business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week we took note of a US News & World Report story saying that a Columbia University analysis of 35,000 Yelp reviews of 2,840 Walmart stores suggests that "race and socioeconomic factors" have a role in the levels of customer service offered by the retailer - the poorer the neighborhood, the lower the service levels. Walmart said that the analysis was "flawed and without merit."

One MNB user responded:

Is it that Walmart is offering less service, or the community shopping the store is contributing to the environment? Several years ago I did a multiple years assignment in a town in Louisiana that was populated primarily by lower income African Americans. It was typical that the Walmart parking lot was littered with trash, including diapers, fast food sacks, beer bottles and soda cans. You had to pick your way through the lot to get to the store. Many of the retail stores in the town had the same issues, but it seemed worse at Walmart
And in the store there was plenty of evidence of shopper negligence; open packages of food, candy wrappers, clothing strewn on the floor and racks, partially eaten fruit, abandoned shopping carts, etc.
I’m not sure research can lay all of this on Walmart.

I think everybody has to be careful about painting with too broad a brush.

Internet Retailerreported the other day that Amazon is trying to combat the sale of counterfeit goods on its site by requiring certain sellers to pay a fee that may be as high as $1500, plus requiring them "to provide proof of purchase from select manufacturers and distributors before allowing sellers to list those products on The brands subject to the new fee and authorization process include counterfeit-prone brands, such as Nike and Lego."

MNB reader Bob Thomas responded:

This is a nice move by Amazon and it will probably get some of the small counterfeit sellers off the site.  To really solve the problem there has to be more cooperation with Brand Owners who can notify Amazon and have pages taken down or “suspended” immediately.  Then hold the funds of the counterfeit site until the Brand Owner has a chance to try to recoup some of the damages caused by the sales of the counterfeits.  But Amazon does not come close to the amount of counterfeit sales on the Alibaba site.  The Alibaba excuse that they are supplying a platform and are not responsible for the content is like me saying I own a house of ill repute and get a percentage of sales but I am not involved in prostitution.

On the subject of Kmart;s continuing problems, one MNB user wrote:

A few years back, Kmart Australia was a basket case.  Guy Russo, of McDonald's Australia, came on board. He lowered prices, expanded the offer, and made Kmart "ok" to shop in.  "ok" became their slogan.

Recently, Wesfarmers, who own both Kmart & Target in Australia, decided to also hand the now basket case Target brand across to Mr Russo.  Kmart is now turning profits of $400 million, & it won't be long before Target is also at those figures if you believe Mr Russo.

Perhaps US Kmart Execs should jump on a plane, & mirror the offer of Kmart Australia.  It's a great offer, and one that has turned the fortunes around for Kmart, and no doubt Target soon also.  Kmart Australia has successfully grabbed the discount mantle from Woolworths owned Big W, and now claims to be wanting to be the "Australian Walmart", which was always Big W's ground (Big W also had advice from Jack Shewmaker).

Regarding the "superbug" problem I talked about here last week, one MNB user wrote:

Although it’s tough getting an actual percentage, most estimates put the percentage of all antibiotics manufactured used in agricultural settings at at least 70% and upwards to 85%.  And this is not just to treat infections, but more likely to promote growth.  So don’t worry about taking little Johnny and Jane to the doctor for that ear infection…that is not the reason for all the superbugs.  Instead, it’s that $2 cheeseburger. 
P.S., the issue of antibiotics is personal to me.  I have a chronic case of Lyme disease.  Despite a prevalence of evidence that the Lyme bacteria can persist beyond  the 2-3 weeks of standard treatment, the CDC doesn’t acknowledge it.  As a result, I have to travel from Long Island to Connecticut to see a doctor that isn’t covered by my insurance. 

KC's View: