Blue Cross still on the chopping block?

Monday, November 13, 2006


Still no straight answers from Blue Cross Blue Shield about the future of the Cape Girardeau facility.

I first wrote about this in April and the rumor refuses to die. Company spokesperson Deb Wiethop wouldn't exactly kill them entirely.

"As of this day, the Cape Girardeau facility is not going to close," she said. "Staffing levels will remain the same. Through the end of the year, things are stable."

Through the end of the year?

Not exactly a resounding rejection of the closing possibility.

When pressed a bit, Wiethop said this: "We have no plans to do anything before the end of the year. There are no plans to close right now."

Then Wiethop said things that were similar to what company officials said in April.

"We are constantly looking at our facilities," she said. "We are always looking at our processes."

Some of Blue Cross's smaller facilities have closed in recent months, she said.

"It's more the philosophy that we have to continue to keep health care affordable for our members," she said. "We can't guarantee that for any facility throughout our system."

Blue Cross has 800 employees in St. Louis, 300 in Cape Girardeau and 200 in Springfield.

I told Wiethop when we spoke that writings like this one would worry employees. But she said "it's possible" that the facilility here would close, though she said she doubted it would be closed a year from now.

Her final words: "As of today, there are no plans to change anything until the end of the year."

JACKSON TANNING: The name of Jim Shank's new business has special meaning for him. Shank, whose son died in Iraq earlier this year, has opned Tropic Lightning Tanning Salon at 3886 E. Jackson Blvd. in Jackson. He named his business after his son's battalion nickname in Hawaii.

The business has several tanning beds and sells tanning and lotions.

Cpl. Jeremy Shank, 18, died Sept. 6 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq. Shank was on a dismounted security patrol when he encountered enemy forces using small arms. Shank had only been in Iraq two weeks when he was killed.

Jim Shank gave a moving speech to the students at Scott City on Friday. Hope you caught that story. His message was worth the trip.

MORE ON WENDY'S: One of my spies in Jackson told me last week that the building that used to be Wendy's is undergoing a substantial remodel from the outside and that there is now a hiring sign in the window with an Arby's logo on it.

My friend was glad to see it.

"Finally," he wrote in an e-mail, "a restaurant in Jackson that serves something other than barbecue and hamburgers!!!"

TEXT MESSAGING: I guess my teenage son isn't the only one using text messaging. Here are some recent examples of corporate marketing campaigns using text messaging:

* Meijer Inc. offered consumers who opted in a chance to get advance notice of impending gasoline price increases at its stores, in order to take advantage of the lower price.

* Starbucks Corp. ran a text-based scavenger hunt and trivia game this year, "Starbucks Summer Pursuit," with consumers opting in to receive a series of SMS questions on their cell phones. Replies with pictures of the answer gave senders a chance to participate in a scavenger hunt in New York City and win a trip to Costa Rica.

* McDonald's Corp. gave away World Cup soccer tickets to customers who text-messaged a code they got with products ordered in its restaurants in the United Kingdom.

* Pernod Ricard's Stolichnaya vodka offered consumers who opted in via text message new product updates, alerts and promotions in the "Stoli Insider" SMS program with an opt-in on and via the shortcode STOLI.

* Church & Dwight Co. Inc.'s Close-Up toothpaste offered iPods to texters who flirted with fictitious characters in its "Rock, Paper, Kiss" game.

* Hershey Co. ran a promotion in which purchasers of Hershey's candy bars could text their UPC code numbers to enter a sweepstakes for a trip to the X Games.

* Burger King and the Baltimore Ravens offered free tickets to future NFL games and the right to toss the coin at midfield before the game to fans texting in the word KING.

* Wisconsin-based Sentry Foods grocery chain offered text messagers a chance to win a shopping spree.

* Cadbury Schweppes PLC included a code on Cadbury's candy bars in the United Kingdom that consumers could text in to win prizes; company gained information on what type of candy bars people buy at different times of day.

* Procter & Gamble Co. ran a text-messaging game in which the company distributed cocktail napkins printed with codes and directions to bars, engaging patrons in a game involving dating questions while promoting Crest Whitening Plus Scope Extreme Toothpaste.

* P&G's Secret Deodorant gave passers-by in New York City a chance to text in their innermost secrets and have them displayed on a billboard in Times Square, benefiting disadvantaged women via the company's pledge to donate money for each secret told.

Scott Moyers is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to "Biz Buzz," 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, or e-mail them to or call (573) 335-6611, extension 137.

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