One theory I derided earlier was the notion that that there are certain expenditures that do not get cut even when budgets are strained. The subject of my mini-rant last time was the idea that women would not cut back on going to their hair colorist. If people are cutting back on their medications, which has been reported widely, nothing is safe.
And the latest casualty is another supposedly downturn-proof expenditure, shoe shines. From the New York Times:
Professional men have their own version of the manicure, the hair coloring and the other grooming rituals that demand so much time from the confident, competent-looking businesswoman. It’s the shoeshine, a fussy rite that most women only occasionally indulge in, while many men regularly do.
The five shoeshine stands in Grand Central Terminal alone, with their stately mahogany leather and cherry wood chairs, normally polish the shoes of some 700 customers a day, the vast majority of them businessmen.
These days, says Eddie Ardaix, the owner of all five, make that 600. “The past two, three months, we’re down 100 shoeshines a day,” he said this week from behind the counter of his shoe-repair business at one of the stands, near Track 40.
Since he took over the business in 1999, he’s never seen anything like it, he said. Some customers have stopped coming altogether; even the fanatics, the customers who used to get their shoes shined five days a week, have dropped down to three.
Customers who never failed to get a shine after they had Mr. Ardaix or one of his employees repair the taps on the bottom of their shoes (for some men, a twice-monthly bit of upkeep) are putting the shoes back on and hitting the road, shine-free…..
It says one thing about the psychology of a city when its freelance illustrators and preschool teachers and computer programmers start cutting back, en masse, on their $7-a-day Starbucks habits. It’s another when those masters of the universe — the bankers, the real estate wheelers and dealers, the crowd of the shiny-shoed, the ones you see sitting back and leafing through the Wall Street Journal as someone buffs the Prada loafers still on their feet — are watching every $4 they take out of their wallet..
Now having said that, I just visited a community in the South which as of the early 1990s was one of the most affluent in the US (no joke, it had either the highest per capita or per household income). But the dot com and finance booms left it behind.
There is not much in the way of signs of stress here. Houses for sale only slightly more than you’d expect to see, housing prices have not fallen, and there is even new building. Stores and restaurants are busy, although plenty of retirees have had massive portfolio losses. so some charities are apparently have to cut back initiatives.
That is only to say there may be some communities that sat out the last decade of froth that may be less badly hit by its unravelling. But I expect them to be few in number.