Lileks: You know what else the state should ban on Sundays?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2013 - 9:05 PM

It’s time to do the right thing: Target should not be open on Sundays.

There’s the obvious matter of public health.

Target sells many fatty food items, including those new provolone Cheez-Its — I don’t know the secret to that smoky taste, but I suspect it’s phenoalkonital-9-3-5 — and they have an entire row of ice cream, which is a leading cause of obesity in children.

The ice cream lobby has been accused of targeting children, too; the Blue Bunny brand clearly appeals to tots, and flavors like “Birthday Party” with sprinkles are obviously meant to hook ’em young.

An outright ban on ice cream is difficult, at least in this legislative session, but a combination of taxes — which are proven to change dessert habits — and reduced hours for sale can’t help but encourage a generation of whippet-thin youths who would rather drink a broccoli slurry than consume something that actually advertises “ribbons of fudge” on the package.

Target is culpable, yes, but we all are. Our current laws, an expression of the popular will, allow them to do business on Sunday. Why? We regulate the sale of cars on Sunday, because “cars” are four letters found in the word “sacred,” and it would be blasphemous. Why do we make allowances for food and socks?

You may ask:

What if I need something on Sunday? If you can’t be bothered to plan ahead, the state has no obligation to accommodate your schedule.

Why force them to close? Shouldn’t it be the store’s decision, based on their calculus of the needs of their customers and employees? Individual decisions may not result in the proper outcome.

What about lost sales-tax revenue? We can make it up with a 100 percent user fee on ice cream.

When you look at it, you realize that the current situation is unfair to other grocery stores. When Target lowers the price of coffee, Cub and Rainbow have to adjust their prices, which means that someone has to print up the PRICE CUT! sticker and put it on the shelves — a waste of time and resources. The less competition we have, the less time stores waste trying to beat the other stores; heightened competition means they have to come up with things like “better service” or “more enjoyable experiences” that detract from their basic mission, which is profitability.

Protecting the profitability of certain select industries is one of our core values. That’s why we have the Mandatory Newspaper Subscription Act of 1995 and the Minnesota amendment to the 2002 Telecommunications Act that requires you to listen to a telemarketer sales pitch all the way through, then press 1 to get more information. But somehow we allow competition in grocery stores — and that leads me to another controversial suggestion.

If Cub, Rainbow, Lunds and Byerly’s remain open on Sundays, it hurts the small corner stores. They have small profit margins and substantial fixed costs, and they’re also under pressure from gas stations, which sell staples like milk and prepackaged sandwiches soaked with enough nitrites to make them shelf-stable through 2020 A.D. Why should all these stores be allowed to sell milk on Sundays?

When you think of the importance of milk to the small-store bottom line, why should the big stores be allowed to sell it at all?

If you think these are ridiculous ideas, consider this: Target built a grocery store in Edina a few blocks from the old Byerly’s store. Fast-forward a few years: The Byerly’s is slated for demolition. Granted, they’re building a new one that’s bigger, with competitive amenities like “free samples of French cheese that cost $90 a pound; go ahead, take two,” but it’s not clear competition did them any favors. That new store is expensive.

So: Target should close on Sundays, and the other grocery stores should be forbidden by law to sell milk, ever.

In unrelated news, the Legislature scuttled once again an attempt to let people buy a six-pack of quality local beer on Sunday because they were heading off to a hastily called social event, and it was BYOB, so they stopped at Holiday and bought a liter of root beer.

Not the same, and it didn’t go well with the cheese, but we can’t have liquor sales on Sunday or buy beer in grocery stores because. …

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