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Has this economy changed how you shop?
Jan 28, 2022
Episode 589

Has this economy changed how you shop?

Plus, a travel tip during our favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty!

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for some Economics on Tap! Today we’re wondering if all the talk about supply chain problems six months ago changed our shopping habits and pondering the growing popularity of circus performers on TikTok. Plus, a round of our favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

Have thoughts on today’s show? Questions, comments, concerns? Send us an email at makemesmart@marketplace.org or give us a call at 508-827-6278 (or 508-U-B-SMART) and leave a message!

Make Me Smart, January 28, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams:  Okay, and I’m ready to go. Hello all, I am Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today and I guess the week because it’s Friday make sense.

Justin Ho: And I’m Justin Ho, as Kimberly just said it is Friday, which around here means happy hour Friday, Economics on Tap as it’s know around here. Thanks for joining us.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And so today is the day where we play our favorite game Half Full/Half Empty, we will also do the news. But before we get to any of that, Justin, what are you drinking?

Justin Ho: I was gonna wait to open my bottle of – my humble bottle of Pacífico on mic. So here I’m going to do it. Wait for it … come on. I don’t know if anyone could hear that.

Kimberly Adams: I could hear that. It’s very nice audio. What is Pacífico?

Justin Ho: It’s like the standard Mexican lager. You know, you get a 24 pack. Put a lime in it.

Kimberly Adams: I don’t know.

Justin Ho: Today I’ve got a key lime instead of a regular lime. But uh, I think that works.

Kimberly Adams: Okay. Because it is cold and snowy here in DC, just like much of this part of the country. I am drinking sake. And I have like, my little Pyrex glass bowl of hot water with my little bottle in there trying to get it to the exact right temperature. And yeah, that’s the life I’m living right now.

Justin Ho: That sounds good, though. I mean, warm drinks. We’re just talking about the bomb cyclone that you’re dealing with pretty soon.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I think it’s mainly to the north of us. But yes, it is going to be quite, quite the weekend of weather. And hopefully, folks are able to stay off the roads as much as they can. But yeah,

Justin Ho: Are you a sake drinker?

Kimberly Adams: Oh, yeah, for sure. I had actually planned. I was on chatting online yesterday. And I was like, I need to come up with the sake cocktail. But and then I ran out of time today because I was doing too much stuff. So I just decided to heat it up. But yeah, when I’m cold and I feel like that warm drink. I’m definitely a fan. I don’t like cold sake, though. I know that’s like way more fashionable, but it’s not my thing.

Justin Ho: Yeah, I just tried some I think it’s called –

Kimberly Adams: Do you like it?

Justin Ho: Yeah, I do. There’s a, I guess a brand of unpasteurized sake that I’ve been getting into. I don’t really know the name of it, but it’s, um, it’s delicious.

Kimberly Adams: Like, cloudy and stuff?

Justin Ho: This one’s kind of clear. Actually. It’s um, there’s a sake distillery, I guess there’s only like three or four basically, like a handful of sake distilleries in the United States. And one of them’s in, kind of in like the south part of San Francisco. And they do an unpasteurized sake that’s delicious. But yeah, it served cold usually.

Kimberly Adams: Okay. I’ll have to track it down and try it. Let’s – why don’t you go first with your news because your seems like more newsy?

Justin Ho: Yeah, I’m kind of nervous about yours. I saw the link. But uh, yeah, okay, I’ll start with mine.

Kimberly Adams: Why?!

Justin Ho: Mine – okay, well, we’ll get to it, we’ll get to it. But mine is a I was gonna, I was joking with senior producer Bridget Bodnar about this. It kind of sounds like a Marketplace Morning meeting pitch. But we got a bunch of economic data today. And I think the most interesting one that I wanted to talk about was consumer spending. So this was for December, we got the consumer spending numbers from the Commerce Department. And basically, the headline takeaway was that spending was down pretty big when it comes to goods, which, of course, is the thing that’s been up almost throughout the entire pandemic. And kind of a similar story happened, I think, on the 14th of this month, where retail sales numbers came out. And what a lot of people are saying, and the sort of narrative out there is that people pulled forward their spending, because of all the supply chain disruptions and decided to say, hey, you know, I’ll do my Christmas shopping in October or something like that. But I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been a little skeptical because I feel like, that’s not the only reason like I’m sure plenty of people listen to the Marketplace every day and, you know, reacted accordingly knew about the supply chain issues, but I doubt everyone was planning their spending that strategically. And I don’t know, I’m a little skeptical. What do you think about that?

