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July 2009
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September 2009

Whole Foods Debacle: A lesson in corporate culture foot in mouth

Whole Foods publishes their "Declaration of Interdependence" on their web site.  Where it says:

Our business is intimately tied to the neighborhood and larger community that we serve and in which we live. The unique character of our stores is a direct reflection of the customers who shop with us. Without their support, both financial and philosophical, Whole Foods Market would not be in business.

 A A caring community focused corporate culture.  Except for the CEO when it comes to health care:

 A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America.

Oops!  There is quite a backlash building because of the inconstancy of what is on the web site and what the CEO says. 

And when you're building a corporate culture you have to be clear and consistent from the bottom to the top of your organization.  Pull a stunt like this and your loyal customers feel betrayed.  

It would have been interesting to see if Wild Oats was still around and how much market share they pick up.  I bet a lot of folks will start doing a lot more shopping at Sunflower Farmers Market.   We'll see.

And as a closing, I'ld hate to be the PR flak spokeswoman Libba Letton at Whole Foods who:

pointed to the grocer's long history in supporting sustainability and organic farming, food and nutritional labeling, and ethical treatment of animals. 

but omits talking about the ethical treatment of people. 

Rent Movies on your NetBook: Get Amazon Unbox player

I got a Toshiba Mini NB205 netbook with a 10" screen and a good 6 hours of battery life.   Which is bigger than those portable DVD players.   I didn't want to carry around an external dvd drive.   I know itunes would rent and play movies, but I wanted a little more variety and easier searching.

I found Amazon's Unbox player.   Good luck finding it, but it is here.  You need a Windows machine.  It looks fantastic on this netbook with the bright screen.

So the day before a long airplane trip, I pick a movie, let it download for an hour and I have 7 days to view it (after starting the movie for the first time).  Works very well.  Pretty painless.

Firefox 3.5x The Crash King

I admit I'm an early adopter and like to try the latest versions of software, but this new version of Firefox is pushing me to use Safari a lot more.   About every other day (especially during print operations), Firefox goes away.  This is beyond crash, it just disappears.  The good news is, when I restart it, it does go back to where it was.

But if I try to print after a crash from that web page?  Poof!

Brick and Mortar Retailers Crumbling Under Their Own Weight

Many believed that traditional retailers who operated from physical storefronts would go the way of the dodo bird when online alternatives like Amazon appeared.  Years have passed, and many of these retailers continue to survive—some, however, despite their own business acumen, or lack thereof.

Recently I was given a CD as a present, one purchased from HMV and one that I very much wanted.  To make a long story very short, the CD I wanted comes in four different flavors with the same CD title, and only one version contains all 13 tracks that I wanted, an Import, not the one I was given.

I called the local HMV to determine the CD’s availability.  Before I could determine their stock, I had to educate the store personnel on what I had learned about the different versions.  They asked how I knew about this, and I responded that I simply went to Amazon for the information.  The HMV system lists the various CDs, but it doesn’t identify the tracks on each CD, I was told.  I actually called two HMV stores, and both had people pull the CD from their floor to read what songs were on the CD.  Not having stock of the Import, they informed me that I would have to special order the CD.  The price was substantially more than Amazon’s, and HMV could not identify when I might receive the CD.

Suddenly it dawned on me, why am I dealing with HMV?  They don’t have inventory, which would allow immediate gratification, buying it now and listening to it almost immediately, they don’t offer the information that I can learn what I might need, and they have higher prices.  So I conveyed this to the HMV employee, and was dumbstruck by his response, “Perhaps, sir, then you should buy your CDs from Amazon.”  Subsequently I wrote HMV Customer Service about this, including their employee’s recommendation to take my business to Amazon, and now two weeks later, I have yet to hear from them.

In retailing there are primarily three business strategies:  lowest price; greatest selection, or; outstanding customer service.  I am trying to determine which strategy HMV has deployed, as I see them failing on all three fronts.  The shame is that HMV had an opportunity to forge a hybrid retail approach, leveraging the best of online world with the best of the brick and mortar world.  Others have done this successfully, but it may be too late for HMV, and while the world passes them by, they may be relegated to a slow demise.

Ryck Marciniak (Guest Blogger)