News

At the End of the Day, It's Just the Case Rip Cord

H-E-B Own Brands: South Texas grocery giant H-E-B is looking for answers regarding its use of private label products, and they introduce a bottled water to compete with Evian. The label has a red maple leaf, and it says “Natural Canadian Spring Water.” H-E-B customer research finds that only 19 percent of unaided customers who bought the product know that it comes from Canada. 64 percent think that it’s from Texas. The amazing part is that when shown the actual packaging, what percent do you think get the correct answer? 74%.

Who teaches these Texans geography?
H-E-B was founded by Florence Butt and had a COO named Fully Clingman. The case states, “because Own Brand products often carried the H-E-B label (and, implicitly, the Butt family’s name) [Chairman] Charles Butt took Own Brands’ product quality and performance seriously.” Yeah, maybe, but that sentence is hard to take seriously.
Butt. Hogg. Lay. Bush. Who names these Texan families?

The Saga of Prince Jefri and KPMG: Mystery of the Missing Billions: While J & B is right up there, this tale is hands down the most entertaining case at HBS. Young Prince Jefri is the Finance Minister of the oil-rich nation of Brunei, which is ruled by his older brother the Sultan. There is apparently no differentiation in Brunei between the money that belongs to the government and the wealth of the royal family. And even though the government rules with an iron fist, they keep the people rolling in cash and Michael Jackson concerts, so the citizens of Brunei really don’t mind. Until, that is, Prince Jefri starts reneging on deals, pissing off foreign businessmen, and outraging his more devout older brothers. “[C]ounsel shocked the court with salacious tales of Prince Jefri’s alleged debauchery, accusing him of spending prodigally on wild sex parties and gambling sessions and alleging that the scale of the prince’s wealth was ‘matched by his appetite for extravagance and self-indulgence.'” Later, “a former Miss USA had brought a sexual harassment suit…charging the Sultan and Prince Jefri with inviting her to Brunei under false pretexts and holding her there in captivity.”

Then the Sultan got pissed when he was dethroned as the world’s richest man by Bill Gates: “Being toppled from the perch of the richest man in the world by a computer nerd is likely to put any potentate into ill humor and have him demanding investigations.”

Sadly, this soap opera disintegrates into a real case about conflict of interest concerns, as the feuding brothers both want to use the same accountants. And it turns out Miss USA never even met their majesties.
On to new topics. You’ve all seen The Princess Bride, right? If not, you should. It’s hilarious. Regardless, in the movie Inigo Montoya questions Vizzini’s repeated use of the word “inconceivable.” The swordfighter says in his Spanish accent, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Why bring this up? Well, the use of “at the end of the day” in class seems to be on the rise lately, and I do not think it means what the people using it think it means. Maybe you’ve noticed the extreme overuse too? In one Professional Services class last week, two students said this phrase during the course of their normal comments. Then that day’s esteemed guest got up to speak, and uttered the phrase nine times in about ten minutes. The next day, two more esteemed guests talked figuratively about “the end of the day” five times between them. Interestingly, in both cases the clock showed it was just after 11 AM, which is really nowhere near the end of the day.

At the other end of the spectrum, Cecily Kovatch (OD) brought her mother Susan to Channels to Markets class for the Talbots case, as she has worked at Talbots for the last few years. Near the end of the class, which is the last in the day, Professor Bell asked Mrs. Kovatch to give some expert testimony as to how things worked in the store. Among other enlightening insider insights, Mrs. Kovatch said, “At the end of the day the cash register can tell us exactly how many of which item we sold, and what we need to order.” It took a while for this sentence to sink in. For at the end of the day, Susan Kovatch wasn’t speaking figuratively-she meant exactly what she said.

Please send comments on your cases to Uncle.Jordy@mba2002.hbs.edu.

March 11, 2002
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