business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Jeff Folloder about Starbucks' decision to abandon its alcohol-in-the-evenings initiative:

It seems to me that ditching the "Evening" program was the exact right call.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for a great beer or a fabulous glass of wine.  But maybe Starbucks has recognized that alcohol is not a part of their core competency?  Selling alcohol and managing on premise consumers of alcohol requires a host of skills beyond that of barista, including some significant liability concerns.  Focusing on coffee seems to be a logical thing for the world's leading purveyor of upscale coffee experience.

On the subject of diversity, we posted an email the other from an MNB reader:

You said that pretty much every religion believes the other religions are wrong in some way. True enough. But Muslims (not all, but some) are the only ones in the 21st century who killing people who don't agree. I haven't heard of any Jehovah's Witnesses throwing anyone off a cliff lately.

And I responded:

True. And as long as we all agree with the "not all, but some" reference, we're on the same page.

But other readers wanted to weigh in on this subject:

One reader wrote:

That statement is simply not true. Majority Hindu and Buddhist populations are killing Muslims in several countries around the world. Tensions between Christians in Northern Ireland continue. Christians in the U. S. have killed Sikhs, Jews, and other Christians. And so on.
Muslims do not have a monopoly on extremism and violence. I’m not pointing this out to be anti-religion – I’m a devout United Methodist – just to correct the record.

And another wrote:

Does anyone remember Northern Ireland? I think “The Troubles” had religious overtones.

And another:

Gosh, when I saw the comment that Muslims are the only religion that has folks who kill people who don’t agree, I immediately thought of several Christians who have bombed or shot people in abortion clinics. Or Christian white supremacists who kill black folks to start a race war. Or Jewish folks who kill Palestinians as retribution. When a non-Muslim person does something like this, we blame it on that person. When a Muslim person does something bad, we blame the religion.

And still another:

I am not sure you really meant to say “True” to the entirety of that writer’s statement.  Do you believe it to be true that “Muslims are the only ones in the 21st century who are killing people that don’t agree.”?  Recent and past history is sadly replete with people from various religious beliefs harming others in the name of their religion.  While it is dangerous to overly generalize this type of behavior – for the most part the people who are committing terrorism in the name of the Muslim faith today are people with fragile mental states who have been manipulated for political purposes (or otherwise mentally fragile and grab on to a religion as a perverted justification for harming others).
I would hate to see your column get overrun with back and forth on this.  My 2 cents – you might want to just clarify and try to shut this line of discussion down. 

Fair enough. I don't want to go too far down this road here, either ... though it'd be a great bar conversation.

But I think the point is made - that some people are willing to horrible things to each other in the name of religious beliefs.

Finally, I got as couple of very different emails in response to yesterday's piece about the kerfuffle between Donald Trump and LL Bean.

To recap, in brief ... family member Linda Bean helped to find a pro-Trump political action committee. Some anti-Trump folks called for a boycott of LL Bean. LL Bean leadership said that more than 50 Bean family members have a wide variety of political beliefs, and that the business takes no political positions. And Trump lauded Linda Bean on Twitter and said that people should shop at LL Bean. Which only poured gasoline on the situation, and ignited debate.

I commented, in part:

Well, here we go again ... except in this case, it at least can't hurt LL Bean's stock price because the company is privately held.

The thing is, Trump got it wrong. Or at least, selectively right. The company took no position on his candidacy or positions. One person did, albeit a person with a strong familial connection to the company ... though she's one of more than 50 family members with some ownership in the company.

But even while getting it only selectively right, Trump has demonstrated a willingness and ability to profoundly and unfairly affect the operations and image of a retail company. I think it is fair to say that this is something that retailers - and frankly, every business - will have to think about going forward. Trump said, "Buy L.L. Bean," but what if he had said, "Don't buy L.L. Bean"? And had done so while only getting things selectively right?

(What is he going to say if he finds out that LL Bean imports some of its products from outside the US? I suspect that like a lot of companies that do so, LL Bean could be a little concerned about discussions of import tariffs that could raise the cost and price of such items.)

This is not a partisan statement on my part. It is an objective observation about the highly partisan climate in which we're currently living.

To be clear ... I would accuse the people threatening a boycott against LL Bean of being just as wrong as Trump in being only selectively accurate.

I don't want to ignite a political debate here. That's not my goal. However you voted, whatever you think or feel about the country's direction, the stark partisanship that afflicts our country right now is creating a minefield that could affect everyone.

MNB reader Philip Herr wrote:

Thanks for the clarification. I was quite torn over the initial news reports.  As a big fan of their clothing and not so much of Trump – I was torn. I feel better now.
But MNB reader Jim Cox wrote:

Respectfully… A thank you….really.
Interesting; that a thank you from the next president of the United States provides you with another opportunity to share your displeasure and provide an opportunity to spread more bias from your electronic bully pulpit; frankly I don’t think it makes a bunch of common sense …
Interesting; Mr. Trump also thanked Carrier; Ford; Fiat and many others that are pulling for the USA building stuff here with American Workers; non Union; Union all just wanting to contribute.
BTW; he’s no longer a candidate for president he will be our next president.
God bless the United States of America.

True, I have an electronic bully pulpit. (So does Trump. FYI, his is bigger.)

Am I simply spreading bias and displeasure? I don't think so. I think I was making a legitimate and highly relevant point about something a lot of businesses need to think about. (BTW...I saw a story the other day about how crisis management firms are making a killing right now, because they're all being hired to deal with the positives and negatives of Trump tweets. So it isn't like I'm the only guy thinking this.)

When he tweets, Trump has the ability to have enormous impact - positive and negative - on businesses, employees, competition, and the economy. I think there is a legitimate debate to be had about whether this is a good thing, whether this is the best way to make America great again, and the impact these 140-character messages have in an highly divided and polarized country. And I'm willing to have a nuanced, civil conversation about these issues, because I think it is relevant and appropriate, even if occasionally risky.
KC's View: