The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel

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The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel

My husband and I run The Starship Cat, a small business selling at various kinds of fannish and nerdy events. For the most part we stay in the Midwest, although an exceptional show can take us further afield.

As a result, we have an unusual perspective on the economy. As Jim Baen was fond of saying in reference to writers, we’re competing for “Joe’s beer money.” However, we’re doing it at events scattered widely across a region, rather than a single storefront, or an online store that can potentially reach the entire world. This means we’re selling in a wide variety of areas, but dealing directly with customers and observing their decision-making process as I interact with them.

Also, convention dealers talk to each other, both at conventions (usually during set-up hours in the morning) and online in various public and private fora. We give each other heads-up information about venues and promoters, but we also let each other know how sales went at our shows.

This year our company sold at fifteen conventions and two small outdoor events. Of our conventions, four were anime conventions, six were comic cons, one was a media con, two were traditional science fiction conventions, one was a pulp fiction convention, and one was a writers’ convention.

Of our fifteen conventions, four were complete flops, in which we fell short of our break-even point by such a significant amount that there could be no question of our returning. All four of them were first-time conventions for us, so we went in knowing we were going into unknown territory.

Two of them (the pulp fiction convention and the writers’ convention) were simply not the right markets for our product. We went to both of them hoping they would be good places to sell off some of our book stock from the days when we were making a good profit selling books at science fiction conventions and online. However, the people at the pulp fiction convention were collectors rather than bibliophiles, and were looking for books several decades older than our stock, and in near pristine condition. The people at the writers’ convention were by and large so busy with their panels and workshops that they never managed to get to the dealers’ room and do any significant shopping. As I was wheeling out a stack of book boxes on Sunday, I had a woman say that it was a good thing she never made it to the dealers’ room or she would’ve blown her entire budget. I had to bite my tongue hard against a sarcastic thanks a lot, lady.

The other two complete flops were both comic conventions, and in both cases were first-year events. In both cases, it appears that the promoters grossly overestimated their ability to draw attendance, and as such oversold the vendor hall, spreading too few customer dollars over too many dealers and artists, meaning that no one made any money.

Of the remaining conventions, five showed noticeable declines in sales compared to the previous year, two showed significant rebounds after poor sales the previous year, three held steady, and one was a first-time convention that did well enough that we will definitely want to go back next year. Of the five that showed declining sales, one had moved off its normal weekend, another had changed location and weekend, and the other three were held the same weekend they had been previously, so the drop in sales could not be ascribed to such differences.

Although two of our conventions did show significant increases in sales compared to the previous year, neither of them was a huge win for us. Both of them had declining sales last year, to the point that both of them were potentially on the chopping block if the downward trend continued. And while both of them moved back into positive numbers, our profit margins at them remain sufficiently slender that we will have to be very careful in how we plan for them in 2020.

Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point. As a result of having discovered this dynamic the hard way, we avoid all shows by certain promoters known to run this sort of convention, and look very carefully at the lineup of celebrity guests at any media or comics convention we’re considering selling it. If there are more than one or two really big-name actors on the guest list, and especially if booth prices are also very high, we are apt to avoid it no matter how promising attendance numbers may look.

Even more concerning to my mind is the shift in the pattern of what items are selling well. When we started the shift away from science fiction conventions to anime and comics conventions, the bulk of our sales were t-shirts. When I go back through the ledgers from 2013, 2014 and 2015, I see whole pages covered with transactions for various sizes and designs of t-shirt, with a sprinkling of other merchandise scattered here and there. By 2016, a shift away from t-shirts as a significant part of our sales becomes noticeable. Initially I chalked it up to the increasing saturation of the t-shirt market as more and more dealers got into selling (and in some cases, producing) t-shirts. Where we previously might have been one of three or four t-shirt vendors at a larger show, we were now often one of ten or fifteen dealers selling t-shirts. At one convention in late 2016, someone counted twenty-six vendors with t-shirts making up a significant portion of their wares.

However, there was also another dynamic that I hadn’t noticed until another dealer brought it to my attention. People were changing their attitude about how much they were spending. Five years ago, people would think nothing about paying $20 for a t-shirt. But by 2017 and 2018, it was increasingly becoming something that needed to be thought about. Instead, we were selling more and more low-ticket items, especially in the five-buck range: emoji masks, squishies, Japanese bells. People now bought those with the casual abandon they had once given our t-shirt stock. While I might do well to empty one box of t-shirts, I would often empty two or three boxes of emoji masks and squishies, and a number of compartments in the carrying case for our Japanese bells. I began to use the term “impulse buy threshold” as a metric of this phenomenon, and considered what it would mean for adapting our business model to a changing market.

This shift may not be as much of a problem when you are selling digital goods online — individual transactions are handled automatically and do not take up more of your time. However, when you are selling physical goods in person, trying to make up for the smaller individual sales through higher volume hits the problem that you can only deal with one customer at a time. You simply may not have enough time to take enough five-buck transactions in the hours that the dealers’ room is open. Even if you could, you also have the problem that sales at conventions tend to come in spurts — and many of your customers are not apt to want to wait very long in line unless what you have is extraordinarily desirable. I’ve regularly noticed that people will start putting merchandise back down and walking away as soon as things start backing up, often as few as two or three people.

One conclusion is definite: no matter what the government may say, whatever the numbers we see in high finance, the economy is not doing well for the average consumer. Even if people are doing well at the moment, they do not feel confident that they will continue to enjoy the same success they currently have. So they’re cutting back on their spending, and start thinking carefully about their purchases at much lower prices than they had previously. More are using cash, debit cards and stored-value cards like Vanilla as a way of restricting their spending.

Right now, this shift in the market means that small business owners in this segment of the entertainment industry are going to need to tread very carefully. Here I will echo several other vendors I know: be very careful about large capital purchases, especially of durable goods. If your business model is based upon retail sales, you’re going to have to make wholesale purchases of product, but be cautious in your choices. Be judicious about adding new lines of product, and be willing to eliminate products that are showing stagnant or declining sales. Even with seemingly proven sellers, don’t forget that consumer tastes can turn on a dime, often right after you made a major bulk purchase of inventory.

Even more so, now is not the time to make major purchases of vehicles or equipment unless you literally have no other choice. For us, that means that our business van is going to have to keep going for at least a few more years, even if it means spending some money on major repairs. There are some small items we might have bought to improve our displays, but which will probably have to wait unless we get an excellent bargain at a time when we have surplus cash.

Speaking of cash, now is a time to move away from credit as much as possible. There are certain purchases you’ll probably want to make on a credit card because of the fraud protection built into most major credit cards. However, make sure to pay off the balances right away, and if that isn’t possible, to get them paid off as quickly as practicable. If the economy continues to slow down, or worse has major hiccups that disrupt your cash flow, those obligations can become real difficulties.

Finally, now is the time to really think about how you can diversify your income so that you are not dependent on one type of income. This goes for everyone, even if you have a regular job. Having a side hustle or two that brings a little extra income means that you won’t be staring at the abyss if your job up and quits you. However, be aware of the terms by which you get paid — much as regular jobs pay you a week or two weeks after you did the work, many online income channels pay only some time after you make the money, often as much as two to three months later in the case of many affiliate programs (in which a company pays you for purchases made via special links you place on your blog or website). Others (especially advertisers such as Google AdSense) will only pay when a certain income threshold is made, which can leave you waiting for your money for weeks or months as the click-throughs dribble in.

For this reason, it’s really helpful to start thinking now of ways in which you can legitimately earn some money and have it in your pocket within a day or two. Whether it’s selling something on Craigslist or doing errands and handyman work for your neighbors, it can help cover an unexpected hole in your regular income or a surprise expense. Knowing how to bring in even a relatively small amount of money quickly can keep you out of the trap of “you’re six bucks short on $ImportantBill, it’s due Wednesday, and you have no way to close the gap in time.”

I thoroughly expect our 2020 selling season to be down from previous years, at least in part because we will be selling at fewer conventions, but also because people’s fun spending is shrinking. I’d strongly advise anyone who has a small business, whether as a primary source of income or a side hustle, to take a very close look at the numbers in your particular niche and make adjustments in your operations and expenditures accordingly.

***

Leigh Kimmel’s retail business website can be found at The Starship Cat. There you can find a list of upcoming conventions she will be selling at, as well as links to how to buy some of her products, especially her substantial catalog of out-of-print books, online. A separate but associated website, Starship Cat Press, covers her indie publishing imprint. She blogs regularly about both on her LiveJournal, The Starship Cat.


Leigh Kimmel — writer, artist, historian and bookseller
leighkimmel@yahoo.com http://www.leighkimmel.com/
http://www.billionlightyearbookshelf.com/
http://www.starshipcat.com/

317 responses to “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel

  1. I see similar trends as I go thru yard sales, estate sales, and thrifts. Everyone I talk to in the “secondary” economy is seeing declines. Prices in online estate and surplus auctions have come way down, despite some new money coming in (as a result of new people trying out the whole ‘reseller’ thing…new money overpays for certain items in limited categories.)

    We’re even seeing a slowdown in home sales, with lower prices and longer ‘on the market’ times, and we live in a hot area of a strong city.

    In addition, I’m seeing more vacant commercial real estate, especially in the small and medium business sizes.

    On the other side of the coin, amateurs are starting to flip houses again (sure sign of a market peak) and there is a lot of ‘spec’ building in the residential market. Due to lag times between identifying a market, acquiring the land, getting permits and approvals- everyone sees that this is a good time to get in the market, but by the time the small and new players get their projects done, the market has already saturated and started to decline… That’s what I’m seeing today in some neighborhoods in town too. It looks JUST like 2008 in my old neighborhood.

    I’d like to believe in a Trump miracle, but I’m just not seeing it on the street.

    nick

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Thing is, when I try to model a voter that isn’t a political junkie…

      Trump’s victory in 2016 was a surprise to many.

      How do you handicap 2020, and what are the Democrats bringing to the table?

      I’ve been trying to stay distant from political events, and having a hard time. It comes to mind that a lot of people might find this stuff disturbing, and may be in ‘store fat for lean times mode’.

      • This is affecting our purchasing, too. We have other reasons, mind you, including that until May we were effectively supporting two and a quarter households. BUT the most important is that I have this feeling something wicked this way comes.
        Note, it’s not the same for every product. Guns are reportedly selling through the roof. Guns are not the stock market, but they’re booming MORE.

        • Over the weekend, you could buy an AR-15 for $239 plus shipping, from a few places. I’m already full-up on ARs, so I offered to buy one for Mrs. TRX. She said she had enough too.

          In October of 2016 the price of a AR that was actually available, as opposed to sold out, was closer to $1200.

          • Perhaps. But people I know in the trade are doing very well. So there was a lag (eh, October 2016) after the election, but the market is coming roaring back.
            Sanders and Warren, gun salesmen.

          • Prior to 2016 an entry level AR-15 would run easily $1k, more for all the bells and whistles. For a machine designed to take full advantage of aircraft industry economies of scale, so certainly under $200 to create all the component parts. And the design is at least 60 years old so no longer under patents and such. So every rinkey dink machine shop started cranking them out. Market saturates, fringe suppliers dump inventory before going bankrupt or switching to other products.
            Thing about the AR-15 series of rifles is that they truly are the peoples’ firearm, light weight, low recoil, adjustable to fit a small woman, teenager, or large man. The thing of the moment that has the left freaked out is what they are calling ghost guns, actually just any firearm without a paper trail. And that is a function of the reality that they likely will not come and try to take away what they don’t know you have.
            One key item to always keep in mind is that other than a smattering of precious flowers the typical left wing progressive does not hate guns, what they hate with a passion is guns in the hands of the people. Guns belong only in the hands of the agents of the government and only as tools to force the citizens to bend to the will of their betters. Much the same situation as we found ourselves in some 250 years ago if I recall my history lessons correctly.

            • > other than a smattering of precious flowers the typical left wing progressive does not hate guns, what they hate with a passion is guns in the hands of the people

              *You* probably regard a gun as a tool, useful only in limited circumstances. Or perhaps a piece of sporting equipment, or a historical item, or an investment, or even a collectible.

              But they worship *power*, and to them a gun is power they can hold in their sweaty little hands. The reason so many killers are progressives is they see power as something to be used, because if you don’t use it, it’s not power.

              That’s why you get such ridiculous claims about guns in their media, and why their manga and cartoons have such bizarre and oversized weaponry.

              • From the lips of one of their leading lights:
                Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
                Mao Tse Tung.

              • Add to that it explains why their favorite insult for 2A defenders is “compensating for sexual inadequacy.”

              • Folks here really should read Count Taka and the Vampire Brides, but for those who haven’t– there’s a conversation where someone is talking about treasures and power, and explains that power can’t be your treasure, because the whole POINT of power is to protect what you love.

                That said, you’ll take my ludicrously huge, flaming bow of bardic awesomeness only when you pry it from my CGI Miqo’te fingers.

        • Guns are booming? Ahe he he . . .

      • > How do you handicap 2020

        The polls are lies.
        The statistics are lies.
        The debates are rigged.
        The media are liars.
        The voting process is often crooked.

        Flip a coin?

        • We’re flying by instruments.

          • More like a wing and a prayer.

            My handicap is “no matter the outcome, the left will use it to justify violence”.

            • Bless their hearts (and I use that in the full Southron sense) the arrogant fools think that because their street tantrums have not been met with overwhelming force that it shall remain so.
              What they fail to comprehend is millions of armed citizens just one good excuse away from taking advantage of our laws on the use of lethal force in self defense.

              • Well, they are working on stacking the law against the law abiding. That Tuscon 12 day sentence has me freaked out.

                • note where they hold 90%+ of their protests.
                  It ain’t in places like Llano, TX, Dulac, LA, or the like. It is where they know they are protected from righteous self defense and retribution. They might try Houston, but they wont try it in Navasota. Even if someone ruled in their favor after the fact, they might well not survive the lead-up events.

              • I think a whole lot of people looked at the clips of Antifa blocking off roads and threatening people, and decided that they’re not going to be a victim as long as they still have the gas pedal under their right foot.

                “Your bike lock is cute. I raise you a long wheelbase pickup truck and my EDC. Bring it on.”

          • In the fog, at night, in an open cockpit, trying to hear the sound reflected off trees, water, grass, or rock to find a place to set down without crashing…

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          My answer is that the psychological place I need to be in is one that is not emotionally invested in any outcome.

      • That’s me. Bonus spending, and as a banker bonus is a big part of my income (I make less salary than I could elsewhere, but in theory more when bonus is factored in), is going to be very different this coming year. The car we had to get last year (my old Honda got totaled a month after I put more into than I got from insurance with the plan on driving it to 2021…wished I’d just used that for a down payment) gets paid off first and foremost. No fun toys like a new computer or tablet (which had been the plan until mid-year…the computer dates to 2012 bonus season). No big money put aside for going to Frolicon or DragonCon (although we do have memberships for the later already…although I may not go).

        Money to remaining debts and beefing up the security fund will be the rest. Part is given the trend line on bonus, I almost went job hunting this year and without significant change (ie, I am confident salary + bonus is a sufficient premium over salary elsewhere to make the volatility worth it) I will next year.

        Which would disrupt trying to get books outs, a big part of why I didn’t this year, but stress over work probably cost as much writing time as job search would have.

        But, yeah, the risk of a Warren presidency or similar has been preparing for a long winter. I know once the Dems come back to power it’ll be open season on the right (after all, assault of someone in a MAGA hat resulting in surgery to fix an ankle broken in 4 places resulted in 12 days in jail this year) and I will have to worry about any job above minimum wage being closed off as companies right-think (as oppose to right-size) their work forces.

        • Yep. That’s my feeling.

        • People think the insane will not get voted in…To which I say: Look at Canada.

          • The odds of the insane getting voted in may be low, but the risk, which I will point out like a broken record isn’t just odds, but the product of odds and cost, is high.

            I swear, just teaching what real risk is instead of just prattling on about odds, would make a huge improvement to education and public life.

          • It’s the fraud. The margin of fraud is going to be hard to beat.

            • One reason Trump has been so big on appointing the judges that O’bummer neglected to fill: It’ll be a lot easier to demonstrate Dim fraud if they don’t have judicial dominance.

              -Albert

            • The fraud! Oh my gosh! How many votes are they already creating for Broward County???? Are they going to be insane and have more than the whole state of Florida? Or the whole nation? Why stop there, why not have more than the world? I can’t see how even a liberal can’t see the shear incompetence, if not the out right fraud! She should be *at least* fired, not a nice cozy job with nice bennies, and a nice pension!!!

            • Sarah, I was so sure the fraud would be so epic in 2016 that Hillary was a guarantee.

              I was very, very happy to be proven wrong.

              And the fact that I see them panicking NOW is… interesting. (It’s one of the reasons why I listen to Tim Pool; he’s a Liberal, but seeing him bang his head (figuratively) at the antics of those on his side (and his interesting commentary about the so-called impeachment) is admittedly a bit reassuring. I just wish he wasn’t so …shrill-sounding? to my ears (I have the same problem with Ben Shapiro’s voice; his arguments are fun to listen to, but ow. I don’t know why, but listening to them over a while hurts my ears.)

              • Being a Liberal does not automatically make a person corrupt, it merely increases the odds to near certainty.

                I share your issues with Ben Shapiro’s voice (and Mark Levin’s is similar) although I am likely worse about it because my ear recognizes them as a certain kind of North-Eastern Know-It-All, the sort of voice that usually spews leftish drivel.

                Beloved Spouse, who grew up in Philadelphia, has a similar problem with Chris Matthews’ voice, as it sounds for all the world like the kinds of yobbos who stood around on corners in that town harassing passers-by.

                Of course, Southern Conservatives have the vocal presentation of a thousand and one television villains, evil racists driven by suppressed (barely) sexual desire and the compulsion to lynch a Black man.

                One of the fun things about Anime dubs is learning to translate the American accents used into the Japanese equivalent.

                • Oh, gads, YES! Figuring out that “southern” meant “Okinawan”– and would roughly even FIT, for basically a low-key, laid back but true-blue redneck as the equivalent stereotype– was freaking awesome!

                • Southern = Okinawan, hick / redneck = Hokkaido, vaguely Brit/upper class = Formalish Tokyo-ben, and I’m not entirely sure where they tend to shuffle Kyoto-ben around.

                  And then, there was John Brown, the Australian priest from Ghost Hunt whose Aussie-infected Japanese accent must have been atrocious in the manga, merged with whatever -ben he was educated in; so bad that his voice actor couldn’t butcher it that badly.

                  • And then, there was John Brown, the Australian priest from Ghost Hunt whose Aussie-infected Japanese accent must have been atrocious in the manga, merged with whatever -ben he was educated in; so bad that his voice actor couldn’t butcher it that badly.

                    *gets cat-seeing-the-christmas-tree murder eyes*

                    That sounds FUN.

                  • Thanky kindly missee – that has been passed along to the family otaku.

                    • Daughtorial Unit has advised:

                      “John Brown spoke Kyoto-ben; in the original novels and manga the reactions give the impression that his Japanese is excellent. Part of why it got the reaction it did is because it’s an incredibly strange accent to hear from somebody who clearly learned it as a foreign language; it’s like hearing somebody whom you know had to learn English as a second language have not just a good Southern US accent but one that is specific to a particular part of the South.”

                • Had to go look him up, because I couldn’t remember the name, but Michael Knowles voice is pitched just slightly lower enough that it doesn’t grate, though it’s not what I’d call a ‘deep’ voice either. Dinesh D’souza’s is just low enough too, that I can listen to him.

                  • Agreed on those two. Bobby Jindal’s accent always cracks me up and must drive Leftists bonkers.

                    Okay, less of a drive than a chip-in putt or perhaps a stroll to the bottom of the porch steps …

          • The question is whether this will be a referendum on the incumbent or on the challenger. Because of their Media adjunct the Dems always have an advantage there, but Trump beat them once, without the benefit of incumbency, and their cries of Wolf! Fascist! do not seem to be resonating as they have in the past … as evidenced by their digging deeper into the White Supremacy! and TRUMP CULT! depths.

    • In our area the real estate market shows two trends. They or tearing down $200k and $300k homes and building 5 and 6 bedroom homes that hover around the $1M mark as investments.
      The other think is instead of building condos they are now building apartments. Indeed one condo project switched in the middle of construction to being apartments. The market for condos at a $400k price point wasn’t there due to lack of financing, and the demand for apartments was increasing.
      My opinion is that these huge homes covering a city lot are going to be white elephants instead of positive investments. They are suitable to large families that don’t exist now, and the utilities and taxes are going to make them untenable.

      • Just 2-3 miles from my house there are whole communities full of that style home. They are marketed to multigenerational indian and chinese families. They were selling well, but I haven’t checked in a while.

        nick

        • Our entire neighborhood is multigenerational. From the street it looks like “who needs a house that big” but almost every house has either aged parents or married, starting-out kids living with them. Which makes it way more affordable, while the kids pay off their student loans, than the overheated rents around here.

          • By the time the kids pay off their student loans, parents are ready for a smaller apartment. Rather than either moving the kids take over the house payments, and the parents stick around in one of the suite bedrooms (whether the big master or what is termed junior).

            That is the trend locally, both in new homes and updating. Not particularly big homes, but homes with either Jack/Jill dedicated bathrooms between bedrooms or one bathroom per bedroom, with a half bath bath for visitors. Result, still 3 bedroom, but instead of 3 and 2. It is 3 and 2 1/2 or 3 1/2.

          • Multigenerational household was in the news a little while ago (or at least I saw it) as an alternative to the Aussie dream of your own home as a parent. I’m lucky that my in-laws aren’t horrid (quite the opposite in fact, I love them), but we have VERY different lifestyles and are at very different points in our lives, so the living arrangements wouldn’t work.

      • Like Victorian mansions, they’ll soon be cut into very inconvenient flats for people with low incomes.

        • That’s a lot like how Harlem ended up home to blacks and immigrants in the early 20th century. Builders were speculatively constructing tons of luxury apartments in undeveloped Harlem in anticipation of the opening of the subway. When it actually opened they discovered to their chagrin that between them they’d produced supply far in excess of demand, and rapidly began subdividing them into units that more people could actually afford to rent.

      • The key question about those homes is: How are their fields of fire? Come the zombie apocalypse (for various values of zombie not to exclude Bernie voters) will they be defensible?

        A large home in near proximity to urban collapse is not my idea of a good investment.

      • On utilities – a properly built large house today in terms of heating and air conditioning really shouldn’t use much more energy than a smaller house. Properly built being the key.

        As you put more people in the house, utilities go up as you use more water, more HOT water, do more laundry requiring more dryer time… and so on. As for properly built, mine isn’t up to the standards I would build one to, but – I use oil for heat and hot water; my boiler heats my water, and I set my thermostat at 70.. I use about 1,000 gallons a year of #2. My neighbor around the bend has a house half the size of mine, sets his house at 68, water heater is electric, and he uses 1,200 gallons per winter.

        • New windows! The first cold month in this 100 year old house I had a > $400 gas/electric bill. The bill for October, which was pretty cold for Denver, was $85 – and I’m only just over half done replacing them. November will not be representative because I got a gas fireplace and I’ve been running it as if gas is free – just to find out how much that costs. I’ll get another sticker-shock bill then decide how much to cut back.

        • I racked my brain for a few minutes, though – and I cannot come up with a single thing (other than bathing, we don’t do it Japanese style) that isn’t less per capita as you add more heads.

    • I think part of the issue is the fact most of us were fatally financially wounded in the summer of recovery(s). Part is that we can SENSE trouble in the wind with the next election. And part is that the catastrophic technological change has started hitting those of us in fields affected by it — which includes a lot of geek and techies.
      There’s a lot of boom in gun sales, which tells you people are nervous. And I know from the almost-non-existent black Friday sales (I mean, they’re advertised as such but the discounts are almost nothing) that nonetheless did good business that the people in more stable/not at the edge jobs are spending.
      Apparently it’s those of us who sniff the air and sense what’s coming who are going nuts.

      • We’ve been trying to replace our GPS– the price dropped eleven cents for black Friday. -.-

        • Yep. Precisely. And that’s a measure of how well the economy is doing. I need a digital camera. Mine died. And I actually do need it, because I want to make stuff to sell and need pictures.
          I also have a friend who does the dealer gig but not in sf/f, not to mainly techies and marginal/on the edges/gig economy people, and this year is going amazing for her.
          Um…. I might have to do a post. I can see how people conclude that the economy isn’t good, so I’m not invalidating Lee’s experience. But I think there’s a reason for it.

          • Our good standalone camera died a couple of years ago(I have some photos I took when it was dying, which looked OK on the camera’s preview screen, but atrocious as soon as I downloaded them to the computer), and I have been using my iPhone ever since. It actually has a better camera (not surprising, since I bought the camera in 2007, and the iPhone in 2016, when the liability shift happened and we needed a machine that could link with the Square readers for chip cards), and the only problem with it is the lack of some of the specialized settings that were useful for closeups of details of merchandise.

            Eventually I’d like to get a really good standalone camera and a tripod, although I don’t know if I’d go as far as a digital SLR like my brother has. But I’d like to be able to take pictures of a bunch of my art and get them up on my gallery website, especially if I ever get back into drawing and painting again.

        • GPS is pretty much at a bottom for dedicated hardware. You can only make the units so inexpensive and still make a profit. For example, a GPS unit itself for an Arduino computer will run from sub-$20 to $70 on Amazon.) By the time you add in batteries, maps and the like…(shrug) there’s only so much of a profit margin on the units.

          And with every cell phone having GPS, it’s kinda funny for me. I was using GPS receivers in the early ’80s when there were only 4-5 satellites up. Took a christmas-tree sized antenna and about 4 days and two car batteries to get a decent position. In the late ’80s the military got mobile GPS units. Now? It’s almost funny. If you’ve got a cell phone and the GPS Status app (for Android) you’ve got a system that beats what I had all hollow… and that’s before the added maps in the phone, and all the other utility built in. The prices go down, the capabilities go up, but I think there’s a price point where it’s just not going to go below…

          .Kind of like TV sets. We had a 5-year old Smart TV that we got a lot of use out of… but the built-in apps aged out and it’d no longer do what we wanted aside from video. Picture’s still great, but we started thinking it may be time to replace it. I started looking around… and found a new TV with a better picture with everything we wanted – for approximately half the price of the TV we bought five years back.

          For the price of what we paid five years back, we could have gotten a 75″ TV. Which would have been interesting – but way too big for the room, lol.

          • Puts me in mind of flat-screen TVs. IIRC, the original 38-inch Phillips sold for $7K. I bought a 46-inch set in 2006 for $2K. Today….4K sets are going for half that.

      • We are going to get a new twist on the children of the Great Depression.

        I really need to get a pistol in 9mm.

        • Used, surplus, maybe 40 cal instead of 9 mm. Right now 40 cal Glocks are being replaced in police departments with 9 mm. Shop around, look for function NOT Name brand. Real Deals are out there.

          • Already have .40 covered. I have an FNS-40c, currently with a .357sig barrel in it.

            My attraction to the weird and unusual isn’t always the best thing….

            • Kim Du Toit calls the 9×19 “the Europellet”, but I acquired one earlier this year because 9mm is incredibly cheap nowadays, and I can get more range time for my entertainment money.

              I can buy cheap aluminum-case 9mm for less than I can reload .45 for, and I can chuckle madly while I walk away from the aluminum empties on the floor. Brass costs money, and my inner Scotsman suffers actual physical pain at losing any…

              • What kind of aluminum is it? Is it good for casting?

                • It’s soft and quite ductile; I was able to resize some empty .45 ACP to .400 Cor-Bon without any problem. If it’s a 1xxx or 3xxx alloy it’s probably not suitable for casting, but if you got a pile of them it wouldn’t hurt to try. And you could probably mix some into the melt if you were short of decent castable metal.

                  Go to a local engine rebuilder and you can get automobile pistons for scrap price. Cylinder heads are good metal, but sawing them into crucible-sized pieces is a hassle.

                  • Pistons *smacks head*

                    I know about head, blocks, and transmission casing, but have dreaded the breakdown. I hadn’t thought about pistons.

                    Thank you.

              • Kim Du Toit calls the 9×19 “the Europellet”

                /me laughs in 5.7×28

                • When I first opened a box of those, I noted they were smaller than some bullets I load…

                  And since I’ve added .223 to my loading bench, I’ve wondered if I need tweezers to handle those tiny bullets.

                  • Aside from any other pros/cons of the cartridge they are good for making 9mm guys sputter and foam in the same way that .45acp grognards do.

                  • My wife wanted a P90 back about ten years ago. And 50-round boxes of 5.7 were selling for under $10. Which is about half of what it seems to go for now.

                    The P90’s magazine is a mechanical marvel, but the gun itself is misshapen and so tail-heavy it’s awkward to handle.

              • William O. B'Livion

                I enjoy Mr. Du Toit’s writing, but he’s…he’s got his tastes.

                If you’re worried about things going bump in the politics and general civil disorder 9mm is *EVERYWHERE*. .40 much less so. And the difference in terminal effect between them is so slight as to be non-existent with modern ammunition.

                I’m not throwing shade on the .40–if I owned one I wouldn’t trade it out for a 9, but if I had neither a .40 or a 9mm, I’d a 9mm. 15 years ago I would have said the opposite, but .40 failed to grow in the LEO market, the Feebs ditched it, and now police departments are dropping it. Not wildly, and it gets a few wins here and there, but it’s just not got the market share. This means it will continue to get more expensive on a per-round basis.

                • Simple point of fact that most folks required to carry a sidearm as part of their duty gear are not dedicated gun people, qualified one would hope, but not into the whole gun culture thing.
                  The 10mm cartridge, later scaled back in power to the .40 S&W were developed due to several incidents where full jacket 9mm failed to perform adequately in encounters with armed criminals.
                  The 10mm is a very effective beast, some say adequate for bear defense in rough country, but takes some serious dedication to shoot well. The .40 S&W is just the 10mm shortened and with less powder. The thing is the 10 is generally built on the same frame as a .45acp while the .40 mostly uses a slightly upsized 9mm receiver. So the .40 is harder to learn to shoot well than the 9mm and at the same time less robust over long term use and abuse in the field. It’s also proven more difficult for shooters with smaller hands.
                  So at the moment we are seeing all sorts of duty .40 S&W being sold off as departments switch back to 9mm due entirely to training and logistics issues.

                  • Bullet technology has advanced since the pre-10mm events though.

                    A modern 9mm hollowpoint is nothing to sneeze at. Especially since as long as you reach a certain level of effectiveness it is more important to optimize number of shots on target.

                    • Yeah, if you visit Kim du Toit’s current blog, Splendid Isolation (www.kimdutoit.com), he’s written a post to the effect that advances in bullet design and ballistics have convinced him that 9mm is now adequate.

                  • About half of the commercially available “10mm” is down-loaded to .40 S&W ballistics. Check the ballistic data before you buy.

                    The “10mm for bear” seems to be a recurrent theme on the gun forums. I suspect it’s mostly people looking for validation for a proposed purchase.

                    10mm is better than a sharp stick, and people *have* killed bears with them. But I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

    • Two relevant trends to keep in mind:

      We are in the 8th (9th?) year of an economic recovery. It’s been weak but it is overdue for a drop. In spite of what politicians claim, there’s very little politicians can do about this … and most of what they can do is prone to making it worse (Trump’s deregulatory push being an example of one of the few things they can do to make the economy better.)

      We’re about mid-way through the Boomer retirements, with this year seeing those born in 1954 reaching sixty-five. That means their personal economies are changing and affects their shopping choices.

      • I would not classify anything under Obama as a “recovery”. He was lying through his teeth, with full help from the Propaganda Press.

      • It certainly does mine – I went on SS as of the first of this year and dedicated that payment to necessary house maintenance, having given up on the dream of my own private retirement oasis in the Hill Country. Fixing the roof, getting new windows, painting, renovating the bathrooms and kitchen of the house that is almost nearly paid off … and trying to pare down the stuff in the garage.
        All but the books.
        But I really should start paring down the books…

        • I started SS this year too. But I started early. Household is double SS income, plus two pensions … well my pension … I have fun with it. I is just enough a month to pay for a nice dinner out. Fun as in “honey, pension deposited, I’ll pay for dinner!” Or loans $1458/year, and loan person tells me I selected the “wrong” box (nope, yearly, not monthly). Hey, it is better than zero, which is where most people who retire from tech are at (not know for pension availability). Last place I worked at, when I retired at 59, there were still 3 people near 70 still working. Last I heard, one retired (well okay he sold the business), another got forced out within the next year. But the other one is still working … note this was 3 years ago!!!

          • I turn 65 in June. I have no intention on retiring. I’m healthy, likely to stay that way for years, and have a low stress good paying job. Based on family history and watching my weight, I should live well past 90.

            And for reasons unknown, most of the people I’ve known who’ve retired early have died early….

  2. “Even if people are doing well at the moment, they do not feel confident that they will continue to enjoy the same success they currently have. ”

    Yes, I agree. Right now in Canada we have what amounts to the government that Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders would create. They are all about the SJW themes the Shut-Up-ery and the Glowball Warmening. The new carbon tax is slowing the Canadian economy, and the Western provinces have lost some insane amount of foreign investment, something like $400 billion has left the oil business out West and it is 100% due to government interference of various kinds. The manufacturing sector in Ontario is basically dead.

    People are building up fat for the winter that they can feel is coming to the USA, IMHO. That winter is already here in Canada. I can’t imagine vendors at Toronto ComicCon and Toronto FanExpo are doing very well, to take two local examples.

  3. I think Jim Baen got the “Joe’s beer money” bit from Heinlein.

    • That’s where Harry Stine said he got it.

    • Here is the quote from Channel Markers, Heinlein’s speech to the midshipmen at Annapolis back in 1973:
      I think of it as competing for beer money; this keeps me steady on course. My purpose is to make what I write entertaining enough to compete with beer. Not to be as great as Shakespeare or as immortal as Homer but simply to write well enough to persuade the cash customer to spend money on one of my paperback reprints when he could spend it on beer.
      Channel Markers is a wonderful speech, dated in some particulars, yet still a fount of wisdom from the lips of our first Grand Master.

      • It’s older than that. I know it shows up in Expanded Universe, but I’m not sure if in the material from the 50s or for the book circa 1980.

        • It wouldn’t surprise me if Heinlein was merely relaying wisdom received from John W Campbell and lord know where he might have gotten it from. It certainly sounds like the sort of thing to be said by an editor when a writer complains about “Art.”

          I dare say Kipling had heard it, and even Homer was aware that his audiences had such alternative entertainments as brothels. (Arguably, prostitutes sell the same kind of fiction as did Homer.)

          • Prostitutes as the original interactive fiction.

            Then again, successful strippers, and I suspect more upscale prostitutes, make money by listening to men and pretending to like them than they do with their body.

        • 1983. Heinlein gave that lecture at USNA in 1974.

          • Yes, but some of the essays date to the 50s and 60s and were in a prior book. That’s why I said I’m not sure if it in the “expanded” material or the original.

        • (Squints at ancient memory tapes in the brain.) I’m reasonably sure it first appeared in the ’80s edition. I had the previous edition from my brother’s BIL, who gave me most of what RAH had in paperback circa 1968. (Thanks, Mike!)

      • I think after the beer money part the thing writers need to realize is both Shakespeare and Homer were after their time’s equivalent of beer money. For them, the writing was first and foremost to put bread on the table, not to create “art”.

        In fact, conscious attempts to create “art” by writers are at best brilliant failures, examples being famous unfinished works like The Canterbury Tales and The Faerie Queen whose artistic requirements made their competition impossible, and normally unreadable dreck, see everyone’s favorite Z list author at The Guardian.

        • normally unreadable dreck, see everyone’s favorite Z list author at The Guardian.

          Has that Z-list author ever actually gotten around to publishing anything? Last I’d heard, he’d spent about five years “producing” a book, but it didn’t seem to be anywhere close to completion. Admittedly it’s not like I’ve been checking his Amazon page in breathless anticipation, so I might have missed it.

        • Another pertinent quote from Channel Markers.
          Science fiction—I don’t write it because I am addicted to it; I am not. I’ve written and sold all sorts of things, technical articles, journalistic nonfiction, television scripts, detective stories, screenplays, adventure stories, even teen-age love stories told in female first person. But I usually write science fiction because it turned out that I made more money that way. I did not become a writer to see my name in print; I didn’t give a hoot about that and had no literary ambitions. I was a naval officer by choice; I became a writer by economic necessity. I needed to pay off a mortgage and started writing to get the money. I was in poor health and could not handle a steady job—nor were there any jobs; I was disabled out of the Navy during the Great Depression, a time when lawyers were driving milk trucks and graduate engineers were working as janitors. RAH

    • If the “Joe” in question is Joe Buckley, I’d advise him to spend the money on beer. He’s more likely to live long enough to get his money’s worth of enjoyment from a six-pack of beer than he is to get his money’s worth from a novel of equal price.

  4. Leigh is fairly polite, that is a good quality in a retailer. We’ve recently seen retailers make multi-billion dollar errors by narrowing their customer base by espousing identity politics and deciding the purpose of their company is to promote social activism over making money.
    I have no such need to be nice.
    The current analysis of the economy both from the government and professional economists is a fantasy.
    People are extended in debt and far too many of them have no prospects of paying it off short of bankruptcy or winning the lotto.
    Plan on a shrinking customer base, because the government is increasing spending at a rate that can have no good end. They have looted pension funds indirectly by lowering interest rates. Those funds and insurance companies have continued to plan as if they were going to make 8% interest on deposits. At some point in the payout curve people are going to find out that what can’t be paid – won’t. A large portion of the middle class are going to find out their promised retirement was a lie. Even if it is written into their state constitution. If the money is not there it isn’t going to be dispersed. To think otherwise is magical dreaming.
    The stock market is not the economy, and people who think they have ‘wealth’ will find out it isn’t wealth when there are no bag holders willing to buy it from you at the make-believe prices.
    Things like inflation reporting are a straight out lie. They change their basket to exclude necessities and don’t regard stocks and housing as subjects of inflation at all. You can’t eat a smart phone or shelter under a big screen TV no matter how cheap it gets. The absolute number of people working reports ignore the proportion of the population working.
    Indeed there is every indication the US will follow the European lead and further loot savings by going to negative interest rates.
    Yes, entertainment films and books and associated trinkets have always done well in bad times. But you better be on the LOW side of that market. People are buying streaming services or DVDs instead of going to a theater. People are buying or borrowing e-books instead of $30 printed books. This is why I am selling the equivalent of 300 page books for $5, the new sales point Leigh observed instead of $20. I agree, $5 is the middle class impulse purchase cap now. The equal of a cheap sandwich or an expensive coffee. And if that drops I can lower my price to $3.99 or $2.99 because I have almost no fixed expenses to provide e-books.
    Traditional publishers are pricing their e-books to not sell trying to force people to paper. Given the print market will decline AND they will continue to succeed wildly in not selling over priced e-books that leaves them with – nothing. Thus Barnes and Nobles sells stationary and tea sets before the store fixtures…
    Plan accordingly.

    • Mackey, you’re wrong on ONE thing. Jerry said, and I’ve seen it, books do better in HARD times. People put money on that stuff, to escape.
      The problem right now is that the book market is ALL a mess because of trad and… well…. everything.

      • Yes look at the Great Depression. What was selling like hotcakes? Movie tickets to silly fun fluff like Astaire and Rogers movies. We look and say $.25 what a deal, but in the 30’s a dinner at an ok diner might not break $.50 and you could probably do it for .35 .

      • I know places like B&N are in trouble – primarily because of ebooks. I’ve loved KU, and buy a fair number of series, and a good number of books that I just find interesting. And audiobooks.

        Magazines are hurting also. Popular Science and Popular Mechanics are now bi-monthly. It hurts seeing those go down, but to be honest, the content is nowhere near as comprehensive as it was even 20 years back.

        I’ve been watching the print runs of Analog for a while – it looks like they’ve gone from a subscriber base of 200k plus in the ’60’s and ’70s to sub 30k now. Don’t know what the e-subs are like, I can’t find figures of that.

        Publishing is indeed in a mess.

        • I stopped my Analog subscription when I realized I wasn’t reading any of the stories to the end anymore. Many not past the first page.

          It’s hard to get customers back once they’ve been lost.

        • > Popular Science and Popular Mechanics

          For at least a decade, the print versions were basically “Gosh wow! Neat Stuff! Read the rest at our web site!”

          Well, no, Schiff-head, if I’m reading your magazine (which overprints colored text over colored backgrounds and looks like an Apple newbie had a font-gasm in a Scrabble factory) I’m not going to your web site, which is a festering mess of trackers, malicious Javascript, autoplay video ads, and so much “rich content” that my 56Mbit cable connection gags… and if I did go there, there’s no *there* there; it’s all headlines and advectorials, with nearly zero useful content.

          The couple of decades before that were no great shakes, either.

          [yesterday, I gave the first tranche of my old issues – 1920s-1975-ish – to their new owner. He’s gonna need a bigger bookshelf…]

          [I already downloaded the available runs of both magazines from Google Books, and the PDFs and OCRs occupy about 45Gb, which leaves plenty of space on a $20 thumbdrive, as well as on the hard disk and off-site backups. Not as convenient to browse as paper, but space is of more concern than convenience now]]

    • > The stock market is not the economy

      TRAITOR! THOUGHTCRIME! DEVIANT! Shun, shun, shun!

      Unfortunately, a lot of people who really should know better conflate the stock market and the economy.

      > Indeed there is every indication the US will follow the European lead and further loot savings by going to negative interest rates.

      In the early 1980s the interest rate at local banks was zero. Except for a couple that wanted to charge you for the service of holding your money in a savings account. Accounts that did pay interest were compounded annually. I don’t think CDs dropped below 3/4 of a percent, though.

      Kind of a shocker, having had to work through math problems in school just a few years before, ten percent compounded quarterly.

      • “In the early 1980s the interest rate at local banks was zero.”

        Not money market or CD’s. Or at least it got really better. We didn’t pay off our student loans “quickly” because we made more in savings than the loan interest, by triple. In-laws wouldn’t go into the market because they were making insane interest on CD’s. Don’t remember what our first home loan interest was in ’80 (I think 8% fixed). But do remember the outrageous percentage for the current house in ’88 – *13% flexible with balloon due 5 years out. We refinanced it as quickly as possible (before the first “flex”). Now interest is at 3.4% fixed.

        * wasn’t our fault the terms were so **horrible. Had trouble finding a lender for a home in an area where nothing had been even on sale, so the house appraisal was “outside of neighborhood norms”. The one thing we can guaranty is anytime there is a credit report on us, the response by the lender is “they really, really, like you.”

        ** Renting, again (our rental was sold out from under us, tried to buy, but they wanted too much), by then we had a large dog and 5 cats, with a baby on the way. Got lucky once, with dog and 4 cats. Wasn’t happening again.

        • my mom’s on her house was 14.something… yes i know. No she never refi’d

        • I don’t know what their interest on loans was. I was only interested in what they were going to pay me for the use of my money while it was in their accounts.

          *Nobody* offered more than 2 percent on a CD, and some of them were down to 3/4 percent.

          • CD rates in the 80s were above 6.5%, and their highest was 15.79% in 1981.

            • Not where I live, circa 1980-1985-ish. And in those pre-internet days, there was nowhere else.

              You have to be careful about data you find on the internet. Even if it’s not made up, it might not account for local variations.

    • You can’t … shelter under a big screen TV …

      I’ve seen some of the larger flat screens that would make a good start on a lean-to 😉

    • housing as subjects of inflation at all.

      I’m going to raise a defense of housing being excluded from core inflation, although not food and fuel.

      The logic on food and fuel is they are highly volatile in price, which is true, but inflation is annualized which cancels that out to a large degree.

      Housing, however, is the exact opposite. People with a mortgage lock in housing costs for longer periods. Yes, taxes and insurance vary, but it all but the most insane locales they are marginal compared to mortgage cost. Rents lock in for shorter periods, but rarely less than 12 month and often more.

      So even if rents go up 10% the day after I sign a 24 month lease, including that in inflation makes no rational prediction about day to day costs for the average person.

      Also, because the fed try to provide a one size fits all index for a nation with subdivisions where such a measure is broken (Texas and California logically would have several internal inflation and poverty measures), adding housing is worse than useless. Housing is one of the most localized markets of all and trying to average it nation wide provides anti-data.

      As an aside, my favorite inflation index, which runs much higher than the feds is The Chapwood Index. It is quoted by cities on a quarterly basis and uses a huge basket of common goods. It does include both mortgages and rent, but in a large enough and localized enough basket to be useful.

      • Also, because the fed try to provide a one size fits all index for a nation with subdivisions where such a measure is broken (Texas and California logically would have several internal inflation and poverty measures), adding housing is worse than useless. Housing is one of the most localized markets of all and trying to average it nation wide provides anti-data.

        Iowa is having several mini-scandals because of “corrupt county accessors.”

        …. when you look into it, they’re “corrupt” because they’re accessing houses based on the actual market, rather than by county. There is a HUGE difference between a five bedroom house on a postage stamp next to the lake, and a five bedroom house on an acre in the middle of nowhere.

        • (Note, we benefited from one of these guys– when the team came around to access the house, he even specifically asked if the unfinished basement was still having water problems, very knowledgeable. Dropped our assessment a quarter of the total, putting it a bit below what we paid but about at what we should have, if we weren’t in love with the place and the guy selling hadn’t had such a sob story. Short version, this was obviously his dream house…then his mom came down with MS.)

        • Therefore spawning Oregon limited property taxation basis. Our property taxes show allowable Taxable basis, and current retail value (as of the January of Tax year, billed in September … Tax year 2019, value as of 1/2019). In Oregon, taxable values do not reset to sold price, upon sell. Bit of an uproar in 2008 – 2012 (ish) when taxable basis went up, but retail went down. Why? Because taxable basis was still less than the lowered retail basis … except on resold foreclosures, or short sales, where the retail values sold less than taxable basis … even then they tried to raise taxable basis (courts might have slapped some hands). We haven’t seen a county assessor in over 25 years. They are suppose to see the house every 10 years, and do drive by checks every 2 or 3, even under the current rules.

      • William O. B'Livion

        > The logic on food and fuel is they are highly volatile in price, which

        Fuel is also baked into *almost* everything else. Food, clothing, shoes, electronics. If you count fuel you wind up double or triple counting it’s effect.

        It’s also *massively* taxed.

    • I’m in the debt bucket myself having allowed significant other to cosign too many loans for children taking degrees with less than stellar ROI, and then defaulting on their payments. I thought for richer or for poorer meant you at least had a 50% chance of improvement. /sigh

      • We refused parent plus loans; didn’t qualify for anything else. Absolutely no way. Kid isn’t using his *degree but he is working. He got through without loans. We (his parents, and him) were coming up with the money the term before the last 4 terms, but we managed (full gambit, excluding rent/utilities, those were budgeted as monthly). Anyone know of entry level (legal) positions for Chemist, 8 years out from graduation?

        • Has he looked to the oil fields?

          • He says he’s looked. Oil fields would be a good start. We’d even provide housing (he’d take truck/trailer) as I know housing is non-existent at those locations. Don’t think he wants to leave PNW.

            • Not wanting to leave PNW will be his problem. As William O. B’Livion says, Army and Navy are always hiring. I couldn’t find the Facebook post I saw a few days ago, but apparently one of the nuke officers I knew on subs was 4 years out of college working retail when he saw a Navy ad and decided to check it out. Once you’re commissioned and done with your initial tour, usually not hard to find a job. Many companies go searching for junior officers to fill jobs.

              But- You have to be willing to relocate!

              • He was Air Force ROTC until end of his 3rd year (degree took 5 years, started with 5 year degree, switched to Chemistry, then scheduling problems). Obama era caused so many cuts that Air Force wouldn’t contract him. Army ROTC was willing. But he wouldn’t. Don’t know why. Part, I think, because he wanted to fly. Now, at 30, he won’t consider it. Do know at the time the cuts during that time were a big issue and the local ROTC officers weren’t happy that he couldn’t contract with the Air Force. He was allowed to finish out the ROTC classes which normally isn’t done once you can’t contract. Didn’t wear uniform, nor could he participate in extra activities. He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t contract, out of the class that he went to the Air Force ROTC boot camp between sophomore and junior year.

              • // Don’t think he wants to leave PNW.

                “I GET that.”

                Yes. So do I.

                I don’t even mind he’s not using his degree*. Big difference between the 18 year old who went off to college, and the 21 year old that graduated (okay 22, days later). He’s 30. He can figure it out. He’s working. He is definitely not a spend thrift, he saves his money. He needs to replace his 15 year old radiator leaking vehicle, but is taking his sweet time about it. If he worked regular shift, whatever, but we really don’t want to get the call “broke down on the road”, at 2AM …

                * I didn’t use my first degree and for the same reasons. Granted I had to take into account a spouses work situation. But you don’t think that if I’d pressed harder in ALL the locations Forestry jobs exist, as a female, I couldn’t have gotten something? Granted would have meant Hubby would have had to give up his job (his job is ONLY in the PNW). We wouldn’t have been any better off financially, and likely worse off.

                Same with computer software. I could have doubled or tippled my salary. But in areas that realistically still required hubby to work, due to housing costs, and cost of living in general, where he wouldn’t have reasonable work options in his field. Hard to complain when kid has us for examples …

            • Play him this.

              “So I bid farewell to the Eastern town I never more will see;
              But work I must so I eat this dust and breathe refinery.
              Oh I miss the green and the woods and streams and I don’t like cowboy clothes;
              But I like being free and that makes me an idiot I suppose.

        • I don’t know if they’re doing anything in Oregon anymore, but Hewlett Packard was doing a lot of inkjet ink development in Corvallis. Warning: this information is 30 years old…

          Intel and Tektronix *might* still be doing integrated circuit stuff in Beaverton or thereabouts. That used to be a good place for chemists to get a start. Similar disclaimer; check online.

          • Those both dried up about 8 to 10 years ago, as he was in his last couple of years. Along with the 3 labs that were in town. He even had TWO different long term employees at two of the labs trying to get him on their teams. Sat down with him to go over his resume and the company applications, then walked the applications into HR into the correct hands … ONLY to be then worried about THEIR own jobs about 8 weeks later. One ended up in NE around Maine (now back in town, but not working), the other is now in Texas. Both with degrees and a lot of experience were sweating. One of them was the twin to one of the neighbors and watched him grow up. The other was the current scoutmaster out of the troop kid earned Eagle with.

            HP. Granted different divisions, but his Aunt & Uncle worked for HP at the printer division. Or had just retired about then (the huge parachute retirement about 10 or 12 years ago). Plus his degree is from Oregon State, Corvallis. They couldn’t get him in for an interviews.

            • I was afraid about HP. I was part of the Agilent (everything non computer based) spinoff in 2000, (then laid off as A bailed out of semiconductors). HP has done a lot of slicing and dicing along with crashing and burning. So, not surprised about HP printers not hiring. I suspect printers were part of the slice and dice, presumably with most development going overseas. I’d recommend some web searching; at least through the ’90s, all ink development and (I believe) cartridge/print head) was done in Corvallis. They were keeping it closely held then. Now? Dunno. Lost contact with a friend who moved there.

              No great thoughts, though with manufacturing being repatriated into the US, there should be some openings. I think I tried one of the resume sites in ’01 (Monster.com?), though my post-layoff job came through a sales rep for the test equipment I’d been programming.

              With all the fracking giving a bunch of oil and gasses, I’d guess petrochemical work should be ramping up.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I managed to pay of a significant student loan debt (30k in 1995) on a *Fine Arts Degree*. Defaulting on student loans, for other than significant medical issues, is a refusal to be an adult.

        The Air Force and Navy are *always* hiring.

  5. My buying threshold went down about the time second year of the last president. It just went lower when my hubby died. Hope you do better this year — and yes I think a lot of people are pinching pennies still.

    • Oh and the dollar stores are doing a booming business in our area. It’s not just the homeless and low income that goes there anymore. Plus here the real estate business is going up due to getting a few professional teams. (Raiders, Golden Knights, etc) (Las Vegas). Plus the apartment rents have up so high that if I wasn’t in a 55+ place that I wouldn’t be able to afford living in the city In fact I was ready to move to one of the small towns outside of Las Vegas (about 1-2 hours away). It would have cost about the same for travel cost (gas, etc) to get to my doctors. So yea– and then the doctor co-pays went up (this was by the insurance)… that was also a hit as well.

  6. I don’t think anyone’s mentioned yet that the MSM and the Left are trying their damndest to create a recession, pre-election. I scan a great many articles in the course of a day, and an astonishing number of them are about how bad the economy is getting, or beginning to get, or may get, or could conceivably get, or something. Young people buy this crap to an extent that fossils like myself do not. College debt is a factor here, and angst about a (nonexistent) climate crisis. (My family has a meteorology fetish, and I can say with considerable confidence after 20 years of research that there is no climate crisis–and if one develops, it will involve cooling rather than warming.)

    So a great deal of the angst is lefty agitprop intended to damage our perception of a reasonably strong economy. Here in Scottsdale you can barely get into a restaurant after 5:30 PM, and Scottsdale itself is about one third restaurants by weight. We’ve been here since the end of 2015, and I see no slackening of the economy. I know a realtor, and home sales are strong. You can tell because “for sale” signs are up and down in a few weeks, sometimes so quickly I wonder if they changed their minds. In Colorado Springs circa 2010-1015, we would see signs go up and stay up for most of a year.

    I accept Leigh Kimmel’s report completely, but I wonder if the whole idea of cons and other such events is losing out to binge-watching and social networking at home. I stopped going to cons in the late 1980s in part because people were starting to yell at each other over political issues. That’s no fun, and it was all very one-sided. (Guess who was doing the yelling? It certainly wasn’t me.)

    Finally, in my own circles here, people are doing an enormous amount of online shopping. (Half the time I go out to get the mail every afternoon, the UPS man or Prime truck are somewhere on our block, dropping off boxes.) If retailers are suffering, it’s mostly Amazon’s doing, and not any growing unwillingness to spend money. It’s a weird theory, but I present it here: Logistical innovations like Prime are moving retail where it basically can’t be seen. The money, however, is still changing hands.

    Prosperity is money in motion, mostly. Down here the money’s still moving. Can’t say much about other places, but never forget that the MSM is trying to paint as grim a picture as they can get away with. Tune ’em out.

    • Another bit of anecdata: We finally started renting out my mom’s condo. We had a renter within a few days of signing the paperwork with the property manager. She had to move out a couple of weeks ago because of chemical sensitivity issues, but we just got a new renter yesterday. So it looks like the rental market in Colorado Springs is pretty strong.

      • The rental market in Colorado Springs is outright insane.

      • Rent here is nuts, while buying a home is not that bad depending. I got lucky and had a good sized house I rented for $600, no contract because A: cash payment
        B: house was for sale, when can you move was a possibility (I looked at buying it for a bid on the $59,000 but the loaners via work would loan that little.)
        I was only in it for May, June, and July.
        I bought my. not too bad shape HUD house for $20,000, should have bid less, but needed one I knew for sure was going to be accepted.
        The rent market is skewed because of the shipyard and a large transient need there. Northrup has a hold on a lot of places and a flux of need for welders or electricians, so the rotate through. Most of our small, no-name motels are full of shipyard workers.
        Want to build new? Heh, cost is high as hell, and for little reason, then you add the other carp in a area like this with some places having codes on everything, it gets pricey fast.

        • Even in our building-friendly county, we figured that starting with bare land, getting power, water, septic and a road in place would cost somewhere between $50K and $100K, depending on quirks of the terrain. We considered starting with a teardown house, but figured it wouldn’t buy much, since we’d need better/bigger septic, probably more power, and then there’s demolition and disposal. Not going to think about permits and Department of Environmental Quality approvals. Nope, not at our age.

      • As a matter of curiosity, what kind of chemical sensitivity issues?

        I’ve walked into places and encountered carpet that might as well have been sprayed with Mace, fumbling my way back out of the room blindly, but I can see where lesser reactions would still be a problem.

        • I remember a Fleetwood manufactured house, circa 2000. There was enough formaldehyde in the air to embalm anything. We lasted seconds before fleeting.

        • I have no idea, all my information comes third-hand from my sister, who deals with the property manager that deals with the renters.

    • Yep. Apparently black friday was great… on line.
      Which is why I wanted to start with Leigh’s view, then throw in all the other facts.

    • “The only news worth printing is bad news.”

    • > Logistical innovations like Prime are moving retail where it basically can’t be seen.

      I’ve noticed a majority of hits I get when searching Amazon are now third-party vendors using Amazon as a storefront, pretty much like eBay. (and NewEgg seems to be operating that way now, too)

      I was in a used book store in North Carolina a while back; their stock was all bar coded, and the shelves were their inventory for online sales via Amazon, which seemed to be their primary focus.

      Floor space costs money. Inventory costs money. Salespeople cost money. Insurance costs money. I’ve begun to wonder how many businesses have “gone dark” and become warehouses selling through other companies’ storefronts…

    • General debt load for households is important. A non-insignificant part of the Trump boom that has reached people is going into debt reduction.

    • I wonder if the whole idea of cons and other such events is losing out to binge-watching and social networking at home. I stopped going to cons in the late 1980s in part because people were starting to yell at each other over political issues.

      I had a similar thought and she seems to hint at that with the professional conventions run for profit that are autograph signing events. DragonCon is arguably that, but is just so damn big old school cons happen inside it.

      But my impression of ComicCon San Diego is it has nothing anymore to do with comics fans.

      And yeah, the increasing politicization of “public” spaces makes lots of people less willing to go. As gaming cons embrace the new consent culture of RPGs including, I am not kidding, consent checklists modeled on S&M play checklists (which I think are poor tools for that environment where outline ahead of time what is in and out of bounds is much more important and encourage newbies to move beyond them as fast as they can) I have lost interest in public RPG play.

      Yep, I’m more likely these days to go to the S&M dungeon to play adult games than the local gaming con to play D&D.

      That’s sad.

      • “But my impression of ComicCon San Diego is it has nothing anymore to do with comics fans.” We attended for 25 years but gave up 10 years ago, when it started to feel like Disneyland circa 1970–all lines and little amusement. Many old-timers have complained that CCI is no longer about comics but has been taken over by Hollywood. Actually the reverse is true. ComicCon took over Hollywood a number of years ago when Hollywood ran out of ideas on how to make money. With most of the audience being non-English speaking, it makes sense to go to a visual medium for source material.

        • I oppose the concept that ‘hollywood ran out of ideas’ being the reason for comic book movies.

          IF ‘Hollywood ran out of ideas’ then they did so more than three decades ago, when they started optioning these comic books to make films of them.

          What happened is that Hollywood realized that digital filmmaking and visual effects had reached the point where comics COULD be translated into films WELL, and then woke up to the fact that people WOULD pay to see them if they were done well instead of half-ass attempts using a mid-grade budget, or low budget films.

          There are key rings floating around handed out in 1991 for Spider-man , a Jim Cameron film…

          So the very idea of high budget superhero films was not new when they finally did it…

          • A weird conspiracy theory I have heard in the past couple of weeks is that directors like Rian Johnson, given prominent franchises, are intentionally making bad movies to destroy the franchises so Hollywood will take a risk on non-franchise films.

            Because what I can read and hear says the reason we got an awful Charlie’s Angels isn’t because people wanted one, but some executive in Hollywood can say, “Well, if Charlie’s Angel, which made a bunch of money last time, fails, it’s the market not me.”

            I’ve got half a blog post about how Hollywood is screwing creators, especially women, by not letting them do projects they wrote and are invested in, as the original Star Wars and Ghost Busters were, but instead forcing them to shoehorn their stories into a franchise. I think that explains Star Trek: Discovery to a tee, for example.

            • Hollywood’s myopia, ineptitude, and boorishness are well documented. I think I heard Rod Serling describe the dynamic as an ignorant 25-year old trying to make as much money as possible before being replaced by the next ignorant 25-year old 2 years later, just after the poor results on the first one’s choices had been counted up.

            • The female reboot of Ghostbusters had no characters. Ditto the new Charlie’s. I can tell you about minor characters in Ford vs Ferrari.

          • Superman came out in 1978, so Spidey had a predecessor by several years.

    • I accept Leigh Kimmel’s report completely, but I wonder if the whole idea of cons and other such events is losing out to binge-watching and social networking at home. I stopped going to cons in the late 1980s in part because people were starting to yell at each other over political issues. That’s no fun, and it was all very one-sided. (Guess who was doing the yelling? It certainly wasn’t me.)

      I know that Elf and I went to our first con two years back– exactly because we’d finally gotten to a place that we financially COULD, between it being close and having some free change. RenFaire, too.
      Still couldn’t do a twenty dollar splurge, but did buy the gorgeous dragon magnets from this lady:
      https://www.instagram.com/dragonladyart/

      And my husband did the collectable mug thing, which was expensive but the mug is awesome AND came with a discount on refills, this year and any in the future. (Which he won’t use, because he’ll be buying a new mug next year, too. But the value added thing sticks in your head.)

    • I don’t go to cons for TV or Movie personalities. They charge far more than their image, signature, and 5 seconds of facetime are worth to me. Now a writer’s workshop on the other hand, by an author I really like; that’s a horse of a different color!

    • Agree 100%. The Propaganda Press is trying to crete a scare.

  7. Thank you for posting this. My impression is that the economy has picked up considerably in the last 3 years, but considering that I’m mostly seeing the oil and gas industry (and areas that are directly affected by it) that may be a local phenomenon.

    • it is going up in many places, but things can affect that (Michigan and Wisconsin went with Dem Governors again, sales and state taxes did some jumps, stupid wage laws etc)

    • Thanks for the reminder of the benefits of (relatively) cheap gas. It makes a big difference when filling your tank costs $30 instead of $50.

      It also helps that we’re undercutting such global competitors as Russia and our “friends” in the Middle East.

      I call it a win-win.

  8. My old fart thoughts.
    I got back into D&D in May 2016 and started doing cons in 2017. So far my total for D&D and cons spent is $7,254.22. This year cut is $1862.99. This includes merch, con fees, hotel fees, and gifts.
    T-shirts are a problem buy due space limitations. Even back in my SCA days when there could be only 8 vendors on site; buying a shirt was not the problem it was storage. Also between Kickstarter and vendors web sites I have bought more shirts on line than in person. Currently my wife and I have One t-shirt enters One t-shirt leaves the house rule. This due having 2 sets of the cheap plastic 3 drawer organizer which are full due to purchased and free t-shirts.
    Small merch deals are great as they don’t take up space, or I lose it, I don’t mind. So you point is right on.
    The credit card comment is right on. To keep in budget only hotel rooms, and emergency house fixes go on the card. This not due to the economy but our pass mistakes of just saying charge it.
    For books except for D&D and my wife’s school books, the last physical book I bought was 2014. Kindle has become my library shelf.

    • If I may make a suggestion re: t shirts. If you have a friend who quilts, t shirts can make great quilting squares, and still allow you to preserve the designs that caused you to buy said shirts.

      • My ’85 mom does quilt T-Shirts for grandchildren, and g-grand. With no quilt filling, and as light of backing (sheet) you can back it with, T-Shirt Quits are Heavy.

  9. For this reason, it’s really helpful to start thinking now of ways in which you can legitimately earn some money and have it in your pocket within a day or two.

    Drive food delivery. We used to joke, when I ran a Domions, that the job attracted pot heads. We figured there were two reasons. The obvious one is you could get a pizza discounted, or free if you were wiling to take a bad order pie, for your munches after work.

    The other was you always left with cash in your pocket to buy a nickle bag.

    Even today with debit cards and such, you’ll leave with your tips in cash when you check out at the end of the night. There are enough cash only people still to make sure of it.

  10. The Daughter Unit and I do craft fairs as well as book events – and sales so far are definitely down as compared to last year, even comparing the same event venues over this year and last.

  11. I’ve seen a decline in many areas of the Event Vendor type of activity over the past years since the early 2000’s.

    The gun shows I’ve been to, while doing a land office business in new CCW pieces and Evil Black Rifles are smaller overall in size of venue needed and number of vendors. IMHO this is due to the cheap Mil Surplus of the 80’s and 90’s drying up, and the easy availability of accessories and accouterments online.

    Amateur Radio fest flea markets get smaller and smaller each year in terms of square footage occupied and number of vendors. Many vendors would rather put their vintage stuff on E-bay where they can get someone to bid the price up to way over what it’s worth (often more than a new rig would cost) while at a flea market they have to haggle with folks that actually know what they are looking at. And, again, all the current production new stuff is available online without the need to purchase a ticket and wear out shoe leather.

    Vendors at both types of shows I’ve talked with have spoken about the double whammies of increase overhead in getting a booth space and decreased overall foot traffic. I no longer see some of my favorite vendors as they have concluded it’s not worth the cost to travel to my local shows and are now focused on on-line sales and (if they have one) their brick and mortar location.

    From this consumer’s point of view, I am increasingly not interested in putting up with large crowds (especially in venues that won’t allow me to CCW), and now, on a fixed disability income, I don’t have a lot to spend, even on the gas and the ticket to look around. It’s also often too depressing to see so much I’d like to buy but can’t. Particularly when I see one of my favorite vendors struggling and I can’t justify a purchase to help them out.

    From what CINCHOUSE and Darlin’ Daughter describe, the local Ren Fest shows the same trend.

    So, how much is the overall economy, and how much is the changing environment (on line shopping, changing demographics of attendees) I don’t know. Just some observations that I’ve been making for a while.

    • Hamfests in greater Phoenix do well in cooler weather, and I go to all of them that I can. You can still find radio parts (I watch for variable capacitors) but that’s mostly when the friends of an SK empty his basement for his widow and bring it all out to sell. I’ve bought a fair bit of LED lighting cheap, batteries and chargers, and other stuff we didn’t even have 45 year ago when I was first licensed. I’m also seeing more non-ham stuff at hamfests, including crafts and CDs/DVDs. It’s not the same, it’s not as big, but it’s still fun and I go as often as I can fit it in. 73 DE K7JPD.

      • KE5INH, though it doesn’t mean that I know what any of that stuff is. I’ve often thought that if my husband passes (N5FPP) that I’ll end up calling the local ham club and donating anything they point at and say “that’s radio gear.”

        • A friend of mine got into ham radio as his neighbor told his daughter to give my friend his computer equipment when the time came. When the time came there was a radio and TNC attached to the computer, so he got it and then had to get his license to use it.

          The radio gear went to a local club.

          Ask him ahead of time if he has a particular club he wants the stuff to go to. There’s several in my area, many that have no idea of who I am and at least one that can pound sand before they get a donation from me.

          Although I assume Darlin’ Daughter will hoover that stuff up when she transfers certain other items from my canoe to hers.

          • I know who the local clubs are and have met quite a few of the hams in this area. I just don’t have the interest in the tech side that he does.

            But yeah, any hobbiest of any sort, or collector, should have their stuff worked out ahead of time if for no other reason than that the things that they love will go to someone who will love them too. Geez, someone mentioned military memorabilia that ended up just donated somewhere or tossed because the people with the job of managing the estate had no knowledge or interest in it.

            • There have been some multimillion dollar car collections that rotted away after their owners died. They were in a barn or warehouse somewhere out of sight, and neither the executors or the families could be arsed to call an auction house or even a scrapper.

      • Oh, I still go to a couple each year. Living in Dayton, it’s hard not to 😉

        But even the big one is showing signs of the flea market and even the commercial exhibitors taking up less room. The move from Hara to the current fair grounds location could not have happened in the 90’s without a major culling. When the move actually came there was minimal (but still some) culling.

    • A ton is the changing environment, changing lifestyles, etc. So more coming on this.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      If commercial real estate is vastly over valued compared to actual earning power, we would expect venue rental fees to be higher, with knock on effects for retail and other conventions.

      Some or more of the regulars here have asserted that this is the case. IIRC, during a discussion of BN at MGC.

      Also, one might expect investment in US real estate from overseas to trend with overseas relative political uncertainty. PRC is probably feeling a little interesting for wealthy Chinese.

    • “From this consumer’s point of view, I am increasingly not interested in putting up with large crowds”

      ^^ This ^^

      A lot of the specialized vendor shows locally charge for entrance. Uh, no? If you want me to come look and possibly buy? Don’t charge me for the favor.

  12. Conventions as viable options for vendors to make money have been in decline for well over a decade.
    The rise of Internet commerce means people don’t go to cons with a pocket full of money to spend, because they’ve already spent it on Amazon/Ebay/Etsy/what-have-you getting the things they use to only be able to get at cons.
    I run a pair of comic/game stores. Going to conventions used to be a significant part of my business model. It isn’t anymore. But I’m doing fine, in fact thriving, right now.

