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Cashing Out, Part 2

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

At the end of Part 1 of this two-part topic (see October 19 PennySaver), we learned from an article in USA Today that Detroit retailer Kit and Ace does not accept cash payment from its customers.

“I think we are sort of on the edge of seeing more and more businesses that don’t take cash.” That’s what economist Jay Zagorsky of Ohio State University told USA Today a couple of months ago for a story whose headline asked if we’re headed for a cashless society.

Other monetary experts interviewed by the publication have similar views on the steady, if slow, disappearing act that cash is making in our culture. Federal Reserve Bank economist Paul Traub explains in the same article that, unless a state legislates otherwise, there is no federal law or regulation that requires a business to accept cash payment for goods or services.

Another economist whom USA Today spoke with, Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff, isn’t calling for a cashless society. He’s calling for a “less-cash” society. One suggestion he posits is reducing the number of $100 bills in circulation. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been intermittent calls for reducing, or eliminating, the pennies in circulation. Owing to their sparse use, who would argue that making fewer cents makes sense.

In his book, The Curse of Cash, Mr. Rogoff explains that big bills like a C-note facilitate crimes like tax evasion and other illegal activities. Think of those movies where a briefcase might contain hundreds or millions of dollars in illicit gains. Rest assured those aren’t $5, $10 or $20 bills. The Harvard professor makes the point that a million bucks in $100 bills weighs a manageable 22 pounds and in fact can be packed inside a standard-size briefcase.

USA Today’s piece also referred to a survey on “Consumer Payment Choice” conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 2013.

Among its findings was less use of paper checks, and almost one-in-three payments made with a debit card. I don’t doubt it. More than one in four payments are with cash, and a similar proportion are made with credit cards. That adds up to 80% of transactions made with either legal tender or plastic. The remaining 20% are handled by checks, money order, prepaid cards, or electronic transfer of funds. In the average month, consumers make 40 transactions.

My own experience is that it’s a major convenience when I order takeout meals online so I don’t have to stand on line. Using a smartphone app, I order and pre-pay for a cup of coffee or a salad and then swoop into the store to pick up my order without waiting. You should check it out.

What’s next in future forms of payment? With voice recognition all the rage, it won’t be long before we’ll just only have to speak the amount of the transaction to active payment. After that—mind control payment. Except it’ll cost a lot more than a penny for your thoughts.

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

November 2, 2016 |

If Memory Doesn’t Serve…

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

As the lights go up on the play You Will Remember Me, we see Edouard (John Hutton) standing stage center with Madeleine (Susan Pellegrino). “The worst thing,” he immediately tells us, “is that I still have an excellent memory. I remember dates. I’ve always had a phenomenal memory for dates.” He later adds, “Perhaps my brain, in the face of humanity’s current idiocy, has deliberately chosen to pull its own plug… and maybe that’s why I’m missing little bits here and there.”

You might know someone like Edouard, who happens to be a retired college professor. As one moves into the upper reaches of their life span — anywhere from the sixth or seventh decade on — there’s a disturbingly greater chance that a form of dementia could attack the brain cells.

That’s what is happening to Edouard in the thought-provoking drama by Montreal playwright Francois Archambault (translated into English by Bobby Theodore). It is yet another excellent production from Hudson Stage Company, directed by the estimable Dan Foster. You Will Remember Me is at Whippoorwill Hall Theatre (at North Castle Library) in Armonk through Saturday, October 29th. For more information: HudsonStage.com; (914) 271-2811.

What he cannot remember very well is the identity of the young, millennial woman who is watching over him, whose dad Patrick (Chris Kipniak) is dating Edouard’s daughter Isabelle (Susannah Schulman Rogers). The twenty-something’s name is Berenice, which connects her in Edouard’s addled mind to a long lost family member. She becomes his willing stand-in for the missing person.

Mr. Hutton does a phenomenal acting turn in the highly demanding lead role of a proud intellectual whose joy for life and for big ideas is not about to be dimmed by the ravages of a devastating disease. The rest of the cast is up to his lofty standard, which makes for a thoughtful, compelling theater experience.

My wife Elyse and I happened to be sitting next to a woman from the Hudson Valley Alzheimer’s Association, Jonelle Ward, Director of Outreach. Afterwards, she explained to us the distinction between the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s. The former is a general term that encompasses many different conditions, of which Alzheimer’s is the most notorious. In some cases, she said, other forms of dementia are reversible.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts free informational sessions in cooperation with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS). The next is Tuesday, November 15th from 7:30-9:00 p.m. at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners. It will offer “advice on how to handle tough topics when a loved one has dementia.” For more information, visit Alz.org or call 800-272-3900.

Another free opportunity is offered on Saturday, October 29th, at the offices of elder-law attorney Salvatore A. Di Costanzo in Yorktown Heights. He is hosting an informal “fireside chat” for adult children who want to learn more about such topics as estate planning. For more information, contact Melanie Harrison at mharrison@mfd-law.com or (914) 245-2440.

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

October 26, 2016 |

Cashing Out, Part 1

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

When I walked by a phone booth on a Manhattan corner the other weekend, after thinking what an odd sight it has become, my next thought was to wonder how many people carry coins any more.

In my car, I keep one baggy of quarters for parking meters and a separate baggy of dimes, nickels and pennies that I grab by the handful if I’m going into a store where I will pay cash. That’s happening infrequently. As parking meters are updated, they accept plastic, and it’s the rare retailer today who doesn’t accept a debit card regardless of the transaction amount.

It’s for that reason that each day, I find myself spending less cash. Not less money altogether, but less money in the form of cash. I also like to leave my wallet in my glove compartment so I don’t have it on my person. Chiropractors will tell you that a wallet in a man’s back pants pocket can set you back orthopedically because you’re not sitting evenly on your buttocks. I take that to heart and leave my wallet behind. Instead, I fold whatever bills I have, slide my debit card inside them, and hold it all together with a tie clip my daughter Elissa gave me. I have abandoned ties, but the metal pin works great as a money clip.

Even then, the debit card is not necessary either. I find lately that I can pay for a growing number of goods and services with my smartphone. I use apps for quick-service restaurants like Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and the like to pre-order and pre-pay, then swing by, skip the line and pick up my goodies without ever going near the cash register.

If you use the Hudson River crossings between New York and New Jersey, you know they are moving closer to cashless tolls with E-Z Pass. The Henry Hudson Parkway toll plaza is exclusively E-Z Pass. If you have the device, you’re charged $2.20. If you don’t, you’ll receive a bill in the mail for $4. The Port Authority of New York tracks you down by automatically photographing your license plate.

Some gas stations charge you more at the pump for using plastic, while the Port Authority charges more when you pay cash. The reason is the same in both cases: It costs the PA money to employ toll takers that process cash, and it costs retailers money to process credit cards. Small business owners who accept only cash conceivably might have ulterior motives for not wanting their transactions to be traceable by the taxman. Conversely, larger retailers might not want the administrative hassle of accounting for cash at the end of a day.

Enter “Kit and Ace,” a Detroit retailer that, according to USA Today, does not accept cash from customers. Will that become a trend? To be continued in “Cashing Out, Part 2.”

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

October 19, 2016 |

Where Are My Movies?

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

 

Author’s Note: Mom + Pop Culture are a couple of real characters. They could be you and me. Or not. Every so often, I eavesdrop on their conversations. Let’s listen in on what they’re saying right now about Pop’s affection for the Age of Classics—movies, that is.

POP: Well, it’s official, Mom. I’m an old fogie.

MOM: Oh, no, Pop. You’re younger than springtime.

POP: Thank you, Oscar Hammerstein the 2nd, but it’s no use. I have proof positive that my pulse is falling out of sync with the heart of our culture.

MOM: How so?

POP: Movies.

MOM: Movies?

POP: Yes, Mom. They are a mirror of who we are and what we want.

MOM: They are an escape, Pop. Nothing more; nothing less. Don’t get overly dramatic now.

POP: Today’s movies escape me, that’s for sure. Where are my movies?

MOM: What do you mean? I didn’t hide our collection.

POP: Not that. I thought we’d take in a movie at home tonight. So I browsed the new releases on that vending machine movie app on my phone.

MOM: What did you find?

POP: Either nothing I heard of or nothing I want to see: Cell; The Nice Guys; Captain America: Civil War. Even Ninja Turtles. Those mutants are still around?!

MOM: What about Money Monster?

POP: I must’ve missed that one. Who’s in it?

MOM: Georgie Clooney…

POP: …who makes you swoony.

MOM: Julia Roberts….

POP: Who makes me swoony.

MOM: Jodie Foster directed it.

POP: Little Jodie Foster?

MOM: She hasn’t been little for a long time now, Pop. She was in The Silence of the Lambs with Anthony Hopkins for goodness’ sake.

POP: Right! Now we’re talking more my speed. What happened to great talents like him and Jessica Lange and Gene Hackman and…

MOM: They got old like us, that’s what happened. Movies are made for millennials, not Maalox junkies.

POP: I could just get by these days with what’s on Turner Classic Movies. They just showed that old Andy Griffith classic, A Face in the Crowd.

MOM: Oh, boy. I wonder if it’s a coincidence they’re showing it right before the election.

POP: What do you mean?

MOM: When you get to the big reveal in the last few minutes, you’ll see what I mean.

POP: It’s funny, but somehow I almost prefer those classic black-and-white movies to today’s over-stuffed digital nonsense.

MOM: I’m not surprised. Movies used to make sense. They were bigger than life but still relatable. Today’s movies are way over my head and off the charts.

POP: Mom, now you’re sounding old too.

MOM: That’s what the script we’re playing says we are, Pop.

POP: You’ll always be the star of my movie, Mom.

MOM: You too, Pop, until we ride off into the sunset at The End.

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

October 12, 2016 |

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

Those of Jewish faith currently are in the middle of observing the 10 Days of Awe, also known as our High Holy Days. This year, they run Oct. 2-12. It is a time of introspection, asking forgiveness for our transgressions, making amends, and finding ways to better ourselves. In other words, we are reminded, once again, how mortal and flawed we be.

Awe is one of my favorite words, largely for its bipolarity. Depending on usage, awe can mean filled with wonder or it can mean filled with terror and dread. Hence, the word awful, which is a condensation of awe-full or full of awe.

Consider our awfully unpleasant state of politics. Fair to say it fills us both with wonder and with dread. From what I hear, some folks out there are mad at politicians, mad at government, mad at the economy, mad at a quarterback, mad at minorities, mad at majorities that rule, mad at each other.

It’s maddening. The only thing missing is people being mad at themselves. You know, taking responsibility for their own madness. People want less government, but are mad at the government for not doing more for them. Whoa! Sorry, I just got a little dizzy writing that sentence.

Instead of getting mad, each of us — no less this observer than you, dear reader — should get even… with ourselves. Even out the ragged complaints that run roughshod over everything around us. Point more at ourselves and our foibles and do less finger-pointing away from us.

Before that can happen, we all might borrow a page from Judaism’s 10 Days of Awe, which alternately are called Days of Repentance. This time of year especially — the Jewish New Year that culminates on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement — we all would do well to remind ourselves to clean up our own backyard before trashing someone else’s under the posture of righteous anger.

One way observant Jews get even with themselves on the Day of Atonement is by fasting for 24 hours continuously, from sundown to sundown (this year, the fast lasts Oct. 11-12). The physical abstinence, avers one interpretation, is to cleanse our bodies and our spiritual selves for the year ahead, starting anew with a clean vessel we can fill with goodness.

Whatever your faith, and whether or not you are a person of faith, you can help take control of your own fate by getting more even with yourself and getting less mad at other people and things, which usually is an empty exercise in wasted energy anyway.

I like to heed the words of revered biblical scholar Abraham Heschel, author of The Prophets: “A change in man’s conduct brings about a change in God’s judgment.” Amen.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

October 5, 2016 |

Family Trees Enjoy Growth Spurt

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

My earliest memories on this earth are interwoven with a cousin who babysat for me when I was a toddler in Astoria, Queens; my birthplace. Not unlike other extended families, as years and generations flew by, we had lost touch in recent decades. My cousin and others on her side of the family relocated a lifetime ago to Israel, which added to the gulf of familial disconnection.

A few years ago, my seminal babysitter and I were reunited, thanks largely to my brother Robert, who serves as the de facto family historian and facilitator. We just saw her again recently, joined by a couple of other cousins with whom we had grown apart, even though they are much closer as denizens of Virginia.

