Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where the hell is everybody?

Here’s my own little economic survey. I flew to St. Louis Tuesday from LaGuardia on the only non-stop flight in the late afternoon, and the plane was half full. I stayed at the Ritz (corporate dictate) and they upgraded me to a junior suite and gave me a free bottle of wine with dinner. I took a client to lunch the next day at Mike Shannon’s, a classic St. Louis steak joint that’s been around for years, and they could have shut down half the dinning room and played a half court game of 5-on-5. That afternoon at the airport I was early and got a shoe-shine. The shoe-man had been at the same stand for 30 years and said he’d never seen it so dead as it had been the past few months. My flight home (again the only direct option) was less than a third full; I got all three seats in the emergency exit row to myself.

These are not good signs. I can’t even remember the last flight I was on that wasn’t completely full, and I’m not one of those road warriors who belongs to all the travel rewards clubs and knows all the tricks; these were random perks.

Another troubling sign: the most direct path between my office and Grand Central takes me through Rockefeller Plaza every morning and evening, except for the period from roughly November 15 until January 15, when the crush of tourists visiting New York makes walking through the Plaza in the evenings impossible; I have to swing north and go cross-town on 51st Street over to Madison. But not this year. I’m still cutting through the Plaza because there are far fewer tourists – especially from abroad.

So it’s not just car sales and home prices that are down big. People are staying home in droves.

26 comments:

kgwhit said...

My experiences of late mirror yours. Was out with a client at Sam & Harry's a couple of weeks ago and we really didn't need a reservation. I went to the bar at Morton's last week for drinks with a client. I was sitting where I could see people coming in and I only saw two groups come in to eat before I left at 7:30. The Acela was half empty the last time I took it. A couple of our people flew to our Salt Lake office and said the plane was packed, but that is the only exception that I have heard of lately.
There is an inexpensive sports bar near my house that has been pretty full the last two times I was there. It may only be the high end places that are hurting.

Birdman said...

The fact that Walmart has done well this season speaks to the truth of KG's last statement. People that were going to high end restaurants whether for business or pleasure are thinking twice about a $45 steak and a $20 glass of wine. As well they should.

A $5.50 Makers Mark served at my local bar goes down just as well and ends up in the same place as a $12.50 Makers served at Morton's. Except for anniversaries, I'm done with these places. They just aren't worth it.

fenway said...

I still have nothing to say other than I am still with the 66% of Americans opposed to bailing out the auto makers (despite their ridiculous little hybrid road trips). Apparently Jack Welch wrote a column today preaching against a bailout. Anyone know where it ran?

d'blank said...

Fenway -- you bitched when they took private planes and now you disss them for riding in hybrid cars. would it be ok if they walk next time?

leslies said...

My wine guy said the same people are coming in buying cases of wine, but instead of $50 bottles, they're buying $12 bottles. (Shoot-more pressure on my $12 bottles..)

Fenway, I'm in your 66%

MikeyLikesIt said...

Last night, in her first day back at work in Midtown Manhattan after a week in Hawaii, my wife said the same thing: the streets felt strangely deserted.

In Hawaii, things were bustling in Honolulu and in the cheap eateries we favor, but on the Big Island, we stayed at a big luxury resort in Kona-Kohala...which was like a ghost town. Especially their high-end restaurant...it was like the I Am Legend cafe.

warrenout said...

Don't know a thing about NYNY, or about half full planes. I do know you can still get a couple of pieces of Sunrise pizza and a couple of beers for under 10 bucks. Our Super Walmart is packed most of the day.Maybe people have made the connection that more expensive isn't better just different.Although,I suspect that all the glitz, glamour, bells&whistles will be back as soon as wall street figures out what the next great fortune is.

d'blank said...

oh you clever 66%-ers. what a coincidence, because 66% of Americans are also unable to name the century in which the Civil War took place, or find Canada on a map. If the Big 3 go down you’re going to wish we’d forked over the $34 b. it will look like a bargain when the biggest industry in 6 midwestern states is the production and distribution of meth, and all of Texas is the battlefield for a running drug war between Mexican pistoleros and crankheads from Ohio.

Gaga said...

& THEN WE BECAME THE WALMART CROWD EBB & FLOW, WHAT DOES UP MUST COME DOWN WE'V BEEN UP FOR A VERY LONG TIME WELCOME TO DOWN
DOES ANYONE REALLY THINK THAT IF THE BIG 3 GO DOWN ITS THE END OF CARS? SOMEONE WILL MAKE THEM,& THEY'L MAKE THEM HERE SO THAT WE CAN BUY THEM. THE TROUBLE IS THE BOYS RUNNING THE SHOW NOW WILL BE SELECTED TO RUN THE SHOW THEN. THEY WONT BE CALLED GM,FORD & CHRYSLER, THEY'L BE HONDA, TOYOTA & SUZUKI. MORE PEOPLE WILL WANT THEM THINKING THEIR AMERICAN BUT BETTER. EBB & FLOW OMMMMMMMMMM

d'blank said...

warrenout -- Sunrise will be busy as long as the Sun rises. a better gauge of prosperity would be how difficult it is to get a table at Alberini's on a Saturday night.

kgwhit said...

Guy on our staff spent Thanksgiving in Naples at his brother-in-laws second home. They go every year and they said it was deserted. Flight down empty and plenty of empty homes with for sale signs.
If Congress bails them out this week, I'll bet they are back here by March asking for more money.

Kaz said...

Here in Columbus at Bob's Bar down the street, which bills itself as "the cultural hub of the Midwest" they're packing them in to drink their 150 different beers. Almost looks recession proof!

Fistinyoface said...

Neutron Jack’s opinion can be found at www.thewelchway.com; Welch and 3rd wife Suzy’s galling, self-aggrandizing blog where these avaricious, bloviating twits offer their imperious opinions on… everything.

If that doesn’t hit you like a six pack of Ipecac, count yourself as one of the 66%-ers who get their information from The View, weep at pro-sports events and pronounce the t in “often.”

Then go visit this site: www.menarebetterthanwomen.com. It is owned and operated by a close personal friend of mine.

I’ll be listening for the sound of popping aneurysms in distaff skulls all across this (formerly) great land.

Jack Welch...jeeezuss!

Birdman said...

1/2 a million jobs lost in November -- shocking Wall Street because it exceeded analysts expectations. This seems to happen a lot. I think there's a problem with the analysts rather than the figures. They're never right -- ever. I can't believe these bozos are so shocked by these numbers. They seem to be just a bunch of lazy pussies that depend on computer programs written by another bunch of pussies. Jesus, what a mess.

d'blank said...

After you visit FIYF's favorite site, i recommend the Daily Show clip from last night in which Jon Stewart explains why Congress gave money to Wall Street but doesn't want to help Detroit, and the relationship between the car you drive and how much sex you have. The link is at the top of the column to the right.

leslies said...

well...the wall street bailout doesn't seem to have achieved it's full mission....Maybe for the auto industry, there's a compromised position? Maybe just not a panicked money dump.....

fenway said...

Just recovered from misreading a Dec 4 post by d'b in which I assumed he was calling me an actual bitch. Then, as sittingonmyface predicted, my skull subsequently exploded. It's been quite a week!

fenway said...

Thank God hot stove is heating up

d'blank said...

Fenway -- would i ever be so rude to you? certainly not in writing.

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