Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Another Retail Shop Bites the Dust

Does it seem to you that even MORE retail stores are going out of business than ever before?

Of course, there’s all the mall closings, which we know about: Sears, Penney’s, Macy’s going down like dinosaurs in a meteor crash. But now the trend seems to be reaching smaller specialty stores.

Drove over to the Tuesday Morning store about two miles from here and discovered, LO! An empty space where the shop used to be.

That’s too bad, because it was a cool little store. I think they consign things that don’t sell in a timely manner at larger retailers, so there’s a lot of nifty housewares in there, bedding, and even nice area rugs. Well….there was a lot.

I’d gone over there to try to buy a wall clock and a couple of pillows. My faithful old battery-run clock, the one that’s run for a good 20 years or more, fell off the garage wall and broke. Meanwhile, two very cheap pillows were needed for a little DIY project that’s under way.

The recent junket to the vet’s office through 110-degree heat reminded me that the damn Venza was NOT designed for dogs. Holy sh!t, what was I thinking when I bought that thing?

You can fold the back row of seats down, all right. Though they don’t lie flat(!), it’s good enough for government work. I guess. BUT…the result is a big gap behind the front seat, where the stupid back seats don’t fold flush against the front seats. The back seats do not scoot forward, so you can’t adjust them to close up the space. If I have to stop short with a dog in the back, the dog is going to fly forward and tumble into one of those holes. If the car is going very fast, the dog is going to get hurt; even below freeway speeds, enough momentum will break legs and sprain backs and break teeth.

With the seat backs up, the only remotely safe way to carry the dogs without wrestling them into cages, there’s no freaking air conditioning in the space the dogs have to occupy. Can you believe it? There’s only one tiny AC vent for back passengers!

How could I not have noticed that when I was test-driving it? How? Because I imagined Toyota’s designers have common sense. That seems to be something they took leave of sometime after they built the 2000 Sienna, which had four back AC vents. Stupidly, I imagined they would run AC vents at ceiling level for the Venza’s backseat passengers. WTF?

So the dogs cook when I have to drive them someplace in the summertime. The only way to protect them from the risk of overheating is to expose them to the risk of broken bones. Or worse.

M’hijito came up with an idea: Stuff pillows down into the hole. Excellent!

Conveniently, the two cheap pillows I’d bought at Tuesday Morning were wretchedly uncomfortable to sleep on, so I’d stashed them away. In that stash, too, were three very old and grungy pillows that could also be sacrificed for this project.

These worked to fill the space between the back and front seats, but they still left enough of a drop that a dog might get hurt or stuck if she fell in there. So I needed two more cheap uncomfortable pillows. Where better to get them than Tuesday Morning, source of the original cheap uncomfortable pillows?

So I was kinda shocked and annoyed to find the place GONE. Only alternatives — a Bed Bath & Beyond at the Colonnade and a Target way to hell and gone down by the Costco — are further away than I feel like driving in today’s heat. So what does that leave?

Yeah. Amazon.

You can’t go home again…


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Author: funny

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  1. The issues facing US retail are multifaceted.
    1. There is likely too much retail space making it difficult for most to thrive. The US has 23.5 square feet per capita of retail space. The next two countries, Canada and Australia, have 16.4 SF and 11.1 SF, respectively. Some of the closures we see will be a right-sizing in an overdeveloped sector.

    2. The way we shop is changing rapidly. Currently about online sales account for about 15% of retail spending, but over the next decade that is expected to jump to 50%. Those companies that have taken the time to understand and embrace online sales will survive.

    3. Consumer tastes are shifting. There are massive differences between the retail tastes of boomers and millennials. As boomers retire and millennials become a larger portion of the working population (approaching 50% of working population) they will also make up a larger portion of the buying population. So far we see millennials accumulating less stuff than their older counterparts.

    • Yeah, I can sure believe the statement that we have too much retail space. Question is, as stores close, what is going to become of the emptied shops. The corner strip mall where Tuesday Morning is, for example, now has several empty spaces; a space meant for a grocery store now has a 99-cent store…interestingly, no grocery store has succeeded in that strip mall for a good two decades, which is odd when you consider that there are no supermarkets very close to it.

      That’s interesting about the online sales figures! Fifty percent will take quite a bite out of the real-world shopping experience. It’s convenient to be able to order things, but sometimes you’d like to be able to touch, feel, or try on things before buying. Oh well.

      Tastes always shift from generation to generation. Heh…one thing that’s kind of fun to observe is that the current bunch favors a look straight from the late 1950s. The Crate & Barrel catalogue, for example, is full of stuff that looks just like the things my mother bought when we came back from Arabia in about 1958! 😀 What goes around, I guess…

  2. Yep….Happening around here as well. We lost our Tuesday Morning…. a local privately owned dollar store that had been in business for over 20 years and …a Wendy’s… all within 1/4 mile of each other on the main drag.
    And gonna agree with MD… the millennials don’t have an “appetite” for stuff. AND as their parents try to downsize….they don’t want the “family heirlooms” either. It’s kind of “refreshing” and “scary” at the same time. Refreshing that they are not letting possessions define who they are …. But scary as we ask ourselves…who is going to “drive the economy” as this generation is reluctant to buy things such as clothes….cars and homes. The retail landscape is certainly changing….

    • Yeah, you do have to say that millenials seem to be pretty savvy about money and lifestyle control, as a general rule. My son is frugal to a fault, and his friends, while they live comfortably enough, do not diddle their money away trying to outdo each other or buying unneeded junk.

      On the other hand, they’re not living like anchorites, either. They spend what they can afford, but not more than they can afford. A car payment and a mortgage payment, taken together, eat up most of a person’s take-home pay.

      If the One-Percenters want them to spend more so as to enrich their “betters,” then they’ll have to come up with better pay. None of my son’s friends is earning what they should be able to earn with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from fancy institutions. Remember…these kids are part of the elite. Presumably young people with degrees from Arizona State and the University of Arizona — or, heaven help them, without four-year degrees at all — are not doing as “well.”

      • Yeah, about that degree from a “fancy institution”, it’s almost never needed except for a very few careers. Otherwise employers are just as happy with a degree from the state college. Most of those kids’ parents could have saved tens of thousands.

      • Or the kids themselves: some of these kids are many tens of thousands of dollars in debt to college loans.

  3. IMHO this is one of the …”challenges” with the healthcare agenda. Millenials are smart and can cut thru the “white noise” on healthcare and health insurance. I have had more than one “millie” try to explain to me that health insurance is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. I …(with little success I might add)…. try to explain insurance of any kind is one of the few things you buy….and HOPE you never have to use. Sadly when one of these “bullet-proof” uninsured “millies” is in a car accident the unpaid bills are laid at Society’s feet….

    • Yeah, the young pups are pretty tight with their dough. Hence the vast proliferation of personal-finance websites, many of which are operated by millenialites.

      At their age, it’s understandable that they’d be wary of insurance products, especially given some of the shenanigans we see coming out of the industry. More to the point, though: you should ask them what they have to pay for health insurance, even for a minimal plan. HOLY mackerel! It’ll drop your jaw. If you have to pay that on top of rent or a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, and a car payment, even with two salaries you would have almost nothing left over to live on.

      A young urban couple today needs to have around a hundred grand coming in to maintain what you and I think of as a middle-class lifestyle, which ain’t very fancy. We’re talkin’ a modest home in a reasonably safe neighborhood with access to halfway decent schools, a clunker for one partner, a reasonably late-model vehicle for the other, and community college plus state university for the kids. When it’s costing you that much to live in something that ain’t a McMansion, you sure can understand why they would resent the outrageous premiums that most middle-class working Americans are enjoying under Obamacare. And the piss-poor coverage available in some parts of the country.

      And you can see why a lot of millennials find Sanders appealing because of his call for universal one-payer coverage: i.e., Medicare for all. Slightly higher taxes for coverage that will actually COVER you trumps (heh!) ruinous premiums to insurers who will declare a pregnancy or the aftereffects of a rape to be a “pre-existing condition.”

      • I’m a millennial, and I don’t have health insurance. A good majority of my friends do not have it either. It’s not that we think we are invincible and therefore do not need it. Rather businesses are increasingly turning to contracting to fill vacant positions, but as a contractor you do not receive benefits including health insurance. Marketplace plans are not affordable – the cheapest plan for just me was $500/month with an $8000 deductible. After paying rent and student loans (even state schools can easily cost $20k/year now) there’s approximately $700 left to cover all other expenses and setting aside for savings.

        Would I call health insurance a Ponzi scheme? No, but I would call the current system flawed beyond repair. When looking at OECD members, the US spends the most per capita on healthcare and yet that does not bear out when looking at health outcomes. Many (most?) countries consider healthcare to be a basic human right, but in the US it is viewed as a privilege. The closest comparable we have to the US healthcare system is probably China, and they are moving to implement universal healthcare by 2020. Why are these other countries able to provide better healthcare at a lower cost? It’s not that they’re all public systems – for example, take a look at Singapore and Switzerland.

      • “…US is buying a Bentley and getting a Chevy….” Hmmmmmm…. Follows, I suppose. Part of it is our populace is too poorly informed to know about this. And I expect a great deal of it has to do with the vast lucre to be had by the various interested parties.

    • @ MD: Other countries can afford it because taxes are considerably higher. Income taxes are higher, and many such countries have a VAT: a system that adds another tax at EVERY STAGE along the way of production, transportation and sale. This is why fairly ordinary stuff in England costs as much as a luxury version of the item in this country.

      Americans don’t like paying taxes. And American corporations don’t like paying taxes in spades. That’s why paying for medical care redounds upon the sick.

      • Taxes could explain it if we were only looking at private spending per capita. However, the OECD data includes both public (aka tax revenues) and private funds spent when calculating healthcare costs per capita. When it comes to healthcare the US is buying a Bentley and getting a Chevy.

  4. Do you have a Kohl’s nearby? They have cheap pillows that won’t last too long but will suffice for a few months at a time? When you find them on sale as well as combine it with one of their endless supply of coupons, you can usually land a pillow for a couple of bucks out of pocket.

    • The one that was nearest to my house — which was not VERY near — closed some years ago. It wasn’t in a great part of town then; today it’s even less great. There’s one in off the 101 in Scottsdale, about a quarter of the way to Payson. And one almost to the 101 off 19th Avenue, another almost-sketchy area. Both are a long drive…don’t think I want to burn gas just for one purchase that I can order online or get at the Target down the road.

      I think it’s probably best either to order it or, since there’s no hurry, wait till I’m in the neighborhood of the Target.

      LOL! These fine pillows don’t have to last: all they have to do is take up space. 😀

  5. I’ve done some reading on health insurance….specifically company provided health insurance. It seems company provided health insurance arose as a tool to be competitive during and right after WWII. There were price controls and wage controls in effect and offering health care was a way to attract workers without violating the law. Then it became the expected norm….I can remember being a 20-something and working at a manufacturer (when dinos roamed the earth) that offered EXCELLENT health insurance. Looking back it was a SWEET deal….It cost me nothing and provided excellent care and $100….that’s right $100 deductible. After that first $100 I never spent another cent…all year. That ship has sailed..
    How sad that smart…. educated folks like MD…have few options in todays health insurance arena…and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. $500 a month is $6K a year. When added to the $8K deductible that means MD will spend $14K in a calender year before the insurance company will have to spend a dime…No wonder insurance companies want the millennials to sign up. There has got to be a better option for the next generation.
    I wonder if a “tax” based on consumption would work. Say a 25 cent per gallon tax on gas that went directly into a fund for healthcare toward subsidies and programs . Oil prices have fallen significantly so the hardship would be limited and if it was a hardship….consume less. In health insurance it seems there is no “free lunch”….

    • Let’s take your idea and apply it to a Swiss style healthcare system in the US. Switzerland provides universal care through mandatory private insurance. If you don’t buy your own the government enrolls you in a plan. If you don’t pay the premiums the government with garnish wages or seize assets to pay the premium. So far not that different than the US with the ACA individual mandate. The Swiss also cap healthcare costs at 8% of your income. Beyond that point the government picks up the tab. While in the US the government doesn’t pick up the tab after this point, 8% is still considered to be the threshold of where healthcare costs are affordable under the ACA. So the big question then is what would that look like in the US?

      Unfortunately I don’t have a gaggle of economists on staff like the CBO to model this, but I can do some rough calculations. In 2015, the US healthcare spending per capita was $9000, which is comprised of $4500 in government spending and $4500 in private funds. During the same period US money income per capita was $30000. An 8% cap ($2400) would mean the government would need to fund an additional $2100 per capita. When we extrapolate the $2100 increase to the whole population, US government healthcare spending would increase by $674.1 billion. For comparison, defense spending, which was 54% of discretionary spending, was $548 billion in 2015.

      So now that we know the price tag is $674.1 billion, we need to figure out how to pay for it. The majority of current public healthcare funding comes from the 2.9% Medicare payroll tax, but Jestjack suggested a gas tax so let’s look at that first. The US consumes about 143.37 billion gallons of gasoline per year. A $0.25 gas tax would raise about $35.8 billion or a healthcare private cost reduction of $110 per capita. The gas tax would decrease private spending on healthcare from 15% to 14.6% of per capita income. To cover the country’s medical bill would require $4.72-4.75 per gallon in additional tax. Alternatively a 1.5% payroll tax would cover the cost.

      Since I modeled the system on Switzerland, how much does their government spend in public funds on healthcare? Of the OECD countries, Switzerland has the highest healthcare costs behind the US at around $6750 (total public + private) per capita. Of the $6750, the government’s portion is $4500.

  6. And $500 a month is as nothing. Some people I know are spe3nding much more than that.

    On the other hand, in 1946. $100 was a lot of money.

    And on the Other other hand, doctors and medical care didn’t cost as much, because there wasn’t all that much they could do for you. They didn’t have a lot of antibiotics and they didn’t have the kind of sophisticated surgeries and other treatments they have now. If you got sick, you either got over it or you died; there wasn’t a lot of in-between. Plus fewer people lived to advanced old age.

    The only way we’re gonna get universal healthcare in this country is with universal taxation. It’s important to remember that this country has a LOT of poverty — more, I’d be willing to bet, than most developed countries — and that we have the conviction that poor people are that way through some fault of their own. Because of that attitude, people who are better off don’t want to pay to help people who are worse off, whom they tend to regard as lazy and feckless.

    In that respect, the healthcare issue reflects the country’s social problems, which, as we’ve seen, are pretty intractable.