business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about how the nation's infrastructure is not built for the climate change-related events that we've seen lately, and led me to ask if businesses are any more prepared.  (I am dubious.)

One MNB reader responded:

I’m a Texan by birth, having lived there most of my life.  We’ve resided in Seattle for 2 years now, and I laughed at the recent record Seattle set for most consecutive days over 90 (6 days….seriously).  Seattle weather is fantastic, especially in the summer, and I now welcome the lightly raining days because it means we have water.  People complain about everything, but this Texan will never again complain about the weather in Seattle.

You make me sort of homesick.  I miss the Pacific Northwest.  Desperately.

The other day we reported that "National Retail Federation (NRF) Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said … that "despite two consecutive quarters of decline, the U.S. economy still does not appear to be in a recession and remains unlikely to enter one this year."

I commented:

It seems clear that if/when we go into recession, it is likely to be unlike recessions of the past.  Unemployment remains at records lows, and the pandemic has helped to create simultaneous factors that make the current situation an outlier.

So, we'll see.  A recession could be shallow and short.  Or…it could be something else.

One MNB reader wrote:

Don’t know what world you live in but for those of us involved everyday with normal Americans trying to make a living … we are already in one!!

Sometimes, I suppose, you just have to shoot the messenger.

Walmart said this week that it is unveiling "Walmart Restored, our new program created to help customers discover refurbished products at everyday low prices. In a year when customers are looking for ways to save money, like-new refurbished products have become an increasingly popular way to cut down on costs without sacrificing quality."

I commented:

The other day we had an email from a reader complaining that Walmart had lost its way, that it was trying to do too many things and be all things to all people.  I disagreed with that assessment, and think that this story illustrates that the company is testing a lot of different initiatives, which is a good thing, but has its eye on the ball of serving its core constituency.

For me, the only problem with this idea is that Walmart is guaranteeing the refurbished products and putting its name behind the restoration process - I think it should, but just hope that the process lives up to the expectations.

One MNB reader responded:

I found this interesting, but agree with your assessment.  I did check a couple of prices on some of the tools and found the Walmart refurbished tool,  one was a Ryobi jigsaw, was actually $15.00 more than a new one at Home Depot.  Great idea, but it looks like they still might have some work to do on the pricing.  This is not atypical of Walmart though, as I have dealt with them for almost 30 years, as a supplier and as an associate,  launch and then fix and tune.  Hopefully they get the tuning done sooner than later.

MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:

This makes great sense to me not only for Walmart but other retailers. What happens to all the millions of products ordered and quickly returned these days? Judging from my own experience, most of those are in good order and returned only because they weren’t quite what was expected.

And from MNB reader Steven Ritchey:

I think this is a smart move by Wal Mart, if they do it right.

If they refurbish on the cheap, it may not work so well.  But if say Kitchen Aid Mixers get refurbished by Kitchen Aid, then it may work.

I work with my hands a lot, building things, doing home repair.  I've bought reconditioned power tools for years.  Since I'm not a pro and don't use them every day, I don't need the latest and greatest, along with the price they fetch.  If I do it right, I can get quality, reconditioned tools, reconditioned by the manufacturer for half the price of new.

Speaking of Kitchen Aid, I also cook, though no one is going to call me a "foodie", but, several years ago I bought a reconditioned Kitchen Aid stand mixer, from Kitchen Aid at a great price, and it works great.

So, if they do it right, it could be a good thing, if not, well, it will be like the WM employee that delivered groceries to me when I was sick with Covid and put them right in front of my storm door.  I've not used their delivery since.  It only takes one bad experience.

We've also been having a conversation about retail media networks, which led MNB reader Monte Stowell to observe:

Having worked in both retail and for two large manufacturers for over 56 years, I never will forget a bright Orange day glo sign in the offices of every Safeway store here in the Portland, Oregon stores in the District of Ivan Bowes DM. The time era was the late 1960’s. 

“There is no magic in advertising that will overcome the absence of merchandising at the retail level.” My direct sales force and the brokers that represented our products were always aware of this very basic tenet of selling the products they represented. The basics never go out of style, even today.

