business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Adam Dill:

Scrolling through the channel line-up yesterday, I happened upon the Instacart 500 NASCAR Race.  Your voice immediately popped into my head.  Why would a service that serves as an intermediary for retailers and shoppers need to spend millions of dollars on promoting itself? 

I would think a retailer would want the shoppers to see their e-commerce shopping as an extension of their store, not a different company (i.e. Instacart).  The only reason I could come up with for what Instacart is promoting itself is if it wants to eventually become the retailer brand shoppers remember.  I think I would be nervous if I was a retail partner of Instacart that my fulfillment partner is wanting to become a retailer themselves.  Maybe I have read too many Vince Flynn novels and assume there is an evil plot being played out.  Just found it strange that Instacart was running such a brand focused marketing campaign.

First of all, I'm sorry my voice intruded on your weekend.

Second, I totally agree with you.  I would only differ on the word "eventually" … I think that;'s what Instacart is doing right now.

Got another email, from MNB reader Olivier Kielwasser, about the elderly woman who got fired from her Trader Joe's job for selling alcohol to a minor to whom she happened to be related:

In general, most people who get fired for selling alcohol to minors are people who fail a sting operation conducted by law enforcement or by the store’s loss prevention department.  Generally, both the store and the employee get cited for violating liquor laws, meaning firing the employee is legally justified, and the store pays a fine and must conduct cashier training to avoid this from reoccurring.

In this particular instance, your article mentions that Gloria reported the sale to her employer.  While liquor laws were violated, this didn’t result in any citation to the store or to the employee.  Instead of keeping this under wraps, Trader Joe’s did the right thing in terminating the employee for violating state law and company policy.  However, considering no citation was issued, Trader Joe’s also might have the option of immediately rehiring her.  

This is not an easy decision, because the company terminated dozens, if not hundreds of people, for selling alcohol to minors, and they were never eligible for rehire.  While we may feel sympathy for a specific individual, treating this person more favorably than all the others might be discriminatory to the others.  What would happen if they asked for these people to get their jobs back? 

You're right.  This may be life.

But sometimes life, when there is no room of empathy, sucks.

Regarding the changing face of work as headquarters seem to become less important, one MNB reader wrote:

The Headquarter store has always been perceived as the “only” place to do business. Largely in part because upper management never thought that business could be conducted efficiently from remote locations.  Now they are seeing that this is not the case, and their employees are much happier for it.  

My thought … Take a page from history and empower the stores to make decisions at their level which would enable them to control more of what is offered and promoted.  Don’t have all the buying and promotional decisions land on the desk of one person.  I think that truly limits creativity and the base line knowledge of what happens at store level, which in turn, further perpetuates the long standing disconnect between HQ and the stores.  I know I’m off subject a bit on this but empowering your people to be involved in the business is very powerful team structure.  No one person will ever have a monopoly on all the good ideas.  When they think they do, is when they most certainly don’t. 

I think that;'s something with which MNB fave Glen Terbeek might agree:

KC,  The virus has tough us that “work from home” works.  Therefore in the future it would make sense to “work from stores” where the action is.  I could see “support personal” being located around the stores in different markets.  Instead of talking with each other at in headquarters, they could actually talk with customers and first line employees. 

Wouldn't that be lovely.

Responding to last week's story about modern vending technology, MNB reader Ken Delfeld


I was amazed at the vending machines outside in residential alleys in Japan’s cities. The machines were always clean and never saw any thieving or damage. 

Regarding Walmart including samples with pick-up and delivery orders, one MNB reader wrote:

What’s old is new again.  Peapod was doing this in the early 2000s. 

Peapod was doing a lot of things 20 years ago that a lot of the industry hasn't caught up with yet.

From another reader:

This isn’t anything new.  Walmart has been charging suppliers for this for a few years now on their grocery pick up orders.  You not only have the cost of the samples, but fees that are pretty high and out of reach for smaller companies.  Works well with new products if you can afford the program.  Challenge is there isn’t a lot of return measurement on it to see if you are picking up new customers. At least, I haven’t seen it yet. 

Reacting, I suppose, to all my culture reviews, MNB reader Shawn Ravitz wrote:

Have you seen "Outlander?"  Great show.  Based on some of the things that you like, I think this is up your alley.  Somehow I missed this when it came out... been a great binge! 

Mrs. Content Guy loves "Outlander."  My problem is that I've seen too much "Star Trek," and when she tells me about characters going back in time and not worrying about how their actions might disrupt the the timeline.  I'd worry that with one wrong move, I'd be visited by the Department of Temporal Investigations…  

Finally, responding to last Friday's cooking segment, MNB reader Karen Labenz wrote:

Really enjoyed your cooking demonstration today, Kevin!  Fun for a Friday.  Thank you!

MNB reader Jill LeBrasseur wrote:

Loved watching you cook, KC! You should make this a once a month Friday feature!

And, from MNB reader John Holter:

Kevin, Unfortunately( due to an over abundance of sunshine in the Pacific Northwest ) I was not able to read/watch your 3/12 article on Tick Tok cooking until late evening. 

Looks like I was more impressed with your cooking than your puppy dog was.   (You should watch him/her as you were giving the cooking lesson).

I knew what he was doing.  Sometimes he doesn't much care, but sometimes he hangs out near the stove hoping for a treat.  Like last night, when I was making a bolognese:  

As for the suggestion that I do a cooking segment once a month … I'm happy to try, but I'm not that good and I don't have that many recipes.

But … if anyone in the MNB community would like to submit a video (not longer than 10 minutes) of them making something fun and unique in the kitchen, feel free to send it to me and I'll post it on the site.  Maybe we'll get an MNB cookbook out of it!