business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story last week about why Trader Joe’s sells bananas by the piece, instead of in bunched by the pound - it was because an elderly consumer told the CEO, “I may not live until the fourth banana.” It prompted MNB reader Katherine Dykes to write:

"I may not live til the fourth banana!" needs to replace FOMO in the popular lexicon!  It's my new life's motto!

On another subject, MNB reader John Watt wrote:

 Respectfully, I don’t necessarily agree that all companies should figure out their own proprietary approach to e-commerce.  For companies of various sizes, investing in infrastructure and workers to have feet on the ground and trucks on the road, doesn’t seem plausible or even necessary.

I believe companies should focus on their core missions (and if they don’t have one that matters, they could be in trouble).   Rather, in my opinion -  leave it to the experts such as Instacart and make the draw of your products that you sell as a retailer make the customer purchase your items online.   I believe that it’s ironic that in the case of e-commerce the differentiator is the products, not so much the experience or the service (all Amazon is doing is leaving a box on your front steps).   It’s a very impersonal experience.   That’s contradictory thinking to how a lot of companies gain life-long customers with great customer service, which is why I think there will always be a place for brick and mortar.   But, I do agree with you that the e-commerce partner needs to be interested in serving the brands they work with and be prideful in how they represent the brands (retailers). 

Instacart is acting on the retailer’s behalf and is the face of the company when someone answers their door, no different than a pleasant cashier.

Point taken.

I have no problem with outsourcing e-commerce functionality - but I think it is critical that it be outsourced to companies that are interested primarily in serving the retailer’s brand, as opposed to establishing its own. I also think that it is dangerous to do business with companies that could end up competing with you.

And finally, I would argue that if retailers are going to have e-commerce services that compete with Amazon, they need to find ways to personalize the delivery function and make it reflect the instore retail brand experience.

MNB took note last week of a USA Today report that Perdue Farms is challenging a recommendation from the advertising business’s self-regulating National Advertising Division that it “modify or discontinue” commercials it is using for organic chicken; Perdue says it will appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board. At issue is whether the ads' attribute claims - "free range," "organic," "non-GMO," "100 percent vegetarian fed," and "no antibiotics ever” - apply to the way Perdue raises all of its chickens or solely those bearing its Harvestland Organic label.

I agree with Perdue on this one, and one MNB reader wrote:

Oddly enough, my wife and I have discussed these ads many times.  She sees them exactly the way the advertising review board suggests and I see them just like you described in your comments. According to her most people don’t think like I do - so I can appreciate you and I see this one the same way.

Got the following email from MNB reader Brian Blank:

I agree with your thoughts on the EEOC suit against Albertson’s.  That it was one store certainly sounds like a (hopefully) misguided manager and not a widespread (again, hopefully) issue.  The directive against speaking Spanish with Spanish-speaking customers is not only bad business, but is in direct opposition to what was expressed in the statement issued from Corporate.  I can see the point of discouraging exclusionary conversations between employees when others are around—in fact, it should be banned outright—whether in Spanish, English, Croatian, or Klingon.  There is little I hate worse than being rung up by a cashier who never once acknowledges my presence (except to curtly tell me how much money I owe) while carrying on a conversation with the cashier at the next lane.
OK, one thing I hate worse:  when that cashier has no one in the next lane to talk to because there aren’t enough checkouts open.  (Stop & Shop, Target…I’m looking at you!)

I’d just like to say for the record that if any two cashiers at a store where I shop want to converse in Klingon, I’m completely down with it. tlhIngan maH!

And, on another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

You are 100% correct. Saying Ahold can withstand Amazon due to the store experience is a joke. I was a category manager for Giant Landover before Ahold moved all the back offices to S&S and they have really taken them downhill. And to read that article made me laugh.

Last Friday I told you a bit about my experience officiating at a wedding; I am an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, which cost me a few minutes on the Internet and a couple of dollars. I wrote:

It all went well. Nobody backed out, the serious rain held off until the outdoor ceremony was over, and my attempt at a sermon seemed to work - I’ve just celebrated my 35th wedding anniversary, so I had a few bits of wisdom to share about marriage. (Mostly, it is about having the right spouse who will put up with all your nonsense.)

In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that I’ve decided to offer this service to MNB readers - if anybody is looking for someone to officiate at their wedding, just let me know. If I can do it I will, and I’ll only charge you for my travel expenses. (If it is someplace fun, I may ask you if I can bring Mrs. Content Guy. But she’s fun to have at a wedding.)

MNB reader John Rand wrote:

There is something askew in the world when a person I value in part for his irreverence becomes an official Reverend.

I promise you, the “sermon” was irreverent.

Of course, that probably won’t make another MNB reader any happier:

I’m really disappointed to learn that you take the institution of marriage so lightly and that you think that an internet certificate qualifies you to perform a marriage ceremony.

I don’t know what upsets me more the fact that you think you qualify as a “Minister” or the fact that you perform wedding ceremonies?

At a time in our history where over 50% of marriages end in divorce, you should be encouraging counseling and spiritual guidance instead of mocking the very institution that should be taken far more seriously than most people do today.  If you don’t want to dive into the religious component of marriage than call it what it really is, a “Civil Ceremony” recognized by the state.

Staying in a committed relationship can be a challenge but the relationship stands a much better chance of surviving the “tests” that life will invariably throw your way, if the couple is properly prepared.

Call me old fashion, but too many important aspects of our culture are going the way of the Model T, we don’t need you to contribute to the decline.

Yikes. It never occurred to me that I was contributing to the decline of the culture.

If I may respond, respectfully…

First of all, I don’t think I’m a qualified minister. I would much rather have done it as a civil ceremony, but that’s not how the rules are written. The state won’t let people like me call it that.

Second, I did a little checking, and it appears to me that divorce rates actually are falling a bit, and have been for some time. I would never suggest that this is because non-ministers like me are conducting wedding ceremonies - this is, after all, a relatively new phenomenon. But it is an interesting trend line.

Third, I must admit that I’ve been to a lot of weddings - and I suspect I am not alone in this experience - that were conducted by priests and ministers who seemed to have done little research about the couple, and who did services that seemed largely generic, not personal, in tone and substance. I tried to be personal, and give the moment meaning to the people standing in front of me.

(Quick anecdote. One fellow came up to me during the reception and told me that I was “the best pastor he’d ever heard,” because I’d spoken in ways that seemed relevant and personal. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’m not a pastor, so I just thanked him.)

Fourth, I’m not minimizing the importance of spiritual guidance to people who want it and seek it out. Far from it. But not everybody feels that way. (Of course, some would probably argue that this is another sign of the culture’s decline…)

Finally, I do not take marriage lightly. I’ve been married for 35 years, and so I have enough experience to know that a marriage taken lightly cannot possibly survive. And I have, from time to time, been accused of a certain uxoriousness.

That said, I like to recall what the great Robert B. Parker once told the Wall Street Journal about marriage:

I've been married 52 years, and I like it a lot. I think it's the quintessential way to live, but not the only way. It's valuable to have a partner, regardless of gender or legal nature. It's good to have someone to love in addition to the dog.

Was I the ideal, perfect person to officiate at a wedding? Probably not. But they asked me to do it, and I hope I sent them off into the world with a bit of wisdom, a bit of humor, and a bit of perspective.
KC's View: