Monday, September 7, 2009

Holes in Your Jeans

If you have holes in your jeans, you’re not alone. The biggest fashion trend of the decade is found in people who aren’t buying any new clothing this year. In an average year, about 1 in 8 U.S. adults doesn’t buy any new clothing. This year, it is almost 1 in 2.

The result of people wearing clothing longer is that they get a better sense of what their favorite clothing is, and they wear it over and over again, and in rare instances, actually wearing it out.

And clothing is not the only area where people and businesses this year have opted for efficiency even if the effect is a little shabby. These are other examples:

  • Airlines are overbooking flights by 1 to 2 percent more than before. On some key routes, this means they are bumping 3 to 5 passengers from almost every flight. The airlines are more likely to fly with a full plane, but for the passengers, it makes traveling a more haphazard experience.
  • As web sites try to scale back on the number of servers to save electricity, they are slow or inaccessible for brief periods.
  • Delivery is slower sometimes as volume has fallen off. This is especially evident in First Class Mail and Priority Mail, which lately often take an extra day or to two arrive. Having laid off drivers, trucking companies sometimes find themselves with two-week backlogs.
  • There are more dim and flickering fluorescent lights on the ceiling as stores and office buildings let them go longer before pulling out the ladder to replace them.
  • With colder weather coming in, many buildings won’t be heated as much as they were last winter.

In other areas, things are still looking good, in spite of cost-cutting:

  • Aside from the 1 percent of drivers who bought a new car in the Clunkers program last month, the average car is 10 years old. In the 1980s, 10 years old would mean the floorboards were rusting through, but these days, a 10-year-old car is pretty good. Even some of the 20-year-old cars don’t stick out.
  • I haven’t heard any reports of restaurants or cafeterias trying to pass off moldy bread or other bad food. Twenty-five years ago, that was commonplace, but it became less and less acceptable as time went on, and this year’s financial pressure seems to be making managers more determined than ever not to scare the customers away.
  • Many businesses have suspended their usual cycle of replacing desktop computers, and hardly anyone seems to have noticed. Most of those 2004 computers still seem to work as well as they ever did, and the ones that break down usually just need a component replaced: a mouse, keyboard, or disk drive.
  • With manufacturers needing to save on shipping costs, the trend toward smaller product packaging has accelerated. Mac OS X Leopard, for example, comes in a small, very thin box that contains only the DVD, two cards, and the obligatory window stickers. The days of the software installation booklet are apparently in the past. Similarly, audio book packaging is shrinking, as publishers realize that most customers just throw the box away anyway. But this move comes just in time, as stores cannot spare as much space on their shelves, and the same apparently goes for the customers when they get the product home.