Drivers for grocery startup Imperfect Foods have voted to unionize, taking organized labor further into on-demand delivery

imperfect foods
  • Northern California drivers at Imperfect Foods have voted to unionize.
  • The grocery startup said it would challenge the results.
  • The election represents a win for unions among delivery workers after recent setbacks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delivery drivers at Imperfect Foods have reportedly won an election to form a union.

Bloomberg first reported on Friday that a group of the grocery delivery startup’s drivers in Northern California had won an election overseen by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Results showed that 28 drivers had voted to unionize while 23 were against it. The union would represent about 80 employees if it materializes, according to the report.

Imperfect Foods got its start in 2015, mainly selling produce that did not meet supermarkets’ cosmetic standards but was still edible. Since then, it has added other kinds of food, such as fresh meats and beauty products. The roster of customers for its weekly grocery deliveries has exploded thanks, in part, to the pandemic.

Imperfect Foods told Insider that it would challenge the union results, saying that the election results “were materially impacted by the inability of certain drivers to timely obtain ballots.” A representative for the United Food & Commercial Workers union told Bloomberg that it “believes in the integrity of the results of the election” and plans to bargain with Imperfect Foods’s management.

Workers at Imperfect told Bloomberg that the union drive began last summer in an effort to fight high healthcare costs and heavy workloads delivering boxes of fresh foods to customers.

The startup is one of several digital grocery marketplaces that has seen sales balloon and fundraising soar over the past year thanks to pandemic-driven demand. As of January, Imperfect alone had raised $239 million, according to Pitchbook.

Other grocery marketplaces include Hungryroot, Thrive Market, and Good Eggs. And a host of delivery-focused startups have also had banner years as consumers looked to avoid in-person shopping, most notably Instacart, which The Information reported last month is planning to go public by the end of 2021.

Unionization efforts at delivery-focused companies have suffered setbacks in recent months. In January, Instacart laid off its only unionized employees as part of a broader move that affected hundreds of positions. This month, a high-profile unionization election at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, failed to get enough votes from workers there.

Companies that rely on gig workers to make deliveries got a boost during last year’s elections when California voters approved Proposition 22. The measure’s passage preserved the independent contractor designation instead of having to classify them as full employees.

Unlike at Instacart or many other startups, the Imperfect Foods delivery workers who voted to unionize are not independent contractors, meaning that they’re entitled to protections under federal law, including organizing rights. Recent job postings for Imperfect drivers in San Francisco, Boston, and the Washington, DC area described full-time positions with pay of between $17 and $22 an hour and benefits like medical and dental insurance.

Do you work at Imperfect Foods or another grocery company and have a story to share? Contact this reporter at abitter@insider.com or by phone, text, or encrypted messaging app Signal at (808) 854-4501 using a non-work phone.

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Here’s the mailbox that could become a focal point in the battle between Amazon and union officials

Amazon Bessemer mailbox
The mailbox stands in front of the Bessemer warehouse.

  • The union behind the failed unionization attempt has argued a warehouse mailbox may have deterred voting.
  • The RWDSU obtained emails between USPS workers showing Amazon had pushed for the mailbox.
  • The union said the mailbox would be a primary piece of evidence in its unfair labor practice charge.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A mailbox outside of Amazon’s Alabama warehouse could become a central focus in the aftermath of a historic union battle at the site.

On Friday, a vote count revealed Amazon workers at the company’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama voted against forming a union, with 70.8% being “no” votes.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued a statement in response to the vote announcing its plans to file an objection and unfair labor practice charge (ULP) against Amazon.

The union highlighted the mailbox when announcing the ULP charge.

“Worst yet, even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union, said in a statement. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”

The day before the vote count the union revealed it had found emails showing Amazon had pushed the US Postal Service to install the mailbox at the warehouse.

The union has argued that the mailbox could be perceived as a way to deter workers from voting in favor of a union. The group has been working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon workers at the Alabama warehouse.