On the subject of transaction fees charged by banks and proposed legislation that would regulate them to a greater degree, one MNB reader wrote:

As someone that works for a small 4-store chain, our credit card costs are more than $200,000 a year - basically the profit we used to make. We’re now lucky if we break even. 

These so-called financial institutions can go straight to hell.

But tell us how you really feel…

Regarding the decision by Schwan's to rename its delivery service - I thought it was a dopy name - one MNB reader wrote:

I am sure Yelloh! is a play on words. Yellow for the iconic truck and Hello backwards as a hit against Hello Fresh! Several years ago I worked for Schwan and mentioned that if they would work quickly they could beat the new players on home delivery, they already had the system in place. That was over 10 years ago. Not exactly a fast moving truck. A couple of things could present problems. Their prices aren't competitive, their trucks don't go everywhere. Both could be fixed but it may be too late to change the game.

"Now exactly fast moving" may be the understatement of the year when it comes to Schwan's.

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

I think Walmart’s announcement to eliminate 200 corporate jobs is mostly a signal.  Walmart has 2.3 million associates worldwide and over 14,000 in Bentonville.   200 jobs is about 1.4%.  I would bet the attrition rate would be higher than 1.4%.   It may be a signal that the “great resignation”  is behind us or a signal to ignore the anti-work movement. Or it may be no signal at all and they just felt they have 200 too many people working there.   

And from another reader:

Looks like my friends at Hy-Vee could learn a thing or two from how Wal-Mart handles this process.   At least Wal-Mart doesn’t give a clear impression that their ‘restructuring’ involves pushing these people into retail positions that they aren’t prepared for. 

I got a number of emails reacting my story about the passing of Vin Scully.

MNB reader Lance McMillan wrote:

I once heard Vinnie call a game against the Mets. As he often did when in New York, he told us he had taken in a Broadway Matinee – "The Man of La Mancha."  He then managed to  weave the story of Don Quixote and Sancho through the entire game. Tilting at windmills, the barber wearing the shaving basin on his head, are but a few examples of how he connected the game with a novel written in 1605.

It was a fascinating listen and not the only time he had done it.

“The Great Dodger In The Sky,” (Tommy Lasorda’s invention) is celebrating his arrival today.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I had the distinct honor of meeting Vin Scully in 2007. I took my 9 year old son, Chad, to a ceremony inducting Jackie Robinson into the LA Coliseum Hall of Fame. Vinny was the master of ceremonies and spoke so eloquently honoring Jackie. I approached Vinny after the conclusion of the ceremony and introduced myself and my son. I’ll never forget his kindness and humility during our brief but poignant encounter.

I will be forever thankful for that moment.

From another MNB reader:

It was the summer of 1966. I was a Junior in High School and we were living in Arcadia, California, just 18 miles and 30 minutes from Dodger Stadium. In July and August that year, Sandy Koufax started in 7 home games on a 4-day rotation. He went 5-2 at home during that stretch.

My memory is that I went by myself to see at least 5 of those games. I would take the family car, drive to Chavez Ravine, and buy a general admission ticket to sit in the second level behind home plate. It was a perfect place to see the game and watch Koufax. To hear the play-by-play I took my 6-transistor radio that used a 9v battery and held the radio up to my ear during the entire game to listen to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett (his “second banana”) call the game. I was not alone. So many Dodger fans in the stands were tuned in to Vinnie and Jerry you could hear every word of their game call without having your own radio.

In his final season at age 30, Koufax was 27-9 that year with a 1.73 ERA and 317 SO, winning the Cy Young award. He pitched 27 complete games. A Dodger rally was Maury Wills walking, stealing second, stealing third, and coming home on a sacrifice fly. The Dodgers won 95 games and the pennant that year before falling to Baltimore 4-0. But my most enduring memory of that summer was the voice of Vin Scully echoing through Dodger Stadium as I watched Sandy Koufax pitch his way into history.

In my piece, I took note of something that the LA Times wrote:

"Talking about an opposing player, Scully once said: 'Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. ... Aren’t we all?'

Prompting MNB reader Tim Callahan to write:

Your remembrance of Vin Scully made me laugh and literally shed a tear because “we are all day to day”.  Thanks from a Phillies fan!

My pleasure.