business news in context, analysis with attitude

An MNB reader offered this assessment of three stores visited this week in Los Angeles:

We visited 3 very different stores:  Amazon Fresh, Gelson’s and Vallarta.   Vallarta had energy, color, excitement and an amazing service meat counter.   Gelson’s had a great wine bar, beautiful produce, floral and prepared foods departments and unique product.   Both stores were very busy.  The Amazon store was flat, ok prices, and there were a lot of holes on shelves.  Customer traffic was pretty low and I could see why….

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

Just an observation after reading your thoughts about pricing and promotions.

I just came back from shopping at one of the national chain drug accounts.  According to my receipt, my total was $6.06.  When I looked further down the receipt it said that I saved $16.12.  I looked at the receipt two or three times to confirm I was reading the numbers correctly.

I am sure that the chain did NOT lose money on the transaction.  Why can't the prices I paid be the REGULAR low price?  How about the poor consumer who either purchased the same items the week before or did not sign up for the account's awards program. They pay higher prices.

Will EDLP pricing ever come back?  I doubt it!!

I know everyone is getting squeezed with inflation but it would be nice if pricing was more fair for everyone, everyday!

I wrote here yesterday, regarding the possibility that Covid-19- shots may be offered in the fall along with flu shots:

Speaking as someone who is double-vaxxed and double-boosted, I would say that I've been working on the assumption that when I get my flu shot in the fall - and I always get a flu shot, because it seems like the intelligent thing to do, just I've been happy to get vaccines for shingles, pneumonia, and pretty much anything my physician advises me makes sense.  I'm weary of the pandemic just like pretty much everyone else, but what I'm really weary of is getting emails from people who suggest that I (and most of the media) have not been sufficiently skeptical about masking and vaccination strategies and have not questioned the motives of those who push them.  It would be true that I made a decision to trust the vast number of public health officials who I think have been heroic in how they've dealt with the pandemic over the past two years, preventing far more deaths that would've occurred otherwise … though not as effectively as public health officials did in places like Australia.  Cast aspersions all you like.  I'm comfortable with both my personal and professional position on this, and we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

I appreciate you still talking about this in this way.  I’m beyond weary of the pandemic. I still have a 3.5 year old at home with me, while my husband and I work full time.  The older kids are masked all day at school, and change clothes when they get home to protect their sister.  It’s really hard on all of us.  We still don’t have an approved vaccine for her, and you better believe I’ll be signing up the day it’s available. 

The other day we took note of a Newsweek list, generated by BrandSpark International, of the "most trusted grocery stores as voted by American shoppers. BrandSpark surveyed 3200 Americans to capture their real opinions of what grocery store brands they trust the most."

The national top four:  Walmart, Kroger, Aldi, and Meijer.

The northeast top four:  ShopRite, Walmart, Aldi, Stop & Shop.

The midwest top four:  Walmart, Kroger, Aldi, Meijer

The south top four:  Walmart, Publix, Kroger, H-E-B

The west top four:  Walmart, Safeway, Costco, Trader Joe's

I commented:

Forgive me.  This is not to denigrate any of the companies that made the list, but this is just a crock, illustrating the difficulty in ranking and comparing food retailers in such a big country.

Those 3,200 people may feel that way, but the ranking doesn't include some of the best food retailers in the country with the highest degrees of loyalty.  For example, where the hell is Wegmans … a company that, I'd be willing to best, engenders a lot more trust and loyalty in the northeast than any of the retailers mentioned.

Where is Lunds & Byerlys?  Dorothy Lane Market?  Central Market?  Stew Leonard's?  How about WinCo?  Schnucks?  

I give very little credence to any of these lists, which seem dominated by big names with big footprints, and yet seem to have very little nuance or understanding about what food trust really means.

MNB reader Steve Ham wrote:

Agreed.  Do a similar survey of “your most trusted pizza joint/Chinese restaurant/hair stylist”, and it’ll completely overlook local favorites that have only a small base, and instead come back with…. Dominos, PF Changs, and Great Clips.  Not my idea of where I want to go!

MNB reader Robert Dyer chimed in:

I am with you on your comments.  The key is the survey question(s).  Surveys are a lot like the usage of statistics (design and sample size matter) - Trust for lowest prices vs. trust to deliver a good shopping experience.  Or should the question be – Respect for a consistent delivery of an excellent customer experience.

Yesterday we quoted an Axios report that "the Food and Drug Administration is testing designs of a label that food manufacturers could voluntarily put on the front of packages indicating that a product is 'healthy' … The effort is controversial, in part because the meaning of 'healthy' continues to evolve. The FDA itself is in the process of updating its definition, which dates back to 1994."

MNB  reader Andy Casey commented:

You might call this the “full employment for tort lawyers” idea because what is considered healthy for most people is in fact deadly for some with allergies.  And before you say something about common sense (my first thought) let me just say – really?

An utterly fair point.

Responding to yesterday's FaceTime video about a drive-through Starbucks, MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

Having lived near Houston for 20 years I am well aware of its air quality problems. I couldn't help but noticing all those cars idling behind you. Starbucks has an entire page dedicated to all its doing to lower its carbon footprint. I would think moving away from drive-through only post-COVID and getting people back into the stores - which they used to call a "community" way back when - would be more in keeping with its stated environmental goals and values.

Regarding the mass shooting in the Buffalo supermarket, one MNB reader wrote:

Me venting, I know you won’t put this out there, so that is good.   File this under desperate times require desperate measures  -  caught in the act of a mass shooting, with both law enforcement witnesses and general public witnesses -  immediate execution.   No pleading not guilty, no jail time, no becoming a ‘celebrity’.  Brutal?  You bet.  So is taking the lives of so many innocent people, who are just living their lives.   Something dramatic must happen, gun control will not happen nor be the answer anyway.  Thanks.  

First of all, I did put it out there.  You said it.  I suspect there are a bunch of folks who agree with you.

However, the remedy you describe strikes me as very much the behavior of non-democratic, lawless, autocratic countries.  Pretty sure that's not where we want to go … I know it is not where I want to go.

And finally, this email from an MNB reader:

You have to love NY.  First the story on the governess announcing how bad Amazon treats their employees, which BTW she should not even weight in on, since one would think she has far more important issues to tackle like, excessive taxes, outward population migration, wasteful governmental spending, inflation costs, just to name a few.  Then a story on lawsuits against BK and MCD on the size of their burgers!!  Another colossal waste of time and money for the benefit of whom?  We all know whom, the attorneys.  It is no wonder that people are flocking away from NY.  It is a beautiful state, but the leadership and lawmakers are just messed up.  

First of all … "governess"?  Really?  Seems to me that when you describe the governor of New York that way, you betray a bias, and lack of seriousness.  Give me a break.

The governor of the state of New York has every right to weigh in if a she believes that the behavior of a company is negatively impacting the citizens she represents.  Seems to me that she's also been addressing a whole host of other issues, including some of those you mention.  (And she's done it without being a serial sexual harasser like her predecessor.)

As for the lawsuits …. those got filed in New York because that's where the lawyers decided to file them.  Is this a specious, wasteful lawsuit?  Maybe.  Lots of those filed every day, in every state of the union.

As for New York … sure, it has its problems.  Its politics can be screwy.   But it remains New York.  (I was born in Greenwich Village, by the way … and am immensely proud of that fact.) And New York State long has been, and will continue to be, the place where one of the greatest cities of the world is situated … a place that is dynamic and inclusive and vibrant, a place that is home to great businesses, amazing institutions, fabulous restaurants and great culture … and a place that continues to be the center of the universe in a way that wannabes like Texas and Florida and California and every other part of the US never will be.