Readers Report

Tips for Xtreme Retailers: Fix the Basics First

Here are some ideas that would constitute ''Xtreme Retailing'' (Cover Story, Dec. 20) for the brick-and-mortar guys:

Don't make people wait to check out.

Stay in stock on items you're supposed to have.

Train salespeople to know the merchandise and be helpful and friendly.

If you have shopping carts, make sure they have four round wheels.

Brad Leland
Newton, Mass.

May I suggest that if brick-and-mortar stores returned to basics, offering such features as adequate customer service and sales personnel, they would be better able to compete with the Internet. One has only to go to a megastore such as Circuit City Stores or The Good Guys Inc. and try to buy a piece of equipment in a reasonable time to become an advocate of e-commerce. Until the large stores start staffing adequate personnel, trained in their own computer systems as well as their products, they will steadily lose business to the Internet.

Glen Kaner
Las Vegas

What Kids Want More Than a New Car

Supporting women who choose to start and grow a business is terrific. But ''Mommy, do you love your company more than me?'' (Working Life, Dec. 20) suggests that their young children wholeheartedly agree to the neglect that often comes with a consuming career. To suggest that a 4-year-old is clamoring for a bigger house and private-school tuition is irresponsible.

As a nation, our children should come first, but all too often they don't. We soothe our collective conscience by telling ourselves that the children are the ones who want a summer house and a new car every year. But kids' ability to be loved and love others, their moral development and intellectual growth have nothing to do with

living in a big home in the ''right'' part of town. It has to do with having parents who are involved in real and intimate ways with their everyday life and learning.

Until we stop lying to ourselves about what our children really want, we will destroy the spiritual and moral fiber of the next generation of businesspeople. No amount of success can make up for an abandoned, unhappy soul.

Catherine Korpolinski
Richardson, Tex.

Begging to Differ with a Book's Review

I appreciated Paul Raeburn's review of my book Intelligence Reframed (''The brain's many mansions,'' Books, Dec. 20). But I am mystified by his implication that I do not address criticisms of the theory of multiple intelligences. In addition to passages throughout the book, I devote Chapter 6 wholly to a discussion of seven ''Myths and Realities about Multiple Intelligences'' and Chapter 7 wholly to a discussion of 18 ''Issues and Answers Regarding Multiple Intelligences.'' Indeed, I attempted to address every reasonable criticism of the theory I have encountered; what I did not do was to pen a section called ''Response to My Critics.''

Howard Gardner
Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

The Airbus Deal Earned Profits without Subsidies

It should be made very clear: Airbus Industrie's recent A318 deal with Trans World Airlines Inc. was profitable (''Long odds on a short-haul jet,'' The Corporation, Dec. 13). We are financially pleased with the deal. While the issue of price is becoming the excuse du jour for our competitor, airlines are choosing the A318 for superior values. Contrary to the implications that price leads, it ranks well behind an attractive combination of efficiency, versatility, passenger appeal, and residual value.

Secondly, there are no ''low-interest government loans'' used in the development of the A318. As with the A319 and A321, development costs were covered by funds generated internally by Airbus Industrie.

David C. Venz
Vice-President, Communications
Airbus Industrie of
North America Inc.
Herndon, Va.

Idaho Farmers Aren't Through with the WTO

Regarding ''Whose world is it, anyway?'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Dec. 20), America's family ranchers and farmers, along with their allies in organized labor, brought a simple message to the table: We support trade but not the World Trade Organization.

The WTO has had five years to deliver, and it has failed. U.S. trade deficits are up, AG-commodity prices are in the toilet, and U.S. median wages are 4% lower than they were in 1973. If the WTO's version of free trade works, at least one of these ought to have improved.

But this example should not distract the thoughtful from the deeper message our people also carried with them. Here in America's Third-World annex, Idaho's colonial economy continues to pay for what those in the entrepots love to call ''free trade.'' While Tory politicians here suck up to ConAgra, IBP, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, etc., a grassroots AG revolution is brewing. Today, the Tories carp at the colonials the same way they did in 1776. And the militant patriots are a minority now as then. But the issue at stake remains the same: the right of the people to oversee and control their own economic destiny.

Democratic oversight of economic and social activities always seems messy and dangerous to those who benefit from an elitist status quo. Our members went to Seattle and stood on the capitol steps here in Boise to uphold the American dream.

Mark Datema Lipscomb
Idaho Rural Council
Boise, Idaho

Seattle: A Push for Old Ideals, or New Ignorance?

Robert Kuttner's ''The Seattle protesters got it right'' (Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 20) was a reminder of the ideals this nation was founded on. However, the sad fact is that the U.S. engineered the WTO attitude ourselves by a wanton disregard for our own politics.

