out of such tactics.

What comes out of low prices – whether on food or fuel – during a recessionary economy is a decision on where to shop that day. Not loyalty. Not by a long shot. At least not most of the time.

This isn’t to minimize the importance of value at this time. Far from it. Demonstrating an understanding of the plight in which many shoppers find themselves, and an ability to be relevant to these shoppers, is critically important.

But this doesn’t necessarily create loyalty…because almost every retailer is looking to make the same argument. Some weeks you’ll win, some weeks the other guy will win, and the margin may be pennies.

One MNB user responded:

You are absolutely right with your comments about tactics and loyalty. Assuming you are managing a brand and not a commodity, as a company, the constant challenge is to get our customers up the loyalty ladder – from awareness to active consideration to preference to purchase to satisfaction and finally to loyalty. All of our customers are on different rungs at different times. How you get any customer up the ladder is what branding is all about. Tactics, strategy and marketing play a part and are all subsets of the branding model. We both know it is not this simple…but this is the basic concept. Always remember, a satisfied customer is not a loyal customer…only a loyal customer is a loyal customer.

Another MNB user wrote:

I think the days of loyalty have been over for the majority of consumers for a while. Wal-Mart is benefiting from high gas prices et al. However, prior to the current downturn it looked like Wal-Mart was losing customers. There are certainly a few niche marketers that do not need to draw customers with tricks like loyalty cards, pennies on gas etc., or stores in areas where there are no choices. It seems to me that most folks want the best prices on the items that they buy. If they want the cheapest price in my area, with little service help, they shop at Winco or Wal-Mart. If they want service along with somewhat higher prices, they go to Fred Meyer (Kroger) and if they want high prices and no lines, they go to Albertson’s. If they want the best organic and health food selections they go to the co-op and pay higher prices. A few shop at all of them – the cherry pickers. The rich shop wherever they want, the poor shop where they have to, and the rest shop for best price to value and that fluctuates. I would guess that the majority of us still shop at the store that is closest to them, particularly so at this point in time –“gas cost”. Those stores need only be “close” on price. Loyalty, for most of us, went out with pension plans and job security.

And another MNB user seemed equally skeptical:

There IS no customer loyalty today. Shopping is controlled by where the customer feels that they will get the best buy. They will go to one store for their sales and often go to another store for their sales in the same day! I know because I do price comparisons at competitive stores and often see the same customers in both stores the same day.

MNB user Kurt Burmeister agreed with my assessment of the situation:

It’s your “dead-on” opinions like this that keeps me reading every morning.

Thanks. You have no idea how much comments like yours mean to me. They are what keep me writing every morning!

Finally, we had an enormous number of people who wrote in over the fast few days to wax rhapsodic about Five Guys Burgers, a chain that I only discovered last week.

It ends up that my 14-year-old daughter was very familiar with them, and she gave me that old “what planet have you been living on” look when I mentioned my new discovery. And then another MNB user wrote in to tell me about a new Five Guys that opened in Brookfield, Connecticut…within about a half-mile of where my mother-in-law lives, as it happens. (Talk about an ethical dilemma…next time I’m in that neighborhood I’m going to have to make some serious choices.)

But there’s always one naysayer in the bunch…as MNB user David Livingston wrote:

Not impressed. They opened in the Milwaukee area. Small hamburger, greasy, and they used a supermarket quality bun. They charged a premium burger price for diner quality hamburger. Won't go back.

Why am I not surprised?

KC's View: