Monday, March 05, 2007

B&N meets the ignoble

Barnes and Noble, illustrative of the new wider trend in the markets at large, announced expected earnings for 2007 to be more than 25% below Wall Street expectations. The bookseller, regionally out of the ZGD stronghold of Ann Arbor, witnessed firsthand how providing an encriching, educational environment doesn't necesarily turn East St. Louis into, well, Ann Arbor. Anecdotal evidence from Minneapolis' Block E, a beneficiary of attempted urban revitalization, suggesting not that the environment makes the people, but that the people make the environment:
I was part of that store's original staff back in August of 2002. We were excited about the new store, in which we naively assumed we'd have input.

Before the store opened to the public, other employees and I familiar with that part of downtown asked the management when we would get a security guard and security mirrors.

Management said they were unnecessary, and brushed us off when we insisted they were.

As soon Block E Borders opened, it was infested. Homeless men slept and urinated in the chairs. Gangs listened to rap on headphones, often singing the obscene lyrics out loud. Prostitutes and drug dealers did business in our restrooms. Theft was rampant.
My supervisor and I met with our manager and an HR person from Ann Arbor. We said that employees and customers felt unsafe. If we didn't act soon, the Barnes and Noble two blocks away — which had a security guard and security mirrors — would get all our business.

The HR person said, "We'll certainly give this consideration." Nothing changed. Within 10 months, all but a few of the original, talented, intelligent staff quit.
Think of it as a microcosm of a quasi-socialist welfare state, a mini Sweden, before and after. The traditional clientele (citizens) engage in civic behavior (urinating in the restroom), are resepectful of the negative rights of others (they yell vulgar hoodlum cacophonies), and buy into contract theory (they don't steal). Few people need a generous safety net, and the citizenry can afford to pay a little extra for it (the ruddy security guard at the Cedar Street location doesn't actually have to do anything but tell lame jokes, but the customers are more than happy to support him). It's generally preferred for the tuner to be set to KSJN, but if someone wants something less distracting, he only needs ask.

However, when the shopping center starts to look like the (third) world, instead of snowy Sweden, lots of security guards are needed. The resources have been diverted to cover shrinkage loss and to replace defiled plants. The best and brightest flee to other surrounding areas that still look like Sweden did twenty years ago. The newly-minted multicult haven falls into dilapidation, and those who've fled to the new Sweden either pump funds in to bring it back up to snuff, or the 'economic refugees' start heading their way, in search of better opportunity.


JSBolton said...

A public libray would be an even closer analogy.
You can spend millions on books and
a building, but if it is next to a welfare project, it will become one too, and all because of the quality of population.
The disinterested patrons will be angry that you spent hundreds of dollars apiece on them for what they don't want, but none will be grateful.
If environment were controlling, the people would rise to the demands and opportunities of the superior environment, rather than bring the environment down to what fits their capacities.

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of the phrase "pearls before swine"

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Philadelphia, this sort of thing was commonplace. The politicans and "community leaders" were always bitching about how these pooor communities (i.e. black and to a lesser extent hispanic) had no "services" or something. The only problem was that when these services were delivered like a health clinic or library, it was wrecked in no time flat. Theft, vandalism, drugs, you name it. They always had to build those places like fortresses to keep the poor and underprivledged from tearing out the copper wire to sell for crack. Urban revitalization is mostly a failure if the population is mostly minority. If your home is a dump, like public housing, then why should you give a damn about a library. I could go on, by why keep restating the obvious? White liberals keep spending and getting the same results.