Jimmy Carter and George Bush are two wonderful cases in point: We broadcast to politicians that we don't really care about injustice, suppression of human rights, or even genocide as long as we have a good economy. If it's lousy, you'll get removed by a voting minority; if it's great, you can stay in office.

We are all too clear in the messages we send to the men who would be kings. I hope Mr. Kuttner continues his message to vote the measured, better part of our natures.

David Murphy
Fort Worth, Tex.

It is troublesome when American intellectuals presume to know what is best for areas of the world far removed from our shores. Robert Kuttner's comment that ''the struggle of a decent, democratic, and humane now being undermined by trade'' would certainly come as a shock to millions of Chinese who are beginning to enjoy a lifestyle we have taken for granted for generations. It would also come as a surprise to the nearly 1 million new Mexicans being employed yearly, thanks in part to the North American Free Trade Agreement. On the other hand, one of the best remaining examples of a country blissfully immune to global capital flows is Cuba.

History suggests that Robert Kuttner has it backwards: Creating wealth is almost always a precursor to a more open, liberal society, while restricting economic freedom almost always goes hand in hand with political repression.

Bruce C. Lueck

The Link Between Democracy and Wages

''Labor standards: Try a little democracy'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Dec. 13) went a long way toward recognizing the real lesson of Seattle, and BUSINESS WEEK is to be congratulated for giving it ink. People everywhere understand that democracy and political power provide the leverage for social and economic justice. It is curious why it took someone at Harvard a century to prove this.

Alan MacDonald
Sandford, Me.

Let's Not Panic over Genetically Altered Foods

''The 'Frankenfood' monster stalks Capitol Hill'' (Washington Outlook, Dec. 13) should give the Food & Drug Administration and Congress a little deja vu. This situation should remind us of the silicon-implant fiasco, in which sham science and well-meaning consumer advocates influenced the FDA and legislators, resulting in a barrage of lawsuits and the bankruptcy of Dow Corning.

While it's reasonable to be concerned about the risks of genetically manipulated food, the current frenzy, fueled by Greenpeace International and other environmental groups, is another ploy that plays on perception, not facts.

New science and technology are always fraught with new risks and concerns. Predictably, the new risks are often feared out of ignorance. This is why we have an FDA. The FDA has analyzed the risks of genetically modified food and has deemed these foods safe. Surprisingly, environmentalists don't mention much about how the use of GM seeds reduces the use of pesticides, which have known, serious health risks.

One hopes that farmers, food distributors, grocery stores, and consumers alike will resist the ranting of the anti- technology zealots and allow facts to dictate their choices.

Brian J. Cox
Aliso Viejo, Calif.

A Dynamo Called California

Regarding ''Vying for the fast track'' (Economic Trends, Dec. 20): If Colorado, Utah, and Massachusetts each are graded ''A'' in business vitality and development capacity, where is California? It has to be totally off the charts.

When you combine the report in ''Hope for kids of immigrants'' (''Economic Trends, Dec. 20), which concludes that immigrants and their children achieve more than native-born Americans, California has to be not only the No. 1 location in this country for economic development today but also for the next generation. We did it for the Okies in the '30s. We did it for the vets in the late '40s and '50s. And we are doing it for the world in the '90s.

Lee Dribin
Los Angeles

Software Will Improve When Consumers Get Mad

Kudos--an excellent job with ''Software Hell'' (Special Report, Dec. 6). It will take a change in the behavior of business consumers of software to bring about much-needed change in its quality and design. But behavioral changes are driven by intellectual changes, and pieces like yours provide the education needed to create a market of more discriminating, longer-term, value-oriented software consumers.

Good to see you raising the excessive-complexity issues, too. Poor quality and excess complexity are two of the key causes of the high-tech workforce shortage--we waste too much precious high-tech labor fixing, patching, connecting, and trouble-shooting problems that could be prevented in the first place. Only when consumers put their feet down and say ''enough of this junk'' will the behavior of software manufacturers change.

Leon A. Kappelman
Associate Professor, Business
Computer Information Systems
University of North Texas
Denton, Tex.

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Tips for Xtreme Retailers: Fix the Basics First

What Kids Want More Than a New Car

Begging to Differ with a Book's Review

The Airbus Deal Earned Profits without Subsidies

Idaho Farmers Aren't Through with the WTO

Seattle: A Push for Old Ideals, or New Ignorance?

The Link Between Democracy and Wages

Let's Not Panic over Genetically Altered Foods

A Dynamo Called California

Software Will Improve When Consumers Get Mad

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