business news in context, analysis with attitude

I love emails like this one, from MNB user Kevin Brouilard:

I am a daily reader but until today I have not written. I attended a food show the past few days sponsored by my wholesaler, Bozzutos, Inc., at the new MGM @ Foxwoods Casino. There was a vendor in attendance, Terra Creta Estate, who is a producer/bottler of olive oil from Crete, Greece. On the back of their bottles is a multi-digit number that when entered on their web site produces information that was amazing … A consumer is able to see when it was packed, at what temperature it was held, who packed the product, who picked the actual olives and what TREE it came from. I wasn't keeping diligent notes so I know I missed a few other advantages. It was impressive and shows that it can be done.

You see. It can be done. Traceability and transparency. And it will give companies like this one, I believe, a differential advantage that will extend to the retailers that carry its products.

Thanks, Kevin.

Got a number of emails about yesterday’s MNB Radio piece about innovative approaches to health care solutions.

One MNB user wrote:

Health care is a very complicated topic. I still believe the issue that we need to be talking about is healthy living rather than insurance or medical care. If, as a nation, we promoted the idea of maintaining health, rather than promoting the resolution of health issues, we would be in a better place. There seems to be no responsibility for personal unhealthy lifestyle choices, there seems to be little concern about healthy eating, physical exercise, or avoiding environmental hazards. But, after all of these personal bad choices, we feel the government…or business…or our community is responsible for resolving our personal issues that we caused. We are in a spiral, a race to the bottom…I have no answers, but I fear that if there is no personal responsibility…it will take us all down. We cannot afford the 1.5 trillion dollars spent on health care this year, much less what it will cost in ten years with 10% to 15% annual inflation in health care. I applaud the businesses that are trying to do something, but, it is really up to the individual.

My argument is not that companies become responsible for employees’ health…just that by making health care both available and affordable, they could create more loyal and productive employees. It seems to have worked for Toyota.

Another MNB user wrote:

Given the short term goals, stock pressures and other related decision-driving forces, the last place I want to leave my and my loved ones health care to is to the company doctor! Granted insurance companies drive to a similar beat but they have other countering forces, regulations, and, importantly. medical staffs that are ostensibly otherwise motivated and somewhat more autonomous in their decision making. No thanks.

Maybe Toyota and the like should open grocery and all serving retail stores for their employees complete needs..... they called them "company stores" clinics sounds worse. History has a way of repeating itself and upper management's response to money matters also shares a pattern.

We also continue to get emails about the canvas bag trend and now about the “precycling” trend:

One MNB user wrote:

Canvas Bags being handed out at this year's Iowa State Fair seem to be "the" thing. From MidAmerican energy to Mrs. Clark's Foods, scads of vendors are giving them away.

MNB user Sara Korn wrote:

Call me old fashioned, but for years I’ve been hearing and living by the slogan on my blue bin: “reduce, reuse, recycle.” (In fact, I think these three words are the reason there are three arrows forming the triangle recycling icon.) I’m glad to see market research evidence of people really living by this slogan (I went to the Brandweek article for the rest of the story, looking for some explanation), but I don’t think it needs a fancy new name. If I were the one to find the trend, “precycling” isn’t the name I’d choose since this really has nothing to do with recycling. “Reducers” sounds like my grandmother’s name for people who diet.

Another MNB user wrote:

Now, if only the friendly cashier/ baggers could learn how to pack those reusable bags properly. Nothing ruins a perfectly good visit to the grocery store like seeing a freshly baked loaf of bread thrown in the bottom of the bag with canned tomatoes or a gallon of oj stuffed on top.

And still another MNB user wrote:

As soon as I saw the term “precycling” I realized that described us. We have switched to canvas bags, and we recycle as much as we can. I estimate we recycle more than 90% of the food containers we use. As we try to increase the amount we recycle, we find ourselves not buying products that are not # 1 or 2 plastic containers – that is all that our local recycling center will take. Our local supermarket brings in blueberries, for instance, from two different sources. We buy one because it is in a #1 container, but we don’t buy the other because they use a #5 container. That means we don’t always buy the fruit we want, and the store missed out on a sale when they use the second supplier, so we both lose.

And another MNB user chimed in:

While back to school shopping with my daughter at a local mall over the weekend, I happened to notice a mother shopping with her two daughters. What was interesting was that all three of them were carrying canvas shopping bags from a local supermarket (I’m sure they’d appreciate the free advertising) – jammed full. I actually felt like a hypocrite while holding my plastic bags from the department stores I just visited. I will be using my canvas shopping bags the next time I go shopping – no matter where it is.

On the subject of allegations that Walmart is trying to influence how its employees vote in the coming presidential election, MNB user Bob Vereen wrote:

Why is it OK for unions to tell members how to vote, but not for employers to suggest how employees should vote?

Good question.

Regarding flawed or inaccurate polling, one MNB user wrote:

I forget who it was that Harry Truman defeated in the 1948 Presidential election, but the headlines were trumpeting that his opponent won. This happened because the polling company, I think Gallup, had predicted his opponent would win. This polling company had never been wrong on a Presidential election. The reason they were wrong, they conducted their entire poll using the telephone, at a time when less than half the population in the U S had a telephone at home. Sound familiar.

Those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it.

For the record, I’d rather the polling companies be wrong than have them start calling cell phones to ask questions. My privacy is more important than their accuracy.

And, also for the record, in 1948 Harry Truman beat Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican governor of New York.

