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Support your local businesses, while they still exist

Support your local businesses, while they still exist

Those of us who are able to help our local businesses and neighbors should do so. It’s empowering and gives a small psychological measure of control in an economy spinning out of control.

I went to Walmart early this morning, hoping to pick up a few things before the crowds arrived.

The bad news is the shelves were really picked over, frighteningly so, and not just for food. The good news is the aisles were filled with wrapped pallets of food and assorted other things, with workers feverishly unpacking and shelving items. Seems I got there just a little too early.

Walmart will do just fine. In fact, it will thrive and is seeking to hire 150,000 temporary workers to help handle the rush to stock up on food, toilet paper, and other items. Amazon is doing fine also, and is seeking to hire 100,000 new distribution center workers. One of the local Starbucks had a line of cars at the drive through dozens long; the Chick-fil-A drive through was rocking.

Local businesses, by contrast, are crushed. They either are forced closed, or if restaurants, open only for take out. As I mentioned the other day, there is only so long the forced closure of the economy can go on before people revolt — the reasonable center cannot take such a devastating loss from which local businesses and personal lives may not recover.

When I was at Walmart, I heard a women talking to another woman about how her husband’s business was not going to survive. Someone on our local Nextdoor list put out an urgent message about our local diner/ice cream place, Newport Creamery. It’s a small local chain, and serves as a center of life in town. It’s where parents take their kids after soccer games and after school, and where senior citizens gather in the mornings. Here was the alert:

Hi Everyone! Just picked up take-out from Newport Creamery. I asked how they were doing, and they said not well. They had almost no business yesterday or today. If you’d like them to stay open, please place a take-out order ASAP!

We weren’t looking for ice cream, but when we saw the alert, we went over there.

The restaurant section was darkened and shut, but the take out ice cream section was open. We bought a half gallon of Raspberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt. One of my daughters is 7-months pregnant, and it’s her favorite.

One person buying a half gallon of ice cream from the local shop isn’t going to change their world, but if enough people do it, and others take out food, it could be the difference. The loss of Newport Creamery would not just be the loss of a diner or ice cream shop, it would be the death of a key part of our community, a place where my now-grown kids have so many memories.

I know other stories of small acts that help others. Someone we know told their cleaning person not to show up for at least two weeks because of the virus, but will pay her anyway. Another couple I know is continuing to pay their childcare center, even though the center is shut. Give an extra large tip, and maybe do take-out more than you otherwise would.

We have been planning a hardscaping project at our Rhode Island home. It’s not a huge project, probably a week or two of work for a couple of people. Given what is happening in the economy, my first reaction was to hold off, to hunker down. My wife and I are very frugal people, and we each suffered family financial problems when we were children — my father lost his business, and my wife’s father spent a year in and out of the hospital, so we are cautious. We’re going to throw a little caution to the wind, and continue with this small project. It’s not charity. We get a project we eventually are going to do, the contractor gets a couple of weeks work, and his suppliers get an order.

What is happening in the economy due to the Wuhan coronavirus crisis is beyond anything I could have imagined. And I’m someone who spent most of his professional life dealing with stock market crashes and bear markets.

This seems beyond any one of us. Doing my small part to help local businesses feels empowering. Not everyone has the means to do this, particularly people who are losing their jobs. But those of us who are able to help our local businesses and neighbors should do so.

It gives a small measure of psychological control in an economy spinning out of control.


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to the full extent allowed by law.


The “cure” is looking worse than the disease at this point. The number of U.S. deaths to date is maybe 275.

By contrast, the number of people who have been murdered by guns is 8900 (2012) and murdered by stabbing or blunt instruments or just being pushed is 2800. The number of deaths due to flu is in the tens of thousands.

The fact is, as highlighted by this article, the shutdown is doing a lot of economic damage. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and this obsessive worry about the coronavirus is starting to eat our lunch.

I’m quite sure Wall Street and places like Pierre Delecto’s Bain Capital will swing things so they can engage in Usury that would make the payday loans blush for these small businesses – after getting bailed out for their bad derivative bets and LTCM, Lehman like excessive leverage. It worked for AIG! No one was fired. See what happened (or didn’t) to corrupt Corzine and MF Global when they were playing with the client’s money.

Every crisis is used to transfer wealth from “The Deplorables” to the 0.1%.

    Massinsanity in reply to tz. | March 22, 2020 at 11:12 am

    I said it at the time and will repeat it now. There should have been no bailouts in 2008. Would it have been painful… of course, but the system needed to be flushed and we would have been in a much stronger position now to deal with this crisis. Instead we ramped debt funded government spending, printed trillions of dollars out of thin air and had the Fed reduce rates and run QEs ad nauseam. 2008 was spawned by too much bad debt in the world and here we are 12 years later with way more debt than ever before.

    So now we have a real, synchronized global crisis and there are few tools available to deal with it. Interest rates were already close to zero despite limited inflation and extraordinarily low unemployment (the Fed is reportedly motivated by those 2 measure) so now what.

    2008 created a bailout culture so now hideous companies like the cruise lines who fly the flags of shit hole countries to avoid paying taxes and skirt minimum wage laws will be crying for a bailout when the people who really need one are the small business owners the professor refers to. Tell Carnival to seek a bailout from Panama since their ships fly that country’s flag… see how far they get with that one.

