Mixed Messages

So, it was bonus day on Wall Street this week. Typically Wall Street workers double their salaries during bonus day. This week, there was nada or nearly nada. And this is proper and fine. Tax bailout money should not go to bonuses.

Yet, this means there's going to be a whole lot consuming going on by this huge group of workers in the New York area. The state and feds usually take out a huge chunk in taxes, which go to schools and subways. It's just not good news.

That Madoff disaster couldn't come at a worse time. Foundations, charities, universities and grandmas have lost millions. The dude has to be given some props for keeping it going for so long. But this just diminished trust in Wall Street even further.

But with news of stoke brokers so bored that they're doing their Christmas cards at work, I headed over to Toys R Us with a reduced list. And things were crazy. The Wiis were sold out. They had gotten in a shipment at 9, but were sold out by noon. Women were fighting over Nurf N Strikes. The Rip-Stiks were gone. So, is the economy better than I think? Are people going into massive debt for their kids this year? Is Toys R Us just not stocking their shelves, because they don't have enough credit to buy things in advance?

14 thoughts on “Mixed Messages

  1. I think Toys R US is just understaffed and has a poor level of keeping up with inventory demands. They do not use just in time at all to keep stock and it likely is costing them a ton.
    for the wii, you can get a text from amazon when it comes in stock and order on there. There is also sites called wiifinder.com and wiifinder that can help you out too in your search. There is a also steep premium on Ebay now so you may want to hold off.

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  2. I went Christmas shopping for my kids and was struck by how picked over the stores were. I was looking for kid’s clothes at Old Navy, Children’s Place, and Gap Kids. And at Old Navy and Gap Kids it really looked like the last days of an end-of-season sale, not the height of the holiday shopping season.
    FWIW, I’ve never had a good experience at Toys R Us. The place is always a madhouse, totally sold out, staffed by idiots.

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  3. Goldman Sachs gave out huge bonuses, at least in the UK.
    The saddest thing about the Madoff debacle is the charities that had to close up shop. What exactly did he persuade himself of, I keep wondering.

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  4. To defend TRU: I had a great experience on Black Friday 2007 at a TRU in SE Mass. Yes, I decided to venture out at 5 am on Black Friday because… well, I have this compulsive need to experience everything at least once. (This year? Online shopping.) Anyway, I waited on line at TRU for almost an hour (got through a whole ep of Dexter on the iPodl; also, store employees were going around giving out candy. Win!) then promptly forgot one of my bags!!! Hours later, I realized and I called back, and the customer service rep was incredibly nice. The cashier had brought my bag to the customer service desk, and when I went back it was waiting for me.
    We were in Manhattan on Tgiving and the day before. We ricocheted back and forth from regretting leaving to not regretting. One thing about NYC we don’t like? Customer service sucks. I get so used to better service here.

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  5. Our malls – even the busy ones – have been empty. Still. TRU was sorta calm but full last weekend, which is when it’s usually a nightmare. The sales are insane – particularly on consumer electronics – but the stores aren’t hopping. I don’t think it’s good news.

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  6. I also wonder if some stores can’t afford to buy enough stock. That may not apply to large chains, but I wonder if smaller stores got caught in the credit crunch and couldn’t stock up appropriately.
    For the record, we were at the mall this weekend and it was full, but not packed the way it usually is. And I noticed way more 75% off signs than usual.

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  7. “I also wonder if some stores can’t afford to buy enough stock. That may not apply to large chains, but I wonder if smaller stores got caught in the credit crunch and couldn’t stock up appropriately.”
    I have relatives in the tourist business (small retailers) and for them the standard way to pay is what they call “net thirty.” That means that the vendor ships products to them and they have 30 days to pay the vendor. There isn’t any outside lender involved, but it is possible that vendors are pulling back and requiring immediate payment instead.

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  8. My husband and I were talking this morning about our milk/etc. delivery. I tend to wait till the bill gets to $100 or so then pay all at once, but now I am thinking about whether or not the dairy has cash flow issues. (Not really my problem–if they want the money every week, they can institute new policies, I guess, so I assume they’re ok with my way of doing things.) But I did wonder if my bill-paying choices were affecting their bottom line.
    And they were out of English muffins this week. WOE. Was that because they didn’t order enough because of cash flow issues, or was there a run on English muffins this week?

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  9. The toys stores around here seem pretty well picked-over as well, but I do wonder about household variability. We’ve got friends going to Disney in February and then we’ve got grandparents who can’t send gifts this year.
    I also worry about the small independent toy stores. And my local yarn shop. From the looks of things, they’ve got some serious overhead/inventory problems on their hands.
    All the $5.99 Lego toys at Target (the stocking stuffers) have been gone for weeks, but the $60 kits are languishing.

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  10. Our middle-aged German car just suffered severe exhaust system trauma.
    The dealership doesn’t have the right muffler and doesn’t seem to know when they’ll get one in — they mumbled about “seasonal shutdown.” They say there’ll be a truck coming on Monday, but don’t seem to know what’ll be on it.
    Supply chain issues? Dealership unable to pay for parts? End of the world as we know it? Meanwhile, we go VRRRRRRRRRRRRRRM all around the town.
    I’ve also noticed a few specialty goods (e.g. organic chicken broth) remaining out of stock for like a week straight at the grocery… nothing huge, but it didn’t used to happen.

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  11. Costco has been packed for the past two month (both with shoppers and with well-organized inventory), far more than in past years, which leads me to wildly speculate that people might be convincing themselves that they’re cutting back by shopping for gifts at a wholesale club, despite the fact the non-foodstuffs that Costco sells are generally pretty big-ticket items. Yeah, that $3000 flatscreen TV or that $1500 jungle gym or that $400 Dyson vaccuum may be 5% cheaper there than at Best Buy or Target, but…

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  12. Siobhan,
    That’s interesting, especially in light of what people have said about the stores being out of certain items, particularly specialty items. I suspect it may be a conscious strategy of eliminating less popular items. Consider that Costco’s primary strategy is to have good prices on bulk packages, but to offer very choices. My feeling is that that approach may be very suitable to the current economic climate. Another issue as to why retailers might be willing to let shelves get empty this time of year is the IRS tax on inventory.

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