Why Are So Many Consumers Hypocrites About Fuel Economy?

I always take polls with a grain of salt.  Still, this one astounded me.   Consumerist reported that 87% of Americans surveyed think that automakers should do more to improve fuel economy.  The first thought that crossed through my mind when I read this was “Hypocrites!”

All For Increased Fuel Economy

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for better fuel economy.  I’ve been driving for about 25 years now (Yikes!) and the advancements in fuel technology have been remarkable. I know that even before that things came a long way from the fuel guzzlers of the past.

Image via Morguefile courtesy of gracey

I think many of the technologies are great.  Automakers build better engines.  They use lighter materials.  They make things run more efficiently.  Aerodynamics are improved.  It all works together so that vehicles use less fuel.

It’s pretty cool.  And I have no doubt that the innovations will continue.

So why am I shaking my head?  Read on.

How Some Consumers Are Hypocrites

As I mentioned above, I’ve been driving for 25 years.  With the exception of one period when we hit gas prices around $3-$4 per gallon, Americans keep drifting more toward SUVs and trucks, and away from cars.

Chevrolet really improved the Malibu and yet sales continue to drop year over year.  Ford never even considered building their latest Focus here, instead deciding between Mexico and China for production.

The bottom line, people keep gravitating away from cars and into bigger vehicles.  Ones that, of course, get a lot worse fuel economy.

It makes me wonder, how many people that responded to this survey have moved up to a bigger SUV or truck recently?  Guessing by the numbers, it would seem an awful lot.  I think that’s somewhat hypocritical.

These people are basically putting 100% of the responsibility on the automakers, and none on the consumer.

That’s just a bit head shaking to me.

Consumers Have Responsibility, Don’t They?

It seems that if consumers continue to choose bigger and bigger automobiles instead of smaller, more fuel efficient choices, that they hold some responsibility here.  The average fuel economy would be a lot higher if even 10% of the people that chose SUVs chose a passenger car instead.  It seems to me that right there would go a long way toward improving fuel economy.

I get that a lot of people have legitimate reasons for moving to a bigger vehicle.  I’m not saying there isn’t a need.  Heck, I’m one of them as I got a bigger truck since we tow our RV.  But, I knew going in that I was decreasing my personal fuel economy.  And, if I’d been one of those surveyed, I’d have definitely not put 100% of the responsibility at the feet of the automakers.

A little self awareness goes a long way, don’t you think?

Readers, what do you think about the survey results?  Do you agree that some people are a bit hypocritical or is there an angle I’m missing?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Will Stride Rite Be Around Much Longer?

When a big chain or brand goes under, rarely does it happen overnight.  You don’t see a once healthy business go belly up.  There are usually warning signs.  I’m starting to really wonder if Stride Rite shoes is falling into that category.  There are a number of reasons that I am thinking that it could be a brand that might not be around longer.  Note: This is only my opinion based on observations and widely known news.

Stride Rite Is Closing Stores

We have always been Stride Rite shoppers.  I’d guess that well over half of our kids casual shoes have been from Stride Rite.  They seemed like they were good quality.  Also, since we had an outlet store nearby, it was nothing to get a good style and fit.

I think that trying on shoes is pretty important.  Rarely do we every buy shoes sight unseen.  Having that fit is kind of important.

So, we were a bit surprised to hear that they are closing all of their nearby stores.  It looks like they are closing many stores throughout the country. Apparently they want to be more online focuses.

I just don’t know how you can sell a majority of your product online when it comes to something like shoes.  I suppose they could work to sell them in other stores, but there’s a lot of competition to overcome when selling alongside a bunch of other brands.

Stride Rite Ended Their Loyalty Program

Kids Shoes
image from morguefile courtesy of KellyP42

Stride Rite had a loyalty program.  I don’t think we ever took part, but maybe we did.  My wife would know.  But in any case, the program is gone.  They’ve decided to end it, according to their website.

This seems highly unusual.  Usually you want to build a following and keep a reason for customers to stay loyal.  By removing a big incentive to stay brand loyal, they are risking losing customers they probably want to keep.  It seems pretty strange to me.

Final Sale Is Apparently A Policy You Might Not Know About

Against our usual habits, we bought some shoes online for our son.  They came and while they fit, they weren’t exactly what we had in mind.  My wife called to see about returning them and was told that they were final sale.  She looked back at the online listing and there was nothing about it.  The price was still the same.  She mentioned this to the rep and was told that they aren’t noting the policy on each item page.

Like, who does that?  Not a company that has generally been known for pretty high customer service in the past.

Where Will Stride Rite Land?

It’ll be interesting to see where Stride Rite will land.  It almost seems to me like they’ve given up.  I know that the retail market is tough these days.  But, the things that they’re doing seem to be the opposite you’d expect out of a company that wants to work their way through it.

Readers, what do you think?  Am I misreading the signs or do you think Stride Rite is in trouble?  What other companies do you personally think might not make it?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Best Digital Tools for Saving Money

In our increasingly digital world, there’s an app, website or browser extension for just about everything, including money management and shopping. It’s easy to do all your banking online, transfer money to and from accounts, and review and make adjustments to your investments. As for couponing, cash-back programs and digital promo codes make savings instant and accessible without clipping or storing.

Since most of us never leave the house without our smartphones and spend much of our time in front of a computer, using these tools is all the more effortless. Read on for the best digital tools to streamline your finances and savings potential!

Money Management Apps

 

budget.jpg

Mint. This all-in-one money manager helps you budget and track expenses. View your accounts, credit card statements and recent transactions, and keep track of your upcoming bills on one easy-to-use interface. Mint also allows you to view your credit score, and facilitates management for your investment accounts. Mint is available on desktop and mobile devices, so you can stay on top of finances no matter where you are. It’s free to create an account, and your security is always guaranteed.

Level Money. One of the hardest challenges of budgeting is knowing how much you can properly put aside each month for fun spending. Level Money helps by creating a budget for you to determine how much per month you can use for splurging after taking care of rent and bills. Their app tracks your spending and keeps your balances and totals easily viewable so you don’t lose track. Set savings goals, view all your bank and credit card accounts and even get bill predictions for the next month.

Wally. Say goodbye to overstuffed wallets full of disorganized receipts. Wally’s personal finance app not only keeps track of every purchase you make, but allows you to scan and store receipts. With a colorful and orderly interface, this app makes it easy to track how much you have and how much you’ve spent. You can also categorize expenses with customizable fields, which helps organize your budget better.

Digit. Stashing away money for savings every day isn’t an easy task. The days of collecting spare change into jars are dwindling, but as per the new norm, there’s now an app for that. Digit works with your bank account to analyze your daily spending and calculate an amount that can be put into savings every few days. With no account minimum required, unlimited transfers and a no-overdraft guarantee, this app is a smart choice for a risk-free way to start saving.

Shopping Tools

Application_for_online_shoppers.png

Coupon Sherpa. The purpose of the coupon is to save you money, but you don’t have to dedicate hours to clipping, stashing and saving them. Getting in the habit of checking for coupons for specific stores you plan on visiting is easy with savings sites like https://www.couponsherpa.com/. This site and app has a huge selection of online coupon codes, in-store offers and even grocery coupons. Their search interface makes it easy to look for specific stores, even if you’re already in the checkout lane.

Honey. This browser extension does the couponing for you. Whenever you shop online, Honey scours the internet for coupon codes or discounts that are applicable to your order and automatically applies them. Honey works with popular online merchants like Amazon, Expedia and Groupon, but also for restaurants and clothing retailers. Plus, you can also earn cash back for shopping with this extension. You can install Honey for free on all major browsers through https://www.joinhoney.com, including Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Group Buying Sites. One of the best ways to save while still enjoying local activities and dining out is to check out group buying sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. These sites feature new deals every day for restaurants, activities or products near you. Often the savings are up to 70% off, with coupon codes making the savings even more considerable. Most group deal sites are available as mobile apps, too.

Rewards and Cash Back Earners

15816574788_c6fd1defc1_b.jpg

Ebates. Ebates is a popular cash-back shopping portal that helps you earn extra income every time you shop online. What shoppers may not know is they also have a browser extension that, like Honey, scans sites where you shop online for cashback offers and automatically applies promo codes to your purchases. You must be a member to earn rewards through Ebates, but it’s free to join and use.

Paribus. How many times have you made a purchase one day, only to discover the price on the item drops a few days later? When you use Paribus, you receive a price adjustment without any extra work! Paribus tracks your online shopping receipts and seeks price adjustment refunds when an original price drops. The service takes 25 percent of what you receive if they successfully find you a refund (and nothing if they don’t). If you don’t track prices after you make purchases, Paribus is a no-brainer way to get a little money back with zero effort.

Shopkick. The Shopkick app lets you earn rewards points, or Kicks, when you shop at participating locations. You earn Kicks just for walking into a store, and then on every item you purchase. The Kicks can later be redeemed for gift cards to a variety of popular stores or even restaurants like Starbucks. It’s comparable to a credit card rewards program (without pesky balances and APRs), and the app is completely free.

Ibotta. This handy rebate app allows you to scan barcodes, upload receipts and earn cash back for shopping at popular grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and even specialty stores. Your earnings go into an Ibotta account which can then be transferred to Paypal or converted into gift cards. The app also allows you to earn bonuses and works with many popular rewards programs to ensure maximum savings and cash back.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

6 Things That Troubled Brick And Mortar Stores Need To Do

In an ever changing retail landscape, Gander Mountain is the latest victim to consolidation in the brick and mortar landscape.  They filed for bankruptcy and will be closing about 20% of their stores.  For now.  As has been the case with many other retailers, this is often the first wave of many.  Can Gander Mountain make it?  That remains to be seen.  What’s clear is that troubled brick and mortar stores need to make changes if they do want to survive.  While there are no guarantees, here are some potential changes.

Cut Locations

This is the first and most obvious solution.  Stores that aren’t making money are the first to go.  Even profitable stores might need to go if the profits are trending downward.  Stores need target more than just the obvious choices here.

Shrink Store Layouts

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to close a store altogether, but instead cutting square footage might help. Stores will probably see some loss of sales, but if they can cut expenses by 50% while only losing 20% of sales, it could be enough.

Examine Mergers

Over the past year, it seems that sporting good stores are among the hardest hit retailers.  While there is likely a need for physical sporting goods stores, the market doesn’t need half a dozen chains.  Companies may need to examine whether industry consolidation is a viable alternative.  Otherwise, the market may make the decision for them.

Form Partnerships

I’ve seen multiple department stores form partnerships with other brands.  They do so by effectively renting floor space.  As an example, JC Penney has quite a few ‘Sephora’ store-within-a-store locations within their footprint.  This reduces overhead, and if it’s a good fit, customers heading to the mini-store will shop at the big store.  I’ve heard that Kohl’s is looking for such partnerships as well.

Revise Your Merchandise Mix

I was recently at a local mall that I haven’t been to for awhile, and came across an f.y.e. store.  This is an entertainment store.  When this location first opened about 15 years ago, it was massive, and it sold just about every DVD and CD that you could find.  This came about during the heyday of ‘disc’ sales.  This marketplace has shifted, and so has the store.  They are now in a much smaller spot (about 20% of the original size), and while they have some DVDs and CDs, they now focus on items such as toys, vinyl, and other entertainment niche products.  It remains to be seen whether this will be enough for them to survive, but I applaud the company for trying.

Have Special Events

Back when Disney first opened mall stores, the iconic Disney name was enough to draw shoppers in.  After the allure

Image from morguefiles via veggieretz

faded, they realized that they actually had to work to draw in shoppers.  Now, our nearest Disney store often has events that you can’t replicate online.  This attracts shoppers, young and old, that will go to dress up as their favorite Princess, something that you can’t do on the web.

Readers, what changes do you see stores making or needing to make to stay afloat?  Please let me know your observations and ideas in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.