Apparently the economy in California is doing well. My personal economic indicator revolves around how hard it is to buy ordinary goods and services. At the moment it is very hard.

For starters, the lines everywhere are longer, and the traffic is notably worse than a few years ago. If you can get to a physical store, they don't have your size in stock, or the popular model is already sold out. At best, the salesperson might try to order your item from another store if you can wait a week. With the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, physical stores are empty shells waiting for the Internet to deliver a head shot.

Apple stores are exceptions. They generally seem to have every model in stock and the staff is excellent. But I won't buy anything at an Apple store this summer because I'm quite certain they have new and better stuff coming soon. Apple trained me not to buy their products today if they might come out with something better soon, and they are always coming out with something better soon. I've been staring at my old and defective iPad for six months wishing there was something I could do about it.

Online shopping isn't much better. Let's say I realize I need to replace some sort of broken item in my house, which is a process that happens a lot. So I go to a web page that carries that product and use the contact link to find the email address for the company. I type out a simple question about the product and wait for a response.

And it never comes.

What kind of company doesn't bother answering a customer who already has his credit card in his hand? Answer: One that has too much business already.

Buying clothes online works unless you want a size that fits. Those sizes are generally not available, even online, which I find puzzling. And if heather grey and navy blue aren't your colors, you're usually out of luck.

And what's up with taking two weeks to deliver an item you purchased online? Which part of the supply chain is doing so well they can't keep up with the business?

I hired a locksmith recently to fix a broken bathroom door locking mechanism. He worked on it over the course of three separate days, including trips back to headquarters to get parts. When he was done, he proudly showed his work. The door handles were back on the door and functioning! The only problem was that the door would never again lock, because he didn't have the right parts for that. He's a locksmith who doesn't think the "locking" part of a bathroom door is terribly important. Apparently his boss was having a hard time hiring qualified employees. That was a bad situation for me, but a good sign for the economy.

I realize this is all anecdotal, but how hard are you finding it to buy normal goods and services compared to a year or two ago?

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+24 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
By this metric, the Venezuelan economy must be booming. They are even finding it hard to purchase toilet paper.
Jul 8, 2013
I have to concur. My daughter works for a reasonable size sporting goods retailer on the east coast as marketing and communications manager - no slouch position. She gets great discount opportunities. Found a superb running shoe that works for me... Oh, the color I want isn't in stock, nor on back order. Nope, can't have the white and grey... only the screaming red shoe with laces to match is available... she confesses, 75% of the time the shoe size and color you desire isn't in stock... and, you are right, the online web availability is no better.
Someone is going to make money fixing this mess...
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
Economic success? Sounds more like the DNRC has left and we're left with Induhviduals.

(Apologies to those not reading Scott in the '90s).
Jul 8, 2013

[Don't know why anyone shops offline anymore.]

1-I assume that my system is infected with spyware and, therefore, dont put anything on it-like my credit card number-that I dont want the bad guys to have.

2-I like to have the things I purchased immediately instead of the week or so delivery would take.

3-I also like to get a look at things I purchase up close and not on a computer screen, and it would be pretty low to do that at a store and then buy it online wouldnt it?

4-If it turns out to be defective getting a replacement is a faster process at a nearby store than it is through an online company.

I see your point about one of the advantages of online purchasing though.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
Perhaps I'm part of the problem and not part of the solution. Canadians are often said to be over-cautious, too conservative, and penny-pinching. We wait and learn from other people's mistakes, or else the mistakes don't get exported in the first place so we can be smug without any research or work.

The media tells us that the reason why we pay more for everything is that we get better warranties and quality on many consumer goods such as appliances and consumer electronics, taxes, etc.

They tell us that we get what we pay for, and thus pay more.

I am guessing here, but I think Americans get what they pay for. That means lower quality to match lower prices and quicker delivery at the cost of jobs, service, quality, etc. That means full service costs a lot more and you don't get any. Unless you are the rare individual who bucks the thundering herds.

I don't think much of Buy American. Economists tell me it is stupid to buy more expensive, lower quality goods and services when you can buy them elsewhere and spend the money you save on a lot more junk you don't need, including whatever it is that your country does best. But putting jobs and quality and service ahead of price points is not quite the same thing.

The US does a lot of things best, but the economists say it would be wise to concentrate on the things it really quite sincerely does best and let people who don't do the rest as well do the rest any way. Since the days of Adam Smith, this has been a fundamental doctrine of economics. If you make better widgets, make better widgets with all your heart and soul and sell them to buy things you can't make as profitably, like gold and non-widgets.

Yes, Adam Smith was anti-merchantilist and didn't think buying gold at bargain bullion prices instead of inflated art gold prices was always stupid and hoarding it always wise. He was the Anti-Beck.

I love him. Which is odd, since I'm supposed to be a Commie or something.