Over the past seven weeks, Amazon workers voted on whether to join the first union in the US that would represent Amazon employees.

“It’s fairly common for there to be unfair labor practice charges at the end of a contentious election like this,” John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in tactics companies use to defeat union drives, previously told Insider. He added that it’s “fairly difficult” to predict how the NLRB will ultimately rule on those charges.

When the mailbox was initially installed in February – just before the voting process began – Amazon reportedly emailed workers telling them to use the mailbox to vote against forming a union.

Amazon has historically acted to prevent unionization at its warehouses. An Insider investigation found Amazon used several anti-union tactics, including posting anti-union signs at its warehouses and holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.

Mailbox Amazon Bessemer
The mailbox outside the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer.

The union has spoken out against the mailbox in the past. The group said the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon would be able to see the votes – a factor that would deter employees voting in favor of a union.

The mailbox was installed after the National Labor Relations Board rejected the company’s request for employees to vote in person at the warehouse. The board opted for mail-in votes instead.

Amazon told Insider the boxes were an effort to allow workers to vote more easily.

“We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. “The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox – which only the USPS had access to – was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”

The USPS also responded to the reports about the emails.

“The box that was installed – a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment – was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told Insider.

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” Amazon said in a statement following the finalized vote. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win-our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

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BJ’s Wholesale president and CEO Lee Delaney dies aged 48

Lee_Delaney BJS Wholesale
Lee Delaney

  • Lee Delaney, President and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club, died Thursday at age 48.
  • He’s presumed to have died of natural causes, the company said.
  • Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 and is remembered as a “brilliant and humble leader,” the company said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lee Delaney, President and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club, died Thursday at age 48 of “presumed natural causes,” the company said Friday.

“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” board chairman Christopher Baldwin said. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his family, especially his wife and two children,”

“We will honor his legacy and remember the extraordinary impact he had on so many. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time,” he continued.

Bob Eddy, executive vice president and chief administrative and financial officer, will serve as interim CEO, and Baldwin has been appointed as executive chairman, the company said.

Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016, and was named president of the wholesale chain in 2019. He earned a degree in computer science and mathematics from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University before joining Deloitte Consulting and Bain & Company.

“Lee’s strategic vision and leadership have been instrumental in transforming BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Baldwin said of Delaney in 2019 when he was promoted to president. “Under Lee’s leadership, the new organization will build on our progress as we continue our transformation, driving long-term, profitable growth. I look forward to continuing to partner with Lee to transform BJ’s Wholesale Club.”

BJ’s Board of Directors plans to announce permanent leadership changes “within a reasonably short timeframe, aided by our prior succession planning,” the company said.

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Costco is reopening its food courts as restrictions loosen and bringing back fan-favorite items

Costco food court
  • Costco is adding seating back to food courts as restrictions are lifted.
  • The food courts pared down offerings during the pandemic.
  • Costco execs say the food court is key to drawing customers in.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Costco has plans to reopen seating in food courts soon, CNN reported.

In March of 2020, Costco closed down seating areas at food courts and cut back menus. Early in the pandemic, members could only buy hot dogs and pizzas to-go. Now, things are finally getting back to normal. Ice cream, smoothies, and churros are back on the menu, and the wholesale chain is adding back tables and chairs to stores with outdoor areas. Indoor seating is also returning as states lift COVID restrictions.

Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti is planning for the food court to be back in business.

“God willing. But it’s going to take some time,” he told CNN.

Read more: Dollar General became a larger safe haven for cost-conscious shoppers during the pandemic. Experts now warn a lacking e-commerce presence may be its undoing in topping big-box rivals, even as it grows store offerings.

Costco’s food court is key to the chain’s strategy of making the in-store experience appealing over e-commerce to members.

“It’s still important to get people physically in the store. I don’t think brick and mortar is going away,” CEO Craig Jelinek told CNBC in December.

The famously inexpensive snacks are part of what draws people in, he says. The $1.50 hot dog and soda combo is particularly iconic, and the price hasn’t changed since the deal launched in 1985. Costco founder Jim Senegal once told Jelinek, “If you raise the [price of the] effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.”

