U.S. Consumer Confidence Down, Says Guy Trying To Sell Van

In This Section

Vol 38 Issue 43

Spy World-Famous

MONTE CARLO—Despite having a job that demands total anonymity, Colin Richards, Great Britain's number-one field operative, has somehow built a reputation as a playboy and bon vivant of world renown. "All I can say is, he must be really incredible at sneaking into places, considering everyone knows what he looks like," Monte Carlo casino owner Nigel St. Clary said. "Can you imagine how great a spy he'd be if he were unknown?"

Infant Doing Everything In Her Power To Save Relationship

BOSTON—Eight-month-old Courtney Brindle is trying her best to save her parents' crumbling marriage, the infant reported Monday. "I put in a good hour today grabbing Daddy's finger, which I think made him feel closer to me and, by extension, to Mommy," Brindle said. "But my real dilemma is, is it better to provide lots of cute moments to fill the house with a feeling of warmth and love, or should I suffer constant health problems to unite them in fear? I can't do both."

Teacher Bitches About Paycheck To Sixth-Grade Class

BOZEMAN, MT—Lakecrest Elementary School teacher Dana Frankel bitched to her sixth-graders about her "crap salary" shortly after receiving a paycheck Monday. "How am I supposed to pay for anything on this kind of income?" asked Frankel midway through a math lesson. "And now the brake pads on my Nissan need replacing. Gee, guess I'll just have to hope for the best next time I hit a red light." Frankel then got the disrupted lesson back on track by using her dwindling 401K plan as an example of negative numbers.

Jesus Surprises 700 Club With Walk-On Appearance

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA—Monday's episode of the popular Christian-affairs program The 700 Club featured a surprise walk-on by Jesus Christ, who dropped by the set and chatted briefly with host Pat Robertson. "Pat, I can't stay long, but I just wanted to swing by and say hello to you and the whole 700 Club gang," Christ told Robertson. "I love the show—it's just terrific in My sight. And, hey, how about this audience?" The 130 Christ fans in attendance then gave enthusiastic applause unto Him.

The Bin Laden Audiotape

Last week, al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly of Osama bin Laden praising the Sept. 11 attacks. What do you think about the possibility that bin Laden is alive?

Rehab Clinics Are So Much Cooler In Europe

I'm always hearing people go on and on about how American rehab clinics are the best in the world. You gotta be kidding me! Sure, the U.S. has a few decent clinics, but after being in and out of rehab for three years on the other side of the pond, I think I'm qualified to say that rehab clinics are way cooler in Europe.
End Of Section
  • More News
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Fantasy Sports

FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States

ZURICH—After the Justice Department indicted numerous executives from world soccer’s governing body on charges of corruption and bribery, frantic and visibly nervous officials from FIFA held an impromptu press conference Wednesday to announce that the United States has been selected to host this summer’s 2015 World Cup.

Internet

U.S. Consumer Confidence Down, Says Guy Trying To Sell Van

BROCKWAY, PA—In more bad news for the U.S. economy, consumer confidence is down sharply this week, particularly among those in the market for a used 1994 Chevy Astro, van owner Dennis Schram reported Tuesday.

Schram and his 1994 Chevy Astro.

"It's a good van, with a little less than 100,000 miles on a rebuilt engine that got regular oil changes. It's got LT-package trim, a Bose cassette-stereo, and front captain's chairs, and I never smoked in it," said Schram, 43, who owns his own roofing business. "With all that, $4,200 doesn't seem like too much to ask, so I have to conclude that the average American, worried about jobs and the prospect of war with Iraq, is reluctant to spend right now."

Schram said that, in addition to the weak labor market and unstable Mideast situation, a prolonged decline in the financial markets has dampened consumer confidence and, consequently, eroded consumers' desire to buy a gently used recreational van that would make an ideal second vehicle.

"It's a shame, because it's a great van for camping, hauling stuff, and just tooling around town," said Schram, placing a larger "For Sale" sign in the vehicle's rear window. "Gets pretty good mileage, too, which is important at a time when most median-middle-class households—those earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year from combined income—list long-term sustainability of their current lifestyle as a primary concern."

"Actually," Schram continued, "the only problem she really has is that, like the economy, once she gets going, she can take a long time to change direction."

The feedback Schram has received from potential buyers has convinced him that the economy, not the van itself, is the problem.

"Of the calls I've received, 92.6 percent said they were unable to afford the vehicle at its current Kelley Blue Book-approved price point," Schram said. "Roughly 30 percent indicated that my price was acceptable only if I were willing to take payment in monthly installments, although nearly 15 percent said it was too high regardless. To me, that signals a lack of faith in any impending recovery from the current slump, as well as an unwillingness to make big-ticket purchases for as long as it lasts."

Brockway resident Frank Hopkins, the 7.4 percent of prospective buyers who did not consider the price too high, is expected to meet with Schram after work next Monday to discuss the viability and performance history of the van. Schram said he hopes Hopkins buys the van, for the sake of all Americans.

"Although my experience may or may not be representative of a larger socioeconomic trend, my interactions with potential consumers seem to reflect the general movement toward saving extra income and away from automobile purchases," Schram said. "This is unfortunate, as it keeps currency out of healthy circulation—especially where I'm concerned—and also because this van is a lot more practical than you might think. The mileage is better than most pickups, and you can fit a whole four-by-eight sheet of plywood in the back if you take the seats out."

Schram admitted that his decision to sell the van is a hedge against a possible Christmas downturn.

"The outlook for the holiday retail season is fairly bleak," said Schram, who traditionally sees a falloff in roofing business during the winter months. "Without an upturn in consumer spending on, say, my van, an already shaky Schram-family economic picture could worsen. That means no bike under the tree for the kids, which will just bring the mood down further. It's a self-feeding cycle, you know."

According to Schram, the U.S. economic boom of the mid- to late-'90s was driven by exuberant consumer spending, which prompted a housing boom that increased demand for skilled tradesmen like himself. As a result, Schram was able to purchase the van in 1995, a move he does not regret.

"These days, I just have to spend differently, not less," Schram said. "A drop in consumer confidence almost never causes a simple drop in overall consumer spending. What it produces is a fall in spending on durables. People put off upgrading their computer, buying a new washing machine, or buying a pre-owned van with no rust in the wheel wells—which is a real find for this part of the country, believe me."

Despite the decrease in sales of durables, Schram said not all items suffer during economic downturns.

"The weird thing is which goods benefit, most notably 'comfort products' like chocolate, alcohol, and sundries, an effect that extends all the way to DVDs and home furnishings," Schram said. "But not used vans. Simply put, if I don't move this thing soon, I'm gonna have to take a part-time shift at The Cheese Shoppe to help pay for Christmas."

Next Story

Onion Video

Watch More