business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week we took note of a Wall Street Journal report about how "the tight labor market is hampering new restaurant and supermarket openings, putting a potential check on growth in a food industry that is being reshaped by the pandemic.  'Many food sellers are adding stores to capitalize on high consumer spending as Americans emerge from a year spent largely at home. But grocers and restaurants say they are struggling to hire all the workers they want for these stores. They are adding perks and bonuses to entice job seekers and in some cases delaying openings'."

I commented, in part, that at least some of the employees not going back to work "are the same employees called 'essential' not too long ago.  It may be that they are demonstrating exactly how essential they really are."

One MNB reader wrote:

This whole "essential worker" movement is a farce. I am/was considered an essential worker because I work the frontlines in retail.  I've been doing it for nearly four decades.  We were considered essential for basically two months when we got a pay bump.  After that, it was "thanks, but the company will go bankrupt if we keep appreciating you".  Say goodbye to the pay bump, and, yet, CEO's were paid a kings ransom for a job well done.  Now companies have boosted starting pay for new employees and the rest of us who have been here all along get nothing extra … By the time I retire in the next few years, I'll have gone full circle back down to minimum wage.

In my commentary, I wrote:

Retail executives like to say that we'd all be better off if increases in the minimum wage were left to the demands of the marketplace as opposed to being determined by legislative action.  In some ways, that's what happening now … though not entirely, since the extended unemployment benefits are an act of government that are having an impact on the employment situation.

That said, we've just gone through a year in which the pandemic had a tectonic impact on the lives and careers of almost everybody.  It may take some time for things to regain a sense of balance.

That said, it may be that in some cases, some workers are feeling a little betrayed by the companies where they worked.

Fast Company has a story based on a preliminary report from the Economic Policy Institute, which each year reports on CEO compensation trends based on data from the 350 largest firms:

"At the start of the pandemic, some CEOs announced, to much fanfare, that they’d give up their salaries in order to protect their companies from layoffs or closures. But those gestures did little to curb the trend of soaring CEO earnings (because salary is often just one component of CEO compensation). In 2020, what CEOs took home rose nearly 16%, according to preliminary data, while the average worker’s compensation rose just 1.8%."

It may be that some employees are looking at that disparity and are wondering why they're being demonized by looking out for themselves and their families."

One MNB reader wrote:

I find this type of rhetoric somewhat disturbing.  The issue I see here is that people are trying to tell other people that they make too much money and must share it.  Well, my answer is a resounding NO.  No one has the right to tell anyone that they make too much or enough.  The individual is the only one that can make that determination for themselves.  The individual has their own drive to fulfill their needs and wants.  So, to all those that don’t agree I say, “ Hey, I think you make too much and need to reduce your income, so I’m going to do that for you”.  Don’t worry I’ll figure out how much and let you know.  You’re welcome.

We also had a story last week about how a number of companies are tying executive compensation to specific goals related to diversity and inclusiveness.

I commented:

This isn't just political correctness.  In the end, investors and boards of directors are interested in return on investment, and as one expert tells the Journal, "there’s a growing body of evidence that shows that companies that have diverse teams outperform companies that are not diverse, whether they’re looking at operating performance or financial performance or innovation."  Which makes total sense.

Not everyone agreed.

One MNB reader wrote:

Seriously!  Now Executives are going to get incentive pay for hiring minorities?!? 

Come on now!  Where does this end?  Talk about discrimination!! 

How about “Executives/Managers are retrained to hire the most qualified candidates?

I spent 34 years in CPG Sales Management. I also did interviews and hiring. I’ve seen things change dramatically over the years. Some of those changes did lead to more diversity. However, eventually it led to reverse discrimination. HR would insist on hiring minorities and women over White Males. This was blatant!  So, what started out as becoming more diverse, ended up with reverse prejudice. I would suggest that good intentions have become excuses for hiring and even worse, promoting less skilled and at times incompetent people over more qualified ones in the name of “Diversity”. 

In my humble opinion, it has defeated its purpose. 

But, what do I know?  I only spent 34 years in Major Fortune 100 CPG’s Company, and 45 years in the business world. I’m just a old retired White Man.

Regarding Target's promotional plans, one MNB reader wrote:

I saw the news on Target Deal Days and meant to email you earlier about my experience using the Target website a few weeks ago.

I had some gift cards from Christmas, so I loaded them on the website and figured I would use them at a later date.

So a few weeks ago I had to get some shoe in-soles and a few other small things... needless to say my bill came to like $28 and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to ship it.  The website wouldn’t let you ship anything under $35- you couldn’t even pay extra for it!

So then I had to try to find some small item for like $6 or $7 bucks- I figured oh I’ll get some mints I like…nope couldn’t do that- some of those are only in-store and can’t be shipped and some are out of stock, so finally I found some massive bag of minty gum they would ship.  When I got to the checkout you could ship the items together and save some money- so I said sure why not- I’m not in a rush for these.   And I ordered on a Thursday…my items didn’t arrive at my house till almost a week later (the next Thursday) and arrived separately.   It was a horrible user experience.  I’ll stick with Amazon.  There’s no online sale Target could run at this point to get me to use that website again.   

We had a story the other day about how Weis Markets announced that "it will offer free virtual cooking classes for preschool- and elementary-aged children and adults throughout the summer.

One MNB reader wrote:

This is an excellent opportunity for retailers to market the “ better for you “ options to the up-and-coming consumer.  Focus and advertising in this direction would provide more immediate results and create a greater sustainable direction.

And, reacting to what we said last week about how Denver-based retailer Tony's Market communicated with its shoppers about any potential impact of a ransomware attack on JBS, the world's largest meat processing company, one MNB reader wrote:

Agreed. Wholeheartedly. More retailers should take this approach yet the bureaucracy often gets in the way of fast, transparent responses.