It seems that everybody has a blog or is writing an article, or keeping
track of life and developments. Well, on this page called Alan's Notebook, I will be making some comments on this 'n
that -- stuff that doesn't exactly fit in our other pages. If you have any comments, please email me at Alan@AlanBestBuys.com and
thanks for stopping by.
Update February 18, 2013 California and California voters seem to like raising the state
sales tax -- and local sales taxes, too. Here in Los Angeles we have some of the highest sales tax rates in the country,
and in two weeks Los Angeles voters in the March election will vote on raising the city sales tax again. This time,
the supporters of the sales tax include business groups as well as government leaders. I just don't understand why and
how they could possibly support another rise in the sales tax. And I don't understand how voters in this city and in
this state can keep voting to raise taxes. They just voted to raise the sales tax this past November to help balance
Sure it's important to balance the budget and to raise money to keep
vital government services -- but raising the sales tax rate is perhaps one of the worst ways to do it. And why?
Because the sales tax hits poor people and hard working families the hardest. Lower income and middle income families
spend more of their income on items that are subject to the sales tax. It is a regressive tax, too. It doesn't
matter if you earn $20,000 a year or $100,000 a year -- if you buy a pack of cheese for $2 you're going to pay the same
While higher income earners pay a higher income tax rate than a low income
earner, there is no break for low-income consumers when it comes to the sales tax. If you buy a Hyundai or if you buy
a Bentley you are going to pay the same sales tax rate.
If the state and the city
need more money let them grow the economy, create more jobs and grow the tax base with more consumers having more money to
spend. That will generate more tax revenue without hurting people by charging them more. Help people to earn more
and government will get more tax revenue that way. That's what should be going on now -- and not raising sales tax rates.
If government needs to raise taxes, instead of taxing low income families and hard working middle class
families, tax those who can afford to be taxed. By this I do not mean taxing the wealthy. What I mean is a tax
on the frivolous. Tax luxury. Tax high end clothing, tax high end jewelry, tax high end entertainment, tax gambling,
tax the sins -- but don't tax the basics that hard working families need to buy.
suggest doing away with sales taxes on clothing under a certain price point, but keeping the sales tax on higher cost
luxury clothing. Someone buying a pair of denim slacks for ten dollars should not be taxed nearly 10% on the purchase.
But someone buying a designer outfit costing five-thousand dollars in a chic boutique should pay that 10% sales tax rate.
New cars costing $15,000 or less should not be taxed, but luxury cars costing $60,000 or more certainly
should be taxed.
There is another taxing issue that we should address again and that
is revenue from casino gambling. A few days ago the Rincon Tribe in San Diego won a Federal Court decision that the
State of California unlawfully over-taxed its casino operations and the compact for the Harrah's Rincon Casino in San Diego
County. (Caesars Entertainment manages and operates the casino for the Rincon Indian Tribe under the Harrah's brand.)
The court decision opens the door for other Indian Tribes in the state to change their compacts with the State and to pay
less tax to the State for its gambling revenue. One way for the State to make up that gap in revenue will be to expand
casino gambling to card clubs and poker rooms around California that are already in operation.
In 2004 there was a proposition on the ballot -- Prop 68 -- that would have amended the State Constitution to
allow slot machines and other Vegas-style gaming at certain card clubs and poker rooms, breaking the monopoly hold of the
Indian Casinos. That proposition was voted down, but perhaps it's time to reconsider it. We could use the revenue.
And I would rather see more revenue come from expanded casino gambling at already-established card clubs and casinos than
see it come from higher sales tax rates.
UNCLE SAM IS CONSIDERING ANOTHER PUSH FOR $1 COINS, ELIMINATION
OF THE $1 BILL
Update December 4, 2012 The US Government is again talking about eliminating $1 bills and replacing
them with $1 coins. $1 coins have been minted since the late 1990s but the small size that confuses them with quarters
made them unpopular. Even a change in the color from silver to brass really didn't help them to circulate. Many
people say they just don't want to carry around a pocket full of dollar coins when some "quiet money" (bills)
will do just fine.
The government's motivation for replacing
paper money with coins is simple: to save money. The average life expectancy of a one-dollar bill is about five years.
It used to be about nine-months, but it seems we are taking care of our money better. Really. I remember
twenty, thirty years ago, reading that a dollar bill lasts about nine months before it needs to be replaced. But the
latest comments are that a dollar bill lasts about five years. Perhaps this is because we are using more credit cards
and debit cards now, and fewer dollar bills.
I know shoppers
who will buy drive-thru meals or cups of coffee by swiping their debit cards. I see grocery store shoppers buying groceries
for a week swiping debit cards. So it makes sense that our dollar bills are lasting longer. But, dollar coins
would last 30-years, according to estimates. And over that thirty-year lifetime, Uncle Sam would save more money if
we all used dollar coins instead of dollar bills.
they not only replaced dollar bills with dollar coins, but they also came out with a two-dollar coin for daily commerce and
both are popular. Canada even wants to develop some sort of government program that will let you electronically pay
for things down to a single penny so that might mean Canada will eliminate it's one-cent coin in the future. Many Americans
seem to want to do away with the penny because they don't use them -- and they put their pennies in jars or leave them to
accumulate in the ash tray of their cars.
And if the
government does decide to mint one dollar coins to replace dollar bills, I hope that Uncle Sam will do the smart thing and
sell advertising on the coins. I am sure many big companies would love to have its ads appear on the reverse
of the one dollar coins and I am sure those companies would put in a large order of the coins for use in its stores. If
the government really wants to get a lot of the one dollar coins in circulation fast, ask McDonalds if they would like the
Golden Arches to appear in an ad on the reverse of the coins. I am sure McDonalds will order up millions to make
change. So would Jack In The Box and so would Burger King and I am sure that Carl's Jr would have someone like Miss Turkey
in their ad promoting a turkey burger.
Oh, do you think
those designs are a bit too much for our circulating currency? Well, did you ever take a look at some of the hokey designs
they put on our quarters during the State quarter program?
Since it's going to cost money to mint the coins to replace
the dollars, even if there will be long term savings, Uncle Sam might as well get Madison Avenue ad agencies to underwrite
the cost of the minting with advertisements. And then Uncle Sam will get a head start on saving money for printing
money which is why they want to replace dollar bills with dollar coins in the first place.
LIQUIDATORS IN CHATSWORTH HAS CLOSED. OUT OF BUSINESS -- THE CHANGING FACE OF DISCOUNT SHOPPING.
29, 2012 Bulldog Liquidators, the popular liquidator with an outlet store at 8933 Winnetka Avenue in Chatsworth, is now closed. Owners of the company said they might
re-open later in another location. The store was very popular for years, but in the last year or two the company lacked
the inventory of TVs and appliances that made it very popular among shoppers in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County.
The owners also faced high lease payments, and at the same time there was more competition from other liquidation stores and
outlets. An auction of the remaining inventory was held during the week, and Bulldog Liquidators just went through its
own store-closing liquidation.
Other discounters and outlets have also fallen on hard times. For years, Crazy Gideon's
Electronics in downtown Los Angeles led the market in selling big screen TVs, appliances, computers, cameras and electronics,
but it also was forced to close when other big name retailers decided to open their own discount outlets or decided to carry
their own liquidated merchandise in their regular stores. Online discounters also hurt the outlet business.
There are still several major
outlet and liquidation companies in the Los Angeles region including the Santa Fe Outlet and Sante Fe Seconds stores, ReMart
in Anaheim, Mary and Rafa's in Montebello, and several clothing and furniture liquidators, but Bulldog's closing leaves
a gap for bargain shoppers in the Valley as it was the last of the "general merchandise" discount outlets in
the Valley area.
I last spoke to the owners a few months ago, they told me they were not bringing in new merchandise and they knew months ago
that the business would close during this holiday shopping season. The lease expires on the last day of November, and
Bulldog pretty much went down to the wire.
In a tough retailing economy, discount shopping is almost an endangered species. Outlets
and liquidation stores tend to get more deals and more merchandise when the economy is strong and optimistic factories produce
more because optimistic wholesalers and retailers order more merchandise. The over-enthusiastic ordering process often
leads to excess merchandise which goes to the liquidators. But when the economy is tough, retailers and wholesalers
order less and factors cut back on their production runs -- and that means less overproduction or perhaps no over-production
and the outlets could be shut out of the merchandise stream.
The used car business actually operates the same way as outlets and liquidation
stores. Used car dealers depend on business being good for new car dealers because when new car dealers are selling
new cars, there are more trade-ins that can go to the used car marketplace. But when business is tough for the new car
dealers, there are fewer quality used cars going to the used car lots.
The bottom line is that discounters do best when main stream,
big ticket item shopping does well. It's almost like a trickle-down stream for outlets and liquidators. But when
money is tight at the top, merchandise and sales can't flow down the pipeline.
SHOULD HALLOWEEN BE POSTPONED? OR CHANGED PERMANENTLY?
Update October 30, 2012 Here we are one day before Halloween and it doesn't look like
it's going to be a good event or holiday. Here in the Southern California area the weather has been too warm for consumers
to think about Halloween, and the recent spurt in gasoline prices has strained family budgets. And in the east the Superstorm
Sandy has ruined plans for the holiday, and there is even talk about postponing Halloween and Trick or Treating this year.
But perhaps Halloween's date should be changed permanently? Perhaps Halloween should be rescheduled
for November when the weather is generally cooler -- and it will be out of hurricane season and we wouldn't have to worry
about another "superstorm" ruining the holiday.
the slow sales of this year could impact your selection of Halloween goodies next year. When it comes to Halloween 2013,
retailers who got buried alive for Halloween 2012 might feel cursed or bewitched and might feel the chill of a ghostly past
when it comes to place new orders. So you just might see lots of the costumes that didn't sell this year back on store
shelves next year.
HIGH GAS PRICES HURT EVERYONE
Update October 7, 2012 No one is being helped by the current high gasoline pump prices
that we have here in Southern California. Even the oil companies and the gasoline retailers aren't being helped.
In fact, because the current price spurt was caused by production cuts at a California refinery, some gasoline retailers were
forced to shut down because they couldn't get gasoline to sell. When gas prices jump up, motorists cut back on other
"gas station expenses" including car washes, buying items in the convenience store, and they drive less which can
mean fewer gallons sold and lower profits for the gas retailers.
The rest of the
community is also hurt. Families find their budgets stretched a little more. Retailers could see fewer window
shoppers and some retailers will find their sales going down because just a little bit more of the family budget is now going
to gas instead of movie tickets, or buying a new shirt or a pair of shoes. A price increase in gasoline can just mess
up discretionary spending in so many ways.
I didn't get a car wash when I stopped
at a gas station the other day. In fact, I didn't fill the tank. I bought only $40 worth of gas -- about eight
gallons -- hoping that the refinery problems will be fixed and gas prices will drop back to where they were just two weeks
ago which was fifty-cents a gallon cheaper. I also decided not to take a drive on Saturday night to an entertainment
venue I frequently go to. I also kept my car parked today, Sunday -- no Sunday drive for me.
Please see our new "Gas Prices / Southern California" page for charts of low gas prices from gasbuddy.com and these prices are supposed to be updated regularly. I
present the gas price charts for your convenience, but remember that the information comes directly from the gasbuddy.com
THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE
Update August 7, 2012 There are some things I would like to see because they would just make more
sense. For example, I would like to see an industry standard for ice cube trays. I'm not talking about the exotic
ice cube trays for parties that make star cubes or bunny rabbit cubes or cowboy cubes. I'm talking about a standard
for ice cube trays that make standard ice cubes.
Now take a look at the four ice cube trays in the photo. Two of the trays have one design and
two have another design -- and since the designs don't match the trays don't stack just right. You know what happens
when the trays don't stack just right? They spill and the bottom of one tray gets stuck on the ice cubes in the tray
below. If all manufacturers used the same standard design, buying additional ice cube trays wouldn't be a problem.
One of our national political parties could probably win a couple of votes with a platform that includes a national standard
for ice cube trays, don't you think?
I would also like to see local ordinances that require that
restaurants have a drive up trash container. Now some drive-thrus do have a convenient trash container and good for
them! But many drive-thrus don't. Let's face it, if you use a drive-thru once, you'll probably use a drive-thru
again and you probably have the trash from the last drive-thru still in your car. So the drive-thru industry should
share the burden of disposing of drive-thru bags and drive-thru trash by providing convenient drive-up trash containers.
Trash container at drive-thru restaurant.
Jack In The Box, Santa Monica, Calif.
On the left is a photo of the drive-thru at the Jack In The Box on
Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. The trash container has a chute attached which almost eliminates "misses"
and this trash container is located just before motorists reach the cashier/pick-up window. It only makes sense that
restaurants that offer drive-thru service should be required to make it easy to dispose of the bags and packaging that they
One more thing I'd like to see -- a rule against using
a cell phone while in a cross walk. Most people can't text and quickly cross the street at the same time. The
result is that they hold up traffic. And when traffic is held up, some drivers are forced to use their cell phones to
say they will be delayed, and that causes more delays and even accidents. So don't text and drive and don't use cross
walks and text. And the problem with pedestrians who text is further complicated when they are crossing a street in
a cross walk without a traffic signal. That means slow walkers who are texting can bring traffic to a sudden
halt and the traffic delay can be extended when the pedestrians are concentrating on their texts and not on walking.
CAN SAVE MONEY WITH THE INTERNET
Update June 25, 2012 Once
again, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the LADWP, is sending out its annual water quality reports to hundreds
of thousands of homes and businesses. This is important information. And it costs money to distribute. The
LADWP estimates that the cost of preparing and printing and mailing each report is 38-cents even though it is printed on recycled
paper. If there are ten houses on your block that's $3.80. Los Angeles has more than 4-million residents and that
means a lot of these reports were mailed out.
What I don't understand is why this report isn't put online? Sure there would still be preparation
costs, but the City would save on printing and mailing expenses, and the City of Los Angeles would be saving some recycled
paper for other uses. And let's not forget the cost of having all of those printed reports landing in trash cans and landfills.
I doubt many of the reports end up in libraries or on cocktail tables next to family photo albums or next to a hardcover edition
of "Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator."
The LADWP makes it clear that the cost of preparing, printing and mailing
each report is 38-cents. Ironically, in the report consumers are asked to go online to take a survey about water quality.
So, they can do the survey online but not publish the report? Wouldn't it be easier to send out a Tweet, or post on
an official City website when an online version of the report becomes available each year? And if they have to make
a notification by mail, why not put the notification in the monthly bills? Or just a postcard reminder would cost a
IT'S TIME TO CHANGE THE LAWS ABOUT PEDESTRIAN WALKWAYS AND
CROSSWALKS ON BUSY STREETS
Update June 3, 2012 If you
ever drove along busy Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California you would know that traffic can suddenly be stopped because
a pedestrian stepped into a marked crosswalk. Santa Monica has many pedestrian walkways without traffic signals and
according to the law, cars must stop and allow the pedestrians to cross Wilshire Boulevard. Wilshire Boulevard is a
major traffic route with cars zipping along and frequently above the posted speed limit. Having a pedestrian step into
a walkway without a traffic control signal -- a red light at an intersection -- not only puts the pedestrian in danger but
can cause a chain-reaction accident among the vehicles.
Ironically, these pedestrian
walkways are sometimes just a half block from an intersection with a traffic signal. A traffic signal not only would
allow pedestrians to cross streets in safety but also would help prevent vehicle crashes when one or more drivers isn't aware
of a pedestrian.
Maybe years ago when traffic wasn't so heavy pedestrian walkways
without traffic signals worked -- but today they're a hazard to pedestrians and motorists. And traffic is so heavy in
the area, that unscheduled stops in the traffic pattern can only increase traffic problems, frustrations and the danger of
Get rid of the pedestrian walkways in locations where there isn't a
traffic control device. Keep everyone safe.
WHY DOES A "FLYAWAY" BUS OPERATED BY LOS ANGELES
WORLD AIRPORTS HAVE A WYOMING LICENSE PLATE?
Update May 17, 2012
Sometimes you notice the strangest things like -- why is there a license plate from the State of Wyoming on a shuttle bus
operated by Los Angeles World Airports for travelers at LAX? I took this photo near LAX this past Sunday. I guess
there are a lot of possible reasons, but here are the questions that came to my mind.
they lease the bus from a company in Wyoming because there wasn't a company in California that could provide the bus or make
a deal on the price?
Is California losing any revenue because the bus has a Wyoming
registration and not a California registration?
Do passengers on the bus have the
same protections they would have if the bus had a California registration?
requirements for a bus with Wyoming License Plates the same as a bus with California plates?
Isn't there a law about getting a California registration and California tags or license plate after a certain number
Below is a photo of the Flyaway bus, and the response I got from Los Angeles
Late tonight, I was emailed this from Los Angeles World Airports:
"Flyaway Bus transportation is provided for LAX through Coach America which
is headquartered in Dallas, Texas and operates the Coach America Los Angeles office. Coach America provides bus service
in 26 states.
"While most of the Flyaway Buses have California
license plates, all Coach America buses also have a Wyoming registration and are covered under the International Registration
Plan (IRP) to qualify for Apportioned Registration. Apportioned registration is for commercial vehicles which may operate
"Coach America follows all the rules and regulations
set by the State of California with regards to smog, safety and fees. Coach America pays California registration and fees
and there is no loss in revenue to the state of California. The California
Department of Motor Vehicles has more information on this federal program at www.dmv.ca.gov/vehindustry/irp/irpinfo.htm
"I hope that answers your questions."
Yes, that answers some questions, but not all. We know the buses meet our
air quality standards, and we know that the State is getting a fair share of registration and road use fees. But what
troubles me is that some California company can't compete with a company in Texas? Don't get sidetracked by the fact
that the Texas company has an office in Los Angeles because a Texas company is a Texas company and I doubt that bus -- and
perhaps the others operated by the Texas company -- were bought in California from California dealers.
When I was growing up my father taught me that shopping "local" was a good thing to do.
It was good to support our friends and neighbors. Perhaps when our state and city have huge budget deficits and our
unemployment rate is as high as it is, our "city fathers" would be practicing what my father taught me a half-century
I am sure that LAWA was looking out for its customers and the City of Los Angeles
by finding the lowest bidder to provide quality service. If they couldn't find a California company to win the bid I
think that's a shame, too.
BEWARE THIS CELL PHONE SCAM -- UPDATE
Update May 8, 2012 This is an update of an
article here that I first wrote on March 18, 2012. In the original article, I told you to beware a cell phone
scam in which you are sent some kind of text messages that might contain "interesting facts" or "joke
of the day" or "daily trivia." And while you never requested these, your cell phone bill is getting charged
ten dollars or twenty dollars per month for the "services." What happened is that these scammers got your
cell phone number and then told your phone company that you subscribed to their service, and the bills are put on your monthly
The scammers are hoping you don't notice. But if you do notice,
they hope you won't jump through the hoops they set up to have the service stopped and the charges stopped and reversed.
In my case, my cell phone company told me I had to contact the company sending me the spam. That
wasn't easy to do. I was actually being charged by two different companies for two different texting services that I
did not sign up for.
One of the company's phone numbers went to an answering
service which could only provide me with another phone number to call. I called that other number and had to place a
request to have the service terminated and to ask for a refund. I did, and after nearly two months, I have
not received a refund even though I was told a refund would be sent.
It wasn't easy
contacting the second company. The phone number that my own cell phone company told me to call was a non-working
number. My cell phone company also gave me a website for that texting company -- and the website didn't exist.
Then my cell phone company gave me an email address. I sent an email demanding that the "service" be terminated
and that I get a full and complete refund. In March, I got an email back saying they will send me a refund.
And I still haven't received that refund, either.
What are these scammers doing?
Well, for the most part they are hoping consumers won't notice, won't bother, and won't pursue action. They must reason
that someone might be paying a hundred bucks or more for cell and text and Internet service so what's another $9.99 on their
bill? Well scammers -- I notice the extra $9.99 on my bill.
What really surprises
me is that my cell phone company accepts "business" from these scammers. I'm sure I'm not the only one who
has complained. A complaint was filed with the California Public Utilities Commission. And the CPUC came
through: they contacted my cell phone company, and the cell phone company credited my bill for the full amount. Thank
you CPUC. I should note that my cell phone company -- T Mobile -- told the CPUC that it was not at fault and that I
was, but they made the refund for good will purposes. Funny, they wouldn't give me a refund for good will.
If the texting companies are investigated I'm sure their defense will be something like this:
As soon as the customer told us of our error in charging them, we immediately gave them a full refund. Wow. I
am hoping the California Public Utilities Commission will find these scammers and ask them about how many others didn't
ask for a refund? And I hope the CPUC is going to further investigate how many other consumers have been caught in these
scams and why the phone companies won't stop the scammers from using their companies to scam consumers.
BECAUSE OF A GUILTY CONSCIENCE, THEY PAID ANYBODY WHO CALLED
Update April 12, 2012 The Federal Trade Commission just broke up a scam that targeted
consumers who were in debt. Here's what happened: crooks from India called about 600,000 random phone numbers in the
United States posing as debt collectors. When the random phone number happened to reach a consumer who owed money, the
scammers were able to convince the debtors to pay and the scammers collected more than $5-million. Of course, the consumers
didn't pay down their debts at all because the money went to the crooks in India and not to the companies they were in debt
to. What happened here? Well, it appears that when consumers are in debt they failed to check to make sure that
the phone caller was a legitimate representative of the company they owed money to. Perhaps the debtors had a guilty
conscience or were too afraid to ask for confirmation. Too bad. Together those consumers lost more than $5-million
and their debts are still on the books. The lesson here is to confrim who is calling you, and make sure you are sending
the payments to the proper company and address.
MORE TRUTH IN PACKAGING, MORE TRUTH IN LABELING
Update March 22, 2012 We need more truth in labeling and more truth in packaging.
It's good to know how much is in the packages of food we buy. That way we can figure our cost per serving, and our costs
for a meal and such. But we need more truth in packaging and more truth in labeling -- and the "more truth"
would tell us how much we can really get out of those packages. For example-- peanut butter. Can you really get all
of the peanut butter out of a jar of peanut butter? Watch my comments in the video below. And then please tell
me your thoughts in our FORUM by clicking here.
DOES ANYONE WANT TO CUT AND CAP CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATES?
Update January 16, 2012 I just can't understand why our legislators -- state and
federal -- are not talking about cutting and capping interest rates on credit cards? I also can't understand why the
general public isn't demanding it? Is everyone just accepting credit card interest rates of 30% or more as normal?
Does anyone remember when it was a violation of law to charge interest rates that were higher than 25-percent? Does
anyone even know what usury laws were?
When interest rates on certificates of deposit
are at one-percent or less, and when money market funds have interest rates of a fraction of one-percent, how can these legislators
allow banks and credit card companies to charge 15% to 30% or even more on plastic? And how can the general public tolerate
high rates on plastic?
If the legislators are serious about boosting consumer spending
how do they allow these high rates -- which in decades past would be enforced by the mob with crowbars, tire irons and concrete-filled
boots -- to be legally charged?
For months now, the Federal
Reserve's Open Market Committee, the policy making group of the Fed, has kept interest rates near zero for banks to borrow
money from the Fed. And banks borrow from the Fed all the time. But there has been no action about cutting credit
card rates that banks charge -- not by the Fed, not by Congress, and not by the state legislatures.
If the Federal Reserve is going to keep interest rates low to help prevent a recession and to help grow the economy,
then it needs to take one more step to fix the economy: the Fed has to make sure there are low rates for consumers and for
businesses to keep the economy growing. I find it hard to believe that banks can't make a decent profit with credit
card rates at 18% or even at 12% when they're only paying less than one-half of one percent on deposits.
and the Fed want low rates to help the economy they should slap the banks and credit card companies with limits on credit
card interest rates. Allowing banks to still charge 30% or even 15% is sick.
If the banks have a problem
with consumers who are deep in debt, the solution is not to charge them higher interest -- rather the banks should cut off
additional credit, and at the same time lower rates so that the debts can be repaid. We all know that consumers deep
in debt will never repay credit card loans with 30% interest rates.
And while low mortgage rates are being quoted,
the low rates are meaningless if banks won't lend at those rates. Maybe the banks should be forced to lend out at the
low rates every dollar they borrow from the Fed's "discount window." And
if the Fed is not going to do it, then our legislators should reinstate the usury laws that they repealed years ago.
IT'S TIME FOR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS, LIKE SAVING MONEY
Update December 30, 2011 Yep, it's that time of year again -- the time for New Year's
Resolutions. We all make them... and we all break them. Sometimes we break every single one of them. I don't
think I've ever kept a resolution the whole year... or even for one quarter of a year. And at my age, the only resolutions
that are really important are the ones related to health, so for 2012 I resolve to lose ten pounds. My doctor suggests
I lose 15 or 20, so ten pounds is a good compromise.
You might resolve to save money
this year, and to have a savings account, an IRA or add to your 401(k) at work. Here's a simple idea for savings.
I call it the penny a date plan. Here's how it works: on the first day of the year you save one penny, and
on the second day of the year you save two cents, and on the third day of the year you save three cents. Then, on the
last day of the year you will be saving just $3.66 -- and that's because this is a leap year with 29 days in February.
Now, that's an affordable savings plan, don't you think? After all, the biggest contribution day will be December 31,
2012 when you'll have to contribute $3.66 which is about what you pay for a fancy cup of coffee... or less than a fancy cup
Now, if you stick with my penny a date plan how much money will you have
at the end of the 366 calendar days of 2012? There are two ways to figure it out: you can simply go to a calendar and
add it up, date by date: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4... or you can use some algebra from high school. I took the easy way out... I
found the website www.algebra.com where some volunteers will answer your questions. This site is aimed at helping students, and at my age I'm like a
student of life, so I submitted my question and got a response. Here is the response I got from Edwin McCravy.
First of all, my thanks to Edwin and my thanks to www.Algebra.com and if you or your kids need help with a math question, here's a resource for you. When I went to school I had to go
over to Stephen Krawitz's house for help with math... but that was more than 40 years ago. Today, you and I just have
to go on the interwebs.
So getting back to our penny a date savings plan:
saving almost $672 isn't bad when you consider that the most expensive date of savings is only $3.66 and that day is a year
away. And if you made this a dime a date savings plan you'd have almost $6,720 saved by the end of 2012.
Too much? Then make it a nickel a date savings plan and you'll have almost $3,360 saved at the end of 2012
and your biggest contribution will be $18.30 on December 31, 2012.
You know the phrase
getting rich slowly? Well, this penny a date or nickel a date or dime a date plan
can help you to get rich slowly. And getting rich slowly is a perfectly good way to do it.
DOES HOLIDAY SHOPPING AND THE ECONOMY EVER CHANGE?
Update November 3, 2011 Below is an old TV report that I did about holiday shopping on
Black Friday in 1984 when I was at WTVJ in Miami. Ralph Renick was the anchorman and I am the young reporter with
black hair and a mustache talking to shoppers. The economy was good then and people were buying glitzy things to wear,
and grandmas were fighting over Cabbage Patch dolls. But when you think about it, nothing has changed since 1984.
Consumers are shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, real estate is an issue, and there is always some electronic gadget
or toy that is in demand. Take a look.
WHEN A COMPANY MAKES YOUR PERSONAL CELL PHONE NUMBER PUBLIC
Update October 25, 2011 This is a real headache for me. It seems that Hoovers,
the company that is in the business of compiling information about businesses, has listed my personal cell phone number as
the contact number for Agensys Inc. of Santa Monica.
I never heard of Agensys but
I did find out it is some kind of pharmaceutical company. The phone calls started about a month ago, with various companies
calling asking me about copiers and printers and computers... and then calls came for doctors... and then the calls came in
asking for particular people by name. When I had enough of these calls I finally started to ask the callers what company
they were asking for and how they got the information about the company. That's when I found out about Hoovers which
is owned by Dun & Bradstreet. Yeah -- that D&B -- the giant business information company that is one of the
giant coporations listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
It wasn't easy getting through
to the people at Hoovers either to tell them about all the phone calls on my personal cell phone and how some of those
calls come very early and some come in the evening, and every call is a call that I don't need.
It took more than a dozen phone calls today to reach someone at Hoovers who said my phone number would be taken
off the listing for Agensys. Really? In the meantime, if you're with Agensys those guys over at Hoovers seem to
be messing up your business as much as they've been messing up mine.
One of my mystery
callers told me Agensys is involved with cancer research and it's a pharmaceutical outfit. Wow, when they call me did
they get the wrong number. Well, maybe they'll want a TV infomercial produced about their breakthroughs? Or perhaps
they'll needed some marketing videos? Or maybe they need a part time telephone answering service? Excuse me, maybe
they need a full time answering service?
ONLINE POKER: IT'S A MATTER OF CALIFORNIA TAXES AND CALIFORNIA
Update October 20, 2011 Next week in Washington, a committee
in the House of Representatives will again consider federal legislation to legalize online play for money poker in the United
States. You might think that all of the "poker interests" are behind this kind of legislation, but the reality
is that many are not. There are 60 casino companies here in California who are definitely against the idea of a federal
online poker system.
It might surprise you why these California casino companies
are opposed to the federal legislation.
You see, these 60 casino companies which
include Indian gaming interests as well as privately owned card rooms and card casinos do not fear that online poker will
take away their business-- these casino companies fear that online poker on a national level will take tax dollars out of
California. They say this because it is likely that one or more of the giant Nevada gaming companies (it might be Caesars
or MGM or Wynn) will get to operate the federal system and that would mean profits would leave California.
Instead of a federal system, these 60 California casino companies have created their own California
Online Poker Alliance -- or COPA -- to push for legislation in Sacramento to create a California-only intrastate online poker
system. You can read more about this in several articles and see an interview with the Executive Director of COPA on
our "California Casinos News" page. You should become fully acquainted with this issue, because our State Legislature as early as this January
will begin to consider a California-only online poker plan.
At stake could well be
California jobs and where our tax dollars and disposable income dollars go. If a federal system is establshed before
a California sysem, will the jobs be created in Nevada and will our dollars go to Nevada companies and to the State of Nevada?
AN AGENDA FOR THE OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT
Update October 16, 2011 Despite all of the thousands of people involved in Occupy Wall
Street and its offshoots including Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy San Diego, there is still no stated agenda for the movement.
Yes, the Occupy Wall Street is making a statement for the other 99% of Americans and consumers who don't control the big banks
and the big corporations, but they don't have stated goals. Rather they have a mish-mosh of objectives.
So, if the Occupiers are looking for some goals and for an agenda for their movement, let me suggest
a few ideas.
1. Cutting and capping credit card interest rates. It's
about time we did away with credit card rates of 30% or higher when other rates in the economy are around 1-percent.
2. Cutting and capping executive salaries and bonuses. Paying any executive millions of
dollars a year, and giving severance pay -- golden and platinum parachutes -- of millions of dollars is obscene and nothing
that consumers or stockholders should be stuck paying for.
3. Passing along
the government bailout money that went to the banks, to the consumers who were overcharged high credit card and other
4. Forcing the banks, once and for all, to refinance mortgages
that are at higher than current market rates. I'm not going to advocate bailing out consumers who lied to get their
mortgages and I don't think Occupy Wall Street supporters would want to either.
Change the tax system so that higher income workers, investors and corporations pay their fair share.
6. Change the tax system to eliminate sales taxes which hurt lower income persons. And immediately remove
essentials such as basic clothing, and basic household and living expenses from the grips of the sales tax.
7. Change the property tax system so that homeowners and property owners are not forced out of
their properties when their incomes do not keep up with tax rates or assessed values. Ideally, replace property taxes
with income taxes.
8. Start to grow the economy because only a stronger
economy with more jobs will create the tax base needed to pay our government's bills and to pay down our debt.
9. End the needless wars that waste lives and dollars.
Turn foreclosed homes into rental units with a rent-to-own program giving those who lost those homes the first opportunity
to get their homes back.
Those are my ideas, and what I would like to see come out
of Occupy Wall Street. A copy of this also appears on our Forum where I invite your comments. Please click here for that discussion.
OUTLET STORES, CHARITY STORES, GARAGE SALES AND THE ECONOMY
Update October 15, 2011 Earlier this week, I was talking to the owner of a liquidation
store who was telling me that it was getting harder to find good, quality merchandise to sell because the manufacturers had
cut back on production because of the slow economy. He told me he was lucky to find the good deals that he had for sale.
And we discussed how he was not alone because when the economy is slow, factories do produce less so that there is less merchandise
that has to be liquidated later. Factories would rather produce the correct amount of shoes or shirts or chairs to fill
orders rather than overproduce and have to dump the extras at lower prices.
is why today, some of your favorite outlet stores might not have the big inventories they used to have.
For charity stores, or fundraising stores, there is a similar situation. Less overproduction can
mean less merchandise that's donated to charity stores. And that's a problem for the charities and their fundraising
efforts, and it's also a problem for shoppers who like to find deals in charity stores. Some charity stores are known
fo getting racks of new cltohing that factories and mass merchandisers are stuck with at the end of a season -- and if there
was less of the new merchandise at the start of each season, there could be a lot less to ship off to the charity stores at
the end of a season.
And now we come to garage sales. I think garage sales
are just the opposite of what happens with outlets and charity stores in a rough economy. I think when times are tough,
more families are likely to have garage sales and more merchandise and better merchandise might be offered for sale.
I think when times are good, fashionistas are less likely to go through their closets to decide which shoes or dresses they
want to keep. But when times are tough, they might decide to sell some older shoes or less used handbags perhaps to
get some extra money for the next shopping adventure.
In a rough economy you might
see more garage sales in upper-income neighborhoods. And you might find better deals and more inventory in designer
resale shops and high-end consignment stores.
When the going gets tough,
the buyers and sellers go to designer resale shops. The sellers can get some cash for the Louis Vuitton and Gucci
they don't use, and the buyers can find those "gently used" bargains at a discount.
All of these types of stores can be considered to be economic indicators of one sort or another. We
know that outlet stores have more merchandise to sell when times are good and factories are optimistic and overproducing,
and perhaps garage sales and designer resale stores have more inventory when even upper-income families need ways to get a
few extra bucks. What are your thoughts? Share them on our Garage Sales forum, and thanks.
OCCUPY WALL STREET AND THE VIETNAM WAR
Update October 3, 2011 Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, middle class Americans
engaged in widespread civil disobedience and even became violent -- occupying government buildings, shutting down college
campuses, rioted, burned and looted -- all in the name of protesting a war in Vietnam. It was a people's revolution
and it was fought by middle class Americans.
Today, middle class Americans are again
fighting a revolution and they are engaged in widespread civil disobedience and are becoming violent -- attempting to
shut down government and business buildings, trying to shut down mass transit routes including bridges, and trying to shut
down commerce. And our government leaders are warning of riots because of the impact that high unemployment, frustration
over a troubled economy, and a struggling middle class.
It is another people's
revolution now, but instead of protesting a war, it is a protest of what they perceive as the upper class' war on the
Too many middle class people have reached the breaking point and many
are broken, and with whatever resources they have left they have turned to protests because they have given up on searching
for jobs or creating work and businesses. It is a very sad state. And I am afraid it is going to get worse.
The middle class needs jobs, benefits, health care, lower taxes, debt relief and the upper class doesn't
want to recognize that they are in a position to help end what is quickly going to become a new split and the upper class
doesn't want to accept that they contributed to the losses of middle class jobs that were exported overseas.
The war in Vietnam polarized this country 40 years ago, and the war over profits and and the lack
jobs and who should be paying taxes is polarizing the country again.
WATCH OUT FOR FLOOD DAMAGED CARS FROM HURRICANE IRENE
Update September 18, 2011 Now that the Hurricane Irene and the flooding from the tropical
storms that hit the South and the East are behind us, the clean up is underway. Some things can be repaired and
some things will be scrapped including cars that were flooded. But some cars that were flood damaged will not be scrapped
by their owners because they did not have "comprehensive" insurance.
means the owners are faced with holding on to cars that will deteriorate from the flood damage (if repairs could get the cars
running again), or the owners will make some kind of repairs to at least make the cars sellable. But don't be fooled--
once a car is in a flood it takes extensive repairs to make the car driveable again. So you should watch out for deals
on cars that are really rip-offs because the cars have flood damage and got only superficial repairs.
Now that the storms are several weeks behind us, this is when those flood damaged cars will be coming to market.
Water does terrible things to a car. It's more than a smell of mold that flood waters bring to
a car. There is also dirt and a lot of damage to the car's mechanics. Water can destroy the electronics and electrical
equipment and what isn't destroyed immediately can fail in a few weeks or a few months.
if you see a great used car deal ask yourself if that car was in a flood? What do you look for? Look for newly
installed seats or carpeting which might be an attempt to hide other flood damage. Smell the car for the tell-tale odor
left by a flood. Look carefully in hidden places for dirt or moisture which are left from flood waters. Be wary
of any electrical components that don't work such as lights on the dash board, or a malfunctioning radio, or signal lights
that need more than a bulb to fix. And be very wary of sellers who will not let you have the car inspected by your
Frankly, I don't think this is the time to be buying cars from
online auction sites, and this certainly isn't the time to be buying cars that are being sold onine from sellers in the areas
hit by the storms. Very simply when you bid for or buy a car online you don't have a chance to feel the carpet for dampness
or to look for rust or to look for water lines.
In most cases, when a car owner has
"comprehensive" auto insurance, the auto insurance will pay for the car to be scrapped. But in this tough
economy, some car owners stopped paying for the "comprehensive part" of their auto policies and they might be tempted
to sell their flooded vehicles on the open market-- with or without repairs or attempts to hide the damage.
HOW THE DATE SEPTEMBER 11 WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Update September 10, 2011 Tomorrow marks ten years since terrorists hijacked four airliners
and struck America killing 3,000 innocent people, many from other countries, and changed the way we live. The event
also changed how we look at the date of September 11 or 9/11 in our lives. No longer is 9/11 or September 11 just a
day in the middle of the month. Now it's a day of sorrow and of fear and of terror -- and it is also a day of patriotism.
But it will never be a day for scheduling a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah or for having a clearance sale. It's hard now to
have a birthday party on September 11th even if it is your actual birth-date. The same is true for wedding anniversaries.
9/11 seems like the wrong day to celebrate anything. But it is a day to remember.
was in sixth grade when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. It was the birthday of Joanne,
one of my classmates. After the assembly when our school principal made the announcement that JFK was dead, Joanne said
with a wince "it's my birthday." You could tell that the date November 22nd would not always mean happy birthday
to her. JFK was loved that much.
But that was almost fifty years ago and today
loving couples do schedule weddings on November 22nd, and parents do schedule birthday parties on November 22nd, and business
conferences and clearance sales at stores are scheduled on November 22nd. Time has healed our memory and pain of that
Now, ten years after September 11, the memories are fresh. The images
are burned into our minds. We still know people who lost family members and loved ones and friends. And we all
still clearly remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about the terror and stayed glued to our TV
Just last month a client asked me about scheduling a special sale that
would be held on September 11. As soon as the words came off his lips he knew -- and I knew -- that it was not right.
We decided not to have our regular Best Buys Show on September 11 -- because it is not a day to look for best buys or deals
or bargains. It is a day to remember and honor.
And I think September
11th will be different for a long, long time. I think for an entire generation and perhaps for as long as a hundred
years, September 11th will not be a day for celebrating anything... and it will only be a day to remember and stand vigilant
We already have a Memorial Day. Perhaps September 11 should become
our Honor America Day.
BUY POP-TARTS AND NOT MILK FOR HURRICANE SUPPLIES, EARTHQUAKE
Update August 25, 2011 I couldn't believe what
I was seeing on the news today: shoppers in New York City in the local supermarkets buying milk for their hurricane supplies
as Irene approaches. Milk? Nope, that's the wrong thing for your hurricane or other emergency supplies kits including
earthquake supplies, because milk needs refrigeration and in an emergency such as a hurricane or tornado or earthquake you
should anticipate being without power.
And don't buy those dry granola bars either.
Instead buy something that doesn't need refrigeration, is pre-packaged in handy foil so buys can't get at it, is easy to put
into a pocket, won't spoil for a long period of time, and has moisture in it so you don't need to chase it down with water.
And what might that perfect food be for hurricanes and earthquakes too? Of course -- Pop-Tarts.
Pop-Tarts can be eaten without popping them in the microwave or toaster. They really are ideal-- and they are
tasty and they are a convenient sources of calories and carbohydrates to keep you going when you need energy. And they
won't melt in the heat like chocolate bars will.
Pop-Tarts are really an essential
miracle food. I know because I went through several earthquakes here in the Los Angeles area and several hurricanes
in Florida and Texas supplied with Pop-Tarts. In hot and humid areas the plain Pop Tarts without icing will probably
be easier to eat, but I do favor the strawberry and cinammon icings.
THE CIA WANTS YOU... OR YOUR KIDS
Update August 25, 2011 I was surprised to see what is on the CIA's website. Yes,
the CIA. Well, maybe I shouldn't be surprised. There is the usual information that government agencies
have such as news and information about the CIA and the war on terrorism -- and that's good. And if you're interested
in a career with the CIA there is career information including clandestine service positions including "Operations
Officers (OOs) are focused full time on clandestinely spotting, assessing, developing, recruiting, and handling individuals
with access to vital foreign intelligence on the full range of national security issues."
The CIA is also looking for accountants and engineers and various health care providers and technicians. You'll
aso find information for students seeking careers. All of this is normal.
then, on the CIA's website, is the section for kids, and there's a kids page for those in school grades K-5 and older.
That page has information about how the CIA uses dogs to help in its investigations -- you know, sniff for things. But
what I liked was the section called "games" where you can play at what CIA people do-- look at aerial shots of cities
or at photos and determine what you are looking at.
I liked the game where you look
at an aerial view of a city to determine the time of day, the type of industry, what day of the week, what will happen in
that city the following day. All the clues are there, if you know what to look for and can do it in the time permitted
before the game clock runs out. Gosh, it's enough fun to have any kid dreaming that they too can enter the world of
intelligence gathering. There is even a page where you can practice breaking codes. Check it out and have fun,
and maybe learn about a new career for you or your kids at www.cia.gov.
OUTLETS AND OUTLET SHOPPERS GET HURT IN A RECESSION
Update August 11, 2011 Some of us are outlet shoppers meaning we look to the outlets
to get us not only some deals and exceptional buys, but also as our major shopping source. Some of us are regulars at
Nordstrom Rack, for example -- it's the outlet for the regular Nordstrom stores. Some of us never set foot in a regular
Unfortunately, when a recession sets in, outlets suffer and there are
several reasons why.
The first reason is that the parent stores cut back on their
orders from manufacturers, and with less merchandise ordered from the factories, there are less leftovers to be sent to the
outlet at the end of the season.
The second reason is that some outlets are used
to carry lines of merchandise that were deemed "not ready for prime time" or not good enough for the parent stores.
But in a recession there is less experimenting with new styles, alternatives, and different price points -- so again, fewer
merchandise is available for the outlets.
And the third reason is that some outlets
are simply closed down, so that the outlets can no longer compete with the parent stores.
And everything is just the opposite when the economy is strong.
economy is strong the parent stores over-order and have leftovers that are sent to outlets, different lines of merchandise
are ordered for testing which means more merchandise for the outlets, and outlet stores are opened so parent stores can market
lower priced items to an audience that might want to "move up" to the parent stores.
DOES YOUR BUSINESS HAVE A HAND-WASHING POLICY?
Update August 4, 2011 When we eat in restaurants, or buy food from a deli or market,
we hope that the food handlers wash their hands after using the rest room. Well, I also hope that others we do business
with also wash their hands but I'm afraid that some don't. And I know that some customers and consumers don't wash
their hands either. It't time for everyone to change bad habits because there are too many reports about bacteria and
food poisoning and diseases being spread.
Last night I was visiting a local casino
here in Southern California for a report about "the best restrooms in the high limit gaming areas." While
checking out the facility I couldn't help but notice three casino employees -- two in uniform, one a manager wearing a suit
and a name tag -- who used the urinals and then zipped it up and zipped out without washing their hands. These workers
will later mingle with casino patrons, handle chips and money, touch machines and stations, even shake hands with casino patrons.
It's not right. This proved that the casino business can be a dirty business.
Unfortunately I also saw casino patrons who also didn't wash their hands. What is the problem, people??
Restaurant restrooms here in California have notices posted reminding their employees to wash their
hands. Diners in those restaurants should also take notice. And I think other businesses should also post notices
reminding customers and employees to wash their hands after using the restroom.
while I'm on the subject I appreciate businesses who have automatic sinks so you don't have to touch a handle to turn the
water on and off. And I appreciate businesses who keep their paper towel dispensers (the kind that automatically dispense
without having to turn a crank) stocked. And I appreciate businesses who have a trash can by the door so you can use
the paper towel to open the door handle and then dispose of the paper towel properly. Of course the best idea for a
restroom design is to have either an automatic door -- or when room allows -- to have a walkway around a turn or corner that
eliminates the need for a door.
And please -- if your business operates a public
restroom -- please do not have an attendant who puts paper towels down on the counter for patrons to use. I don't want
to wash my hands and then use a paper towel left on the sink counter-- I want a clean paper towel, not one that might
have picked up bacteria from a sink counter. Thanks.
MORE ABOUT PEDESTRIANS AND CELL PHONES
Update August 2, 2011 Below on this page you will find my article from April 30th titled
"DRIVERS SHOULD NOT USE CELL PHONES, AND NEITHER SHOULD PEDESTRIANS" and now I would like to write
more about this subject. I'm writing more about it, because I feel strongly about it even though it appears our California
State Legislators don't.
On Monday night's KABC-TV 11PM news there was a story about
prohibiting pedestrians from texting -- including pedestrians on sidewalks and in shopping malls. KABC showed that famous
YouTube video about a shopper in a mall who was texting fall into a fountain. And the state legislator who crafted the
law to bar driving while talking and texting on cell phones was interviewed and he said legislation to block consumers from
walking and texting isn't going to be considered.
Well, I'm afraid they're all missing
the point. It really isn't an issue when a pedestrian texts or uses a cell phone while walking on a sidewalk or even
in a shopping mall. If they bump into another pedestrian on a sidewalk or if they fall into a fountain there probably
isn't much harm done.
The issue that I am concerned about is pedestrians crossing
streets while on a phone -- because that can delay traffic and put drivers and passengers and pedestrians in danger.
Prohibiting consumers from being on a cell phone while crossing the street is the issue and that does need to be addressed.
ENDING SATURDAY MAIL DELIVERY
Update July 26, 2011 Today, the United States Postal Service announced plans to close many small post
offices around the country to save money and once again there was discussion about ending Saturday mail delivery. I
am in favor of ending Saturday mail delivery if that will help to keep postage rates low. And I have several reasons
why ending Saturday mail delivery isn't a big problem for me.
I'm not that dependent
on the U. S. mail service anymore. Many of the checks I get come via direct deposit. Many of my bills come via
email. And I pay most of my bills online. The few things that do come in the mail on Saturday can usually wait
till Monday. If it's a bill that comes on a Saturday it certainly can wait till Monday. If it's an invitation
to a wedding or a party I probably know about the event anyway so getting that piece of mail on Monday wouldn't make much
of a difference.
I think it's still a good idea for the Postal Service to have some
post offices open on Saturday to accept mail and to sell stamps and handle problems and process passport applications, but
that's different from delivering mail on Saturdays.
SALES TAX CONFUSION CONTINUES IN CALIFORNIA
Update July 10, 2011 Here we are more than a week after the California Sales Tax rate
went down by 1-percent and there are still businesses that don't know that the rate went down and they are still charging
the old, higher sales tax rate. I talked to a business owner yesterday who admitted to me he didn't know that the tax
rate went down until his sister told him -- and that was the morning of July 9th. I asked him if he had seen any news
coverage or announcement about the lower rate and he said he didn't. I asked him if he received an email from the Board
of Equalization (they told me they sent out something like 680-thousand emails to businesses about the rate change) and he
told me he didn't.
Last night I went out for dinner with my wife and I asked the
waitress what the sales tax was? She didn't know. And when I got the check, printed out with a cash register (not
handwritten) it only said "tax" with an amount but did not indicate what the sales tax rate was. I think that's
a mistake and is not fair to consumers. We should know what the sales tax rate is when we shop -- because the sales
tax rate will vary based on what city or area you are in. This is because there can be local sales taxes on top of the
State sales tax rate.
Here are some examples: In Diamond Bar the sales tax
rate is 8.75% while in El Monte it is 9.25%. In Anaheim the rate is 7.75% while in La Habra it is 8.25%. In Cabazon
it is 7.75% while in Cathedral City it is 8.75%.
Below you will find my original reports about how the sales tax rate in California
was reduced on July 1, 2011 and how some businesses did not know or just continued to charge the old, higher rate. And
there is information on what to do if you are not charged the correct sales tax rate.
RIP OFF ALERT: THE CALIFORNIA SALES TAX RATE WENT
DOWN BUT SOME BUSINESSES STILL CHARGE THE OLD, HIGHER RATE.
1, 2011 The sales tax rate in California went down today to 7.25% though in some cities, a special local
tax might increase the tax paid. Here in Los Angeles, the tax rate is 8.75% because of the special add-ons, but that
is down from the old rate of 9.75%. Still, some businesses today are still charging 9.75%. See my receipt from
a fast food restaurant below. The website for the California State Board of Equalization (the sales tax department)
says that the Sales Tax Rate for the State went down today. I haven't heard anything about it on the news. Here's
what is on the BOE's website in a post made on June 29th:
The statewide sales and
use tax rate will decrease from 8.25 percent to 7.25 percent on July 1, 2011, Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome E. Horton
The 1 percent decrease applies, generally, to all taxable transactions in California.
In areas where voters have approved additional sales taxes, the total tax rate applied to purchases will be the statewide
base tax rate of 7.25 percent, plus any applicable local sales tax. Retailers should check the BOE website, www.boe.ca.gov,
Part of a 2008-09 budget agreement, Assembly Bill x3 3 temporarily increased the General
Fund portion of the sales and use tax rate by 1 percent in April of 2009, and will sunset on June 30, 2011.
sales and use tax rate in California currently ranges from 8.25 percent to 10.75 percent, depending on whether additional
regional voter-approved sales taxes apply. Beginning July 1, 2011, the range will be 7.25 percent to 9.75 percent.
After making the purchase at the Jack In The Box restaurant, I called
the manager who told me that they had a malfunction when they programmed the change earlier in the day, and the correct sales
tax rate is now in their system.
So what should you do if you are charged the wrong
sales tax rate? The State Board of Equalization says you should first contact the retailer and tell them and you are
entitled to a refund. It is not legal for the retailer to retain the overcharge as additional profit, and if the refund
is not made to the consumer then the overcharge must be sent to the State.
way, I stopped at several gas stations today and asked the cashiers on duty if they knew about the sales tax rate going down
and I was met with blank stares. Is it really a secret in California that the state sales tax rate has been reduced?
35-CENTS PER REPORT AND SOME OF YOUR MONEY COULD BE
Update June 11, 2011 I just got in the mail the 2010
Drinking Water Quality Report from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. It is a useful report if you were
to take the time to read it. I doubt many of the city's 4.1-million residents do read it. And because there are
so few who read it, I suggest that putting the report on a city website instead of printing it and mailing it would be better.
The LADWP says the report costs 35-cents each to prepare, print and mail. If it were put on the Internet, a lot of that
money could be saved, and a lot of paper could be saved as well. The research is already done, and the graphics and
photos are already done -- so instead of putting them on paper and mailing them, put them on a website.
I HAD AN IMPERSONATOR ON TWITTER
Update June 8, 2011 A couple of days ago, I told you that I had an impersonator on Twitter.
Someone was using the name "Alan Mendelson" and the ID of "Alanbestbuys" while my REAL Twitter ID is "AlanBestBuysTV"
and I reported this to Twitter. And I am happy to report that earlier today Twitter removed that impersonator account
and Twitter notified me that it was doing this as part of its rules blocking impersonators. I am grateful that Twitter
took quick action because there were other Twitter users following this account.
true Twitter account has my photo. The other account did not have my photo.
was a very important lesson for me and it should be a very important lesson for everyone who uses these social websites because
someone could try to impersonate you also. And impersonators can cause you great harm. Imagine for a moment if
an impersonator sent damaging messages to your boss or to your client or to your boyfriend or girlfriend. You must be
aware of the risks of using social media even if you do nothing wrong yourself. If you do have an account on a social
media website, be sure that your contacts know your true site and true identity so you can block impersonators from doing
And because I have a business, I have other problems to deal with.
I am also dealing with other impersonators on the web. For example, there are several different companies that
have registered websites using my name or variations of AlanBestBuys in their website addresses. Some of these websites
have links to businesses that I do not endorse. And there are websites that use my name in their "search terms"
or "search tags" that might also try to fool you by making you go to their websites by mistake.
THE COLOR OF MONEY AND WHAT MONEY IS LUCKY AND UNLUCKY?
Update April 10, 2011 I've often heard that $50 bills were unlucky, especially among
gamblers. Of course this superstition makes no practical sense and few superstitions do make any sense-- but they survive.
Some superstitions are based on facts -- like breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck. That superstition originated
centuries ago when it took someone seven years of income to save up enough money to buy a mirror. But those days of
high prices for mirrors and low wages for peasants are over -- yet the superstition continues.
For generations our U. S. paper money has been called "greenbacks" and in fact for generations the back
of our money was printed with green ink while the front of our money was printed with black ink. But those days are
changing rapidly because now there are color inks being used on our new currency to stop counterfeiters. The more colors,
the harder it is to copy our currency. There is now red and purple and blue and green used on the fronts of our $5,
$10 and $20 bills.
But the biggest use of color is coming with the new $100 bills. Click here for another page about the new $100 bill that includes photos of the new $100 bill and there is aso a government video about
other anti-counterfeiting security measures that are incorporated into the new $100 bill. It's all very interesting
and high tech.
However, I wonder if some people might consider the new $100 bill
to be unlucky because of its use of a big, bold blue ribbon on the front of the bill? Here in the United States blue
ribbons are good. You win a prize or a race and you get the blue ribbon, right? But I just learned from reading
on the Internet that dark blue in certain cultures -- mainly Chinese -- is a symbol or color of death and mourning and just
might not be a good color for money.
In the past, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
has been very aware of superstitions and beliefs of the Chinese. For example, you can buy special bills from the BEP
that are designated as "lucky money" because they come from the 8th Federal Reserve District and have serial numbers
with lots of 8s and this is because in the Chinese culture the number 8 is considered to be a number for luck and for wealth.
In fact years ago, when the BEP came up with this idea and started to market these Lucky Money bills
at the Long Beach Coin Show, I suggested to the BEP and on a news report on KCAL that the BEP should do the same with the
number 7 and call it "Lucky Money" for gamblers. And yes, the BEP did come up with a product bearing bills
with lots of 7s. You can buy specially packaged currency from the BEP by going to their website www.moneyfactory.com and clicking on the BEP Store.
There might even be another problem with the new
$100 bill because the "security thread" glows pink when under a UV light. I remember the 1950s when "pinko"
meant Communist, and even today the color pink can be used in a negative and discriminatory way to describe certain demographic
So I wonder if the BEP might have been better off choosing different
colors for the $100 bill especially since the $100 bill is so widely circulated outside the United States? Perhaps a
gold ribbon should have been chosen instead of a blue ribbon because Chinese culture considers the color gold to be one of
prosperity, and perhaps the security thread should have been made to glow gold as well. There is a big gold 100 on the
back of the new $100 bills, and using more gold features might have been more appropriate too.
You can give your opinions about the "new money" including currency and coins on our Forum using this link.
THE TOP TEN REASONS WHY THE WORLD CANNOT COME TO AN END
Update May 24, 2011 As everyone knows, there was a particular prediction that the world
was going to come to an end this past Saturday. By the grace of God and other natural forces, our world did not come
to an end. Here are some of the reasons why the world cannot come to end:
There are still families that have not slugged it out on the Jerry Springer Show.
There are too many Chia Pets still on the drawing board.
8. Time Life Music
still has too many ways to repackage the music of the last thirty years with titles and collections you won't believe.
7. The banks still have lots of money to get with high credit card interest rates.
6. Chicago hasn't won enough World Series titles yet.
Lawyers have too many Estates that they don't want to close.
4. Dentists are
discovering new cosmetic procedures to offer.
3. Doctors have more tests to
2. The U.S. Government still needs to collect taxes to balance the budget
and to pay down the national debt.
And the number one reason why the world
cannot come to an end:
1. When the Chinese were told to start their "going out
of business sale" someone ordered signs that said "going out for business."
DRIVERS SHOULD NOT USE CELL PHONES, AND NEITHER SHOULD PEDESTRIANS
Update April 30, 2011 I am very much in favor of ticketing drivers who talk using their
hand held cell phones. It's not safe -- we all know that. And drivers on cell phones can't give their full attention
to their driving or the road or other cars -- and we all know that too.
And you know
what? Pedestrians should not walk and talk on their cell phones at the same time either. Pedestrians who are yacking
away on their cell phones cross streets more slowly, are oblivious to cars in intersections, and generally could just as easily
cause a traffic accident as a driver yacking away on their cell phone. Yesterday a young lady was talking on her cell
phone while in a cross walk -- and I am sure because she was so engrossed in the conversation that she didn't realize how
slowly she was walking which meant that my car and several others were in jeopardy of missing the light at the intersection
and delaying traffic. If you're crossig the street, please concentrate on crossing the street -- the same way drivers
should concentrate on driving.
I think it should be a law -- you can't talk on your
cell phone while you are crossing a street.
HELP FOR THOSE WHO ARE VISUALLY IMPAIRED TO USE OUR MONEY
Update April 26, 2011 The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has developed an app for iPhones
that will help the blind and the visually impaired know which U. S. bills they have and are using in circulation.
The app can be downloaded through the Apple iTunes App Store and it recognizes a note's denomination through the device's
camera. Any bill issued since 1996 will work using the app and as new currency is issued, the apps will be updated.
In the future, the government might add raised lettering or printing or even Braille symbols to bills to help the blind and
visually impaired use our currency safely. Go to www.eyenote.gov for more information from the BEP. I personally am very interested in the development of tactile devices or features
in three dimensions that could be added to our currency to help the blind and visually impaired. While I think it's
a very good idea I wonder how it might impact all sorts of mechanical devices including change machines, bill acceptors and
ATMs that depend on "flat" money and reject currency that is not "even" or flat.
MORE PHISHING TRIPS
Update April 3, 2011 Every day I get some urgent email that says my bank account is going
to be closed if I don't immediately confirm my account numbers and log-in information for their website. Of course these
are crooks trying to steal my information so I don't respond. What is really amusing is when I get an email
about a bank account at banks where I am not a customer, like Chase Manhattan. I'm not a Chase customer -- never had
a bank account there -- but every few weeks someone sends me an urgent email saying I must verify my log-in info or my Chase
bank account will be closed. I usually report these fraud attempts, and when I reported today's phishing attempt (phishing
-- trying to get you to provide info) a bank sent me this reminder which is good information for everyone to remember:
Unlike phishing emails, we will never ask you to verify personal information in response to
Most fake communications convey a sense of urgency by threatening discontinued service
Many fraudulent emails contain misspellings, incorrect grammar, and poor punctuation
Links within the fake email may appear valid, but deliver you to a fraudulent site
emails often use generic salutations like “Dear Customer,” or “Dear account holder” instead of your
The address from which the email was sent is often not one from the company it claims
OATMEAL SOUP AT MCDONALDS?
Update March 28, 2011 I love the oatmeal that McDonalds is serving at its fast-food restaurants
here in Southern California. That is, I love it when the oatmeal is prepared properly. Unfortunately, too often
the oatmeal that I get doesn't look like the oatmeal in the display pictures at the McDonalds restaurants. Instead of
a hearty, thick, bowl of textured oatmeal -- what I get looks more like oatmeal soup in a cup that contains more water than
oatmeal. I'm starting to think that a lot of McDonalds employees never had oatmeal and just don't know how to make it.
Part of the problem might be is that the oatmeal has to be mixed individually and while the oatmeal packet is pre-made, the
hot water is not pre-measured so it is too easy, it seems, for a McDonalds worker to add too much hot water. I'm surprised
that the folks at the Golden Arches didn't come up with a device that dispenses the right amount of hot water so that the
oatmeal would mix to the same consistency as the oatmeal in their pictures? If they want to keep customers like me from
returning the "oatmeal soup" they should come up with a measurement system for the hot water.
TAKE PRECAUTIONS AFTER JAPAN
Update March 15, 2011 The tragedy in Japan with the earthquake, the Tsunami and now the
meltdown at the nuclear power plants, is a gruesome reminder that we also need to be prepared here in Southern California.
Some preparations for an emergency make sense -- but others are a bit extreme.
is talk about iodine pills in case of a meltdown at local nuclear reactors. Should you run to your local pharmacy to
stock up on iodine capsules? I would ask my doctor first if I could take iodine and then I would wonder if I am living
close enough to a nuclear reactor to have to worry about it. You could have an allergic reaction to the compounds, and
there might be other medical reasons for you not to take them.
But there are iodine
compounds which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and they are available to the public. According to
the FDA here is how you can buy them:
Anbex, Inc., has made
Iosat Tablets (130 mg) available to the general public via the Internet. For further information on KI products, you can contact
these companies as noted below:
Anbex, Inc. for Iosat Tablets
(130 mg) at 212-580-2810 (M-F 9am-5pm), at 1-866-463-6754 (other times), or http://www.anbex.com
Of course having an emergency supply kit at home and in your car makes more sense.
Even if you don't have a formal supply kit, even extra bottles of water and boxes of energy or granola bars would help in a
short term emergency. Definitely be sure you have a proper supply of needed medicines on hand for chronic conditions.
If you want to buy a ready to go emergency supply kit check out our "Earthquake Preparedness / Earthquake Kits" page.
The sudden tragedy in Japan is also a reminder that when there is an
emergency such as a wild fire or quake that you might not have time to organize your files or escape with vital records.
So check our "Insurance" page for "The Life Link Safe" which gives you a guide to organize all of your family records and photos and
documents and lets you take them with you securely on a key ring that can also hold your car and house keys. Right now
The Life Link Safe price has been discounted to $19.95 with free shipping. Go to www.LifeLinkSafe.com for information or see my video report on the "Insurance" page.
NAOMI, I CANCELLED YOUR CREDIT CARD
Update March 11, 2011 Earlier today, while walking in a shopping area along Santa Monica
Boulevard, I noticed a credit card on the ground. I picked it up and called the customer service number on the card,
and reported in lost and it was cancelled. The card was issued in the name of Naomi... I won't mention her full name
I think I did the right thing and what Naomi would want me to do. You
see, I don't know if Naomi had just used the card at a nearby store or if it had been lost or stolen. While I could
have given the card to the clerk at the closest store, I didn't want to risk that -- because who do you know who to trust
Naomi seemed to me to be a careful person, because in the place where
she is supposed to sign her credit card, she wrote on the signature strip "Check ID" in bold letters.
Naomi is probably very aware of credit card fraud.
So Naomi, if you simply lost your
card I want you to know that I picked it up and called your issuing company and canceled your USAA Platinum MasterCard.
When you notice your card is missing, you'll probably call yourself to report its loss and you will be told that the card
was reported lost and was already canceled. I hope that pleases you.
that if I ever lose a credit card that someone would immediately call and cancel my cards too. Most credit card companies
can get you a replacement card in one or two days, and some can get you an immediate cash advance immediately. I think
that waiting a couple of days for a replacement credit card is not as bad as worrying aout what is going on with your lost
card-- a card you probably don't even realize slipped out of your wallet or purse.
DID POLITICS OR THE MEDIA CAUSE THE TRAGEDY IN TUCSON?
Update January 15, 2011 We might never know what caused a gunman to shoot and kill so
many in Tucson, but some have blamed political rhetoric while some have blamed media commentators and news coverage of the
rhetoric, while still others are blaming a breakdown in our mental health system, and gun control laws that were not followed.
What is certain is that the media is getting more scrutiny now that traditional news stations and news
networks have become "opinion stations" and "opinion networks." It has gotten to the point that
when you watch certain networks or stations or listen to certain radio stations or networks you don't know which is news and
which is opinion that is being broadcast. That's a problem.
So the public needs
to know what is going on inside the media and there is a new website that can help the general public as well as professionals
find out more about what is going on.
This new website is devoted
to local TV news. The site is www.the247newsroom.com and I am proud to say that I know its founder Tom Petner very
well, going back to when I was an Assignment Editor and Reporter at CBS News back in the 1970s. Tom runs a tight
ship with responsible reporting and analysis of what is going on in the business. Tom is a longtime TV journalist, newsroom
manager and former editor of TVSpy. Unfortunately, when Tom left TVSpy that site quickly deteriorated. Losing
Tom was TVSpy's biggest mistake.
Tom's new site has continuous
daily media updates, a job center, columns by media experts, directories for media information, a student section and more.
Give it a look.
WHO ARE OUR COMMUNITY LEADERS?
Update January 3, 2011 I moved to Los Angeles in December of 1987. That was more than 23 years
ago. And ever since I arrived here I wanted to know who our community leaders are? Most of the years that I lived
here in Los Angeles I was a news reporter for KTTV and KCAL and KFWB and I have hosted a radio show on KABC. And while
I was exposed to the leaders of various communities here in Southern California, I never really knew anyone who was
a community leader -- someone the entire community could look up to for help and guidance.
Yes, the leaders of various communities are important, but we lack a community leader or a
group of community leaders looking out for all.
I moved to Los Angeles from Miami,
Florida where we did have community leaders. Our community leaders in Miami and South Florida came from the same institutions
and organizations we have here in Los Angeles and Southern California. Miami's community leaders included bank presidents
and corporation presidents and people who were in the news every day such as Eastern Airlines Chairman Frank Borman and Dolphins
Head Coach Don Shula, and quarterback Dan Marino, and TV news anchorman Ralph Renick. You could count on them to get
involved in programs to help the community whether it was tourism, or jobs for teenagers, or fundraising programs for the
poor or fighting crime. And I don't understand why Los Angeles can't have its own community leaders as well coming together
forthe benefit of all?
We don't have a football team, but we do have corporations
and banks and other sports. We have large religious and cultural organizations too. And we have the biggest media
companies and stars here too. And we certainly have our share of problems that community leadership could help
fix including crime and hunger and jobs and health problems.
We need our community
leaders to come forward and lead. And I think we are ready to give them the support.
WHAT TO DO WITH THOSE VACANT HOTELS, CONDOS, OFFICE BUILDINGS
BECAUSE OF THE RECESSION?
Update December 28, 2010 All across
the country there are vacant buildings -- buildings that could not be completed or buildings that are unoccupied because of
the recession. What should we do with them? In some cases, the owners of those buildings are "sitting on
them" wating for times to get better. In other cases the buildings are owned by banks and are in foreclosure --
or perhaps the government now owns some of these buildings because they were lost to taxes? I'm sure every empty building
has a different reason.
Well, let me dream for a minute-- dream about using these
empty building to help the homeless, to help create schoolrooms, and a place to start health clinics, even training centers
for the unemployed, and even work places when appropriate. What I am suggesting is that the buildings should not sit
In Las Vegas people live in storm drains. In other cities they live under
bridges, or huddle beneath the overhangs of buildings, or sleep in abandoned cars, or break into foreclosed homes for a dry
place to sleep. Would it not be better to turn over vacant buildings to house the homeless, to give them a place that
is safe, and at the same time a central location for them to find food and health care, and job training, and child care and
perhaps a company can use space inside those buildings to add a work location?
I'm dreaming. I doubt the casino companies in Vegas would give up their empty buildings for housing for the poor, or
locations for certain work, health care, child care, schools and job training -- even if there were lucrative tax breaks
given to them.
But, I can dream about getting people off the street, giving them
a safe place to sleep, and perhaps giving some business an incentive to have a remote workplace where there is a labor pool
that just might want another chance.
YOUR THOUGHTS ARE NOW WORTH THREE CENTS AS COPPER PRICES
RISE, AND YOU CAN'T FIND A GOOD 5-CENT NICKEL ANYMORE EITHER.
December 29, 2010 The prices of the metals that are used in our coins are shooting up because of inflation.
Some common pennies are worth a lot more than one cent. And nickels -- those five-cent coins now have a "melt value"
of almost 7-cents. So if you were to invest in a two-dollar roll of nickels at your bank, that roll with a $2 face value
would now have a "melt value" of about $2.62. Hey, that's an immediate return on your investment of
about 30%. Not bad for walking into your local bank branch and exchanging two paper dollars for a roll of coins.
Now, what about pennies? Well, here the return could be even greater.
price of copper has reached a record high price and that means that a copper United States Penny -- a one cent piece
-- is now worth more than one cent if it was minted before 1982. Some 1982 cents are also worth more than a cent --
and these include ugly, beat-up coins that numismatists or coin collectors don't want.
you should know is that with the price of copper now above $4 a pound, a traditional copper cent now has about 3-cents
worth of copper in it. But before you starting taking all of your pennies out of your pockets and out of circulation
understand that starting in 1982, the government started making zinc pennies that are only coated with copper and
these copper-coated cents are still worth a penny.
So far, I haven't heard of any
metals dealers offering to buy up your 1982 and earlier Lincoln Cents. Even though ads are not appearing to "cash
in your pennies" the lowly copper penny isn't so lowly any longer. And that penny that someone might give
you for your thought -- it it's the right penny -- could be worth three cents.
BROKEN PARKING METER: I WANT MY REFUND
Update December 5, 2010 I really hate broken parking meters. You put in your quarter,
or two quarters, or four quarters -- and then the "Fail" message appears. Did you waste your money?
Did you feel like you had to move to another parking meter and deposit more money? Well, yesterday I parked at a meter
on Butler near Santa Monica so I could do some shopping at the local stores and inserted two quarters in the meter.
After the second quarter, the "Fail" message appeared. Darn! So, I called the phone number on the meter
to report the problem.
The cordial lady at the parking meter agency told me that
she would note that the meter was broken. "Okay, so what do I do now?" She told me that I could park
there "at your own risk" and if I get a ticket I could contest it in court. Wow. Imagine that -- going
through the time and trouble to contest a parking ticket for a broken meter. Instead, I elected to move to another meter,
insert another fifty-cents, and avoid parking meter hell.
But I did ask
for my money back! And the cordial parking meter agency lady told me she would send me a claim form and I was told I
could mail it back postage-free. How much is that going to cost the City of Los Angeles? And then I suppose
the City is going to cut a check to me for 50-cents and mail it back. How much more is that going to cost?
Actually, this is really what's going to happen -- because I've gone through this before. I report
broken parking meters. And I get my money back. Why? Because the City doesn't hesitate to collect money
from me when my meter time expires, that's why. I'll let you know what happens.
April 5, 2011 The City sent me the appropriate forms to file for a refund and to get the postage reimbursed.
It took the city about four months to send to me the paperwork. I can't imagine how long it will take to get my meter
refund money -- plus the postage reimbursement for maling in the claim form, so I'm just going to skip it. With the
price of gas, it isn't worth dropping off the claim forms at the post office.
DOES SOCIAL MEDIA REALLY HELP BUSINESS, OR JUST FACEBOOK?
Update December 5, 2010 I hear so much about how important
it is for businesses and organizations to use social media for their marketing. Facebook, for example, has recently
added Facebook pages for business. Marketing gurus are telling their clients to have Facebook pages and there are "social
media experts" who are charging big fees to maintain Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for businesses. And businesses
are hiring their own "social media marketers." I know two people who have been hired just to send out Tweets
and to post things on Facebook and message boards. What a job!
Well, does it
work? Does it make money for the businesses doing all this, or is it just another way for Twitter and Facebook and the
owners of the Internet forums and message boards to make money? Are businesses really helping themselves or these
other Internet companies make money by driving web users to these social media websites? Does social media marketing
I decided to run my own test. I put the question on my Facebook page
(caution: there are others named Alan Mendelson also) and asked those who see it to check "like" and even to pass
it on. Let's see what happens in a few days, in a few weeks. How many will see it? How many will bother
to check "like" or pass it on?
DANCING WITH THE FOURTH GRADERS
Update November 28, 2010 Ballroom dancing has been made popular by the TV Show
Dancing With The Stars, and now there is dancing with the fourth graders in elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley
thanks to a privately funded dance program called Best Foot Forward. The Best Foot Forward ballroom dancing program
is active at ten different elementary schools. And the program needs help. It needs money to continue and to expand
to other schools in the Los Angeles area. Ballroom dancing? Well, why not. It teaches manners, provides
exercise, and I'm told by the teachers that it also helps to improve math skills. Watch our video report below.
You can go to their website www.bffdance.org for information about how to contribute. But the website has just been set up so it might not be ready for a few more
days, so please check back.
Updated November 26, 2010 You'll eat turkey leftovers for a few days. You'll eat crow
for the rest of your life.
DO YOU PLAY VIDEO POKER?
Update November 21, 2010 Do you play video poker? Well, millions of Americans do play video
poker in casinos and online. I don't want to encourage anyone to gamble, and that's what video poker is--
gambling. And while there is some skill involved in video poker, it is primarily a game of luck. But, we -- as
Americans -- like to try our hand at luck in casinos and with lotteries and even bingo at Churches. So we have expanded
our pages here on the subject of video poker. You will find on our site pages about the overall game and using correct
strategy -- strategy that is determined by "the math" of the game. Unlike many other gambling games, odds
and chances can be determined and improved by which cards you hold and which cards you discard from your dealt hand on a video
poker machine. Besides the "conventional strategy" that can be found in books and in magazines and on various
websites, there are also unconventional strategies which quite frankly depend more on just plain old fashioned luck -- but
with a little skill too. One of those strategists is Rob Singer and recently I interviewed Rob about his play and his
strategy and for the first time, his strategy in some detailed examples is being made public here. Rob is a well known
gaming author and gaming news writer. But only we have his key examples of his strategy here and I'm proud to say this
has never been published before. By the way, in about 24 hours, there were more than one-thousand views of the videos
that we have here from Rob Singer. You can click on this link to see the first of four pages of these videos and his strategy explained. Than at the end of the first page, you will
find the links to the other pages. I don't necessarily endorse his style of play, in fact I would never make some of
the plays he suggests, but I think it is worth looking at them-- if for no other reason it's entertaining and it's free.
Thanks and best of luck to you.
WE SUFFERED A DOS ATTACK, A DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACK
Update November 13, 2010 You might have had trouble coming
to this website recently because on Friday, November 12th, our website hosting company Register.com suffered a malicious
"denial of service attack." What is that? Well, it's like hacking but a bit different. When an
Internet criminal hacks into your online account or into your website server, the hacker is looking for information such as
account numbers and social security numbers. But when an Internet criminal launches a denial of service attack (DOS
attack) the object is to disrupt your business by stopping your Internet and website activity and business including
Sometimes these Internet criminals will bombard
a website with lots of traffic to clog its server and by flooding the server with so many false messages that real
requests can't get through and legitimate customers and website viewers are denied service. In other words, the "Internet
superhighway" suffers a traffic jam and everything comes to a stop. It is Internet gridlock caused by maliciousness.
Think of this DOS Internet gridlock this way: suppose
a gang of fifty people decides to drive their cars to the middle of a bridge over a river and simultaneously the gang
members stop their cars at the center of the bridge -- blocking all lanes in both directions. Then, the gang decides
to turn off the ignitions and they throw their car keys into the river below the bridge. In effect that is what the
Internet criminals do in a denial of service attack, or DOS attack.
It can take a
while to restore service. Imagine fifty autos stopped on a bridge with the car keys thrown into the river. It
would take quite a bit of time to tow away the cars. With a DOS service, the Internet company would have to find the
source of the malicious traffic and cut off that source from reaching its website servers.
Why is it important for you to know this? Well, it's important to know because these DOS attacks are becoming
more frequent, and there is a danger that DOS attacks could be used by International terrorists as well as industrial terrorists
to stop government and business conducted over the Internet. A DOS attack can have many forms: it could be used to stop
all ecommerce, or it could be used to clog email accounts with thousands of emails sent to a single account in a minute for
a period of hours, or it could be used to stop website access. Hopefully these Internet criminals can be traced and
stopped and put in jail where they belong.
IF I HAD BEEN ELECTED TO THE STATE SENATE
Updated 3 November 2010 I asked those who live in the
28th Senate District of California to vote for me for State Senator in the November 2010 election by writing in my name
on the ballot. I did this because the State Senator in my district, Jenny Oropeza died about two weeks before
the election, and her name was still on the ballot. It appears now that Jenny Oropeza "won" the
election, and now there will have to be a special election. As I write this early Wednesday morning, the name of Jenny
Oropeza is leading in the votes -- despite her death.
a Libertarian and a Republican candidate also on the ballot in the 28th District, along with the name of the late Jenny Oropeza.
You had the option of voting for any of the three names on the ballot or writing in another. I'm qualified. So,
I asked you to write in my name.
And if elected,
I wrote here that I would do my best to cut taxes especially the sales tax and the excise tax on gasoline, and do what
is possible to bring jobs to California and to keep movie industry jobs in the state. I also want to give online poker
a chance to succeed here because it can be controlled and taxed and bring jobs to the state and keep California money from
going overseas. And, if I ever do get the chance to serve in the State Legislature, I would do something to regulate
interest rates again on credit cards and to stop banks and credit companies from charging interest rates that used to be enforced
with tire irons and cement boots. We used to have usury laws that limited credit card interest rates and it is time
to bring them back.
Well there is going to be a special election now to fill the
seat of the 28th Senate District in California. I'm available.
QR CODES, SMART PHONES, AND OUR BEST BUYS TV SHOW
Update October 26, 2010 The QR invasion is coming. Soon,
we will have QR Codes throughout our Best Buys TV Show. And soon QR Codes will be all over and probably on everything
you buy and every sign or page your read.
So, you might
be asking "what are QR Codes?" Well, they are something like bar codes, but QR Codes appear as squiggly lines
inside a square. And these QR Codes are "read" or "scanned" by smart phones and can link a smart
phone user to a particular website or web page.
We will be adding
QR Codes to our reports on various businesses and services and best buys and deals. At the end of each report where
we give you names, addresses, phone numbers and websites, we will also have a QR Code. While watching our TV show you
will be able to point your smart phone at the TV screen and then link to the web page with more information -- without going
near a computer.
Smart phones that are linked to the Internet is the next big technology
for marketing -- and in the next year or two just about everything will have a QR Code to allow smart phone users to immediately
check out a website for more information about a product or service. There will be QR Codes in magazine articles, and
on TV commercials, and on For Sale signs in front of houses, and in newspaper advertisements, and you will probably start
seeing QR Codes on business cards too.
If you haven't seen a QR Code and would like
to see what they look like, go to our "Ski and Snowboard Equipment and Clothes" page (see the index on the left)
and watch the latest video for the Ski and Snowboard Outlet. At the end of this report there is a graphic with the store's
addresses and phone numbers and website and there is also a QR Code.
By the way,
"QR" means quick response. Simply, it's like a barcode that links a smart phone user from a sign or a page
or a picture to a website. Give it a year, and QR Codes will be everywhere.
TRYING TO FIX THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM
Update October 18, 2010 Everyone knows that something has
to be done to fix the Social Security System because the system could go broke because there will soon be too many retirees
for worker contributions to pay for. Years ago there were many more workers than retirees and so plenty of money was
coming in and less money was going out. Soon, it will be the other way around -- more money will be going out.
And a lot more, because we are living longer.
Well, an email
that I got this morning has in it an idea which just might prompt Congress to really do something to fix the Social Security
System. The email is pushing for support of what is being called on the Internet "The Congressional Reform Act
of 2010." This Internet campaign wants Congress to take up this "Congressional Reform Act" which has
several key points including term limits for Representatives and Senators and changing the retirement system for members of
Congressmen as well as certain other government workers
have their own pension system that is funded by taxpayers. "The Congressional Reform Act of 2010" says that
the Congressional retirement system would be scrapped and Senators and Representatives would be covered by Social Security.
And "The Congressional Reform Act of 2010" also puts a cap on pay raises for Senators and Representatives that is
no more than 3% or the change in the Consumer Price Index which is the official measure of inflation.
Actually, these are pretty good ideas, though I do have a problem with setting "term limits" as this can
force out good Senators and good Represenatives who do a good job for their constituents. If you want to read more about
the so-called Congressional Reform Act of 2010 there is plenty of reading material on the Internet. I think the key
point about The Congressional Reform Act of 2010 and Congressional benefits came in that email I got which said:
"The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these
contracts for themselves."
DOES THIS MEAN THE RECESSION IS OVER?
Updated September 10, 2010 About a year ago, I wrote here
in "Alan's Notebook" that I thought we really had a recession because the place where I get my haircuts dropped
its price from $18 to $15. I reasoned that when a haircut price gets trimmed by three bucks it had to mean we were in
a recession. And yes, my stylist confirmed that the price was cut because of slow business. Well, a few weeks
ago, the price was back up to $18. Does this mean the recession is over? Perhaps. And if an end to the recession
means an extra three bucks every three or four weeks, I'm happy to pay it.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF WATER & POWER
I just got in the mail today (September 3, 2010) my copy of the 2009 Annual
Water Quality Report. Nice job. Nicely printed. Nice photos. Nice layout. Interesting data.
And then on page 15 I noticed that you said it cost 35-cents to prepare, print and mail to me my copy. I guess you also
mailed a copy to each of your other 640-thousand water customers in the City. Well, 640-thousand times 35-cents each
equals $224,000 spent on preparing and sending out this report. Could you have put it on the Internet, maybe, and saved
some money? Oh, I did note that the report is printed on recycled paper. But I wonder how many of your 640,000
customers will recycle their copy of the report, and how many of them will put it in the trash destined for a landfill?
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, AND BRING THEM HOME
As I write this on Saturday night, July 31, 2010, I am looking at the headlines
which tell me that July was a record month for American military deaths in Afghanistan. I am tired of this war.
I am tired of the deaths. But, I support our troops and this is why I want to bring them home. I thought when
American troops went to Iraq and Afghanistan they went with the purpose of getting Osama bin Laden.
I understand that we are going after his terror network, and that is why we have
so many troops facing death in Afghanistan and Iraq. But why can't we find bin Laden? Does it take so many
to find one man? Perhaps it does. But does the search justify the death count we suffer? I don't know.
I am tired of this war. I support our troops. Bring them home.
WHERE IS THE RONALD REAGAN MONEY, COINS AND
CURRENCY? MY IDEA FOR A RONALD REAGAN $100 BILL.
been about seven years since the first proposal was made in Congress to honor Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, by placing
his portrait on a coin or bill. There was a proposal for a Ronald Reagan dime to replace Franklin Roosevelt who has
been on our dimes since 1946. There was also a proposal to issue a special $1 coin and a $5 gold piece with the portrait
of Ronald Reagan. Most recently there was a proposal in Congress to put Ronald Reagan's portrait on the $50 bill, replacing
the portrait of U. S. General and President Ulysses Simpson Grant. So far, none of these proposals has made it
through the legislative maze, and probably for good reason. FDR was also a popular president so it would be hard to
remove Roosevelt from the dime. We frankly don't need a dollar coin because dollar coins just don't circulate much,
do they? And a special or commemorative coin wouldn't really get into the hands of the public that much and wouldn't
give President Reagan the recognition he deserves, in my opinion. The $50 bill idea would mean displacing another president
and that can be viewed as disrespectful in some circles.
This is why I think there
should be a Ronald Reagan $100 bill. Look, Ben Franklin who is currently on our $100 bills and has been for a long,
long time, was one heck of a famous guy and statesman and did wonderful things. But he wasn't a president. When
I go to the bank to cash a check and the teller hands me my cash and says "here are your Presidents, Mr. Mendelson"
I really want it to be a handful of presidents. The way things are now, I get a lot of presidents and a statesman.
Give me a $100 Ronald Reagan bill and all of my money will be presidents.
are other reasons why a Ronald Reagan $100 bill would be very appropriate to honor Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan gave
our country some of its best economic years, he gave us growth, a grand reputation around the world, and boosted our influence
and standing in the world community. The truth is, the U. S. $100 bill is used throughout the world, so it only makes
sense that the President behind the growth of the influence of the United States should be on the currency that is used around
We need a Ronald Reagan $100 bill. That would be a true honor.
If you agree, send me an email at AlanMendelsonTV@aol.com and if there is a good response from you I will take this to the next step and talk about it on my TV and radio shows.
100,000 MILES ON MY 7-YEAR OLD CAR
I'm not the kind of consumer who buys a new car every year, or every two years...
or even every four years. To be honest, as long as my car looks good and runs well, I'm going to keep it. And
so, with great pleasure (and financial relief) I am happy to announce that my seven year old car has reached 100-thousand
miles. My son Jason had his camera phone on my odometer as the odometer turned 100,000 along the 210 Freeway in Duarte.
Here's the video below of this milestone (well sort of like a milestone) event.
2,469 YEARS TO PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARD?
One thing I love about the recent law about credit cards is that credit card companies
now must tell you how long it takes to pay off your credit card balance if you make only the minimum monthly payment -- and
how much you would have to pay each month to pay off your balance in three years. Well, a consumer sent me their statement
for a credit card with a balance of about $7,500 and take a look at how long it will take to pay off the balance if the consumer
only makes the minimum payment each month. Yeah, it says 2,469 years. Your figures might vary depending on your
balance, interest rates, minimum payments and life expectancy. One thing is certain -- this credit card company is very
optimistic about medical science keeping this customer alive. Oh, and don't forget to look at how much interest it will
cost this consumer over the next 24 centuries of making minimum payments.
A NEW WAY TO CHANGE
A FLAT TIRE
One of the things
I hate about changing a flat tire (and oh yes, I get flats) is that you have to get on your knee (often in the dirt or mud
while wearing nice clothes) to rig the tire iron to remove the lug nuts. Another thing I hate is that it's awfully hard
to unscrew those lug nuts with a short tire iron that gives you no leverage. Well, leave it to some students at NTMA,
the machinists school, to invent a new kind of wrench that can help you easily remove the lug nuts and change the tire.
You can see the video about this and about other student inventions on the "Schools -
way, whenever I think about changing a tire, I have to remember the story that my high school football coach Chuck Holland
told at the fall sports dinner at Nanuet High School. The story went like this:
A traveler got a flat tire outside the front gate of a hospital for the criminally
insane. The traveler stopped his car and started to change the tire, when one of the inmates walked up to the gate and
started watching the traveler change the tire. The traveler did everything correctly -- he even put the lug nuts inside
the wheel cover (they were called hubcaps in those days) so the nuts would not get lost. But as the traveler was putting
the spare tire on the wheel, he knocked over the hub cap and the nuts rolled out and into a storm drain.
"Darn," the traveler said throwing up his arms and
yelling to the heavens, "what do I do now?"
when the inmate said "hey buddy, take one nut off of each of the other wheels, and use those nuts to attach your spare
The traveler looked at
the inmate, scratched his head, and then started to do what the inmate suggested. After a few minutes the spare tire
was on the car.
said the traveler to the inmate. "I'm surprised you knew that," the traveler said.
"Surprised at me?" asked the inmate. "Why
are you surprised that I knew that? Hey, I'm in here because I'm crazy -- not because I'm stupid.".
IT'S TIME TO
DO AWAY WITH PROPERTY TAXES
it's time to do away with property taxes and government should replace property taxes with another system to raise money.
Actually, this is not a new idea. In fact, in the early 1970s I was appointed chairman of a Citizens Advisory Committee
to the Rockland County legislature in New York to study the idea. I got the job because I prepared an editorial on the
problems and unfairness of the property tax and broadcast that editorial on WRKL Radio in New City, New York. My editorial
got the attention of the Rockland County legislature.
taxes have no bearing on one's ability to pay and for that reason someone earning little money but lives in a home that has
appreciated in value can be forced to pay a larger percentage of their income as tax than a wealthy person who lives in a
less pricey home or rents. Property taxes, for this reason, can be regressive. In a recession, when incomes are
down and families have a hard time making their mortgage payments, they still face property taxes with no relief despite their
drop in income.
Renters generally pay no property tax, except for the portion
of their rent that might go to pay the landlord's property tax bill. But again, the tax has no bearing on the tenant's
ability to pay, and some wealthy people who choose to rent can pay a very, very tiny percentage of their income as a property
idea back in 1972 was to replace the county's property tax with an income tax. The income tax could be a surcharge on
the state income tax or the federal income tax. I think that would be the fairest way to tax all citizens -- and not
just property owners. My idea was for the county to determine how much money it needed to operate (its budget) and then
determine how much in income tax was paid by county residents and businesses, and then add a surcharge onto the income tax
bill to cover the county budget.
Would it work, or a better question, would it be popular? Well,
that's pretty easy to determine. All the county treasurer had to do was determine what the average property tax bill
was, and then determine what the average income tax surcharge would be under a new income tax system for the county.
Then we could see if the average property tax bill was larger or smaller than the average income tax bill. The next
test would be to determine the number of residents who would see their tax outlay go up with an income tax surcharge as opposed
to the traditional property tax. My guess was with more people paying an income tax surcharge (because not everyone
owns property) the bill for property owners would go down and the county's tax burden would be shared more equally.
To be honest, the best part of the income tax idea is that
rich people who live in modest homes or who rent would finally pay their fair share for county government, and property owners
with low income or were struggling to keep their homes would be relieved of a tax burden that their lower income could not
afford to pay.
The income tax system
might even allow landlords to pay less in tax and that might even help lower rents for tenants.
Property taxes came into being in Europe when the main source
of revenue and commerce was farming, and kings would tax their subjects based on their crops and harvests. But we are
not a farming economy anymore, and our homes do not produce income -- they are a shelter. Taxing homes belongs in the
days of knights and kings and castles. In our economy and in our society, taxing should be based solely on the ability
If I were running for office,
replacing the property tax with an income tax would be tops on my list. It's only fair.
That's my opinion. What do you think? Send me an email with your
thoughts. Use our "contact" page in the index.
EL POLLO LOCO
MADE ME CRAZY. IN 'N OUT SHOULD WATCH OUT, TOO.
I like El Pollo Loco. I think the food is good, the service is good, the prices are right.
But at my local El Pollo restaurant, one of the counter workers who packs up to-go orders does something that irritates me--
and frankly I haven't had this happen to me before. What this counter worker does is open up the styrofoam containers
for the customers to look over their order. He says he does it to make sure the orders are correctly filled. I
told him not to open my styrofoam containers because I trust that the order is correct and I don't want the heat to escape.
I'm going to give you another reason
why I don't want my containers opened to expose the food. The "inspection" is performed at the public counter,
with others standing around, sometimes sneezing and coughting, and I don't need my food container opened up in that environment.
I'd be much happier if my to-go order was packed into a closed
container by the "grillmaster" and his assistants by the grill and not having the closed container opened amid public
sneezes and coughs.
Come to think of it, In 'N Out my favorite hamburger chain, does the same thing with eat-in orders.
The burgers and fries and loaded onto a tray and kept on a counter with public access where those burgers and fries can be
eaten up by all kinds of bacteria and viruses that come from nearby coughs and sneezes. At the In 'N Outs I go to, there
is usually a crowd waiting for their food at this very same counter so the chances of germ exposure are very high. Honestly,
I feel healthier having my food delivered to me through the drive-thru window at In 'N Out.
I could just rave about how delicious In 'N Out burgers are-- but I think their fries are not as good as those that come from
the Golden Arches. What I want to say-- and I think this is more important-- is that In 'N Out does a very smart thing
in its bathrooms (at least the men's rooms I've been in). In 'N Out has a trash can right next to the bathroom door,
so that when you open the door with a towel after washing your hands you can simply drop the paper towel into the conveniently
located trash can. I hate restaurant bathrooms, in fact I hate any public bathroom, that makes it impossible to wash
your hands and then use a paper towel to open the door and then dispose of the towel properly.
Below, on this page, I wrote about my complaints with restroom
attendants. So if you agree with what I wrote abover there is a "stuff" below.
THE NEW "LESS
PLASTIC" WATER BOTTLES
having trouble with the new water bottles that are made with "less plastic." All of the water bottles seem
to have less plastic these days in an attempt to boost sales among eco-minded consumers. But the problem I am having
is that I am spilling water each time I open a bottle. It seems that there is less plastic and less space so when I hold the bottle to remove the screw cap, water comes out. It also might be that
the new "less plastic" water bottles are made to be more flexible for crushing and recycling. The flexible
bottles might be good for crushing and recycling but they do create a mess when I'm trying to open one for drinking.
THE CITY OF AZUSA GETS
A NEW TARGET
I was pleased to be
the master of ceremonies in early December, 2009 as Azusa City Officials and officials of Target broke ground for a new Target
department store in the main commercial district of Azusa. This new department store will mean several hundred new jobs
once the Target is opened, and there will be hundreds of construction jobs while the store is built over the next year or
so. Next, there will be a new supermarket and train station and new offices and shopping in what will be the new central
business district of Azusa. It was a great afternoon as City and Target officials spoke to the Azusa residents about
the new project and the new growth. I congratulated Target for taking an initiative to help end the recession because
the new store and spending and employment will have a big impact. it takes spending to end this recession. Watch
the video of the event below.
DID YOU FILE YOUR
INCOME TAXES LATE?
my 2008 state and federal income taxes late, and legally. I filed for the IRS extension before April 15, 2009 and I
took advantage of California's automatic 6 month extension. I did it right -- and mailed in both my federal and state
tax returns on October 4, 2009 well before the October 15th deadline. I used certified mail, and I'm glad I did.
I got a chuckle out of this, so please read on.
First, my federal return. As I said, it was mailed on
October 4, 2009, and I sent it with a "return receipt." When I got the return receipt postcard in the mail,
the IRS stamped it as "Received Sep 08 2009" -- yep, it was marked received in September, even though I mailed it
Now, my state
return. Here, the state did nothing wrong-- but you have to wonder about the U.S. Postal Service. Remember, I
mailed my state return along with my federal return on October 4 -- also certified mail, so I have the receipt from the post
office. For a couple of weeks there was no "return receipt" from the state in my mailbox which made me wonder--
was my tax return delivered or was the return receipt "lost" in the mail?
Well, this morning (October 31st) I got my answer. I went to the Postal
Service website at usps.com and entered my certified mail tracking number and discovered that my tax return that was mailed
on October 4th wasn't delivered until October 29th. Amazing.
Fortunately for me it was mailed well before October 15th, and I have the proof, and there is
a dated postmark from the Postal Service on my envelope sent to the state -- so I won't get hit with a late filing penalty
from the state.
is a lesson here-- if you are going to mail in your return, make sure you get the appropriate receipts and return receipts.
Better yet, use electronic filing if you can. Unfortunately, my tax returns were a bit complicated and electronic filing
was not available for me. In the past I used electronic filing and then you'll know in a day or two that your return
is complete and accepted.
you know if my tax friends in Sacramento have anything to say about my tax return arriving well after October 15th.
I SURVIVED MY SMOG
There are two things
I hate about owning a car and driving. One is that every few years I have to go to the DMV to have my vision checked.
I survived my last vision check this past April because I underwent cataract surgery and I have crystal clear vision again--
and my new license does not have that stigmatic notation about "corrective lenses."
The other thing I hate is the smog check. This morning (October 26)
I took my 2003 model car for its first smog check. I feared the worst, and when I drove up to the smog check station
the first thing the attendant said to me was "if you don't pass today you have 30 days to come back for a free re-test."
The smog check wasn't cheap
either -- $70 at the smog check place I went to on Santa Monica Boulevard. But I was really afraid of failing the smog
check and facing a mechanic and perhaps hundreds of dollars in repair bills.
Lots of fear, lots of worry, and all for nothing it turned out. The smog check took all
of three minutes, I passed, and a few blocks away from the smog check facility was an Auto Club office where members could
renew their auto registration with virtually no waiting and no line. In less than five minutes I had my paperwork done
and a new sticker on the back license plate of my car. Now, I just have to worry that no one rips off my 2010 sticker.
HOW DO THOSE DUST
MITES GET INTO MY MATTRESS?
have been a lot of commercials on radio and TV lately talking about how mattresses are loaded with pounds and pounds of dust
mites after only a few years. I did some research on the Internet and found all sorts of icky facts about dust mites,
including that a typical used mattress can have
from 100,000 to 10 million mites inside. I also learned on the web that a mite is not visible to the naked eye and you
need at least a magnification of ten (10X) to see one. And for most people, dust mites pose no health risk at all.
There is so much information about dust mites in those web
articles and in those radio and TV commercials but not one of those messages has told me how
dust mites get into my mattress. That's my question -- just how do those ugly dust mites get into the mattress?
I took a good look at my mattress the other day when I was changing the sheets and sure enough there are no doors or windows
on my mattress. And the stitching around the mattress was secure and tight so there were no open flaps for the mighty
mites to take over the mattress.
how do those millions of mites get in? Well, it must be their tiny size. They are so small, they must wiggle their
way through the strands of fabric to join up with the others millions of mites at the dust mites party and then join up, and
make baby mites and live generations with generations. (That reminds me of a story my Dad told me when I was growing
up about how his father came to the United States around 1900, landed at Ellis Island, and then went to live in an apartment
with lots of relatives from the old country.)
tiny size of mites makes the most sense for how they get into mattresses and pillows. This is perhaps why there are
anti-dust mite mattress covers and pillow that are plastic sheets or made out of specially woven fabrics.
But remember what I said earlier -- for most people mites are
not a problem. And, with all those mites, you never have to worry about being alone.
WHEN YOU HAVE
YOUR OWN BLOG OR WEBSITE...
thousands of us, perhaps millions of us, know that when you have your own blog or website or Facebook account or other "social
media website" you can write just about whatever you want for the world to see. On this website I've taken the
time to write about my kidney and pancreas transplant surgery and I hope you'll read that article. You'll find it listed
in the index on the left.
I was very
encouraged to watch the news report about Steve Jobs returning to work at Apple and Jobs telling the assembled workers at
Apple that he was so very grateful to be there, to be alive, and that the organs of a young man were made available through
donation. I also wrote about that, and I hope many of you will consider being a donor not only if you die, but a donor
of certain organs such as a kidney which can be transplanted while you are still alive.
So having a blog or a website or a Facebook page allows someone like me to
express thoughts for the greater good. Steve Jobs doesn't need a blog for that -- because when he says something the
media is immediately there to hear it, record it, and spread the word.
Then, when you have your own blog or website, you can say some things that are incidental to life
that perhaps have been on your mind for a few days, or a few weeks, or a few years.
Now I'd like to share a thought with you that has been on my mind for a long,
long time -- and I don't mean years, I mean decades: What happened to Jill Lillian
You must be asking:
"Who is Jill Lillian Owen?" Well, Jill Lillian Owen was the penpal I was given by the computer at the Parker
Pen exhibit at the New York World's Fair in 1964. Yep, that Jill Lillian Owen.
Let me tell you about Jill Lillian Owen and perhaps she might
read this herself through the wonders and far reach of the Internet, or you might be able to tell me where she is today.
Jill Lillian Owen was selected as my penpal after I filled out a form at the Parker Pen exhibit. The form asked for
my interests and at the time they included collecting coins and stamps. It turns out that Jill also collected coins
and stamps. At the time I was a nerd living in the suburbs of New York City, and she was a rocker living in London. As she explained it to me, there were two major social groups among youngsters
in London at the time -- there were Mods and there were Rockers
and she was a Rocker. But being a coin collector at the age of 12 in Rockland County, New York, I was a nerd.
Jill Lillian Owen lived at 25
Dyers Hall Road in a section of London called Leytonstone. Yep I remember the address after all these years -- that's
45 years since the 1964 New York World's Fair. We exchanged many letters over the next couple of years, and we even
traded coins and stamps through the mail. I remember sending her some John F. Kennedy half dollars from 1964 -- the
first year of issue -- which were immediately hoarded and were very hard to come by. And in turn she sent me some Churchill
Crowns from England which honored Sir Winston who died about the same time as JFK. We exchanged some stamps too.
And then, Jill Lillian Owen and I lost touch. I don't
remember when but it had to be sometime during junior high school or perhaps maybe as late as senior high school. But
I never forgot her name and that Jill Lillian Owen lived at 25 Dyers Hall Road, Leytonstone, London, England.
I even remembered that in 1978 when I had some free time on
the Assignment Desk at CBS News in New York. That's when I picked up the phone at the assignment desk and called information
in London to see if there was a listing for the Owens at 25 Dyers Hall Road, Leytonstone.
There wasn't. And there was no listing for a Jill Lillian Owen either, but by that time she might have been married
and had a different last name.
that's why I wrote this article -- to find out where Jill Lillian Owen is today? And perhaps one day Jill Lillian Owen
or a descendant of her or a relative of her will do a Google Search of her and might
find this article. They say the Internet is bringing the world together. I wonder if it can help me track down
Jill Lillian Owen. Yes, I even looked at Google Maps and found out exactly were
25 Dyers Hall Road is, and I even got to see a picture of the neighborhood. But my web search could not help me find
Jill Lillian Owen. I wonder if she still has those Kennedy Half Dollars from 1964 and if she remembered me all these
WITH RESTROOM ATTENDANTS
I use a public restroom where there is an enthusiastic attendant. He is so enthusiastic that as I am washing my hands
he will place several paper towels on the counter next to me for me to use to dry my hands. But, after washing my hands
with soap and water (and using a hands-free or touch-free sink) why would I want to pick up paper towels from the dirty counter
to dry my hands?
To be frank about
this, after washing my hands with soap and water, I want to take paper towels from a hands-free or touch-free dispenser, like
those dispensers with an "electric eye." I definitely don't want to pick up towels that the attendant has
touched and placed on the bathroom sink counter.
since hygiene is so important these days, and handwashing is so vital to prevent the spread of diseases, I think all public
restrooms should be required to have touch-free or hands-free urinals, toilets, sinks and towel dispensers. Some of
the casinos in Las Vegas and here in California have these and I thank them for that. And I think all public restrooms
should be equipped that way.
it may be hardship for existing restrooms to have their facilities and equipment changed, but I think all future construction
should require hands-free devices.
I have one more gripe: after washing my hands, I'm supposed to grab hold of a door handle to open the restroom door?
You gotta be kidding me! So what I do, and maybe you do this too, is take a clean paper towel and use that to open the
door. So please have a trash can near the door so that I can throw my paper towel into the trash can after using it
to open the door. Thank you.
I a little nuts about this? Send me an email and let me know your thoughts. (Go to our "Contact Us"
page for the email address.)
I PUSHED THE
EMERGENCY STOP BUTTON ON AN ESCALATOR
happened Sunday afternoon (August 9, 2009) at the shopping mall in Century City. The young lady in front of me on a
down escalator was wearing a long, blue dress and -- you guessed it -- the bottom on her dress got caught between the steps
of the moving escalator at the bottom landing. She was stuck -- the escalator would not "let go" and she couldn't
pull her dress out of the mechanism.
saw she was "stuck" and I stepped around her so I wouldn't hit her, and while standing on the bottom landing I tried
to help pull her dress out of the moving escalator -- but I couldn't. That's when my wife said "watch out,"
and I looked up to see the escalator was now crowded with passengers and we were about to have the first wave of passengers
hit us as we stood on the bottom landing, tugging at the caught dress. That's when I stood up, found the "emergency
stop button," lifted the shield over the button and pushed it.
The escalator stopped just in time -- and none of the riders hit the young lady who was trapped
at the bottom, though some of the passengers on the escalator lost their balance but did not fall.
Security was called, and the young lady and her friend were
safe and waited patiently for the dress to be cut or the mechanism to be opened to get the dress "unstuck."
On the ride home from the Century City mall, Shelley and I
talked about the incident. First, Shelley says she is always careful to lift a long dress several inches when riding
on escalators and she said other gals wearing long dresses should remember to do the same. Secondly, she said there
should be a warning sign to watch loose clothing on escalators. What came to mind for me is that riders on escalators
should definitely hold onto the handrail in case there is an emergency stop -- and I know a lot of us don't like to touch
the handrail because we are generally "germ phobic" and those handrails are not the cleanest.
In fact, about a year ago I was in a Las Vegas casino on a
crowded escalator when the emergency stop button was pushed. I don't know why it was pushed but when it was pushed a
half dozen or so escalator riders lost their balance and fell.
Also, when you have completed your trip down an escalator, quickly walk away from the landing
so that you make room for others getting off the escalator and you don't cause a pileup at the landing.
And one more safety point and this might be the most important,
and it applied to this incident at the Century City shopping mall: That emergency shut off button should be easier to
see, and more clearly marked. While the button was right where it was supposed to be -- at the bottom of the escalator
and within easy reach of the bottom landing-- the shield over the button had faded so that the words indicating it was an
emergency stop button were not easy to read.
time to time we hear of horrible accidents that happen on escalators because clothing can get stuck. Thankfully, no
one was hurt this time.
IT'S TIME TO
OPT OUT OF PHONE BOOKS
writing this in the middle of June, and do you know what that means? It means it's time for new phone books. Today
a Yellow Pages directory was dropped off. The next phone book could be the white pages of company X, and then might
come the white pages of company Y, and then the yellow pages of company B, and.... Well, you get the idea. And
you know exactly what I'm talking about. Ever since the break-up of Ma Bell into the Baby Bells back in the early 1980's
we've been swamped with competing telephone books and directories from all sorts of companies. The publishing of phone
books has become an American excess.
many phone books does a family need? And these days, with everyone going on line for movie times, and banking services
and to make appointments at the Department of Motor Vehicles, who really uses a phone book anymore? Gosh, I'm going
to say it's been years since I looked at a phone book. I use the Internet to
get phone numbers or I call one of the free telephone information services.
By the way, the free information service I use is (800) 373-3411.
Now, let's get back to the phone books that I don't use and others don't use. How do I know
others don't use them? Well, right now there is a pile of untouched phone books -- white and yellow -- on the front
steps of several condo buildings and apartment buildings on my street. I am sure many of these are going to end up in
the trash, though some will be recycled.
folks are lazy, and they won't recycle their unused phone books -- or their old phone books either -- and they'll end up in
landfills. What a waste.
maybe it's time that we impose a bit of regulation in this era of deregulation on the phone book business. How about
requiring that the phone book companies make a phone call or send a postcard to every business and home in their "coverage
area" asking if the business or family wants the phone book that will be delivered
in the next few weeks? This would give families and businesses the chance to opt out
of receiving a new phone book. By giving businesses and families the chance to opt out there may be fewer wasted
phone books, less waste in landfills, and a tree or two or two thousand might be saved. And you know what? The
phone book companies might be able to save on printing and distribution costs, and when the phone book companies talk to advertisers
about the circulation their books get, for once they'll be able to report their true circulation and true numbers of users.
Next, I'd like to have a way that we can opt out of junk mail,
the same way we can now opt out of certain marketing mail and phone calls.
COUNTERFEIT $50 BILLS
HITTING SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
here and you don't want one -- counterfeit $50 bills. We heard about the first counterfeit $50 bills showing up at some
of the card casinos in the Gardena area in early May. Then, just after Memorial Day weekend, a bank teller at a Bank
of America branch in West Los Angeles spotted a counterfeit $50 bill that a customer was trying to deposit into a business
account. It seems that the business was a victim of someone passing the phony fifty. I was in the bank branch
at the time, and I asked the teller to take a look at the bogus $50 bill. It looked flat, the artwork had no depth,
and the ink printing was also flat. If you touch an authentic bill, the printing appears to be "raised" and
this is from the special presses the government uses to print our currency.
Why are the crooks counterfeiting $50 bills? Perhaps because they are not common, and many
consumers and business employees, might not know how a real $50 bill should look and feel. Another reason might be is
that so much scrutiny is given to $100 bills, and the thinking might be that a counterfeit $50 bill might pass under the radar.
But the bank teller found that counterfeit $50 with no difficulty,
and the casino in Gardena, California, also was able to spot the counterfeit $50. In fact, I was told that the gambler
who was passing the $50 bills at table games was detained and arrested. Several players at that casino told me that
most of the "regulars" who play at the casino have now heard the story of the bogus $50 bills -- and when the cage
cashiers try to give customers $50 bills when they cash in their chips, the players decline the fifties.
Frankly, I'm surprised that someone would even try to pass
counterfeit $50 bills in a casino on the West Coast, because at West Coast casinos, including Vegas casinos, many players
consider $50 bills to be unlucky. On the East Coast $50 bills are more commonly accepted. But now that the story
of the counterfeit $50 bills is making the rounds, even non-superestitious gamblers might want to avoid those portraits of
IS THIS ANY WAY TO SAVE MONEY?
other day I needed two postage stamps. I had two letters to mail, and didn't want to take the letters back home where
I had my stash of stamps... so I walked into my neighborhood Post Office on Santa Monica Boulevard near the 405.
It was lunch time, and there was a long line of patrons waiting
for the two postal clerks who had their windows open. Three other windows were
not "manned" and were closed.
problem," I said to myself, "I have change, I'll use the vending machine to buy my two stamps." Yes,
that vending machine that I passed by time after time whenever I was in that post office.
But not this time. The vending machine was missing-- it was gone.
So I stepped into line, and waited, and waited.
about ten minutes, it was my turn. "Two first class stamps, please," I said to the clerk. And while
she put two postage meter "stamps" on my two envelopes, I said "I'm sorry to trouble you but the vending machine
in the lobby is gone."
she said. "They had to take the vending machine out because the repairman's job was eliminated as part of a budget
cut. No repairman, so no vending machine." And then, pointing to the clerk position next to her, she said
"and that position has been eliminated also because it has equipment and there is no one to repair it."
No repairman means no vending machine, and one less window
position. Ya gotta love the postal service.
RUSH HOUR MADNESS IN
WEST LOS ANGELES
It was 3:30 in the
afternoon and already busy Wilshire Boulevard in West L.A. was busier than normal. I was going eastbound on Wilshire
approaching the intersection with Barrington -- one of the busiest intersections in the city. That's when I saw
the Metro bus stopped at a bus stop, with a long line of cars waiting behind it.
And the cars waited and waited and waited for the bus to finish loading and
unloading passengers. And the cars kept waiting-- because there were no passengers getting on or off the bus.
So here was a Metro bus parked at one of the busiest intersections
in the city and taking up a lane that other cars could have used to relieve the building rush hour traffic. What was
To find out what was going
on, I drove my car to a side street, parked, and walked back to the intersection of Wilshire and Barrington -- where the bus
was still stopped. I knocked on the bus doors and the driver opened the doors. "Why are you stopped here?"
I asked the driver.
The driver told
me that she was taking her "layover" there. It was a bus stop, she told me, and she was assigned to take her
"layover" there before picking up school kids.
you are taking up a lane of traffic at a busy intersection," I said to her. "Couldn't you take your
'layover' somewhere else?" No, she said, this was her assigned spot.
Well, that just didn't make sense to me. If a bus driver has to
take a layover, or a coffee break, couldn't the bus be parked somewhere else -- somewhere besides a very busy city intersection
and somewhere out of a lane of traffic on one of the busiest streets in the city?
I called Metro's complaint line and they said they would investigate.
But I was told that it might just be Metro's policy to have the bus driver take
the coffee break, I mean "layover" at that exact spot. In which case, I would call that a bad policy.
you think? Email your thoughts to me.
A DISABLED PERSON LICENSE
PLATE ON.... A MOTORCYLE.
don't want to discriminate against anyone-- especially someone who needs special parking and a disabled person's license
plate. But the other day on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles, the vehicle in front of my car was a motorcycle
with a disabled person license plate. Yep, what you might call a handicapped license plate. Honestly, I found
that a little surprising and puzzling. Can a person who requires a handicapped or disabled person license plate handle
a motorcycle? Someone will have to explain this to me. I am open to your comments.
My address and email link is near the top of this page. I would like to write about some of your comments here.
Who is this?
Yes, it's me. The photo comes from
the 2005 Movie "Cocaine Cowboys" which documented the cocaine wars and the cocaine economy of Miami and South Florida
during the late 1970's and early 1980's. This was the real Miami Vice.
During the 1980's I was the business reporter for WTVJ the CBS affiliate and excerpts of my news reports are used throughout
"Cocaine Cowboys" along with excerpts of some of my colleagues' reports.
It was a well made documentary of what went on in South Florida when it was
not out of ordinary to have bodies of cocaine murder victims dumped on street corners.
Yes, driving to Sunday morning brunch one day, we passed a crime scene just a few doors down from our house where Deputies
were standing over two body bags. I lived in Kendall at the time, and a lot was happening in my neighborhood.
One of my neighbors bought a house that belonged to a drug dealer who went to prison. And one day, when the husband
was at work, a gang of cocaine cowboys raided the house, took the wife hostage and ripped the walls of the house apart looking
for hidden cocaine. They didn't find any. They didn't kill the woman for only one reason-- she told them
she was pregnant, and for that reason alone they let her live.
If you get a chance, rent or buy the movie. We found it for $15 on DVD. In this particular
clip I am reporting about a major bank in South Florida and I just interviewed a top executive at the bank and asked him if
the bank was a "cocaine bank."
THE BANK CASHIER CHECK SCAM
In this scam, someone sends
you what looks like a bank cashier's check in your name. The sender tells you the bank check is a prize, or a payment,
and asks you to deposit it in your account. Then you are asked to send to them your check or a money order for less
than the amount of the cashier's check. You supposedly keep the difference as a fee "for them finding you the
money." The scam is the bank check is bogus, and before you find out the bank check bounced your check or money
order is cashed.
Immediately call the bank the check supposedly comes from. Don't call the phone number on the check -- the check
could be forged with the crook's phone number. Look up the bank and call the bank directly.
These forged checks might be sent with a delivery company so
the crooks avoid the U.S. Mail and federal prosecution.
ZERO PERCENT CREDIT
CARD OFFERS ARE BACK
or maybe they never went away-- those offers from credit card companies to let you transfer balances or get a direct deposit
into your checking account with a zero percent interest rate.
Yes, there are "catches" to this deal including the commonly known 3% fee tha the credit
card companies charge for making the transfer or deposit that has 0%. But there are differences among the offers.
For example, some card companies have a cap on the fee amount
while some companies will charge the fee on the entire amount of the transaction. Let's say you are getting a balance
transfer of $15,000. With credit card company "A" their 3% fee has a cap of $150. But with credit card
company "B" there is no cap on the 3% fee and on a $15,000 balance transfer the total transfer fee is $450.
How long is the 0% interest rate good for? This will
also vary. Some credit cards might offer six months at 0% interest, while some might offer 9 months or a year at 0%
interest. What will also vary is how much you will have to pay each month while that 0% interest rate is in effect.
Yes, even with a 0% interest rate, the credit card companies will still want some kind of monthly payment and if you are late
with that payment or miss it for two months your 0% interest rate deal could be snatched away from you and immediately replaced
with a 28% interest rate, or a rate that is even higher.
questions to ask include, what happens to my payments after the 0% interest period ends? Is there a pre-payment penalty?
What if I pay off most of the transfer balance but there is a small balance left at the end of the 0% interest period -- what
happens then to any of the deferred or 0% interest payments?
And what will you do with the money? If you spend it you are not using it wisely.
If you use it to pay down other credit cards with much higher interest rates you are making the correct move.
Is it a good move if you take the 0% interest money and deposit
it into a short term certificate of deposit? Well, that will depend on the interest rate paid on the CD or money market
fund, and if it covers the original balance transfer fee (remember, that 3% fee) and the monthly fees while the money is outstanding.
I heard of one credit card customer who took his 0% interest
money -- some $80,000 worth -- and used it to buy stock, because the 0% rate was lower than the margin (loan) rate charged
by his stockbroker. Well, buying stocks with borrowed money is another set of problems, isn't it?
BE CAREFUL SELLING
We are constantly bombarded
with advertisements from companies wanting to buy our "scrap gold" and old gold jewelry. There are ads on
TV and radio and the Internet -- and we even have ads like that here on this web site (check our "Gold Dealer" page). But before you sell, be sure you have a good idea about what you are selling.
you are selling U.S. gold coins minted before 1934 there is a good chance your gold coins are worth more than their gold content
and that they have numismatic value over and above their bullion value. If you are selling gold jewelry, make sure your
gold jewelry is worth only its bullion or metallic value -- you don;t want to sell a valuable antique just for its gold content.
So, how do you check? In the case of gold coins, go online
to web sites such as www.pcgs.com or buy a handbook or price guide sold in coin stores or at magazine racks. Don't
forget the public library. Then shop your coin around several dealers.
With jewelry, go to several jewelers, or even go to an auction house that has public appraisal
days where you can get a free appraisal.
worst thing you could do is to show up at some hotel where a company has set up shop
for a couple of days buying gold coins and gold jewelry without first knowing what your items are worth. And don't
get caught up in the hoopla or excitement of a friend who is having a gold selling party which might resemble a Tupperware party. If you don't know what your items are
worth, you will never know if you got a fair price.
in the case of jewelry be sure you know if you have 14 karat gold or 18 karat gold. Fourteen karat gold is 58.5% gold
while eighteen karat gold is 75% gold. And your jewelry should be priced accordingly.
BUYING A CAR AT AN
I got an interesting question
that was emailed to me at AlanMendelsonTV@aol.com and the question concerned buying a car at an auction. Here is the
that because the state of the economy, many people are getting their cars repossessed. My question is, are there any Car
Auctions open to the public in Southern California where I may be able to purchase one of these cars? I live in the
Here is how I responded:
"Good question. Yes, there are car auctions...
but let me ask you this: Do you really want to buy a repossessed car that may not have had proper maintenance, may
have undetected engine damage or extreme wear? My experience has been the good cars get snapped up the by dealers...
all the rest go to auction. Heck, I doubt a repo'd car was well cared for and had its oil changes and tune-ups.
It's tough enough buying a used car... and to think about the added problems of getting one at an auction? Yikes."
When buying a used car, you should always have it checked out
first by a qualified mechanic. Can you do that at a car auction? I've covered car auctions for the TV news,
and rarely to they let consumers even start up the engine. You might also find
that there are no keys for the car. Look, if you can have the car checked out,
then maybe buying a repo'd car at an auction might give you good deal.
PARKING PLACES FOR THE DISABLED... AND
FOR THE REST OF US
there should be special parking places for disabled people. And, I agree that those of us who are not disabled should
be fined or have our cars towed if we park in a parking place reserved for a disabled person. I wouldn't object to special
parking for pregnant women either -- but that's not the point I'm going to discuss here.
The point I want to discuss is that disabled persons do have reserved parking
places, and they should use them. That's what they are there for-- for the disabled to use. We who are not disabled
stay out of them, and risk a fine or a tow if we park in them.
So it irks me that a person with a disabled license plate would park in a non-disabled parking
spot in a very crowded parking lot when there are disabled parking spots that are open. Yes, that's exactly what happened
at a Trader Joe's parking lot in West Los Angeles.
dozen drivers, including myself, were cruising around the crowded parking lot at Trader Joe's looking for an "open space."
Yes, there were open spaces with signs marking them for disabled persons. But there were no open spots for folks that
were not disabled. So, we drove around and around and around, hoping for a non-disabled
spot to open up.
And then -- one
non-disabled parking spot did open up. And a driver swooped right in and grabbed it. But the irony of it, is that
this driver was in a car with a disabled license plate. And this driver just
as easily could have taken one of the spots reserved for the disabled. But no, the driver took the only spot to open
up for non-disabled drivers.
way I think about it-- if I can't use a disabled parking space, a disabled person
shouldn't use a non-disabled parking space... especially when a space reserved for the disabled is in the next parking lot
IF YOU ARE PICKING UP A PASSENGER AT LAX, THIS CAN SAVE YOU TIME, MONEY AND FRUSTRATION
The folks at LAX have come up with a good idea, even if other
airports thought about it first. That good idea is a free parking area where you can wait for a cell phone call from
an arriving passenger. This keeps drivers from circling around the airport waiting for the arriving passenger, and this
cuts down on congestion in the airport. It also cuts down on air pollution and saves gas, not to mention the frustration
of driving around and avoiding the police who would love to ticket you for parking in a white zone. The "cell phone
call waiting lot" is on Airport which is off Century and right next to the Airport branch of the Post Office. The
waiting lot also has trash barrels conveniently located around the lot, and while waiting for an arriving passenger I emptied
trash from my car including fast-food bags and napkins, and old receipts from oil changes. Yes, I tore up the receipts
in case there were any dumpster-divers looking to rip off my identity.
Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter
on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers
go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County,
Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Our Best Buys TV Show has the best TV deals and is the only regularly scheduled
weekly best deals TV show in Southern California. We show you the best buys and best deals on TV and more
deals and bargains on www.alanbestbuys.com and for our Las Vegas TV show www.vegasbestbuys.com. Some of the content can come from paid advertising and from our advertiser paid TV infomercial programs. The
Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid
for by advertisers. AlanBestBuys.com has the highest ranking among competitive sites in Southern California according
to the independent website ranking companies Alexa.com and Quantcast.com and our Best Buys TV Show is the most watched
shopping and consumer information show in Southern California.