Follow-Up Round-Up

Time to follow up on a few topics I have written about in the past and mention a few more tidbits not worthy of entire posts.

Bad BooksUSPS Stamp

On Friday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled another half million electrical DIY books to add to the million or so recalled from the same publisher in January. Some of the books were originally published in the 1950s. No explanation of why this batch was overlooked nine months ago. Also still no word on what, exactly, is wrong with them.

I had some fun with this in January, but darker thoughts are now creeping into my head. Is it just me, or is anybody else uncomfortable with the idea of a government agency recalling “dangerous” books?

The Post Office

The postal rate increase I assumed was a lock in July got turned down by the Postal Regulatory Commission. Apparently, besides forbidding the USPS from closing branches or reducing service for purely economic reasons, federal law also forbids raising rates faster than inflation. I am wondering why Congress has not yet passed a law decreeing that the USPS makes money, no matter what the accountants say.

In as much as this makes the existence of looming disaster more obvious, this may be a good thing. The post office will not be able to pay its bills in 2011 without Congressional action, which may force the politicians into the ugly debate they’ve been avoiding.

Credit Cards on Campus

According to PRI (found via The Consumerist) the latest thing on campus is for an under-21 to pay somebody over 21 to co-sign their credit card application. Before I believe that this is really happening I would like more than a second-string public radio reports’ say so, but would make sense.

As I wrote in February, the new credit card restrictions for college students are mostly bark with only the tiniest hint of bite. But I would not be surprised to hear that it is much harder for college kids to get a card without a cosigner these days and that parents are less willing to co-sign. So why not hire somebody to do it?

This is not all that peculiar a transaction. It is a form of insurance, similar to what we commonly see for mortgages and municipal bonds. For a fee, a third party agrees to make good on loans the borrower doesn’t pay back. In fact, I am wondering how long it will take the card companies to get into this business themselves, agreeing to co-sign applications for their would-be customers for just a little more in interest.

No Unaccompanied Teens in Malls

Malls banning teenagers sounds as likely to me as restaurants banning hungry people, but according to WalletPop it is a trend. Apparently, the typical rule is that kids 13 to 17 are not allowed in the mall without a parent, particularly on weekend nights.

I am pretty sure that this is the sort of rule meant to be applied very selectively to certain kids (i.e. boys) hanging out without the slightest intention of buying anything. But the post did end with a quote that fits into my recurring Infantilization of America theme, as well as my parenting philosophy.

Lenore Skenazy, a columnist and author of "Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry," told ABC News, "They’re treating 17-year-olds like they are babies who need supervision or juvenile delinquents who should be behind bars. There’s a lot of self-fulfillment in that policy. The less chance we give them to prove themselves worthy of our respect, the less likely they will."

The blog linked to in the quote is worth checking out.

School Sells Ad Space

Moving on to new topics, a town near me has just hit on a new scheme to boost school funding. They will sell ads in letters sent home to parents. I think their revenue projections are a bit ambitious ($300 for 10,000 impressions of a business card sized ad?) but advertiser-supported schools are an idea whose time has come. Think of all that unused yellow space on the sides of school buses. And the potential for selling ads in textbooks.

And sponsorship! Homeroom 7-23 is brought to you today by…. Or how about naming rights? Imagine how much money could be raised by changing “Lincoln High School” to “Ford Lincoln Mercury High School.”

POM Misses its Demographic

Both The Consumerist and WalletPop linked to a new TV ad from POM Wonderful showing model Sonja Kinski portraying Eve and the serpent with a voice over telling us that the apple in the Genesis story was probably a pomegranate. Both blogs told us of the recent trouble POM has had with the FTC over false advertising claims and demonstrated their sympathy with such concerns by providing links to POM’s latest advertising.

That is a good marketing coup for POM, having enough of a tiff with the Feds to get free advertising, but if I were them I would be worried. I do not think their target audience is oldsters like me, and yet The Consumerist and WalletPop neatly demonstrate that nobody under 40 gets the reference (spectacularly obvious to those over 40) the commercial is making to the once iconic 1981 Richard Avedon photo of Sonja Kinski’s mother Nastassja in essentially the same pose with the same snake. It’s a pretty dumb commercial otherwise.

Street Signs

And finally, another tale of government being government. Over the next seven years New York City will be replacing all 250,900 of its street signs. At $110 per sign (gosh, I hope that includes installation) this will cost $27.6 million.

Why? Because new Federal regulations require that signs showing the name of streets not be in all caps, as they are currently, and that they use a new specially designed font. Apparently, the theory is that it takes longer to read “BOWERY” than “Bowery” and that those lost milliseconds of driver focus could cause an accident. Seriously.

You might think that since the great majority of NYC streets are numbered, many existing signs would be okay. Not so. “5 AV” needs to be in a new font. It’s a safety issue. And just to show how non-partisan I can be, I will point out that this particular edict dates to the Bush administration.


  • By Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers, October 5, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    Back when I was in school, we had this “Channel One” program. It was about 10 minutes long – about 3 minutes of news and 7 minutes of ads, if my memory is accurate (which it probably is not).

    About a decade ago, the church I attended had ads on the back of the bulletin. Basically, just the company logo – tasteful stuff. I can’t remember anyone getting too worked up about it.

  • By Neil, October 5, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    Given that one of the claims POM is being sued about is that it’s a mild (40% as effective) substitute for Viagra, it’s not clear to me that “oldsters” who might get the reference are outside their target market.

    On other notes, I am surprised that the ad supported school is a new concept. The high school I attended had advertising for several sponsors on the walls of the gym and received significant kickbacks from the junk food vending machines. At the time (about 10 years ago), this was new, and the new schools being built have sponsored wings and classrooms, while mine did not.

    A step higher at university, everything has a corporate sponsor, from the Kokanee Students’ Union to the Canadian Natural Resources Engineering Building and the DeBeers Laboratory for Diamond Research. At best, you might get a government sponsor (the National Research Council Centre for Nanotechnology Excellence).

  • By Clambone, October 5, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

    Re the street signs: the average lifespan of a street sign is about ten years. So they’d have to replace them anyway. Hard to see how this is a story; it’s kind of the equivalent of “FAMILY SPENDS $2500 on TOOTHPASTE?!?” (over ten years)

  • By Jon, October 5, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    Clambone, maybe you buy your organic toothpaste at Whole Foods but for the rest of us spending $2500 on toothpaste over lifetime would be a ridiculously high amount ;-) I also wonder how New York got this money when Massachusetts can’t seem to get money put main roads signs (let alone a fancy new font one) on cross streets. Never mind the fact that the fact that many road signs clearly have been there since the road was first built.

  • By Frankie, October 5, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

    but for the rest of us spending $2500 on toothpaste over lifetime would be a ridiculously high amount

    2500/62 = $40.32. A tube of Crest is 4.99 so a tube every six weeks is 43.21 per year. Were do you get “ridiculously high amount”?

  • By Holly, October 5, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    @ Frankie:

    A tube costs $2.49 where I live. We go through one about every 2-3 mos. (brush 3X w/a small pea-sized amount). 6 X $2.49 = $15.00/yr., so about $150 over 10 yrs. That’s a far cry from $2500.00.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, October 6, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    Neil: I guess I’ve always thought the demographic for Viagra was narrow: old enough to have a problem but young enough to care. People that age don’t drink fruit juice. They take pills.

    Clambone: The Post article (which makes what has got to be the world’s first tabloid reference to e.e. cummings) says that NYC normally replaces 8,000 signs a year, so the average life span appears to be 31 years or so. For those who have never seen one up close, the street signs they use in New York are huge (36 x 9) and pretty heavy duty.

    Jon: Here in the Hub we know that street signs are a waste of money, since we all know which street is which. Besides, 80% of them are named Washington, Boylston, or Centre anyway.

    Everybody: Toothpaste? Really?

  • By Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers, October 6, 2010 @ 10:40 am

    “Jon: Here in the Hub we know that street signs are a waste of money, since we all know which street is which.”

    Heck, why not just permamanently remove the signs, then? That’s one way to keep out the tourists :)

    Size of signs is more of a concern to me than capital letters. Sometimes I’d like to have a polite discussion with the people who decided that 50 variations on the same theme was a good idea for naming the streets in a neighborhood. Trying to determine if a sign says “Southeast Historic Oakcrest CT” or “Southeast Historic Oakcrest CR” (for example) from a distance can get tricky.

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