Monday Open Thread (2009-12-14)

Here is your open thread for Monday December 14th, 2009. You may post random links and off-topic discussions here. Also, if you have an idea or a topic you’d like to see covered in an article, please make it known.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

38 comments:

  1. 1

    Christmas Shopping

    I’m curious, how many of you bloggers are going to:

    Spend more this Christmas than last year.

    Spend less than last year

    Spend about the same as last year?

    I’m spending less, but aren’t buying the big ticket item I splurged on last year.

  2. 2

    I have no idea whether I’ll spend more or less, in part because I don’t know what I spent last year, and in part because I don’t know what I’m buying my dad this year. I never really budget for Christmas because I have a hard enough time just finding something.

  3. 3
    WestSideBilly says:

    Spend more on what? My biggest expense for Christmas is usually the plane ticket “home”. Air fare is much cheaper this year so I’m probably spending less as a whole.

  4. 4
    Willy Nilly says:

    If we did do Christmas shopping it would be about the same as last year. We do not exchange gifts for variety of reasons. I perceive myself as very lucky in not being saddled with this burden, and I have not bought my wife an anniversary, birthday or Christmas gift in 15 years. For many people I know shopping for gifts is a stressful obligation, and I have seen too many inappropriate expectations on both sides of the transaction. It seems that in this country holidays in general have mostly become events of consumption, and as a result we boycott.

  5. 5
    mariner22 says:

    Not to focus too much attention on anecdotal evidence, but I was in both the Factoria Target and Bellevue Toys R Us Sunday afternoon and noted no difficulty finding a parking space and had no wait to check out. On Saturday I was in the downtown Seattle Costco, again with no difficulty parking or problems with lines to check out. At least from my observations, it is hard to believe we will see good Christmas retail numbers.

  6. 6

    By Willy Nilly @ 4:

    I have not bought my wife an anniversary, birthday or Christmas gift in 15 years..

    You are either married to the perfect woman, or 16 years ago you got a divorce. ;-)

  7. 7

    RE: mariner22 @ 5 – The reports of on-line sales have been pretty good. I wonder how much that is affecting things. I know I’m buying a lot more on-line this year in general. For example, I can save up to about $20 a piece on toner cartridges on-line.

  8. 8
    Jbeans says:

    Bellevue Square has been very busy, even during the middle of the work day. But not crazy busy.

  9. 9
    WestSideBilly says:

    By mariner22 @ 5:

    Not to focus too much attention on anecdotal evidence, but I was in both the Factoria Target and Bellevue Toys R Us Sunday afternoon and noted no difficulty finding a parking space and had no wait to check out. On Saturday I was in the downtown Seattle Costco, again with no difficulty parking or problems with lines to check out. At least from my observations, it is hard to believe we will see good Christmas retail numbers.

    I did my first brick & mortar XMas shopping in years on Friday afternoon – I was shocked at how busy some of the stores were (Southcenter Toys’R’Us, Best Buy, and general vicinity; Burien Target, Fred Meyer), less shocked by the quantity of accidents around Southcenter. About the only humor I found in the process was listening to the couple shopping for a $90 Lego set, when seeing the price at Toys’R’Us was $2 higher, they agreed to drive back to Wal-Mart to get it there. I’m guessing a lesson on basic econ probably wouldn’t have registered with them. At least their kid is getting a cool Lego set, I just hope he gets his math skills elsewhere.

    All things considered, I will stick with Amazon, NewEgg, and other online retailers for my shopping in the future. Dealing with UPS, while unpleasant, isn’t nearly as bad as the mall experience.

  10. 10
    dancingeek says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 1 – Our household is spending way less than last year. A big part of that is having a seven month-old, though. Don’t have the expendable income of last year.

  11. 11
    Scotsman says:

    About the same as last year probably, maybe a bit less. I don’t really keep track. Somehow the season is getting off to a slow start around here.

  12. 12
    patient says:

    As our concern about the economy rises so does our wealth. The biggest saving by far is of course the housing cost which has gone down over the last 10 years of renting sfhs on the east side. Renting has really been a good deal for our family of four. So we find ourselves well off and just returned from two weeks in the sun, the last 2 years we have gone 2 times a year on sunny vacations instead of a yearly trip. It feels like we have also seen deflation in pretty much all of the goods we consume except energy. We will definately spend more this christmas since as our kids grow so does their interrest/hobbies.

  13. 13
    what goes up must come down says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 6 – That nails it.

  14. 14
    Snigliastic says:

    Tried to go to Alderwood Mall on Saturday afternoon. Even though it’s a terrible mall, the lineup for the parking lot was about three miles. Needless to say, we did not go.

  15. 15
    AMS says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 7 – “For example, I can save up to about $20 a piece on toner cartridges on-line.”

    Plus you keep the miles off your vehicle, don’t spend as much time in acquisition, and don’t have to worry about being trampled to death. In many cases, I find it just as quick and easy to point and click. I’ve even been known to order groceries from Amazon in the night for morning delivery. I just go down the list clicking, and the groceries show up on my front porch by the time I am up.

  16. 16
    Markor says:

    I’m staying frugal as always, spending about the same. Hard to believe some folk spend $300+ on Christmas! I guess if you have a lot of family… The holidays and their sales usually do incent me to upgrade computer hardware. I’m getting better at buying online, but still prefer to get anything that might be returned at brick-and-mortar stores.

    This winter the indoor temp stays about 50. I’m not looking forward to the $100+ bill for natural gas for last week, to keep the pipes from freezing. I was hoping to not use the furnace at all this year.

    House prices seem about the same as they were almost 2 years ago when I started renting. That’s list prices though; the ones that actually sell are 10%+ off. In my area on the Eastside it seems there’s now about a 20% difference between average list and the lowest sold prices (for comparable properties), with just enough fools buying in at higher prices to keep the sellers dreaming.

  17. 17

    RE: mariner22 @ 5

    Even Biglots Was Relatively Empty Yesterday Compared to Last Year

    My daughter loves that store, so I took her there and yes, the parking lot was 25% full and the checkout lines were small. The store was so full of unsold stuff, it was hard to get a cart through the stuff, not through the buyers in the store.

    I also noticed higher prices for stuff [or smaller packages for same price, same thing] at Biglots than last year [perhaps slower sales= price markups?], as the sales at other retail stores netted you better quality and cheaper prices on many sale items [I didn’t buy hardly anything there].

  18. 18

    RE: AMS @ 15

    I Agree

    I bought 50-70% off sales at Pennys and the shipping was free on Cyber monday.

    Same with Disney Store [sales were 25-50% off on a good assortment of items] on Cyber Monday, and if you spent $150 they took another 25% off with free shipping :-)

    EBay and Amazon are my Chritmas friends too, much with free shipping with good discounts too.

  19. 19

    RE: softwarengineer @ 17 – The Big Lots in Fairwood is closing! I’d heard from one source that the landlord was being unreasonable, which might be the case since QFC also left. I’d thought QFC left because they have a store only about a mile away, and that store was next to a Safeway and across the street from an Albertsons, but maybe it was the landlord.

  20. 20
    AMS says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 19 – “I’d thought QFC left because they have a store only about a mile away, and that store was next to a Safeway and across the street from an Albertsons, but maybe it was the landlord.”

    Is it better to locate next to the competition or far away?

  21. 21
    mukoh says:

    I will be spending about the same, accept splurging for a $1k espresso machine to replace the old one. My regular gifts are the same as last year, big sets to assembe for kids, beautifull spencers card for the wife. :)

  22. 22
    Willy Nilly says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 6

    Pretty much the perfect wife, she hates jewelry, doesn’t nag, doesn’t want kids. I am the moody, emotional, sensitive, high maintenance one! And when it comes to stuff, we usually just buy for ourselves what we need & want, through transactions that almost always happen online.

  23. 23
    Trigger says:

    BTW – Inflation is rising and not going down. There goes the whole argument for deflation and the argument that the govt cannot do anything about. It can and it did. Moreover – if sb makes Helicopter Ben upset he can simply start doing money drops and believe inflation will happen.

    And the case for treasuries interest going up and China selling all the dollars was also bogus. China will not sell dollars and they know that they benefit from transfer of know how from the US to China.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Stocks-drop-after-inflation-apf-2682030532.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=main&asset=&ccode=

  24. 24
    The Tim says:

    RE: Trigger @ 23 – Except that foreign governments apparently are selling their US holdings.

    Via treas.gov:

    Foreign holdings of dollar-denominated short-term U.S. securities, including Treasury bills, and other custody liabilities decreased $43.9 billion. Foreign holdings of Treasury bills decreased $38.3 billion.

    Hmm…

  25. 25
    David Losh says:

    RE: The Tim @ 24

    As I said in the other thread, I’ve been listening to talk radio so I can better relate to this blog. One commentator mentioned that the short term positions are converting to long term positions.

  26. 26

    By David Losh @ 25:

    <As I said in the other thread, I've been listening to talk radio so I can better relate to this blog..

    Wow, a comment like that almost has to violate Seattle Bubble’s TOS! ;-)

  27. 27

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 19

    My Hairdresser Works Near that Biglots

    She told me the same thing: Excessive Lease Charge is driving the store out.

    Billy McHales in Renton, didn’t pay their lease rent, we’re closed down and evicted last month.

