Sharing is For Losers?

Apparently sharing is for losers. Let me explain. Marriott Corporation acknowledges that they took a big hit in corporate-wide profits to the tune of 179 million dollars for this past third quarter of 2011. This compares to 83 million the previous year at this time. The brunt of the loss is due to their timeshare division. The funny thing about it is that they still consider it a positive piece of the pie, so much so that they are rolling off their timeshare division into a separate division.

A Marriott spokesperson says that timesharing is a good thing to be in. If you don’t know what it is all about, I’ll explain, otherwise skip the next couple of paragraphs (yipes!): Marriott owns a lot of resort property in, well- resort areas. The type of locations you head to when you expect a snow blizzard to hit your town in the next four or five days. Let’s say you want to make a habit out of going to resort areas each and every year. It may be too expensive a proposition to purchase a second home as a vacation site, especially if you intend to use it only a handful of weeks a year.

Time-share operators come to the rescue. They sell you a time slot to use a two or three or whatever room suite for the number of weeks you wish on specific days in the calendar. But you have to commit to them. Even if you skip a given slotted period, you have to cough up the dough. Some operators who have resorts all over the place let you swap with other users during your coincidental slotted time if both parties agree. Others purposely let you choose a different location each time. You are just committing to advance booking and agreement to pay whether you go or not.

This all sounds good if your business is doing well or your job is secure. However, this past few years with a not-so-good economy, many people have cut down on doing time sharing. After all, if they cannot pay for the mortgage on their primary residence, how can they even think of taking a vacation?

But that’s neither here nor there. The big thing is how we are now at the point where we can discuss a ridiculously large figure such as 179 million in the same sentence with the word ‘loss’ and the company under discussion does not flinch. If I read correctly, Marriott’s acknowledges doling out in shares and dividends to stockholders over 1.4 billion dollars!

I mentioned the other day to my nephew how in 1978 I was proud of myself because I had a gross weekly income of 80 dollars three and a half years out of college. In 1982, the number jumped to more than 400 dollars a week. My 27 year old nephew was not impressed. He said that the five hundredfold increase was no big deal because of the major bout of inflation in the very early 80’s just as Ronald Reagan was taking office. Here I am getting a lesson in economics from a kid who would not be born until a couple of years after 1982 and he was schooling me on the impact of how much money I had to spend compared to previous years.

In 1976, while making that 80 smackers a week less taxes, I went out and bought an AMC Hornet automobile. Go ask your grandfather about that car. Every time it rained or the car rolled over a deep puddle, I had to wait until the wires dried out under the hood so that the engine would start after coming to an idle position. It cost me $3600 and I didn’t need a co-signer on the three year loan. Not bad for a 24 year old punk. I’m sure the guy who sold me the car at the dealership was laughing for three weeks after that deal.

In 1981, I bought an Oldsmobile (remember that line of cars? No? Go ask your grandfather again.) Omega, with its front-wheel drive, digital dashboard, air-conditioning and rear-defroster. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I can assure you that it was not five or even 3 times as much as the Hornet. So, please go tell my nephew that inflation did not affect me as much as he thinks it should have.

That is part of the problem with making any money in today’s economy so that we can go out and buy into those time-share deals and give Marriott a chance to show profit for a change. There is no inflation – or at least that’s what they want you to think- so they have an official excuse to keep the interest rates to practically nothing. When we had that crazy inflation in the early 1980’s, we were getting close to 10% interest on many money market accounts. But, the Feds don’t want us to share and share alike.

I stay at relatives when I go on vacation anyway.

Netflix Offers Blockbuster Savings?

By Larry Teren

I recently heard that Netflix raised their monthly fees for renting films. It was couched in such a way that it does not look like a price increase but rather a splitting of the current all-in-one service into two distinct plans. The thinking is that most people really only use one or the other aspect of the service but not both. It smacks of a little double talk to me and definitely confusing. You can read the official explanation on their blog located at http://blog.netflix.com/2011/07/netflix-introduces-new-plans-and.html . Continue reading “Netflix Offers Blockbuster Savings?”

Greed Vs. Need

There is nothing like good old American Greed. I guess that’s why all those people who live elsewhere and curse us still want to come join us.

The biggest perpetrator of greed in this country is the Federal Government. They want to levy additional taxes when people are making less money and/or getting less value for their hard-earned dollars. They tell you- don’t worry, we want to soak only from the very rich. The only problem with that is the very rich are the only ones who can afford to spend what it takes to help this trickle-down economy. So, if you take, let’s say, one thousand dollars more in taxes per very rich person, that’s one thousand less they would spend in going to restaurants, movies, plays, ball games- whatever. There are a lot of people who work peripheral service jobs in those industries who will end up getting less hours at work and less tips.

There are those who will say that I’m being too negative-that one thousand smackers in cold cash is not going to hurt the well-off and that they will continue to spend their pocket change on frivolous matters without thinking twice. There are also those who say, “so what!”- take it from the rich and give to the poor by funding the government agencies that are being pinched. That last part makes sense if you can trust the government agents to play fair with the tax money they collect.

Ma is on medicare and anxiously awaits the first few days of each month when she uses her bank’s automated menu system to confirm her checkbook balance. She hears about changing Medicare and is very concerned that she will end up paying higher insurance premiums. I keep telling her that both political parties in America agree not to screw anyone over a certain age, which I think I am included. Yes, that means than anyone under fifty can expect to see a change in how the Federal Government will pay for their medical needs when they retire.
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Lowered Expectations

Baby boomers are getting to that age where we expect to get the short end of the stick. Many who have lost jobs during the most recent economic downturn have found there to be an unspoken prejudice against anyone over the age of fifty who are seeking employment. After all, a younger person can be hired at a lower salary, less expensive health insurance premiums and tends to not need to take off as much time as an older person. A younger person also seems to have more energy in doing his or her work. Experience, thus, doesn’t seem to count as much as the pocketbook.
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It’s a Gas

I started driving in 1971 at the age of nineteen. I didn’t get my license when I turned sixteen due to circumstances beyond my control. In other words, I flunked the road test even though I aced the written classroom test. The state supervisor didn’t, I guess, like the way I parked in the high school lot. Maybe it had to do with sideswiping his own parked car.

Anyway, the first time I was obligated to stop at a gas station, pull out the wallet and pay for the fuel the gas cost thirty-two cents a gallon. This was before the Great Oil Embargo in 1973. Even at this pre-inflationary time, people were complaining that it was a nerve of the oil companies to jump the price up four cents from twenty-eight cents a gallon. Back then, when you drove up to the gas pump, the car’s tires drove over a hose that caused a ding to go off and send a message to an attendant in the store to come running out and give assistance.
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