I'm just saying, it's possibly your own fault, Yankee Pig Dog Capitalist Stupids. I say that with love. You're good looking nogoodnik stupids. My family is full of Yankee Pig Dog Capitalist Stupids and we have to love them because they are blood relations. We also have inlaws. We love 'em too, if only for the yuks.

Jul 8, 2013

It is a good thing you make such an excellent cartoonist. Because it appears you would not be able to feed your family with your fix-it skills.

I hope that you did not pay the "locksmith" company to come and not fix your doorknob.

Locking doorknobs can be purchased for under 11.00 at the big box store down the street. (Does not include diamond handles or all recycled materials as may be required by covenant in your neighborhood) With a very limited amount of technical konw-how and the ability to read and interpret pictures, a new knob can be installed.

Sounds like a "first world problem".

I have found that I can fix things before I even get call backs from contractors, so have pretty much given up calling anyone else.

Of course, if you make 250$ per hour, and the locksmith only charges 250$ per day, then it works out okay for them to work 3 days on something that only takes 15 minutes to change.

Maybe the problem with your knob is that the listening device is no longer reporting to the cloud. Or they needed to install some new cameras in your house to monitor you since you are a subversive. m 0 m
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
Speaking of Apple, if I buy an Apple computer that meets my specifications for RAM after years of whining that Apple computers don't, will I be a hypocrite? Will I turn into an Apple fanboy? Will iTunes work at last without losing audio or video every few minutes? Or should I wait for tomorrow's machine next Tuesday? Assuming, of course, that it'll take two or three years to get to Canada, if it ever does. Apparently there are bigger markets to roll things out in, even Australia, which has about 9 million fewer people. (I blame French Canada. If they would only speak English, we'd outnumber Australians.)

I'm the opposite of Scott Adams. I delay buying things for years while I dither and then regret having done without them for no good reason. I never worry about the Next Thing because there is always a Next Thing. I may never be able to see why it is better than the last thing or the thing before that, but it will always be there, and by the time I buy it, it will be clear whether it does something I care about. Or it'll be clear that I'll be losing something I care about.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
Hi Scott - I have to agree with risingstarlp about the cost-cutting. Or put another way - welcome to the 20%. Most businesses have concluded that 80% of their hassles/support/attention goes to 20% of their customers, so they're all trying to lop off that 20%. A major component manufacturer recently lopped off support for 80% of their customers because they generated less than 20% of their revenue. You need to be a major customer to someone or you're SOL. That's why your Emails aren't returned.
Jul 8, 2013
Made the mistake of going to a retail store this weekend in hopes of finding a deal on a computer. Came real close to buying one on the spot. Then went home and read the reviews online and learned that the model I was looking at was a complete lemon. Dodged a bullet. Don't know why anyone shops offline anymore.
Jul 8, 2013
I'll add to eclecticdog's excellent comment. The reason US workers and consumers have been abandoned is that executives have started running companies like hedge funds: the only decision drivers are the deltas between two numbers on a spreadsheet. US worker is x, Japanese->Chinese->Indian->Filipino is an ever-diminishing y. Shipping in two days is x, shipping in 10 days is y. If you can capture the vale of that delta you can make your quarterly numbers and get your options/bonuses.

Of course that is a terrible long-term strategy, but it doesn't matter to the people making these decisions. The next generation will have to clean it up.
Jul 8, 2013
Corporations have already abandoned US workers and now they are abandoning us as consumers. A bad policy followed by a worse policy.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
I've noticed an inverse relationship between the economy and the attractiveness of servers at a certain "owl themed" restaurant.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2013
Scott: "how hard are you finding it to buy normal goods and services compared to a year or two ago?"
No difference. But then again, most of my shopping gets split between the food store and amazon.
Jul 8, 2013
I know a couple California residents online who Im certain will have a completely different interpretation of the events you describe; namely, that California is going from s u c k i n g lots to s u c k i n g worse.
Jul 8, 2013
I'm not really buying that much these days. I started to "get handy" a couple years ago, and I do nearly all home stuff myself now -- no more lawn service, do my own plumbing, even light remodeling like drywall, tile, paint, flooring.

I have noticed that when I'm not feeling well, about half the medicines I like (theraflu, for example) has been unavailable or flaky. I'm hoarding generic zantac when it's there. The internet says the factories have been shut down.

But I've noticed that new and even used stuff from ebay and amazon is taking weeks to ship for some reason.
Jul 8, 2013
Scott - You're mistaking demand for cost cutting throughout the economy. Businesses are getting much better at managing inventory, which not only boosts yearly profits but also means a lower risk if another downturn hits. Businesses have cut staff to bare bones and have not added substantive new workers as demand stabilized to a very slow growth level. Take airlines, for example: There are fewer seats available, more packed planes, more annoying fees and yet passenger levels are down. Industries have acted in (almost) trust-like manners in reducing service and supply in lockstep. When the economy eventually (maybe) gets better, it'll actually be easier to get the items you want and you'll get better service as businesses start to hire en masse to increase revenue. But business will only do that if they see high growth potential in the economy.
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