The commitment to keeping the price low has paid off. In the 2019 fiscal year, Costco sold 151 million hot-dog combos for a total of about $226.5 million.

“It’s the mindset that when you think of Costco, you think of the $1.50 hot dog,” Jelinek said. “We have no plans to take that hot dog above a buck fifty,” he told shareholders. “End of story.”

Costco did not respond to a request for comment.

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Amazon reportedly pushed the USPS to install a mailbox outside its Alabama warehouse, a move the union could use to challenge the outcome of the vote

Amazon workers Alabama union
  • Amazon pushed the USPS to install mailbox at one of its warehouses, according to emails obtained by a union.
  • The mailbox could be seen as a tactic to deter workers from voting to unionize.
  • The union could argue to overturn a negative vote result by citing the emails.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon reportedly pushed the US Postal Service to install a mailbox outside of its Bessemer, AL warehouse, according to emails obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request first reported by The Washington Post.

Over the past seven weeks, employees have been voting whether to form the first Amazon union in the US. The emails could have an impact on the union vote at the warehouse after they were obtained by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the Post reports.

The group is working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon employees at the Alabama site, in a historic union battle that could set a precedent for other companies.

More than 3,000 workers cast ballots, according to the union, and hundreds have been challenged, mostly from Amazon. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) began its public count of the votes on Thursday.

The union has issued complaints about the mailbox in the past, as the mailbox was installed in February, not long before the start of the mail-in ballot process at the warehouse.

When the mailbox was set up, Amazon reportedly blasted workers with emails and texts telling them to “vote no” and put their ballots in the on-site mailbox, Vice’s Motherboard reported.

At the time, the union argued the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon itself would directly see the ballots – a move that could deter employees from voting.

Prior to the installation of the mailbox, the NLRB rejected the company’s request for employees to vote in-person at the warehouse. Instead, the organization opted to only allow workers to vote via mail.

The Washington Post reported that if the union loses the vote, the emails – which show Amazon told USPS to get the mailbox up as soon as possible – could potentially be used to challenge the result of the vote, as it could be seen as a tactic to prevent workers from voting.

“We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. “The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox – which only the USPS had access to – was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”

“The box that was installed – a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment- was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told Insider.

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum told The Washington Post that the emails show Amazon felt it was “above the law.”

“They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers,” Appelbaum said.

Amazon has historically acted against unionization at its warehouses, employing tactics ranging from posting anti-union signs at its warehouses to holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Americans’ obsession with staying home hurts vulnerable workers

Amazon Fresh grocery delivery
We cannot grocery deliver our way out of a pandemic.

  • Public messaging in the pandemic has said “we” need to stay at home. 
  • This ignores people who must report to a work site.
  • The elevation of making “good” individual choices in the pandemic needs to end. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I was watching Hulu when I first saw the ad. 

“COVID-19 can spread rapidly,” an upbeat, urgent voice said. “Or we can make choices that help us stay home and stop the spread.” 

The advertisement went on to encourage people to have medication delivered via the startup Capsule, to “help keep our communities safe.” It was an ad targeted to people like me, who had spent the pandemic working from home and binging hours of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The message was clear: the right thing to do to stop the spread of COVID-19 was to stay inside. But, what about the workers who have to travel to a pharmacy, picking up the medicine, and making the deliveries? If staying home means someone else takes on the same risk, is that really safer? Or, does it just shift the risk to someone else, typically to low-income workers

This isn’t a problem that is specific to Capsule. The assumption that “we” can make the choice to stay at home has become inescapable over the past year. It has shaped how the US has responded to the pandemic in ways that ignore, dehumanize, and hurt workers who are already among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. And it needs to stop. 

Food delivery isn’t going to stop the pandemic

Whole Foods
The people most likely to catch COVID-19 in a grocery store are those who spend the most hours in the stores – in other words, workers.