Kimberly Adams: I think a lot of people really did plan their spending strategically. I mean, granted, my circle of friends and family happened to be connected to a business and economics journalist, so that that may skew the results. But I definitely heard from a lot of people that they were shifting their spending plans or, you know, stocking up on things in anticipation of stuff. I mean, I’ve been buying less stuff than I was, you know, a couple of months ago and not just for the holidays, but you know, I kind of did all of the, “I’m depressed about the pandemic shopping I’m going to do,” and now I’m just like, “Okay, I should probably save money and you know, do all of the half finished house projects for which I bought stuff, but I haven’t actually done.” And I wonder if people are just kind of working through what they’ve got and kind of reevaluating what we’re spending on. Because, you know, we’ve been in this for two years and people bought stuff didn’t make it any better. So maybe we’re just like, “Okay, this is not the fix. Let’s try something else.”

Justin Ho: Well, that’s what I was trying to get at, because like I saw this tweet earlier this morning from an economist Julia Coronado, who’s a friend of the show economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. And she brought up this term that she sort of coined called consumer exhaust, exhaustion, consumer exhaustion, and it’s basically the idea that like, yes, we have been buying a lot throughout the past couple of years, but maybe we’re kind of tired of it, maybe we’ve spent a lot already and supply chain issues or not, maybe we’re kind of hitting our limit, like, we’re not getting relief aid from Congress anymore. You know, inflation is obviously playing a factor. And, you know, maybe it’s time to just settle down for a bit.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I think there’s just been so much reevaluating of how we’re living our lives. And maybe part of that is revaluating – and, you know, inflation with prices going up, it gives you that extra moment of pause, to think like, do I really want to be buying this at this price? You know, do I really want to spend money on this? Or do I want to do something else?

Justin Ho: Yeah, that was one of our points. Like, I guess services spending did rise in December, whereas goods spending dropped. And Julia’s point was that, you know, maybe we are spending on the things that we need to do like going to the dentist and getting your haircut, but you know, maybe it’s time to hold off on that new appliance purchase or you know, new washing machine or whatever.

Kimberly Adams: I haven’t had a haircut since 2003. But I did go get my nails done in December.

Justin Ho: Well, that’s it. I mean, restaurant spending is still rising. Right. I mean, services spending is higher, but that goods spending? I don’t know, I feel like there are some people out there that are kind of just tired of spending.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. Okay. All right. Well, mine are way less economic. But, you know, fun. So the first one is this article that I saw, I guess it came up on Pocket, but it’s from this online news site called Input. And it is about circus performers, and how the American circus is in decline. But circus performers are getting all of this new lease on life on like Tik Tok and Instagram, because they can do their performances and get followers and people like to watch them like do their flame throwing and jumps and things like that, which struck me because I follow a woman on Instagram, who basically just like twirls a stick all the time. And sometimes it’s a lightsaber. And sometimes it’s a bo staff. And sometimes it’s like, nunchucks, or whatever. And it’s just fascinating to me. So that’s what kind of drew me to the article. But then I realized in reading it, I know one of the people that they interviewed who’s a public radio reporter in Boston, who I worked with once upon a time, and his name is Jack Lepiarz. And he has apparently since in the years in which I’ve spoken to him also become famous on Tik Tok for his circus performances, which he was doing back then, but now he’s famous on Tik Tok for it. Oh, wow.

Justin Ho: I was thinking about this. I don’t know. Have you ever been to like the circus? Have you ever like gotten a ticket and gone to and, you know, the local event?

Kimberly Adams: When I was a kid, my third grade teacher with whom I had a relationship through my whole childhood, she would take me to the circus often and some of the other kids that you know, she connected well with and we would like go in and group to the circus. So yeah, I went to the circus quite a bit as a kid, and, you know, the cotton candy and then you know, you become an adult and you hear all the terrible things, but I definitely was a fan of the circus as a kid. Were you?

Justin Ho: It was always this abstract thing that you’d see in pop culture and like I had – no, I never been I’ve been to I went to Cirque du Soleil a couple times, I think as a kid, but it’s not quite the same.

Kimberly Adams: That is very fancy for a kid.

Justin Ho: Yeah, I mean, my dad was a journalist, you know, before he retired, and we got press coverage.

Kimberly Adams: Okay.

Justin Ho: That’s, that’s what got us into it.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, but it sounds very fancy for a kid. I saw Cirque du Soleil as an adult but never as a kid, but…

Justin Ho: It was good. It’s good.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Meanwhile, we should probably play the game now. Alright, let’s play the game. Okay, This is Half Full/Half Empty, where we give you our thoughts and feelings on various topics. Drew Jostad is our wonderful host today, Drew, let’s go.

