Archive for category Money and Consumer Issues

Your Digital Social Secretary

About that little red dot frequently appearing on your Facebook page and mobile phone app? It can signify anything ranging from admiration for your latest vacation “selfie” (oh joy, joy) or an invite from a friend who requires assistance with fertilizing their crops in Farmtown (oh, bummer).

While checking my friend list on my phone recently, I noticed the bright red round alert suggesting that I upload all my address book contacts to Facebook. Apparently it’s a dynamic, thorough feature, working “continuously” as it were.  Quite frankly, I’ve been lax in in tidying up my contact list to the point where I don’t even remember who some of these people are (dating back to the days of Yahoo and AOL chat rooms even). So the Facebook algorithm becomes a handy tool to help decide whom among my contacts rate “friending”, and vice versa.

It’s almost like an electronic social secretary. “…And 92 other friends [out of my nearly 140] have added their contacts to Facebook.” Like many things Facebook, it seems rather heavy-handed to me, so at this point I think I’ll pass. But if we haven’t chatted in a while and you want to be friends? Or you can always connect with me on Linkedin.


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Coin of the Realm

Living in the digital age affords us powerfully convenient means to spend money shopping, indulge ourselves with lavish live and on-demand entertainment, pay bills, manage correspondence online, and, if we’re lucky, even secure gainful employment while working from home.

Ultimately of course, such a bounty of options and conveniences comes at a price. Working and saving to afford the latest media devices and tech toys pressures us to gain maximum value from them before they are rendered obsolete by the latest upgrade. “Easy-to-use” often leads to the concept of “dispose and replace” as it becomes more and more difficult to own things that we can fix ourselves or customize if something is lacking.

A fundamental cause of economic turmoil in our world is rooted in our confusion over how best to place proper value and worth on the things we have, the things we do, the things we work for, the things (and moments) we share.

One of the challenges I faced when traveling overseas for the first time was figuring out the exchange rates for different countries. The first thing I would do was buy a cup of coffee and a snack and pay for it with the local currency. Rather than obsess over how many francs, kroners, pesetas, etc. equalled an American dollar (yes this was 1990s pre-euro) I would think in terms of how much “coffee cash” things cost as I ventured out sightseeing, dining and drinking, and shopping.

cartoon screenshot *Contains entire multi-episode copyrighted program with ad breaks. Not available in mobile format.

These days we have frequent flier miles, hotel loyalty points, and elaborate coupon/discount schemes to leverage our purchasing power… and, bitcoins! Bitcoins are those units of imaginary digital currency used in video games to unlock extra levels, power-ups, customizations for racecars and starship fighters, etc. But apparently bitcoins are also part of a very real potentially robust digital economy as evidenced by the story of a Norwegian man with a forgotten savings account  of bitcoins that eventually led to payment of his rent!

Eventually, our society will have to come up with better ways to assess how we value things in our world. Perhaps we must re-evaluate the very nature of work and/or commerce itself or confront our own demise. We’ve known it all along as those immortal cartoon legends Rocky J Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose found out in *Box Top Robbery Part 1!


Abilities Expo/NY Metro 2012 Wraps Up

Highlighting this year’s Abilities Expo/NY Metro in Edison, NJ were a couple of informative and entertaining workshops conducted by (pictured below l-r) Millie Gonzales, Blanca Rosales-Ahn, and Maria Bournias. The presenters are shown here as they get set to deliver their Friday afternoon message of how to Be Independent!, Be Empowered!, Be Employed!

expo presenters

Joe Amoroso and I were among many friends in the audience for this and Saturday’s follow-up topic by Millie and Maria entitled Friendships Beyond Facebook. Thank you ladies for enhancing the ‘Expo experience for all of us in attendance.

expo audience

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South Jersey’s Finest Fashions


Best of 2011

Great news folks! At the final tally of all ballots, Juliette’s Jewels has won the voting for “South Jersey’s Best Women’s Fashion Boutique“. My sister and shop proprietor, Joyce Amos Smith, is understandably quite proud of her remarkable business success.  Our entire family joins together in congratulating her for this wonderful achievement.

Furthermore, we would like to extend sincere thanks to all who participated in the balloting process for lending their support. Please click on the above mentioned links to re-direct to the boutique’s URL as well as for access to the whole list of winners/categories for this year’s competition. The boutique’s entry for “best” in category conveniently appears to the left side of the page, next to last from the bottom. It seems that in cyberspace, just as in brick and mortar real estate, it’s all about location, location, location!

jewelry logo 

Thanks again and happy shopping!

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Membership Has It’s Privileges…

Recently, one of my favorite stores, L.L. Bean, delighted the national media and the public with it’s announcement that it will now offer free shipping for all merchandise for all of it’s customers. Very nice. However, this news didn’t really cause me to dance joyously in a pair of Casco Bay Boat Shoes. Sure, everyone loves free shipping, but as an “Outdoor Advantage” card member I already enjoy free shipping, along with 100% unconditional free return shipping, free monograming, and frequent $10 coupon earnings.

L.L. Bean merchandise is always top quality, albeit rather pricy. They have even added a new high end “classic” fashion line featuring attractive yet even more exorbitantly priced clothing and accessories marked by a kind of retro-ultra preppy Americana kind of look. Ironically though, very few of their clothing items carry a “Made in USA” label.

Lately my biggest issue has been with the way in which they handle their inventory. A greater percentage of their extensive catalog offerings are listed on long term back order (a monogrammed black dress shirt I ordered a few weeks ago won’t be available until May 15th). Many seasonal items eventually become available with sharp price reductions but usually disappear from the website extremely quickly with only a few awkward sizes and colors remaining, if any at all. A twelve dollar pair of cargo pants is nice but not necessarily in orange 42 inch waist with a 28 inch inseam.

Happily, the company has announced that it will double the coupon earnings for members to 3 cents per dollar spent and/or 1 cent per dollar spent for Bean purchases and/or overall purchases, respectively. Perhaps our love for free shipping will widen the stores customer base to the point of spurring more frequent sales and greater flow and variety of inventory. Or will continued price increases offset the free shipping customer advantage? Their website, which is excellent and generally a pleasure to navigate, states that the company plans members only sales, which I, of course, greatly look forward to. However, I must admit that although I strive to be a down-to-earth, yet stylish, all-around-egalitarian, yet generous sort, I’ve come to surmise that membership has it’s privileges– unless everybody is a member!

LL Bean corp

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