In January, Vox ran an article with the headline: “Still going to the grocery store? With new virus variants spreading, it’s probably time to stop.”

The article is well reported. But the headline ignores the people who are most likely to catch COVID-19 in a grocery store: the workers who cannot decide to simply stop showing up. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) said that at least 138 of its members working in grocery stores have died, and more than 31,200 grocery workers have been infected or exposed to COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, the risk of a customers catching COVID-19 at grocery stores is so low that Dr. Marietta Vazquez, an infectious disease expert at Yale Pediatric Children’s Hospital, told me delivery versus in-person shopping is simply a personal choice, rather than a safety consideration. This is largely because customers spend far less time inside stores than workers, and therefore have less potential for virus exposure.

And ordering delivery does not substantially reduce the number of people in a store, because most services employ personal shoppers that are separate from store workers. Delivery can protect higher-risk individuals, but it isn’t the silver bullet to stop the spread of COVID-19 in a community.

Many workers understand they cannot simply “stay home,” and have asked for protections throughout the pandemic.

Grocery store employees began to ask for masks to wear at work more than a year ago. Many requests were originally denied, with employers citing the CDC’s guidance against masks at the time. In February, Ben Bonnema said he was fired from his job at Trader Joe’s after asking the company to improve air filtration and deploy other solutions to protect workers. As of this week, only 13 states are providing vaccine access for grocery store workers, according to UFCW.

“Every supermarket in the country must increase worker protections, enforce mask wearing in stores, and commit to disclosing when frontline workers have been infected and died,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a recent statement. 

The spread of COVID-19 is not materially impacted by whether people visit grocery stores themselves or pay Instacart shoppers to do so on their behalf. The bigger problem is the lack of protections for the workers themselves. 

Most personal choices aren’t actually solutions

masks airport
Not everyone has the same set of options when it comes to personal choices.

Dr. Vazquez told me that stay-at-home orders assumed that avoiding contact with others was a possibility for entire populations. But, that is not the reality for many people.

“Similarly, recommendations on how to quarantine at home assume individuals live in homes large enough for the symptomatic individual to sleep in a separate bedroom for example and be brought food while staying in the bedroom,” Vazquez said in an email.

“I think that these guidelines, although well intended, leave those with limited financial access to resources behind,” Vazquez continued. 

Zeynep Tufekci, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina known for her reliably prescient pandemic coverage, analyzed similar issues in a recent article.

“Individual responsibility certainly had a large role to play in fighting the pandemic, but many victims had little choice in what happened to them,” Tufekci wrote in The Atlantic. “By disproportionately focusing on individual choices, not only did we hide the real problem, but we failed to do more to provide safe working and living conditions for everyone.” 

Tufekci writes that ineffective “hygiene theater” goes hand-in-hand with a wider theater of personal responsibility. Public messaging reinforces the belief that if an individual does everything “right” – in some cases, having others to take on the risks they avoid – it can halt the spread of COVID-19. 

“There have been very few things we could do at an individual level to reduce our risk beyond wearing masks, distancing, and disinfecting. . . . No wonder there was so much focus on telling others to stay home – even though it’s not a choice available to those who cannot work remotely – and so much scolding of those who dared to socialize or enjoy a moment outdoors,” Tufekci writes. 

Everyone should reduce risk in whatever way they can. But the emphasis on personal choices ignores people who do not have many options when it comes to quarantining. That makes it more difficult to advocate for solutions that can best prevent the spread of COVID-19, whether that be improving ventilation or better sick leave policies. 

As vaccines become more widely available and governments roll back precautions, we cannot allow the theater of personal responsibility to dominate the national discourse. Instead, we need to demand protections for all people – those who can afford to stay home, as well as the people who are actually delivering their meals.  

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Amazon’s push for a $15 minimum wage is a new weapon in the company’s battle against Walmart

Amazon worker
Amazon is lobbying for a $15 minimum wage.

