business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

In regards to Walmart opening up it’s marketplace to foreign sellers, I struggle to see where the value here is for the consumer.  While I’m sure this isn’t just a result of overseas sellers, one of the most frustrating parts of the Amazon experience is the flood of listings for similar or identical items, which cause confusion for the consumer.  I find little value in searching for a product and finding 64 listings for it, all with slightly different prices but in many cases an identical product image/description/specification.  It begs the question how many of these are the co-manufacturers themselves, or someone else further up the supply chain overseas, capitalizing on how easy it is to set up a seller account.  While this creates more “choice” for consumers, and certainly boosts bragging rights for a retailer in regards to “number of items available online,” at what point does it just make the shopping experience more exhausting for consumers? 

Walmart, or other e-commerce platforms, stand the chance to differentiate themselves by “curating” an assortment of items or sellers for their shoppers, rather than just flooding their sites with as many listings as possible.

I guess that it all depends on how appealing you find the notion of an "everything store."

From another reader on the same subject:

How does this work in conjunction to spending $250 million to source locally.  Seems they are working both sides of the street.

Of course they are.

Regarding Amazon's decision to spend $1 billion for exclusive Thursday Night Football rights, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

This is all about merchandise!  Click the button to buy your hat, jersey, cheerleader outfit, branded snacks and order in game from Doordash or Postmates. The future is endless and how do you think the NFL will feel about all those sales!  Now, Amazon just needs a top quality team in the booth...where is Dandy Don Meredith when you need him!

No kidding.

Last week we took note of a MarketWatch report that Ocado CEO Tim Steiner, who is partnering with Kroger in the building and operation of robotic distribution centers in the US, dismissed Amazon "as a 'very small competitor' in the grocery market, saying its home delivery offering was almost at an 'unnoticeable level'.

One MNB reader responded:

Gee, it’s déjà vu all over again.  What were they saying 25 years ago regarding Walmart????

And finally … last week the Seattle Times reported that U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) challenging a Seattle City Council mandate requiring grocery store workers to be paid $4 an hour in "hazard pay" on top of their usual wages.

In his opinion, the judge wrote, “Given the City’s findings that large grocery businesses have earned record profits during COVID-19 … and that grocery store employees are at significantly heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 … This is a reasonable grounds for the distinctions drawn in the Ordinance."

MNB reader Howard Carr responded:

The judge’s reasoning recited in your article is without precedent, or reasonableness.  While the City Council passed an industry specific mandate, and the judge based a portion of his decision on the fact that the grocery industry made hinge profits during this time frame, then it would only make sense that the law must be applicable to all business categories that had It’s workers deemed essential and continued to operate and made huge profits.  Since this was a Seattle issue, will this apply to Amazon, UPS, and Fedex and all its delivery people who delivered to everyone’s home and were exposed tot he virus?

City councils have shown their propensity to pass ordinances that are based on political concerns rather than reality.  Does this mean all the workers in the meat processing plants, drug stores and restaurants that remained open should receive the same benefit?  This judge issued a ruling based on profits.  Would he have ruled the other way if the grocery operators had lost money?  

From another reader:

Presently our City Council is mulling over a "hazard pay" ordinance brought to them by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union that represents a total of two supermarkets in our area.  Their claims; "record profits" and "this isn't what the supermarket employees signed up for".  (to work in a pandemic) 

What I find most intriguing about all of this is no one is forcing anyone to work in the supermarket industry.  The lack of personal accountability in all of this is astounding.  And that the City Council may see themselves as accountable to resolve these issues without any skin in the game is also astounding.  Turnover in the supermarket industry is fairly high and the pandemic hasn't changed that for us.  We've had over 30 new Team Members come on board during the past year.  They chose to enter the supermarket industry during the pandemic.  And suddenly, if this legislation passes they are going to get hazard pay?  Imagine a future where the workforce seeks out hazardous industries to work in, and then lobbies for additional pay above and beyond what they agreed to upon hire.

This is certainly a hot button topic and I don't mean to make light of it.  But come on folks, we are in America, the land of the free, and if you aren't into your current profession then find something else.    And to their credit, we had several do just that over the course of the past year.  And my hat is off to them.  Because that's personal accountability, a rarity in our day and age.