business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's story about the probability that Kmart could go into bankruptcy sometime soon, despite its claims to have ample assets, one MNB user wrote:

I would include Sears in that as well but give it a few years.  This is Montgomery Wards all over again with some difference of course.  I see the present owners of Kmart and Sears milking all they can from the businesses then closing the stores.  They are taking the path of lease work to get a profit instead of trying to build or rebuild the business.

And MNB user Gary Loehr wrote:

They have the same valuable assets that A&P always talked about.

On the subject of Chipotle, one MNB user wrote:

I thought that I would give them another try after the food scare and I bit into a sheet metal screw. Quality control. Not exactly. They mail me gift cards for two free burritos. Any takers?


We ran an email yesterday responding to a study suggesting that Walmart offers less customer service to poor and minority communities than it does to higher income neighborhoods. It said:

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 suggested that this seemed like painting with too broad a brush. One MNB user responded:

Perhaps it is not a too broad brush, but rather the wrong brush.

I live in an upper middle class neighborhood that borders on a much less affluent minority neighborhood east of me and observe the same things that this MNB user reported.
People get robbed, murdered etc. frequently just a half mile away, as recently as last weekend in fact.  The Walmart in that area east of me is much like the one the MNB user described.  I won't even go there at night.

There is even a huge difference in the quality of people they can find to hire in these areas.  I will drive a few miles further to a Bob Evans outside this area to eat breakfast because the staff is so bad at the one in my area.

I believe the problem is basically socio-economic, but the fact is that this lower socio-economic population is highly skewed to the minority population so the racial distinction is often involved. One experience that for some reason will always stick in my mind is years ago walking behind a black woman downtown who was drinking a can of pop.  When finished she just tossed the empty can over her shoulder and it almost hit me. My upbringing would never have allowed me to do that.  I am amazed at people, many of whom I am sure are white, that think nothing of throwing trash out on the streets, highways, parking lots etc. Cigarette smokers of any race seem to be among the worst as I have many times seen them dump out their car ashtrays onto parking lots.  Even if I smoked I would never do that.  My parents taught me better.

Even poor people can be good caring people. The proof of this is the many reported instances of black grandparents who have stepped up to raise their grandchildren because their own children have gone so far astray.  Lack of a "normal" family structure, drug use, low income, kids looking to gang leaders for recognition and leadership are all issues. As they say, there but for the grace of God go I, if I had been faced with all of those issues I might not have turned out any better.

But the bottom line is, for whatever reason, the truth, politically incorrect as it is, as a group "lower income African Americans" exhibit these particular undesirable behaviors to a greater extent than the norm ... Maybe if we spent as much money on lifting these people out of their dire straights as we do jailing them things would gradually improve.  It's complicated.

And, from MNB reader Jeff Gartner:

I was offended by the commenter on the litter and mess at the Louisiana Walmart populated by "lower income African Americans." Really, did the commenter have to include their race? Lower income would have been sufficient. 

Since almost all African Americans are Christians, that just could be easily rewritten as "lower income Christians." But that would be as inappropriate as it is to stereotype African Americans as did your commenter.

Full disclosure -- our middle daughter is married to a black guy, and neither him nor anyone in his large extended family would ever fit that commenter's prejudiced stereotype.

One might almost be tempted to say that the stereotyping was deplorable. But that'd be a mistake.
KC's View: