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Greed Rules On High; Lower Down, Dollar Stores Do

Updated on June 10, 2015

When salaries rise above a level of, say, $300,000 per year, no matter what the individual does or value s/he brings to his/her organization, common sense has been abandoned and greed -- in synch with stupidity on the part of salary setters -- has taken over.

There is, increasingly, concern for the huge tuition debts being accumulated by students. It would appear that President Lassner is willing to 'sacrifice' an unnecessarily high salary in order to help control UH's costs. His is a noble position -- that should be followed, either voluntarily by college presidents elsewhere, or by mandate, by salary setters who aren't, after all, committing their own money but that of their students -- well into their future.

We see more and more examples of the too-high salary scenario, from the unbelievable sums paid to actors through the compensation excesses of Wall Street to the totally absurd sum committed to a couple of men willing to beat each other to death, if it were to come to that, in a boxing ring.

Meanwhile, many of us are barely keeping our heads above the still-rough financial waters. We do most of our shopping at WalMart not because we love to but of necessity. And WalMart realizes it is catering to a captive audience -- and doing so has made it the country's largest retailer, by a long shot.

There's been huge growth in the 'dollar store' world over the past few years, because they offer the perception of value for money. Even though the perception doesn't always match reality, it comes close enough to attract huge volumes of shoppers responding to business model that says 'price it low and stack it high'.

Many years ago, when Macy's flagship store in Manhattan had a neighbor, just across 34th Street, called Gimbels. They were fierce competitors, but not always on price: Macy's tread higher ground. Gimbles occasionally used a tactic that was clearly aimed at getting shoppers in the door 'at any price' -- in its 'bargain basement' sales. Tables measuring perhaps five feet on a side were filled, by employees literally dumping bins of clothing on them. Truly 'loss leader' prices were the order of the day -- prices that, more than likely, either reflected enormous, warehouse-filling purchases or, simply, below-wholesale offerings. People FOUGHT to get at the tables, and paw through what was on them seeking an appropriate size! Whether they got what they were seeking or not, many figured 'hey, I'm already in the store, let's see what else I can find'.

Clearly, given that Gimbels (of 'Miracle on 34th Street' fame) is long since gone, a victim, to a degree, of a pricing strategy that couldn't survive when their closest competitor and the then-broader assortment of 'price it higher, declare it's worth it' stores stuck to their guns and continued to rake in comfortable profits -- until high real estate costs and increasing taxes forced them out of business.

But the climate is changed now -- at least in smaller cities and towns of assorted sizes, where dollar stores are more prevalent. The latter face no competition in those markets from large department stores, which continue to favor anchoring malls and -- less often, these days -- downtown locations.

The lack of competition really works well for the dollar stores, which thrive even when in a shopping 'park' where' there's a WalMart.

The dollar store climate is about to undergo some major changes, though: Dollar Tree, which prices everything at a dollar in its 5000+ stores, has purchased Family Dollar, which has 8000 stores, where items are offered at various prices points still usually below what a consumer would pay at, say, Walmart.

So, at one end of the price/shopping spectrum you have people spending obscene amounts on outrageously large homes, yachts, planes and whatever. Meanwhile, the vast unwashed masses shop at an ever-increasing number of stores whose appeal is (usually not very good) goods at a dollar or so per item.

Thank you, President Lassner, for acknowledging, intentionally or not, that there are way more of us strugglers than there are in the upper echelons, financially.

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