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Small Signs of Bad Economic Times - Mo's Journal
March 16th, 2009
10:47 am

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Small Signs of Bad Economic Times
I've been kind of collecting small signs of bad economic times. Here are a few things I've noticed lately:


- I'm a member of the Smithsonian and they sent me a pretty 2009 desk calendar at the end of January. Now, obviously, if they had planned to send their members desk calendars they would have done it in December. Clearly they couldn't sell them this year.

- I have gotten at least ten ads for Disney Vacations in the past few weeks, both email and snail mail. I am a repeat Disney visitor but was last there four years ago. I think they really need business and are hard selling to old customers.

- Zara is going on a school trip to Spain in April. I got an email from the tour company saying that they are offering a "job loss guarantee" - i.e. if you lose your job you can pull your kid out of going and get your money back.

- I haven't flown anywhere in a long time (a couple of years?) but I hear from people who are flying that there are empty seats all the time.

- Zara goes to a pediatric dentist in our neighborhood (well, the big ones do, too, but the last time they went they couldn't even fit on the chairs, so I think it's time they switch to an adult one). I called this morning to schedule an appointment. Dr. Alan is very good and also very expensive. He's a really popular dentist and generally you have to schedule months in advance for a weekend appointment. They offered me appointments this weekend or next, with multiple slots available.



Anyone have others?

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[User Picture]
From:barenakedrachel
Date:March 16th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
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Interesting! I've noticed a ton of stuff, too:

I've been getting e-mails about Disney vacation offers and have never been there! :D

My high school is no longer sending monthly alumni magazines and is e-mailing a link to an online version instead. This just started last month and I've been getting them in the mail regularly for the past 13 years, so... coincidence? They call it "going green", but I think it's a money thing more than anything else since "going green" was in style a while ago and they didn't do this!

I work as a cashier at a grocery store and have noticed more and more people paying cash instead of using credit cards (or they make split payments of half cash/half credit). We used to never have to do "drops" (removing overflow cash from tills in the middle of a cashier's shift), but now make at least one drop per till per shift because there is so much more cash and the 20s are literally oozing out of the tills! Also, more and more shoppers have been paying with checks, which are, 90% of the time run as electronic checks (automatic withdrawal from account, so pretty much the same as cash/debit card). Sometimes TeleCheck declines the transaction for whatever reason and I ask the guest if they have another form of payment. More often than before, they do not have any other form of payment and explain that they cut up all their credit cards out of fear of "bad times". This forces them to have to leave the store w/out their groceries. Some come back for them, most do not.

I've also noticed more and more people lining up their groceries on the belt in the order that they want a particular item and once they reach a certain spending amount, they tell me to stop and take the rest off.

Also, at the same job, I often am scheduled to work behind the service desk where guests go to make returns, complain, or turn in coupons they forgot to use while going through check-out. I have noticed a significant increase in returns (food and non-food) with guests stating that they "overbought" as well as an increase of guests who wait in long lines to turn in coupons for a mere 25 cents, saying "every penny counts". They'll also do this for price adjustments on items that rang up incorrectly for tiny differences of 7 cents.

The Shell gas station near my house offers 20 cents off per gallon if you get any car wash... they've NEVER done this before! Maybe in the past they'd put the car wash on sale if you got a minimum of 8 gallons of gas, but never would they discount the actual gasoline...
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
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These are all very interesting! I would have thought people would be buying with credit cards more often in hard times...

Btw, we had a big controversy in my food coop over whether to accept credit/debit cards. It was eventually decided that we'd accept debit but not credit cards, on the idea that credit cards encourage overspending.

I'm really glad of the food coop now, I'll tell you. I couldn't eat so well, so healthy, and so cheap with getting my food anywhere else.
[User Picture]
From:sabra_n
Date:March 16th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
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On the flying front, you can get round-trip tickets to Israel for $700 or so now, which is very, very low. Still too much for my blood, but really. That's cheap.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
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I've noticed airfares coming down. For a long time there, air fares were very, very high while people were less and less able to pay...
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:March 16th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
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Lots of empty storefronts on Ninth Street in Greenwich Village; there was always a lot of turnover, but an unsuccessful shop would soon be replaced by a new contender).
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
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I keep waiting for that in my neighborhood, but so far it hasn't happened...
[User Picture]
From:alchemia
Date:March 16th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Our large grocery store that boasts about having wide variety of stuff is cuttign back on that variety (really, who needs 6 different brands of sparkling grape juice?) In the past, they'd just mark a close out as say 15 or 20% off on the shelf. Lately though, they've been taking it all off the shelf, putting it in shopping carts and putting a sign on the cart that says "everything in this cart - 25cents / 50cents / $1) The other week I got 6 bottles of sparkling grape juice that Bug loves for $1 and they all had coupons around their necks to get back $1.50 for each by mailing in the labels.

Normally, veggie and flower seeds are full price until late summer/autumn at which point they go on 50% off sale. They just recently put the seeds out and they are already 40% off thru October! (I wasn't expecting this one, since I'd expect more people would be planting veggies as a way to save- and thus, worth keeping them at full price... but I guess not :-/ ... not that I'm complaining though; i'm already starting seedlings indoors)

The salvation army by us that we go to because they run one of the few food pantries we qualify for doesn't even bother checking what people's incomes are or not- I was searching thru the papers I brought for our SSD award letters and the guy says "oh don't worry about that- if people need the food, they need it" (they used to be careful about checking)

Also at the SA- they used to have free bread on Wednesdays that was given to them from local groceries/bakeries (breads, bagels etc that were still good, but not fresh enough to sell). Now, they have free bread three times a week.

I go with my grandmother every month to eat at the same restaurant for lunch, on a weekday. In the past, if you didn't get there before 11:45, you had to wait for a seat because it was PACKED. Now, you can get there at noon and there is space available (this place also gets high reviews and has probably the best lunch value in the area too, if you like Chinese food. A dinner plate on which is a ball-shaped cup of rice (white or fried), the rest of the plate with a large enough helping of whatever you ordered (often we take half home), a cup of your choice of 3 kinds of soups, and a choice of egg roll or spring roll, and of course, tea, fortune cookie and almond cookie- all for $5 to $6!

I've also sadly noticed more than usual ads at pet shop bulletin boards and on craigslist for people giving up their pets (can't afford them, moving and can't take them with, had to get a 2nd/3rd job and don't have time for them etc) =(
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
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Some of those are surprising to me. Like the inexpensive restaurant lunch. I understand that some people can't eat out at all anymore, but I would have thought that they would have been displaced by those who used to eat at more expensive places and can't afford those anymore...
[User Picture]
From:st_crispins
Date:March 16th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
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We went to the mall last Thursday night and it was nearly empty and desolate. Also, one of the big anchor stores went out of business.

And my little college, which is actually doing okay, is cutting back on the faculty lunch that usually follows convocation.

Edited at 2009-03-16 05:12 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad your college is doing okay, faculty lunch cutback notwithstanding.
[User Picture]
From:taffimai
Date:March 16th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
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I've been seeing the first class cabins emptying out too. I used to never be able to get a free upgrade on longer flights on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon, but now it's almost automatic.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
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You must travel a lot! Is that for work?
[User Picture]
From:nocategory
Date:March 16th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
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I've noticed there are very few Help Wanted ads for restaurant work.

I've also noticed in department stores that the aisles seem wider because there are fewer racks.

My students claim they'd take any textbook that is less expensive, over more expensive books with more frills (which attracted them in the past), such as color, fold outs, etc.

We are pricing roof repairs and there is no wait on getting it done. Same with electrical work we need to get done.

My friend who is an auto mechanic says he's tired of working on cars that are near their death, and hasn't had a fun or exciting car to work on in quite a while.
[User Picture]
From:nocategory
Date:March 16th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and every place my 16 yo goes to apply for a job tells him that they aren't hiring or aren't hiring teenagers.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
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I am so worried that Doran won't find a summer job...
[User Picture]
From:nocategory
Date:March 16th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
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one more....

The more elite (for our area) soccer club my kids have played for in the past (we switched a year ago to a less expensive club) is offering scholarships and has eliminated some shorter seasons. The high school team isn't doing a team camp this year, either. And, the shorter June season for the high school boys is allowing kids to borrow uniforms or wear something "similar" to the club uniform if they are new and don't have a uniform. In fact, they told us my son who is a goalie can just wear black shorts and a goalie jersey of his choice since he never plays field.

That's a HUGE change from before when they expected he'd pay nearly 100$ for the uniform and buy a team goalie jersey.
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:March 17th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
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We're spending a lot of time in Home Depot and such like places, prepping for our reno. Even on Saturday afternoons, they are half empty.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
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That's another surprising one to me. I would have thought that people would be doing more DIY stuff when there's less money. But I guess it's mostly not choice between having someone doing it and DIY, but a choice between doing it or not.

Hey, you got my beta on your last chapter last week, right?
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