The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

A Company Handling Crisis Communication Correctly

So, in Canada, the biggest grocery chain is Loblaws. They also own the largest chain of drug stores, Shopper’s Drug Mart (which they should never have been allowed to buy). Loblaws is about as upscale as the mass market goes, above it is Whole Foods (which doesn’t have a lot of Canadian stores), and some specialty supermarkets.

I shop quite a bit at Loblaws because it’s near me. It’s slightly highly priced, though you can get some cheap stuff if you shop carefully and take advantage of their specials. Some years back, they were part of a cartel fixing bread prices. At least in my local stores, the employees tend to be sullen, which is a reflection on the stores and Loblaws, not the employees. The rare exceptions are usually middle aged or older part-time workers who have the strength of personality to remain cheerful despite the store atmosphere.

All that background aside, and understanding that there’s a lot I don’t like about Loblaws, I haven’t seen better corporate communication, or heck, government communication than what I’ve received from Loblaws (since I have their points card). It’s reassuring, clear, and matter-of-fact. I’m going to put it below, because I want people to see what good comms and crisis management looks like.

Hi Everyone,

Things continue to move fast and change quickly.

Earlier today the Canadian Government announced they are restricting our international borders to limit the impact of COVID-19. As each of us try to understand how that will affect our daily lives, our friends, and our families, I wanted to reach out again.

Those who went shopping recently will have seen extraordinary numbers of people in stores, long lines, and aisles empty of product. This was a result of extreme levels of buying as millions of Canadians stocked up their kitchens and medicine cabinets. I’m sure the many photos of bare shelves on social media only increased your level of concern.

First and foremost. Do not worry. We are not running out of food or essential supplies. Our supply chain and store teams are responding to the spikes in volume and quickly getting the most important items back on the shelf. Volumes are already normalizing somewhat, and we are catching up. There are a few items, like hand sanitizer, that may take longer to get back, but otherwise we are in good shape.

Another concern you may have is that your supermarket or drugstore could raise prices on the items you and your family need most. Do not worry. This will not happen at our stores. We will not raise a single price on any item to take advantage of COVID-19.

Some of you may also be worried that your local Shoppers Drug Mart or supermarket could close as part of shutting down certain stores and services. Do not worry. We have been in contact with both Provincial and Federal governments. We all agree that food and drug stores are essential services and we must do what we need to in order to keep them operating and serving every community in the days and weeks ahead.

It won’t be business as usual. But, you will be able to count on us. Our teams from across the country, at stores in every community, have been hard at work around the clock to live up to that commitment.

Please keep in mind our service relies on keeping them, and in turn you, safe and healthy. That is our top priority, and it may mean limiting the number of people in our stores at any given time as well as asking customers to keep a certain distance from each other while shopping to reduce the risk of making one another sick.

We are prepared for this, and to support those most in need, we are opening some of our stores early with dedicated hours for seniors and people living with disabilities to come before the crowds. We are also encouraging those customers who cannot shop our stores to take advantage of our e-prescribing and PC Express options like click-and-collect and home delivery. Last week we lowered delivery prices and eliminated pick up fees and, just like in our stores, we’ve seen a spike in volume.

We are managing the rising number of orders and ramping up our systems as quickly as we can so customers can shop online with confidence. However, it will be difficult for us to meet all the additional demand, possibly limiting availability for people who are sick, in self-isolation, or at elevated risk. So, I would ask that if you are healthy, mobile, and symptom-free, please do your best to make it into the store.

All of us will face uncertainty and new challenges over the coming days. Our stores and our services will be far from perfect. But, we will do everything in our power to make sure you have what you need for yourselves and your families.

As we have more updates we will continue to communicate, online, in-store, and through our PC Optimum app.

For now, let me leave you with four things:

  1. We have the food, drugs, and essential products you need and that supply will continue even as Canada restricts its borders.
  2. We are going to make sure our stores stay up and running to serve your community.
  3. We will not, under any circumstance, change our actions or prices to take advantage of COVID-19.
  4. Please be patient with us when you are shopping, and don’t forget to practice social distancing.

Over the last few days, it has been remarkable to witness Canadians supporting one another in our aisles: Bags carried to cars. Crowds parting so young moms could check out. Cheers for speedy cashiers. Customers helping stock shelves.

One example in particular stood out. A few days ago, someone stuck a handmade sign to the front of a store. It reads “Be kind”. This is great encouragement to cap off perhaps one of the most-tense weeks of our 100 years running stores, and to help all of us prepare for what is next.

Be kind to each other. We will get through it.

Galen Weston

Again, I don’t much like Loblaws management, but this is sterling communications and action and shows calm and good will. One can be cynical, but whatever the motives, this is how it’s done.

(Also, why the hell do people keep buying all the fresh meat? Does everyone have a huge freezer? I don’t get it.)

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


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  1. anon y'mouse

    aside from freezers, i would imagine that there’s a bit of stress eating, a bit of full households, and a bit of not having had the time to cook properly before.

    so, a lot of people on hand and “mom” with time on her hands. possibly some cooking food and taking it to shut-ins and elderly, too. one hopes!

    how are you keeping, Ian?

  2. Dan Lynch

    ‘Fess up, Ian, you put the “Be Kind” sign in front of the store, didn’t you?

  3. StewartM

    My company now has implemented work from home programs where applicable, and where someone has to be there physically on site, has started having some of that go in to the physical space while keeping others working from home–then switching those groups periodically–all the while keeping everyone paid. We’ve also locked us down by buildings and divisions, minimizing travel even within the site. We’re also discouraged from off-hours socializing in-person with other people outside our work teams/divisions/buildings, etc. Anyone who feels any cold- or flu-like symptoms at all is to call our medical department and is stay at home (and if not serious, can work from home).

    So far this seems like a relatively humane and good strategy. Of course, you worry how long can it be kept up.

  4. Hugh

    Someone I know saw people buying multiple large packs of toilet paper and paper towels and then a couple of days later saw a line of people returning them because they needed the money for rent etc.

  5. anon

    I don’t have a large freezer, otherwise, I probably would have stocked up more on meat and seafood as well. My guess is that people value meat greatly in favoring their meals, and in the worst case scenario, people believe that meat production may dry up or be hard to find. It makes more sense to me to stock up on meat and other types of food that can be frozen than toilet paper.

    I have not seen a corporate response like this from any of the corporations that have me on their email list. The worst corporation in Canada is probably more efficient than many well-respected corporations in the USA.

  6. Stirling S Newberry

    I used to shop at Loblaws but they were a bit vicious. A&P was better at the time. But management was good. CO/NCO problem – which accords with Ian’s experience with them.

  7. Stirling S Newberry

    “See You on the Other Side”

    “See you on the other side.” He said, with a trace of tired. A hand reached out from a white button shirt to shake mine. No young man would wear a shirt like that, far too proper and prim. Far too many holes to had been darned.
    Of course, in a movie, there would be subtle hints of a world through the looking glass – from the old and roughened noir main to the aged movie sign that clung to the wall. Nowhere would do it that way now – from the bent lines that clung akimbo to the rough bricks on the wall, to the lines on white that we placed the letters on. Everything was ancient but in the same sepia way. An image of a picture on the small Main St. USA, lost in some world not named New York City or Chicago. A poor Main Street.
    I turned to look at his brown face, a visage more ancient than mine. It had chased away any loving crafted sign of beauty except on the edges. Only his wife could see their hints. But she had seen them almost every day. Even longer than I had.
    “I suppose we will at that.”
    “It is a big world, it crowds little towns out of the way.” While he said this, he was also climbing down the ladder, looking up at the sign which said “Closing Down.” “Will we see it again, do you think?”
    “Not unless the historical society slaps an historic vista on it.”
    He shuffles down his ladder, then looked out over the main avenue with its empty stores gleaming. Even the Chinese restaurant across the way could see it. It is now the only because was another retail establishment. It could no longer huddle for warmth in the late winter with anyone else.
    “Maybe they should – there is a lot of memories within and without seen from up there.”
    “Only little ones.”
    Slowly, up the sidewalk slowly, slowly. slowly came a pasty woman. She was once the primary school reading teacher. The woman who got the hard cases and made them sing with their eyes.
    “I heard you back there – and across the river at the plant men who lived here work there. The made wondrous engines.”
    The old man turned around, from the back, I could see that he became wider. It being happiness to every corner of the ticket stands and beyond. “Mrs. Van Corlaer, it is so nice to see you to-day.”
    Then he bowed and took off his cap. Cap – not hat and certainly not chapeaux.
    She shifted her red purse from left hand to right hand, though no curtsey because she was portly. “There were enough times here as if under a snapshot.”
    The old man laughed. “Enough memories and movies.”
    The elder woman touched her wide brim glasses. “I remember when this cinema had ‘Gone With the Wind’ on one of the revival tours. The were in the ‘70s.”
    At this, I piped up: “You could not have seen the original.”
    “Good heavens no, it came out before I was born. My mother saw the original. And in New York, at the midtown movie theater show in the film. In fact, she traveled by the El.”
    “El?” A quizzical look on my face.
    “Overground part of the subway.” Looking straight-up at me with her wide hips.
    “Which theater was it?” It was more than a question, it was elocution from the old man.
    “Don’t rightly know. My mother did, but it is so long ago.”
    I cocked my foot over the ladder, looking down the boulevard, just seeing the bridge, with warping denuded trees wrapped around it. It was the thoroughfare into the main burgh. The one where all of the men used to go. “The new century is consuming the old.”
    “You two boys must excuse me, I have to get going.”
    “Why don’t you let me walk you down to your place?”
    “That would be kind of you.”
    “Could you hold the fort while I walk Mrs. Van Corlaer home?”
    “Your wish is my command.”
    I watch the two of them walk away, chattering of older times. It was the last I saw of him. The next day his wife showed up. Her story was he had fallen down after he had dropped Mrs. Van Corlaer at her brick building. An ambulance came and got him. While at the emergency room, they gave him a test for the coronavirus. He tested positive.
    Two weeks later the was a death in the city paper. Two short lines. I did not know he was a Lieutenant in the Marines.
    See you on the other side.


    One thing this pandemic will expose to the light of day is the extent of bullshit jobs. If you can work from home for an extended period of time during this pandemic crisis, you have a bullshit job, meaning your job is not necessary and is not productive in any way. The only reason you have it is for purposes of social control. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, 80% of so-called “jobs” are bullshit jobs. They are not essential. They are not necessary. They are fluff. They are bullshit. For example, this firm and its employees need not exist. It’s bullshit and destructive bullshit at that.


    This virus need not have one name. In fact, the name of it depends on how it manifests in each nation. In America, it’s appropriate to call it COVFEFE-19. In China, it’s appropriate to call it the Wet Market Virus. In Italy, it should be called Gabagool-19. In Iran, GreatSatan-19. In South Korea, GangnamStyle-19.

    Regardless of what we call it, it’s the angel of death.


    Send the Cubans packing and turn Miami back into wetlands. They are an abomination. They are anti-democratic. They are murderers and criminals. They are fascists.

    I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear. President John F. Kennedy October 24, 1963


    Three years earlier, JFK said this. Suck on this you Batista Cuban f*cks. I would support any one running for POTUS who agreed to send you demented criminal slobs packing. You are not Americans. You are filth. You are scum. Get out.

    Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years… and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state – destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror. Administration spokesmen publicly praised Batista – hailed him as a staunch ally and a good friend – at a time when Batista was murdering thousands, destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people, and we failed to press for free elections.

  12. edwin

    From what I have read during shortages and panic buying of food, food waste goes up, sometimes substantially.

    People don’t understand how to store or prepare what they have purchased. They are purchasing outside their comfort zone. They aren’t thinking it through – what can I reasonably store and use.

    I hear agricultural workers from foreign countries are not making it to Canada. If that is so, then there is risk of food shortages. As food prices rise, we may see a repeat of the Irish potato famine scenario. Food exported from countries even as their population starves.

  13. Willy

    The toilet paper craze reminds me of the tulpenmanie. Maybe single rolls will be as good as C notes soon.

    I’m waiting for the op-ed telling us that robots are better because they don’t get sick. I think progress with AI would be even faster if a way could be figured out to make robots mindless consumers.

    If there’s one thing that won’t happen, I’d think it’d be the running out of perishable consumer goods. There’s too much money to be made these days, as the toilet paper craze indicates. But yeah, if price gouging of food happened I’d sure think that’d increase revolution fever, which is the most major thing outside of the PTB’s management plan.


    I think my family and I would be better off in China right about now. Americans are so f*cked. Canadians too. The incapacitation caused by decades of decaying corruption is finally exposed to the daylight. COVFEFE-19 has removed the veil. America cannot and will not defend against this let alone be proactive. It’s time to start hoping these corrupt scumbags start dying in droves because that’s the only card left. They are criminals and they are murderers. Mass murderers.

  15. nihil obstet

    As edwin points out above, people are grocery shopping outside their comfort zone. Over half of Americans eat out for dinner two or three times a week. I couldn’t easily find anything about lunch, but I suspect the majority eat lunch out at least 5 times a week. This means they don’t know how much or what kind of food to buy if they’re facing maybe 21 meals at home for the week.


