business news in context, analysis with attitude

Chiming in on my criticism of Starbucks for having closed down its online store, end customer subscriptions, and insist that if you want bagged coffee you have to go a bricks-and-mortar store, MNB reader Jim Mahern wrote:

To say the least I was shocked by the "close" in your correspondence from Starbucks. A company should never close a pitch to its valued customers with "Thank You and Farewell". My wife was a development director for Starbucks and I ran two quick service restaurants for several years.The goal for any business is to serve the customer in a way that they want to return, and not say farewell to you. We are still Starbucks shareholders and want them to continue the policies that have made them successful. Hopefully this is just a short sighted hiccup.

From another reader:

They totally mis-handled this situation, IMHO.  It could have been an opportunity for Starbucks to build on your relationship, not end it.

And another:

There was a time a few years back when companies decided to “weed out” their least valuable customers. Those that added more to servicing than they generated in revenue or profits. Perhaps Starbuck’s new CEO came from that school of thought?

That said, I absolutely agree with your position — stupid.

On a broader subject, one MNB reader wrote:

I read your blog daily and find the points on e-commerce vs brick and mortar interesting.  Both sides seem to have their pluses, with e-commerce for the consumer, winning.

As a representative of a small CPG company, I find e-commerce refreshing and straight forward.

I am weary of the power that retailers have held over our heads for so many years.  Slotting fees, reset fees, remodel fees, excessive margins, and exorbitant costs that have nothing to do with selling groceries. 
So when I hear of supermarkets in trouble, I feel sad for the people that work there, but they brought it on themselves.  If retailers would focus more on selling cases instead of grabbing money, maybe they would not be in such a quandary as how to defend against e-commerce or other threats.

Warren Buffett invested in the Flying J Truck Stop company the other day, and I wondered if this was an old-world-style investment that did not really take into account where the world is going.

MNB reader Jeff Moore responded:

Perhaps they are projecting more traffic and frequent stops ($rings) due to the new Electronic Log Device laws that will go in to effect 12/18/17. Probably more to it than that but could certainly be a factor??

MNB reader Jeff Halliburton wrote:

Maybe Warren Buffet’s investment is in anticipation of increased traffic at truck stops, due to the increased shipping brought on by more consumers shopping e-commerce solutions.  In the end, his investment in a “traditional direction” is likely to capture the downstream revenue opportunities created by disruptive companies such as Amazon and Google.

MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

Interesting, but what happens to demand once there is a movement to autonomous driving trucks?  Now, you and I have both driven across country, and have probably stopped at a number of truck stops (food sucks but the coffee is strong!).  Not sure that guys like us can carry the business.

MNB reader Mike Hamelin wrote:

There’s a lot of talk in Michigan about driverless trucks that will convoy on interstate routes, each one mimicking the maneuvers of the one in front of it. So if the lead truck turns into a Flying J…

When Monty Hall died the other day, I mentioned the Jimmy Buffett song, “Door Number Three.” MNB reader Jeff Gartner observed:

As a native Chicagoan, I must note that the late great Steve Goodman co-wrote "Door Number Three" with Jimmy Buffett (I didn't know Jimmy Buffet co-wrote it until your column today).

Steve Goodman also wrote the classic "City of New Orleans" (made famous by Arlo Guthrie), but is perhaps better known these days for his songs about his Chicago Cubs … "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" (he was dying of leukemia at the time) and of course "Go Cubs Go.”

Finally, I wrote the other day about Lidl:

I’ve never believed that Lidl will totally disrupt the US supermarket industry; I’ve been doing this way too long to think that. (When I started writing about this industry, there were fears that Cub Foods was going to destroy every other format.) But it can have an impact, both in terms of specific operations and consumers’ expectations.

Prompting one wisenheimer MNB reader to respond:

When you started writing about this industry, there were concerns that Ike Godsey would destroy every other format.

Sad, but almost true.
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