Category: Money

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Affordable Housing?

Oh the lies they tell to sell. San Diego is in the midst of a so-called affordable housing crisis, for which the poorly urban-planned cure eases zoning laws to increase population density among some neighborhoods. Funny thing, circumstances convince me that developers and politicians define “affordable housing” differently than do I or other residents. Rather than lower the entry point to rent, many newer properties raise it such that by comparison the already high monthly that I, or others, pay suddenly seems more affordable. Ah, yeah.

Consider, as example, the soon-to-open Blvd North Park, which takes up the block between Alabama and Florida on El Cajon. The complex is a wonder of marketing myths—ah, lies. As you can see from the Featured Image, which shows the leasing booth and building behind, the structure is very much under construction. Yet the leasing manger told me two weeks ago that the place would open—meaning be ready for tenants—on September 1. That’s the first lie; okay, a presumed one. The second is indisputable.

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Microsoft Investors Punch Back at Apple

In May 2010, I wrote about Apple’s market cap passing top-valued Microsoft; it’s only fitting to follow up with an analysis about the unbelievable turnabout that, like the first, marks a changing of technological vanguards. Briefly today, the software and services giant nudged past the stock market’s fruit-logo darling. A few minutes after 1 p.m. EST, the pair’s respective market caps hovered in the $812 billion range, with Microsoft cresting Apple by about $300 million. By the stock market close, a rally for Apple put distance from its rival: $828.64 billion to $817.29 billion, respectively (Bloomberg says $822.9 billion, BTW). Consider this: As recently as October, Apple’s valuation touched $1.1 trillion. But since the company announced arguably record fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on November 1st, investors have punished shares, which currently are down about 21 percent.

Apple has long been a perception stock, even when under the tutelage of CEO Tim Cook company fundamentals deserved recognition. But perhaps Wall Street finally realizes the problem of iPhone accounting for too much of total revenues at a time when smartphone saturation saps sales and Apple pushes up selling prices to retain margins. More significantly: Apple has adopted a policy of fiscal corporate secrecy by stepping away from a longstanding accounting metric. I started writing news stories about the fruit-logo company in late 1999. Every earnings report, Apple disclosed number of units shipped for products contributing significantly to the bottom line. No more. Given current market dynamics, everyone should ask: What is Cook and his leadership team trying to hide? 

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My Google Store Travail

Google Store’s bureaucratic ineptitude is beyond belief. My recent, unresolved customer crisis is an experience in artificial unintelligence. For a parent company whose core competency is supposed to be indexing, crunching, and disseminating information, it’s inconceivable that something so simple as fixing a single order error could escalate into a tragically comic Catch-22. I should have abandoned all efforts long before reaching the point of penning this post and looking back to the Apple Way.

To summarize: I received the wrong Pixel phone nearly a month ago. Google Store struggled to process a return authorization, because the device in hand didn’t match the one in the order. I eventually agreed to keep the thang, so long as the retailer could transfer the extended warranty—so-called “Preferred Care”—that I had paid for. But the process proved to be complicated, then necessity, after I unexpectedly needed to file a damage claim. You’ll have to read on for the sordid punchline, but suffice to say it all ends in a comedy of compounding errors.

Problems resolved! Please see:Thank-you, Google Store

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Apple’s Top-Tier iPhone Price is a Rainy Day

Trendsetter Apple has done it again! Just when you thought there was no innovation left in the smartphone market, CEO Tim Cook delivers the wildly price-disruptive iPhone XS Max 512GB for heart-stopping $1,449. Smartphones simply don’t cost this much. What other company would stoop so low by reaching so high? This thing is a monster with its 6.5-inch (nearly) edge-to-edge display; 2688 x 1242 resolution at 458 pixels per inch (less than Google Pixel 2 XL at 2880 x 1440 and 538 ppi); and dual-SIM support (so telemarketers can ring more often on two numbers).

For anyone whose hands aren’t too small to hold the new thang, iPhone XS Max is sure to draw maximum attention, letting all the little people know just how big deal you are. Praise be Mr. Cook. Only the privileged can afford this beautiful, beastly slab, short of taking out a second mortgage or cashing in their 401K. 

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A Florist Uproots

Last night, on the NextDoor social network, I read a post about the University Heights florist moving and asking if anyone knew where. This morning, I stopped into the shop, Florabella, and asked. The 29 year-old establishment will for a time share warehouse space with a large floral distributor off of Morena Blvd. The current location is convenient and charming—inviting for walk-in sales. The temporary space is along a congested, commuting corridor.

The end of Florabella’s 24 year presence in my San Diego neighborhood is a common local retail story. At the end of May, the landlord informed the commercial tenant that the rent would triple, effective July 1st. For that month, though, the increase would be reduced to $1,000. I have heard the three-times figure often over the past 12-18 months. With a difference: The other shops closed up. The florist saunters on. 

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The Coins I Left Behind

While walking along Kansas from 30th Street in North Park towards the University Heights boundary at Texas, I spotted 21-cents change on the sidewalk. I moved about 10 steps before turning back—not to grab the coins but to capture the moment with Leica Q. Why leave dime, nickels, and penny? Doing so is a more interesting story than taking them.

I wondered why the change remained. Had no little kids, or perhaps someone homeless, come by? Surely 21 cents would mean something to someone. Were the coins maybe embedded in the cement (I didn’t check)? Who had left them there? Were they an accidental loss that kept little Johnny from buying ice cream at the corner store? Maybe they were dropped by someone so wealthy picking them up wasn’t worth the time? Oh the questions the forlorn change raised from its fallen, forgotten state. 

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Tent City

From the Adams Ave. overlook, seen across the canyon to the backside of Franciscan Way, a tented home hugs the hillside. In early Summer, My wife and I walked through the multi-level dwelling during one of its countless Open Houses over the course of many, many months. The overly-expansive layout, square-footage (3,860), and $1.7 million asking price were reasons for our disinterest—and perhaps many other people. There is a pending sale, as of the week before Christmas, for $1.55M, which explains the extermination rig.

Californians tent homes to fumigate, which is common practice before a new sale closes. Think of it as a temporary tent city for vermin, before insecticide snuffs them out. Funny thing, tent city also refers to where groups of the downtown homeless gather together. If neighborhood banter on the NextDoor social network is revealing, there are many University Heights residents who view indigents as vermin they would like to eliminate

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Thanksgiving Times are Changin’

On Nov. 20, 2005, I marveled at Tower Records’ holiday hours—the store being open on Thanksgiving and also Christmas. A year later, the retail music chain was gone—and, tragically, a broader cultural experience/lifestyle with it. Major bookstore chains, like Borders, followed along later—all casualties of the digital content economy (or lack of it because of piracy) enabled by Internet distribution.

Finding anything open for business on the third Thursday of November was a challenge 12 years ago. Today, retailers can’t wait to welcome shoppers. Black Friday deals have been available pretty much everywhere all week, while bargain hunters can shop today at their favorite stores. That is, if not scouring Amazon deals from ye `ol smart device while sitting on the couch, watching football, chugging brewskis, and belching. 

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U-verse, You Suck

Yesterday, as part of third quarterly earnings,  AT&T reported losing 385,000 traditional TV service subscribers—134,000 of them from U-verse. When the company later announces Q4 results, I will be among the next group of losses; for unexpected reason.

One week ago, I lamented giving up U-verse, after being an early adopter (February 2008) and long-time subscriber. Now my mood is “good riddance” and “please let the door swat you in the ass on the way out”. I have rarely seen such horrendous customer service, and if it’s typical, AT&T’s attrition-rate may be more about corporate culture than competition or cord-cutting. 

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La Croix Sticker Shock Gives Me Nose Bleeds

What a difference branding makes for sale-pricing. Before La Croix became a posh, bubbly brand for environmentally-minded, organic-obsessed, uncompromising-to-spend-less Whole Foods sundry shoppers, my wife and I regularly purchased the seltzer. We preferred the no-flavor water for its effervescence and low-sodium content. I remember when, going back just five years, the local Ralph’s sold cases of 24 12-oz cans for $4.99 during summer months.

But now that La Croix is the Apple of bubbly waters, those cans cost lots more. Today, in the same Ralph’s the exact quantity deeply discounted is twice as much—and that’s helluva savings when one case of eight typically sells for what I used to pay for 24.