business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of an Oregonian report that Kroger-owned Fred Meyer is getting some grief  after a dozen police officers stopped local folks from taking food that had been thrown away.  The food had been tossed because the store's power went out, and the store called the police, managers said, because of concerns that people might contract food-bone illnesses.

I commented:

Maybe the better solution would've been to find a way to take the food to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, rather than just throwing it out.  But sometimes, like during winter storms that create enormous stress, people make short-term decisions that they later realize might've not been the best idea.  

One MNB reader responded:

Your suggestion to give the food to a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen shows that your heart is in the right place, but the decision is ultimately dictated by the locale’s health department officials and it is issued without exception.   They do not want to risk having products knowingly being served to an already vulnerable population that could expose them to a food-borne illness.   Granted, there are times that health officials will go to extremes by making you throw away factory-sealed packages of product that should still be okay for consumption by someone, but a health department will always err on the side of caution for any potential consumer in any circumstance.  

A number of years ago I had a power outage in a store that was caused by a nearby train pulling a large crane on a flatbed which struck the overhead power lines.   We were without power for several hours and within 30 minutes of our electricity being restored I had a visit from the county health department.   Because we had managed to close off our frozen food aisle (which was all in upright cases with doors), the official allowed us to go without pulling any product.   Our fresh meat case products were deemed to be safe because we had quickly pulled all the cases and moved the contents into walk-in coolers.

Unfortunately, we had lots of open-air refrigerated cases and the same person forced us to empty much of our dairy cases, as well as all our cured meats and cheeses, among other things.  We were warned in no uncertain terms that we were to immediately move all the product to dumpsters and that the work would be done under the supervision of the same health department employee to ensure that nothing was diverted elsewhere for any other use.   Needless to say, we disposed of thousands of dollars of products and had no insurance to cover such a loss.   Once the product ended up behind the store, we had people who attempted to help themselves to it…..it was only at that point that the health department official said that no more need be done as it was clear that the intent on the part of the store was to throw the product away.  

Another MNB reader wrote:

Early on prior to my career in the food industry I always wondered why stores would thrown out tons of food.  Then I started working in this industry and my eyes were opened, unfortunately.  In the store I worked in, we would donate bread, dented cans, anything that had some remaining value to local churches and charities.  Then someone got sick, and sued the store.  All the donations stopped.

Among those that want the food donated are also among the first to cry foul when someone gets sick.  Why then would a retailer and or manufacturer lay themselves open to, what potentially could be, a huge lawsuit and bad publicity? 

Me, I would rather take the bad press and keep my company (s) out of the courts. The decision to toss the food rather than donate was a sound one. 

We had an Eye-Opener yesterday about Jim McIngvale, the owner of Gallery Furniture who is known as "Mattress Mack," who opened his furniture showroom to people in need, offering them shelter and allowing them to sleep on the couches and beds on display in the facility.

Fox News pointed out that McIngvale did the same thing in 2017 "when he helped Texans who were left homeless by Hurricane Harvey."

One MNB reader responded:

There is more to Mattress Mack than great hospitality to the homeless.

Mattress Mack won $6,000,000.00 betting on Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl.  It was not really a bet but more like a hedge against his Super Bowl promotion.

If you spent $600.00 or more at his store before the Super Bowl and Tampa Bay won you purchase price would be refunded.  Now that’s a promotional eye opener.

Wow.  I bet on Tampa.  I won $1.

MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

Living just north of Houston I have watched Mac for a long time. He is a real far right guy politically but he transcends that. Even Democrats like Mac and get a kick out of him. And, he doesn't talk community, he is community. Mac steps up constantly. It doesn't take a mega-event like a hurricane or winter storm. He jumps into much smaller, local crises. And, he's fun to watch from a business standpoint. He has sales before the Super Bowl where people can pick winners, point spreads and if they hit, their purchase is free. Of course, folks probably don't know he buys insurance against a certain level of loss but it's still fun and crazy.

I got a number of emails about this story yesterday, with one pointing out that Mac is a big believer in second chances - he has hired felons and ex-cons, who work next to retired academics and former FBI agents.

It sounds like Mac understands the importance of a strong narrative.

Got this email from MNB reader Bob Samples:

Kevin, I found your interview with Carl Jorgensen very compelling. I am startled you have never been on a farm though.  You need to get onto the soil soon. When I started at Hormel in 1981 the first thing they did was have us sales and marketing hires go ride with the hog buyers and visit farms and see where our food was grown and see their commitment to sustainable quality farming.  It really made a difference in my POV.

But more importantly I agree with Carl that we need to care for our soil, our crops and animal stocks in a way that is sustainable and not dependent on chemicals and overly technical. Shorten the ingredients list, increase the nutritional density and even get less non renewable plastics out of the system.

Trust me, once pandemic restrictions are lifted I suspect I'll be visiting a number of farms - I got a bunch of invitations yesterday after that piece was posted.

Which is great.  I'm a sucker for a learning experience.

Yesterday, MNB took note of a Bloomberg story about how Nate Faust, described as a "former Walmart logistics expert," is rolling out "a delivery service called Olive that consolidates orders from fashion labels including Michael Kors, Coach and Stuart Weitzman. Olive will gather items from more than 100 brands at its two hubs, where boxes will be recycled while the goods are sent on to consumers at no extra charge in a reusable container … Faust 'acknowledges that it will take longer for buyers to receive their orders. But he’s betting that the affluent, frequent shoppers who drive the majority of online fashion purchases won’t mind waiting a few extra days to get all their purchases in one tidy package, with no boxes to slice open. Unwanted items can be returned in the same tote at their doorstep'."

One MNB reader responded:

I would hope that Amazon would consider this as an option versus immediate delivery  My recent experience - I ordered four books and two pairs of slacks (same brand) through Amazon  in one order. Over the next week, the items arrived in six separate deliveries, meaning six separate packages  That meant a large amount of unnecessary packaging and vehicular pollution  Not exactly the carbon footprint they speak of having.

We had a piece the other day that pointed out how Amazon came to dominate the economies of many communities where it has opened distribution centers.  Prompting MNB reader Howard Schneider to write:

Like the bad old days. You know, that place where the old song says, "I owe my soul…"

For those not old enough to get that reference, I submit to you a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford that was an enormous hit in 1955-56: