Author Archive

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Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Several times, wordpress has returned incomplete pages. I have temporarily reverted back to the very basic default template

LFPINC and marketing 101

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Ralph Ketner had a plan. He wanted to be someone important in the grocery business. From his first store right next to Catawba College, he launched his grocery empire in 1957. His grocery store was named Food Town. (Ralph Ketner died in 2016 – he was still alive when I was house hunting in Salisbury in 2013).

A friend of my parents really liked Food Town, rather than Winn-Dixie or Harris Teeter. The reason, according to her, was they accepted coupons for everything, whether you bought the product or not. Food Town grew rapidly.

Speeding the growth was that the store gave out free bumper stickers that merely said LFPINC. People would literally wave you over and want to know what that strange thing meant on your bumper sticker. Was it some sort of secret society? Was it some sort of a political message? No, it merely stood for Lowest Food Prices in North Carolina

Mr. Ketner had a partner named Wilson Smith. In 1974, in order to speed up the growth of the business, they were acquired by Ahold, a European based grocery. Ralph continued as the president and public face of Foodtown.

Ralph Ketner had a very close relationship with Catawba College – the Business School is named after him.

I interviewed with Food Town in 1976. At the time, they were doing something that was way ahead of its time. Mr Ketner was fanatical about numbers and efficiency. Food Town acquired barcode readers and had a process of reordering items that were running low by scanning the barcode and downloading the information to an IBM mainframe, back when modems were entirely controlled by AT&T. The only way around that was to use a device called an acoustic coupler, which would transmit the modem sounds over the analog phone lines.

Barcode readers at the register did not yet exist, but Food Town used the sales data to calculate what was the correct amount of space to use for an item, and at what point should it be reordered. This made them very efficient. They were not using the model of renting shelf space to food companies, which could wind up with high margin products that nobody actually wanted to buy. This is basically the same idea that made Walmart so successful.

But This desire to expand ran into a couple problems of not thinking far enough ahead. Foodtown did not own a trademark beyond the state of North Carolina, which meant any attempt to expand into Virginia would run into immediate lawsuits.

So Foodtown ran a contest for its employees to come up with a better name. The signs on their stores were made up of eight letters each in a square block with a single letter. [F][O][O][D] * [T][O][W][N]. The main priority was that the new name needed to not require new signs, and reuse as many of the existing letters as possible. Thus Food Lion was born. The old slogan no longer worked – I remember them temporarily trying to expand it to LFPINC/VA/SC

Spin forward a year and I’m actively interviewing for a job. I get sent to one of the strangest interviews I ever had, but it was through an agency so it was legit. I drove halfway across North Carolina and met a gentleman who worked for Donnelly marketing, the people that used to send out big thick packets of coupons under the name Valpak.

We talked in his car, without ever going to an office. He really enjoyed his job, part of which was detecting coupon fraud. He explained that the coupon business was much more complicated than I would think.

Among other things, they would send out coupons for fictitious products that did not exist, and wait for grocery chains to submit them for reimbursement, then explain how it was they sold a product that did not exist.

A slightly more benign use was to test market a product without actually creating it. Maybe you would put out a coupon for a new variety of Pop-Tarts. If the idea had any merit, the shoppers would go to the grocery store manager and want to know why they were not yet carrying the watermelon flavor Pop-Tarts. That would then filter back to the company that was deciding whether or not they should invest in creating and marketing a new product.

Today, my YouTube trucker buddy Steve, is delivering a trailer full of something from Atlanta to the Food Lion distribution center near Petersburg Virginia, literally in the middle of nowhere in between i-85 and i-95. He is not allowed to say who he works for or who the customers are, but it is very obvious in this case.

Stale FCC data

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

I have not figured out what to make of this yet, but as I started reviewing the radio station data, I realized that the updates have not been happening for many months. The reason is curious.

As a sanity check to prevent problems in the event of a partial download, I do a test to make sure the file that I’ve downloaded from the FCC is approximately the correct size. If not, the update fails and nothing is updated.

For the FM stations, my script was testing to make sure that the download was at least 14 MB of data, but as of today the complete file appears to only be 12.4 MB. I don’t have a clue how 15% of the FM radio station licenses could have vanished.

It is possible there has been a big Purge of low power FM licenses and/or translators. This is also possible that the data for each radio station has shrunk for some reason. It’s getting late and I don’t yet know the answer, but if anybody notices strange things about the FM stations, that is why

K&W cafeterias files for bankruptcy

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

https://www.wfmynews2.com/amp/article/news/local/kw-cafeterias-files-for-chapter-11-bankruptcy/83-00a64abc-0322-4af0-a07c-7ec2867cdbcc

My decision to return to North Carolina had many factors, but the K&W cafeteria was maybe 20% of the reason. Waffle House and Krispy Kreme also mattered.

Since getting married, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go to K&W, or the Golden corral buffet. Going to Vietnamese restaurants to get pho, going to a Chinese restaurant or going to a Greek restaurant to get hummus was what my ex-wife preferred, despite having said that she wanted to be a “good Southern wife”. You can take the woman out of New Jersey, but you can’t take the New Jersey out of the woman. Long time readers have known about my concern of people from New Jersey moving to Charlotte, long before I met my wife.

To be fair, the old man who created K&W died a few years ago, and the second generation is doing the predictable things. They were finding ways to reduce the quality and increase the price. The loyal women who had probably been content to cook macaroni and cheese for 30 years faded away. My sense is they centralized the cooking and the individual cafeterias were just reheating stuff – maybe that is how it always was. So it wasn’t quite as good as it used to be.

Bankruptcy does not necessarily mean they are going out of business, just that some of the units are closing. Usually one of the things that happens in bankruptcy is the company gets out of its long-term leases.

But the bankruptcy process may demand that the company make changes, which usually means increased prices and reduced quality, so my expectation is that in a year or two it will be completely gone.

Getting Caught Up

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

When I turned off the web site, I did not delete the website based on the unlikely idea that civilization could fall apart, and it might be important for people to hear what’s going on in other parts of the country.

So I listened to absolutely no radio since the first of the year, and doing relatively little maintenance since getting married.  I am not optimistic that radio is an effective communication tool anymore, but I’ll give it a listen

I am poking around in this system using my highly secret technique, and trying to see what’s changed in the last year while I wasn’t paying attention.

This thread will be the place where I drop in my observations and you can say I can’t believe you didn’t know that!

 

People on the Internet lie

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/twitter-account-embattled-metoostem-founder-suspended

Herman Cain has died

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

This is kind of old news oh, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Mr. Cain had at least 4 high risk factors for covid-19.   He was over 70 years old, male, black and overweight.   He had previously survived phase 4 colon cancer and metastatic cancer in his liver.   His father had diabetes, although I don’t know if he did.

One sign of trouble was that whoever was doing his Twitter account did not know the difference between a respirator and a ventilator.   Going to the hospital for treatment might have been his biggest mistake.

 

 

Clear Channel, the final chapter

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

https://www.billboard.com/amp/articles/business/radio/9420283/libertys-iheartmedia-doj-speedy-approval

Recognize my face?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

So maybe there is an unintended benefit to wearing a face mask!

 

Barry Farber has died at age 90

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Not everyone is going to know who this is.  Barry was pretty unique.   He knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff.

 

He was a Southerner who would not be intimidated by political correctness.   He did not hate black people – he hated how government policies intended to help minorities were breaking apart traditional bonds of family and community.

Last I was aware, Barry was still on GCN, probably spending his own money to do so.  My sense is he was doing the show from a bed with someone helping him, probably his daughter.

https://radioink.com/2020/05/07/radio-legend-barry-farber-dead/