Jan 12, 2023Liked by Jeremy Appel

I was discussing this guy’s comments about “theft” with someone who has worked for 20+ years in the grocery industry, and a couple of interesting points about the “theft” numbers.

1). When inventory is done (usually quarterly), any “unaccounted for product” goes into an accounting bucket labelled “variance”. Variance is a bit bucket for product that is missing without explanation.

2). Included in that bucket are product that arrives damaged that cannot be refunded for credit, product that ages off the shelf on expiry dates, stuff that gets dropped on the floor, etc. In theory, these companies have procedures for “scanning out” anything that is being disposed of, but not all staff know about those procedures or actually execute them. There are perverse reasons for this, including the way that “shrink” (loss due to aging out product) is measured, and often weaponized against floor staff.

3). When product is accounted for in the “variance” bucket, it is based on full retail ticket price, not the cost at the receiving dock, with no tracking of whether it was on sale, or marked down.

4). Damaged product in theory can be returned for credit, but the processes are often so onerous that the people responsible for them find it easier to let the product disappear into “variance” and just throw it away.

The bucket of things in the “variance” is huge, and the greater proportion of them often being matters associated with internal operations losses. Yet they take this number and represent it in part or whole as “theft”. (And the numbers around “in part” are often arbitrary)

When you are running the operation primarily on casual staff that work way less than 40 hours a week for you, it’s hardly surprising that people take shortcuts on procedures that they deem “too much effort”. Most of those casual workers are holding down 2 or 3 jobs to make “ends meet”. The number of full time staff who understand the operations is very limited.

The employment picture not only engenders a “DGAF” attitude among many workers, but it means that fewer staff have the necessary skills with tasks like ordering, and centralized or automated ordering schemes often mean huge amounts of product shoved at stores where the product won’t actually sell for one reason or another.

So, when you see articles claiming that “theft” is a huge problem, one might be inclined to ask exactly what they are including as “theft” - because there can be a lot of not-really-stolen product in that pile.

Retail theft has always been a problem, but let’s not kid ourselves when executives start braying about it when the level of precision in the data is so low, and frankly the industry has decided that paying people a living wage is no longer necessary. Underpaid workers aren’t going to invest the effort to develop the skills needed, and there are limits to what automation can achieve here.

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Jan 13, 2023Liked by Jeremy Appel

There is a question of what effect recent supply chain disruptions have had on food availability. I don't care about Weston's bottom line but I do care about the real impacts for those of us needing to feed ourselves. It would be fantastic if a well funded researcher like Charlebois could do a deep dive into systemic change in what shows up on the shelves, but of course he won't.

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No question that this needs to be examined. In general, I hypothesize that a big chunk of the supply issues we are seeing in stores is directly connected to the “optimization” of the supply chain towards “Just-In-Time” everything. Stores have reduced their warehouse space to a bare minimum, so there is virtually no supply buffer at the store level; likewise distributor warehouses are built up on a model of having “just enough to meet demand”, and of course producers are similarly “optimizing” to produce exactly as much as needed, and no more. (And they are also subjected to the same “just-in-time” supply chain.

If any one part of that financially optimized supply chain system goes awry, there’s virtually no slack in the system to pick up the resulting slack, and the whole system binds up on itself.

I’m also suspicious that where some retailers went to automated ordering (AI based), that the AI itself has absolutely no way of “understanding” the supply chain thing, and merely sees certain products “not selling any more”, and stops ordering them after a period of time.

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I agree. Part of the frustration is we can't see exactly how this is playing out because private business doesn't have transparency, so all we have is a rough idea based on how just in time delivery operates.

I wonder too about what is going to happen to the Permanent Summer that gives us strawberries and watermelon in January. We might be going back to roots and tubers in a decade, who knows?

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Good work, clearly Charlebois has a rather thin skin. I know he said the $ was for grad students, still you show that he been in Loblaw's corner for quite a while.

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Jan 12, 2023Liked by Jeremy Appel

I’m sure he’s not alone. Turn on any radio or TV and chances are you’ll encounter an “expert” with ties to vested interest or some thinktank monkey spouting PR spin. You can’t get away from it. It’s a nonstop verbal assault on the senses.

Like this guy, popping up everywhere posing an an “misinformation expert” on the side of science.


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It definitely points to a broader issue

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So the problem is people stealing food and not budgeting properly? I read that article and I actually do a lot of the things that are mentioned and I will bet you most working people also do it and still are facing difficulties.

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