business news in context, analysis with attitude

Earlier this week, MNB took note of a Washington Times story saying that an Albertsons bakery in Louisiana got a lot of attention on social media when it refused to inscribe a birthday cake with the words, "Trump 2016." After the customer drew attention to the incident on social media, local TV stations picked up the story, and then it went national ... as illustrated by the Washington Times piece.

I commented:

This stuff just makes me nuts. You're a baker. Bake the freakin' cake, and write whatever the customer wants on top of the cake, assuming it isn't profane or vulgar. This goes for gay weddings and presidential endorsements. Writing something on top of a cake does not constitute a personal endorsement.

MNB reader Jim Huey had a thought about this:

Kevin, I’m curious if you have ever refused an advertiser to your site? It is that baker's constitutional right to deny a customer. The customer’s rights have not been infringed upon. In fact, if I use the knowledge I have gained from reading your blog, that customer should find a baker who will do it, or start her/his own bakery and develop a niche catering to issues other bakers don’t want to. I don’t understand why you don’t take the stance “Why doesn’t the customer just go to another baker and not make a big deal out of it?”

A fair point.

I would suggest that in this case, at least, there does not appear to be a corporate policy against certain kinds of cake inscriptions. This was just one baker - an Albertsons employee - making what strikes me as a kind of random decision.

You are right that the customer has the right to and probably ought to go patronize another baker. My larger point is that when it comes to things like cake inscriptions, the fact that a baker writes something does not imply any sort of personal endorsement, and that maybe they are becoming bigger deals than they need to.

As for MNB ... you are right that I've turned down potential advertisers. Like tobacco companies. I think I'd justify that by suggesting that the personal nature of the site is that carrying advertisements from companies like that would suggest that I'm endorsing them ... when in fact, I abhor them.

That said, I've been lucky. The companies that want to sponsor MNB - and let me take this opportunity to point out that this means that they make it possible for people to get MNB for free - have always been companies with philosophies and strategies consistent with our approach. I think that's because they realize that MNB's readers are interesting, interested, smart, innovative, curious and a little bit irreverent about the world. In other words, the most important readers to reach.

On another subject - the racial stereotyping of residents in poor neighborhoods and how they behave - one MNB reader wrote:

I have often had conversations with our (now) adult sons about the importance of setting expectations when working with people in their respective careers.   This discussion in your blog is just another example of how a retailer can set expectations for its customers simply by maintaining high standards.  
Early in my retailing career, I spent four years working in a conventional supermarket (for a large Midwestern retailer) in a low-income neighborhood.   I worked with a store director at that time who would not tolerate allowing the store’s standards to slip below the standards of any other store in the company.  We executed the fundamentals very well by making sure we were well-stocked, clean, and friendly 24 hours a day.   There were allowances in our operation that had to be made such as keeping a uniformed off-duty police officer on staff nightly, hiring extra plainclothes security help, or having a “greeter” walking the aisles daily, but the locals knew that we wouldn’t tolerate theft or inappropriate behavior.   Most of all, we were able to hire employees who treated our customers with respect, regardless of their socio-economic status.  
Yes, I spent mornings helping to pick up dirty diapers and empty motor oil bottles in the parking lot, along with chasing down shoplifters or stopping someone from trying to pass a bad check…….but I believe that our store became a point of pride in the neighborhood because it was as well-run as any other store in any other area of town.   The law enforcement folks (whom we got to know well over the years) told us that the “bad guys” in the area made a point to avoid our store because they knew the odds of getting caught were higher and we always prosecuted them, in addition to banning them from returning to the store at any point in the future.
KC's View: