Archive for February, 2010

Will We Ever Pay Retail Again?

With the emergence of dozens of invitation only discount websites spanning across pretty much every product category, the question arises; will we ever pay retail again?  As a consumer, I love the sales that are going on out there but i’m curious how this will effect the retail environment as prices keep getting lower and sales get bigger.  The websites I am referring to are invitation only shopping sites that offer very large discounts to their members, but in an exclusive and fast paced online setting.  Depending on the site, a company or product will be featured for a certain time period, usually only a day or two, which forces consumers to act fast because stock is limited so things sell out quick.  Most of the sites only feature a few companies at a time to keep it exclusive and have you checking back daily to see what new companies are being featured and how big the discounts are.  Because the discounts are so steep and you have to act fast, they rely on buyers to be impulsive.  I have found myself buying things that I didn’t neccissarily need, but were too good to pass up.  The Reebok Pumps I scored for $32 on Gilt Group the other week, although impulsive, were well worth it though.  Another great thing about these sites is the discovery of new companies.  Many of the featured companies are smaller brands looking to get their name out and these sales are great for both the companies and the consumers.  Be sure to sign up for the notifications because you never know when one of these sites will feature your favorite brand or a product you have been dying to buy.

Here is a list of “Invitation Only” shopping sites that I have joined.  Many have waiting lists or require an invite so click on the logos below to head straight to the sites and sign up through my invite….The first 6 are all primarily clothing and accessory sites, most offering mens as well as womens, the second to last features home goods and the last is for outdoor gear (part of Backcountry.com)….don’t forget about Jetsetter (part of Gilt Group) for hotel and vacation deals…….enjoy the discounts……

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2010 Audi A3 TDI: Green Car of The Year and Best Super Bowl Commercial?

Of course I watch the Superbowl for the football, but when the Giants are not busy ruining perfect seasons, I turn my attention to the high priced Superbowl ads.  This year, the ads were pretty mediocre in my opinion, but as a car lover and a big fan of Audi, I have to say I was most impressed with the Audi A3 “Green Police” commercial.  Obviously as it was a Superbowl ad and focused on a hot topic like being green, it drew a lot of attention and after a week of articles and analysis, it looks like most of the reaction to the ad has been positive.

audi-a3-tdi-super-bowl-2010The green movement and the emphasis on green cars is a topic which could populate this whole blog, but for now, here are my quick thoughts about the commercial and the green car movement:  First off the commercial is funny and original, taking the usually serious green ad and giving it a bit of edge.  Second, Audi managed to get late 70s/80s rock band Cheap Trick to remake their popular “Dream Police” song into a new “Green Police” version for the commercial (which seems to still be stuck in my head a week later).  Unlike most of the hybrid car commercials that are aimed at folks who really pride themselves on their green practices, Audi chose to take a different path and reach out to a different more “regular guy” demographic.  The hybrid demographic doesn’t really care about being “cool”.  They buy a hybrid because it’s good for the environment and thats their focus.  But what about the people who would like to help out the environment (and their wallets), but still want to be “cool”? The Prius in my opinion is not a cool car but its practical, its green and they are everywhere out here in California.  I understand why people own them and the gas mileage is amazing.  Recently a friend bought one because as he put it, the gas mileage is great, its compact and its pretty affordable.  But come on man, you are 26, surely you can drive a compact car that is good on your wallet as well as the environment while still being “cool”.  Audi thinks they have the answer to this “green” car issue and I think they have hit a home run.  As the ads show, the new Audi is for the person who wants to be green but may not be an uber-environmentalist.  The Audi appeals to people who believe they should be green but still want to drive a fun and sporty car.  David Roberts of Grist Magazine puts it well in his Huffington Post article:

“To scratch one layer deeper: what is Audi’s message to these guys who want to be good but find the effort anxious-making? Here’s a way to meet your green obligations and still have a bad-ass car! The Audi A3 is both green and desirable – indeed more desirable because it’s green. Buried deep in this ad, in other words, is a bright green message: prosperity, pleasure, and sustainability can be achieved together.

Anyway, not to overthink it (ahem), but the ad is not just another pot shot at greens. It’s an appeal to a new and growing demographic that isn’t   hardcore environmentalist – and doesn’t particularly like hardcore environmentalists – but that basically wants to do the right thing. Audi’s effort to reach them, however clumsy, is actually a bit ahead of the curve.”

So there it is, although you may have just thought it was a funny car commercial, it turns out to be much deeper than you thought.

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Now is the time, however, when the staunch environmentalists will come out and say, well the TDI, even though it’s a new breed of “clean” diesels, it’s still bad for the environment.  It looks like they are right to a certain extent as diesel does not burn as clean as gasoline, but there is a much bigger picture.  According to The Daily Green, the A3 “produces 15% more carbon in a year than either the Nissan Altima or Toyota Camry hybrid, which also get 34 mpg. It emits 9% more than the Toyota Yaris, which burns gasoline in a conventional engine and gets 32 mpg.”  So although diesel does produce a bit more carbon, it still is getting 42 MPG on the highway, which is more than pretty much every car on the road these days (minus a handful of hybrids).  These numbers will be disputed however as the Audi website claims that clean diesel emits 30% less CO2 than gasoline powered cars, so I guess the numbers are not too scientific at this point. As for hybrids, certain reports suggest that if you look at the big picture, hybrids might actually not be as “green” as you might think.  Hybrids require large complex batteries which are made of Nickel that is produced in a very dirty and environmentally harmful process in Canada.  That nickel is then shipped to Europe to be refined and then over to China to be made into “nickel foam” and lastly on to Japan to be assembled.  All of these manufacturing processes and shipping create pollution of its own which in the end could ultimately negate the benefit of driving a hybrid.

So kudos to Audi (VW) for developing the TDI engine and kudos to The Green Car Journal for picking the A3 TDI as the green car of the year.

To find out more about the 2010 Audi A3 TDI head on over to http://www.audiusa.com

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Reebok Pumps: Pump Up And Air Out!

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Although I was only 6 years old when the original Reebok Pumps came out, they remain a strong childhood memory.  Before Reebok came out with the Pumps, they were struggling to keep up with Nike and their ever popular Nike Airs.  In 1989, The Pump gave Reebok an identity of their own led by the ad campaign of their first athlete spokesman, Dominique Wilkins.  The Pump went on to achieve basketball greatness when Dee Brown wore them for his winning dunk at the 1991 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest.  Personally as young tennis star, I was drawn to the Pumps because they were worn by tennis sensation Michael Chang, who at 17 became the youngest man ever to win a grand slam.  Although his speed and tenacity might have won him the French Open, i’m pretty sure the Pumps had something to do with it.  After years of salivating over them as a kid, they slowly faded away as new sneaker fads came and went.

Because they came with a very steep price tag of $175 in the early 90s, not too many kids were able to convince their parents that they needed a pair.  Although I always dreamed of racing around the tennis court in some squeaky clean Pumps, I never did manage to get a pair in the 90s.  Years passed and I quickly forgot about them, but thanks to the popularity of retro things these days, Reebok has been remaking their classic Pumps in limited numbers over the past few years.  Now some 20 or so years after I first laid eyes on this magical sneaker that you could pump up with air, I now have a pair of my own.  Thanks to a ridiculously good deal on Gilt Group, I am now the proud new owner of the New York Knicks edition Pumps  (shown in the first picture).  Oh and sorry the deal is over on Gilt, but you can still find the new Reebok “Bringback” Pumps at fine sneaker shops around or online.

I forgot how amazing the early 90s were…….check out Chang in this TV ad:

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