Friday, November 14, 2008

Consumer confidence at an all time low


I went shopping last Friday. I drove over to Taos because the price of gas was down and I needed some things not available in my local area. I did try the local stores first and had been working on a list for a couple of weeks. I used to dash over to Taos almost weekly. It is where the Wal-Mart is.

I stopped going to Wal-Mart during the poisoned Chinese pet food debacle. I found Wal-Mart re-price coding some of the pulled lots and putting them back on the shelves. And I never by non-freezing windshied wiper fluid there since the stuff froze all over my windshied while driving through Pueblo during a snow storm. But Wal-Mart did have my printer ink, and security envelopes for the two bills I have to pay with real checks and not on line. I went to Albertson's for the pet food. Sorry, I will not forgive Wal-Mart for my dead cat.

Wal-Mart seems to be about the only company in America showing a profit this year. Grocery stores are flat. But the electronic stores and the finer stores are really hurting. Even with lower prices consumers are buying just the necessities.

My list was just the necessities and still it exceeded my budgeted amount. Seems that gas prices may have gone down but products have not followed suit yet. One of the necessities I had to get was windshield wiper blades. I went to Auto Zone because they have a brand I prefer (yeah, Wal-Mart may have had them cheaper but we are back to that confidence thing).

Snow was heading into my area so I changed out the old blades for the new winter ones the next morning, turned on the wipers to see if they were on correctly. Next morning as the snow is starting I had to run into the local village five miles away and the plastic clip holding on one blade broke. Pieces of plastic flew across my field of vision. I dashed into the local auto store and got another blade at $2 more expensive than the one I got in Taos but what can you do?

I really feel that this consumer drop in spending is not just about money. It is about paying higher and higher prices for lower quality stuff, and in some cases poison. And why are we paying such high prices? Fuel costs? Or is it because of golden parachutes and CEO bonuses? The whole focus on the economy and the bailout has made the American consumer more aware of what is behind the price of that piece of plastic that broke and sent the new windshield wiper flying. I can remember when those clips were metal. And when they were made in the United States.

Even if I had the money, at the moment, to buy the non-essentials I sincerely doubt I would. I feel like I am buying crap and being ripped off so some CEO can get his billion dollar bonus. What Christmas shopping I do will be at a local arts fair this Thanksgiving. Nothing from a department store or a big box store. Definitely nothing from Wal-Mart. Oh, the envelopes seem to be okay, but I think I will order the printer's ink from HP by Internet next time I need some and just save the trip over the mountain.