Regarding Starbucks questionable popularity, MNB user Chris Utz wrote:

Starbucks… I don’t like their prices, I don’t like their political perspective and I don’t need some snooty ‘barista’ looking down their nose at my ability to order a cup of coffee. If I ever do decide to purchase a $5 cup of coffee, I don’t want a lot of PC propaganda on my coffee cup. Probably one of the reasons Starbucks isn’t doing so well is growth in the number and variety of espresso outlets. All some folks need is a water tap and an electrical outlet to set up a stand; not to mention McDonald’s and others going after this high margin market. Please add my vote with the 73% that don’t like Starbucks.

And the great news is that everybody has options.

Finally, I want to go back to a thread that emerged on the site over the past week or so. At various times I’ve made a veiled reference in my commentaries to certain fictional characters – Jimmy Malone, Matt Hooper, Martin Brody. (The first is Sean Connery’s character in “The Untouchables,” the latter two were played by Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider in “Jaws.”) I try to use these references to illustrate a point or to make a joke…but I gather that some people don’t get them and find it a little frustrating that I don’t go into detail.

Anyway, the whole “veiled reference” habit generated a bunch of emails this week.

MNB user Larry Friedrich wrote:

Is it just lazy people who find it easier to email you a question than do a few seconds research via Google to get an answer?

MNB user Linda Ballew-Johnson wrote:

Don't feel old - The old one is the writer incapable of Googling the names.

Don't be too harsh. Sure, they could Google the names. But I think people who get frustrated sort of feel like I’m making a private joke and they aren’t in on it. And they’re young…

MNB user Kevin McCaffery wrote:

With all the new young arrivals, I think MNB is going to need a bigger boat.

Big boat, big tent. That’s MNB!

MNB user Tim Davis wrote:

Please don’t feel old... I am only 27 and have probably seen Jaws about 10 times. Maybe it is because I live in Massachusetts, but I really don’t think so.

No, it is because you’re an educated human being.

MNB user Steve Sullivan wrote:

I know what you mean about references sometimes dating us among our younger brethren. Yesterday, someone said something about “having to get to work…”, to which I responded “WORK!” in my best, voice-cracking Maynard G. Krebs impersonation. Then ensued a discussion, the upshot of which was that I was old and nobody had the slightest idea what I was talking about (that happens a lot but usually not because of ageism!). Now, hopefully, YOU know from whence came my reference.

The other question regarding memory and moving towards The Golden Years: Why is it I can name the characters on that TV show from the ‘50s (‘60s?) and can’t remember where I put the car keys this morning?

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

MNB user Lorna Nelson wrote:

At 50 my dear, there are suddenly new rules:

• Know your audience – and know there are still a lot of us out here who saw “Jaws” and “got it”

• However, if you don’t think your kids would get the joke, add a commentary like “see Jaws for reference, literally”

You also need to acquaint yourself with newer movie classics – like maybe some of the Coen Brothers’ movies.

OR see “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”. Seriously funny, right up there with Blues Brothers.

And don’t apologize for being old, most of the time you’re quite relevant. I’ve yet to speak with a 25 year old that fully understands the grocery business…

Actually, my kids would get the jokes. But they have the advantage/disadvantage of having lived with me all these years, and having sat through movies that a lot of their friends never heard of.

And BTW, I love the Coen Brothers. Though I’ve never seen ”Harold and Kumar,” I must confess. (I have, however, seen “Shawn of the Dead,” if that helps…)

MNB user Karl Heink wrote:

On Tuesday, when I read your comment about Matt Hooper and Martin Brody, I busted out laughing. Thank you.

However, in light of the additional commentary regarding who they were, I wanted to share my own experience. I was born and raised in Florida. I grew up enjoying all water related activities. In the mid seventies (just prior to the release of "Jaws"), my family moved to North Dakota. One summer there, I went with my friends to see "Jaws" at a drive-in theatre. All of the friends I was with were raised as children of farmers, and they found the movie to be entertaining. I found it to be the most horrific nightmare I had ever seen. I was about 12 or 13 years old when I saw it and could not sleep for about a week. My friends laughed at my behavior.

A couple of years after that, my family returned to Florida where I still live. I love the beach. I just returned from a vacation where I spent a week at the beach with my wife and kids. Never a moment at the beach goes by that I don't think of all the possibilities that "Jaws" has exposed to me.

Perhaps someone with well-known travels and restaurant visits could recommend some great recipes for Hammer-head, Tiger, Bull-nose, and Great White. Martin Brody and I probably have the same feeling about sharks.

Mrs. Content Guy says that one of my fatal flaws – and there are many – is that my day is made when one person writes in and says something like “I busted out laughing.”

Thanks for sharing. I could envision that North Dakota drive-in as I read the words…

MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

Our kids still talk about a summer evening about 15 years ago when they and their high-school friends gathered in the pool while I set up a 6’ screen on the deck and with a borrowed video projector showed ‘Jaws’ while they splashed in the water. I think they were all on the deck by the end, though…

Keep those references coming, Kevin. I love ‘em, even though I know there’s a whole generation of people who have no clue what you’re talking about!

Here’s where I come down on this.

I think I’m going to continue to make these pop culture references whenever it feels appropriate or when whimsy strikes me. Sometimes I may explain them, but sometimes not…again, it will depend on my mood.

I love emails like the ones above – the ones that don't just respond to something I said, but also evoke a time and place and memory. If I get too clinical about this, we’ll lose that, I think. And I’d hate to lose that.

But if I write something that you don't get, and you want to shoot me an email to ask what the reference is, feel free. I’ll answer the question on the site, just in case there are a bunch of other people who share your confusion.

And if you want to make obscure cultural references in your emails, take your best shot.

I’m a sucker for a learning experience.

KC's View: