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From what I've been reading the Acme Twp. saga, its really become a Kindergarten slap fight with all these law suits flying around. The Twp. is wanting to stick to its new urbanist master plan while Meijer disparately needs a second store in the greater Traverse City area. I remember posting that maybe Meijer should think about just pulling out to save its PR face. But after reading that Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter in the Traverse City area added to the fact that the existing Traverse City Meijer is operating over capacity, dropping any attempts to build a second store would be a bad move. So Meijer can't pull out and Acme won't let them build a second store because it conflicts with its new urbanist master plan. If Meijer continues push on Acme, heavily bias local press like the Record Eagle will make sure to paint Meijer as an evil Walmart clone.

So this leave Meijer the following options.

1. Withdraw from Acme and build outside the Twp's jurisdiction. Surrounding communities are surely keeping an eye on the Acme fight and may prove equally resistant to anything Meijer may propose.

2. Go into a an all out Walmart style legal siege to jam a new store down Acme's throat. By legal siege, I mean a large retailer's tactic of hiring very clever lawyers to find any loop holes in the legal system to keep fighting a resistant community in court for as long as possible for the purpose of forcing the community into submission by draining its legal war chest. Given Meijer's size, it could be done. Acme would run out of money long before Meijer would and thus eventually have no choice but to allow Meijer to build just to end the fight. But thiis would put Meijer's PR too far at risk since this option is not exactly ethical.

3. Enlarge the existing Traverse City store. But that would prove to be an expensive stop gap measure at best while not offering the convenience of a second store where it is needed.

4. Withdraw its existing proposal in Acme and propose a brand new store prototype that would fit Acme's new urbanist master plan. But given the situation it is highly unlikely that Acme would accept anything Meijer would propose even it were a yard sale.

Ether way, Meijer must think very carefully about what it wants to do from here on. I hope it makes a decision that will get a second store in the Traverse City area built while putting the Acme Twp. saga to a close.

Edited by tamias6
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Here is a history of the various exterior architectural designs Meijer has used over the years as it grew from the first Thritfy Acres outpost in 1962 to having over 200 such stores across six states

I noticed yesterday that the Meijer at Rivertown has eliminated all of its self-checkout lanes except for a few limited quantity lanes and has replaced them with new lanes with actual cashiers.  I ask

Downtown Market/Meijer now supports MPerks

Posted Images

Not in GR, but hopefully mods will forgive, noting Meijer other local projects.

How has it come to this? Secretly paying PR firms $30K to create spin for "grass roots" front groups, slamming any elected official who doesn't want your big-box store. Nice. Any wonder we are losing our sidewalks and storefronts?

Major props to this township offical for standing up to the heat.

And hey -- thanks to Meijer...just gave me a reason to keep going to Family Fare. It's closer to my house anyway.

Retail giant Meijer Inc. has acknowledged funding a failed recall effort targeting elected officials in this northern Michigan community that followed years of zoning disputes about a planned store.

Meijer paid a public relations business at least $30,000 in an effort to remove the board for Grand Traverse County's Acme Township, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported Sunday, citing its review of records in the case.

See:

http://www.record-eagle.com/local/local_story_357093334.html

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Acme would run out of money long before Meijer would and thus eventually have no choice but to allow Meijer to build just to end the fight. But thiis would put Meijer's PR too far at risk since this option is not exactly ethical.

Good insight, but if Meijer had been worried about ethics in PR, it wouldn't have been so nasty and covert about trying to"swift boat" local officials. I half expect to see Karl Rove as a new greeter at my local Meijer.

And it wasn't a slap fight, it was actually a possible felony, and kindergarten fights rarely cost $3-$4 million, as this one seems to have cost Meijer.

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As I understand it, Acme's master plan calls for site enhancements (brick facade) and special treatment on the proposed gas station (can't recall the details; when I do I will edit). This does not preclude Fred from putting in a store. It just insures that it will be a nice-looking one that complies with the master plan. And given what this will cost Fred (in settlements, legal fees, the PR agency...not to mention loss of corporate good-will), it would have been a lot cheaper to use the dang brick and comply with Acme's design standards.

I wouldn't call the TC R-E "biased" any more than our own beloved local fishwrap.

If a couple of Fred's real estate folks don't suddenly "decide" to leave "to spend more time with the family," I will be very surprised.

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The PR firm is local too. Doesn't look like they list Meijer as a client though. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Clearly the recall effort failed. Seems like the involved parties would be in more hot water if it had been successful. The whole deal is sketchy though!

Not sure, but do we want to combine this thread with the discussion already in progress in the Coffee House Meijer thread?

*fish

Edited by starrfish
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I agree with Veloise- It would have been smarter to just comply with the facade changes, though I know this battle has been long fought, so maybe it goes deeper.

I think the unfortunate reality is that this happens way more in business than anyone would like to admit. I'm sure Target and Walmart are no different in their practices, but it would have been nice to see Meijer act differently.

Joe

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Wal-Mart, yeah...

Target and 90 percent of other retailers, no. They know the risks of exposure are too great -- I can tell you that from personal experience.

Sad that Meijer is apparently no better than Wal-Mart. I know everyone in West Michigan liked to think otherwise.

The "front group" strategy was perfected by major retailers decades ago, along with the energy industry for cramming through plant-sitings and favorable emissions regs. The PR industry has rejected it as wrong and unethical for a long time now.

Apparently this GR firm didn't get that memo. See: http://www.mcfn.org/press.php?prId=51 and http://gr-pr.blogspot.com/

To just shrug and say "everyone does it" is inaccurate and unfair to real grass roots groups, responsible companies and decent PR people. But hey, at least the Acme Township officials stood up for what they believed in despite pressure from big money and big names. I know a few city and county governments around here who could take a lesson!

Edited by 201test
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This is HUGE egg in the face for Meijer. One being the underhanded/slimeball tactics of Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson (writing "ghost letters" to the Record Eagle calling for a recall and illegaly funding recall efforts). Two now being that Hank Meijer is claiming that he didn't know about it (???!!!). Is that a CYA move by Hank? I wonder if Mark Murray was briefed on it when he took over?

I'm sure we're going to see a lot of Meijer execs, both in the PR and the Real Estate departments, get thrown under the bus before this is over. You know it's bad when even your own PR firm refuses to comment to the Press. Isn't that a PR firm's job? Anyone know a good PR firm for the PR firm?? :rofl:

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And hey -- thanks to Meijer...just gave me a reason to keep going to Family Fare. It's closer to my house anyway.

I agree, Meijer seems to be considered to much better because they are a local company, and while I would rather see Meijer outlast Walmart I don't care to shop at either of them. I do my grocery shopping at Family Fare because it's closer, the service is better from my experiance, and they actually have stores in the city, not just in big box corridors. I generally try to not spend any money at a big box store if there is another reasonable alternative.

The best thing Meijer could do to win customers from Walmart is try to maintain a good image. Trying to force your store into an area that has rejected it makes them sound just like Walmart.

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Stop the presses! :stop: Let's not drag Fred and Hank out of their corporate offices and burn them at the stake quite yet. IMO, Meijer is a good store to do one's shopping and for the most part it has been a fairly decent corporate citizen given what it is. But as much as I like Meijer, I know full well its not inviolable. It has made mistakes far worst than what's going on in Acme Twp. Some of which have put Meijer dangerously close to going out of business. So I'm sure this situation will work itself out in due time.

My thoughts on the Acme Twp. bit is this. I think Meijer has yet to realize that the days of Proposing and Building a Big Box store being a simple open-and-shut case are over. Through out the country more and more communities are ether holding Big Boxes to higher standards or are resisting them outright. This is clearly evident in the Walmart and Target camps as both are delving into creating smaller versions of their stores or building multiple story versions of their conventional layouts as well as building stores tailored to urban core environments. Meijer has yet to show solid signs of following suit. But maybe this Acme Twp. fiasco and activities by Walmart and Target will rattle Meijer's cage hard enough to make it start adding alternative variations of its conventional Big Box store prototype.

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I found the conditions. (Brick was an erroneous memory.)

The board approved plans for a 232,000-plus-square-foot grocery and general merchandise store, plus a 2,400-square-foot gas and convenience store. But Meijer objected to several permit conditions, including relocation of the gas/convenience store and provisions for raised and demarcated walkways.

source: TC R-E 10/12/07 http://www.record-eagle.com/archivesearch/..._285100130.html

While I don't work in the construction field, I can take some [email protected]$$ guessing about the cost of these requirements.

Repositioning gas station: perhaps $10k for the new site surveys and plans (assuming no extra cost because they'd be building it anyway)

"Raised and demarcated walkways": let's say another $10k

And let's give another $30k to the A&E firms, due diligence, environmental studies, silt fencing, other construction mitigation strategies.

We still haven't spent anywhere near the $3M awarded to the Twp official.

Anyone work in advertising? How much would it be worth to drop that paltry $50k on design improvements, as opposed to the $3M plus whatever they're going to have to spend to erase the "evil" image?

ETA: just found this on MLive:

Outside the Acme post office, Tom Kirejczyk, 55, a chemical engineer who lives in Acme Township, said he was fed up with Meijer after hearing about its tactics.

"I don't like Meijer anymore. I hope they never build a store here in Acme. I can't believe what a dirty trick they pulled here."

Hugo Madsen, 65, a retired UPS manager and former Grand Rapids resident, remembers Meijer doing good things for the Grand Rapids area.

"If they did that, I'm very upset," he said, referring to reports it funded the recall. "I'd love to have a Meijer's here, but I elected the people in the township to do the right thing."

Hope this isn't why their gas price jumped about 30 cents from 12/24 to 12/26.

Edited by Veloise
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I agree that Hank and Fred...and Doug and Mark Murray...shouldn't be tarred and feathered. The Meijer family has done a lot for the region over the years, including many things the majority of the community doesn't even know about.

I think your point about living in the past is well-taken. They trusted their fate to a PR consultant who was stuck in the past -- like a doctor who still uses leaches to treat your headache. (Time to get a new doctor!)

It was a mistake, and hopefully they will learn from it. First, they will have to earn the region's trust back by doing more than just offering the mealy-mouthed talking points of recent days.

Edited by 201test
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I found the conditions. (Brick was an erroneous memory.)

The board approved plans for a 232,000-plus-square-foot grocery and general merchandise store, plus a 2,400-square-foot gas and convenience store. But Meijer objected to several permit conditions, including relocation of the gas/convenience store and provisions for raised and demarcated walkways.

source: TC R-E 10/12/07 http://www.record-eagle.com/archivesearch/..._285100130.html

While I don't work in the construction field, I can take some [email protected]$$ guessing about the cost of these requirements.

Repositioning gas station: perhaps $10k for the new site surveys and plans (assuming no extra cost because they'd be building it anyway)

"Raised and demarcated walkways": let's say another $10k

And let's give another $30k to the A&E firms, due diligence, environmental studies, silt fencing, other construction mitigation strategies.

We still haven't spent anywhere near the $3M awarded to the Twp official.

Anyone work in advertising? How much would it be worth to drop that paltry $50k on design improvements, as opposed to the $3M plus whatever they're going to have to spend to erase the "evil" image?

ETA: just found this on MLive:

Outside the Acme post office, Tom Kirejczyk, 55, a chemical engineer who lives in Acme Township, said he was fed up with Meijer after hearing about its tactics.

"I don't like Meijer anymore. I hope they never build a store here in Acme. I can't believe what a dirty trick they pulled here."

Hugo Madsen, 65, a retired UPS manager and former Grand Rapids resident, remembers Meijer doing good things for the Grand Rapids area.

"If they did that, I'm very upset," he said, referring to reports it funded the recall. "I'd love to have a Meijer's here, but I elected the people in the township to do the right thing."

Hope this isn't why their gas price jumped about 30 cents from 12/24 to 12/26.

The comments from a few of the locals you quoted just blows me away. It's astonishing how unforgiving people are. One mistake and *BAM* "Meijer sucks! I'll never shop there again!". It seems that when people are criticizing a large company like Meijer they forget that the company is ran by human beings just as imperfect as they are.

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Tamias:

The only voice many people have is to vote with their feet and dollars. Don't like someone's business practice? Don't shop there. This is the basis for many boycotts by the gay and other minority communities. Also the opposite version is true as seen in the Local First campaigns. Want to see local firms survive and prosper? Shop there first...

Americans have shown most of us have a short memory span. If Meijer builds there and starts offering low prices and doing some community sponsorship, I think many folks upset right now will shop there.

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Tamias:

The only voice many people have is to vote with their feet and dollars. Don't like someone's business practice? Don't shop there. This is the basis for many boycotts by the gay and other minority communities. Also the opposite version is true as seen in the Local First campaigns. Want to see local firms survive and prosper? Shop there first...

Americans have shown most of us have a short memory span. If Meijer builds there and starts offering low prices and doing some community sponsorship, I think many folks upset right now will shop there.

That's right. During many of the years that I lived in A2, my four-wheeler proudly sported a BOYCOTT DOMINO'S sticker (inspired by former owner Tom Monaghan's many lapses in judgment and good taste).

This situation (proposed major project, Twp zoning issues) is not terribly different from the Plainfield Twp one with the grocery store. It's not like Acme said no, we don't want it at all.

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Maybe I'm too forgiving. But I'm not going to be as quick to jump the gun and Boycott Meijer as I have been doing with Walmart. As I said before Meijer as been a fairly good corporate citizen at least here in Michigan. I'm also not going to take the media totally at face value since they have a habit of taking issues and blowing them completely out of proportion just to get ratings. Yes, I am suprised at the strong arm tactic Meijer has pulled on Acme Twp. This is completely out of the company's character. But this could have been a case of some bad apples in Meijer's real estate division that sorely need to be fired. As Hank Meijer stated he only learned of the shady funding of the recall just a few days ago due to internal control issues that need to be rectified. For now I am going to chalk the Acme Twp. fiasco as a one time mistake. However, if Meijer starts going wily nilly and jams stores down the throats of every community it wants to build in from here on, then I will definitely reevaluate my shopping habits.

The point I would like to make is that the Meijer Family are good people. So I say let's give them and their company a chance to set thing right. I don't think they want everything they have work for damaged or destroyed because of what happen in Acme.

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To be clear, there is a MAJOR difference between Plainfield Township/Family Fare and the Acme/Meijer situation.

Plainfield Township told Spartan Stores "no" to the proposed store and that was that.

Spartan Stores did not then go and start a high-priced, possibly illegal, secret-slime campaign to get those Township officials recalled.

Just want to make sure we don't start generalizing about companies who didn't make the same bad judgements Meijer did.

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To be clear, there is a MAJOR difference between Plainfield Township/Family Fare and the Acme/Meijer situation.

Plainfield Township told Spartan Stores "no" to the proposed store and that was that.

Spartan Stores did not then go and start a high-priced, possibly illegal, secret-slime campaign to get those Township officials recalled.

Just want to make sure we don't start generalizing about companies who didn't make the same bad judgements Meijer did.

Yeahbut... in each case there's a zoning ordinance and a planning commission, with a big box applicant. Agreed, different outcomes. (Acme said sure, you can build it, but we need this and this and this.)

For purposes of this forum, the parallel I'm drawing is: the cases illustrate local zoning authority and the locals having control over what happens in their own community (rather than rolling over because corporate dollars said that they should).

A few weeks back I met someone from TC, and asked about the crowded Meijer. She said that she plans her trips for when it won't be so busy -- late nights, early mornings. The Acme store will not only offload traffic from the existing TC store, but also bring in more business. And optimize deliveries (the trucks are driving to Grand Traverse county anyway, may as well serve more than one location). Local philanthropy is on the horizon.

[guessing that the PR firm will also need to clean house...for me Watergate is more than a chapter in a history book]

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[guessing that the PR firm will also need to clean house...for me Watergate is more than a chapter in a history book]

Amen, but judging by today's story (see link below), it isn't a matter of that firm cleaning house, but more a matter of Meijer recognizing it wasn't a good house to start with -- the thick stack of invoices from the $300/hour firm president makes it sound like this started at the top. Sounds like Mejier should burn that particular house down and start over.

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2007/12/meij...to_probe_a.html

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Just playing devils advocate for a second here, but I don't think I would be burning the PR firm at the stake. The goal of a public relations firm is to 1) get a client into the spotlight (though I doubt that was the goal here:) ), 2) sway public opinion about a project to either get out facts about why Joe Customer needs the clients services to have their project succeed.

PR agencies can in many ways act as a lobbying group. Lobbying groups don't have the best reputation for being fair, they just look out for the interests of their client (which is what they are paid to do).

Slimy or not, PR firms are in business to change the balance of power- whether that is making a company look big, making a new product sound more exciting than it may be, or making Acme residents think they *REALLY* need Meijer.

The problem here is someone got their hand caught in the cookie jar. I have been wondering, how did these receipts between SST and Meijer see the light of day? Sounds like a mole (I'm not saying that in a derogatory way) gave the Traverse City Eagle this info. Looks like Meijer and SST got outfoxed.

If you want a *real life* scenario of PR agencies and how they affect you, just look at Urban Planet. There are dozens of PR people on this board waiting to counter a negative post or negative publicity. It's all part of the game.

I do think it's a shame that Meijer led a recall (reminds me of Evergreen Properties and their Lifestyle Center on Knapp). I think the reason this is getting so much press is because Meijer *IS* an upstanding company. It remains to be seen how far this goes up the line, but a couple of rogue executives in a large company like Meijer could surely orchestrate something like this rather easily without others being involved.

I still like Meijer, and am sure this will pass. I'm sure they just need to punt in Acme and move on. And they should be really really really nice to the next township they approach. ;) That might be the biggest impact on business; new store development.

Joe

[guessing that the PR firm will also need to clean house...for me Watergate is more than a chapter in a history book]

Amen, but judging by today's story (see link below), it isn't a matter of that firm cleaning house, but more a matter of Meijer recognizing it wasn't a good house to start with -- the thick stack of invoices from the $300/hour firm president makes it sound like this started at the top. Sounds like Mejier should burn that particular house down and start over.

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2007/12/meij...to_probe_a.html

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The goal of a public relations firm is to 1) get a client into the spotlight (though I doubt that was the goal here:) ), 2) sway public opinion about a project to either get out facts about why Joe Customer needs the clients services to have their project succeed.

Yeah, but there are rules. Both legal and ethical, Joe. Playing "hardball" is one thing, lying and misleading are another.

While I don't like ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers, I understand they have their place and role in the world. Same with lobbyists.

What should NOT be acceptable are lawyers who actually go beyond just being slimy and truly break the rules of the BAR association. We don't accept that any more than we accept doctors who don't sterilize their instruments. This PR firm damaged lives of elected officials by pretending to "be" local residents, so much damage in fact that a mediator thought $3 million was fair compensation.

That kind of activity isn't okay, ever:

http://gr-pr.blogspot.com/

If they were a law firm, they would probably be subject to disbarment.

Plus, let's put ethics waaaay off to the side and accept your logic for a second. Even by lying and deceiving the public they STILL didn't succeed for thier client. At least Karl Rove won most of the battles he fought (!!)

Last thing: To your question, it wasn't a mole who gave the firm's billing records to the media, it was the attorney for the Township treasurer. The attorney and the Record-Eagle never tried to hide that fact, it was in several of the stories.

The attorney had received the documents as part of discovery in the personal lawsuit. Meijer tried to have a gag order issued to keep the documents from becoming public, but the judge refused.

Check it out: http://www.record-eagle.com/archivesearch/..._352094649.html

Edited by 201test
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In all of this, I'm surprised the TC Record Eagle published "ghost letters to the editor" from the PR firm (letters written from people who are made up to sway public opinion). I've written to the Press a few times, and they always call you and confirm who you are, where you live and your phone number. I wonder if the Record Eagle will amend their policies on Letters to the Editor?

The fact that Meijer had to award the one commissioner $3 Million through mediation is interesting. I wonder what the award would have been if they had gone for a full civil trial with jury (probably a lot higher). The guy may have taken the settlement due to his health being affected by the whole thing.

But tamias, I think you are comparing apples to oranges on this one. It was not your typical rezoning application. This Meijer/Acme war has been going on for probably 6 - 8 years (if I remember correctly), and it has been down and dirty at several junctures. We spend several weekends a summer up in the TC area and I can remember reading about this for as long as I can remember going up there (maybe 8 - 10 years when they first started talking about it?).

And joedowntown is totally correct. There are several PR people registered as members here who tend to insert themselves into discussions when they feel they are not going their way. :whistling: (as if we don't know who they are).

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I think its great reporters and PR people monitor these boards.

But to dad's point and the larger issue with the Meijer debacle: If you are a reporter or a PR person and you are posting seeking info for a story or representing a client, you should be identifying yourself as such.

Edited by 201test
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