    Barnabys in Tukwila, evicted too….back IRS taxes unpaid.

    The QFC in Covington is shut down. The employees were all laid off, the union doesn’t allow bumping from other stores either.

    Its a good time to call before you drive somewhere, to find out if they still exist….LOL

  28. 28
    Tacoma Bound says:

    Here’s an article from the Seattle Times discussing the current rental market. It’s funny how just about a year ago, perhaps two, the same consulting firm of Dupree + Scott were predicting skyrocketing rents due to low inventories. We all called BS on it then so it makes me wonder why these people get paid well to sit in fancy offices and state crap.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/realestate/2010482611_realrentals13.html

    I just finished up jr. college and plan to transfer to the UW in Tacoma. I’ve been checking out rents down there and some of those fancy condo buildings are renting nice units for under $600/mo (studios and 1-bed). I plan to make the move sometime within the next 3 to 6 months.

  29. 29

    That sucks about Barnabys, I hadn’t noticed. I guess my going there once a year with an Entertainment Book coupon just wasn’t enough to keep them in business.

    I wonder what landlords are thinking right now? That QFC has been vacant for months. It will take them forever to make that up.

  30. 30
    redmondjp says:

    Speaking of stores closing, the Value Village in Renton closed last month after 42 years! Story here:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2010245049_webvaluevillage10.html

    I drive by it daily and hadn’t even noticed until this morning (usually watching traffic, what a concept). Even MORE commercial real estate now up for lease, woo hoo!

    Gads, if a thrift store can’t make it during an economic downturn, who can?

  31. 31

    It Flew!

    But so are all the 787 tools, in stamped boxes to South Carolina.

  32. 32

    An Interesting Take on the 787

    Article in part:

    “…It would be difficult to overstate labor’s role in Boeing’s decision to forego expansion in Washington. In September 2008, we wrote that Boeing machinists would likely get much more than they had bargained for when they went on strike. “Given the machinists’ apparent disregard for economic realities and their totally unsustainable demands on their employer, Boeing would be wise to take its business elsewhere.” And so it is….”

    The Rest of the URL:

    http://biggovernment.com/2009/10/31/boeing-heads-south-for-better-business-climate-washington-state-politicians-are-surprised/

    I suppose the Lesson Learned here for Seattlites is if you want manufacturing, ya gotta get the factory wages way down or kiss it all good-bye. Ask GM.

  33. 33

    RE: softwarengineer @ 32

    Impact on Seattle Home Prices?

    As wages deteriorate with population density increases, home prices have only one way to go in the future, down.

  34. 34
    The_Dude_Abides says:

    Greetings from Bellevue.
    Storage closed its store on Bellevue Way & 12th due to a landlord price increase, at least that’s what the letter said on the front door of the vacant building.

    FYI, just read where USBank has extended the terms of construction loans for Olive8 in Seattle and Washington Square in Bellevue, to several years, due to slow sales.
    You’ll get nothing….and like it.

  35. 35

    An attorney told me today that a couple of years ago WAMU was going to kick some tenants out of it’s building downtown so that they could use the space for document storage. Reportedly they changed their mind when a risk assessment pointed out that such a large building could be a target for a terrorist attack that might result in the destruction of the documents.

    I don’t know which is more amazing: That WAMU was considering using expensive downtown space for document storage, or the WAMU actually did an assessment of risk! :-D

  36. 36
    Sniglet says:

    Just a reminder that the Optimistic Bear internet radio show will be airing live tonight (Tuesday the 15th) at 9:00pm Pacific Time. We will be discussing the past week in economics and finance. Feel free to call in and share your thoughts.

    http://surkanstance.blogspot.com/2009/11/introducing-optimistic-bear-weekly.html

  37. 37
    Trigger says:

    RE: Sniglet @ 36 – Sniglet what do you think of sizzling stock market. It is in the middle of unprecedented frenzy. People made easy fortunes because the market is taking off so rapidly.

    On top of this inflation is there now.

    And Helicopter Ben vows to just keep interest rates low:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Fed-to-strike-upbeat-note-on-apf-2095398868.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=7&asset=&ccode=
    as he gets more upbeat about the economy…..

    We are rolling like crazy.

  38. 38
    Sniglet says:

    what do you think of sizzling stock market. It is in the middle of unprecedented frenzy. People made easy fortunes because the market is taking off so rapidly.

    I believe that we are facing a similar setup to 1930, when stocks had recovered most of their 1929 losses and the business press was giddy about how the worst was over. 2010 will see stocks reach new lows, and we will be in the grips of a depression that will last for many years.

    You should listen to my podcasts and radio show sometimes. This is exactly what I talk about. :)

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