business news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart announced last week a new program - "Walmart Restored … 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."

One MNB reader responded:

Not sure if you saw this...Not only is Walmart diving into the "like new" sandbox... here are some other premium brands … Lululemon (love the mission on this one!) …. and Allbirds.

Now, I haven't ordered any, but considering these brands are in their own "direct" omnichannel only (no indirect, no Amazon, no third-party discounters for Overstock), this must also make sense for how to handle the return issue of not being able to restock as new. 2 birds, one stone? Solve a problem in a creative way...that's innovation in my book!

Last week we took note of a Business Insider report that "the Federal Trade Commission has deepened an investigation into Amazon's Prime subscription service and whether the e-commerce giant intentionally dupes consumers into signing up for the membership program."

I commented, in part:

I'm neither a lawyer nor an FTC investigator, but I must admit I am having trouble with the idea of people being "duped" into signing up for Prime.  Best I can tell, it all seems pretty transparent to me - this is what you pay, and this is what you get.  For the most part, I've been pretty happy with the exchange of dollars for services … but maybe there is a cadre of people out there being tricked into signing up for something they don't want or need.

But one MNB reader wrote:

You are a long time Prime Member and wouldn’t get the landing page pasted below.  I am a regular user of Amazon, but NOT a Prime Member.  Thought I’d share the graphic below that shows why some people could get “duped” into signing up for Prime.  It shows up EVERY SINGLE TIME I ORDER…What stands out?  “…FREE trial of Prime” in the header and the BIG yellow button (highlighting “FREE” again) showing where to start the process.  You have to look much harder to find where it says “No Thanks” or to see the cost of $14.99/month after your FREE trial. 

I am used to it, and it annoys the hell out of me that I have to navigate thru each time.  If you were new to the site you may get roped into the free offer and then not remember to follow up to cancel if needed.  I almost always choose the free shipping option for my orders and they almost always show up two or three days before the promised delivery date. 

I take your point.  "Duped" still seems strong to me.

Last week we also pointed out an Axios Chicago piece about how "every quarter, Mariano's top bosses travel downtown from their suburban headquarters to listen to pitches from local businesses trying to get on their shelves … Called 'What's Next at Mariano's,' the reality-TV-like event gives about 20 locals roughly 15 minutes each to pitch their product and field questions from a panel of executives."

The goal, the story said, is to identify local businesses that can help the Kroger-owned retailer maintain local street cred, ax well as giving appropriate local vendors the opportunity to take the next step.

One MNB reader responded:

Mariano’s may have gotten the idea from HEB who has been holding a similar competition for quite a few years where they identify local companies to carry products in the stores.  A number of these small companies are now stretching out across the country. Customers love the local products and the companies get the benefit of have HEB market them to customers all over the state.  In fact this year the competition will be in the Dallas area where HEB is just starting to gain traction. 

As in almost all things having to do with food retailing, H-E-B often is first and best.

And finally, another email about the passing of Vin Scully, from MNB reader Howard Schneider:

You and others have noted Vin’s incredible store of literature and his ability to effortlessly weave it into the game, never condescending, in such a way that even if you didn’t get the allusion, you knew what he meant. Once when he was calling a game on radio, three straight grounders were hit to shortstop (I don’t remember the team or the player). He failed to field the first two, then cleanly picked the third and threw to first for the out. Vinnie said, “And like the Ancient Mariner, he stoppeth one in three.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only English major who got a chuckle out of that.