There's an app for that!
I got an e-mail this morning detailing the perfect Mother's Day gift for mothers who also happen to be total assholes:
Make May 12th An Atlas Shrugged Mother's Day
For one week only, take 10% off of the Official Women's "Atlas" Pendant & Necklace or, the Official Rearden Steel Dagny Taggart Bracelet. This Mother's Day, give the perfect gift to the woman who first inspired you.
Because this little banana shack is vacant again.
The decision to open stores, I’m told, came when drawing up plans to take the Google Glass to the public. The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase. Without being able to use them first hand, few non-techies would be interested in buying Google’s glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000). From there, the decision to sell other Google-branded products made sense.
Along with Glass, Google will have an opportunity to demonstrate other upcoming and Google X projects like driverless cars and mini-drone delivery systems at its stores.
When I attended the political conventions last summer, Google set up hangout spaces for media to work in. They were large, colorful areas with lots of tables, charging stations, free wifi, and booths displaying Google products, along with coffee stands, games, and tech-minded employees to help out if you had any questions. I imagine Google is thinking of something like that, only with less free stuff and more products for sale.
Bear in mind, please, that there have been rumors of Amazon.com retail stores for years now, so this is not necessarily going to happen: Every tech brand presumably tosses around the idea of building brand-only retail stores, the way Apple has. But I think it's safe to say that Sony Style and Microsoft stores haven't taken off the way Apple's stores have, in part because Apple Stores feel like an extension of the brand, and Microsoft's stores just feel like ripoffs of Apple Stores. If Google is going to do this, they have to do something that isn't just a bunch of spare tables spread across a huge, well-lit space with a "bar" of "geniuses" in back.
For years now, from many different sources, I've heard rumors that the Capitol Hill Half Price Books was on the verge of closing. But yesterday, I heard a strangely specific rumor that the store was set to close on June 2nd. There has never been a date to go along with the rumors before, so I sent an e-mail to Anne Von Feldt, the Western Regional Manager of Half Price Books, and she confirmed the rumor. Von Feldt says:
Yes, we recently decided not to renew the lease and the Capitol Hill store will close June 2. We have great customers at this store, but not enough traffic, so we felt it would be best to focus our resources on our other seven Washington locations.
We're committed to the Seattle area - we've been here since 1984. We look forward to seeing our customers at our other locations including the closest store to Capitol Hill - our U. District location on Roosevelt, which is about 4 miles away - and stores in the north end (Lynnwood, Everett), on the eastside (Bellevue, Redmond), and in Tacoma.
Half Price Books has continued to open stores, and have opened 11 since 2010, including our 116th store in Lexington, Kentucky, which opened today. We're working to redefine what it means to be a 21st century brick and mortar bookstore.
We are encouraging our employees to apply for transfers to any of our seven other locations. We are also looking at possible new Half Price Books sites in the Puget Sound area and hope to announce a new store in the coming months.
This is terrible news. The Capitol Hill Half Price Books is a surprisingly beautiful store, and the staff has always been cheerful and helpful. Let's hope everyone manages to track down new employment soon, hopefully in some of Seattle's other great bookstores.
The list is highly subjective, obviously, but here's the thinking behind it:
24/7 Wall St. editors reviewed a variety of metrics measuring customer satisfaction, stock performance, and employee satisfaction. This included total return to shareholders compared to the broader market and other companies in the same sector in the last year. We considered customer data from a number of sources, including Consumer Reports, the MSN Money/Zogby customer satisfaction poll, ForeSee's Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index, and the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index. We also included employee satisfaction based on worker opinion scores recorded by Glassdoor. Finally, we considered management decisions made in the past year that hurt company image and brand value from marketing research firms BrandZ and Interbrand.
And here's the list:
1. J.C. Penney
2. Dish Network Corp.
3. T-Mobile USA
5. Citigroup, Inc.
Seeing J.C. Penney on the top of the list makes me sad. I started going to J.C. Penney for the basics—socks, t-shirts, that sort of thing—when they didn't back down from the Five or Six Moms boycott, and I liked what I saw. I liked that someone was trying to re-imagine the big box retail store, even if not all the ideas worked. Wall Street does tend to punish the different and the new, so this list isn't all too surprising. But I especially hate that the Five or Six Moms will claim this as a victory for their homophobic cause, against all evidence to the contrary.
“Some of the approximately 300 stores are reaching the end of their lease and others are closing based on overall performance,” company spokesman John Hall says.
Blockbuster put any number of local video stores out of business in rural areas, and now the Blockbusters are closing. I know if you want to rent a movie anywhere near where I grew up in Maine right now, you'll have to go to a Redbox, which means you will only be able to select from a very narrow cluster of recent mainstream movie releases. There are still quite a few people in this country who do not have the bandwidth—or the willingness—to rent movies online, and even then, the movies available through iTunes and Amazon's streaming service tend to be recent, mainstream releases. This is what happens when you rely on a single corporate entity for anything, be it Blockbuster or Borders Books & Music or Netflix or Amazon.com.
Queen Anne View reports that there's a third life for Queen Anne Books, after all. It's getting a new name and new owners, but there will definitely be continuity with the old store:
Queen Anne Book Company will open in late February in the old Queen Anne Books location at 1811 Queen Anne Ave N with new owners – Queen Anne residents Judy and Krijn de Jonge, and owner/manager Janis Segress. Segress is returning to the neighborhood after working as head buyer at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island. Some of the former staff will return, and new staff members will join and help welcome Queen Anne residents back to a community book store.
I can't wait to visit.
Yes, so Glenn Beck says he's "Going Galt" and setting up a self-sustaining libertarian commune somewhere. (For the moment, let's ignore the fact that in Atlas Shrugged, nobody ever announced that they were going Galt; they just disappeared so the helpless takers wouldn't try to ruin everything for them.) But Slog tipper Marc points out that Beck doesn't seem to understand what libertarianism means:
The community will be known as Independence, USA. If and when it is completed, Independence will produce its own food and TV and film content. There will be homes, baseball fields and a theme park. Think: Small Town, USA, but with a Beckish vibe...."There's not going to be a Gap here. There's no Ann Taylor. You want an Ann Taylor, go someplace else," Beck said in a video announcement. The marketplace, Beck says, will be a place for people to create their own businesses and learn from others.
This is a serious problem for Glenn's Gulch. The whole definition of libertarianism suggests that people and businesses should be able to spend money unimpeded, without rules or regulations getting in the way. But if Beck gets to determine who spends their money and where, that's not libertarianism—it's despotism. Strangely, I think Beck's fans won't have a problem with that.
When I saw the headline on the Seattle Times editorial—"Put the Oregon mall shooting in perspective"—I just assumed their thesis probably had something to do with the provenance of the weapon (which turned out to be stolen) and the larger debate over gun control. But no. The editors are offering "perspective" on a much deeper, much more meaningful issue:
THE killing of two shoppers and serious wounding of another at the Clackamas Town Center in suburban Portland was horrible. Our hearts go out to their families and friends. This is not something that should happen during the holiday season, or at any time.
It is not, however, a reason to be intimidated. The shopping malls and business districts of the Pacific Northwest are not dangerous places. The Clackamas Town Center in Oregon has been a front-page story partly because deadly craziness there is so unusual.
Even when the shootings occurred, the odds of being a victim were small. Some 10,000 people were at the Clackamas mall, and all but three came out physically unharmed.
Yup, that's the most important lesson to learn from this tragedy: Keep shopping!
The fact that the weapon—a semi-automatic variant of the AK47—used to be banned under federal assault weapon laws, well, shhhhhh! As I'm constantly reminded in the comment threads, the one time it is most inappropriate to offer perspective on our nation's gun culture is in the immediate aftermath of its tragic and inevitable consequences.
So, yeah. Your chances of being shot at a mall this holiday season are infinitesimally small. Nothing to worry about. And nothing to talk about, apparently, either.
This morning, Jen Graves linked to a story about Glenn Beck's latest stunt, an Obama statue he placed in a jar full of flat beer and called "Obama in Pee Pee." Beck tried to sell the "artwork" on eBay, but the Daily Dot reports that eBay pulled the auction. So now Glenn Beck is trying to sell his little "artwork" via Twitter. Remember when Beck was on the cover of Time? Seems so long ago, now.
Yesterday, Governor Chris Gregoire issued a press release urging Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would permit states to collect sales tax from out-of-state sellers.
It's an idea that makes sense, of course, and God knows the state could use the extra money. The Washington State Department of Revenue estimates that passage of the act could generate an additional $558 million in tax revenue for the 2013-2015 biennium, $934 million by 2015-2017. And it sure is hard to find a compelling argument for continuing to give out-of-state sellers a competitive advantage over local retailers.
