Video rental stores – they still exist in North America.
Earlier this summer, Heather and I drove down to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a short break. We decided to see a movie in the middle of the day, just because we could. Nice.
The movie theater was in a dying mall. And even more dying than the mall was a Hastings store, providing books, music – and video rentals. I won’t launch into why CDs are dying, bookstores are dying, and streaming video is the way to see a movie.
But I will talk about optimism. The owner of that mall – and even more so – the owner of Hastings – should cut their losses and sell now. It will be a loss to the community when they leave. If the owners can afford to provide that valuable service at a loss, more power to them. But how much do they really value providing that service?
Similarly, our local grocery store had a space with a local coffee shop and then a frozen yogurt stand. I knew from the moment they opened each little business that they were doomed to fail. Finally, they put in a Starbucks, and it seems to be doing well. That multinational chain has the resources to make a really nice shop – as well as huge brand recognition. The smaller coffee chain and the yogurt chain (or independent business owner) did not.
The final tale in this listing of doomed businesses is a new independent drive-through coffee shop on Broadway in Englewood, Colorado. The owners decided to build on the south-bound side of the street. Most people commuting to work from suburbia to downtown drive the other direction. When do people buy coffee? Morning, mostly. This small business will fail, sadly.
As I was driving a big pickup, I reflected on freedom. In America, we have the freedom to buy as large a vehicle as our budgets (or willingness to take on credit) will allow.
Very few people in Europe drive large vehicles, due to fuel costs, the narrowness of roads and the difficulty of parking something so long. But it goes deeper than that. Many Europeans would consider owning such a vehicle wasteful.
Fuel costs are high in Europe because governments (elected by people, in most cases) have added substantial taxes to push people to smaller vehicles. It works.
Wired recently had an article about the least free country on this planet, North Korea. Citizens there have no choice about which car to drive – nor do they have enough funds to buy any vehicle. The article explores the ideas of how former North Koreans (now living in South Korea) are smuggling in western TV and movies to create a sense of discontent in viewers’ minds. There’s no real evidence that it’s working, though change could take time. China has had a major shift in the direction of freedom during the last 20 years. Cuba is opening up. Who knows what will happen.
With freedom comes wonderful experiences – and also garbage. The smuggled USB drives have shows that introduces viewers to the best and worst aspects of western culture. The change agents feel like the worst shows might shock viewers into some kind of awakening. As an American, I am ashamed about some of the ideas my country spreads to the rest of the planet. But getting small glimpses of freedom may spark a revolution.
Footnote: Those of you who know me understand I would never buy a big pickup. I test drove one as a part of a promotion at the Denver Auto Show. Interestingly, the new Ford F-150 with the smallest engine will have a greater impact on America’s fuel consumption than all the electric Chevrolet Volts combined, due to sales volume.
I love the looney tunes 1% of the upper 1% lifestyle stuff in The Wall Street Journal. You know – articles comparing camel hair coats – the cheapest being $1,195 and the most expensive being $3,550.
I was quite amused recently to see “price upon request.” I know that phrase. It means, “If you don’t know the price range in which this object is priced, you shouldn’t ask.” Or better, “Unless you drove to the store in a new Bentley, don’t ask.”
I know, I know, there are some good people in the top 1% of the upper 1%. And some of them keep the wheels of society moving forward.
But others are making their zillions off the backs of people who can’t afford to stay in a one-bedroom apartment in the worst section of town on what their wages will cover.
My own sister-in-law has been working for a large company that has given her only about 10c more an hour reward for the several years she has faithfully served.
What amused me most about, “price upon request,” was that for some reason, The Wall Street Journal didn’t take the time to request the price.
So why do I write this kind of post about something I can’t change? I may be “full of sound and fury – signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare said in Macbeth. I understand that the top 1% of the upper 1% will never read this. I know that there is very little you or I can do to change the injustice of major corporation CEO salaries.
But I am amused at some aspects of that lifestyle. And you may be amused at some aspects of my lifestyle too.