Amazon says that its push for a $15 minimum wage is good business. Experts say it is also a new weapon in the retail giant’s battle against rivals like Walmart. 

The company has been lobbying Congress to raise the federal minimum wage since 2018, when Amazon raised its starting wage to at least $15 per hour.

Following the election of President Joe Biden, Amazon has thrown its support behind the Raise the Wage Act, which would bring the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The company is running ads in support of the new regulation everywhere from The New York Times to podcasts.

“We believe $15 an hour is the minimum anyone in the U.S. should be paid for an hour of labor,” Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, wrote in a blog post in late January. “We also believe it’s good for business.”

Carney writes in the post that Amazon saw applications for hourly positions more than double when it raised its starting wage and that there was an immediate positive impact on worker morale and retention. 

“We were thrilled when several other major companies – including Target, Best Buy, and Costco – also increased wages to at least $15 an hour for their employees,” Carney wrote. “We are hopeful that more follow suit.” 

Experts say that Amazon’s advertising campaign and political lobbying around a federal $15 minimum wage is also a strategy that will disadvantage rivals such as Walmart. 

“Amazon has already implemented a $15 minimum wage so it has little to fear from this becoming a federal minimum,” GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders told Insider. “In fact, it is to Amazon’s commercial advantage if rival retailers also have to pay more – particularly Walmart.” 

An economist explains how Amazon’s push for a $15 minimum wage can be weaponized against Walmart

walmart worker
Walmart’s starting pay is still under $15 per hour.

Michael Farren, an economist at the right-leaning, generally anti-regulation think tank The Mercatus Center, told Insider that Amazon’s efforts lobbying for a higher minimum wage can be better understood through public choice economics. 

“It may sound a little cynical, but it’s probably pretty accurate that Amazon sees this as a tool to help it essentially drive a wedge against competitors – specifically against smaller competitors, but also against Walmart itself, who arguably is Amazon’s largest competitor,” Farren said in a recent interview. 

Farren says that Amazon’s efforts around a $15 minimum wage are an example of regulatory capture, in which a company – consciously or unconsciously – pushes for laws in the interest of regulated businesses, as opposed to general welfare.

In this case, a $15 federal minimum wage would not cost Amazon any extra money, since it already pays employees $15. However, it would cost some rivals, including Walmart, a significant amount to raise all workers’ pay to at least $15 per hour. 

“Essentially anybody in retail that … isn’t paying $15 an hour already is a competitor with Amazon that would be harmed by a federal mandate of $15 an hour,” Farren said. “Given that Amazon has already built this increased cost into their operations and into the amount that they charge for products, then anybody else that has to build that in – it’s going to drive the cost of their products up.” 

“That makes Amazon look better by comparison,” Farren added. 

Lobbying for $15 minimum wage offers “social street cred”

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has spoken out in support of a $15 minimum wage.

Amazon has been quick to criticize Walmart for not paying $15 per hour. But, comparing Walmart’s workers and Amazon’s employees is an indirect juxtaposition. 

Across the industry, warehouse workers traditionally make more than in-store retail workers. As a result, it likely cost Amazon less to increase its workforce’s minimum wage to $15 per hour than it will ultimately cost Walmart, as Amazon has very, very few stores. All Walmart warehouse workers already make at least $15 per hour, a representative for the company told Insider.

“We will raise our starting wage rate over time, and I think our history proves that,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on a call with investors earlier in February, when the company announced raises for 425,000 workers. “Since 2015 from $9 to $10 to $11, we’re up over 50% in our starting wage rate.”

Lobbying for a higher minimum wage also helps Amazon’s reputation at a time in which the company has been criticized for its opposition to workers’ efforts to unionize. 

“Amazon is keen to show that it is treating workers fairly and well,” Saunders said. “The company comes in for a lot of criticism for various things and not all of that criticism is justified. So where it has a worker-friendly policy it is keen to showcase it.” 

“Amazon is acting like a rational economic agent and trying to promote something that is relatively cost-less to it, but gives it social street cred, so to speak,” Farren said. “That gives them social capital than to try to push back on something else that would raise their costs elsewhere.” 

