The Flap Over Big Boxes

Letters published October 23, 2002

The Anniversary The Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights 9 p.m. Saturday, October 19, $10, 216-321-5588.
Well-muscled retailers make fearsome foes:

Martin Kuz's article ["The Wal-Mart Menace," September 4] was remarkable -- well researched and telling it convincingly like it is. I feel you may not have been able to find the website of New York attorney Carl Person at, which documents the efforts we have made over five years in our federal price-discrimination lawsuit against two big-box defendants. The site points out something your story lacked: How do they do it?

Well, it's called "muscle," and the use of it is what prompted all those laws a hundred years ago -- the ones called "antitrust." The Robinson-Patman Act (RPA) was added in 1936 as an amendment to the Clayton and Sherman acts, precisely to prevent those retailers with muscle from overwhelming those who played by the rules.

Of course, no law means much if it is unenforceable (or unenforced). Since the beginning of the Reagan administration, federal regulators have had little involvement in RPA cases, leaving the job to the private plaintiff. But the costs are enormous. We have now spent five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuing our federal RPA suit against two big-box retailers.

We're all about to be the big losers, unless the regulators show up and do their jobs.

Wallace Kuralt
Carrboro, NC

When big boxes stack boxes:

When I came across the story on Wal-Mart, it was a moment of déjà vu. I had recently read an article titled "Sky Shelves" in the book Best Business Stories of the Year. The most interesting things about both stories are the "truths" that are not normally revealed about stores like Wal-Mart. The fact is that no matter how high to the ceiling they pack their merchandise so prices are low, there is still no safe way for customers to shop.

Wal-Mart has acknowledged in court cases that it has had 26,000 customer injuries due to falling merchandise. These are unbelievable numbers that should scare customers away.

The most amazing part is that the changes that would make the shopping area safe and comfortable for customers would be a minor cost to their multimillion-dollar empire. When this is compared to a million-dollar lawsuit over a lost life due to falling merchandise, you would think a change would not sound bad. But why would such a scandalous company want to do that? Or anything else that would make it lose money? All this is beyond me.

Thanks to Martin Kuz for bringing this issue out of the dark.

Ashley Price

Count on two more years of stumbling:

Thanks for the article "Stumbling Toward Greatness" [September 11], which stated that Stephanie Tubbs Jones is the politician who can't lose, no matter how hard she tries. The article did an excellent job of listing some of her shortcomings.

Unfortunately, her challenger, Patrick Pappano, doesn't have the money to bring her shortcomings and voting record to the attention of the voters; thus, she'll have two more years in which to stumble in Congress.

Bill Smith

Food-stamp scammers keep diapers clean:

Kudos to Martin Kuz for his article on the food-stamp exchange ["The Scam Remains the Same," September 18] and for understanding the realities of the market. Food stamps are money and will behave like money, in spite of the law.

The Abuzahreihs are heroes of American capitalism for meeting the needs of their customers. Their 50 percent discounting of the stamps covers the extra costs and risks incurred in breaking the law. If what they were doing were legal, we'd expect a 5-10 percent service charge. And is there a law against bartering a pound of meat for some diapers?

If we citizens have a problem with the poor making their own decisions on spending the money we give them, perhaps we should stop interfering with them making their own livings, rather than treating them like children who are learning about spending their allowances.

Jeffrey Quick

A matter of "need" fulfillment:

I grew up in Cleveland and stopped reading Scene magazine when the Free Times came out 10 years ago. Scene never did anything for me. The articles were good, but the layout of the paper has never impressed me. The Free Times was overall a much better paper.

It's just sad to see a paper that's been second-best for the past 10 years monopolize the city for its own monetary benefit. This is a great loss for Cleveland and also an embarrassment for how money-hungry corporations really are.

Roberto L. Colon

And no one reported on it:

No review of the Argent-Blunstone show? It is hard to believe that such a long-awaited reunion would be so ignored by our local media. The haunting voice and the jazz-inspired keys of the vastly underrated '60s group the Zombies ("She's Not There," "Time of the Season") put on an excellent show, with material ranging from old Zombies hits to the latest Argent-Blunstone collaborations.

Although the production was minimal, it came off very well; the capacity crowd at the Beachland was obviously thrilled. It would have been nice if some journalist in the area had reviewed this show. We can only hope a larger tour will follow and return these two greats to Cleveland very soon.

Andrew Ulle

Thanks for the Best Of nod:

On behalf of the Atom Bomb crew, I'd like to thank you guys for picking us Best Tattoo Parlor [Best of Cleveland, September 25]. We've only been in business for two years, and we've worked really hard to be successful without compromising our level of quality. This is one of the things that makes it all worthwhile.

Tattoo Dave

The WERE alternative:

Andrew Putz echoed what so many of us think about the deplorable state of Cleveland radio and Cleveland sports radio in particular ["Battle of the Blowhards," September 11]. But instead of complaining about it, we're doing something about it.

We've started a new sports radio program for Clevelanders called The Sports Club Radio Show at the Arcade. We've got Dan Coughlin, Les Levine, and Mark Schroeder doing intelligent and witty sports talk five days a week on the Internet and on WERE-AM. Since you obviously agree with the deplorable state of Cleveland sports radio, you should be relieved to know that someone is doing something about it.

Joan Andrews
Owner, Lake Effect Radio

Trivisonno and Jim Rome's ass:

I enjoyed Andrew Putz's "Battle of the Blowhards." I can't comment intelligently on the sad state of Cleveland radio, because I rarely listen to the radio while out of town. I admit, however, that Cleveland radio -- especially sports talk -- can be monotonous.

If you're a sports fan possessing any degree of intelligence, though, you'll listen to WKNR-AM. Trivisonno is a shill for the sports teams that have broadcast agreements with WTAM. He seems timid, afraid to ask the tough questions of personnel from those teams. The edge that Triv has regarding certain talk-show topics all but vanishes when he's interviewing (read: fawning over) Browns, Indians, and Cavs personnel.

It is my understanding that Triv would like to emulate the success of Howard Stern, and one can see the obvious similarities between the two shock jocks. Strangely, though, I've heard Triv denigrate Jim Rome, whose syndicated show runs on WKNR. It would seem that Triv's antipathy for Rome is born of jealousy. Triv is a big fish in a small pond, while Rome is at the pinnacle of sports-talk radio. WKNR may well be niche radio, or a fly on Triv's ass, but then again, Triv is a fly on Rome's or Stern's ass.

Peter Iorillo
Garfield Heights

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