    • This is me. I make a point to visit one vendor every year at the local con, but it’s mostly because his con prices are discounted from his Etsy store. I can handle paying $4/postcard sized print, but not $7.50 + shipping.

    • *looks down at “Be the person Steve Rodgers is willing to be you are” shirt that she had custom made by Walmart for less than twenty bucks, in her preferred font, specifically to wear to a con*

      You have a good point.

    • It might be worth trying to figure out what people are least willing to spend money on without seeing or touching the item first.

      What that would be, I don’t know.

      I’ve been looking at dice online lately and not been completely thrilled with ones that I’ve ordered. So maybe dice.

      • You cannot discount the importance of being able to actually see and handle certain types of products before purchasing them. For some people, it’s clothing, because they’re odd-sized or -shaped, and really need to be able to try the garment on, or at least hold it up in front of them, before purchasing to avoid endless rounds of sending things back for refunds (and depending on refund policies, having to pay return shipping).

    • One aspect of conventions which must be considered is that the (not insignificant) entry fee (and hotel rooms and meals) affect shopping once there. Big ticket items readily available elsewhere are likely not moving much, either. Thanks to folks like Amazon (and convenient e-readers) there is no longer any point in going to cons in order to buy hard-to-find books (in part because there are no books that hard-to-find.)

      Things that buyers need to see up close and personal are probably the best product, but those require sale and that means time, either increasing staffing or reducing the number of customers served.

  13. I think you are wrong about the economy not doing well for the average shopper. Perhaps you need to update your T-shirt design? It could be that the trend is just shifting and your product is not shifting with it. You said that you notice that people have to think about it harder before buying your shirts, maybe because there is increased competition, and the competition has better designs? Also, I think that when people have more money, they are buying bigger purchases. Like cars, and houses. They may have less cash in their pocket, but they are driving a newer car. When people are broke, then an outing and buying a t-shirt is all they have money for. That’s their treat, instead of say, concert tickets, or a weekend vacation.
    Most of your assessments are right on the money, but I just wanted to point out that you may be judging your customers incorrectly.

    • And this is why I’ve posted this in a couple of sites where people can give their experiences, and will do a post tomorrow, and maybe another the day after as in “What I’m seeing” and “the future.”

      • For us – it’s because we’re actually looking at starting to downsize. Son’s off to another state for college, likely won’t be coming back to live with us. (He’s up in Wyoming, BTW.) We don’t need furniture, we don’t need consumer electronics (except to replace what goes bust or ages out, like the TV story above) and the vehicles are paid off, so… our big expenses now are paying off debt and the house note.

        Locally, house prices are going for about 25% more than when we bought 15 years back. There’s the occasional empty storefront – but there’s a lot more full that haven’t been in a long time. In one local shopping center with a Walmarket (the grocery version of a full Walmart, lol) the corner space used to be leased to a costume shop, but nobody’s been in that spot for a long time. I think the problem is that there’s no parking available for it.

        In the L-shaped strip there’s a Chinese place, a European Deli and a Mexican place on the short side of the L, then the blank corner space where the costume shop used to be, then a nail salon, the Walmarket, a gym, a liquor store and a dentist on the long side of the L. There’s simply no available parking for more businesses, even though there’s floor space to rent – and I can’t help but think that any lessee who’s interested is going to go “Yeah… it’s a good rate but where are MY customers going to park?”

        • then a nail salon,

          I am suddenly seized by a controllable impulse to walk into a nail salon and ask for “The Threepenny Bright, please.”

    • I balk at a lot of purchases now, because I’m old enough that my mental map of “what things ought to cost” was created mostly in the 1980s and resists being updated.

      “TWENTY BUCKS for a $8 T-shirt? Are they NUTS?!” And then the belated realization that 2019 dollars are way smaller than 1985 dollars, and indeed it might even be “cheaper” now… but there’s still that pause between “I’d buy that” and “whip out the money” that gives time for second thoughts. “Do I really *need* to spend $20 for a T-shirt? Maybe not.”

      • My mental price map was made a little later, but… thinking about inflation, specifically the possibility that a $20 t-shirt is “cheaper” than an $8 one was within my lifetime, tends to make me freeze up in horror at the idea of buying anything unnecessary at all and kick myself for eating anything more exciting than peanut butter sandwiches or chicken and rice I cooked myself. On the other hand there’s also some degree of “If it would be a good idea to buy X eventually, maybe I’d better get on with it,” which is why we’re sinking some money into home improvement, but I wonder nonetheless if I’m messing up….

        • Any of the times I ever had enough income to think about investments, the best reasonably safe returns I could find were still less than inflation, so “investing” mean “losing money slightly more slowly) (using my best-guess figures for inflation, based on my own personal buying power, not imaginary “official” figures.) So I keep a modest cash supply and spent my money as soon as I could, since its value only goes down. So we’re “debt-free” (until the next time one of us gets seriously ill, anyway) and our monthly costs for living are about as low as practical, given the unAffordable Health Care Act, which accounts for the majority of our expenses.

          • I’m not a big one for regulation, but health insurance is starting to create that.

            Aetna forces a cost adjustment I cannot get alone. That is part of how they justify their cost, which exceeds my max out of pocket per year and is well above my deductible.

            I am not sure why it would distort the market to require offices to:
            Post a cash price that they bill.Post the lowest price they have negotiated with an insurer.Have to offer the price in #2 if you at time of service regardless of any insurance you have.

            I mean, if that lowest insurance price is costing them more than it brings in they wouldn’t take that insurer. I cannot imagine setting up point of sale in the office would cost more than doing all the insurance forms, so the cost should be the same or lower. Finally, the cash would be received now, not in so many weeks or month thus leveraging the time value of money.

            The real issue this is after is not forcing the payment, although I would include that, but making things transparent.

            Right now I only have insurance because offices will not see you without it and the fact the force lower prices than cash despite higher costs.

            • Healthcare billing and payments is like the old TV show “Let’s Make A Deal!”, except the rules are secret and they change randomly anyway.

              My wife had heart surgery that billed out to just over $200,000. Insurance would pay about $50,000. The rest, we set up on a “payment plan” at a ruinous interest rate. At our age, we never had any expectation of paying it off.

              After making payments for three years, never missing a payment,, we got a notice from the hospital that they had “reviewed our account” and… writing off the debt.

              Ooo-kay.

              Her surgeon claimed he made about $5K for his two hours with the knife; the other $195,000 was all hospital costs.

              I expect the initial $50K insurance payout netted the hospital a fat profit margin to start with, though why they decided to write off the payments is still a mystery.

              • Healthcare billing and payment accounting makes “Hollywood Accounting” look sane. I only know a little about it and would not want to be accepted as gospel, but …

                Your actual bill is overstated for the anticipated insurance price as negotiated (and subject to change almost hourly according to the results of a toss of the insurance adjuster’s 20-sided die against the 15-sided die thrown by the hospital comptroller), the billing code — recent doctor visit (routine check-up, thanks for asking) included discussion of Dr.’s frustration over having to guess which fifty of some one thousand billing and diagnostic codes would produce an actionable result this time (they apparently are in constant flux as the insurance company is forever revising its processes) — and then there is the surcharge for noncollectable debt that the hospital adds on to cover the burden of ER services for the indigent … as well as the cost-shifted from Medicaid services which the government sets prices of according to marginal cost of service, union negotiated rates and politically assigned (here is where it helps to have a Representative with seniority) reimbursement pools.

                Our system is more of a mess than you could ever imagine in your most fevered dreams, almost as if the entire purpose is to drive the system into collapse. Think of the worst O/S ever, repeatedly kludged by rabid sheep.

              • Wow. I don’t know if it’s a difference in state law, but here in Indiana, all the various payment plans I’ve negotiated were 0% interest. Even the one for the biopsy, which was enough to buy a bare-bones but decent used car.

              • Husband’s hips. $88k for each. $5k out of pocket, which included each year’s deductible. Three years between first and second procedure. Three days each time in hospital (NOW it is out patient surgery in their facility for most patients. For hips, knees, and carpel tunnel.) Two certified surgeons required. Main surgeon earned $3500, secondary $1500. Rest of the $88k was for the hospital and hospital care. Second round, he went into surgery, I went down to business office to pay what we owed. Wasn’t sure how close we were to out of pocket, so just sighed and paid the full $5k (we weren’t that close). Five months latter we had a $5k refund from the hospital on the CC … paid almost 3 months of CC bills. Um, okay. Knew there was some coming back, but not the full 5K. I sure wasn’t going to argue.

            • And hospital coalitions are now suing the President to keep him from requiring them to post their actual prices for procedures.

      • I hadn’t thought of that, but yeah. This has really hit my gaming purchases.

        Meanwhile, retro computing gets a “wow, this is so cheap” thoughts.

      • Walmart sells a *lot* of cool, geeky shirts for something like $7.56.

        Yes, it’s a random looking number, I suspect it keeps the total below eight bucks with tax in most areas…. I have several, because Kakashi is awesome, and once the shirt with him caught my eye I looked at the rest, and they’re decent quality material. So now I look at the selection every time I pass through.

      • “Do I really *need* to spend $20 for a T-shirt?

        Depends on what that $12 profit is supporting.

        • My most reliable tee shirt purchase is band shirts at shows. I also tend to buy patches as I’m finally making a battle jacket.

          So, there it is more a cultural thing than a clothing need. While geek tee shirts are fun, they seem much less a part of SFF culture than they used to (I blame Think Geek and The BIg Bang Theory), but they are still shibboleths for metal.

          • I should have sent you a photo I took of a store in Czesky Budovice (Budweis, home of the original.) It was a metal store, with (I kid you not) wall clocks, dish-towels, plus boots, jackets, posters, mouse-pads, and stuff you usually associate with the metal scene. Yes, dish towels and housewares. For AC/DC, Nightwish, Eluveitie, Leaves Eyes, Lita Ford, KISS . . . I boggled. The photos didn’t come out well because of reflections and trying to shoot from an angle, so I deleted them. (I missed a huge black metal festival in Poland by two days. I was bummed.)

        • Depends on what that $12 profit margin is supporting.

          Part of it is covering the financial cost of the capital outlay, part is shipping & handling, part is preparation for sale, part is overhead and operating costs (such as booth rental, vendor travel and room/meal expense, insurance, taxes …

          Not to mention the cost of having to smile and be polite to people complaining about prices while you’re calculating how far below breaking even you’re falling.

      • That mental map can be a severe problem. Even before Alzheimers was starting to get a grip on my mom she was having real problems grokking prices. We finally communicated the change to her by announcing the going rate for a can of Campbell’s tomato soup/ Even so I don’t think she was able to wrap her mind around the magnitude of such a change.

        Part of the problem is that until we walked away from the Bretton-Woods standard prices were pretty stable, increasing at a nearly imperceptible pace — and largely offset by quality improvements in what you bought.

        The way I learned to adjust the scale on my mental map of pricing was following Heinlein’s advise and converting to hours at minimum wage. Reading vintage novels I find it useful to look for reference standards in the novels, such as when Archie Goodwin notes in Too Many Women what was the then going rate for an executive secretary.

        • Several of the writers in the business e-zines I follow have been talking a lot of late about time-price money. I’m wondering if they’re anticipating even worse inflation than we have (remembering the inflation of the late 70’s, right about the time my three brothers’ appetites became a significant factor in the family budget).

  14. Ere reading a word f this I want to say “Thanks!”

    I also want to click the box clicker box.

  15. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market …

    Oh my yes. 

    I am involved in running cons and run the merch booth at our primary con — an anime con.  This past year the anime con faced seven cons scheduled the same weekend within our market.  This included established cons that were changing dates, start-ups and one which occasionally occurs on the same weekend.  We were not only worried about being able to sell memberships, but drawing vendors as well.  

    Instead, we were selling more and more low-ticket items, especially in the five-buck range: emoji masks, squishies, Japanese bells.

    As the con booth, we still have strong sales of the annual Con theme t-shirt.  Still, I have noted that in the last several years items that are priced five dollars and down are the primary movers.  People will drop that on impulse.  I am not sure if this is a only a reflection how they feel about the economy overall, although that is certainly a factor. (What do you expect of kids who have been taught how our system is unfair and evil?)  It is also a shift in lifestyles.  I have seen a notable movement towards simplification.  I am seeing fewer collectors of anything.  I also suspect that the young are carrying greater school loan debt, putting limits on there spending and increasing the attractiveness of streamlining. 

    • I am seeing fewer collectors of anything. I also suspect that the young are carrying greater school loan debt, putting limits on there spending and increasing the attractiveness of streamlining.

      Collecting is a hobby for people who own their living space. Trying to collect anything is a major PITA when you have to pack it up and lug it from apartment to apartment. As younger people can’t afford homes from their student loans and a red-hot housing market, they also don’t want to accumulate tons of stuff.

      • Yep. THis is going into it. And we who are older are looking at downsizing, so…

        • I managed to acquire some amazing “grown up” furniture pieces a few years ago through Craigslist — 9′ dining table, 7′ tall china hutch, four poster queen bed, 6′ long dresser. Upon seeing it, my friends declared preemptively that whenever I moved out of that apartment, they would all be too busy washing their hair to come help if it involved lifting those things!

          • My prized possession is a 1940’s banker’s desk that I got from the widow of a guy who founded a chain of service stations– which I figured out while cleaning it, because of their stickers and such.

            And the lady was nearly in tears with *joy* that we gave her a twenty for it, because she didn’t want to throw it away….

          • William O. B'Livion

            Right now all the furniture in my living room was found in the “free” section of Craigslist. Well, not the shelves or my footlocker, but the rest of it.

        • In the days of yore I was working briefly in a comic book store and had the realization that a comic book (any book) carries three costs: the money you for over to buy it, the time you spend reading it when you could have been reading something else, and the burden of carrying it around for the rest of your life util you decide t sell it, probably for far less than you hoped.

          If you are renting storage space for anything (inherited furniture, for example) you need to realize that monthly payment is cumulatively part of the price of the goods stored. As is the truck you rent to pick it up and take it to the dump bring it from storage to your nice new home.

          • I’m expecting that, when my dad can no longer live independently and we have to clean out his house, the furniture will all either be sold or donated to a thrift store. A lot of it is heirloom stuff from one or the other side of my family,, but my brothers and I all have a full set of furniture and rather small places (and one lives on the other side of the country and is less apt to want to transport it back). I’ll hate to see it go, because it’s almost all a huge part of my childhood memories, but none of us really have the wherewithal to take it.

            For that matter, I really need to go up to our personal storage unit and firmly pare down the amount of stuff that’s in there from combining first two and then a third household into a single one. I know a lot of the stuff in boxes is little better than trash, but finding the time to go through and make sure nothing important gets tossed in haste is going to take time.

            • It was somewhat dismaying to my mother when time to finally give up the house came and none of the children wanted more than token keepsakes. But the youngest was in his mid-Forties and married for a number of years; even my older brother’s boys were getting settled (I suppose – not sure about the one living in Thailand where’s he reportedly making a good living as a stand-up comic … some questions you don’t ask, know what I mean?) and NONE of us had any particular need for furniture.

              Beloved Spouse & I already had three loads of furniture and stuff from household of grandfather, mother and from when father and step-mother moved in-town.

              A few years ago the Wall Street Journal had an item on parents sneaking about, depositing household goods on their adult kids’ doorsteps and fleeing like zucchini donors in the night.

              • And last month the Wall Street Journal had an article about what is going to happen to the housing market as the boomers start moving out of it. It is estimated that a quarter of the housing stock will be on the market. This is going to hit planned retirement communities particularly hard. It doesn’t look like the next generation has the same hankering to retire to Florida …

              • My sister’s house has 4 sets of antique dining tables & chairs, 6 sets of inherited china, not counting their wedding set, not to mention I don’t know how many sets of silver place settings, plus BIL comic, book, and movie collections, and I don’t know what all else. None of which are in paid for storage. Most of it is in their 4 car garage and in storage under the house (way their home is built keeps it dry & clean, if dusty); although some of it was destroyed when the pipes busted in their bathroom, over one of the storage areas. They got paid something for the destroyed pieces, not anywhere what they were worth, but something.

                He has everything, because no one else wanted the peces, not even with the estates paying shipping to where ever. We tease him about it a bit. Sister just rolls her eyes when the topic comes up.

                We don’t have very many antique pieces. MIL tried to give us her maple dining set … lucky for me her oldest daughter scooped that up when MIL moved in with her and the kids; thank g-d. Her oldest daughter has it now (I think).

                I get my BIL’s thinking. He grew up in an older home on the east coast. The kind where furniture wasn’t gotten rid of. It went into the attic. Sometimes to be swapped out with what was in use for a “different” look as styles recycled.

              • Dang it, the WSJ has already outed my nefarious plan!

              • This is a situation the Bugbear and are facing, too. Since we are in our mid to late thirties, and have full households of our own (I have dragged my belongings halfway around the world nearly a half dozen times already), combining them will be quite the adventure.

                Meanwhile, my mother wants to throw me a bridal shower! I’m 39 years old, and perfectly capable of buying my own lingerie. Or other items necessary/desirable for a wedding. But, I will let her do so because she wants to do it, and I want her to enjoy it.

                • I will let her do so because she wants to do it, and I want her to enjoy it.

                  One of the challenges I (long ago) faced as a (relatively) new parent was gracious acceptance of utterly gratuitous gifts — because Daughtorial Unit needed to see that her thought and effort were appreciated, and that was an important gift I could give to her. (This lesson I credit for my ability to imagine Humanity’s greatest works of artistic genius adorning G-d’s refrigerator.)

                  Happily, I’d had opportunity for practice the Christmas when Father-In-Law and Beloved Spouse’s Grandfather both independently gave me the same gift: a hardback edition of the Smithsonian collection of classic comic strips.


                  That I had already bought myself the paperback edition did not make the gift any less well-selected than the fact I now had two hardbound editions, and I was (reportedly) able to impress step-siblings-in-law (complications of modern family dynamics) by heartfelt appreciation for the intention underlying each gift.

                  Besides, I knew the surplus could be taken in for store credit, which meant more books for me. Yea!

                  Seriously, I do not understand people’s complaining I am difficult to buy presents for; I’ve never had any problem doing it.

            • Right now our garage is like that.

          • If you are renting storage space for anything (inherited furniture, for example)

            OH HELL YES!

            An ex-girlfriend was renting a garage to store some furniture and other stuff for $150 a month.

            Me: “How long have you been renting that garage?”
            XGf: “Uhhh…six years…or maybe seven…”
            Me: [short pause for math] “What have you got in there that’s worth $11,000?”
            XGf: “Uhhhh…”

            Soon find out she’s a hoarder. So is her mother. Couple of reasons she’s EX-girlfriend.

          • Yes. There are costs to have anything. “Saving” that item because it may be useful is a dangerous idea- it might, one day, be useful. If you can find it, it has not deteriorated, and it is still applicable to the need. Note the item incurs cost every day of it’s storage by taking up valuable space, space that may well have more value than the item itself. “dirty shop syndrome” , the places where it takes an hour to do/find/build anything because crap too good to toss is in the way- that’s an example. Bill Lear once said, (paraphrased) “you never have to invent, design, finance, build, store, maintain or install anything you leave out”. Smart guy.

  16. I’m looking forward to the series of posts, especially the side discussion. We’re trying to figure out how to plan for the future with young kids over the next decade, especially if things flip D in a year. We figure the economy will slow in that case and then what happens if job goes away and inflation kicks in… We have savings but are they enough? We need a kid hauling car too, so what do we do then? What age car should we get? If inflation got crazy, does it make sense to purchase the car with debt now since debts will depreciate and the dollar value of such would increase significantly? Or should we buy old with cash, depleting savings but not increasing the monthly obligation but needing big repairs earlier. Basically, we’d like the hauling SUV, but the used minivan would be more prudent. These are the kinds of things we’re discussing.

    And $5 bucks feels like a sweet spot for an impulse buy, provided I can see the item.

    • Suggestion? Buy a Honda CR-V for the kid hauler. Son ‘helped’ me buy one in 2002 – and it’s currently got 215k on it, and it just hauled him up to Alaska and back this summer. It’s been through 1 starter, a normal amount of tires, brakes and rotors (fair wear and tear, lol), a lot of wiper blades, and new struts (Long story on that – it was a ‘learning experience’ for my son…) He’s planning on keeping it for a LONG time to come. I won’t say they’re bulletproof, but if you keep up on the little things (like oil levels, regular changes and regular maintenance) you should be able to get 20 years out of one easily.

      (Of course, this is for a 2002 – I don’t have any experience on later models…)

      Re savings and debt – you might want to check out Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” system – the stuff works, if you can manage to stay employed. (Don’t know what your job(s) are…)

      Hope this helps!

      • Along similar lines, I’d put in a word for the Scion xB. I adore mine. Scion’s are Toyotas, so you get that reliable engine and drive train. The interior is wonderfully roomy (I’m 5’10” and hubby is 6’2″ — there isn’t much under $20K that we can fit into comfortably!) but yet it’s still a short enough wheelbase to fit in a compact car spot. My 2011 has 150K miles, is getting almost 32 mpg, and the only major work needed so far was replacing the clutch.

        CarMax is a wonderful place to start shopping, even if you don’t buy there, because they keep all the cars unlocked on their lot. You can wander around and at least help narrow down a list of potential cars. Buying there is also quite pleasant.

        • my suggestion: subaru outback, whether the older station wagon design or the newer ‘crossover suv’ (which is dimensionally similar just a different shape)

          • Thanks for the suggestions! We’re looking for something with a third row. Planning for the hoped for future, one more kid at a time. 🙂

            • Another good option like CarMax, is Hertz sales. Niece picked up a used 2018 Kia Sorento (Hyundai in another name) which has 3 rows. Granted her husband is the final closer/loan person at the dealership, so they essentially got first pick as vehicles came in, employee discount, he got sales commission, and he got paid by the banks for doing the loan processing (or his job).

              We have the 2019 Santa Fe, which we took to Canada, we love it. Same vehicle but not the 3rd row version. Only complaint is the “something in the backseat” detector. Can’t leave dog tethered in back seat (kennel in very back works). But that isn’t the Santa Fe’s fault. That is a 2019 safety feature fault.

            • How many? 2008 Chevy Express here, 12 seatbelt size. Got her at five years, she’s at about 130,000 miles now. So far she’s wonderfully reliable. Only real issue is the paint’s peeling off, which is a Chevy thong, and the kids leave stuff in her because I’m not mean enough.

              I can fit six car/boosters plus six non in those twelve belts, too. Two of my kids and my husband are over six feet tall.

              • We have two. We want to have enough space for three to four. Children are gifts, if there were more, but it’s harder to picture, and not our plan (although I hear that Someone has a sense of humor and likes to upset our tidy plans, so ask me in a few years!), if that makes sense? A standard mini-van or a SUV with a third row is what we are researching.

                • We loved our kia minivan– pick one that’s in a string of years where they didn’t do any upgrades to the design, and there are always a lot in junk yards for minor accidents like being rear-ended, or to get a new seat. (Ran out of room or we’d still have it.) Why are there a bunch in junk yards? Because when there’s a major accident, the insurance company would rather cash it out than repair the thing.

                  Only problem we had was some of the oil change places had issues with putting the 2012 Sedona’s oil plug back in correctly, had it blow out on a mountain pass; I had time to notice it and get safely pulled over. No damage, other than having to be towed. (Best part? It was the Kia dealership that did it.)

            • their current Ascent (2019 and later) has a third row.

    • Whatever kind of car you buy, don’t buy new. Depreciation in that first year is absurd. My recommendation is to buy an established model and I would guess the sweet spot to be about three years old at least two years since the last redesign. That gets most of the depreciation and ensures a reliability track record on all the kludges done to fix the redesign flaws. It should also help eliminate most of the model’s lemons … or at least price them appropriately. The balance between paying cash or paying interest is one you have to make for yourself, depending as it does on reliability of income stream and interest rates — rates likely to drop if the economy slides into the fiscal abyss … which is also likely to mean a greater number of used cars hitting the market.

      As always when buying used, spend the money for the vehicle background check and have a trusted mechanic check it over for you.

      About that trusted mechanic — if you have one it is likely he (she/it) will have knowledge of a customer looking to sell a car, one the mechanic has been handling for several years. Certainly worth checking into.

      I also recommend, especially as small kids seem to be involved, investing in fairly good quality seat covers. Over time that is an investment that should pay off.

      • We’re looking at the three year old cars because of the depreciation factor. I bought a new Japanese car for my first car (as opposed to borrowed from my parents) on my parents advice despite the depreciation because I didn’t want to have unfortunate car events to deal with. That’s worked really well. It got paid off early, and I can pay a mechanic to do an oil change. The conversation was kinda funny. “What am I going to do, moving to x place, too far for you to fix it, how will I find a mechanic I trust?” “Buy a new car… drive it forever.” Ok, funny when coming from a highly frugal person. I thought he was joking. The car seems to have time left, and my husband can do the foreseeable upcoming car repairs. I never did find a mechanic.

        We keep spreadsheeting the car question, but the answer depends on inputs. What do you assume for job stability, inflation, etc. We’re in a pretty good place financially. Someone thought that Dave Ramsey’s financial wellness class would make a good wedding present and we worked through implementation of budget and debt pay off then. And that let us choose to be a one income family when we had kids. We can even homeschool if we want to! (My position is that that is essentially a full time job with multiple children). So, things feel tight, but that’s because we’re trying to pay off the house early and fix things on the house at the same time. It’s not because we’re actually stuck with more debts than income.

        Anyway, sorry for the digression. Thank you for the suggestions. We’re trying to make good decisions, but future forcasting is hard. Gathering inputs from different sources is good.

        • We used to go the higher mileage, year or two, older car. Then starting in the mid ’90s the formula switched. Sure, depreciation if you have to get rid of it immediately, or if vehicle totals and you have to deal with insurance … cringe, a lot. But we’ve gone new on vehicles since early ’90s. Some we’ve kept over 10 years, some only 6. One owner, low mileage, excellent shape, we typically get very good return, higher than Blue Book, if we sell it ourselves, and generally well above what hubby thinks they will give us on trade in (don’t want to hassle selling on our own). Granted pretty sure the Chevy dealership had our ’06 Tacoma sold before we signed the papers to get the ’10 pickup (towing capacity. Tacoma barely met trailer specs, Chevy exceeded them). Difference in cost between the two < $6k paid off over 48 months, at low interest. Given it's low mileage, and shape, the '10 pickup is worth more than half the actual price … now would insurance or trade in give us that? No, not a chance. This is one we will have to sell on our own. Trade would get us about $10k if we pushed. Selling it we could get $18 – $20k*, if for no other reason that new trucks cost $50k, to well north. (* what dealers are selling them for.) Not that we're selling it … but price isn't going to drop a whole lot more (unless Pres. Trump doesn't win 2020 … then it is going to be illegal to drive.)

        • One strong suggestion: do NOT overthink this.

          Doing spreadsheets and making best guesses only gets you so far and nobody knows what is lurking around the corner of their life. Ultimately you’re choosing what set of problems you are comfortable with and which stress you out. The time you spend fretting over this is time you are not spending loving on your family and friends.

          After all, even the best choices sometimes work out poorly and occasionally a bad choice will prove a winner. Any baseball fan can tell of bases-clearing screaming line drives that are caught by the third-baseman in self-defense and of topped dribblers that roll all of thirty-seven feet but bring in the winning run from third.

          Once you’ve made your decision, don’t look back.

          • That’s true. That philosophy has broad application. I found myself recently giving someone else that metric (phrased differently) about spouse selection. I hadn’t thought to apply it to the car thing here. It’s a good way to reframe and break a mental gridlock.

    • To add to RES’s advice: Don’t buy American, except maybe Ford, and don’t buy European at all. Buy Japanese–most of them are made here in the States, anyway.

    • I’ve a 2007 Toyota Sienna. Don’t think only an SUV can haul, it has a 3500 pound towing capacity with a factory transmission cooler. Anything larger than sheetrock, (which will fit inside with the door closed, as long as you have the seats all the way up) a $1000 trailer from Lowes Tractor Supply Depot will work a treat. Kind of dreaming of consolidating two paid for vehicles into one newer one with a payment, but this one’s been a work horse and will be hard to let go.

      • “…especially if things flip D in a year. ”

        Amy, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I don’t estimate that they will manage to pull off the fraudulent vote in the quantity needed to beat Trump.

  17. I think, at least in some areas, the assumption of looming trouble is slowing things. I know my region is doing pretty well (ag, energy, light industry, transshipment), but a goodly number of people are preparing for problems. 1) Election year, so everyone tightens their wallets. We see that at Day Job, and other non-profits deal with the same thing. 2) if Ds get in power, we’ll be hammered economically as well as politically. 3) General shifts in buying habits and demographics.

    The local Cons are both pop-culture, not “heritage” or literary cons, and are aimed at the 10-30 age group. That’s a low spending cohort. I’ve not made it to BuboniCon recently, but it seems to be rolling left enough that I don’t think I’d enjoy it.

    In a larger sense, there’s sort of a millennialist feeling in the air, as different groups seem to be looking at different things and anticipating the End of something (environment, US liberty, free-market economy, Western Civilization, what ever.) That certain uncertainty seems to be trickling out of the fringes and making other people twitchy.

    • Bubonicon is the only con I’ve gone to and continue to go to. It’s always been rather “left”, but I don’t think it has changed much in that way. I’ve to date not had a problem expressing opinions–but, then again, am seldom involved in discussions that get political. This past one I got in a nice discussion with two rather leftist ladies (TipsyNerds, I think, is their podcast): we clarified in advance that we had different outlooks, and kept the discussion civil.
      So it is possible. Yet, I wonder each year if it will change and I’ll have to stop going.
      That said, I’m spending more time at authors’ readings than at panels than I used to. I try to get to panels Jane Lindskold is leading: she has a knack for keeping things on topic and for drawing comments out of introverted authors.

      • That’s good to hear. I wish their date didn’t coincide so often with one of the “do not even think of taking time off unless YOU are the death in the family” periods at Day Job.

  18. Given smartphones and tablets, how much trouble would it be to set up at-booth e-commerce? There could be the draw of ‘curated for being fun to read’ (for ebooks), alongside perhaps a discount by going through the vendor at the con.

    The vendor doesn’t have to pay for production or storage, the author/designer get someone personally pitching for them.

    Given online stores like zazzle, I can see shirts being no longer such an impulse buy. Finding stuff that’s fun, cheap, and yet too obscure for there to be pop-culture saturation . . . sounds necessary but rather difficult.

    -Albert

  19. so… what you’re saying is that there is a economic downturn and people are tightening their budgets, after a year of all the news media saying”an economic downturn is coming you’d better tighten your budgets!”

  20. Well, on my personal single data point… we’re going to be tightening down as much as we possibly can in the next couple of years because after not doing *any* maintenance on the house for 10 years (and husband not getting a single pay raise for 10 years) we fixed things. Expensive things.

    We painted.
    We got a new roof.

    And then in the process of less expensive sprucing up, we discovered we needed to repair our foundation, which we couldn’t afford and meant adding debt.

    So our personal finances are going to be incredibly tight, and they’ll be that way for a while. But mostly they’re tight because of finally managing those really big expenses that we hadn’t managed for so very long and which had become something near to emergency problems.

    • Yep. Our house we bought knowing needed fixes. We haven’t done it. We’re bracing for that.

      • And you bought the house before the economic upturn so were starting out with that huge purchase on the books.

        I realize that I simply WANT things to be better and stay better so I might be grasping at straws. I don’t want to believe stuff will go down again so soon.

        But I can’t be the only one in a place where “Oh, thank goodness I can finally get this stuff done” has ended up over-spending. I can’t be.

        And ALL the stores have help wanted signs now, the local grocery and gas station and feed store. Part time minimum wage, but even so. It wasn’t very long ago here where those jobs weren’t open, they were held by 30 year olds with children.

  21. Advent proceeds!


    Scrooge & Marley disavows any connection to this announcement.

  22. “One conclusion is definite: no matter what the government may say, whatever the numbers we see in high finance, the economy is not doing well for the average consumer.”

    Not sure this is a valid conclusion based on the data presented. I can counter this anecdote with a list of several others that paint the opposite picture in different sectors.

  23. As for the anti-fa concerns: My opinion maybe because I live in Texas, but…
    When I enlisted, I took an oath to defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.
    I do not think that oath expired when my enlistment did.
    No govt entity from the Feds on down to the local PD has the foggiest idea of
    any guns I do or do not own. Damn boat accidents.
    Veterans? Does anyone know how many there are?
    I’d bet antifa doesn’t.
    Trump’s gonna win in 2020. But the Dems and their camp followers aren’t gonna be able to do much even if they win. Say they pass a confiscation law. Who’s gonna go kicking down doors to collect them? The DNC? Military? Local PD? Don’t make me laugh.

  24. I think a bigger question might be whether or not the con economy reflects the general economy. I don’t attend cons any more, haven’t in thirty years. But the impression I’ve formed is that the political divisions have hit the SF world hard…and there are quite a few fans who have stopped going where they know they are unwelcome.

    The second issue may well be a hangover after a buying binge. The Obama years were one long Democrat Depression – forget the Propaganda Press’ lies about “recovery”. Trump brought three good years, people bought stuff. Now, they are bought out. Except for me, I’ve been shoving money into the stock market. I got out of debt fifteen years ago. Car, mortgage, everything. Yes, you take a hit in standard of living – but you gain it back in the knowledge that you can take a hell of a hit in the job market and keep going.

  25. It would be a risky and sort of expensive investment but how about POD 3D gaming minis or character avatars? Is 3D printing there yet?

    • a gaming mini, just one, takes over an hour to print, depending on the resolution you set. It also means you need a library of these things, and anything not in the library requires people with 3d experience… so even if you make something to, say, scan someone’s head into a mini, someone with some skills needs to clean it up put it on the mini and then print time.

    • 3D printing is just about there.

  26. 1) Fewer cons that I want to attend. It’s pretty much the Troika (BayCon/FanimeCon/KublaCon) in May and DunDraCon in February. Not going back to Further Confusion until they start getting rid of the very creepy young boy chasers that show up there. Won’t go back to CrunchyRoll Expo, as it’s run by absolute idiots.
    2) Fewer things I want to get. I either already have them, they’re in the “like but don’t need” category, or “I looked at it and…it kind of sucks.” More in the RPG market these days-I grew up on games that you could use in your doctoral thesis on economics, medieval lore, or similar things. Now, too much woke and “have to have inclusion!” things going on. And let’s not talk about Fratboy Pathfinder…
    3) Fewer things I can get. If you want all the yaoi pretty boy, borderline rape porn you can want in the artist alley, you can sure get it. But, sensible yuri? Or just Heterosexual Sex In The Missionary Position? You’d have better luck waving crosses in front of a vampire for a happy reaction.

    (I exaggerate on the “borderline rape porn” comment. Not by much…but exaggerate.)
    4) In all fairness, I used to go to cons to have some social interactions with human beings. But, when you can’t talk with some of the people that you considered friends, that you helped move at 2 AM before the sheriff came and put a lock on their door, without having to immediately flay yourself for being heterosexual, white, and male…

    And, let’s not even talk about women at cons. Looking at lovely cosplay pales when you get your third lecture at two consecutive cons for “excessive male gaze.” Which, as far as I can tell, was “you weren’t the sort of guy that I wanted to look at me.” Actually talk to women? Let’s not even go there.

    I want to go to more cons, I still enjoy going to a few. But, the con creators, especially in the fan community, are being run by people that have An Agenda and that Agenda isn’t “having fun.”

    • I have a list of things I want to buy if I ever have “unlimited money”. (No, I have no idea how.) But even then not a ton of them. Mostly I want to do stuff for people I love. Eh.
      And when looking at things we need, I have trouble finding anything that’s worth buying.
      I’m getting cranky in my old age.

      • About the same for me. There’s a few people that I would buy one of everything from, if only because they make good stuff. Or one of everything for them because they would look pretty in.

        But, I’ve already come to the conclusion that I’ll have to buy a house if I win the lottery just to hang all the art I’ll have commissioned…

      • Unlimited money? That’s easy. Set up a studio to make the movies Hollyweird won’t. Starting with John Ringo’s ‘The Last Centurion’. Any ideas for an aging bleach-blonde actress to play President Warrick?

        Then…Tom Kratman’s ‘Caliphate’. Larry Correia’s Hard Magic and Monster Hunter series. Lois Bujold’s Barrayar series. David Weber’s Manticore series. Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series (WHEN is she going to write another one?) Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship series (Who? What?) Eric Flint & David Drake’s Belisarius series. Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms books. Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold series. Harry Turtledove’s ‘Guns Of The South’ and his Worldwar series. John Ringo’s Council Wars series. Leo Frankowski’s Cross-Time Engineer series. Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series. About a dozen of Robert A. Heinlein’s books, definitely ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’.

        I’m not sure there’s enough time in the world to do all the books associated with Eric Flint’s 1632 series, but trying would be cool.

        There are hundreds — Thousands! — of great stories that would make amazing movies, and what is Hollyweird doing? Endless lame remakes of classic movies, and abominations like The Last Jedi [Ptui!]. And it looks like The Next Jedi (whatever they’re calling it this week) is going to be even worse. Somebody needs to beat them over the head. “You made Star Wars SUCK!! That takes ANTI-talent!”
        ———————————
        Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!

  27. I go by the amount of personal fireworks which happen on holidays. That usually is a good gauge of the local economy, as where I live, it’s always ‘off’ from the rest of the country. This last Fourth of July there was less than an hour of fireworks. Good years, it will go for hours into the night, sometimes very expensive ones. This year, nothing but some crackers and screechers.

    As for cons. I used to go to at least three to four a year. After the HFiasco, I dropped it in half. After the Great Unmasking, I only attend one and that for personal reasons. I rarely buy anything any more. I’m burned out and not needing any more plastic junk. I still have an old book/ephemera love, but I’ve rarely seen a bookseller at a convention who isn’t selling new product either of their own making or mass market at full retail. (And if it’s new product, I probably already own it, if I wanted it.)

    • Fireworks don’t work here. Mostly because dry. So some years there’s hardly nothing, despite booming economy.

      • We’re almost always wet. Heck, even during one drought it didn’t stop the pyromaniacs. That year some idiot was shooting flares in the suburbs. I guess it’s a tad better than when people were shooting guns into the air. Yes, shooting guns into the air. Yes, bullets came back down and killed people.

        • Fireworks don’t work here. Mostly because dry.

          Oh, they work just fine, right before they set half the world on fire.

          Yes, shooting guns into the air. Yes, bullets came back down and killed people.

          Here in Kalifornia the Democrats introduced a law prohibiting ammunition sales for two weeks before 4th Of July and New Year’s. I facepalmed so hard, I was dizzy for a week, and still don’t remember if they ever managed to pass the stupid thing.

          Because OF COURSE all those idiots plan ahead, and go out the week before to buy ammo to shoot off in the air.
          ———————————
          If a falling bullet hit a Democrat politician in the head, would it make them smart?

          • I fear you mistake the purpose of such legislation. It is not attended to do something about the problem, it is to provide the appearance of attempting to do something. It is only when that “attempt” fails that they will have the “justification” of doing what they truly desire: enact effective bans on private purchase of ammunition. Oh, sure, individuals will still be permitted such purchases … with background checks (including looking into potential “red flags” issued), “reasonable” limits on quantity purchased (imagine application on the type controls employed for Pseudoephedrine HCL) and laws against third party purchases (although I’ve no doubt employers will be permitted to buy ammo for employees (e.g., you can pay for your security guards’ ammo) with taxes and licensing requirements to further limit the ability of private citizens to be armed absent Friends In High Places.

            Never think they are as stupid as they seem, always remember they are more evil than they appear. “Fast & Furious” was not dreamed up in a vacuum.

            • **“reasonable” limits on quantity purchased**

              I think California already has limits on the number of boxes you can purchase at one time regardless of caliber. Also supposedly not legal to cross state border to purchase. Or for “straw” people to bring it into state … Like that stops anyone.

              Oregon has one pending similar. Limit of 20 rounds purchased per month, which means tracking, only they won’t track (scratches head). Can’t see where it passed. Well “technically” we didn’t “purchase” the baggie of 100 or 200 rounds of ammo for the 9mil handgun hubby won at a golf tournament. Nor did we for the smaller handgun we purchased for hubby to carry (once we get the CC). The 9mil came from BIL who self loads. The other ammo came from mom & dad’s stash (we’ll never use it up …. well okay probably shouldn’t say “never”, but there is a lot.)

              Oops, forgot, it was all lost in the boat accident, I don’t even remember where, I was too busy chumming the fish (I don’t do well in boats) … never mind … nothing to read here.

              • Limit of 20 rounds purchased per month
                What?!?!
                When I first started shooting, I kept track of 1000s because I thought that was a lot. Was I wrong. I only shoot about twice per month (2nd, 4th Sundays, usually) and I easily go through 1000 rounds in those two hours. My 9mm is MUCH cheaper than Mike’s .45 and I like fun drills (5 Mozambiques in one 15 round magazine – how fast can you go and keep them all in the lines? Pretty darn fast at 5 yards, not so fast at 10. But I’m getting better – at $100 of ammo/hour).

          • The dumb is contagious.

  28. Pingback: So, How Are We Doing? | According To Hoyt

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