Company executives also argued that Wal-Mart is seeking solutions to health care issues on a larger scale, beyond just its own employees. They pointed to plans to open more in-store health clinics as a way to provide less expensive basic health care to people who might otherwise go to emergency rooms and deal with much bigger bills. And they said the company's $4 generic prescription drug program, which many other retailers have emulated, makes some basic medications more affordable to low-income people.
But executives also conceded they have good business reasons for wanting to put clinics in stores. Bill Simon, Wal-Mart’s chief operating officer, said the clinics are as profitable, if not more so, than the space they are replacing in the company’s big discount stores.
None of which matters to its detractors, of course. If Wal-Mart provided the same health care that government employees have, they'd criticize it for low pay. If the pay was raised, they'd scream about its selling merchandise supposedly made in Asian sweatshops. Wal-Mart exemplifies big business to these people. They don't want it to improve, they want it to go away.
JetBlue's self-inflicted woes continued into the weekend as it tried to resume business after Wednesday's widely-publicised icestorm debacle. Following the normal airline script, it tried to resume its schedule. But day by day, it fell further and further behind as it tried to stuff its still-stranded passengers onto already full flights.
Continuing flight delays and cancellations led to angry confrontations on Friday night between JetBlue Airways and its passengers, prompting the airline to cancel 266 flights scheduled for the weekend.
JetBlue has been struggling to recover from an ice storm on Wednesday in the eastern United States that stranded hundreds of passengers. The airline, which is the biggest carrier at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, has canceled at least 861 flights since the storm; the 133 flights canceled each day over the weekend represent 23 percent of its schedule, the airline said.
“It was turning from an operational problem to a safety and security problem for our workers,” a JetBlue spokeswoman, Jenny Dervin, said yesterday. “We canceled late departures, upset more customers, met overnight and said, ‘This has just got to stop
And stop it did. The airline shut down all of its small regional jets and put all available crewmembers on its larger Airbus models to clear out as much of the backlog as it could. I think they may have stumbled on the plan for future storms -- but it's not a new idea.
It dates back to 1982 when seven deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to Tylenol. It was speculated that bottles had been tampered with on supermarket shelves but Tylenol's parent company, Johnson and Johnson, didn't take the usual measures of hiring an army of lawyers and denying any responsibility -- it moved quickly to put out the publicity fire.
The Kansas City Times published an article on November 12, 1982, by Rick Atkinson, that was comprised of interviews with top executives at Johnson & Johnson shortly after the Tylenol crisis. James E. Burke, chairman of the board of the corporation at the time of the tamperings, said that the poisonings put everyone at Johnson & Johnson into shock. He did say though, that some of the initial public relations decisions pertaining to this case were easy to make.
Burke said that the decisions to pull advertising for Tylenol, recall all of the bottles from the lots that were laced with cyanide, and send warnings to health professionals, were made with no hesitation. Although it seemed almost impossible that Johnson & Johnson could be held responsible for any of the tamperings, the corporation had a hard decision to make: Should they implement a nationwide recall on the product?
There was a great deal of discussion on recalling Tylenol on a national level. Some executives worried about the panic that could result in the industry over such a wide scale recall. There were arguments over which Tylenol products to pull and arguments over whether recalling 100 million dollars in Tylenol would humor the killer and spur him to poison other products. The executives held off on the huge recall through the first weekend after the deaths.
That Saturday, three of the victims of the poisoned capsules were buried. There was coverage of the burials that night on television. Johnson & Johnson executives wept not only out of grief, but some out of guilt. One top executive said, "it was like lending someone your car and seeing them killed in a traffic accident." That weekend, opposition to the national recall all but vanished and it was announced on Tuesday that 31 million bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules would be pulled off of merchants shelves.
On Thursday, as a final step in this phase of Johnson & Johnson's public relations plan, the company offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that had already been purchased for Tylenol tablets. It was estimated that millions of bottles of Tylenol capsules were in consumers homes at the time. Although this proposition cost Johnson & Johnson millions more dollars, and there may not have been a single drop of cyanide in any of the capsules they replaced, the company made this choice on their own initiative in order to preserve their reputation.
