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9to5to9: Spam as an economic indicator

Submitted by on Saturday, 16 August 2008 No Comment

“Two weeks, 12 emails touting “”back to school”" sales and advice.

It’s a sign a couple things. One, I’m signed up for entirely too many newsletters. Two, retailers are getting increasingly desperate.

Some offerings have merit: 10 Super Yummy After-School Snacks”" from parenting.com would be helpful if Big Guy would accept something besides pizza as “”super yummy.”" They do include tortilla pizzas, though — wonder if I could sell that. And I’m definitely going to try the Jelly Juice Cubes — think Jello with no dye, which Big Guy avoids because of asthma.

Others leave me scratching my head. Back-to-school with ebay, Snapfish or American Blinds, Wallpaper & More?

Maybe it’s different elsewhere, but window treatments aren’t required gear in our school district. Or are they telling me it’s curtains for Big Guy’s academic career? Kindergarten seems a bit early to write off a kid.

It’s starting to remind me of last autumn, when my inbox was similarly assaulted just before Halloween: Five emails in two weeks touting touting “toys he’s dying to unwrap” and “biggest toy book ever plus free shipping!”

I predicted at the time a bargain-filled holiday shopping season for consumers, and I was right. Not that I know anything about economic theory — macro and micro were two of my lowest grades in colleges — but I know the streets.

The streets are starting to scare me.

When I have to park in the hinterlands Friday morning at a discount grocer but could have pulled practically up to the door at a full-price chain, I know folks are concerned.

When parents who used to rent bounce houses for day-care birthdays start sending party hats and blow outs instead, I know I’m not the only one juggling.

When a turbo-intelligent friend reminds me that cheap vices sold well during the depression and weeks later the media start reporting that alcohol and cigarette sales remain strong, my panic instinct kicks in.

When my employer announces a wage freeze at time when experts expect health costs to rise 10 percent next year, I’m ready to hyperventilate.

When I analyze Consumer Price Index statistics for a story I’m editing and see that a basic such as rice costs 54 percent more than it did a year ago, I know it’s not just my imagination.

And when a company tries to tout blinds as part of a back-to-school sale, I get cold chills.

The thing I have to remember, though, is to be realistic with the guys but not paint life as all doom and gloom. I’ll admit it’s a challenge, because some things we used to do we simply can’t afford.

It’s not their faults: Big Guy’s never flipped a house that I know of, and Little Guy doesn’t own Exxon stock. They’ll have to pay for those who did in financial ways now and in the future, but they shouldn’t have to pay emotionally.

Luckily, they’re still young enough that popcorn in the sofa bed on the weekends meets their definition of big fun. Come to think of it, I kind of like that, too.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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