Robert and I had not seen our Virginia relatives in the flesh in decades, yet in recent years, we had been reunited virtually, through Facebook. There is no question that social media has proved to be a powerful, even life-changing catalyst in reconnecting distant relatives and classmates who hadn’t been in touch in as many as 40, 50 or more years.

In the era we’ll dub B.S.C. (Before Social Media), the odds were slim to none that you would have revisited your past so vividly so many years after graduation — or after having last seen that second cousin at a family milestone like a wedding or funeral.

It’s no coincidence, then, that Facebook increasingly appeals to an older age range of users — Baby Boomers in particular — as younger Millennials (18-24), though still on Facebook, also migrate to faster-paced outposts like Instagram and Snapchat.

Just as social media has become a glue that rebuilds lapsed friendships, it is also a logical resort for family ties that have unraveled from neglect. It’s a short hop, skip and jump from rekindled family ties to resurgent family trees, in which there is a groundswell of interest. An unprecedented number of people these days are compelled to dig up their roots.

You may have heard the frequent radio commercials for 23andMe.com. It’s a saliva kit that purports to analyze your DNA and provide results on your ancestry and genetics. When I searched online for family tree apps, there were 28 million results. A la 23andMe.com, other web resources you may want to look into are LibertyEllisFoundation.org, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, FamilyTreeMagazine.com, 4YourFamilyStory.com, RootsMagic.com, Genealogy.com, and MyHeritage.com, to name a few on the first page of Google results.

I’d like to think the heightened focus on whom and where we come from benefits the arc of evolution: Who we are at birth is the sum of our ancestry. Who we become after birth is the sum of infinite choices we make every minute of every day. By knowing who we are more fully, one only can hope it influences for the better who we become.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

September 28, 2016 |

Time Is On Your Side (Yes, It Is)

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Buce Apar

 

 

Remember that Rolling Stones song, Time Is On My Side? Many of us have a self-defeating tendency to put time on the other side, as we go out of our way to make it work against us instead of for us.

An insurance company, Colonial Life, highlights five time-saving tricks on its website, tricks that it in turn picked up from a blog by Etienne Garbugli, who listed 26 tips. I’d go find all 26 for you, but I don’t have the time (or the space).

For one, when you’re feeling productive, suggests Mr. Garbugli, just go with it and keep those cylinders pumping. There’ll be other times when you feel you should be more productive but can’t hack it. Those swings in work impetus will balance out. Don’t pigeonhole yourself by thinking you have to work particular hours. Work away feverishly when you’re feeling it, even if it’s deep into the night. Then relax when the feeling subsides, even if it’s high noon. In other words, don’t be a clock-watcher.

Here’s a good one for yours truly: let go of the past, which could be as recent as yesterday. I am good at beating myself up over something I did less well than I think I could have, and then I’ll stew in my own juices. Not very appetizing. Plus a waste of time and energy. The same rule applies to gloating over a past accomplishment, even if it was a victory you scored an hour before. Pat yourself on the back once for your win, then move on, Mr. Wonderful; something un-wonderful will bring you back to Earth soon enough.

This one’s a perennial piece of wisdom: don’t get bogged down in more meetings than necessary. They can be very productive if done right, or one of the world’s great time-wasters if an agenda is not set and followed. The real work occurs between meetings, not during them.

Yet another one that I should take more to heart: do not — I repeat — do not pursue your idea of perfection, which often is a quaint euphemism for being obsessive-compulsive about certain details. Follow Facebook’s motto of “Doing is better than perfect.”

Finally, confront the myth of multi-tasking, which is another quaint euphemism for becoming easily distracted and not focusing on the singular task at hand. It’s nothing you want to master, let alone be proud of. It’s counterproductive.

Now that you’ve finished reading this, give yourself permission to undertake the next task: go to Health.com and read 12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now! You’ll learn how task hopping is bound to make you less efficient and more frustrated.

A University of Utah study discovered that drivers talking on cell phones took longer to reach their destination. How surprising that isn’t.

I wonder if the UU study also confirmed what we already know anecdotally: people who have one hand on the wheel and the other hand with a phone illegally pressed to their ear drive law-abiding motorists crazy.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

September 21, 2016 |
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