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Here’s what Costco looked like when it opened in 1983 and the annual membership was $25

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Costco is one of the most popular big-box stores in the United States. It’s known for selling everything in bulk from toilet paper to seafood.

Jerry Seinfeld: Look at this can of tuna. 

Narrator: Although the members-only wholesaler first opened in 1983, today’s stores don’t look much different than they did almost 40 years ago.

Before the first Costco warehouse opened, there was Price Club, which opened in 1976.

The first location was in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego, California. At the time, it served only small businesses.

Its executive vice president of merchandising, distribution, and marketing, Jim Sinegal, played a big role in its initial success.

After leaving Price Club, Sinegal and Jeff Brotman worked together to co-found Costco Wholesale, which they basically modeled after Price Club.

The first Costco Wholesale store opened in 1983 in Seattle. Annual club membership was just $25 at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about the same annual fee today.

Stores quickly expanded across the Pacific Northwest. 200,000 people held Costco memberships by the end of 1984 and another year later, the company filed for an IPO. Soon, it became a $1 billion company.

Ten years after the first Costco store opened, Price Club and Costco merged to form PriceCostco.

In 1997, PriceCostco changed its name to Costco Companies, Inc. Today, it goes by Costco Wholesale Corporation – or as most people know it, just Costco.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2019.

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Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other companies’ decision to end partnerships with MyPillow spell ‘pain’ for the controversial pillow brand

my pillow mike lindell
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell waits outside the White House on January 15.

  • Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, and other companies are ending partnerships with MyPillow. 
  • MyPillow CEO says companies cut ties because he is spreading baseless voter fraud theories.
  • Industry experts said this will hurt MyPillow and put pressure on its direct sales business.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Companies’ decisions to cut ties with MyPillow are shaping up to be a significant blow to the controversial pillow company. 

Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s confirmed this week that they are cutting ties with MyPillow. Fintech startup Affirm told Insider it had also cut ties.

According to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, numerous other stores including H-E-B, Kroger, and BJ’s have told him they will no longer sell MyPillow products. (These brands did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.) 

In statements, Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s said that they would no longer sell MyPillow products because of poor sales. Affirm did not provide an explanation for ending the business relationship. 

“As previously announced, we have been rationalizing our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands. This includes the My Pillow product line,” a Bed Bath & Beyond spokesperson said in an email. “Our decisions are data-driven, customer-inspired, and are delivering substantial growth in our key destination categories.”

Lindell, however, said that he was skeptical of companies’ decisions to cut ties soon after news broke he is facing a legal threat from voting-technology company Dominion, linked to his propagation of baseless voter fraud theories. 

Read more: The MyPillow guy says God helped him beat a crack addiction to build a multimillion-dollar empire. Now his religious devotion to Trump threatens to bring it all crashing down.

“It’s 100% cancel culture,” Lindell, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, told Insider in an interview.

“They were afraid of being boycotted by customers because they live in fear of all these attack groups,” Lindell added. “And they’re not their customers. What’s going to happen to them now is that all the real customers are going to be very upset.”

Compachartnies cutting ties ‘will cause some pain’ 

my pillow
While Bed Bath & Beyond said it is ending its partnership with My Pillow, a store in Crofton, Maryland still had pillows in stock this week.

Chris Alleri, the founder of brand consultancy Mulberry & Astor, told Insider that he also believes companies are cutting ties because of Lindell’s insistence on spreading baseless theories that President Joe Biden “stole” the election. However, unlike Lindell, he believes these companies are making the right decision. 

“Lindell is being dropped right and left by legitimate retailers, not because he’s friends with Trump, not because he’s some victim, because he has a big mouth that has been spewing lies,” Alleri said in an email to Insider. “No brand wants to associate with a dumpster fire like that. Advancing a false narrative of a stolen election has consequences.” 

