business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about how Starbucks is going to test three different formats in Seattle, prompting MNB reader Gwen Morrison to write:

New store concepts usually test features that can be migrated or scaled across the majority of  formats. A retro “past” Starbucks might make sense as a one-off in their first market, (along the lines of a retro McDonald's in Chicago featuring the iconic Speedee). The “present," well, is that simply the best of what’s already been done?  The Future is where an investment in innovation will most likely re-imagine the next generation Starbucks. I’d keep my eye on that one.

On another subject, from MNB reader Matt Nitzberg:

Regarding the story on lower rates of coupon usage, I’ve got an additional hypothesis based on my own experience, as well as some encouragement for Retailers and Brand owners.

My additional hypothesis: Due to supply chain disruptions over the past year or so, I found myself at the store with coupons (in hand or in app), only to find the intended product out of stock. I’m assuming this was a broad enough experience for other shoppers that it contributed to reduced coupon usage, despite the fact that the intent to use the coupon was still present.

The broader encouragement is to avoid making big decisions about issuing coupons based on the results of the study. That’s because granular data (for example, loyalty card data) has shown wide variation among shoppers and segments regarding the usage of coupons. Businesses aiming to grow sales, profit, and share should be fully leveraging the best available data to support highly personalized offers for proven coupon users, as well as testing among those who have reduced usage but may be swayed to re-engage as prices and recession concerns rise.

Yesterday we took note of a Reuters report that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, charging that the retailer has "allowed scam artists to use its money transfer services for fraud that cost consumers 'hundreds of millions of dollars' … For years, the FTC said, Walmart policy was to issue payouts even when fraud was suspected and that the retailer failed to take other actions to prevent consumers from being defrauded."

The Reuters story says that the FTC is charging that "Walmart failed to properly train staff to help them prevent consumers from sending money to scammers," and is asking the courts "to order Walmart to return lost funds to consumers and to pay civil penalties."

I commented:

I'll be interested to see how this plays out, if only for educational purposes.  If I am scammed by someone, and I go to Walmart to send the scammer money via MoneyGram and Western Union, I'm not entirely sure how Walmart would know it, prevent it, or be culpable.

I'm not saying that Walmart is blame-free.  I'm just saying that I don't really understand the mechanics of it, and am willing to be enlightened - by both sides.

One MNB reader responded:

As a store manager of a store with Western Union services, the entire staff is trained to recognize the various types of scams and fraud out there.  We take pride in helping our customers understand when a scam may be happening and stopping them from becoming a victim. This can be a very difficult task as the victim is convinced it is real (grandson in jail needs bail money or lottery winnings and need to pay the taxes up front as examples). Do we catch it all?  Probably not but we do our best.  Also, Western Union is a big help and will talk to customers about the potential scam and help them understand.

It takes a bit of due diligence. 

Thanks for enlightening me.

I explained yesterday, when commenting on a Roe v. Wade-0related business story:

Over the past few days, I've covered the overturning of Roe v. Wade from a business perspective, because I think it is a legitimate business story with implications for a lot of companies.  I've gotten a number of emails on the subject that want to engage in a political debate on the subject, including a few that referenced pro-choice people as being in thrall to Satan.  (I am not exaggerating.). I'm not posting those emails, nor am I willing to engage in this debate on MNB … it is a rabbit hole that I'm not going down, because there will be no return.  This is not the place, and so I'm going to do my level best to keep the conversation business-oriented.

By the way, a couple of people have written to me suggesting that if businesses are going to provide money to employees in anti-choice states to travel to pro-choice states to get medical care, they should also provide money to pregnant employees who carry their babies to term.  In fact, I would point out, they do - health care coverage includes pregnancy and maternity care, and usually includes maternity (though not always paternity) leave.  And, if an employee needed a medical procedure and had to travel to get it, insurance almost certainly would cover that, too.

One MNB reader reacted:

A well reasoned and written response and appropriate action on your part. 


I did get some questions about my use of the terms pro-choice/anti-choice, as opposed to pro-life/pro-choice, and I'll explain here what I said in individual emails.

I’m comfortable with the construct, because I’m not sure the implication of pro-choice is fair … there probably are a lot of people who are pro-choice who would argue that they also are pro-life, just not in the way that it is defined in the abortion debate.  I think saying pro choice vs. anti-choice (or no choice, if you’d prefer) is actually more accurate in terms of the politics of the discussion.

I know other people would frame it differently.  This just happened to be my choice.

And finally, yesterday I commented on a mass executive reshuffling at Dollar Tree:

Interesting that "chief rat hunter" is not listed among the jobs being filled, which it ought to be since Dollar Tree had to close a distribution center that was infested.  It was back in March that I wrote, "I don't how management at this company - 'leadership' would be the wrong word to use here - are keeping their jobs."

Maybe they just decided to fumigate the c-suite.

Prompting MNB reader Steve Anvik to write:

LMAO - Maybe the funniest thing you’ve ever written! Thank you for making my day!

My pleasure.  My work here is done.