Gee Dave, do you think we ordered enough Chinese bicycles for Black Friday?
Hint: That's only half the overstock -- the other half is also outdoors but out of the frame. And that's just the bikes at one of the local WalMarts.
The first spending decline on a Black Friday weekend since 2009 reinforced projections for a lackluster holiday, increasing chances retailers will extend the deep discounts already hurting their profit margins.
Purchases at stores and websites fell 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion during the four days beginning with the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday, according to a survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation. While 141 million people shopped, about 2 million more than last year, the average consumer’s spending dropped 3.9 percent to $407.02, the survey showed.
The pumpers are trying to put lipstick on a pig by saying that online sales were up about 20%, but with the headline number being that gross sales, online and otherwise, were down about 3% the bottom line is that people are buying less.
Yes, you'll get people who will come in for their $99 TV. But then they leave, with nothing more in the cart, and when you are selling at or actually below cost on that $99 TV you're relying on people buying other things -- online or in the store.
If that doesn't happen you not only don't see increases in the gross amount sold you also make no money.
The reality of the Fed's and government game -- that one can lie for only so long before the credit card and bank balance smack you back into reality -- appears to be coming into focus.
Some of the biggest US cellular networks have been accused of preventing Samsung from installing anti-theft remote "kill switch" software on smartphones: supposedly, because they were worried it would eventually cut into profits.
San Francisco district attorney George Gascón said he had been working with Sammy to get the LoJack security software installed by default on the South Korean manufacturer's Android handsets. But when Samsung pitched this to the five main US carriers they all said "no, thanks", it seems.
The reason for this is not "just" the ridiculously-overpriced "handset insurance" marketed by the carriers (and Assurion which provides most of the coverage) it is also, and probably far more importantly, due to the fact that if you're under contract you can be effectively forced to buy a new handset at full price if yours is stolen.
There's a word for designing business systems to profit from illegal activity, even if you're not the source of the activity. You need only profit from any of the listed unlawful acts.
The solution to this problem is to give control of the handset's "lock" to the customer through a web-based interface, allowing him or her to permanently lock a device until and unless he or she drops the lock. Placing that software in NVRAM would make it impervious to a hard reset or even a firmware reflash (if done correctly.)
I'm willing to bet a case can be made that carrier demands to suppliers that such capability not be included falls within that boundary, given that it is profitable specifically because of the thefts that occur, and that the suppression of solutions to that problem has been systematically enforced by these carriers.
Do any of the prosecutors in these areas have the balls to indict Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile along with the various MVNOs?
... with a non-user-replaceable battery.
Especially if it's expensive and something you actually need to be engaged in something you like (or worse, need) to do.
The reason? You're buying something that has a pre-determined self-destruct built into it.
I've said this before but I also have broken this rule in the past.
Maybe you can learn from my $1,800 mistake.
I made my big mistake years ago with a technical diving computer called the Liquivision X1. I bought mine when the product was announced as it broke ground in a number of ways -- first by being completely sealed and using "taps" to navigate (instead of buttons) which removed the risk of flooding at depth (very bad!) and second because it included a decompression model that I had used as a paper backup table for years and trusted -- VPM/B -- and could be updated as new releases of the firmware were developed. It was also made with a sapphire crystal for the "face" and an aluminum case (nearly indestructible, in other words) along with having a 600' depth rating (way beyond anything I'd ever do.)
A bit of background is in order -- when you go beyond "recreational" diving limits you are forced to take time on the way back up to decompress. That's because your body takes up inert gas in the tissues, including your blood, while you are at depth and if the pressure is relieved too quickly before those gases can diffuse back out through your lungs it comes out in bubbles instead. That's the bends people talk about and one of the places it can come out is in your spine or brain. That can permanently cripple or even kill you outright and is very un-funny.
Mathematical models can give you guidance, but they're all imperfect. There is no such thing as a model that perfectly expresses your body's reaction to diving on any given day. You can build in more safety if you wish but there's always a risk something will go wrong and you'll get bent. Anyone who does decompression diving has to judge the risk of this happening and make a choice as to which model they wish to follow. The more knowledge you take time to acquire before you make that choice the better off you are, and then slowly building up exposures while paying very close attention to how you feel after a dive is wise as well -- sometimes you'll get "niggles", or little warnings (an itch somewhere or similar) before you get hit, so if you're right on the edge of being "wrong" you may get a warning.
Or you may not and find out the hard way when you fall over incapacitated or worse.
Anyway, when the X1 came out I was at the time diving a different computer -- the VR3. It's biggest problem was that it had a very conservative, and some said not-very-accurate, model in it that couldn't be changed or updated. I had never had a bad dive off it but it kept me in the water for ridiculous amounts of time. But it had a user-replaceable battery.
The X1 was a sealed battery unit with a claimed five year+ life, but a much shorter warranty. It ran VPM/B, however, and I made the decision to gamble with the battery being non-replaceable because of the safety factor that I perceived I would gain, the developer's expressed belief that the battery was essentially permanent and the ability to update the firmware. I sold the VR3 and used the proceeds to partially fund buying an X1.
I should have known better on the battery, by the way....
Not all that long beyond then The Ticker took over most of my time and I stopped technical diving for all intents and purposes. A few months ago I was going through my gear, planning to get back into it.
I pulled out the X1 and attempted to charge it.
No go; while it powered up fine on the charger it would not hold a charge. At all.
The battery was a brick. And thus so was the $1,800 "forever" dive computer.
So I contacted Liquivision, expecting that I was going to be told that I had a brick.
To my surprise they offered to change the battery for $100 -- a lot for a $5 battery, but a hell of a lot better than an $1,800 brick. I cut the $100 check and spent the $25 to send it off to Canada for repair.
Well, fast forward to now. I got an email from them. They opened it up and "discovered" that it was a very early unit (which they either knew or should have known up front as I am the original owner and ordered it as part of their original release of the device) -- the battery was hard-potted and they thus said they couldn't change it. Their "best offer" was to replace it for $899 -- for a unit with a degraded, non-transferable warranty.
But I still wind up with what should be the "last computer you'll ever need" but in fact is a consumable, and very expensive, device.
Oh yeah, and they had already cashed my $100 repair check, so I was already out $125 or thereabouts plus the unit itself.
In short they're refusing to honor their repair quote, despite the fact that it looks an awful lot to this former CEO like offer, acceptance and act in furtherance of performance -- that is, a contract. Being that the company is in Canada it's not worth it trying to enforce the agreement they initiated with me for battery replacement, but if they think I'm going to buy anything else from them -- ever -- after refusing to honor their own quote they're flat nuts.
They have agreed to refund the $100 and ultimately to send back my brick, incidentally, but they have to have a monstrous pair of balls to think that I would essentially buy the unit twice when the entire point of buying it in the first place was to never need to buy another one.
Simply put: Not a snowball's chance in Hell.
I'll attempt to de-pot it myself. I may (read: am rather likely to) destroy the unit doing this but I'm going to give it a shot since I have nothing to lose at this point.
But win, lose or draw I'm done being raped by the diving industry, a "business" that has a strong history of screwing its customers for fun and profit.
More to the point though for most people who are not into this sport I strongly recommend against buying anything from anyone without user-replaceable batteries -- especially expensive things -- in this industry or any other.
Another way to think about it this that when (not if) said device's $5 battery dies it's is instantly turned into a brick that is worth zero.
Think about it folks -- especially if you're an Apple owner, among others. iPad, iPhone, Macbook -- all have non-user-replaceable batteries. I have attempted to replace an iPod's battery and my record is mixed -- I managed to pull it off once successfully, but there are some very fiddly and fragile connectors in there, and in one case one got damaged in the process. And that was that.
This sort of crap has expanded well beyond Apple. HTC and even BlackBerry have started making devices like this with non-user-replaceable batteries. I have already torn apart my Garmin GPS watch (for running) which -- you guessed it -- has a non-user-replaceable battery and for which they wanted $60 to "change" a $5 battery. I was successful with that one and evaded my nice timing device turning into a brick -- for now.
But none of us should ever have to put up with that crap and the best way to put a stop to this sort of abuse is to refuse to buy any such product, ever.
Exactly why is it ok for a manufacturer to build devices that have a built-in self-destruct in this fashion irrespective of when? And why do we, as consumers, accept this sort of crap -- again, irrespective of what the device is?
I note that I have an older (much older!) Suunto Vytec -- a decent recreational dive computer -- that has a user-replaceable battery in it. I have replaced it several times for under $10 and in fact I bought it a few years before I bought the X1. It still works just fine and as a recreational dive computer it will continue to. It was my backup bottom timer for technical dives (along with the X1 for primary use) as it's "computer" functions can be shut off and it can be run solely as a timing device and depth gauge.
As for technical diving, I'm done with it. This is not the first time that I've had a company in the diving business space do something that I find utterly unacceptable. I'll be putting all my tech gear up for sale shortly as soon as I can go through it all and catalog it. If you want tanks with manifolds, some nice deco tanks, a scooter, even a compressor (yes, I have one of those too along with the hyperfilter for it) and can come get it or are in the area contact me and we'll work something out. Ditto for most of my (quite-nice) collection of regulators. I'm going to keep a recreational setup for the "light, easy and fun" stuff but the rest is gone.
While I absolutely love the more-complex diving I used to do, including diving in caves, I simply refuse to be financially abused like this by anyone. I've put up with various forms of this crap to some degree or another since getting involved with the sport but every man has his limits, and I have reached mine.
In short it simply isn't worth it any more.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for September, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $425.9 billion, a decrease of 0.1 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, but 3.2 percent (±0.7%) above September 2012. Total sales for the July through September 2013 period were up 4.5 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The July to August 2013 percent change was unrevised from +0.2 percent (±0.2%)*.
It's much worse than the headline folks.
When I started down the unadjusted table I was in a literal state of shock. September is usually weaker than August on an unadjusted basis but in this case it's 9.08% weaker.
To put this in perspective last year it was 7.6% down, the year before that 4.95%, 2010 was -4.56%, 2009 (the "depths" of the recession as we allegedly "turned") was -8.12% and 2008 (as the crash was initiating) was -8.14%.
In other words on an unadjusted basis this drop was worse than that experienced in the depths of the crash.
Can you find worse? Sure can -- look at 2001 (-11.14%) or 2002 (-11.09%) -- both during the Tech Wreck.
The bottom line is that this number is very soft -- indeed, right on the edge of recession territory.
Where We Are, Where We're Heading (2013) - The annual 2013 Ticker
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