But... as a former small business owner who once relied on out-of-state sales to pay my rent, prior proposals to close this tax "loophole" had always given me the willies.
In the 90s, my ex and I had a little software company, mostly selling a few titles we developed ourselves. By far the bulk of our sales went through the retail channel—about 70 percent moved through the major mail-order catalogs, which required us to buy expensive co-op advertising for the privilege of being stocked. We didn't always sell through our co-op, but when we did it could be months before we got paid. If ever.
But the direct sales, well that was almost pure margin, and the credit card transactions were promptly deposited into our checking account. And while these direct sales rarely amounted to more than a few thousand dollars a month, they consistently generated the cash flow we needed to make ends meet. We sold into all 50 states, though sometimes only a few units per state a year, but had we been forced to file quarterly returns in every state in which we did business, well, it simply would've been impossible. Imagine filing taxes 200 times a year. We didn't earn enough money to hire an accountant, and there weren't enough hours in the day to do the paperwork ourselves.
Whenever I tried to explain this to legislators, my concerns were shrugged off by Republicans and Democrats alike. I never felt that most elected officials understood the needs of a truly small business, if they even cared.
And so I was relieved to read that the proposed legislation exempts sellers who sold less than $500,000 in total out-of-state sales during the preceding year.
I'm not sure the bill is perfect. I would've preferred the federal government serve as a single collector to simplify filing, much in the same way that the state collects sales tax for local taxing districts. And that $500,000 exemption may in fact be too low a threshold. But from the looks of it, this is legislation that a small business like mine could've lived with.
So yeah, with online commerce representing an ever larger portion of our economy, it's past time to start requiring large out-of-state retailers to collect state sales tax.
Because it's not the launch of Christmas season without at least one unnecessary death:
The Black Friday shopping weekend took a tragic turn early Sunday morning when a suspected shoplifter died while being apprehended by employees and a contract security officer outside a Lithonia Walmart.
Two store employees who helped catch and subdue the suspect before police arrived have been placed on leave. The security officer, who police say may have placed the suspected thief in a choke hold, is no longer working for Walmart, the company said.
The cause of death had not been determined Sunday evening, and police investigators were awaiting results from the medical examiner.
The man was suspected of stealing two DVD players, which is apparently now punishable by death. Merry Christmas!
After a record-setting Black Friday, the artist Barbara Kruger (Good Job, Whatshertits) had this piece in Saturday morning's New York Times.
Ross Murray, Director of Religion, Faith and Values at GLAAD, wants to know where where "pro-family" organizations are on Thanksgiving:
Where are the alarm bells concerning Black Friday? Why have none of the self-described “family organizations” said that Thanksgiving is “under attack?” Where is the outrage that what precious little family time we have is being destroyed? The organizations who make their living off of attacking the lives and relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (who also happen to be among the loudest claiming that there’s a “War on Christmas”) have been utterly silent that Thanksgiving, perhaps the most family-oriented holiday on our American calendar, is becoming a holiday dedicated to fighting other shoppers for the lowest deals.
If there was a pro-family organization out there pushing for bans on Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving—and pushing for living wage jobs and health insurance (which would actually bring down the abortion rate)—I would be a card-carrying member of that pro-family organization.
Part of why the recent actions are so remarkable is that Wal-Mart is one of the most notoriously anti-union companies in the country. Based in right-to-work Arkansas, the retailer has maintained an almost entirely union-free workforce for most of its existence, even once resorting to shutting down a store in Quebec shortly after a successful union drive there. The company has never before dealt with coordinated labor protest on this scale. “In the past, Wal-Mart would fire people, would threaten people … and that would be enough to stop people in their tracks,” said Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, another organization backed by the UFCW which works closely with [the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart]. “The difference now is workers are using Wal-Mart’s own tactics to challenge the company and not backing down. Really, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s history, the tools that are used to keep people silent and under control are now being used against them. That’s significant.”
ThinkProgress has some video of an anti-Walmart protest from Fox News if you're interested. Meanwhile, this PDF, which is an internal document that details how Walmart managers should respond to the protests, is making the rounds:
But none of this is getting in the way of sweet, sweet commerce: Walmart is announcing that this is their biggest Black Friday ever, with 5,000 items sold every second.
ThinkProgress posted this great video of David Tovar, Walmart's Vice President of Communications, being forced to address his company's shitty treatment of workers on CNN:
This is noteworthy because Walmart has been called upon to publicly address their terrible policies many times in the past, but they've never actively tried to combat those charges before. And for the record, Tovar's claims that Walmart has a "very strict retaliation, um, anti-retaliation policy" smells like bullshit to me. When I worked there (for a month when I was 19), I had to watch a terrible anti-union video in the first few hours of my employment. Walmart is as actively anti-employee as a business can be without inciting all-out revolt. I hope the Black Friday employee walkout brings more attention to the shameful way this company does business.
Fashion brands are deploying mannequins equipped with technology used to identify criminals at airports to watch over shoppers in their stores. Retailers are introducing the EyeSee, sold by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, to glean data on customers...
The EyeSee looks ordinary enough on the outside, with its slender polystyrene frame, blank face and improbable pose. Inside, it’s no dummy. A camera embedded in one eye feeds data into facial-recognition software like that used by police. It logs the age, gender, and race of passers-by...
The mannequin, which went on sale last December and is now being used in three European countries and the U.S., has led one outlet to adjust its window displays after revealing that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women, according to Almax...
To give the EyeSee ears as well as eyes, Almax is testing technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire.
It's like this old nightmare come to life—but with a profit motive. Spoooooky!
Target employees are seeing red after the retailer announced its stores will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, cutting into holiday time for workers. An online petition asking Target to not open on Thanksgiving has over 179,000 signatures, and the number continues to rise.
This year, Walmart, Toys R Us, Kmart, and Sears are all opening their doors at 8 pm Thursday. Together with Target, that's two to four hours before they kicked things off last year.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, because there's so little to it: No costumes, no gifts, very few traditions besides gathering together with loved ones over a meal. I guess it stands to reason that retail chains hate Thanksgiving because there's no money in it for them, so now they're encroaching on the holiday in some disgusting ways. This is just incredibly disappointing.
"'Effortlessly Creepy' is the name of my perfume!"
One day after Walmart employees in twelve states launched a major strike, today workers issued an ultimatum to the retail giant: Stop retaliating against workers trying to organize, or the year’s most important shopping day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, will see the biggest disruptions yet. The announcement comes as 200 workers – some of them currently striking – have converged in the Walmart’s Bentonville, Arkansas hometown outside the company’s annual investors meeting. It offers a new potential challenge to Walmart, and a new test for OUR Walmart, the labor-backed organization that’s pulled off the first two multi-store U.S. strikes in Walmart history.
I would love this so much. Over the last few years, television news media has turned Black Friday into such an event that they'd be forced to cover these protests, which means that lots of American families would wind up discussing unions and the rights of workers over the long holiday weekend. That's got to be a good thing.
I love this button so much, but I do have to admit that the analogy doesn't quite work. If there's a Batman and Robin in this race, it's probably the quarter-billionaire and his youthful-looking carny freak sidekick. But I'll let it slide, because Biden in a Robin suit is undeniably funny. Three out of four stars.
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. "Use a knife!" they say. Well...my parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. "Shoot it with a gun!" Background check...HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed.
Having already lost eight of ten fingers to cutting bananas with a kitchen knife, I was about ready for a wonderful product like the 571B to come along. And not a moment too soon!
That last sentence took me 17 minutes to type out - if I had found this slicer earlier, perhaps things would be different.. but you can't live in the past...that would be counter-prodvutcvbe TVECVCZ CVZVCXCVCXZV CVCZZVCVZXVCVXVXXZC ZVXCZVCXVZCXVZCZVXCXXCZXZCXCVX
Dude. I totally got this in the mail and I thought it was going to, like, slice all my bananas for me. You have to PICK THE THING UP and TAKE IT TO THE BANANA and PUT YOUR HANDS ON IT AND OPEN THE BANANA and THEN LAY THE PEELED BANANA DOWN and THEN SLICE IT and THEN PUT THE PIECES IN YOUR MOUTH. WTF
From this week's Last Days:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3 The week continues in Tacoma, where this evening Last Days had the mind-bending pleasure of attending Nadya "Octomom" Suleman's meet and greet at the Castle Megastore, where Suleman was autographing copies of her brand-new porn film. As history buffs will recall, Suleman burst into America's consciousness in 2009 as the lady who had the desire, drive, and funding to get her face surgically altered to resemble Angelina Jolie's and give birth to octuplets conceived via in-vitro fertilization. Then it came to light that Suleman already had six children that had also been conceived in-vitro, and that the Angelina Jolie–resembling mother of 14 was unemployed and on public assistance. Which brings us to today, when, after years of vowing never to do porn and insistently rejecting the nickname "Octomom," Suleman appeared at the Tacoma Castle Megastore to promote her new porn film, Octomom Home Alone. As its title hints, Suleman's porn tape involves no sex with anyone else, but is merely a series of "erotic vignettes" that require Suleman to diddle herself in various rooms of a house. At the Castle Megastore, the Octomom Home Alone DVD was on sale for $19.99—a price that also got you a face-to-face with Suleman herself. Now perhaps you're wondering: What kind of people show up to see a woman who's famous for cutting up her face, implanting things in her uterus, and being forced by financial necessity to make masturbation porn? Answer: Stranger columnists and about a dozen or so others—a couple of older men alone (sure), a couple of younger men with dates (romantic!), and at least one family (more later). As for Suleman, she looked pretty (getting Jolie's face carved into your face has its benefits) and was very friendly—asking people's names, posing for photos, and responding to fans' kind words with a gushy "Theenk you!" Perhaps unsurprisingly, Suleman was dressed like a porn star in a tight, tiny strapless dress that covered her from bust to upper thigh and super-high stripper heels. More surprisingly, attendees seemed genuinely happy to meet her. "Stay strong," said a military veteran who treated Suleman as if she were just another American struggling through tough times. Then there was the aforementioned family, featuring a senior-citizen mother with two adult children, all of whom crowded around Octomom for a photo and autographed DVD. God bless America, and good luck, Octomom.
In short: Going to see Octomom's meet and greet at the Castle Megastore is the poor man's going to see Marina Abromovic's The Artist Is Present at MoMA.
It's Mitt Romney's day off, and so he's going shopping with a press pool in tow. As you do.
The Associated Press snapped pics of Romney leaving Hunters Shop 'n Save, where you can see in his cart 12-packs of caffeine-free Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, plus the Poland Spring bottled water.
ABC News also says he bought "hardware stuff" and insect repellant at Bradley's Hardware Store and apologized to a woman whose car was blocked by his motorcade.
"Hardware stuff," by the way, is a direct quote from Romney when the reporter asked him what he bought at the hardware store. I wonder if Romney runs his own errands when he's not being followed by a press pool?
Last night, Slate published a story about Amazon's surrender in the local sales tax war, and how their next move could be even more disruptive for local businesses:
But now Amazon has a new game. Now that it has agreed to collect sales taxes, the company can legally set up warehouses right inside some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Why would it want to do that? Because Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately—as soon as a few hours after you hit Buy...It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly this move will shake up the retail industry. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. (Remember Kozmo.com?) But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.
This story probably sounds histrionic to a lot of you, but it seems pretty reasonable to me. When the Great Walmart in the Sky starts offering near-instant gratification, a lot of small retailers are going to feel the same Amazon pinch that bookstores started feeling a decade ago.
Urban Craft Uprising is this weekend, July 7th and 8th, from 11 am to 5 pm both days. The summer UCU is much less stressful than the Christmas UCU—there are fewer desperate present-hunters and more casual browsers looking for something nifty and new. I cannot recommend it enough.
That is all.
After the reignited hoopla about the Amazon retail store rumors yesterday, I got an e-mail from a smart Slog reader who sent along this video of a Samsung store in Seoul. I agree with his assertion that if there is an Amazon store on the way, it will look a lot like this:
The important thing to take away here is that it's got a lot of wide-open spaces and plenty of interactivity. I was especially interested in the front of the Samsung store, when the narrator says they host events in that hall. I could see the front of an Amazon store being used for readings and lectures, to give the impression of a place where people want to linger, a hands-on hangout that serves as a sort of museum for the merchandise, with books out at the periphery to class the joint up. And to eliminate one of the biggest costs of a retail store—care and maintenance of overstock—customers can buy smaller items onsite, but bigger items would be delivered to the customers' doors the next day, or even before they get home. It's an Apple store crossed with a community center. If Amazon doesn't build a retail chain like this in America in the next few years, somebody's going to.