business news in context, analysis with attitude

Amazing story from MNB reader Glen Harmon:

I was detained at the security checkpoint in Panama City, Panama this morning for carrying a knife.....

Al Kober was an incredible man. He died in 2010 at age 72. I thought of him this morning while the agents were searching me. Al started with Clemens Markets in Philadelphia in 1954. He was just a kid bagging groceries. He didn't drink. He was religious. He had a ton of kids and grandchildren. When I met him years later, he was the Director of Meat & Seafood at Clemens. I heard a story once that he kicked a salesperson out of his office and wouldn't buy from him because the guy had shown up in shorts. After 50 years of working at Clemens, Al resigned. 50 years! He decided he had enough. He wanted to do something new. He went out and got another job and began to lead the sales team at Certified Angus Beef. I see CAB products when I travel internationally. Al made an impact. Al made an impact on me. Al didn't like to go to parties. He was pretty much everything different than I. He gave me advice when I was first starting out. He gave me respect....

Years ago, he gave me a small set of nail clippers with a logo of Hawaii when he went there on vacation.  I had forgotten about them. They were in my bag. The clippers had a small knife tucked away inside. The police took them away this morning... because I had a knife. However, they didn't take away what Al gave me... They let me go.

I remember Al. He was an early MNB reader and a frequent letter writer, and I miss the emails he used to send me. I'm glad you wrote in about him...

Regarding the Walmart Neighborhood Market store that finally has opened in the Los Angeles Chinatown neighborhood, despite many protests, one MNB user wrote:

I remember writing you months ago, this is at best on the edge of Chinatown as you mentioned.  It is much nearer a huge upscale downtown apartment/condo style living community and Hispanic neighborhood.  As you mentioned there s a Subway and a Burger King, and it is more than a mile from the “Chinatown” that most folks would associate with it.  I am not a Walmart supporter, but this is classic politics and nothing else, closest real grocery store is a Vons probably two miles away or more.

And, addressing my recent question about ongoing investigations into charges that Walmart bribed its way onto the fast track in Mexico, one MNB user wrote:

What I think the question of the day is, why have Walmart just not settled with the Government? As the legal fees continue to escalate to the point of continuing to effect their profitability, one’s got to ask why not settle. The only answer I can come up with is, that they know that there will be criminal changes and or such damaging charges to the company and key officials that they must continue to spend millions a month to protect them all?? If not in makes sense to settle and pay the fine and take the hit.

Responding to recent stories about County of Origin Labeling (COOL), one MNB user wrote:

Consumers shouldn’t have to rely on the “glows in the dark or not” test to determine if their recent purchase of catfish is from China.


We had a story the other day about a study saying that alcohol consumption may not be related to depression, which led one reader to wrote:

I think this study misses the obvious. Higher rates of wine, or any alcohol consumption lead to higher rates of depression because the more you drink, the more likely you are to run out, and that’s depressing.

Responding to Michael Sansolo's column this week about learning from the competition, one MNB user wrote:

I am a retired supermarket owner. Always encouraged my folks to always find at least one thing that competing stores did very well/better than we did. Not all that hard if you look.

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

Re: the frenzy of speculation around the possibility of Yucaipa resurrecting the Wild Oats banner—I am amazed by the fascination with Wild Oats.  Their stores never really impressed me or seemed to live up to their hype.  Years ago when they first came to Cincinnati, I went in expecting to be absolutely amazed at the selection and quality—especially in produce (the most natural of “natural foods”.  What I saw was a produce department that was smallish and filled with a mundane assortment of the same produce (Dole, Sunkist, etc) available—cheaper—5 minutes away at Kroger, Thriftway or Bigg’s.  Fast forward a few years—my next time in a WO was in West Hartford, CT.  Pretty much the same store that I saw in Ohio, but I discovered the locals actively disliked WO after they had taken over a beloved specialty foods market in Hartford, closed it, and moved to the suburban West Hartford location.   I just bring it up because I question the value of the brand, especially in the face of considerable expansion of competing natural and specialty food retailers.  On top of all that, I seem to recall some mention in all the coverage of the Fresh & Easy trials and tribulations that F&E’s real estate choices had been less than optimal to drive traffic.  I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

Finally, I was raving the other day about Three Days of the Condor, a superior thriller to almost any thriller that appears on the screen these days, which prompted MNB reader Dave Henry to write:

Love that movie. One of my all time favorites. The clarity line is a classic that I have borrowed more than once in presentations over the years. When (director) Sydney Pollack passed away I remember watching many of his films again. A brilliant body of work.

And from Christopher Gibbons:

Loved your Condor reference. I also often use this film as a benchmark for other thrillers; more often than not, they come up short. I watched this with my daughter a few years back (she's 22 now) and she loved it. So many great lines from the film - here are a few of my favourites:

"Boy, have you found a home" is one I use all the time.

My sister used to say "Have I ever denied you anything?" with a mischievous smile.

And perhaps the best of all, "Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?"

And if you think that Three Days of the Condor is still topical today, watch Enemy of the State again if you haven't seen it recently. Now that's so spot on, it's scary.

Thanks for the great conversation (as always.)

KC's View: