Saturday, November 22, 2008

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, Part 7

This holiday season our local diamond-selling chain is running radio ads to push sales of pearl sets that retail for $100 or less.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, Part 6

American Express is upping to 2.7% its fee for charges made in foreign currency. That's a hike from Amex's previous 2% fee. Most Visa and Mastercard cards have charged a total of 3% for some time.

According to this trenchant article in The New York Sun last year, Amex had to hold their fee down at 2% for a few years while a class action suit over its fees was pending.

The new fee goes into effect January 11, 2009, at least on my card. My guess is Amex, which, like most financial companies, is under serious market pressure, couldn't bear to leave that kind of money on the table. I don't know what 0.7% of the firm's total foreign currency transactions is, but it's got to be a lot.

Addendum: I discovered in China this summer that Discover Card charges nothing for foreign exchange. In addition, Discover is probably the most widely accepted card in China, though paradoxically most merchants have never heard of it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flash: Google Tracks Own Blog

Several weeks after I started this blog, which is hosted by a subsidiary of Google, Google's blog searching service has begun tracking postings here.

You can arrange to get an e-mail alert by entering my name and selecting "blogs" at this link.

Why it takes several weeks for Google's blog-search engine to pick up a blog on the search giant's own site, I don't quite get. It may be some sort of anti-spam-like blogs issue. But I'm glad that the servers have now deemed me worthy of attention.

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, Part 5

Parking at a private economy lot near the San Francisco airport during the busy Thanksgiving period: $7 a day. Usual price $10-$11 a day.

Lots near Oakland Airport as low as $4.99 a day, versus $8-$14 usual, though they add some confiscatory taxes over there.

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, Part 4

An Old Navy store in Redwood City, Calif. has girls' clothing on clearance at the moment for 75% off, plus a "friends and family" discount of 30%, bringing the total discount to 82.5%.

Maybe soon they will start just weighing the clothes and pricing that way as is done with salvage clothing sent overseas.

These kinds of discounts also offer the possibility of some interesting tax arbitrage as charitable donations of goods. Perhaps Old Navy, like most publicly traded companies, would now be considered an unwilling seller, meaning that the fair market value price could be substantially higher.

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, Part 3

The Whole Foods market where we buy our organic arugula is offering free classes on how to "value shop" the store. The store, in Los Altos, Calif., is also running an illegal promotion offering a drawing for $100 gift cards to anyone who spends more than $75 in a single visit.

This from a store sometimes mockingly referred to as "Whole Paycheck."