Krispy Kreme finds “depression era” price for coffee doesn’t pay

Last fall Krispy Kreme tried to grab some market share in the Northwest by rolling back coffee prices to “Depression era” levels. The “New Deal” marketing effort cut prices from for a small from $1.45 to a nickel, mediums went from $1.65 to a dime and larges from $1.75 to 15 cents. It was A) a nice thing to do in this economy and B) KK figured that it made fiscal sense for them because they make most of their money from donuts not java.

11515Drink-Coffee-Poster At first things went well, very well. In March sales of Lutheran gasoline (mocha) were up 229 percent over pre-price cut. Melissa Allison, who covers coffee for the Seattle Times (that’s gotta be like having the philosophy beat in ancient Athens), says cheap joe may not be enough. Turns out people weren’t buying the baked goods needed.

Today Gerard Centioli, CEO of Icon LLC in Seattle, which co-owns (with Krispy Kreme) 12 stores in the Northwest and Hawaii, tells Allison (does she ever get confused about which of her names goes first?) that two of the stores now require you buy something baked in order to get the coffee deal.

"They were experiencing a level of coffee-only purchases which will cause us to either require a purchase or discontinue the program. If the test becomes permanent, we will develop marketing materials to communicate the change to our guests.”

Still a heck of a deal. Now all we need is a good five cent cigar to go with it.

AIG claims it is paying bonuses to retain “best and brightest talent”

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.” — Edward M. Liddy, government-appointed chairman of A.I.G.

Congrats to Mr. Liddy for calling the people in question “the best and the brightest” – a description famously applied to the folks who got us into Vietnam.

And what would these folks be talented at? While getting someone else to pay for bankrupting a company is quite a talent it’s not one to reward.

Lawyers at both the Treasury Department and AIG have concluded that the firm would risk a lawsuit if it scrapped the retention payments at the AIG Financial Products subsidiary, whose troublesome derivative trading nearly sank AIG. The company promised before the government started bailing out the firm in September that employees would be awarded more than $400 million in retention pay this year and next.

Which is worse – losing a lawsuit or needing around-the-clock security for all your senior executives? I’m pretty sure the phrase “hanging is too good for them” is echoing around a lot of people’s minds right now.

BTW, the $165M in bonuses is in addition to a previously scheduled $121M:

The payments to A.I.G.’s financial products unit are in addition to $121 million in previously scheduled bonuses for the company’s senior executives and 6,400 employees across the sprawling corporation. Mr. Geithner last week pressured A.I.G. to cut the $9.6 million going to the top 50 executives in half and tie the rest to performance.

Yep, more than a quarter of a billion bucks being paid to the folks who put the I in incompetent.

To quote Mr. Mencken: “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

UPDATE:

In New Terror Video, AIG Demands Huge Ransom from U.S.

Shadowy Group Seeks Bonuses, Golf Retreats

Politician denies he told the truth when he called it a “depression

ooops In the weekly question and answer session in parliament, [UK Prime Minister Gordon] Brown said there needed to be agreement “as a world on a monetary and fiscal stimulus that will take the world out of depression.”

Brown’s spin doctors immediately said it was a slip of the tongue by the PM.

I think his comments were taken out of context.

New Hyundai warranty covers job loss*

*Mostly.

hyundaiIn a mark of how bad things are “Hyundai is providing a complimentary vehicle return program for the first year on every new Hyundai that is financed or leased for owners who experience an involuntary loss of income within 12 months of the purchase date.

What that actually means is Hyundai is offering to cover up to $7.5K of the debt on a new car in case of

  • Involuntary unemployment
  • Physical disability
  • Loss of driver’s license due to medical impairment
  • International employment transfer
  • Self-employed personal bankruptcy
  • Accidental death

Details: You have to have made at least two payments; you are still on the hook for everything over $7.5K and; they get the car back.  Which means if you bought the bottom line Accent with nothing added to it (MSRP $9.9K) and make just the two payments you are only on the cuff for about two grand. Not great but so far it’s better than anything else out there. (What dumbass wrote that? Truth is below)

You are on the hook for only the depreciation OVER $7500. Example: if the car had an msrp of around 25 grand and you were on the peverbial hook for the whole magilla and the depreciation over the first 10 months was 30% ( 7.5 large ) you would owe nada.

The deal looks even better when you consider that none of your tax dollars have gone into propping the company up.

So the new motto is, “Hyundai — the car to buy if you think you’re going to get canned.”

Staples goes vulture: “Will Office Depot closings affect you?”

The next hot trend is upon us: Vulture marketing. As in: to feed on the carcass of your now bankrupt competition in hopes that the same doesn’t happen to you. Witness today’s email from Staples:

staplesemail3

There is nothing wrong with this, of course. It is just far from comforting.

The estimable Shaun Abrahamson points out that UPS went one better than Staples and put up a whole website for former DHL customers. Any other examples?

What is the definition of “depression”?

More from me at BlownMortgage:

It is difficult to believe but earlier this year people were still debating whether or not we were in a recession. The debate broke down along the lines of, “We haven’t met the technical definition of a recession” vs. “If it smells, like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck then it’s a duck.”

One of the reasons for the debate was because there are so many different definitions of a recession.

The standard definition used by idiots and journalists (like me!) is a decline in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for two or more consecutive quarters.

Idiots and economists (like them!) don’t like this because it leaves out the unemployment rate and consumer confidence as indicators. “By using quarterly data this definition makes it difficult to pinpoint when a recession begins or ends. This means that a recession that lasts ten months or less may go undetected.” Sadly, that’s not going to be an issue this time around.

BTW, now that the extension of unemployment benefits has passed the Senate expect to see a sharp increase in the unemployment rate — which only counts people who are collecting unemployment insurance. You are no longer officially counted as unemployed if you are not collecting insurance. A lot of people who used up their benefits but aren’t employed will now re-appear magically on the roles. They will just as magically disappear in seven weeks when their benefits are used up and the rate will go down again. However, those people won’t be any more employed.

Nothing happens until the new prez takes over. Good or bad?

My latest from BlownMortgage:

In a time of economic crisis, where every moment brings more bad/alarming news, what does it mean that the government is essentially in a holding pattern for the next two months?

Many people are concerned this will mean a continuation of the Paulson strategy of throwing good money after bad. (”Am I the only one worried that by the time Obama is sworn in on January 20th, the Paulson Treasury will have run through almost a trillion dollars to little or no effect?“) Currently there are attempts to qualify GM as a bank so it can get a cut of the bailout money (LOL!!!). A similar request by GE makes more sense to me because GE is a well-run company. Several large cities are also making requests for funds. Personally, I’d give funds to Wasilla before I’d hand a dime to GM.

Still others think that Paulson and the Congress will take this moment to do nothing — and that’s a good thing. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe thinks this is such a good thing that he wants to legislate a freeze on the remaining bailout cash. (Inhofe’s willingness to rip Paulson a new one is a great indicator of how the Bushies are closer to dead-duck instead of merely being lame: Senator Inhofe suggests Paulson “may have given the [bailout] money to his friends.”)

There’s more where that came from…

Coming soon to an ad near you: “Our gift cards insured by the FDIC”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the entity that guarantees bank deposits, has issued an opinion stating that funds on gift cards and other stored value cards qualify as deposits and will be covered under FDIC insurance if those funds have been placed at an insured depository institution.

bankrupt-wheelI’d love to file this under “You know it’s gotten bad when …” but we’re too far past that. Wonder who will be the first retailer to plug this into its ads? “The latest in worry-free shopping: You can put up to $250K on a gift card! Guaranteed by the FDIC even if we bite the dust!”

Oy.

Shanty towns and bank runs: recession may be the optimist’s outcome

Before the fiddlers have fled
Before they ask us to pay the bill
And while we still
Have the chance
Let’s face the music and dance

Last March, the BBC ran a story about shanty towns springing up in the US.

At the time BoingBoing and those few others who saw it asked why we were learning about this from the UK media and not from the US media. Now, a scant six months later, the US press has paused from parsing porcine lipstick and noticed.

The relatively tony city of Santa Barbara has given over a parking lot to people who sleep in cars and vans. The city of Fresno, Calif., is trying to manage several proliferating tent cities, including an encampment where people have made shelters out of scrap wood. In Portland, Ore., and Seattle, homeless advocacy groups have paired with nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage tent cities as outdoor shelters. Other cities where tent cities have either appeared or expanded include include Chattanooga, Tenn., San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio.

We’ve already had a bank run in the classic sense and one updated for today’s world: Yesterday’s announcement that Putnam was liquidating a “$12bn prime money market fund because of a spike in redemption requests from clients.” Just because they have the money to cover this — as it appears they eventually will — doesn’t make it any less of a run.

Today the early headlines say Stocks soar at opening after gov’t rescue plan. Forgive me for thinking the markets are indulging in some irrational exuberance. We’ve seen this sort of response before. This is from the Wall Street Journal on March 19:

Stocks and commodities plummeted on Wednesday as the euphoria that carried equity markets to massive gains a day earlier gave way to nervousness that the broader U.S. economy hasn’t yet escaped the dangers of the credit crisis.

At some point we are going to see a huge impact from the Fed’s determination to once again deal with another issue by printing more money. Some commentators say this will simply mean an explosion in the size of the national debt. I wish that was all. The current crisis was created by pumping increasing amounts of money and credit into the economy, it is beyond me to understand why doing more of this will help fix it.  You know what they call it when you keep repeating the same behavior and expect different results, right?

I am not smart enough to determine if we are about to hit a period of inflation or deflation but I know something is going to happen and will keep happening until all the difference between the amount loaned and the actual value of assets comes into balance. (If you’re a debtor start rooting for deflation — it means any money you do use to pay off a debt will be worth less than the money you originally borrowed. A net gain, if not a happy one.)

As the year has gone along, I’ve tagged a number of items under Recession? What Recession? I can’t say they make for happy reading:

In March, when the BBC ran that shanty town story, it still seemed possible to have a reasonable disagreement over whether or not we were in a recession. Now the D word is in play. Soon we will be hearing that we are not in a depression and that we are trying to avert one. That is becoming the economic equivalent of promising to have the troops home by Christmas. As soon as you hear it, you know it’s a lot worse than anyone is willing to say.

The leading indicator of the “we are not in a Depression” meme came last week when Alan Greenspan — who is mostly responsible for the crisis — tried to put lipstick on this pig by saying, “First of all, let’s recognize that this is a once-in-a-half-century, probably once-in-a-century type of event.” Given that the Mississippi river keeps getting hit by floods that were once described as “once in a century” events, this is not a heartening phrase. Another troubling indicator is that the folks who decided what’s in the Dow Jones Industrial Average have replaced the now defunct AIG with Kraft. I suspect the real problem with leaving AIG is that it would have made the Dow actually reflect the economy.

Someone once asked Tom Lehrer why he stopped writing those wonderful, witty songs about the news. Having turned out anthems on topics from pollution to nuclear proliferation, Lehrer said he had begun to feel like a citizen of Pompeii being asked to say funny things about lava. Without having matched Mr. Lehrer’s accomplishments, I can certainly empathize. I have been saying for the last seven years that the real problem with the Bush administration is that it took all the fun out of being able to say “I told you so.” Unlike Mr. L, I refuse to leave the scene — especially when we are in such a target rich environment.

There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance

While many people have recorded this song — but not Roxxy Music, for some reason — I still prefer the original by Fred Astaire. It’s on the soundtrack to Follow The Fleet. A happy little musical by Irving Berlin that was made into a movie in 1936.