business news in context, analysis with attitude

I'm still sifting through all the email that came in about a wide variety of stories while I was doing business travel last week.

Responding to the rumors about Kroger being interested in acquiring Whole Foods, MNB reader Brian Blank wrote:

Sigh…if I had a dollar for every bogus Kroger acquisition rumor - especially the ones insisting they are intent on moving into the Northeast by purchasing Shaw’s, A&P, or whomever - I’d be able to buy the Whole Foods chain!

We had a piece a couple of weeks ago about the last Howard Johnson's in America, prompting the following note from MNB reader Deb Faragher:

I had to chuckle when I read this piece.  My husband and I were in Lake George last week for a wedding and saw this Howard Johnson's.  We had just seen that the next to last one in Bangor, Maine closed in September.  It evoked memories of fried clam strips and chocolate chip ice cream.  We were sorely tempted to take that same photo but it all looked so forlorn.  Based on your experience, I’m glad we didn’t waste the time.  Sad to see the decline of these icons and, as you point out, sadder still that they don’t seem to care.   A missed opportunity for sure.

MNB recently took note of a Fortune report on a new study saying that "caffeine intake may be linked with a lower risk for dementia in older women ... Researchers found that participants who self-reported drinking more than 261 milligrams of caffeine cut their risk for dementia by 36%. That’s almost three 8-oz cups of coffee, with each cup containing 95 mg of caffeine."

I commented:

I hope this also works for middle-aged men. Because when it comes to caffeine consumption, I like to think I am doing my best to hold up my end.

From an MNB reader:

Agree with your hope on middle-aged men.  Add beer to this theory and I am covered!


I also got a note from a friend of mine suggesting that I am way past the point when I need to be thinking about health advantages for middle-aged men.

Which I thought was a little harsh.

I recently endorsed the concept of retailers ticketing vehicles that inappropriately park in spaces reserved for pregnant customers, energy-efficient vehicles, and people with physical challenges, though I conceded that this could alienate customers. One MNB user wrote:

In Ohio, to issue a valid ticket for illegal parking in a handicapped spot, certain specific language needs to be on the sign, including the amount of the fine.  My observation is that the handicapped spots at most retailers, as well as our nearby U.S. Post Office, do not include that language so the police cannot ticket the violators.  Maybe the refusal to post the legally required signs is for the purpose of insulating their customers from getting fined for their ill manners.

On the subject of the e-grocery challenge, one MNB user wrote:

Seen and overheard yesterday at Giant Eagle:  Retirement-age couple scouring the cleaning aisle shelves said, "Well, if they don't have it, we'll just have to order it from Amazon".

Not just the millennials.

Responding to Kate McMahon's column last week about how the makers of Skittles and Tic Tacs navigated unwanted publicity when their brands got dragged into the toxic political debate, one MNB user wrote:

Totally a political hack Kate is. Making light of a candy comment but paying no attention to the deaths of 4 American Citizens at the hands of Clinton. Funny how a liberal can degrade a Presidential candidate but ignore the horrible and illegal actions of another.

True color shine through yet again.

Forgive me, but this is just so much crap.

Kate's column was about how brands reacted to specific situations, not about the broader political situation. The column was prompted by the fact that these companies felt compelled to respond to how their brands were being characterized within circumstances that were at the very least controversial.

Did these situations have to do with the Trump campaign? Yes. Would she have written the same column had the situations arisen within the Clinton campaign? Absolutely.

Kate was being anything but a political hack.

In fact, the hackery in this case is being practiced by a reader who tries to connect two things that have nothing to do with each other.

Responding to our continuing baseball coverage, one MNB user wrote:

The WNBA championship is going on too.

So is college football, and I get emails every once in a while suggesting that I should do those scores, too.

I can't do it all. MNB isn't a sports site. I'm not being anti-woman here, but just writing about the stuff that interests me.

Sorry about that.

One MNB user took issue with my commentary about the latest Blue Bell recall:

The Blue Bell situation is one that I now feel I have to chime in.  Yes, I am a Texan. And yes, I do know a lot about this company as I have acquaintances connected with them.  Blue Bell did have a problem in their plants, and their employees paid the price.

Your recent stories are again pointing the finger entirely at Blue Bell on the latest recall.  This cookie dough was sold to 27 food manufacturers. Why are you not reporting the entire story.  This is not a Blue Bell problem.  This cookie dough was recalled by Aspen Hills, the Iowa company that makes this cookie dough.

Fair enough. You're right that there have been other companies that have had to recall product because of the tainted cookie dough.

Let me recast my commentary this way - that many customers ultimately don't care where the problems begin. They simply know that trusted brands can't be trusted anymore ... and this is a problem with which brands have to contend.


Finally, regarding one of last week's Eye-Openers, one MNB user wrote:

I think that Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature is a life lesson that can be applied to business…. a reminder to look at things differently and that what we do in grocery does not always have to be (nor should it be) status quo. A grocery store can be a quality restaurant, a great florist, a fun shopping experience…. Metropolitan Market, Wegmans, Publix, Market District, Eataly, etc.  A convenience store can offer a better food option…example: Wawa, Sheetz. 

I also happen to think that Bob Dylan is quite the poet.

And from another:

Like you, I was absolutely thrilled to see Dylan receive the recognition he so richly deserves. There can be no over estimating the influence he had on my generation who were in college in the early 60s. His songs inspired us to stand up against the injustice we saw, and to convert those that were silently standing by, in many cases our parents.

Someone once said that the world can be broken up into two groups - those who feel that the world ultimately was better off because of all the social tumult and political rebellion of the sixties, and those who think the world was worse off.

Count me among the first group ... and the existence of Bob Dylan, and the way in which he spoke for all those people and emotions, can be seen as exhibit one.
KC's View: