Tag Archives: shopping

Doing what we are told–or not

While this won’t see publication until mid-December 2020, and I admit it doesn’t have much to do with editing services, I wonder if there are others out there who think as I do. I write on November 30, at the height of what we are told is Cyber Monday.

For the US readership, and those of any other country with a lot of Christmas gift-giving, did you buy anything online today? I did not. Were you tempted? But how could I resist the bargains, bargains, bargains? I was not even tempted.

I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else is as cynical about commerce. My starting presumption was/is that the designation of this as A Very Special Commercial Day was an attempt to manipulate the herd into overspending. The logic goes: “Better hurry, or other people will get all our Very Great Deals.” I assume it’s all smoke and mirrors; that they just raised prices and then marked them down, like our grocery stores do; that it’s a con job.

Black Friday, as it has been designated in order to make it Another Very Special Commercial Day, held even less attraction for me–and had done so in the many years before the pandemic turned large gatherings into superspreader events full of maskholes. “But you won’t get all the good deals!” Oh, I bet most of them aren’t so good. I don’t resent the marketing industry for presuming that the public is stupid, because for the most part the industry is correct when the public is taken as a mass. I probably should, but I do not. After cracking a couple of Black Fridays Matter jokes with my wife–and reflecting on the unfortunate impact of language choices on perceptions–I stayed home and watched college football.

The point, I guess, is that the Designation of the Very Special Commercial Days by itself was enough to turn me off. It triggered automatic assumptions that following a large crowd would lead to me spending money I should not, spending more money than necessary for anything I might want, and jostling around arterial streets and stores or the online ordering platforms.

It was that way with Amazon Prime as well. Remember when that came out? To me, it seemed obvious that Amazon would not do this unless they expected it would draw people to spend money with them more often than they should, just to “take advantage.” I took one look and said: “What is to your advantage will occur at my expense. No thanks.” Am I the only person who sees it this way? I just saw an American corporation pitching a gimmick, assumed it was screwery, and moved along.

The same applies to investing. On any given day, one can read a ton of articles about Some Intensely Important Indicator having made a critical shift: a Death Cross, an Inverted Yield Curve, a 50-Day Moving Average, or some other bit of technical talk. About half the time it warns us that we should sell, sell, sell, in order to avoid losing money. The other half is spent telling us now is the time to buy, buy, buy or miss the boat. Each side is right about 50% of the time, which poses a greater problem than people generally realize because in order to achieve an outperforming capital gain, one generally has to be right twice (timing of buying and selling). No wonder people just buy index ETFs.

Speaking of which, if you want a very effective strategy for cutting out all that racket and ignoring the Cassandras and Candides of our precious financial media, seriously consider subscribing to Jason Kelly’s financial newsletter. It is not cheap, but if you are managing five figures or more of assets, you should earn enough on dividends alone to wipe out the cost. It is entertaining, consistent, and often supplemented with midweek issues that comment on major movements. I can also verify from our business dealings and contacts that Jason maintains the highest possible standards of integrity and value. Time and again I have seen him lean to the side of making sure people are fully informed, well updated, and well supported. That’s not true of every financial newsletter out there, something I paid a lot of tuition (in the form of dumb investing decisions) to learn. Jason takes care of his people.

Unlike most of the money wonks on MarketWatch, Jason can write entertaining English with a dry wit. I go back to the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Jason (who lives in Japan), decided to seek sock donations to give to refugees. There’s always some negatory type who could find fault with free beer or a form of cheesecake that causes weight loss, and sure enough, one of them wrote in to question Jason’s qualifications to operate this process. With elaborate tact and patience, Jason reviewed what was required: use platform to request socks from community, assemble socks once arrived, load in van, take to refugee centers. Approximate quote: ‘Do I think I’m qualified to put socks in a van and give them to people? Yes, I think I’m qualified to do that.’ One of the highlights of my week is watching him point out what’s wrong with what the financial media are currently saying.

Of course, Jason’s guidance doesn’t tell people to do what most of the media are stirring them to do. That might be the greatest part of its early appeal to me. His method radiates indifference toward mass manipulation efforts.

Good holidays to all you who are observing holidays. Good fun to those who are just having fun. And great fun to all my fellow nonconformists; you aren’t the only ones.

A fairly typical shopping trip

Like most mild misanthropes who work for themselves in home offices, I don’t make excuses to go start my truck every day. When I need to be out and about, I try to fit in as many accumulated errands as I can. Today was such a day. After I finished the first editing pass on a ms (that’s literary insider snob-speak for ‘manuscript’), I girded up my loins to face the surface friendliness and automotive overpopulation of the Boise metropolitan area.

Why don’t I just use public transportation? Because the Boise public transportation system amounts to an old guy named Fred with a van, and only goes from this one spot to that one spot, and only makes two trips a day. Every time Fred suggests expanding the route, his employer changes his schedule, cuts his hours, and reminds him that in Idaho, short of tying him up and torturing him in a manner resulting in permanent disfigurement, legally his employer can do to him whatever that employer wants. Jobs more than 25¢ above Idaho’s Federal minimum wage are hard to come by, so Fred doesn’t make waves. His second and third jobs are worse, anyway.

When it gets over 90º F, my truck isn’t that much fun to drive. I’m too cheap to equip it with air conditioning, making it a high priority to avoid long stretches at a complete stop. The drag: the most convenient/typical area for my errands is Eagle Road, a.k.a. Idaho Highway 55. It’s one of those horrible non-highways that still has a highway speed limit, even though development has turned it into a congested arterial street. Everyone expects you to compete for pole position in the Boise 500 by speeding up to at least 50 mph, then braking back for yet another red light. Turning left from Eagle Road into a parking lot, or onto it from one, is for Boise novices. One plans Eagle Road in terms of right turns and side-street escape routes.

The first stop was to get my mail and deposit an insurance refund check. Other than the giant peanut bus in front of the grocery store (what, yours doesn’t have that? Heart. Eat. Out.), I was bored already and would rather just have said a bad word and gone home, but then I got the inspiration to stop into the juice bar next to my mail place. The fancy juice fad began about thirty years ago, far as I’m aware, and I had never tried any before. I’m told they are a major thing–people say things like “I didn’t juice for two days,” as if juicing were a verb, akin to pooping or bathing. There’s a clause in my life contract that says I must turn my nose up at all fads until they become passé, so by my calendar, I was right on schedule.

The juicery offered a dizzying selection of tutti-frutti slushies, plus wheatgrass juice. “Okay. My kidneys aren’t too great, so how about a slug of whatever you think is detoxey, with some wheatgrass juice.” The young lady explained that the normal method was to have the wheatgrass juice on the side as a shot. “Oh, like tequila,” I beamed, happy to leverage my core competencies in a synergistic paradigm. I stepped over to pay ($8.65, most of which was for the fruit slushie…good lord), then sat down to watch what they might do.

The young lady went to the back wall of the juice bar and took down a small lawn. It resembled what I had mowed earlier this morning, only smaller. She extracted a bunch of live grass from the little yard, put it in some sort of machine, and out flowed about a shot’s worth of something you’d expect to see seeping from Spock’s spear wound when the Cowabunga tribe of Beta Testis 2 took exception to Kirk horning up on the hot princess. She brought it to me with an orange slice. “So is this going to be like Fear Factor?” I asked. “Not quite. You’ll only make it worse if you fool around.” (Translation: “Don’t be a wuss.”) Thus admonished by advice of competent counsel, I picked up the shot cup and pounded Spock’s blood. It was not nearly as disgusting as I’d expected; it tasted like a lawn, but with a note of sweetness. She encouraged me to munch the orange slice. “Ma’am, if I do that, I will have a beard full of sticky OJ. This is probably not a problem you’ll ever have to confront.” She agreed that this was so. The fruit slushie was fine, though I wouldn’t say it was $8 fine. Two hours later, nothing bad has happened to me, so I guess we’ll see if it does any good. If I have Saturn V-level colonblow later, I’ll know who to thank.

Off to Dick’s Sporting Goods, where my mission was one of retribution: I sought the nastiest, most ear-piercing whistle I could find. Of late, I have endured daily scam callers claiming to be from ‘Microsoft Support.’ They explain that my computer has a virus, and I should go to a certain webpage so they can fix it for me. After trying answering in Hebrew or Irish, bellowing bad words, claiming not to own a computer, even accusing their ancestors of frankly revolting sex habits, I’ve decided that pure pain is the way to go. I got a cheap orange boat whistle for $3. When I got into the truck, I elected to test the thing in a closed space.

We won’t be doing that again. I’m surprised my windshield didn’t shatter. I will actually need to cover my ears when I cut loose with this bad boy. Go ahead, suckers, give me a call.

The grocery shopping was dull, except for smiling young lady bagging groceries at Rosauer’s, author of the wrong kind of suspense. For some reason, Rosauer’s has a great grocery store with the worst baggers in grocery history. Blueberries? Broken open and dumped out due to careless tossing in sideways. Big chip bags? Stuffed together so that one couldn’t possibly lift that bag by the handles. Gods only know what happens if you get anything at the deli–they’d probably put the hot stuff right next to your ice cream. Not planning to complain, just bag my own in the future.

The conventional wisdom says that you are supposed to complain to the manager about stuff like that. But really, why? Why get in trouble a poor, rather dense minimum wage serf who really has no reason to give a damn about my groceries or her job, thanks to Idaho’s general working conditions and wage situation, which are in the category of ‘Enslaved Inca Silver Miners’? “Well, so that the manager can fix it!” But why is that my job, why do I think that will happen, and why should I even care? This manager has presumably had months to supervise and observe, and has made not one dent in the situation. Furthermore, I’m the customer. I’m the one who pays. Why am I to provide a volunteer service to a for-profit enterprise? Manage your own people, lady. I’ll just deal with it on my own henceforth. And if it slows down the register, oh, gee, well, sorry about that. Smile, smile, smile.

Boring things done, tried something new only thirty years after it was introduced, set myself up to start punching back at slimy creatures, managed to control frustration and not embarrass minwage serf. Was not rear-ended while braking for yellow light, harassed by bored deputies. Flipped off Hobby Lobby twice.

Around these parts, we count that as a good outing.