business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a CNN report that Sears Holdings-owned Kmart is getting blowback from consumers annoyed by the retailer's decision to stay open for 41 straight hours beginning at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning, a decision that the company said it made to provide customers with maximum flexibility and opportunity to shop. However, at least some customers say that Kmart is showing a level of heartlessness, greed and even "moral bankruptcy" by adopting a policy that prevents employees from having Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Kmart has responded by saying that it will use seasonal employees and volunteers wherever possible, and that the move will allow workers to make extra money.

My comment:

I totally get why some consumers are ticked off by this. I agree that some things ought to be sacrosanct, and I'm bothered by all the Thanksgiving store openings. That said, let's be fair - Amazon and every other e-tailer will be open all day on Thanksgiving, and bricks-and-mortar retailers are under pressure to be open, or be closed (permanently). So I may be disturbed, but I understand.

From one reader:

This is why I enjoy reading your column, you offer insight beyond my emotional response to Kmart  staying open over Thanksgiving.

MNB user Katy Love wrote:

Not everyone will be overeating at the same ritualistic time. I know I'm not the only person who could care less that it is "Thanksgiving". I'm sure that if a company chooses to be open during times others aren't, they have people smart enough to figure out how to compensate the employees that help them make this happen. I roll my eyes at the large amount of people who just give one day to "Thanks".

From MNB reader Jerry Lauro:

In response to the article on K-Mart opening Thanksgiving morning starting the beginnings of their 41 hours straight of access to shoppers, the craziness and desperation of trying to acquire every consumer dollar is getting absurd. Did anyone ever take a step back and look at how retail functioned just as profitably back in the 70’s and early 80’s when stores were only respectfully open Monday –Saturday leaving Sunday for rest and family. I recall as a kid the local town deli’s and convenient stores outside of the gas stations only retail being open. Everyone seemed to get by and function for the day. Some states like New Jersey have Blue laws where some retail is closed on Sunday. Yes, change is one thing in life that is guaranteed but would closing all retail on Sunday totally diminish profits / volume that essentially would be captured between Monday – Saturday? We are all time starved and the aspiration for convenience and immediate satisfaction is driving a lot of our behaviors today. As a society and business, have we forgotten what holds us together, our nucleus? Maybe one of the contributing factors to the diminishing family along with all of the psychological developments around kids is contributed to the influence of 7 days a week brick and mortar openings.

MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

Allow me to lead off with a comment which I acknowledge will sound like pure snark, but which I  truly mean in all sincerity:  I would absolutely love to know how many of the people who are proclaiming to boycott Kmart over their plans to open on Thanksgiving Day have actually set foot in a Kmart store in the past 10, even 20, years?  It’s really easy to “boycott” a retailer you don’t shop at.  Do we have an Amish boycott of Microsoft to look forward to?

From another reader:

Maybe I am just old school, but I will purchase my holiday gifts as I always do and with the shortened timeframe.  I just will start early or find a way to fit more in during the existing time frame. I spent most of my career in retailing and have watched corporate greed erode the values of our country. When I started working in the grocery business in the 60's stores in our market were not open on Sundays, only open until 9:00 Wednesday through Friday and 6:00 all other days. People seemed to be able to find a time to buy their food. Stores were closed on Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Christmas, you get the picture. But amazingly, they still bought all the groceries they needed. Our family was able to spend time together during the Holidays.  Now many holidays exist as major "SALES" events. Where does it end?

MNB reader Richard Boyd wrote:

I remember driving to see grandma and grandpa on pick a Sunday and most stores and gas stations were closed – this was back in the sixties when I sat in the back seat. Everything has changed and Kmart is really trying hard to be relevant to the consumers again.

I completely understand the traditional feeling toward Thanksgiving, and actually share the sense it. But the thing is, Amazon and its online brethren will be open all day on Thanksgiving … and traditional retailers have to compete with that. I feel their pain.

MNB reported yesterday that a Washington State ballot initiative that would have mandated the labeling of GMOs in food products there appears to have failed, with anti-GMO labeling votes accounting for 54.8 percent of the tally, compared to 45.1 percent of voters who supported the initiative.

The battle over the GMO labeling initiative was an extraordinarily expensive one, with $30 million spent in total - $22 million by anti-labeling forces that included the food and biotech industries, and close to $8 million by proponents of labeling laws.

My comment:

While the final vote count may not be in, I won't be hugely surprised if the ballot initiative fails. That's usually what happens when a ton of money gets thrown at an issue, which is exactly what happened here. Anti-labeling forces, supported by corporate dollars that simply could not afford to let this pass, got together and proved that in electoral politics, money often wins. And until lawsuit threats forced the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to reveal where the money was coming from, these corporate interests preferred to operate in the shadows, because that's where the anti-transparency forces thrive.

I continue to believe, however, that these folks are on the wrong side of history. The calls for greater transparency will continue, and I think that defeats like these will only serve to energize the people who believe that labeling is information, not condemnation, and that information is better for consumers, not worse.

For the moment, I am more concerned about the continued impact of big money on political discourse than I am about GMO transparency. It is a bigger, much more insidious problem.

One MNB reader wrote:

Then you're against allowing companies the right to tell voters their side of the story.  All the money in the world won't make a difference if their argument doesn't make sense.  Obviously, it does.

Kevin…like your MNB, been reading it for a while…first time I’ve responded to an article….

Why, why when an initiative you or others in the media favor gets beat at the polls, does it have to be because of “corporate dollars” against….can’t it just be that 54.8% of the people voting don’t like GMO labeling….suggesting that the opinion of the majority of the electorate is only based on who spent the most money telling them how to vote is, in my opinion, not accurate….the majority of voters decide how they vote based on the information provided by both sides of an issue with a healthy dose of “here’s what I think”….I’ve been a state level lobbyist for 30 years and not as naïve as this note might read….in my opinion the electorate is way smarter and more home grown thoughtful than most issue prognosticators think.

I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that when $22 million is spent to defeat a ballot initiative, much of it generated by companies from outside the state, compared to less than $8 million in spending on the other side (very little of it from outside the state), it does not have an impact on citizen opinion.

That's not to say that people don't start with a point of view … but unless I'm mistaken, there was an enormous swing in public opinion, according to polls, as money poured into the state.

I think that money corrupts politics and public discourse. On both sides. And, to be honest, if we don't do something about it, we'll only have the best democracy that money can buy, which won't be worth very much in the end.

One MNB user chimed in:

You often write about companies not being on the right side of history with regards to transparency. Perhaps the executives at these companies care more about their next bonus being on the right side of a very large number.

Not every executive. But many, I suspect.

MNB reader Scott Rickhoff wrote:

In my opinion, GMO hysteria is the next Global Warming hoax bandwagon.

You're absolutely right. Not sure if you've heard, but there also are a bunch of scientists going around saying that tobacco causes cancer.

When will all the hysteria stop?
KC's View: