Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Damage control at The Sharper Image

As mentioned previously in my blog entry of March 11, a major shareholder, Knightspointe Group, wants to replace the company’s current board of directors due to the huge loss my former employer, The Sharper Image ($22 million currently) incurred this fiscal year. In today’s edition of the Contra Costa Times, the company announced a few cost cutting measures.

Some of them include: eliminating sales commission, executive pay cuts (Richard Thalheimer, founder, chairman and CEO, 50%), and reducing the number of new store openings this year. While the latter two are steps in the right direction, I’m not sure it’s enough. Plus, I think eliminating sales commission won’t sit well among those who lose this incentive. Of course they will be told if you don’t like it, get out. This will also help reduce expenses, but create terrible morale.

My current employer is experiencing similar woes. About 20% of our home office personnel got laid off in January, and numerous others went on to other jobs because they weren’t comfortable with the changes. No wage increases this year. Retail is a very demanding and ever changing business.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, March 24, 2006

American Express One Card

I got in today’s mail my introduction materials for my new American Express One card. I got the actual card last weekend. It’s a brand new card which rebates 1% of all purchases toward an interest-bearing savings account American Express sets up for you (currently at 3.80% APY).

Unlike the Discover card, it isn’t a cash rebate back, but enables a person to save money every time the card is used. Personally, I have been looking for a card of this kind for the past few years. I’m tired of reward programs that only offer merchandise.

To me, a reward program only becomes worthwhile when the points (usually in the 100K + range) can be used toward airfare, vacations, and lodging. People that use their card for business can easily reach this level. Not me. I use the card primarily for personal expenses and usually redeem points at 20K for a cash rebate.

This card is perfect for me because I pay off my balances in full each month. Any unpaid balance is charged interest and can defeat any accumulation of savings. I’ve already used the card to buy gas, groceries and an online purchase. If I want, I can also direct deposit a portion of my paycheck to go into the account.

Annual fee for the One card is waived for the first year, then $35/year. This card isn’t for everyone. On the other hand, if you’d like to apply, go to americanexpress.com .

Monday, March 20, 2006

The cost of vanity

I read today in one of the celebrity/entertainment articles that Sarah Jessica Parker had to have her feet digitally enhanced for her role in her latest film, “Failure to Launch”. Apparently, the many years Ms. Parker wore designer stilettos for her role in “Sex in the City” took their toll.

Sorry, but this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I was never a fan of narrow, tall heels. They’re not comfortable nor do they flatter my large, wide feet. I have no problem spending $150 dollars on a pair of Nike running shoes or Dansko clogs, but never on anything that requires me to walk tiptoed and risk an ankle sprain.

Like I should talk. My own vanity (believing I wore nothing but a women’s 7 ½) has paid its own price. The years I wore shoes that were actually too short created an ugly bunion on my right foot. The bunion doesn’t bother me as long as I wear shoes that fit correctly.


photo courtesy of saksfifthavenue.com

Monday, March 13, 2006

World Baseball Classic

Yesterday, after an open house visit in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond, we had a late lunch/early dinner at Thai Café. Once home, changed into lounge attire and turned on the TV to ESPN2 to watch the World Baseball Classic.

If you’re a baseball fan and haven’t heard about the WBC, then you must be on another planet right now. It’s a round-robin tournament of teams from countries such as Puerto Rico, Australia, Mexico, Korea, Japan and of course, the United States. Surprisingly, there are also teams from the Netherlands and South Africa (who recently lost to the U.S. 17-0 and had the mercy rule invoked after 5 innings).

One of the games I watched was Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic. On paper, the Dominican Republic has one of the strongest team rosters. Players include Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Moises Alou, and Miguel Tejada. The Puerto Rican team, while not having the same magnitude as DR, had a few of their own name players. Their roster includes: Bernie Williams, Javy Lopez, Carlos Beltran and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

Going into the game, I really didn’t think Puerto Rico had much of a chance. José Cruz Jr., a lifetime .250 hitter in the majors, had 2 critical hits to help Puerto Rico dominate Dominican Republic, 7-1. This is what makes the WBC special for veteran players and baseball fans. The players get in place of spring training a fun and competitive way to prepare for the season the fans can go out to see. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

With guys like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Roger Clemens playing for the U.S., how can a baseball fan not watch? I hope it becomes an annual ritual. Play ball!!!

image courtesy of shop.mlb.com

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sharper Image woes

Yesterday going into to work, part of my daily ritual is to read e-mail briefs issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The first article featured was the headline about my former employer, The Sharper Image. It’s quite big news as it was featured in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the likely event you know nothing about the article, a major shareholder of Sharper, Knightspointe Group, wants to oust the company’s current board of directors. Understandable, considering Sharper has lost $22 million this current fiscal year.

While it has been almost 12 years since I last worked at Sharper, I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. During my time there, something like this would have only helped. Even though I was woefully underpaid, the experience I gained there wouldn’t have gotten me to my other retail positions, where I am paid a decent salary.

I won’t say too much more. Josh and I know a lot of good people who still work there. If the proposed move does indeed happen, then they’re going to see many of the changes I’m currently seeing with ownership change at my job.

Good luck.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snow in San Francisco?

It was a very cold and wet drive home today from work. The temperature gauge in my car read 46°F when I left Foster City. By the time I got home to San Francisco and pulled into my garage, the temperature was 41°F. I’ve been hearing news reports that we may actually get snow at Twin Peaks tonight or tomorrow.

For tomorrow’s commute, I need to be diligent. I’ve been so out of practice with winter driving since I left Ohio many years ago. With all of the rain we’ve had this past week, it’s likely there’ll be black ice out there. While this chilly weather wreaks havoc on this annoying cough & cold, I’ve had numerous opportunities to pull out sweaters I can only wear in this kind of weather.

Oh boy.

photo courtesy of gaborcselle.com

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Doctor's office, part II

Today I took off early from work to visit my primary care physician. Last night was the 3rd night in a row of wheezing in bed. It got so bad the last 2 nights I ended up in the bathroom with the door shut hacking my lungs out at 3 a.m. I called the doctor’s office as soon as it opened this morning. She was able to squeeze me in just before lunch.

I’ve gone to the doctor’s at least 3 times in the past 5 years with these symptoms. I then get prescribed oral inhalers to last only for the duration of the illness. At least 2 times I remember she told me I had “bronchial spasms” but not asthma. The symptoms would end within 3-4 days.

Because I’ve been to the office 2 times in the past month, she now says I have asthma (like I didn’t already know?!?). It reared its ugly head when I caught the cold. Oh well. I suppose better now than showing up in the ER with an oxygen mask on my face later.

When I left the office, she prescribed me antibiotics (for the infection) and Advair, which is another oral inhaler to take regularly twice a day. I took puffs (sounds like smoking cigarettes) before I left the office and took one dose of the antibiotic when I got home. I check back in next month to see if she needs to adjust the dosage. I also got a peak flow meter to measure lung function to help me monitor my asthma.

Like my weight management, stay tuned.

photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Credit report & FICO score

I came home from work yesterday and did my usual surfing on the internet. Catch up on news, check e-mail, and browse craigslist.org. I peruse the real estate ads daily with the hope someday that we will be able to afford a home in San Francisco. While we both make decent salaries, most housing in SF is well beyond our price range.

While on that train of thought, I decided to run another credit report on myself to see what my current FICO score is. I last ran it about a year and a half ago, which was then in the high 700’s. I was somewhat surprised, but pleased to find my most recent score increased by another 25 points.

I found it interesting that when I entered my social security number and birthdate, Equifax reports my credit history accurately, but lists my birthdate as December 6, 1959. I have somehow aged 6 months. This would be nearly impossible for me to have been born in December because my sister Cindy was born in July of that year. I would have to have been a “preemie” infant.

Being the stickler I am for accuracy, Equifax tells me I can submit a written letter with a copy of my driver’s license to correct the birthdate error. It’s not worth the bother right now. All I care about is that my credit history is correct. The owners of our building have plans to sell in a few months, which may mean we’ll have to move. Then I’ll strongly consider buying and have the mortgage company fix the error.

image courtesy of creditinstructor.com