Category Archives: Shopping

World of Plastic

Sometimes dismissing the old while embracing the new does not make for real progress. It is change without improvement.

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There are so many examples in everyday experience that you would think that everyone was aware that pursuing the new was not necessarily a route to a better life.

Take the use of plastics. As a London commuter in the 1990s the majority around me were drinking bottled water out of single-use bottles. The branches of W H Smith in the main stations must have sold millions of bottles over the decade. Then the attitude was only the old or deluded were not smart enough to adopt this essential lifestyle improvement. Water shipped in – ideally from some exotic location – was de rigueur.

Similarly no one brought their own bags with them when shopping. Carrying your own bags was even considered as labelling you as a potential shoplifter. Everyone was given nice clean, shiny, disposable plastic ones when checking out. It avoided the hassle of carrying a reuseable one. It was the modern convenient way to go. Again it was only the old fashioned that declined to follow such new ideas.

How different in Grandad’s childhood – milk and pop in re-useable, returnable bottles; groceries in sturdy bags and household junk collected by rag-and-bone men for recycling. A process that has been replaced today by a never-ending stream of single-use plastic bags being pushed through letter boxes all around the country every day of the week. Not very eco-friendly!

Certainly plastic has become an essential material in the 21st century – but we now need to be a bit more old fashioned and wise in what we use it for …

Virtual Living

Today’s message from our friendly monster retailer to its covert agents

Rimmer_240Fancy earning extra advertising fees from your social media profiles?

The Amazon Influencer Program launched in March 2017 in the USA, is now available in the UK. This affiliate program for influencers enables social media personalities to recommend products and earn income on qualifying Amazon items they promote through their channels.

Influencers receive a short, personalised ‘vanity URL’ – ideal for sharing – linked to their own storefront on Amazon, where they can curate lists of their favourite products. To qualify for the Amazon Influencer Program we take into (consideration?) various criteria such as: audience size, engagement metrics, relevancy of content and topics.

So just the thing for those Grandads with large audiences and the right engagement metrics … who want a vanity URL to help their social media sharing efforts.

I’m starting to feel several generations out of touch …

Big Apple

AppleCarplay1This week Apple reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2015. And few companies could even dream of the figures revealed. In just thirteen weeks the corporation received $58,200 million in revenue but amazingly made some $17,700 million in operating profit. Not only is that 30% up on last year but it means that Apple has a surplus of around $200 million every day to spend on … anything it fancies. And this cash avalanche is before the over-subscribed Apple Watch hits the high street stores.

So what new product line will get some Apple reimagineering next? One rumour predicts that Apple will build a game-changing domestic motor car – most likely electric powered. But others say that would be a step too far. However the Apple Carplay (right) is something that has already been seen at car shows for over a year. And that might just be one more step towards a car and a corporation where desktop computers are just a memory …

Special Deals

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sandwiching the weekend the consumers in society have been at peak consumption. And the chief motivation has been getting a one-off retail bargain. But for some of the big corporation structures behind the UK retailers involved seem to have been getting massive bargains every week – through complex schemes that minimise their tax bills.

Man2Now this is nothing new. Years ago it was claimed Ford had not paid any UK corporation tax since it was first established. But recently the large-scale corporate tax reduction issue took a new twist. It hit the news when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made public their analysis of leaked documents related to over 500 favourable tax rulings made by Luxembourg. All made while the new EU president – Jean-Claude Juncker – was its prime minister.

They published a well researched case showing that many companies were using offices in Luxembourg simply as mailbox addresses. And discovered that just three buildings in Luxembourg held the registered national offices of more than 4,000 corporations whose businesses were carried out elsewhere. The revelations of how Luxembourg’s corporate tax avoidance factory actually worked have made Juncker’s repeated claims that his country was not and still is not a tax haven sound a very long way from the truth. But then JCJ is famous for his statement  “When it becomes serious, you have to lie” – and it certainly looks serious now. Time for the EU to get out a big brush and find a big carpet?

Whats_VATBut enough of the international big issues. What about us at the grass roots? Well for at least one festive purchase it must be good news. Look at this order summary received from a major online retailer earlier this week.

Does that VAT amount seem odd to you? It’s unlikely to be a computer error – so perhaps the Chancellor has cut the VAT on music to just 6% without telling us. Or perhaps there are some cross-border manipulations at work. Who knows? But it’s certainly cheaper than the £2.26 charge that VAT at 20% would have incurred.

Price Reversal

Music downloads have advantages over shopping for CDs – choice, convenience and lower prices. Or so it seems. But it’s becoming increasingly common to find that the pricing policies have been reversed – making physical CDs cheaper than the equivalent downloads.

Heckerslyke_160And here is one random example that highlights just how far the pricing model has shifted –

Track-by-track download – £32.04 (no one would do this .. surely!)
Album download – £10.49
CD at High Street shop – £8.99
CD at online retailer – £6.56
CD at supermarket – £5.00

So all of the physical media options were cheaper than the album download. And if you wanted just 6 or more of the 36 tracks on this double album then it was still cheaper to go the CD route – especially when the supermarket was also offering a range of CDs at two for £9.

Downloads are still more selective and convenient – but pricing is far from clear cut. The CD could well be cheaper – and also make a much better present …