Category: Money

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Come and Get Me, Apple

If you believe Wired story “Apple Is Taking On Apples in a Truly Weird Trademark Battle“—and I do—the company is running about the globe seeking the “rights to the image of apples”.

One court case could cause big problems for 111-year-old the Fruit Union, according to reporter Gabriela Galindo, who writes: “The oldest and largest fruit farmer’s organization in Switzerland worries it might have to change its logo, because Apple, the tech giant, is trying to gain intellectual property rights over depictions of apples, the fruit”.

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Got Cash? Go Elsewhere!

Marking a trendy trend among the trendy artisan set, Communal Coffee in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood won’t accept your money for payment. Your credit or debit card is legal tender, even Apple Pay, but keep bills or coins in pocket, purse, or wallet.

The privilege of digital currency comes with a perk—and one some of you won’t want: The tip nag screen that appears during the purchase process. Oh, don’t feel guilt or pressure, with the glaring eyes of the barista bearing down on you with expectation of 20-percent or more gratuity to top off that swank latte with almond milk.

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Squatter Villas

The never-ending pattern of eviction, renovation, or teardown and rebuild provides temporary residences for San Diego’s homeless. I had wondered why encampments suddenly vanished along either El Cajon Blvd or Florida Street here in University Heights. The so-called unhoused moved into unoccupied flats.

What a sad, tragic state of affairs across from Kindred Hospital on Georgia Street. Around the beginning of the year, a woman living in a charming Craftsman-like house had to leave, because the property had been sold for redevelopment. I once chatted with her about renovictions and calico Rosie. Renters of the apartments next door were forced out some months later. I had photographed ginger kitty Harvey there in June 2021. Both animals appear in my “Cats of University Heights” series.

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The Estate Sale

Today, my wife and I drove down Texas Street from University Heights into Mission Valley and our local Bed Bath & Beyond. About 24 hours earlier, liquidation sale started—as the retailer begins to wind down all operations in U.S. stores following an April 23, 2023 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing. Some people will say that  SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns killed the company, and they would be mistaken.

Bed Bath & Beyond’s demise is more complicated but two causes are fundamental, and one was exacerbated by the nation’s pandemic response. The first: Unnecessary debt. I told my wife years ago that too many public companies used cheap credit to buy back, and therefore bolster, shares. That’s the real reason for tech stalwarts like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the like laying off tens of thousands of workers. Trust me: It’s not the economy but cost-cutting because of debt.

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The San Diego Housing Boom is Bust

About two weeks ago, Reventure Consulting posted a YouTube short spotlighting a house for sale in my neighborhood: “$1 Million Listing in San Diego that has no buyers“. I wanted to snag a photo and write something sooner, but our daughter’s medical crisis and recovery consumed my time.

At the time that Reventure Consulting CEO and Founder Nicholas Gerli released the 53-second clip, the University Heights home listed for $1,099,000, following several price reductions. Recent history: For sale at $1,222,000 on Dec. 15, 2022. Less than a month later, January 12, price dropped to $1,192,000 and to $1,162,000 thirteen days later. That led to a pending sale for the lower list price on February 21, which quickly collapsed, and the home returned for sale at $1,162,000 on February 24. Sellers dropped the price, again, on March 1 to $1,135,000 and to $1,099,000 on the 23rd.

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Measuring Inflation by Cat Math

In early February 2017, the Wilcox household purchased its first set of Katris blocks for our kitties Cali and Neko. The modular cat tree can be assembled in numerous configurations. According to the company: “Each block is made from over 200 sheets of heavy-duty paperboard and can withstand more than 300 pounds of weight”. The upper layer is ready for paw scratching. For such value, we purchased three more sets.

Few days ago, I considered buying more—that is until seeing how shockingly higher is the selling price: $395.95, which is a 65 percent increase over our first Katris kit; 97 percent more than the second (July 2017); 90 percent increase over the third (October 2017); and 72 percent more than the fourth (December 2018). How’s that for an indicator of inflationary pricing?

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Do You Feel Rooked?

If not today, you may soon. The sudden shakeup toppling several banks was long foreshadowed. Classic run ruined Silicon Valley Bank less than two weeks ago. Dominos fell. First Republic required $30 billion bailout to avoid similar fate. Regulators took over Signature Bank, which was besieged by cryptocurrency losses. Over the weekend, 166-year-old Credit Suisse agreed to be acquired by UBS, in a $3.2 stock swap that is a mere pittance.

Long before the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 pandemic, I told my wife that too many companies, banks among them, had assumed too much debt during the long period of low interest rates. Wall Street Journal story “First Republic, SVB, Credit Suisse Show How Higher Interest Rates Caught Up With Banks“, dateline today, affirms my hypothesis and gives analysis you want to give some attention.

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What Would You Pay to Live Here?

Zillow lists 30 places for rent in my neighborhood of University Heights. You are looking at the most expensive: $5,950 per month. For a rent like that, I think Manhattan or San Francisco—not a somewhat middleclass area of San Diego. But, hey, the deposit is only $5500 (plus another $500, if you have a small pet). Lucky you.

Strangely, the place is a bargain, because half-a-block distance is a $5,450 rental that may be less monthly but poorer value for the size:1,450 square feet, compared to 2,325 sq ft for the pricier property.

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The Costs of Natural Gas Gouging

You might think that the year hasn’t progressed far enough along to designate the most notorious email. But we have one, delivered yesterday, without pomp nor apology, from SDGE—the so-called utility serving San Diego County. Excerpt: “Effective Jan. 1, 2023, a typical residential customer can expect an increase of $120 on their monthly natural gas bill relative to last January”. Say what?

Gosh, “new pricing became effective on” the first day of the year, according to the service provider. That’s a polite way of warning customers that they are about to get whacked aside the head with mindboggling blow. KPBS explains:

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Beating Black Friday at Banana Republic Factory Store

I wish there was a better way to combat inflationary pricing than Black Friday discounts. Banana Republic Factory emailed about the big 60-percent off storewide, topped by another 15 percent with special code. Since, coincidentally, two years ago nearly to the day I last purchased boxers—and none since—time had come to follow my wife’s advice: resupply. BRF’s undies are comfy and durable, which is why I buy them.

Two BRF stores are about equally far, North and South, from our San Diego neighborhood. We chose the one farther from Mexico’s border, for no particular reason. Decision was figuratively a coin toss.

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Sonic Boom of Behavioral Change

Around lunchtime today, when walking home from Von’s supermarket with cheap canned cat food, I got a hankering for a Sonic burger. We rarely eat out and the fast-food place was one of my father-in-law’s favorites. I thought to simultaneously see how the take-out experience has changed and to venture down memory lane. Surprise doesn’t enough express what I found or—stated differently—didn’t.

I stepped inside the restaurant to see chairs stacked on tables in fashion to cordon off most of the dining room. The menu screens were dark, as was the overall ambience. I could enter because roller-skating servers (e.g. carhops) exit through the same doors to deliver meals to parked vehicles. I vamoosed.

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Down the Drain

I sit and wonder on Friday evening before Election Tuesday what will be the outcome for the Midterms. For months, gleeful pundits predicted a Red Wave, as an angry and dissatisfied electorate boots Democrats from local political offices all the way to the halls of the U.S. Capitol. If the prognosticators prove right, red will better describe the bloodbath than resurgent Republicans.

Even in deep Blue California, Red rises enough that Joseph Biden stumped for candidates in San Diego County—last night and today. Supposedly, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin risks being unseated by Republican challenger Brian Maryott in the 49th District. If a Dem incumbent can’t defend against a Repub upstart in the Bluest state, the Jackass party is just that before the Elephant in the room (these folks really need better mascots/symbols).