business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, we took note of a New York Times story about Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and how, "rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits - some $100 million a year - are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe."

I was impressed.  I'm a big Patagonia fan, and I said that he seemed like "someone who is literally putting his money where his mouth is."

One MNB reader disagreed.  Vociferously.

Kevin, you’re kidding right? This guy is laughing all the way to the bank while rubes like you swoon over his altruism and anti-Capitalism. He is a self-avowed Socialist who found a loophole to bilk the US Treasury out of million in tax dollars and keep it in the family – something a dyed-in-the-wool Capitalist would admire! He’s nothing more than another tax cheat and, instead of being lauded, he should be prosecuted. But he won’t be because he says all the right things about saving the planet and being responsible.

First of all, this may be the first time I've been called a "rube."  Been called a lot of things in my life, but this is a new one.

It was interesting - some of the coverage pointed out the taxes he did pay (which was a lot), and some of the coverage pointed out the taxes he did not have to pay because of the way the deal was structured.

Now, we can argue about the tax code and how it is applied differently to really rich people than it is to the rest of us.  I'm happy to have that conversation (though probably over a stiff drink and not here).  But … you accuse him of bilking the US Treasury and being a tax cheat … when it sounds like, at worst, he is simply following the law and the tax code.  I can take issue with the intricacies and inequities of the tax code but still admire his philosophy about the environment - I'm just happy that the money that he is not paying in taxes (again, entirely legally) seems to be going to causes that generally strike me as honorable.

I'm not sure this makes me a rube - by definition, someone who is "awkward, unsophisticated, and inexperienced."  It actually sounds to me as if we probably agree about the inequity of the tax code but may just disagree about where the money is going.

We reported on Friday about a Chicago Sun Times story saying that the Chicago City Council’s Committee on License and Consumer Protection has approved an ordinance that will enable two-year test of Starship Technologies' "robotic personal delivery devices described as 'beverage coolers on wheels' (that) will soon be delivering more restaurant meals and groceries in and around the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago."

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Living in Modesto, we witnessed the first commercial test of the Starship delivery vehicles at out local SaveMart. Only had a few mishaps/collisions reported  .. however please report back to your readers, when all the test vehicles in Chicago have been stolen, and test ends there.

If and when that happens, I'm happy to report on the decision, and the learnings.

We took note the other day of an Axios report on new research from Bully Pulpit Interactive concluding that "fifty percent of employees are actively looking for new jobs," and that "only 30% of people are excited to tell others where they work."  The reason:  "The story says that "most leave because they don’t feel connected to the company’s mission, values or strategy."

Prompting MNB reader Steve Anvik to write:

Now! If Corp Boards can get out of their own way .. and have honest discussions with their C-suites - around really balancing accountability with opportunity for all employees - they may be able to retain disgruntled hard working long-timers, with real coaching and mentoring of new generations.  Education and a dose of reality, for Boards and C-suites = The biggest training opportunity in business today.

We also had a story the other day about how Kroger said that it is engaged in "a new collaboration that provides financial counseling opportunities for its associates … piloting a new program to expand its work with Goldman Sachs Ayco to support associates seeking to achieve their financial goals."

Very different reactions to this story…

One MNB reader wrote:

Instead of wasting money on a program that store employees won’t use, why don’t they stop cutting hours and culling employees with seniority???

But another MNB reader wrote:

I am curious why you had no comment on the article about Kroger is ramping up financial counseling for their employees. This is a bigger deal than it may first appear. While a lot of companies provide assistance and encourage 401K investing and the like, it seems like Kroger is building on that to provide consultations at no charge which not only teaches employees (blue and white collar) how to build financial security, it empowers responsibility, discipline and self-reliance. Something that is sorely lacking in our public discourse today.  I would have thought that would have warranted some commentary from you. 

I would tend to agree with your assessment, though the other email would suggest that maybe there is some skepticism - to put it mildly - in the ranks.

I didn't comment last week because to me, the story seemed to speak for itself - I like it when companies invest in their employees' futures.

And finally, reacting to Friday's FaceTime, "Burrito Rhapsody," in which I spoke enthusiastically about the breakfast burrito served by a vendor named Enchanted Sun at the Portland State University Saturday Farmers, MNB reader Ray Hrovat wrote:

Greetings, Kevin. Coincidentally, just moved to Portland area (Tigard), so took your advice on a breakfast burrito at Enchanted Sun. The line was long, so I questioned if it would be worth the wait. It was. Thanks!

This makes me happy beyond words.  Next stop - Piazza Italia, in the Pearl District, where the Italian food is fantastic and the Pasta al Tonno is incredible.  And then, check out Willamette Valley Vineyards, which I talk about in today's FaceTime…