MONEY the photo bank

Looking at ‘Rich and Poor,’ 37 Years Later

Nearly 40 years after photographer Jim Goldberg started his groundbreaking project 'Rich and Poor,' a new batch of photos shows that when it comes to income inequality, not much has changed.

From 1977 to 1985, photographer Jim Goldberg pointed his 35-mm camera at the affluent and indigent of San Francisco. Roaming the dilapidated halls of a single-room-occupancy hotel and ringing the doorbells of the privileged, he created a photographic record of economic disparity. The details of his images—crumpled pages of magazines torn out and tacked to walls as decoration in the rooms of hotel residents, lavish Persian rugs, chandeliers, and elaborate fireplaces with detailed moldings in private residences—tell a story of income inequality in America.

“Rich and Poor,” the collection of grainy black-and-white portraits he made, is now regarded as a seminal work for the photography community. Reissued this summer in a completely redesigned edition, with new contributions from the photographer, Goldberg’s work is getting renewed attention, at a time when the gulf between classes is still dominating headlines.

Like Studs Terkel, whose landmark oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do came out a few years before Goldberg started his project, the photographer invited his subjects to offer their own accounts of life in the top and bottom strata of American society. In careful cursive or hasty scrawl, they captioned their own images, revealing their hopes and dreams, commenting on their economic and social standing, and offering observations about the way Goldberg portrayed them. What started out as photojournalism instead became collaboration. “I wanted to open up the discussion and ask interesting questions about how discussions of wealth and poverty are framed,” Goldberg says, “and look at the language that is used to describe them, and who gets to use that language.”

Shown with her husband and son in the tight quarters of a hotel room with crumbling, graffiti-covered plaster walls, Linda Benko wrote about her family portrait, “This picture says we are a very emotional and tight family, like the three musketteers [sic]. Poverty sucks, but it brings us closer together.”

The series was first published as a softcover by Random House in 1985 and soon went out of print (unsigned First Editions of Rich and Poor in “very fine” condition can be upwards of $500, a far cry from the original list price of $15.95). Goldberg’s experimental work sat squarely in the canon of collective visual and audio documentation projects preserving the faces and stories that define our national history. (The tradition continues even today, with projects like StoryCorps booths that allow subjects to interview and record acquaintances and family members.) In 2002, Goldberg’s work on Rich and Poor and his subsequent book about runaways, Raised by Wolves, earned him a prestigious position in the photographic co-operative Magnum Photos and numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Henry Cartier-Bresson Award.

Following on the heels of the Great Recession, the 2014 republication of Rich and Poor comes at a time when the middle class continues to shrink, furthering the economic divide. “The income disparity is greater now than ever before,” Goldberg observes. “In terms of the climate, one of the most significant changes is that there is increased consciousness about these inequalities.” We see it in reality shows about how the other half lives—shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” that delve into the aspirational lives of wealthy celebrities, or ABC’s Secret Millionaire, which explores the daily struggle of the lower class and middle classes.

Goldberg cites his own shift in perspective as a reason why he wanted to revisit the work. In the afterword of the original Rich and Poor, he wrote about how, when he was growing up in New Haven, Conn., in the 1950s and ’60s, he would go for drives with his parents on Sundays through the wealthier neighborhoods, pointing out the big houses with mock envy. “Now I’m part of the middle class; that is different, too,” he says today. “So I’m seeing this issue from a different point of view than I had while making the photographs.”

LightBox interviewed Goldberg in the early stages of his collaboration with publisher Steidl. Incorporating vintage images from the original publication, as well as contemporary photographs that have never before been shown, the new 222-page hardcover edition of the book is part personal journal for Goldberg, part collective American scrapbook album. He reflected on how the design of the book breathes new life into the work:

The accordion fold-out that is included in the new edition is intended to bring present day into dialogue with the past. The idea for the covers of the insert (two portraits) was to photograph a rich person and a poor person from the original book. Between their two faces, as you unfold the book, are the current streets of San Francisco where the poor and rich live. These street shots are stitched together into an expansive panoramic… again, as a way to locate the place where these subjects live, or lived. For the wealthy portrait, I re-photographed OJ, who now splits her time between a large flat in San Francisco and an estate in Napa. As for David Benko, I used to see him on the streets of San Francisco when I was shooting for Raised by Wolves. While creating this new Rich and Poor, I did an internet search, and I found this picture of David Benko, who died, after being homeless on the streets of Texas.

Goldberg’s afterword in the new edition reveals his own idealism and optimism, even while revisiting a project that documents one of the darker issues plaguing the country. “I have a more nuanced view now about what photographs can and cannot do to address economic disparities, but I remain fascinated by my original impulse to undertake the project,” he writes. “I believed, I really believed, that once people saw what was happening, then we, as a society, would fix it. I am less naïve now, or at least I hope I am. But I can’t let go of the desire, the impulse, to want to believe in a society where things really will get better.”

This is the first post in The Photo Bank, a new section of Money.com dedicated to photography. From images that document the broader economy to ones that explore more personal concerns like paying for college, travel, retirement, advancing your career, or even buying groceries, The Photo Bank will showcase a spectrum of the best work being produced by emerging and established artists. Submissions are encouraged and should be sent to Sarina Finkelstein, online photo editor for Money.com: sarina.finkelstein@timeinc.com.

MONEY Federal Reserve

The Big Takeaway From Yellen’s Speech. It’s About Jobs

At Jackson Hole, Yellen is greeted by demonstrators who want the Fed to push for more jobs John Locher—AP

Fed Chairman Janet Yellen says the weak economy has room to improve. But many Americans may never get back to work.

Federal Reserve chairm Janet Yellen gave a much-anticipated speech at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole, Wyo. symposium Friday. The transcript isn’t exactly beach reading. Fed officials, wary of spooking antsy stock and bond traders, can be almost maddeningly obscure. But anyone who’s following the stock market — or looking for a job — should pay attention.

Five years after the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve is still taking extraordinary measures to prop up the economy, including buying up bonds and holding interest rates near zero. Those measures can spur growth as long as the economy isn’t running at full capacity. But once it is, the fear is that they can spur too much inflation.

Officials at the Fed, including the presidents of the regional banks and members of the committee that sets rates, are split into two broad camps. Inflation “hawks” believe it’s time to start weaning the economy from aid. “Doves” favor continued intervention. Earlier this week the release of the minutes of a Fed meeting in late July showed the hawks pressing their point, emphasizing that the economy was improving and raising questions about whether the much-anticipated return to normal interest rates should begin.

Yellen is widely considered a dove. That means on Friday Fed watchers were looking for signs she might be trying to rebut the argument that the economy is running near full tilt. In the event, she seemed to give ammunition to both hawks and doves.

Here are the speech’s highlights:

Yellen starts off both cheering the recovery and reminding us how far we may still have to go.

The unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent in July, has declined nearly 4 percentage points from its late 2009 peak. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has fallen considerably, and at a surprisingly rapid pace. These developments are encouraging, but it speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover.

That’s pretty dovish.

But in the bulk of her speech she explains reasons why it’s hard to get a read on the labor market, starting with the fact so many people have been out of work for so long.

Consider first the behavior of the labor force participation rate, which has declined substantially since the end of the recession even as the unemployment rate has fallen. As a consequence, the employment-to-population ratio has increased far less over the past several years than the unemployment rate alone would indicate, based on past experience. For policymakers, the key question is: What portion of the decline in labor force participation reflects structural shifts and what portion reflects cyclical weakness in the labor market?

That’s subtly hawkish. Here’s why: Usually, when the unemployment rate falls more people start looking for work. This time that hasn’t happened to the extent one might expect. The worry is, if there’s a big group of workers who just aren’t going to come back into the work force—because they are just too discouraged, or they don’t have the skills for the current jobs on offer, or maybe because they’ve been replaced by new technology—then maybe there isn’t as much “slack” in the economy as the low participation numbers suggest. Even with a comparatively high number of people working, employers could start to feel pressure to raise wages (creating inflationary pressures) to attract and retain the workers who’ve stayed in the labor force.

Yellen doesn’t answer whether this “structural” worry is justified, but she does flesh out the problem further.

….the rapid pace of retirements over the past few years might reflect some degree of pull-forward of future retirements in the face of a weak labor market.

Translation: Many baby boomers who lost their jobs may simply have decided to retire, rather than seek to reboot their careers.

But then Yellen goes a bit dovish again. She points out that wage growth has in fact been sluggish. That suggests at least some extra slack.

Over the past several years, wage inflation, as measured by several different indexes, has averaged about 2 percent, and there has been little evidence of any broad-based acceleration in either wages or compensation.

In other words, the Fed is still playing wait-and-see. For investors, that suggests more of the fairly bullish status quo: low rates and a slow unwinding of the “quantitative easing” bond-buying program. For people hoping for the job market to come roaring back, the Yellen’s speech sounds a somewhat discouraging note. It suggests that the economy could have shifted into a permanently slower mode, with fewer jobs. Or, at any rate, that there are many at the Fed who are willing to live with that to ensure inflation stays low.

MONEY Sports

WATCH: Memorabilia Vendors Are Already Profiting Off Mo’ne Davis

Little League star Mo'ne Davis pitcher her way into the national spotlight, and now memorabilia sellers are looking to make money off her autograph.

MONEY deals

Labor Day Sale Prices Are Here—a Week Before Labor Day Weekend

Banana Republic 50% off promotion
Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a brutally competitive back-to-school season for retailers, clothing stores like Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch have busted out extra-early clearance sales to the tune of 40% and 50% off everything.

Check out some of the impressive sales taking place right now:

Abercrombie & Fitch: 40% off everything in stores and on the web;

American Eagle: extra 50% off items already on clearance;

Ann Taylor: 50% off a broad range of merchandise;

Banana Republic: 40% off your entire purchase online with the code BRGET40, or $50 off when you spend at least $100 in stores;

Gap: 30% off for everyone (use code AUGUST), or 40% if you have a Gap credit card (code: $40STYLE) now through August 24, plus $25 in Gap Cash for every $50 you spend now through September 1.

If you didn’t know any better, you might have assumed that these big, across-the-board discounts are for Labor Day sales, or for post-back-to-school clearance sales. Heck, 40% off everything has more or less been the standard markdown level to get shoppers to bite on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, renowned as the best sales days of the year.

So why are retailers pushing such hefty discounts at such a seemingly odd time? One reason is that right now is an especially competitive, arguably desperate moment for apparel stores in particular. Iconic retailers like Target, Walmart, and Sears have been struggling mightily of late, and a wide range of clothing stores are trying to cope with consumers’ shifting fashion (and shrinking household budgets) that have brought about the need for deals like $10 jeans.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), household spending on clothes during the back-to-school period is basically flat compared with last year. Shoppers said they planned on spending $231.30 on clothes this season, versus $230.85 a year ago. What’s more, more parents seem to be taking the slacker approach to back-to-school shopping, procrastinating on purchases rather than prudently completing shopping lists long before school starts. As of August 12, an NRF poll indicates, 24% of families hadn’t done any back-to-school shopping yet, compared with 21% at the same time last year. Though fashionistas would disagree, trendy clothing is less of an essential for the start of the school year—kids need notebooks and markers more than new outfits—so it’s a safe assumption that procrastinators have been shying away in particular from clothing purchases, especially if they’ve been avoiding back-to-school shopping because of a tight household budget.

All of these factors add up to a situation in which stores simply haven’t been able to convince shoppers to buy enough clothing yet during the end-of-summer, back-to-school period. They could have waited to drop their big discounts on Labor Day Weekend, but because stores are constantly trying to beat competitors to the punch nowadays, sales tend to start earlier and last longer than ever—hence back-to-school deals beginning in June and Christmas advertising starting just after Labor Day.

Speaking of the winter holidays, they’re a major reason why retailers are being especially aggressive in clearing out summer and fall inventory right now. The November–December period is by far the most important time of year for all of the retailers mentioned above, and to make the most of it, stores want to start with a clean slate (and cleaned-out stores) as early as possible, to prep for the busy months ahead.

In fact, the world’s largest retailer already announced the launching of a holiday season initiative two weeks before Labor Day. “At Walmart, we never stop thinking about the holidays,” a post from Walmart’s Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, stated in mid-August. And yes, he was referring to the winter holidays: Starting around Black Friday, Walmart plans to have all of its store registers open during peak shopping times, according to a new Checkout Promise introduced by Mac Naughton.

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining why stores are resorting to big, broad markdowns at a seemingly strange time. But before you bite, bear in mind that next week, the sales will probably be even better on whatever merchandise hasn’t already been snatched up. The folks at dealnews anticipate that many stores will offer deeply discounted clothing during Labor Day clearance sales, sometimes with markdowns or 70% or even 80% off.

MORE: Why Parents Should Procrastinate on Back-to-School Purchases

MONEY

Millennials Love This Old-Fashioned Company

The 2014 Ford Escape.
As millennials get older, they're more interested in SUVs and crossovers, like the 2014 Ford Escape. courtesy of Ford

You might think of Ford as the automaker your grandpa stubbornly stuck with for decades. Millennials think of Ford as something else—the auto brand they're most likely to buy right now.

It’s a common belief that millennials are indifferent to car ownership. They aren’t buying cars anywhere near the percentage rates of previous generations, and fewer young adults even bother to get drivers’ licenses. However, none of these factoids has stopped automakers from trying to win over the business of this huge demographic—which might not be flush with cash now but will surely represent a gigantic chunk of car buyers down the road.

A new study from Maritz Research shows that one automaker has been particularly successful over the past few years in appealing to millennials, and the name may come as a bit of a surprise: It’s Ford, the staid, century-old, all-American company from Michigan. According to Maritz surveys—which have been pumped up in a Ford press release—in 2008, Ford ranked fourth among millennials as the brand they’d most likely consider buying. (Honda and Toyota held the top two spots.) By 2012, however, Ford leapfrogged over the competition to grab the No. 1 ranking.

“The jump was really at the expense of the Asian-based manufacturers,” said Maritz Research vice president Chris Travell, who pointed out that General Motors has also improved in the eyes of would-be millennial car buyers. “The North American manufacturers are making better product than they ever have. You can’t say that they’re not reliable and aren’t good quality anymore.”

Millennials have taken notice. They also aren’t likely to have much memory of the auto world of decades ago, when the perception was that American cars were overpriced and would break down quicker and more often than many imports. “Millennials don’t remember the bad stuff,” said Travell. “They’re coming in as mostly clean slates. Ford is not considered the ‘old Ford’ to this generation.”

The automaker has been catching the eye of younger buyers with its focus on techie features (admittedly, not always successfully), and, most important, a lineup of vehicles and price points that appeal to their needs right now. From 2008 to 2013, more millennials became interested in crossovers and SUVs, and fewer wanted compacts and other small vehicles, which is the strength of Asian car manufacturers like Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota. “The trend of millennials starting families comes at the same time Ford is updating or replacing nearly its entire product lineup,” Amy Marentic, Ford global car and crossover marketing manager, said via press release. “These fastest-growing segments—like small utilities—coincide with Ford’s product strengths.”

Ford has also actively targeted millennials and strategically pursued them as customers now and, ideally, in the future. “One thing we recognized is that millennials don’t want to be just fed information and trust it, necessarily,” said Lisa Schoder, Ford’s global small-car marketing manager, according to Forbes. “So how can we be part of their lives and inform them about our brands and products without overtly advertising to them? That has been our critical differentiator. They need to participate in experiences versus just being spoon-fed something.”

Accordingly, Ford introduced Focus Doug, a “spokespuppet” (a sock puppet, actually) in a series of online videos, and used social media in a variety of other unorthodox, irreverent ways to put vehicles like the Focus, Fiesta, and Escape on the radar of millennials. The Wall Street Journal just reported on Ford’s recent efforts to win over female customers via programs like Live.Drive.Love, which invites women to take Ford cars on 24-hour test drives.

What does reaching out to women have to do with millennials? Well, overall among car buyers, less than 4 in 10 of purchases were made by women in 2013. But among millennials, 53% of buyers are female.

Young women who are starting families or just want more space for mountain bikes and other gear are likely to be intrigued with Ford models like the Escape and Explorer. And those with less need for space, or those with simply smaller budgets will be more likely to go with the subcompact route, via the Fiesta. As Ford crowed last summer, the Fiesta has been a big success in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, and the Ford brand overall increased retail share among millennials by 80% from 2009 to 2013.

MORE:
10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On
Check Out This Revolutionary Car-Buying Advice—Then Disregard It

MONEY Shopping

WATCH: Wal-Mart Cuts iPhone 5c Price to 97 Cents

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MONEY

What The Simpsons Characters Taught Us About Money

Tune in to "The Simpsons" marathon for laughs—and also for lessons about careers, consumerism, college majors, and what should and shouldn't be used as toilet paper.

Thursday, August 21, marks the kickoff of an absolutely epic marathon of “The Simpsons” on the FXX channel. Starting at 10 a.m., the network will show every Simpsons episode ever (#everysimpsonsever in social media-speak) back-to-back in chronological order, with “The Simpsons Movie” thrown in as well. That’s a total of 552 episodes—25 seasons of the longest-running sitcom and longest-running animated show ever—running 24 hours per day for 12 straight days, ending on Labor Day, September 1.

In honor of the marathon, we thought it would be fun to reflect on what some of the most colorful and memorable characters on “The Simpsons” have taught us by their good (or, more likely, bad) examples. Here are 11 money lessons from “The Simpsons,” each with a memorable quote to bring the message home.

 

  • Homer Simpson

    Homer Simpson on THE SIMPSONS
    Fox

    Homer: “If you don’t like your job, you don’t strike, you just go in there every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.”

    Lesson: Job security can be wonderful thing. Homer said these words to his daughter Lisa during a teacher strike at her school, and they bring to mind how amazing it is that an inept, clueless worker like Homer can avoid being fired from his job at the nuclear power plant. By extension, the takeaway is that workers should not underestimate employment fields that come with decent job security. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer lines of work are immune to forces like the economic downturn and increased automation across all industries. So pretty much everyone should always have an updated resume at the ready, and be prepared to launch a second career at a moment’s notice. Oh, and do try to do your job well rather than “half-assed,” to limit the odds you’ll get fired in the first place.

  • Kent Brockman

    Kent Brockman on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Kent Brockman: “Things aren’t as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors—useful people are starting to feel the pinch.”

    Lesson: Choose a practical major and career. TV news anchor Brockman, the face of journalism in Springfield, is known for tone-deaf reports like this one, delivered during a season five episode when a casino was proposed to revitalize the local economy. (A concept that quite a few U.S. communities have glommed onto lately, by the way.) His offhand swipe at liberal arts majors obviously calls to mind how important it is for students to choose a college and college major wisely.

  • Marge Simpson

    Marge Simpson on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Marge: “We were using $50 bills as toilet paper and toilet paper as dog toilet paper.”

    Lesson: Don’t go overboard when success comes your way. Marge is usually the voice of reason on “The Simpsons,” but even she could go off the deep end—like in the casino episode mentioned above, when she became addicted to playing the slots. (Money-hungry Monty Burns, who of course owned the casino, explained that legalized gambling was “the perfect business: People swarm in, empty their pockets, and scuttle off.”) The quote above from Marge was related during a “Behind the Music”-type episode, when the gang reflected on how famous and rich they became at the height of “The Simpsons” craze. The simple moral is: Don’t let success or sudden wealth change who you are, nor what you consider appropriate material for wiping your butt. For that matter, the whole career of Springfield celebrity Krusty the Clown, who built and lost fortunes many times over—once betting everything he had that the Harlem Globetrotters would lose (“I thought the Generals were due!”)—is a cautionary tale about how not to handle success.

  • Waylon J. Smithers, Jr.

    Smithers on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Smithers: “Your new duties will include answering Mr. Burns’s phone, preparing his tax return, moistening his eyeballs, assisting with his chewing and swallowing, lying to Congress, and some light typing.”

    Lesson: Do what you need to do to impress the boss to get ahead. OK, so you might not want to mislead Congress or get quite as up close and personal with your boss as Smithers does with Mr. Burns. (Smithers’s quote is directed at Homer, who temporarily took over Smithers’s duties.) But less extreme ways of buddying up to the boss can yield serious benefits in your career.

  • Bart Simpson

    Bart Simpson on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Bart [speaking as Steve Mobs]: “You are all losers. You think you’re cool because you buy a $500 phone with a picture of a fruit on it? Well, guess what? They cost $8 to make, and I pee on every one! I have made a fortune on you chumps, and I’ve invested it all in Microsoft.”

    Lesson: Don’t be suckered into buying overpriced technology you don’t need. Bart skewers Apple—and trendy overpriced tech in general—by subbing in his voice for Steve Mobs, a turtleneck-wearing stand-in for Steve Jobs, speaking from a big screen to a crowd of over-the-top fanboys at a “Mapple” store. Guess who is also being mocked here? Early adopters who blindly buy whatever gadgets are hottest, most hyped, and splashed in front of them at the moment.

  • Millhouse

    Millhouse on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Millhouse: “I kind of traded your soul to the guy at the comic book store.”

    Lesson: Understand the true value of things. Bart sells his soul to Millhouse for a mere $5, and Bart thinks he took his pal for a sucker in the deal because there is no such thing as a soul. (“It’s just something parents made up to scare children, like the boogeyman or Michael Jackson,” Bart says.) After Bart realizes the error of his ways, it’s too late to get his soul back because Millhouse swapped it—for pogsfeaturing TV alien Alf, of all things. The “joke” here is that both the boys have dramatically and foolishly underestimated the value of the soul, which should not be sold at any price. If indeed the soul does exist, that is.

  • Mr. Burns

    Monty Burns on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Mr. Burns: “Eternal happiness for one dollar eh? Hmmm… I’d be happier with the dollar.”

    Lesson: Some things are more important than money. The richest man in Springfield is the ultimate miser, who loves money above all else and reluctant to part with a dollar even for a seemingly “eeeeexcellent” reason. Mr. Burns probably has more quoted lines about money than any other Simpsons character, including “What good is money if it can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?” and the one above, spoken in response to Homer’s telemarketing plea promising eternal happiness for just a buck. Occasionally, though, Mr. Burns gets his comeuppance for his stingy and crooked ways, most notably when he was shot by Maggie when trying to take her lollipop—yep, he was stealing candy from a baby.

  • Moe

    Moe on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Moe: “Sure, Homer, I can loan you all the money you need. However, since you have no collateral, I’m going to have to break your legs in advance.”

    Lesson: Borrow money responsibly, from a reputable source. After Homer loses all his money investing in pumpkin stocks when they tank after Halloween—another money lesson entirely—he goes in seek of a loan to keep up with his mortgage payments. He deems a loan from Moe, the local bar owner, as less than ideal, before turning to an arguably worse resource: his gruff, spinster sisters-in-law Patty and Selma. They give him the money, but turn him into their servant and make his life a living hell. All in all, if you need help with your mortgage or are dealing with debt collectors, try not to be like Homer, and steer clear of characters like Moe, Patty, and Selma.

  • Apu

    Apu from THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Apu: “Pardon me, but I would like to see this money spent on more police officers. I have been shot eight times this year, and as a result, I almost missed work.”

    Lesson: Have a strong work ethic. The Springfield Kwik-E-Mart seems to never close, and its proprietor, Apu, never takes a day off. Not even when he’s shot on the job. And sure, he’s overworked, but at least his dedication and hard work helps him run a successful business. In the quote above, Apu is weighing in on what Springfield should do with a $3 million fine paid by Mr. Burns for dumping nuclear waste illegally. The town doesn’t heed Apu’s suggestion, and instead falls for the pitch of a mysterious huckster named Lyle Lanely, who convinces Springfield to build a boondoggle of a monorail. There are some lessons to be learned in there too, of course.

  • Lisa Simpson

    Lisa Simpson on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Lisa: “My administration will focus on the three R’s. Reading, writing, and refilling the ocean.”

    Lesson: Your circumstances shouldn’t dictate your ambitions. In episodes that show the future, we find out that Lisa, the bright and plucky middle sibling stuck in the nutty, underachieving Simpson household, winds up being president of the United States. If she can make it given her surroundings, anyone can.

  • Comic Book Guy

    Comic Book Guy on THE SIMPSONS
    FOX

    Comic Book Guy: “I’ve spent my entire life doing nothing but collecting comic books… and now there’s only time to say… LIFE WELL SPENT!”

    Lesson: Follow your passion. While some say that “follow your passion” is horrible career advice, Comic Book Guy, quoted from “The Simpsons Movie,” seems to have no regrets doing what he loves most, even if others think it’s silly. Then again, awkward, friendless Comic Book Guy is basically a miserable character, and at times he admits as much. “Oohh, I’ve wasted my life,” he reflects on one Halloween episode. We still say follow your passion, so long as your passion isn’t a complete waste of time.

  • Making Homer and Marge Simpson Speak French

MONEY groceries

WATCH: Market Basket is Still a Mess

Market Basket's situation keeps getting worse with many employees off the job in protest, customers angry at shopping disruptions and some suppliers ending their relationship with the grocery store.

MONEY

Why Nobody Calls Target ‘Tarjhay’ Anymore

140820_EM_OneStopShop_2
Getty

After another disappointing earnings report this week for Target, it's time to take stock of what has happened to the cheap-chic retail industry darling that everybody used to call "Tarjhay."

Target cut its profit outlook on Wednesday, while reporting poor earnings and continued sluggish sales in the latest quarter. While the news was more or less expected—Target recently hired a new CEO to address its well-known struggles in the marketplace—things look as grim as ever for the all-purpose retailer that few shoppers refer to as the fancier-sounding “Tarjhay” anymore.

“Target has given investors ZERO reason to be encouraged that a global turnaround is secretly emerging,” Brian Sozzi of Belus Capital Advisors wrote, responding to Target’s latest earnings report—and rating Target stock as a sell. “At the domestic store level, merchandising issues persist, including weak assortments in apparel (notably the hot category of athletic apparel) and the over-buying of seasonal categories in light of persistent negative traffic.”

“You have seen a brand that has lost its way,” Steve Beck, founder of the management consulting firm cg42, said of Target in early August, after it was revealed Target had lost $148 million as a result of last year’s holiday season credit card data breach, according to MarketWatch. “And the end result is poor performance.”

So how exactly did Target lose its way? Why don’t shoppers flock to Target for cheap chic fashion in the numbers they used to? Target itself deserves much of the blame, but the economy and big shifts in the retail landscape also factor in.

Part of the explanation is that one-stop shopping, which not long ago was perhaps the best sales pitch in retail, is not the draw it used to be. The concept of one-stop shopping made sense for retailers on several levels. All-purpose stores like Walmart and Target expanded grocery sections in order to offer more convenience and efficiency to harried, time-crunched consumers. Many dollar store chains followed the same playbook, pumping up selections of groceries and other household staples to give shoppers reason to pop in multiple times a week, rather than every so often when they needed cheap party favors or random craft supplies.

The idea is that shoppers will come in specifically for low prices on certain items, and perhaps—in the case of Target, especially—for exclusive designer goods that can’t be found elsewhere, and that while they’re in the store, they’d also pile up impulse buys and needed household products alike into their shopping carts. This is all possible when almost everything under the sun, from spicy mustard to designer end tables, fishing poles to kids’ winter coats, is available under one store roof.

Yet at Walmart supercenters, which represent the ultimate in one-stop shopping in America, foot traffic and sales are on the decline. Sales and customer visits have likewise been falling at Target, and even smaller, nimbler dollar stores have seen growth go flat, prompting the need for a dollar store merger that’s yet to be determined.

Many factors have affected sales recently at these outlets, notably the decrease in food stamps to America’s poor, who therefore have less money to spend at Walmart and dollar stores, as well as the monumental data breach at Target, which damaged the company’s reputation among shoppers. Stagnant wages among American workers, and general uncertainty in the economy have hurt sales too. But part of the equation is that, in the age of Amazon Prime, one-click buying, and a range of online grocery shopping services that eliminate the need to browse store aisles, the appeal of one-stop shopping has diminished substantially. If saving time is a primary concern for consumers, there are far better, far quicker ways to run errands and gather essentials than hitting a gargantuan Target or Walmart location out at the mall or by the side of the highway.

When Target was the media and shopper darling nicknamed “Tarjhay” for its chic fashions and dependable household staples, the perception was that it truly delivered on its slogan “Expect more, pay less.” Target’s big problem is that the motto has rung hollow for quite some time. “The dimension of ‘expect more’ is gone,” said Amy Koo, a senior analyst at Kantar Retail. “As for ‘pay less,” well, pay less than what? Folks are savvier today. They’ll order at Amazon. It’s easy to find products that are much cheaper online, and it’s much more convenient to a shopper’s needs.”

Similarly, Walmart’s slogan (“Save money, live better”) is less resonant with shoppers today because if they were truly living better, they wouldn’t be shopping at Walmart—at least not in the physical stores themselves. Today’s consumers expect more than ever, and they want to live better by burdening themselves as infrequently as possible with chores such as shopping for groceries and other boring basics. Essentially, they expect more than even the biggest supercenter can provide—which will inevitably pale in comparison to what shoppers can find in terms of pricing and selection online.

While Walmart has mostly competed on price to keep sales from drifting away to its online and brick-and-mortar rivals, and it’s been extremely difficult to fend off dollar stores, Amazon, and the rest, Target became a phenomenon back in the day by having a pretty good track record at picking styles and designs that suited shoppers’ tastes at the time. Then the Great Recession destroyed household disposable income streams, and even cheap chic wasn’t cheap enough. There were some big mistakes—developing an online presence very late in the game, the epic debacle that was the high-price Target-Neiman Marcus partnership, a largely unsuccessful expansion into Canada—but none has been bigger or more destructive for sales in the post-recession era than Target’s concentrated appeal to a core group of wealthier free-spending shoppers, said Kantar’s Koo.

“Target is saying: We don’t care about the low-income shopper, we’re going to focus on the people who can spend more money,” said Koo. As a result, the styles and prices at Target were “suddenly not in line with many shoppers. It’s no longer tailored to meet the mass audience.”

Lately, Target has been undergoing some soul searching. One Target location in Minnesota was turned into a test store for trying out new products and services to get the reactions of customers. A new CEO, Brian Cornell, was hired, and his first promise was to listen and learn rather than make any sudden dramatic moves. This week, the company announced some stores would stay open until midnight on a trial basis through the holiday season to woo night owls and people working odd hours.

Extending store hours will help Target make the case that it’s more convenient, and more in tune with what shoppers need today. It just appears unlikely that any of Target’s tweaks will prove to be game changers and turn things around quickly for the struggling retailer. It also appears pretty much an impossibility that the “Tarjhay” nickname will resurface anytime soon.

MONEY psychology of money

When Is It Okay to Ask an Unemployed Friend to Pay Up?

Have you ever wanted to be a personal-finance advice columnist? Well, here's your chance.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

Is it okay for me to ask my unemployed friend to pay for his share of dinner sometimes?

What advice would you give? Fill out the form below and tell us about it. We’ll publish selected reader advice in an upcoming issue. (Your answer may be edited for length and clarity.)

Thank you!

 

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