    I know I said, like Rob Reiner, that Trump should be removed from office but so too should the entire Washington D.C. political establishment. Pelosi should be removed. Schumer should be removed. Most every Democrat and ALL Republican Congress critters should be removed. In fact, they should not only be removed, they should be imprisoned for crimes against humanity. Damn them all to hell.


    A great example of Stockholm Syndrome.

  18. Mark Pontin

    Willy wrote: ‘I’m waiting for the op-ed telling us that robots are better because they don’t get sick. I think progress with AI would be even faster if a way could be figured out to make robots mindless consumers.’

    That’s essentially ‘The Midas Plague’ by Frederik Pohl, an SF story from 1954.

    Pohl and his collaborator, Cyril Kornbluth — who wrote ‘The Marching Morons,’ which a lot of people cite as the ‘inspiration’ for ‘Idiocracy — had a line in SF sociopolitical satires, like the classic ‘The Space Merchants’ where Madison Avenue rules the world and the new commies are ‘consies’ or conservationists, and ‘Gladiator-at-Law’ where Wall Street rules the world and … well, you know that one.


    Smallpox blankets, anyone? How low can they go? Apparently there is no floor to how low they can go.

  20. Zachary Smith

    This piece is about a private company which has at least managed the “messages”. A public outfit which cannot quite handle even that is called the US Navy.

    Navy Hospital Ship Still Weeks Away From Arriving In New York City To Help Battle COVID-19

    There are only two hospital ships, and the one supposedly going to NYC isn’t ready to go.
    IMO this is because the Navy has been throwing its money at very expensive, and nearly useless, Big Weapons Systems. The article says the Navy even wants to get rid of one or both of the big ships – to buy a bunch of little ones. Links beside the story tell of the Military Mask shortages. Staggering incompetence at all levels.

  21. StewartM

    IMO this is because the Navy has been throwing its money at very expensive, and nearly useless, Big Weapons Systems.

    Almost forty years ago, Andrew Cockburn’s The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military portrayed the way all militaries–theirs, ours, and everyones–prizes big impressive expensive things over smaller, often cheaper, alternatives. (Like sophisticated systems to block or interrupt the homing devices on anti-ship missiles as opposed to simply towing cheap dummy ‘targets’ that would put out a huge signal which would thus draw any enemy incoming anti-ship missiles to the dummy target). So it’s not surprising.

    (I’m somewhat familiar with the history of Russian tank design, and back in WWII they came up with an axiom of ‘no tank should ever be heavier than 50 tons’–which save for some prototypes and a short production run of the IS-4 (250 tanks) they never violated even up to this day. The Russians came up with this rule due to the fact that most bridges built for civilian use can’t support tanks > 50 tons without being reinforced, and they didn’t want to hold up any wartime movements by finding themselves in situations where they might be be forced to wait for engineering services to do that.

    But NATO tanks have ballooned to 70 tons and more. I would assume Western bridges, plus bridges elsewhere in the world, have similar weight restrictions. So do Western tank outfits need armies of engineers to accompany them to reinforce virtually every bridge they cross? That doesn’t seem very practical or sensible in a real shooting war against a modern, competent, enemy force).

  22. Hugh

    I went to Meijer today and if there is one company who is doing it wrong. It’s Meijer. The people in their meat department and front desk were uniformly rude, couldn’t be bothered with me, an explanation, or an apology. You see we had called a few days before and were told even though they are open 24 hours/a day, if we wanted their sale item, it would be available for one-half hour. So we get there, the case is full, but with a more expensive item. They basically told us their ads were not to be believed, not just in this one instance but ever. It wasn’t the price difference that was the issue. It was the overwhelming and totally unnecessary attitude from everyone I talked to. It never occurred to any of them that the truth would have sufficed, that that was what was on the truck and that’s what they prepared and put out. Instead it was like what the person at the front desk kept repeating, “You Know What is Going On” as if that somehow explained anything and everything. Well, actually I do know what is going on and a lot better than she does. I know, for instance, that stores like Meijer are in a whole world of hurt, that their grocery (and pharmacy) section is not going to even begin to cover the losses in the rest of their store. And they need every customer they can get. In contrast, I went from Meijer to Aldi. It didn’t have everything I was looking for either but the difference in attitude was like night and day. I mentioned this to their floor manager and he said that it was rough but that we all had to pull together. Crises tend to bring out both the best and the worst in people. And I experienced both within a few minutes.

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