Monday, October 27, 2008

Lazy BOGO Advertising



I'm not sure what's funnier to me, the ad copy or the disclaimer itself from today's Gap email, and posted on their home page.

Pants: Buy One, Get One 50% Off.

One "pants"? You mean one "pair", right? Or is it one pant at full price, and the other at half off? So one full-priced leg and one half-priced leg? That would be silly. Do I pay extra for the crotch? What about the number of pockets? That little coin pocket inside a front pocket isn't extra, is it?

Even the concept, in these "trying economic times", that they're really only offering a 25% discount on my total purchase is annoying. We're a little tired of math these days, especially when it comes to money.

Maybe they felt keeping the font at 72 points was smarter than keeping the word "pair" in the "Buy one Pair, Get one pair 50% Off" copy. I beg to differ.

But the disclaimer: "DOES NOT APPLY TO JEANS" is what made me laugh the hardest today. It's the Gap! You sell jeans. Even their founder, Don Fisher, is quoted with this simple phrase under About Gap Inc. on their web site:

"I created Gap with a simple idea: to make it easier to find a pair of jeans. We remain committed to that basic principle." -- Don Fisher, Gap Inc. Founder and Chairman Emeritus

I question your commitment today, Don. I really do.

'Tis a short blog today. T'ain't no more to read.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

We ARE the Economy: And We Need Some Global Chilling

We have the ability right now to slow down the economic crisis by taking a collective deep breath and not reacting. I know this will go against the grain of the way most people think, but I believe the only way through this is if we don’t hunker down protecting only ourselves and our families and think globally.

That means leaving your money in your savings/checking accounts at your local bank or credit union, not stockpiling your cash in a safe or under your mattress, and leaving your 401K and stocks alone.

Without cash, these institutions can collapse. But now they're getting infused with cash thanks to the nebulous $700 billion bailout, and lending money to each other. As much as I'm tempted to max out my credit cards and ask where my bailout is, I've never relied on someone else to bail me out for my poor decisions. So credit cards stay on ice for now.

Losses on paper (stocks and 401Ks) are only on paper until you act. If you don’t sell at a low price, you don’t take the loss.

The economy is cyclical and complicated and I am in no way an expert. But what I can say with confidence is that most news programs are riding the sensationalism wave, highlighting the negative, almost hoping for a collapse. In fact, the headlines could just as easily be stating: “Stock prices are at a massive discount! Best prices in years! Buy low, baby!” I’m not recommending you buy up stock, or boost your 401K contributions. I’m just saying that from what I’ve read and heard, long-term investments (stocks and 401Ks) work over the long term. So don't panic.

Think about this: if your house dropped 25% in value today based on comps in your neighborhood or a state reassessment, would you sell it from fear of it losing even more equity? Or would you think, “My mortgage (if it’s hopefully fixed) isn’t changing and I’m not planning on moving in the next six months (or next six years), so I think I’ll just wait it out.”

I wouldn’t panic sell my house. Although honestly, I think panic buying and ridiculously inflated prices in the last housing boom is what really got us here. Stocks and 401Ks are definitely a lot easier to dump, but it doesn’t mean you have to. It’s just on paper.

The foreclosure rates are also being exaggerated. From what I’ve read they run at about 3% in this country, which is higher than usual so the headlines say things like: Foreclosures up 67%! That doesn’t mean 67% of the homes are now in foreclosure; it means the number of homes in foreclosure jumped 67% from the last time they checked. Another way to look at this: Over 96% of the homes are not in foreclosure.

And these mortgages are tied to homes that have value – they’re not junk mortgages with zero collateral. The homes are overpriced, and a lot of people took out loans gambling that the equity would continue to grow at an exaggerated rate, or they’d be making more money – neither factors that are guaranteed. And those mortgages are bundled with stable loans - apparently they're just not easy to manage.

The common element to all of this is people and their love for money.

People buy and sell real estate. People appraise homes. People list homes. People sell homes. And people buy homes. Corporations are run by people. Governments are run by people. Decisions are made by people.

Mortgage brokers, investment bankers, stock brokers, real estate agents, and home appraisers are people. The actions of people got us here, not faceless entities.

Even CEOs and executives are people; overpaid people, but people nonetheless.

It also means we can’t prevent the people of ExxonMobil or Bank of America from charging its fellow citizens whatever the heck they want to. It’s part of the free market society that allows you to sell a Phillies cap with two tickets to the World Series on eBay for $1,250. A piece.

The only way out of a mess like this is to educate ourselves through reliable sources of information, dismiss our old ways of thinking and not let it happen again. And to just chillax for a minute.

It’s time for the era of greed and personal entitlement to give way to an age of altruism. Instead of blame-storming, let's reprioritize our needs, reassess what’s truly important, and start talking about how we can help each other.

Photo found on flickr.com (http://www.flickr.com/photos/italamaria/).


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Answers to Rhetorical Questions

First, how do we know they’re rhetorical? Wow, did I just ask a rhetorical question about rhetorical questions?

I was bored so I decided it was high time someone answered these unanswerable questions. [Note to self: research clich├ęs like “high time” in another blog.]

What is the meaning of life?
Oh, wait. It’s 42. Douglas Adams already answered that in Hitchhiker’s Guide?

[Yes, nerds, it’s actually the answer to the nonspecific Ultimate Question (life, the universe and everything), but allow me some leeway.]

What do you want from me?
Money or sex. Or both. Sure we could go into validation, respect, blah, blah, blah, but most of the time it’s cash or nookie. [Note to self: write a blog on bringing back outdated euphemisms.]

Should I stay or should I go?
Stay when you’re wanted, leave when you’re not. How hard was that?

What is love?
Unconditional and unquantifiable. Hey, I tried.

Why me, Lord?
You know why. Keep thinking…

How many times do I have to tell you…?
Apparently more.

Why are you so stupid?
That one’s just not fair. The inquisitor already knows the answer, so the rubber-glue reflection principle applies, making you, my friend, the stupid one. AKA takes one to know one.

What’s the point of going on?
Same as “What do you want from me?” Moola, action or both.

Are we there yet?
Well we’re in motion, so even if we were, we aren’t anymore. Stop hitting your sister.

There actually isn't any more to read but you can click if you don't believe me. What do you have to lose?



Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lawn Voting: Don't Tell, Didn't Ask


Eventually I came to realize metal lawn darts were a bad idea, but at the time they were popular and fun, and I understood how to use them. And they reflected the sentiment of the era in which I grew up (the 70s): Don’t impale yourself when throwing a weighted, steel projectile straight up into the air, then jumping out of the way at the last possible second of its descent. And walk it off if you do. I was also nine at the time.

I’ve never thought posting a sign in your front lawn declaring your political choice was a good idea; and it's definitely not neighborly.

I’m really enjoying all of the excitement around the upcoming presidential election, and the wonderful parody that comes with it. What I’m not enjoying are election signs popping up in people’s yards everywhere.

Voting is personal and private. When you head to the polls, you make your vote alone, without accompaniment or pressure, and with some form of confidentiality. It is a cherished right and privilege. Freedom of speech is also a cherished right and privilege, but it’s not an obligation.

I love macaroni and cheese. I don’t post it in sign form in my yard, or my window, or even on the bumper of my car. And if I did, it wouldn't be meant to taunt those who are carb-conscious or lactose intolerant, or simply love hummus more.

For my neighbors, I want to know how your procedure went at the hospital, how your daughter is doing in college, that "it's a boy!" or how your son’s soccer game went. I don’t want to know your politics.

Posting your choice of candidate(s) doesn’t inspire or influence the votes of others, including the undecided. It actually seems intimidating or, at a minimum, challenging – “That’s right, MF. I’m voting for so & so. I dare you to challenge me.”

If you’re into politics, or civic involvement, that’s awesome. Support your candidate. Get people registered. Offer your insights, opinions or anecdotes in the appropriate forum: political rallies, letters to the editor, public hearings, even a blog.

Sharing your vote or affiliation where it’s not invited doesn’t bring you closer to me if we’re aligned in our choice, and may even polarize us if we are not. So with all due (or undue) respect, please stop posting your vote on your lawn. It doesn’t count from there anyway.