The strategy worked. Tylenol's reputation was rather quickly re-established and the company was widely-praised for its swift and responsible reaction. The "Tylenol Crisis" has become a staple of management courses throughout the world and the airline industry would be wise to study it.
JetBlue needs first, of course, to come up with procedures that will prevent employees from keeping passengers locked up in planes for hours while they wait for take-off. But once that mistake had been made, the company would have been wise to cancel as many flights for the following day as were necessary to get the resources into place to get the stranded passengers out of the airports and on their way.
Yes, people on the cancelled flights would have been inconvenienced and very angry, but they wouldn't have been clustered by the hundreds or thousands in an airport terminal just waiting for the chance to vent to the TV cameras. The incident would have blown over by Friday instead of dragging into the weekend and further sullying the compay's reputation.
I tend to agree with Charlie Brooker about those Apple computer TV ad guys.
So when you see the ads, you think, "PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers." In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.
I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.
Whoa, look at this! Yesterday I poked fun at Consumer Reports for "fibbing" about child car-seats but it turns out that the magazine had hired local Calspan Corp. to conduct their tests. And while Calspan almost certainly didn't lie about them, something was lost in the translation somewhere.
The sainted Consumer Reports has been caught out in a fib. Y'know, all the hysteria about child safety is really getting on my nerves. Why don't we just make it a law that the little tykes have to be sealed in a box and put in the trunk -- punch some holes in the box, of course.
After three fruitless trips to local hardware dealers in search of that ceiling paint that goes on purple, but dries white, ChittahChatta finally gives in.
At this point, we just drove the remaining few miles to Home Depot. We got a good parking spot (their parking lot being enough to keep me away from the store) and strode purposefully to the paint department. We found, without help, the Glidden ceiling paint. We walked to the self-check, waited 30 seconds, swiped, weighed, paid, and walked out. We were back in the car in 5 minutes. The most successful Home Depot trip ever.
After all this driving around, we were pretty hungry and we went to the Burger King drive-through across the street (sort of a protein-of-last-resort choice). When we came to the window to pay and pick up our food, they noticed our dog in the backseat, and a small flurry of excitement ensued. “Is that a dog back there?” “Look at the lovely doggie!” and “Can we give your dog a treat?” We said sure, and they went and got him a piece of bacon, wrapped in a napkin. (and in case he’s reading this, sorry, dog, but you don’t get people food, so you didn’t even know about this).
The local stores were unable to provide us with the product we needed (including something we had previously purchased from them) and they were unpleasant and frustrating to deal with. The big box corporate experiences were efficient, satisfying, and/or surprisingly pleasant and touching.
Buying "local" can be a worthwhile economic strategy -- but only so long as the local guy can provide what you need at a competitive price. The big guys got big for a reason and avoiding them for being big (and non-local) doesn't make sense.
Interesting article about how Ace Hardware has managed spectacular growth even while Lowe's and Home Depot seem to own the hardware market. I was particularly interested in this.
Lighting is brighter, aisles are wider, ceilings are higher and the mix of merchandise has changed as Ace encourages its retailers to cater to a new breed of home improvement shopper, one that now includes 40 percent women in its stores and a declining percentage of do-it-yourselfers.
Much of its trademark red has been removed from store decor, replaced by softer colors such as beige with women in mind. And the high-end Benjamin Moore line and many new colors have been added to its paint section, reflecting that 90 percent of paint colors are picked by women.
Even its longtime slogan has changed to "Ace is the place for the helpful hardware folks," not man, because of the clientele's gender shift. [emphasis mine]
Now, even I am aware of women's importance in retailing, but does changing a hardware store's decor to "softer" colors and replacing "helpful hardware man" with "helpful hardware folks" really draw more distaff business? I won't argue with Ace's success and it's certainly their choice to do as they wish, but I have to wonder if women who need hardware are so easily swayed.
I'd have thought that selection, price and convenience motivated women just as much (if not more) as they motivate men. But then, I've been wrong about women many, many times in the past.