Today, the coffee shop where I bought my afternoon latte and muffin went out of business. Coffee Republic wasn't the best in the world but it was conveniently across the street. And the staff often double stamped my loyalty card!
The end was swift. Some colleagues had even bought their breakfast and lunch there. Then the sign went up saying it was in administration and that branch was closed. I could see through the window the staff taking it all in. The food counters still had muffins, cakes and sandwiches for sale.
So why am I bringing this to your attention? Because The IMF, the European Union, the US Treasury – just about anyone who studies these things – is now saying things will get better next year. Some are more optimistc than others.
But the reality is the improvement will be slow and painstaking. And there are many more Coffee Republics, clothing, candy, grocery – you name it – stores that will fail.
The stock market's sharp post-March rally was a cruel deception. It led so many to believe this is over. It was an enthusiastic bout of nonsense, as I suspect this 2nd quarter earning season just starting, will show.
As for my afternoon shot of coffee and a muffin? Well there are two Starbucks just about within spitting distance of each other ... and a variety of other coffee shops.
In a recession as long and deep as this one only the strongest companies, and those that have the best products and really give the customer what they want, stand any chance of suriving. And even that is not a certainty as Coffee Republic proved.
Who is next?
Tonight's rant on profitable moment came after my report on the renovation of the Savoy Hotel in London – not the sort of place where you will find the Buffet Breakfast when it opens its doors in 2010. It gave me a chance to re-open my one-man campaign against the abomination of this horrible morning ordeal.
Everyone likes a nice hotel – chocolates on your pillow – big fluffy towels…..these days are tough for the hotel industry- one wonders if the owners of the Savoy regret starting such an expensive project right at the start of the recession.
There is one thing I have a particular bug bear about – and that’s the hotel buffet breakfast. I hate ‘em. Miserable congealed eggs simmering next to hours old sausages. Yuch. And as for those ridiculous conveyor belt toasters. Please– we have sent a man to the moon. We have split the atom. So why, oh why, can’t an hotel have a toaster that gets it right. Don’t laugh. First time round and the breads comes out barely touched by the heat…so I send it around again – and out comes a burnt charred piece of bread. Is it really that difficult ? Has ANYONE ever made a decent piece of toast in those horrible machines ? I doubt it
Am I alone ? Join me – it’s my one man campaign. Quest against the Buffet Breakfast.
So British Airways is asking its staff to volunteer to work for upto a month for free. (The Chief Executive has already said he is working in July for no pay!)
It all seems a bit topsy turvy. After all normally, I turn up for work. I do my job. I get paid. I go home. that natural order has been changed by BA's new suggestion. In a moment of generosity, it has even agreed the staff can spread the loss of wages over six months.
BA has had an existing scheme inviting staff to take a month unpaid leave for some time. The airline says this latest development came about because some staff wanted to part but their work wouldn't allow them to be out of the office for that long. Bingo. Now you can still help out. Come to work. For Free. BA is quite clear. This is a voluntary scheme. No-one will be forced to do this. I believe them.
What I find tricky is how this will work in reality. Some staff will want to justify why they couldn’t take part ? Others will join in because they feel they have to.
There will be BA managers who will view staff unfavourably if they didn’t take part especially when promotions are up for grabs. I can hear the private whispers…..He wasn’t a team player. She didn’t pitch in. I Did my bit It will create two tiers – those who pitched in…and those who didn’t.
It has overtures of, "Daddy … what did you do in the war?"
Would you work for free to help out?
We have entered the economic twilight zone – where all is not as it seems….and where one day’s good numbers can be a mirage to b e destroyed by the next day’s reality.
We always knew it would come to this – when we would be in that tricky economic area where things are still getting worse – but not as fast. It is like the skier going down the slope who is still descending but slowing down.
Some call it glimmers of hope. Others call it Green shoots – Here we have our QI Traffic lights – where the colour is the sign of what is going on.
We are now clear of the static red – when things were so grim that there was seemingly little hope.
And we have not yet hit that magic area of Green – whether it be weak – it still tells us things are getting better.
We are stuck. Right in the middle. Waiting. With signs suggesting neither one way or the other. Just waiting.
The economic twilight zone – it won’t last forever but that’s where we are today.
Are you in the Twilight zone? And how does it feel?
There have been two major stories today that we have covered. The failure of the G8 to keep its aid pledges to Africa on the one hand, and Ronaldo being transfered for $130n from Man U to Real Madrid.
We had a long debate about these stories and how to cover them. I argued strongly that they should be juxtaposed – two faces of the world – the hundred million dollar transfer contract for Ronaldo and the poverty and lack of money from G8 countries to meet aid pledges to Africa.
There is no direct connection between these two events – except of course, what they say about us all.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has a rough rule of thumb – to be effective their programmes operate on the basis of saving a life costing five thousand dollars.
By that raw number alone the ronaldo transfer fee would save probably 26 thousand lives. That comparison becomes even more extreme when you think the same amount ofmoney would buy 26 MILLION mosquito nets.
It wasn't long before some of senior people suggested I was being unfair making comparisons between governments with aid and companies making profits.
Yup – perhaps this is unfair. It is not an either or situation – and if the money wasn’t spent on Ronaldo it wouldn’t be sent to Africa. I am comparing apples and organes
What I am interested in is what is says about us as a society that can accept both situations and not bristle at either. Market economics may be the best way to run an economy – but it does sometimes produce some very distasteful results. Is it offensive?
Tonight’s profitable moment – KLM has asked its pilots to volunteer and help the company out. More than a 100 of them have signed up for extra duties on their days off. They will work the Lost Baggage department, or check in passengers. They will work in the back offices helping with the paperwork. It should save KLM millions of dollars that would be spent on temporary staff during the busy summer months.
So We asked you tonight what would you do to help your company. Surely in this day and age – it’s all hands to the pump. No-one should be too proud to do any job surely.
Which then made me think what would I do to help out my company. Surely there must something more than just standing here talking on the television. Perhaps a bit of light dusting after the show is over? or maybe running the vaccuum round at the end of the day.
The issue is not whether we will help out our companies but whether they will take advantage of our goodwill. Of course we will all do our bit to save colleagues' jobs – but to do our bit to make shareholders happy when perhaps your own pay and conditions are under threat? Would you do that?
How far will You go?
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.