These consequences could have a sizable impact on My Pillows business. Neil Saunders, managing director of analytics firm GlobalData, said sales through retail partnerships have become a “much more significant element of MyPillow’s business.” 

“The loss of these selling channels will cause some pain and will put more pressure on the direct-to-consumer business,” Saunders said. “It’s also the case that distributing through retailers widened the audience for MyPillow beyond the consumers who digest infomercials, so the company will now need to find other ways of reaching these potential customers.”

MyPillow CEO says he is not worried about partnerships ending

mike lindell donald trump
Lindell is a vocal supporter of Trump.

Not all companies are cutting ties. 

Costco said this week it plans to continue to sell MyPillow products. A representative told told SFGate on Thursday that the company has “contractual commitments to MyPillow that we intend to honor, as we seek to do with all of our suppliers. 

Walmart continues to sell a range of MyPillow products, despite the fact that some pillows are being flooded with one-star reviews. 

“If you sleep with this pillow, you might wake up at a fascist like the CEO,” reads one such review. 

Walmart did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

Lindell told Insider that he expects companies that continue to stock MyPillow to see a rise in sales. Further, he said, he anticipates MyPillow’s direct sales to grow in the aftermath of backlash. 

“We’re going to get very busy,” Lindell said. “And those stores are going to lose out because they don’t have the products that people want. It’s sad for them that they bowed down to these left-wing groups that – all they do is attack.” 

Alleri is skeptical of Lindell’s confidence. 

“Maybe some of Trump’s deranged diehards might want to buy his products, that’s not enough to build a legitimate brand with staying power,” Alleri said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Costco CEO says $1.50 hot dogs and $4.99 rotisserie chickens aren’t going away – the in-store experience is still a priority as other retailers pivot to e-commerce

FILE PHOTO: Customers queue to enter a Costco Wholesalers in Chingford, Britain March 15, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
Customers queue to enter a Costco Wholesalers in Chingford, Britain

  • Costco’s CEO said that the retail giant’s brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay.
  • “It’s still important to get people physically in the store. I don’t think brick and mortar is going away,” said Craig Jelinek on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Monday.
  • Meanwhile, competitors like Walmart and Target have expanded curbside pick-up options since the outset of the pandemic, and food-delivery services have turned to “ghost kitchens” in a pivot away from brick-and-mortar. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As retailers across the country pivot to e-commerce, Costco’s CEO says the in-store experience is here to stay. 

“It’s still important to get people physically in the store. I don’t think brick and mortar is going away,” the CEO said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Monday.

The comments come at a time when retailers across the country are turning to e-commerce and curbside pickup to court COVID-conscious customers. Walmart and Target both expanded their curbside pickup options since March, and restuarants have turned to “ghost kitchens,” which exclusively produce food for delivery, amid health concerns. 

Meanwhile, Costco saw e-commerce sales increase from 5% last year to 9% this year, but still remains  “stubborn on digital,” Business Insider previously reported.  Its pickup options are limited to expensive goods like jewelry, with few plans to expand in the coming months. And in-store traffic has actually grown, with traffic up 6% in October.

Traditionally, Costco has focused on pulling customers into stores with offers like $4.99 rotisserie chickens and its $1.50 hot dog and drink combo, which has cost the same since 1985. Free food samples, which the store temporarily suspended due to the pandemic but now is bringing back on a “slow rollout basis,” are also a customer favorite and a key part of the in-store experience. 

Read more: Costco’s earnings came in better than expected. From $4 million to $8 million, here’s how the retail giant pays its executives.

Early in the pandemic, Costco executives worried that people would be reticent to visit the store in person, and they would discontinue their Costco membership, Jelinek said on Monday.

“You pay to shop at Costco. Are you going to be able to continue to renew at the same rates?” Jelinek said. 

But despite initial concerns about customers staying home, Jelinek said that customers were as loyal as ever, with a renewal rate of about 91%, he said. 

“There’s no better way to do it than a $1.50 hot dog and a rotisserie chicken,” he added.  

Watch the complete interview on CNBC

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