Shopping

Link Roundup: Happy Marriage?; Telecommuting; How to Shop IRL

1) Thanks for the cheerful morning read on how most of us will not end up happily married, Quartz!

Just as most Americans want to believe that they will get rich someday, most Americans want to think that they will have a marriage of far-above-average quality. … What we do tell people is that happy couples are really no different from unhappy couples. Either they have found some secret formula for happiness (and if you buy the right book/attend the right seminar/take the right product, you will be happy too!), or they have learned to lower their expectations to the point where they don’t feel the sting of disappointment from incompatibility, loneliness, sexlessness or boredom. The first case is akin to Senator Marco Rubio testifying that America is “a nation of haves and soon to haves.” It is theoretically possible for any single individual to become wealthy, but it is unlikely that we are all going to be rich anytime soon. The second is like saying that rich people don’t have more money than poor people, just a better attitude. 

This is not a well written article. (“There are many theories floating around about why greater gender equality have not put an end to divorce in America.”) Does that mean the thesis is wrong? I hope so. The dream of being contently coupled should be more accessible than the dream of being Scrooge McDuck. There is, after all, an infinite amount of happiness in the world, and only a finite number of gold coins.

2) Women and childless men, don’t ask to work remotely

---

Nail Polish That Might Save Your Life

Living with a kitchen of limited size, and also being on a budget, means having to be strategic. No single-utility items, a friend told me once, sternly. That was her policy. She refused to pay for any gadget – a bread-maker, a George Forman grill, a pineapple slicer — that did only one thing, because no number of delicious cuts of pineapple could make up for kitchen clutter. Appliances must multitask! Be useful, or begone.

I thought about that when I read this piece about nail polish that can detect date rape drugs.

Undercover Colors is currently raising cash to refine its prototype and pay executives. According to a securities filing, the four-person company, which recently appeared at the K50 Startup Showcase, just raised $100,000 from one investor, with $150,000 left to sell in the round. And it has additional cash from competition. The company won the Lulu eGames this spring, sponsored by N.C. State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, a contest challenging students to design working solutions to real-world problems.

Though the article raises some questions, like how could be it be savvy enough to detect roofies and also nontoxic, and how much would Smart, Potentially Life-Saving Nail Polish cost — too much for your average college student?, it’s an intriguing idea. Veronica Mars would approve, and so, I imagine, would my clutter-conscious friends.

---

Link Roundup: Affluenza/Douchiness; Hospitals & Obamacare; Macy’s Settles with “Shoplifters”

+ Remember that Texas boy who killed a bunch of people and got off with a slap on the wrist because, his lawyers argued, his wealthy parents never taught him right from wrong? SHOCKER, his dad just got arrested. Not for never teaching his son “thou shalt not kill,” but for being a douche.

The father of the Texas teenager who killed four people while driving drunk and claimed his family’s wealth was partially to blame has been arrested for impersonating a police officer, legal documents showed. Frederick Anthony Couch was arrested on Tuesday for an incident that occurred on July 28 in the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills. Couch is the father the then 16-year-old boy who was sentenced to probation for the deadly accident after his lawyers argued the enormous wealth of the youth’s family blinded him to responsibilities resulting from his actions.

+ Hospitals, Obamacare, and who qualifies for free emergency treatment.

While many charity care programs have been in place for decades, others were established following widespread complaints and lawsuits brought in the late 1990s over aggressive hospital collections tactics. Those included placing liens on patients’ homes and charging the uninsured the highest list prices, which were far more than what insurance companies paid on behalf of policyholders. Now, under the health law, nonprofit hospitals must make reasonable efforts to determine if patients qualify for help before taking tough collection tactics. And the law says the amount sought from the patient cannot be the hospitals’ list price, but an amount closer to what is generally billed to insured patients.

+ Macy’s pays $650,000 to settle with shoppers after acting like a shitty police state. Because America really needed another one of those. 

---

On Sneakers and Spending

This Mychal Denzel Smith essay on shoes, cool, and Michael Jordan vs LeBron James is an interesting meditation on what and why we spend.

 I bought two pairs of Jordans last month, which brought the total to five for the year. I’m going to buy (at least) one more pair this month, and a few more before 2014 ends. In other words, I have and will continue to spend entirely too much money on some fucking sneakers. I’m not a collector. I’m more interested in my own vanity than impressing sneakerheads with a closet full of shoes. But I’m not out there buying just any shoes. I’m drawn to Jordans in a way that almost makes other shoes invisible to me. …

Take my most recent pair, the Wolf Grey Jordan 3′s. The colorway is new, but the Jordan 3 debuted in 1988, the year Michael Jordan’s legend was cemented. In his fourth year in the NBA, he led the league in scoring, averaging 32.5 points per game, as well as steals, won Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, on top of winning the slam dunk competition. The design of the shoe is almost secondary; it’s cool to feel a connection to such greatness. That’s what I’m really buying when I get a new pair of Jordans: cool. It’s not something I come by naturally.

Smith admits that LeBron is a more political, and perhaps more powerful, icon (“Jordan owns cool, but LeBron’s legacy will be much more important”), especially in light of how our society is treating young black men these days. But one man’s aura is a wallet-opener and the other’s isn’t, and logic doesn’t have much to do with it. (“Putting on a pair of Jordans is like being able to wear Jay Z lyrics.”) Rarely has the psychological motivation behind spending on certain items been laid out so well.

