Super Bowl Economics!

BTW, I love it when companies who haven't paid millions of $$ to the NFL have to call it "The Big Game" in their commercials!
BTW, I love it when companies who haven’t paid millions of dollars to the NFL have to call it “The Big Game” in their commercials!

Quick quiz! Who are the two teams competing in the Super Bowl this Sunday? The answer is “Who cares?” This annual tradition is bigger than San Francisco. It’s bigger than Baltimore. It’s bigger than ALL of us!

In bars, basements, living rooms and even churches (like mine – complete with chili contest and a 102” screen!) we will gather. And whether we are interested in X’s and O’s, team rivalries, funny commercials or simply drinking a buttload of beer, we are all a part of something – the biggest night of consumerism in the U S of A!

  • 180 million of us will watch the game
  • We will spend $12 Billion on snacks
  • We will eat 79 million pounds of guacamole!

To put it in graphic terms, 79 million pounds of avocados is enough to cover a football field – end zone to end zone – 30 feet deep. The San Diego Source (to quote 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon: “I want to go to there!”)

  • We will eat 1.23 billion chicken wings
  • Papa John’s drivers will travel 300,000 miles
  • Domino’s will deliver roughly double the number of pizzas for a typical Sunday

As to whom I am rooting for (as you’re DYING to know,) I am torn. San Fran beat my Cincinnati Bengals in 2 Super Bowls. Baltimore is both a constant thorn in Cincy’s side and the remnant of the old, pre-expansion Cleveland Browns. As they said during the Iran-Iraq War, it’s a shame they can’t BOTH lose!

Also, what terrible TV show will debut right after the game?  That weird, modern Sherlock Holmes thing with Lucy Liu! “Elementary, my dear Watson – the British version is better!”

Either way, let’s celebrate, friends. I can’t think of a more American event than Super Bowl Sunday. Whichever team you support, have a blast!

(photo credit:

Your Favorite Brands!

a992-cup-man-trophy-1292-pOf 2012, anyway. Every year, polling firm YouGov does their Brand Index. Here are your favorite consumer brands of 2012, with dumb commentary by yours truly:

1. Subway: #1 for the 3rd straight year, it’s believed that Subway’s use of NFL stars and Olympic champs in the ads led to their top ranking. I wonder if the ridiculous footlongs-that-are-only-11-inches-long “controversy” will hurt their score next year?

2. Amazon: As we noted a few posts ago, my only complaint about Amazon is that they ship your item in a box big enough for 15 of that item. Otherwise, they offer a good product, decent price, and on-time delivery. As for their high rating, the Kindle’s popularity – and the fact that Kindle is basically an Amazon-delivery device, has certainly helped.

3. Cheerios: Cheerios moved up 2 spots from last year, possibly based on the addition of 2 new flavors: Dulce de Leche and Peanut Butter Multi Grain. Next year’s flavors include Barbecue, Sour Cream ‘n’ Chive and Habańero X-Treem.

4. History Channel: History Channel – I’m sorry – “History!” always seems to make the Top 10. This year, “Hatfields and McCoys” with Kevin Costner seems to be the driver here. Sorry, but I soured on History after sitting through a “Swamp People” marathon at my mother-in-law’s house at Thanksgiving. So, a title card at the beginning that says “People have been making their living in the swamp for 300 years” makes it History? Pass.

5. Lowe’s: I hate having to walk 2 miles to buy a pack of screws, and it annoys me that they have dedicated IN and OUT doors so that there is never a truly convenient parking spot. Other than that, great store. Lowe’s moved up a spot this year, believed to be due to the fact that their people all carry iPhones and iPads, and can answer your questions, like, NOW.

6. Ford: Interesting. The Ford Focus is so strong right now that Ford is advertising them as the Focus – without “Ford.” Personally, I cheered Ford when they ran the ad that said, “We didn’t accept the bailout!” …only to see them pull the ad 10 minutes later. There’s no politics in car ads, apparently 🙂

7. Target: With remodeled stores and a strong rewards program, Target moved up from #9 last year. Good for them, but I felt the big grocery expansion was only so-so, with prices that Wal-Mart beats every day. And I HATED their Christmas ads (the guy and girl carolers shaming the dad. Blech.)

8. Kindle: Yep, when your 74-year-old mom has a kindle, it’s officially arrived. Kindle has the #1, 2 and 3 best-selling products on Amazon worldwide.

9. YouTube: Two words: “Gangnam Style.” The most-watched internet video of all time. Thanks, Korea! (hashtag: #killmenow)

10. Google: Still Top 10, but a big stumble from #4 last year. Worries about user privacy, and the fact the Google+ is kind of lame, have hurt. But they have gone all-in with Android, and Google Maps for iOS was a big hit, so they are strengthening their presence across a variety of platforms.

What do you think? Are some of your favorites here? Who did they miss? Who shouldn’t be here? Let us know, and have a great weekend!

Free Stuff for Free!


Do you want stuff but don’t want to pay for it? Well, there’s a lot of that going around. There’s a fun article at that gives you the lowdown on a wide variety of goods and services that can be had for free or durn near.

1. Free cars

2. Free lodging

3. Free audio books

4. Free birthday presents

5. Free food for kids

6. Free samples

7. Free TV

8. Free software

9. Free anti-virus

10. Free Speech

11. Free foreign language lessons

12. Free everything

That last one is pretty intriguing! Admittedly, most of these require a little imagination and a bit of patience – for instance, “Free TV” means not paying for cable, but you still have to buy an HDTV set. “Free Speech” means starting a blog (yuck!)

Check out the article for explanations, examples and websites where you can learn more. So stop paying for stuff like a sucker, and start living the free life!

CES Show Part 2!

Hey nerd..."life" is already 3D!
Hey nerd…”life” is already 3D!

Back in the day, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the 2nd biggest show in Las Vegas. But we professional video gadget freaks always assumed they got a leg up (so to speak) by holding their show at the same time as the Adult Video convention.

In the 1990s, I always attended the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas. Back then it was Sin City’s biggest show of the year, where TV and video production people (like me) went to look at the newest cameras and special effects gear. The CES was just NAB’s annoying little brother – but times have changed!

The CES is now the biggest show of the year. This year 3,500 vendors exhibited their wares to 150,000 attendees. We talked last time about the many smartphone-related advancements on display, but there’s more to discuss!

Such as…

Wrist devices that stream content from your smartphone. They tell you when you have an important call, email or text message. Also streams weather, sports scores, stock tickers, and on and on. And the wrist devices are all digital, so you can create your own custom watch face, just like you would make a wallpaper for your PC.

Gesture controls. Sort of a remote without the remote, these allow you to control your TV, etc., with a series of hand gestures. A 3-D camera captures and interprets your hand signals. They think this is going to have a host of uses in the future. Hyndai’s even putting it in cars so you can control various functions like the radio.

Even bigger and sharper digital TVs’. Forget HD- the new buzzword is 4K. Also known as Ultra HD, it supposedly has a picture 4 times sharper than “regular” HD.

Even more intelligent bio-tracking devices. Miles walked, calories burned, all fed into your smartphone, where a fitness app tells you to pick up the pace, fatty!  Related: a Smart Fork that vibrates when you are eating too fast!

3D printers. We have a long way to go before Captain Picard can tell the wall to give him “Tea. Earl Gray. Hot” and it simply appears. But it’s pretty cool to watch a printer make an actual 3D object out of plastic. Heck, one guy built a working gun, which is pretty cool and very disturbing.

Here are some links if you want to read further! And have a great weekend!

(photo: getty-ces-image.jpg)

CES Show Underlines Smartphone Dominance


The big Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has come and gone. What are some trends that emerged or continued?

Well, one thing they have been saying for a while is becoming truer by the day. Single-use devices are dying. A machine that just plays Blu-Ray discs? A GPS-only device? A phone that’s just a phone? Forget it. Whatever it is, it’s got to do ten things and have room for whatever fab invention comes up next.

Like a smartphone. I know plenty of people (not necessarily old, but grouchy) who take pride in that fact that they don’t own a smartphone. To which I reply: “With a 70% penetration rate, what are you waiting for – and engraved e-vite?”

What’s obvious to me after this year’s show is that your smartphone is going to become a universal remote control for your life: connecting to your house, car, HVAC, media center, SmartTV, fitness regimen and just about every aspect of your life. I’d suggest you think about getting a second battery for your smartphone if you plan on participating in this connected revolution. The Data Doctor

If you are a smartphone resister, I know where you are coming from (the PAST!  j/k) I used to feel the same way. I only got an iPhone because I worked for a company that made accessories for them (and I could get them for free.) Also, right at that time a free phone became available. But once I got on board, I got used to the features and convenience. A smartphone doesn’t have to turn you into an zombie with your face glued to your screen. That’s Facebook’s job!

Anyway, there are a bunch of other, non-smartphone developments we will tell you about next time!  Here are some links if you want to read further!

Fun with Shipping and Handling!

This past Christmas, I ordered a pogo stick from Amazon for my nephew. It arrived in a box suitable for a 60-inch flatscreen TV, as shown in this TERRIBLE photo:


No big deal. I thought it was kind of funny. I actually cut down the box and made three more boxes for gift wrapping because I’M CHEAP.

It turns out that oddball shipping like this is pretty common, as evidenced by pics like these:

Bubble wrap shipped in bubble wrap
Bubble wrap shipped in bubble wrap
A gift card shipped in a box you could fit a bowling ball into.
A gift card shipped in a box you could fit a bowling ball into.
And… whatever this is.
And… whatever this is.

According to the confessions of a shipping guy as told by The Consumerist, “…there is actually a perfectly legitimate reason why that SD card got put into a box that could accommodate a pair of winter boots.”

Basically, it comes down to money, regulations, and productivity measurements. For instance, you’d think they could send the gift card in a mailer envelope. But bubble envelopes are expensive, and they go straight into the landfill if you don’t separate the bubbles from the paper, which we all have time to do, right? Didn’t think so. And landfill equals regulatory hassle!

As for the BIG boxes, they do their best to keep as few sizes of box in stock, to save on inventory costs. Or, they may have the right size of box but, during peak times, they just run out of them. At any rate, making all these boxing decisions when they are trying to ship 35,000 items a day really slows them down, and they get dinged by the head office for poor output.

In other words, RELAX ABOUT THE SHIPPING. There, I feel better. Check out the original piece for many more examples and the reasons behind the madness. And have a great weekend!

PS… Can you believe this is our 200th blog post? It doesn’t feel a day over 195!

Restaurant Job #1: a Clean Restroom?


An interesting question…

Of course, you have visited the restroom in Target. Have you ever noticed the paper on the back of the door, charting when the potty was last inspected? It says that “J.B.” cleaned and inspected the facility only 20 minutes ago. (I think they do this at Kohl’s, as well.) Does this inspire confidence, at least somewhat? Not that you don’t douse yourself in Purel anyway! But still…

Well, Some expert is claiming that Clean Bathrooms Are “Most Important Marketing Job” For Restaurants.

“Clean bathrooms might be the most important marketing job in your restaurant,” he writes. “Consumers consistently site dirty bathrooms as the primary reason for not returning to restaurants.” The Consumerist

I admit it: I am a (mid-level) germophobe. Whenever a store offers the wet wipes, I go for it. On my honeymoon cruise, you weren’t even allowed to enter the ship’s dining rooms until you had taken a blast of Purel—and I LIKED that!

Earlier, I worked in this small town with a country club. In the lobby they had a bowl of unwrapped mints on the hostess desk, across from the restrooms. The health department did their thing and, you guessed it, trace amounts of urine in the mints!!

What about you? Are you preoccupied with cleanliness, or do you think it’s silly? Let us know!

Express Lane to Frustration!

Seriously, don't get your hopes up.
Seriously, don’t get your hopes up.

There’s a study at that says using the 10-items-or-less express lane really doesn’t save you any time. I can tell you that, at (my) Walmart, I have found this to be true. Their express limit is 20 items. I once rolled up with 24 items, all apologetic and whatnot. The girl told me that they are not allowed to refuse anyone, even if you rolled up with two carts full like some X-TREEM Coupon weirdo. If you can deal with the hateful stares, loud sighs and epic eye-rolls of the shoppers behind you, then go for it!

The time-sucking culprits are called Line Stoppers…people who bring weird, special circumstances with them. You get them all at Wally’s…the guy trying to cash a payroll check. The college kid using three different gift cards, but only taking certain amounts from each. The woman with 30 items making three separate transactions for herself, mom and grandma.

They left out my favorite, though: Extremely Old Dude! This happened to me a couple of days ago at a Publix Market. I get in the express lane behind an E.O.D. He kept mumbling things that sounded like questions, forcing the cashier to stop and ask him to repeat himself. He did and, though she now understood the English words coming out of his mouth, she was stumped. Call a manager? Call a manager. Time to pay, so he writes a check. That is, once she was finished ringing him up and gave the total, only then did he pull out his checkbook and begin to write. “P…U…B…L…I…X…” Then he wanted $50 cash back. She gave him two 20’s and a ten. No, he really wanted all fives. Transaction finished… but time for one more joke. In all, not an “Express” experience!

Anyway, read the article and tell us, do you think you save time in the express lane?