Drew Jostad: Are you guys half full or half empty on the Federal Reserve digital currency, a fed coin?

Justin Ho: You want to take this one?

Kimberly Adams: Not really. Um, you know, I did an interview about this for Marketplace Tech. So I understand this idea that the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve, basically put out a paper, starting the process of looking into whether or not it would be a good idea for the United States to have its own digital currency, I think China already has a digital currency. And this is, you know, slightly different than, you know, your Bitcoin or your Etherium, or whatever else, because it is actually, you know, belonging to the government. Half full, I think we’re probably going to end up with some version of this at some point, I’m not sure if we have the infrastructure and access and privacy guard rails and equity needs to make this work in the rollout for everyone. And I just hope that it doesn’t create a system of winners and losers, as this happens. What do you think?

Justin Ho: Yeah, I think I mean, it’s the Fed. So presumably, as a banking regulator, you know, a regulator, in general, it will kind of bring some order to this space, which still kind of seems like the Wild West. And I mean, I know that I’ll go with half full, too. I mean, I was just talking to a banker, a pretty small banker down in South Carolina. And he has been, he just said, you know, “I’m thinking a lot about this. And I’m really interested in the space in general, and I’m kind of waiting on the Fed to get involved in general and just sort of, you know, guide us into this obviously burgeoning field.” And I don’t know, I mean, maybe the Fed joining in makes it sound more legitimate …

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, sure. Why not? I yeah, I think, look, the Fed and other agencies that are going to get involved in this are in the investigation stage of it. And I think that’s appropriate, it’s appropriate to be looking into it. It’s appropriate to be gathering information to be hearing from stakeholders, but I just hope that people really think cautiously about how we move into this space.

Drew Jostad: Next topic, are you half full or half empty on Tesla making humanoid robots?

Justin Ho: I’ll take it. I’m going to go half empty. Sorry, Elon I don’t see how, you know, I, you know, what’s, what’s the business case here? What’s the purpose? What are we doing? You know, is this a, is this a growth industry? What do we what are we trying to do here?

Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna say half full. Because for all the things you want to say about Elon Musk, he jumped started and really pushed our adoption of electric vehicles. And I do think that there will eventually be a role for humanoid robots to play in our society, in our culture, particularly when it comes to things like elder care, and some types of manufacturing. And we have a shortage of a lot of workers that if you can automate some of those things, it’s dystopian, but it’s probably going to be necessary. And so that technology has to come from somewhere. And the quicker we get it, the more quickly we can start having the important societal discussions about the role that it plays and how we are going to adapt to it. So I’m gonna go to half  full.

Justin Ho: Do you think there’s a significance of it being a humanoid robot, as opposed to, you know, a rolling box on wheels? I mean, what do you think about the humanoid aspect, that you know, what will help those kind of roles that you’re thinking it might fill?

Kimberly Adams: I think it might help people feel a little less like they’re interacting with a machine. I mean, think about how different  we interact with automated personal assistants when we give them a human name, compared to when it’s just a disembodied voice. You know, all of those things are sort of subtle clues to our brains to have connection. And in a world and an environment where people feel less connection. I think there will be an appeal for some people to have something humanoid-ish. This is why so many of the really advanced robots that we first saw were little dogs, you know, because it’s cute and some of these, you know, people love Furbies because it was something that looked like it had an emotion. And I know I’m dating myself with the Furby reference here. But it was soft, and it was cuddly, and it looked like it had emotions and feelings. And so I think when you do have these elements of tricking your brain into the human connection for good or bad, it makes people like it more. Can be creepy though.

Drew Jostad: Next topic, thoughts, feelings on Spotify, removing Neil Young’s music.

Kimberly Adams: I have been so fascinated by this. I think, so I’m gonna go half full. Because while I don’t think it had a huge impact for, you know, Neil Young’s music to come down off of Spotify, the attention, that Neil Young, taking his music off of Spotify, or Spotify, removing it or whatever, happening, pushed all of these people to cancel their Spotify Premium subscriptions in protest, because it kind of clicked in people’s brains, that there was an action they could take about COVID-19 misinformation, which was to punish the platform hosting Joe Rogan, which I think is pretty fascinating, because it has become less about Neil Young and more about this thing.

Justin Ho: Yeah, I also wonder, I mean, I thought I saw in a quick article that I read about it that Neil Young actually gets a decent amount of royalties from Spotify. And you know, it made me I don’t know where we are in that discussion. Whether you know, doing this is a, you know, huge sacrifice, for instance, for an established artist. I mean, I’m curious, I’m just, you know, honestly curious as to whether we’ll see more stuff like this down the road or whether this stops with Neil Young, but I’d love to know. I mean, I honestly don’t, but how, you know, whether big artists actually need those Spotify, you know, those clicks those lessons or whether they can feel free to use it as a platform for activism.

Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on Lowe’s Hardware opening mini Petco’s in some locations.

Justin Ho: I’m going to go with half full for a very unrelated reason. If you ever, if you guys are ever on the road –

Kimberly Adams: Did you get a dog?

Justin Ho: No, I was gonna say if you guys are ever on the road Lowe’s, fantastic place to use a restroom. Just gonna say that. If you need, if you need a place to stop by. If you just if you see a Lowe’s on the side of the road, more locations, more restrooms, it’s the time of COVID. You don’t have to interact with anybody more Lowe’s sounds great.

Kimberly Adams: Wow, that is not at all where I thought you were going with that. Um, how did you first learn this?

Justin Ho: You know, I saw a load up the side of the road in Ventura, California. And, you know, my wife and I needed to use the restroom. And we just tried it out. We were – it was in the middle of COVID. We were sort of scared about, you know, a restaurant or like having to interact with people. But you know, these big warehouse stores have a lot of space, have a lot of headroom, have a lot of air ventilation. So that’s my take.

Kimberly Adams: That is such a good point. I never would have thought of that. But huh, well, okay, that made me smart. I’m gonna go half full to anything that can help all of these pandemic pet owners who have been struggling to get their dogs and cats into overwhelmed. vets. Like, my vet, right now is not accepting any new patients. And a good friend of mine got a dog during the pandemic, and was put on a waiting list to get access to a vet and her dog had a little crisis. Like he ate some garbage and started, you know, doing all the things dogs do when they eat garbage. And she couldn’t get him in for a couple of days. Even the emergency room and, you know, so increasing access to pet services. Great. Sure. And, you know, if this means that the next time I have to go to the hardware store, I interact with dogs. I will count that as a win. Sure. Yes, I’ll take it.

Drew Jostad: Alright, to be clear, I don’t think that they’re like opening more Lowe’s, I’m sorry, Justin. I think it’s they’re just opening Petco’s like in the Lowe’s.

Justin Ho: So disappointing.

Drew Jostad: Yeah, you might have to – might be stuck there.

Kimberly Adams: Do you have any pets Drew?

Drew Jostad: I do not, no, I do not. Half full or half empty on the chances of Disney picking up the Korean Disney princess musical.

Kimberly Adams: I don’t know this story.

Drew Jostad: So a musical theater composer has been putting out Tik Toks of the original song she wrote for a Korean Disney Princess musical and they are going viral. And people are calling upon Disney to turn the idea into reality.

Kimberly Adams: I am all the way full on Disney doing anything that will make them money.

Justin Ho: Yeah, I mean that’s what I mean. Didn’t Netflix come out the other day and they said like, “Hey, we’re really worried about the competition.” I mean, this sounds like more of that.

Kimberly Adams: I will have to go and look at these these videos and in judge for myself, my Tik TOk and Instagram Reels viewing lately has just been all like “Encanto” Reels, with various people singing the songs from that movie because they’re great. Have you seen the movie? … Have I seen –  Yes. Have you seen in “Encanto”?

Justin Ho: No, I haven’t.

Kimberly Adams: Got to watch. it. It’s great. You know what? I take that back. I have a terrible track record on the show of recommending movies and actually getting people to watch them. So nevermind Justin, watch whatever you like, spend your downtime and whatever way makes you happy. You know…

Justin Ho: I did promptly cancel my Disney subscription after finishing Mandalorian so give me a little while before I start that up again.

Kimberly Adams: But what about the other one? The Boba Fett series?

Justin Ho: I haven’t started that haven’t started that haven’t been that interested.`

Kimberly Adams: Hmm. Okay. That’s the end. Okay. All right, then. That is it for us today Make Me Smart. We’ll be back on Monday. Until then, please keep sending your questions,comments make me smiles and if you want to risk it, movie recommendations to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or you can leave us a voice message we are at 508-827-6278 that is 508-UB-SMART.

Justin Ho: I’m waiting. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green Today’s episode was engineered by Drew Jostad. The senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

Kimberly Adams: The team behind our game Half full/half empty is Mel Rosenberg and Emily McCune. The theme music for Half full/half empty was written by again the amazing Drew Jostad and the director of on demand is Donna Tam.

Justin Ho: How that go did we win?

Kimberly Adams: Yes!

Drew Jostad: Everybody wins.

Kimberly Adams: All we do is win, win, win no matter what.

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