$979.01 for Black Friday


The business press is already buzzing with speculation about how retail sales will fare during the upcoming holiday season. A Nov. 1 article in the Wall Street Journal offers this headline: “How the iPhone X Could Steal Christmas.”

Maybe you’re not ready for Christmas. Maybe I’m not ready for it, either. But the analysts? They’re already on the case.

According to the article, the new iPhone X may suck up $30 billion worth of consumer spending in the fourth quarter of the year. The logic goes that this’ll be $30 billion less that consumers will have available to spend on holiday stuff.

This new iPhone will retail for a reported $999. Hmm. Well, as long as we’re talking high finance here, I can’t help but note that this is $979.01 more than my phone cost.

In theory, this should free up my wallet for the holidays. But in reality, however, there’s a cold wind stirring over my holiday list. That’s because I haven’t seen any cool products for 2017 to get excited about. Not that I’m snubbing the new iPhone, but I have no need for one and the price is a little too heavy to make it a stocking-stuffer.

Maybe I should call one of those retail analysts. Those guys are so far ahead of the game they probably finished their shopping before Good Friday. Meanwhile, I fear I’ll be scrambling to come up with something on Black Friday.

Well, perhaps it’s no great loss. In my circles it’s shaping up to be a tame holiday season anyway.

One reason is that some friends have their noses to the grindstone more than usual now. They are either expanding their businesses or are sprinting in a home-stretch of activity while aiming for retirement.

By contrast, some others have dropped their packs, so to speak. They didn’t retire. They just, well, stopped. And if they didn’t stop entirely they opted to become “underemployed.” This includes a couple of medical doctors as well as sundry other professionals.

How can this happen? One factor I’ve seen is that people who missed a step on the great American home equity escalator are locked out. This can happen because of taking an overseas assignment (Saipan will do nicely) or because of a divorce or illness.

But, whatever the reason, the gist in these cases is that no matter how hard you bang your head against the wall, it’s somebody else’s wall. It’s not surprising that some people stop banging.

Or as my friend Sparky puts it: “If don’t have a big house on the hill you might as well enjoy your time in a trailer. These days, there ain’t no middle ground.”

Sparky has, as usual, managed to encapsulate an entire chapter of economics in just one breath between cigarette drags. This particular chapter, in the parlance of economics, is the “income and substitution effect.”

Anyway, I think the middle ground is where the holiday action is usually rooted. If you’re too engaged in work, or too disengaged from work, you’re probably not on the optimal holiday wavelength.

The economics of Saipan, meanwhile, point to the fact that some of you, or some people on your gift list, are going to be engaged with Mandarin Chinese in 2018. This topic grows in importance every year. It has become a constant theme in my humble column. Hey, some things are just so big and so obvious that not even I can overlook them.

Here, then, is another observation. I’ve been trying to avoid toting around a physical Chinese dictionary. I’ve therefore had to re-acquaint myself with the Android world. I likewise re-acquainted myself with the Pleco electronic dictionary (available at Pleco.com). It has free versions for both Android and iOS. Paid features are also available.

This app is so useful that I rue my misguided efforts to ever do without it. A few seconds with Pleco can save all sorts of contortions trying to research Chinese words or characters.

If you don’t have $999 to sink into a whiz-bang phone, don’t worry. It doesn’t take a fancy device to use Pleco. I put it on my $19.99 Android phone and it works just fine. In fact, that’s why I got the phone in the first place. I still prefer my old flip phone for calls, but Pleco is just too useful to pass up.

As for the approaching holidays, I don’t even know where I’ll be yet. As for you, I hope that your plans are shaping up the way you want them to. If you happen to be joining the hordes at the Black Friday sales I might be right next to you.

Hey, after that we can have some eggnog. Your trailer or mine?

Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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