Our door is always open to positive or negative reviews, and we often run letters from industry members who have chosen to participate.
As far as these letters go, our policy is simple: We can run the letters with a signature or we can protect the anonymity of the writer. That is the choice of the industry member who wished to write in.
In all cases, however, the Pundit has to know who wrote the letter.
This is so we can judge its credibility and to ascertain any conflicts of interest which we need to identify. So, if an employee of a retail competitor for Fresh & Easy writes to us about the concept, we can maintain that person’s anonymity, but we would specify that the letter came from someone who works for a competitor.
As the Perishable Pundit is read in over 100 countries around the world and by people working in a wide range of professional capacities, and as our readership grows as we deal with new issues, it is common for us to receive e-mails from people the Pundit has never had the pleasure of meeting — sometimes from people and companies we have never heard of before.
In these circumstances, we typically return an e-mail to the correspondent, explain our anonymity policy and ask their involvement in the trade. Ninety-nine percent of the time the correspondent responds, his or her identity is quickly confirmed and we can use the letter. Fairly often, we start up a continuing dialog and make a new friend.
Yet lately something odd has happened… As we have begun to report more negative experiences with Fresh & Easy, we suddenly started receiving several letters with more positive observations.
Yet something was odd about these letters. They were all from people the Pundit has never heard of, and all of them came from e-mail addresses that are available for free and that enable people to hide their identity, such as Gmail accounts.
Because we deal business-to-business, most of the e-mails we receive come from corporate e-mail systems and we know a lot of people and companies, so it is odd that we don’t know any of these new ones.
Yet the strangest thing is that while almost everyone we respond to typically returns our e-mails, not one of these “positive” e-mail writers answers our e-mails, despite multiple attempts.
We always want to be straight with you, our readers, so we wanted to lay this situation out. We have a bunch of positive letters about Fresh & Easy that we cannot run.
Yet we don’t think it much of a loss. While the letters we have published often involved specific information, such as the number of packages they counted at closing time and how many had to be removed from the shelf because they passed the expire date, these letters we can’t publish have odd claims, such as that they heard a woman shopper saying she loved Fresh & Easy.
We have no way of knowing who is sending these letters but, to us, it looks like someone trying to stuff the ballot box. Could it be an employee of Tesco who wants to slant things one way? Could it be a supplier to Tesco? Could be an organized effort by Tesco to influence our coverage? We have no idea. There is just no way to know.
We would say this, though: Our purpose here is not to hurt any company. Strong organizations welcome criticism as they can incorporate that critique into their own process of continuous improvement.
Many of the letters we have published come from people of such eminence; they would cost an organization such as Tesco many hundreds of thousands of dollars to retain these people. We give Tesco the benefit of their expertise for free.
A number of the letters have suggested that the Pundit has been tough on Tesco because, they believe, he is under the employment of Wal-Mart!
This is not only false, but the very thought must give some of the folks in Bentonville a chuckle — and indicates the letter-writers have not focused on our even more extensive assessment of Wal-Mart.
We want to make clear that our function is to help advance the industry. We do that through an intellectually withering assessment of important industry institutions and events. Everyone is invited to contribute to this cause, and we can all benefit by encouraging the great minds of this industry to focus more intently on opportunities and obstacles that lie ahead for the industry as a whole and for its constituent parts.
Our e-mail inbox is always open and our phone number works. If we disagree, we will do so politely and with intellectual honesty. We invite participation from all.
But we respect this process, and we respect our readership too much to waste precious time with letters sent on e-mail addresses of convenience over the signature of non-existent people who work for non-existent companies.