business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday MNB took note of how, as all hell was breaking loose in Charlottesville, Virginia, with neo- Nazis, members of the KKK and assorted other white supremacists and hate groups engaged in a rally that turned deadly, a Wegmans that was just a couple of miles from the epicenter of the violence was instrumental in preparing and donating food for first responders.

MNB reader Deb Faragher wrote:

This is a great story, Kevin. It demonstrates a point you make frequently about culture within an organization. It would not occur to many to take the steps necessary to pull this off, let alone the the expense of it. Great job by this team of people and by showing, once again, that Wegman’s truly cares about the communities in which they do business. It may be one of the reasons Wegman’s is at or near the top every time there’s a survey or study that puts them at the top of great places to work and shop.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Thank you for writing about this.  I really needed to hear something positive about last weekend…

And another:

And not only did they do the right thing -- selflessly working so hard to help so many -- it didn't break in a press release, Wegman's FB page, or their website -- it was just quietly done, and nobody outside of the immediate circle would ever have known had Metro Richmond fire not mentioned it on their page.

Doing for others for the sake of doing for others.  Well done, Wegmans.  Hope those managers and their employees are well rewarded (but I'm sure they will be).

MNB reader Jeannine Wilkins wrote:

I agree with you 100% that in times of crisis what those Wegman’s employees did will stand out as a beacon – and I’d add that those police officers will NEVER forget what they did. A few more examples of retailers doing the right thing include an experience I heard about at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Years ago I was in charge of their insights department and often did focus groups in different markets. I was doing just that in the Orlando FL market a few years after a serious hurricane had hit the area. Apparently during the aftermath of that hurricane many local retailers jacked up the price of water while the BJ’s manager took the initiative to donate water (lots and lots of water) to the relief efforts. The people who lived in the area took note and still had positive feelings about BJ’s years later as a result. On the other hand, some not so bright person in finance once decided that if they put a stop to people using other people’s membership cards they would be able to sell a lot more memberships. The way they executed this initiative entailed confiscating cards at the register. As you can imagine that didn’t go over well and many people just walked away from their full carts. This too was a situation that people remembered well – just in a bad way. Six months later I was doing focus groups with Hispanics in NY city – we had a translator in the back room since the groups were in Spanish. Well, one of the attendees mentioned the card confiscating fiasco and all of a sudden the whole room was up in arms – the translator couldn’t translate – just kept saying crosstalk, crosstalk. It didn’t matter, ability to speak Spanish wasn’t necessary – viewing the videotape was enough to show what a mistake that was.

More recently also got positive responses for a customer service experience one of their customers received during a tough time for her. She purchased dog food on auto-ship from Chewy and sadly, the day after she received a large shipment her dog passed away. She emailed Chewy to cancel her subscription and mentioned it was because her dog had passed away. They emailed her back very quickly, gave her a full refund for the bag she had just received and told her no need to send back but could she donate it to a local shelter. (She hadn’t even asked for a refund). Then, they went further and sent her a bouquet of flowers with a condolence card for her loss. She posted the experience on FB and it went at least somewhat viral. And, you know she’ll get another dog and can you imagine her ever buying pet food from anyone other than Chewy after that experience? Only if PetSmart really screws up their customer service.

I firmly believe ALL retailers should have a plan for emergencies – whether weather related or like what happened in Charlottesville and make sure the local management have the authority and training to be sure they handle the situation with compassion and an understanding that doing the right thing in moments like these isn’t just the moral thing to do it’s also the best thing they can do for their brand in the long run

But, there was also this email:

Unfortunately, when this story gets airplay, it will be bad for Wegmans. The hate filled antifa movement will not like hearing that a grocery store did something for the first responders. Look for Wegmans to be targeted by this truly horrible group within the next few days and weeks.

I’m not all that familiar with all the nomenclature having to do with various extremist groups, but recent events have prompted me to do a little research.

There seems to be no question that the “antifa” or “anti-fascist” movement looks to physically confront the white supremacist movement … but my sense is that there is no way that there should be any sort of moral equivalency ascribed to these two sides. That’s not to say that everybody on the anti-fascist side was perfect or engaged in exemplary behavior. But there are no good fascists. There are no good Nazis. There are no good white supremacists.

I would hope that neither side would think badly of Wegmans for catering to first responders. But I suspect that if either side were to “target” Wegmans, it would be the white supremacists … these are truly evil, despicable people, and they are capable of almost anything.

I’m with Sen. John McCain on this: There is "no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry,” he wrote.
KC's View: