Tarheeltalker

What do you think of Food Lion?

Food Lion is the primary place for grocery shopping in our community. Almost every time I go there, I  maintain that I am not going back. To backtrack a bit, we have three Food Lion stores locally and one is not too bad, one is terrible and one is sort of in the middle. Of course, the most convenient one is the worst of the three. Admittedly, in a town our size, none of the three is that far nor are my other options, Wal-Mart (aka the evil place) and Farm Fresh.

So, my wife wonders, why do I continue to torture myself by returning to my worst option? Believe me, I wish that I knew. Other than  force of habit and proximity, there is no discernible reason.

I suppose I should at the least attempt to justify my somewhat negative feelings toward Food Lion before I mail back my MVP card, ironically one of my smaller peeves. I have come to believe that customer service is either a misnomer at Food Lion or that they just do not care. There are often too few checkout lines open and those that are  often do not have  someone available to bag one’s  groceries.  Cashiers routinely come very close to completely  ignoring the customer or they  carry on a running conversation with  someone nearby, often a non-customer.

I suppose that a case could be made that the things are irritating to me reflect the fact that my  first job was in a grocery store and if my memory serves me correctly we were held to a higher standard. But my wife is also irritated from time to time though not as regularly as I seem to be.

I have wondered if the behavior at Food Lion reflects the fact that they feel they are either the only available choice or the default choice, in a  sense, for most shoppers. Perhaps that is why that purchased the locations of a former grocery store here in town to prevent their being occupied by a competitor. Ironically, one of these sites has finally been sold and the other is on the market. This action came after along period of vacancy for these buildings.

And to help in my decision, one of other shopping options gives us old folks a small discount  at certain times. Seems that it is time to move on.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | economy, Shopping | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What real estate slump?

Yes, housing starts are dismal along with virtually every other economic indicator. But, I believe I know a way to improve that, at least in housing starts. This is just a beginning , mind you but it  seems to have lots of potential.

I read a blurb in Sports Illustrated the other day about Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. Mr Howard is by any estimation a baseball star and plays for what is probably the best team in baseball. For that he is well compensated. For purposes of this post, I make no comment about what Howard makes, except to say that it is enough to afford a nice home.

Mr Howard has plans in place to have a home constructed in the Tampa area that has  an estimated completion date of sometime in 2014. With a cost estimate of $23 million, that should be no surprise. The only catch is that the regs in that area require a maximum construction time of 24 months which has required  a bit of negotiation with local officials. While they are involved in that, they should not miss a great opportunity to boost the housing starts there and maybe even start a nationwide trend.

Here is my suggestion. Divide the  estimated construction cost by ten and voila , you have 10 housing starts. Numbers look better which is  really all that matters anyway, right? Besides an expensive home should count for more than a less expensive one. And the trend catches on, before you know it there is  a housing “boom” that inspires confidence and inspires companies to hire, consumers to spend etc. Bet the Obama Administration would love this plan. No need for thanks, just trying to do my part.

August 6, 2011 Posted by | economy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurting your own cause

Often times, a speaker trying valiantly  to make a point or to rouse his  supporters  will allow his reach to far  exceed his grasp. Yesterday that happened  to a gentleman named  Christopher Shelton. It was that or Mr Shelton is woefully ignorant of 20th century American history or he just doesn’t care what he says  is it makes his point.

Mr Shelton is  the District 1  vice-president for the Communications Workers of America and spoke at a rally in Trenton, New Jersey yesterday. The purpose of said rally was to protest New Jersey Gov Chris Christie’s pension deal that would  cut pensions and benefits  for public workers. Mr Shelton apparently was so focused  on firing up the crowd that he employed the most hateful imagery he could imagine and then made it worse.

He compared the governor to one Adolph Hitler, yep that guy, as my grandson might  say. Warming to his  task as any speaker will do when faced with a cheering crowd, he went on to compare the New Jersey pension fight to WWII  and to  say that there was  a need  for WWIII to get rid of Adolph Christie.  Rally attendees responded in what way do you think? Believe it or not they wildly cheered Mr Shelton’s remarks.

Now, of course since this information became public Mr Shelton issued an obligatory apology  to the governor and anyone else he offended but also stressed the affected workers had every right to be angry. Not really much of an apology from my perspective.

I am unsure what bothers me the most about this. It could be the analogies  Mr Shelton made, the cheering response or the half-hearted apology. I think it probably r is all three. Besides, how many members of his audience even heard the apology or paid any attention to it. Perhaps  he still  accomplished  what he set out to do . But it just seems  he  really damaged his own cause and gave more  credence to those who think union leaders always “demagogue”  issues or people to make their case. I certainly that the leadership of  my union never resorts to such tactics. The whole incident gives me a very negative feeling and sounds like it could have come from the playbook of a Saul Alinsky. Unions need friends to make their point, they  certainly need not create  any more foes.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Culture, economy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where do I send the thank you note?

For many years it was proper etiquette  for the recipient of a gift or service to send  a  written thank you to the giver. This was particularly true on special occasions. I can remember the importance of thank you notes at significant times in our lives. Those times that readily come  to mind would include our wedding, the births of our children and the deaths of  parents. By the same token it was meaningful for us to receive a thank you note when we have somehow reached out to another whether by a gift or some other means. I am still quite partial to the written (mailed) thank you since it is good business for the Postal Service. ( Always remember the Arthur Godfrey admonition.) Alas, along with many other”proper” forms of behavior, the thank note in almost any form is becoming somewhat rare.

But, something has occurred over the 3-4 weeks that has  created a strong desire to send a thank you note. My problem lies in knowing to whom and where it should be sent.

I have noticed that over this  period there has been a significant increase in gasoline  and heating oil prices. One local statin that I frequent has shown an increase from $3.09/gallon to $3.55/gallon, unless it went  higher today. That included one impressive pice hike of 10 cents per gallon in the space of one hour. The price of home heating oil, which we use, has gone from $3.47/gallon to $4.06 /gallon in even less time.

My problem is in determining where to send the note or notes. Do I send one to local gas station and my local heating oil provider, another to Exxon and BP( the respective brands) another to Gadhafi in Libya for all the turmoil he continues to cause  ( at great harm to his own people, I must say) and isn’t BP a British owned company? Where  would their note go? And least we will not need heating oil to next season, so I have time to work on that note.

Suggestions from anyone versed in the proper etiquette  will be welcomed. Wonder if Emily Post’s website has an answer?

March 13, 2011 Posted by | economy, Energy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sad Sign of the Times

Barrier island in the Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Image via Wikipedia

Spent a little time on the Outer Banks of North Carolina the last couple of days.In the spirit of the Administration’s “summer of recovery”  I did my small part at stimulating the economy. While driving around I saw a sign that encapsulated the ongoing economic problems that we face. The sign was  located at a real estate office, a Century 21 branch  I believe. Typically these advertise featured homes or land that are for sale. This particular sign said ” Bank owned homes tour.”

My interpretation of that based on homes tours with which I  am familiar presumes that this office has enough foreclosed homes available to comprise a tour all their own. Very sad thing to contemplate. Unfortunately, it goes along with  a  USA Today article yesterday captioned ” Nothing but awful economic news.”  I read another article , actually from two sources that reported foreclosure filings  in July topped 300,000 for the 17th consecutive month. ( Actual forclosures are running a little over 85,000 a month.)

Alas, the recovery seems to an elusive thing indeed. But, on  a ( maybe) brighter note, the Department of Energy has a new category to chart the success of the economic stimulus. Along with the millions of jobs created or saved they will publish a  new number, “lives touched, ” presumably by the economic stimulus. So, hang in there, you  may yet fit into a category.

August 22, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World’s Longest Bridge Project

I can remember crossing over the Herbert C Bonner bridge for the first time, sometime in the early 70’s. I was absolutely petrified. I had never crossed  a bridge that high and really wasn’t sure that I wanted to. After a number of crossings over the years, those feelings of terror gradually subsided. When I drove across last month on the way to Ocracoke, the crossing was rather routine. But the bridge itself, or its future, is anything but.

But we must needs go back a bit. The bridge was built way back in 1963 and named for  a long serving NC Congressman, Democrat Herbert Covington Bonner from Washington, NC who served 12 terms and actually died while still in office. His namesake  bridge then became  a memorial bridge.

The bridge as it stands is 2.5 miles long and allows vehicles to cross the  Oregon Inlet ( named for the first vessel to pass through it, the Oregon) and continue on to Hatteras Island. The bridge was designed to last 3o years and the plans to replace actually began in 1990, which as it turns out was not nearly soon enough. The talks and the environmental studies and environment impact statements have gone on and on and on.

The latest public hearings took place in Manteo last week and were something of a fine tuning. If all goes well and that is quite a large word in this case, construction  might just begin in 2 years and be completed by 2015. The cost is projected to be only $300 million and that statement I make in all sincerity. That is because this new 2.7 mile  bridge, landing a bit west of the current one was not everyone’s  #1 choice. A coalition of environmental agencies and groups favored a 17 mile long structure that would have cost a whopping $1.3 billion.  NC DOT spokesman Drew Joyner said it quite well when he sated that the state just could not afford it. That’;s a refreshing comment from  a government spokesman, is it not?

Granted there needed to be lots of studies and opportunity for comment, etc. After all, the bridge’s location is about the perfect storm for environmental issues. It’s near an ocean, a sound, a national refuge and a national park. And if things were not done just so, you can bet good money that a raft of  environmental lawyers would be lining up, briefcases in hand and palms outstretched.

Hear a few statements. NC DOT calls the bride “structurally deficient” but safe for travel. They are actually working hard right now at fixing weak spots. Kinda gives one just a small unsettled feeling though. And another from Beth Midgett who chairs the Citizens Action Committee to build Bonner Bridge. She says that public safety has to win out over bureaucracy at some point. It does, does it not? And finally, from Ken Sharp, Jr of Manteo who is “merely” a local citizen. Words of wisdom here. ” Just build me  a bridge, please.” Well said sir.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | economy, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Creating Jobs- one at a time

Dr Margaret Mead

Unlike some folks I know, I have yet to have a job that I ” loved.” I have had jobs that I liked better than others and there is much that I like about my current occupation. As I begin to think about retirement in  a few years, I am considering the possibility of maybe  a little part-time work, just to have something to do. Having already eliminated greeter at Wal-Mart, I have been pondering other options and may have come up with something that I could ” love.”

As far as I know, this particular job does not exist so I am  sort of flying blind here on specifics but that will come  soon enough. But I do have a title and I have a couple of role models, the late Dr Margaret Mead and Dame Jane Goodall. Following in their footsteps, I propose the position of celebrity anthropologist. Dr Mead was known as  a cultural anthropologist so I believe that I am simply attempting to build on her work.

So, in this position I would endeavor to observe celebrities in their natural habitats as much as possible, without being obtrusive. No paparazzi stuff ! Of course, it would require some monitoring of their mating rituals, courtship and the like. Travel would be a big  job requirement as  their migratory patterns are very important. Social interaction between celebrities as well as interaction between them and those of other species would be necessary also. Of course, it would require study as to how they behave and why and how they adapt to change. Examples, when a movie flops or tv show is cancelled,etc. The best thing is that I would be creating a job, something the Obama Administration could celebrate. Perhaps  I would be eligible for stimulus money? Anything is possible.

Dame Jane Goodall

June 13, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Should you boycott BP ?

There has  certainly been  a lot of talk about that very thing. And there are probably  people doing that. After all, their stock has dropped some 16% in recent weeks. Boycotting a company that has allowed such a disaster to occur and that seems unable to fix it or fix it quickly enough has a certain populist appeal. Boycotts have happened before as a way to force a company to do something or other.

But what does a boycott of  BP accomplish? Well, hurts their bottom line , costs them money and maybe in the minds of some boycotters “gets them back” for what they have done not done  the case may be. And I can certainly empathize with those folks in the Gulf  Coast area, in Louisiana, Mississippi who want nothing to do with the company.

Projecting the boycott’s results out there, one could envision a significant loss of revenue for the company. What are  they doing with  a lot of that revenue right now? Of course, the ongoing clean up with lawsuits etc sure to follow. Locally, an article in the Daily Advance indicated that buying habits here have been largely unaffected. Admittedly, the sample is small and unscientific. On the other hand, the threat of new penalties  by the Obama Administration could be the real engine driving down the stock price.

So, sadly the spill and its effects continue with even modest  clean up  results  doing little to alleviate concerns about the long-term impact on the Gulf and beyond. A very tough situation indeed.

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Business, economy | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If you have the money, here is the house

I took a few economics course way back in my college years  and  I read economic news  somewhat regularly. From most of what one reads and hears these days the American economy is still struggling. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, 10.8% here  in North Carolina, and even higher elsewhere. The President continues to say that things are improving from month to month. although the improvement is difficult to see.

But, every now an again, a bright spot appears on the horizon and gives us hope that better days are coming. This harbinger of good times is actually east of the Currituck County town of the same name, being located in the town of Corolla. Its name is Wild Horse, although other names might be more appropriate, like Biltmore or Versailles, well maybe not that grandiose. You see, Wild Horse is  a house but not just any house. Calling it  a vacation rental is  sort of like calling a Rolls just  a means of transportation.

Wild Horse is  a recently completed rental in the Swan Island Lakes subdivision and holds the title of the largest hom eon the Outer Banks, clocking in at a mere 13,461 square feet. It has 23 bedrooms and about as many baths with all of the amenities one coud imagine and probably more than this  union worker coud imagine.

Now all of that is only mildly interesting, I suppose. What  intrigues me was the fact that the house has just become for rental and is booked for 21 of a possible 31 weeks beginning May 23 and extending through the end of the year. Weekly prices range from $24,500 during peak season to  a piddling  $4650 during the offseason. Perhaps we should only whisper but maybe there are signs of economic life yet.

Ready for a vacation anyone?

May 22, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Economic Good News from the President

President Obama was in western New York( actually Buffalo to be precise)  today talking about the state of the  economy. His take on how things were going? ” Beyond  a shadow of a doubt, today we are headed in the right direction. All those tough steps we took, they’re working, despite all  the naysayers who were predicting failure a year ago, our economy is growing again.”

Now, if you will, juxtapose that  with this report from Reuters. The April, 2010 budget deficit was a whopping 82 billion dollars about 4x the figure for April, 2009. This marked the 19th consecutive month  with a budget deficit, a new record.

 But, the  President went on to mention the prior month’s job growth and added that April was better than March and May would be better than April and next year would be better  than this year. I sure hope so because I don’t want to live in the United States of Greece.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment