Archive for February, 2010

I bought a PlayStation 3.

The funny thing about this is that on Tuesday (yesterday), Gerald and I had a long talk about how I had to go about finding a PS3 to buy, since it was sold out in a lot of places. It goes something like this:

A night or two before our rather large tax refund arrives in our bank account, my wife and I went to the Nebraska Furniture Mart (a Warren Buffett company). I saw at least nine 120 Gb PS3’s on a shelf. I further inquired with a young man at the counter how many they had in stock so I could buy one the next day. “130,” he tells me, “We have 130 of them in the warehouse.” His confident voice emphasized the number as if flicking out a secret stock tip to a desperate investor.

I came back in the morning when our tax refund was in our account. Immediately, there’s only one on the shelf and I let someone scoop it up. I was pretty sure from my previous inquiry that there was no way that the Mart would sell 130 PS3’s. I confidently marched up to a female employee stacking cheap movies on a shelf.

“Sorry, we were told when we came in at 10 am this morning that there were no more PS3’s left,” she said.

Certainly she’s in error, I think to myself, as she sounded rather smug and lazy about it. So I head over to another nicer employee and ask if I heard incorrectly. I had not – the Mart was out of PS3’s.

This boggled my mind – how the Hell did the Mart go from 130 PS3’s to none in less than 24 hours?

It dawned on me rather quickly. Last week was the earliest anyone could have filed their tax returns, so that Friday (before Presidents’ Day) was the first time any such tax refunds would be directly deposited in anyone’s bank account. Now add in the fact that if everyone was waiting for the PS3 price to drop (which it did) and their next year’s refund to buy, then PS3’s would fly off shelves. I still felt slightly disturbed by this trend – the 130 PS3’s, over which 50 were sold just the night before, were all gone?

To make this “sudden shortage” even more hectic, I went to Best Buy and they didn’t have any. In fact, none of the Best Buys in Omaha or Council Bluffs (6 in all) had any PS3’s to sell. Which I suspected, because Best Buys around here barely carried three of either the 120 or the 250 Gb machines in stock. I then skipped over to Toys R Us to check, and they had none at that location.

But hark! They had a few over at the Oakview Mall location. So we raced over there and I bought one. On top of that, they had a “Buy 3 games over $29.99, and get a 4th game free” sale going on. So I picked up Bioshock 2, White Knight Chronicles, Little Big Planet and Mass Effect 2 (for the XB360). They still had four PS3’s in stock, but I warned them that the so-called “shortage” in Omaha was probably going to cause Sony fantards to show up and demand one very soon. I walked out of Toys R Us with my prize in hand, although it felt weird that I did not go to the “normal” electronics boutique (such as Best Buy, the Mart or Gamestop) to pick up one.

Later, upon relaying my tale to Tycho, he said, “We gotta stop thinking on the same wavelength. I just prepped Wednesday’s rant to talk about the PS3 and these supposed shortages. Your story makes me look like I’m … I dunno … uneducated. But it makes sense what you said about tax refunds, price drops and finally getting a PS3 for the Blu Ray player. Perhaps people are suddenly drawn by Sony after so many years of constant bullshit to the paragon of the PlayStation legacy because they actually have enough money to buy one.”

Upon reading Sony’s reaction to the PS3 “shortage,” I’m rather amused and not at all amazed that they are still full of steaming shit. They still try to turn bad news into some sort of “how much can we lie to the fantards and get away with it?” contest.

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I watched their little talk in the GOCC on CNBC today.

It was interesting to see how Warren Buffett agrees with Paulson that if we hadn’t put $800 B in bailouts out there, one or two more financial institutions may have collapsed. And both of them agree that if one more institution collapsed at that point, things would be worse, cost twice as much to recover from, and the US dollar would have been twice as weak today. And could have possibly boosted unemployment in the US to 25%. Paulson correctly pointed out that Buffett, he and several other economists had singled out the sub-prime problems, but the government and banks ignored the reality in the hopes they would have fixed the problem at some point before a collapse. I think they both correctly pointed out the fact that had we reacted sooner (with good regulation), the bailout would have been significantly smaller and the impact less painful.

Paulson is still insisting that we put more regulation out there, and that companies don’t give monetary bonuses to C level leaders for performance, but give them more long-term incentives. Also, as the collapse of Greece’s economy proves, we need harder, tougher regulation to prevent unwarranted spending. As Buffett pointed out, we’ve been living on tax cuts expecting no repercussions for government spending, as well. If you increase government spending – especially on two wars – you have to raise taxes or cut budgets elsewhere. The Congress leading us from 2002 to 2006 basically tanked the nation’s surplus and drove up our deficit (which is now weakening the dollar badly). Which now drives up the need to spend in the trillions to fight that broken system we created with deregulation.

Bad news – I went off to do something else, and then realized that the DOW was on a rise based on the rumor that the EU will give Greece enough money to bail them out. I don’t think that’s going to happen the way people think it will, and I think that will cause a negative impact on Wall Street. On giving Greece money, they also have to give Spain, Portugal and Ireland money (all who have over-extended debt), which will actually impact the Euro the wrong way.

Good news – MetLife may buy out AIG’s life insurance group. That could relieve some of the pressure on AIG and give MetLife a big push.

Neutral news – both India and China face a huge jump in inflation, which may create big problems for US interests in those nations. It’s not bad news as employment will be cycled back this way and India’s surplus will have to be spent, bringing them back to some equity with the US. But it’s not good news since China can move their money around, and sink the dollar even more.

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