I'll Reward These Companies for Helping Us Through Sandy
But it should. Here at the Jersey Shore, we are noting a handful -- just a handful -- of stores that made a supreme effort to reopen despite a loss of power. Their mission was not to make a profit or to drive up their stock price but to deliver much-needed supplies to those of us imperiled by the storm.
Mind you, any company will fail if it puts all its efforts into saving people. Lose sight of the bottom line and you won't be doing anybody any good -- not investors, not customers, not the beleaguered nor the unaffected. No one.
Likewise, a company that turns its back on its customers during a crisis isn't going to have many customers for long. They're going to suffer, and they should.
Within the constraint of having to turn a profit, though, each company is faced with choices. How do we manage supply lines in the face of a crisis? How many hours do we remain open? How do we mark prices on products that everybody needs?
As investors and customers, we need to be aware of the choices those companies make and reward those that choose wisely, and punish those that don't. For profit's sake, for the sake of our communities and for the sake of our own moral foundations.
Two stores have impressed me over past couple of days: Target (TGT) and the privately held Wegman's. While most stores around here are still shuttered, both reopened quickly and have organized to try to get supplies into the hands of customers. Both were running critical functions on generators.
In my location (near Asbury Park, N.J.) on Wednesday, we found plenty of staff on hand at Target and prices of many necessary items -- basic food stuff, toilet paper, water -- had been cut, in some cases as much as 50%. All of the perishable goods, in the refrigerators of its supermarket section, were cordoned off with police tape and some items were out of stock, but shopping carts were full and customers on the whole seemed pleased.
Wegmans organized lines for in-demand items and limited the number of packages of batteries and bags of ice customers could buy. The store was mobbed but the mood was polite. (I heard secondhand accounts of people stealing power from the store's generators to charge their cellphones and computers -- if true, a sad testament to selfishness).
Both stores have been notable in my book for years because the employees are always nice. They seem happy to work there and that satisfaction translates into the way customers are treated.