Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cash for Clunkers: Stimulus Street Theater and Sideshow, with Automobile Death Panels


Abbie Hoffman may you rest in peace, you taught them well.

Wikipedia defines street theater and sideshow as follows:

Street theatre is a form of theatrical performance and presentation in outdoor public spaces without a specific paying audience.

In America, a sideshow is an extra, secondary production associated with a circus, carnival, fair or other such attraction.

So my take is the Cash for Clunkers program was both street theater at its best and brightest and a sideshow to the main event of the stimulus program. (albeit as small sideshow).

I will admit here, up front, that I had a front row seat for both.

My 13 year old jeep (191,000 miles and less than 18 MPG) was threatening a large expense in the near future, so I could not resist the chance for the federal government to fork over the down payment (or 18 months worth of payments). So OK I am a communist by "far right wing " definition, but so are 500,000+ other financially challenged citizens.

I would bet that there are some folks who were, and still are, vehement anti-stimulus activists who took the cash.

If you feel guilty about taking the money, repent!, and send me the cash. I promise to use it well.

One of the degrading parts of Cash for Clunkers was the meeting with the "Automobile Death Panel". I am pretty sure health care reform proponents were testing the final care consultations and end of life guidance, e.g. "death panel" as an idea slated for health care reform. (The consultation was eliminated in health care but it was NOT eliminated in the CARS program).

When you hand over the keys and the proof of registration and insurance (for the past year). The auto death panel walks you through the gruesome and painful last few minutes of your faithful ride.

The Clunkers are drained of their oil and given a lethal injection of sodium silicate (liquid glass) that hardens the engine. The engine runs coughing and spitting for a few minutes or more. This is a painful death for sure.

My last thoughts walking off the lot were of Dylan Thomas' great poem of dying:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.......
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

But hey, my new ride gets up to 37 MPG on the highway and I bought the 100,000 mile everything warranty so this ride won't be meeting my old ride in car heaven for a while.

PS. The CARS program ends today so be mollified that although you missed the show, you won't have to face a "death panel" when deciding the fate of a long standing companion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We are all hoarders at heart.

A&E network is launching a new reality show called Hoarders. The trailer is an intriguing look at “hoarding” taken to the extreme. It's extrodinary look at "consumerism" at the extreme.

This week, my wife and I returned from a summer away.

We looked at our life’s collection (accumulation) of junk in a different way. What would an outsider view as of lasting value in our spaces?My wife and I have plenty of "stuff" we need to shed, so that those we leave behind others don' have to do the shedding. (We don’t plan on going any time soon, but its good to get an early start on any journey.

My sisters tell great stories of dispensing with my parents stuff in a forty foot dumpster. My wife dispensed with a lot of her parents stuff by having a contest called "stump the chump". The "good helper" relatives and friends would look at an object from the attic, they would try figure out what it was? or what it had done?. After making the best guess they put the object by the side of the road with a "free” sign and guess how long it would last before someone would drive by and pick it up. Try this when you are cleaning out the garage or basement. Pretty soon, complete strangers will be stopping by to help you get rid of your junk.

Don’t get me wrong, because my wife and I are "loaves and fishes" people. (the more you give away the more you get in return,) we have been forced to be brutal about dispensing with the unnecessary, trying to focus on "things" with intrinsic beauty that will find at least a single "new" life after we have moved on to some other plane.

Another helpful thing is that we have packed up and moved over twenty times in thirty two years of marriage. When all your stuff needs to fit in a Uhaul truck, you make good choices of what is necessary and valuable and what is just junk.

I am sitting in my new office at work. It’s a complete shambles with the detritus of a lifetime of work, absurd plastic awards and plaques, pictures of things I have worked on and hundreds of books (none rare) and a cascade of business training crumbs. There is a faded copy of my master thesis about a topic that is obsolete today. That's going in the paper recycle bin: a copy is in the library at the University of Missouri if I ever need it.

The crappy awards from defunct companies and from groups I can't even remember-in the recycle bin if there is any post-consumerism possibility.

There is hope for me. After the office let’s tackle one of the garages.

PS: TIPS for non-pathological hoarders.

Pack things in boxes, seal the boxes. If in six month you can't remember what’s in the box, throw it away without opening it. Chances are you won't miss anything.

Move often. And to smaller and smaller homes.

Buy a car with a smaller storage trunk or hatchback.

When promoted, throw away everything from your past work that will NOT enhance your career. Trust me, the cheesy award plaque from when you worked in the mailroom as an intern will not enhance your chances for the next VP slot.

Throw away your spouses “stuff” when they aren't watching. Apologize and buy something nicer to replace it, if you get caught.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marketing Luxury Goods in the Post Consumer Era? Is this an Oxymoron?

In a April 07 Blog by David Armato ( L+E ) presented a great graphic portraying the post consumer marketplace from his point of view. I have copied it here without permission but with citation. By David's own blog this an example of "word of mouth advertising" he should be thankful for the positive lift.

lifted from:

If you read my Blog Britney Spears, Facebook, Twitter and the Post Consumer World. Aug 2, 2009 you already know some of my opinions about marketing in the post consumer era.

Marketing won't die, it will just get more cut-throat, insidious and subliminal.

My response to the subliminal: I will try to avoid buying anything I see advertised or "think" I have seen advertised, without a walk around the block before I make the purchase. Exempting breakfast cereals and other non-branded food items. For me, basic food is non-discretionary spending. Others might consider an iPhone more important than food, and who am I to judge?

What will change in the post-consumer world is discretionary spending. We will have less to spend. (Anyone with a 401K plan, a job that earns normal wages, or a home as part of their equity already has less.)

There will always be those who can afford luxuries without thought. (The One Percenters) Most of us, the Ninety-nine Percenters, will have smaller credit lines in the post-consumer era and our luxury purchases will be fewer and hopefully better thought out.

Maybe the post-consumerist will become a more deferred gratification type luxury buyer. Skip the daily $8 coffee and buy the $400 espresso machine from savings only fifty work days later. (no credit card charges).

Many economists, including Alan Greenspan, say that the same conditions of the human spirit will lead us back to the same place we were in 2007. I agree, however it took us 25 years for the stock market to reached its pre-1929 levels. If thlast year was akin to the great crash then we won't be back to our old ways soon, even if the banks change their current tightened lending. See my July 7th posting for information on the consumer lending crunch.

In the post consumer era, luxury goods will command even higher prices due to a shrinking market place and increased costs in marketing and delivering those luxury goods. (Economics 101).

Will luxury markets ever die. NO, they just will become just that "luxury markets". I might find it necessary to have a laptop computer for my work, but will I buy the most expensive one. I used to, but now I think not.

Some of the post-consumer literature contends that a loanership economy might grow, others like the Eden Project think the Big Lunch will increase social activism and community in the post- consumer era.

I will explore these and other "post-consumerism as social change catalyst" ideas in future blogs.

One thing I am sure of: high powered marketing of stuff you don't really need will continue unabated in the post-consumer era.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You can't make this stuff up. iPhone commits suicide?

I found the following blog "information" both interesting and troubling.

I can't make this stuff up. This was the title of the blog.

iPhone suicide throws light on China's gadget black market

I thought maybe that either iPhone's could commit suicide (good idea in the post consumer world when you don't have money for stuff), or two that the tragic individual used his iPhone to commit suicide, thus obviating Dr. Kevorkian and the Hemlock Society.

But it was simply that a factory worker in China stole a fourth generation iPhone prototype and the committed "suicide". The prototype is suspected to already be in the hands of the Shenzhen's industrial counterfeiters.

"The copying of prototypes certainly happens a lot in the electronics and IT industries," said Dane Chamorro, a regional general manager with consultancy Control Risks. "You don't have to steal them, you just have to borrow one for a day."

In an earlier interview with the New York Times, Foxconn's general manager for China said that Mr Sun had previously lost products "several times" before getting them back again

I saw a blog the other day, and for the life of me I can't find it again, that suggested "virtuality" will replace actuality in the post-consumer world we won't need to buy any stuff that needs to go to the dump (what we called in the pre-post-consumer world the landfill) anymore.

The example used to illustrate this important point was an iPhone gadget spirit level which will replace the "spirit" level used by countless construction and maintenance workers. I swear it! Can you imagine Tom the carpenter, out in the rain, tossing his $300 iPhone into a re-cycled paint bucket after he levels that 20 foot long three hundred pound beam for your deck. I can't. Maybe you will use it to level the really neat giclee print you just bought for $850. But in the post consumer world who will be buying $850 framed prints, not Tom the carpenter.

If you want some real fun with virtual gadgets go to the iPhone Apple Store.

These are the kinds of virtualities that some post-consumerism thinkers believe will eliminate real stuff. I am not one of them.

I didn't go to the details, I just read the Apps headings and wondered outblog!

Apps for working out. Lifting iPhone repeatedly to ear for bicep exercises. standing up with iPhone to increase leg muscles. making faces ion iPhone to tone your facial muscles and reduce dependency on plastic surgeons.

Apps for around the house. Doing dishes with your iPhone or more likely calling for Chinese and insisting on the post consumer cardboard cartons and the recycle service plate. Keeping up with eBay, buying used stuff. Now that's a real "post consumer" activity (no really it is). Decorating with iPhone. if you don't like the wall color just hold the iPhone between your eye and the wall (blocking all view) and put a color on the page and imagine the wall painted a nice soothing color. No painting debris stuff to the dump. Get cooking: virtual food only for this overweight post consumerist.

Apps for travelling. No more leaving the house. Just call it in to Florence Italy and your surrogate will go to the Uffizi for you. No jet lag. Don't want to learn the language, just speak into your iPhone and then hold it up to the lady at the gelato shop and you might just get something to eat, or have your surrogate do it for you and skip the calories.

Apps for getting things done. Tracking expenses. What expenses? Again I swear I can't make this stuff up. Ambiance. Download wind chime music to soothe your soul after having the kids give each other wedgies and scream while you burn the roast and then your wife calls to say she's bringing the boss home.

You can fill in ideas for Apps for Managing Money (what money?) and Apps for Fun and Games.... It doesn't involve going to a sunset walk at the beach. Apps for Going Out. (why bother?)

Better yet apps for bloggers with too much time on their hands.