Desperate Americans Flee to Quality, I Hope…

The New York Times frets over poor quality retail bankruptcies. Jeff Koopersmith says we should instead be celebrating.

April 16, 2008 – Lugano (apj.us) – It isn’t as if the New York Times has nothing to write about when it comes to financial troubles in America, but Michael Barbaro’s column beseeching us to bemoan the fate of “Triple F” retailers has to make you gag.

At least there is some positive fallout from the so-called credit-crunch, which in fact is a credit-collapse: abysmal stores are going under. Some of the most contemptible retail operators are now being forced out of business – or are being pressed into closing hundreds of stores that they shouldn’t have opened in the first place – taking their third-rate goods with them.

This is a time to celebrate, not to cry.

Let’s take a look at Mr. Barbaro’s list.

In first place: Levitz.

If you are old enough you will recall the ad “You’ll love it at Levitz,” but you might also be wise enough now to remember that Levitz basically specialized in hawking debris which they labeled “furniture” and sold to you – on credit – for a whopping price and usurious interest rates.

I’m an authority on Levitz, because when I was first married, poor, and in college, my wife and I hustled over to, or were hustled at, our local Levitz “warehouse.” We ended up purchasing a dining table and four chairs. Inasmuch as there was no actual wood – only Formica – in the Levitz “showroom,” we chose a glass and chrome set which was “hot” in the 1970s. The chairs, I recall, were only available in red velvet – urbane, really primitive, “classy” the salesman told us.

I don’t recall how much we paid for the table and chairs, but it was proportionately gargantuan since the entire set decomposed, chipped, rusted, and faded in an incredibly short time. It may be true that Levitz went out of business after maybe thirty years because the credit crunch finally slew it – but a more straightforward account might be that American families got sick of trading their hard-earned dollars for garbage.

As this “flight to quality” begins, Levitz is not the only retailer that sucked on a hose attached to its own exhaust pipe.

Why not add American automakers? It certainly wasn’t tough-to-get credit that put them in a spot today, where their stock should be traded on the pink sheets.

No. It was Ford, GM, and Chrysler’s move to designing, manufacturing and selling sheer compost that ended their road to stardom. Someone forgot that although Henry Ford invented the assembly line, he didn’t invent it as a conveyor belt heading for the dump.

I think the last great car that America built was the 1964 Lincoln Continental – maybe the ’63, which compared in quality to a Rolls Royce – or so said the car experts at that time. While some designs were catchy – like the Mustang (another gas-guzzling piece of junk we bought) and the Camaro (perhaps the most overrated car of the last three decades) – U.S. automakers decided somehow to just turn their backs on the rush to German and Japanese quality.

They have never returned.

What are the heads of these car companies smoking? Mike Barbaro did not mention auto producers or retailers – but I have a thing about them. What a waste of people’s lives and pensions. All the American jobs in the auto industry have been flushed down the crapper because these companies were and are run by primates.

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