---

Plus-Size Shops Vs Plus-Size Shoppers

There’s an uproar happening right now in plus-size clothing. Fashionista started it by asking a provocative/insulting question,

what if the problem with the plus-size industry isn’t with faceless businessmen, but with the customers themselves? … Sarah Conley, a plus-size blogger and retail consultant, explains that when retailers are approached by customers to feature more true plus-size models, the companies will often conduct tests. One such brand displayed the exact same clothes on a size 8 model and a size 14 model on its website; the size 8 model sold better every time.

“As much as we think we want to see people who look like us, it’s not really showing through in customer behavior, which is really unfortunate,” she explains. “I think that people who say they want to see a more diverse group of women, whether it’s body shape or size, they’re not always following those wishes and demands with their credit cards.”

In the same way, the higher-priced items that customers clamor for — items designed by big names, items with more tailoring and trendier items — “don’t sell.” There’s also the issue of impermanence: “Everyone I spoke with agreed that women who are told that their body shape should be considered temporary, always in need of a new diet or weight loss plan, aren’t exactly going to plunk down $300 for a dress that, ideally, won’t fit them in a month.”

Jezebel weighed in, so to speak, and gave Fashionista a succinct answer: no. For one thing, sez Jez,

When plus-size blogger Gabi Gregg launched a swimwear collection with Swimsuits For All, the line sold out in hours. Women were more than happy to spend money on fashionable garments designed to flatter their bodies. Again, how can consumers buy clothes that don’t exist?

---

The Catalogs Keep Coming

You’d think that online shopping would have eliminated our need for catalogs, but according to the New Yorker, Americans receive nearly 12 billion catalogs a year—the worst of which is from Restoration Hardware, which has the door-stopping weight of 17 pounds and the ire of UPS delivery people. Most of the catalogs end up in the recycling bin, and are considered a waste of energy and resources.

---

Saying Yes to the Dress! (For Other People)

Shopping for and with other people is the absolute best. If I had my way, I’d be sitting on one of those funny little poufs in the dressing room saying encouraging things to a friend, while she looks appraisingly at herself in a three-way mirror, once a week.

A mother-of-the-groom asked if I would take her out earlier this summer, and in one short afternoon we perpetrated an entire outfit: a striking, classy, yet “appropriate” dress ($250), a beautiful bolero to go over it in case New Hampshire is cold on Labor Day (~$100), and a pair of sturdy but cute shoes to wear while walking down the aisle and then jumping with joy on the dance floor ($40). That made me happy. What made me happier still was when two different brides invited me to accompany them on the Holy Grail of retail excursions: Wedding Dress Shopping.

Twice I have been able to be all, “Yes, she said, yes, I will, yes” to the Dress.

---

My Hopeless Love Affair With Craigslist

In my younger days, I was cursed with an undying and irrational optimism in matters of the heart. Although I was neither very attractive nor particularly charming, I managed to cling perennially to a wisp of hope that some clearly unattainable object of my affection might, against all odds, choose me. The trouble was, my unrealistic hopes were realized, not frequently, but frequently enough to keep me optimistic in the face of repeated failures. This was sporadically wonderful and mostly sad. My experience with Craigslist has been the same, although, happily, the effect on me has not been nearly as depressing.

Generally, for the things I most covet and hope to get cheaply, Craigslist is unavailing and labor-intensive: I have pored over hundreds of listings in search of a ride to Philadelphia when everyone, inexplicably, was driving to Montreal. When I desperately needed a serviceable four-door car, I could find nothing but awful, rust-eaten, homemade-spoiler-bedecked coupes. In short, the ‘list is often better for idle browsing than for targeted searches. (I love idly browsing Craigslist.)

But! Craigslist has its treasures, and every now and then, when I want something so odd and generally expensive that I know with near certainty that I won’t find it within my price range—that it doesn’t even exist nearby—it appears. For example:

---

What Makes a “Gentleman” In This Day and Age?

Several articles I have read recently have used the word “gentleman,” and it’s beginning to make my skin prickle. Once upon a time, the word meant something specific:

:  a man of noble or gentle birth

:  a man belonging to the landed gentry

c (1) :  a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) :  a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior

d (1) :  a man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain (2) :  a man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain

It implied a certain level of behavior, an adherence to a code of honor. When Scarlett O’Hara tried to think of the worst thing she could say to Rhett Butler, she came up with, “You, sir, are no gentleman!” (He laughed, that sexy, sexy scoundrel.)

Then came American egalitarianism, and Playboy’s Hugh Hefner lounging around in his bathrobe, and the grim, windowless “gentleman’s clubs” alongside the West Side Highway, and nowadays the word means … what? Supposedly, “a man who treats other people in a proper and polite way.” A nicer-than-average dude, perhaps the kind that doesn’t frequent the clubs along the West Side Highway. The word has been utterly divorced from class, which is appropriate in a world when so many rich men act like boors anyway. But it has simultaneously been leached of meaning. Which is … maybe a shame?

---

Only Suckers Don’t Buy Generic

You can count me among the nonchef idiots who pay three times more for brand-name pain relievers et alia instead of CVS-brand something-or-other. This BloombergView piece has almost convinced me to shake off my leftover childhood class anxiety and stop doing things like buy the most expensive pregnancy test because that probably means it’s the best.

---