    Professor Jacobson also refers to living in a time of major market crashes… any coincidence that since the Fed has played a larger and larger role in our economy the incidence of boom/bust cycles and market crashes has increased?

    My expectation is that we will lurch hard toward socialism coming out of this crisis and its supporters will only point to the endless bailouts of the last 12 years as evidence of why everyone needs a bailout. Student loan debt will be forgiven which will just be a start.

      Clown 1396 XL in reply to Massinsanity. | March 22, 2020 at 11:20 am

      I am not too keen on bailouts. If anything, money given to individuals should be in the form of a loan or loan guarantee, not a grant. I look dimly on the federal government or even state government unilaterally granting loan and lease modifications.

      I really would like this to be a wakeup call for savings. Please, people, put some money away for a rainy day. Two months isn’t all that much. If you had two months, you would consider this just a vacation rather than a death notice.

        Katy L. Stamper in reply to Clown 1396 XL. | March 22, 2020 at 2:08 pm

        You can’t put the cart before the horse. Doesn’t work well.

        When the government sanctions the Federal Reserve – owned by Private Entities – and allows, nay, encourages! – it to inflate money, saving money is disincentivized.

        You have to make saving sensible again and you’ll get more of it.

        The Fed should be ended, and the income tax rethought. The incentives have been reversed, and until restored, most people won’t find saving to be a smart move.

          Clown 1396 XL in reply to Katy L. Stamper. | March 22, 2020 at 2:25 pm

          My incentive to save comes from within me, not the government. I could live for a few years on my savings, but would probably die from boredom.

          Milhouse in reply to Katy L. Stamper. | March 22, 2020 at 3:51 pm

          The Fed is not a private entity in any meaningful sense. It is a government entity in all but name, and functions like any other government entity.

          The “shares” may be called that, but they are actually compulsory loans that pay a fixed rate of interest, which is a very good deal now, but a terrible deal in times of high interest.

          “Shareholders” also have no say in how many “shares” they hold; they’re told by the government exactly how many shares they must “buy” or “sell” and at what price. They cannot buy a single share more than their quota, or sell a single share of their holding. They also get no benefit when the Fed makes a profit, and no loss when it makes a loss, and they have no say in electing its central board. Even their say in electing the local Fed boards is not proportional to their “share” holdings.

          All of that means it is a government entity, and the “private” description is just a trick to get it off the government books.

Yesterday, my lawn guy showed up to clean up the last of the leaves. He suggested an additional task (trimming the crepe myrtles) so I said ok and then asked how much. I gave him a check so that he didn’t have to worry about the billing stuff.

I also went to fill up my car and at $1.29 for E10, that’s not bad. I also visited the liquor store across the street and pick up some locally produced vodka. And I cruised the area for the restaurants that are nearby. There are five and I’ll try to get something every day from one of them. One even has an “isolation menu” online – limited menu curbside delivery.

Yes, I could just stay inside,but I am willing to help the locals and pick up locally.

    DSHornet in reply to Liz. | March 21, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    I don’t know where the down vote came from, but life is a mystery.

    I had tires put on the car at a locally owned shop this morning, meaning jobs for the driver who delivered them, the front desk guy who wrote up the order, and the shop guy who mounted them. I bought a few gallons (@ $1.79) at a locally owned station. The bride and I will check out a couple of favorite locally owned restaurants tomorrow who are likely to have takeout available. Getting around in my Birmingham suburb is easy since every day looks like Sunday morning.

    It’s really not very hard to lend a little support to local businesses, especially if you want them to be there after the panic subsides.

I’ve been thinking about this, I actually eat out rarely but we do need to support the small businesses

The Diamond Princess cruise ship:: fatality rate was 1.0%, with a largely elderly population… Mortality rate for the U.S. total population would be less…0.2 ?

Locking down the country with tremendous social and financial consequences may be irrational..

    Madman2001 in reply to Taxpayer. | March 21, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    Dear Taxpayer Commenter: “Locking down the country with tremendous social and financial consequences may be irrational..”

    Totally agree. Let’s get America moving again.

    Massinsanity in reply to Taxpayer. | March 22, 2020 at 11:16 am

    If one looks at the data out of Italy it is hard to disagree with the shutdown. Exponential case growth and a mortality rate around 8-9%.

    Look at the case growth in NYC, it is pretty frightening and will likely overwhelm the heathcare system there.

    On the bright side, things in S Korea look good and states like TX seem to be doing much better than NY or CA.

OMG Kansas and Missouri have put in place 30 day Stay at Home

People are going to lose their collective minds!

I have no problem supporting Lloyd and Kim who own the local Culvers and hit the take out Thursday (was told by Lloyd Monday that or fat azzed ugly biche gov was shuting down the restaurants in two hours), but my worry is my local restaurants that closed down. The cooks and waitresses are local people who no longer have a job. How do we find out if they need help?
Also I emailed this to the Prof for his reaction, but might as well put it out to everyone else.

Table of Contents

Total cases are the wrong metric
Time lapsing new cases gives us perspective
On a per-capita basis, we shouldn’t be panicking
COVID-19 is spreading
Watch the Bell Curve
A low probability of catching COVID-19
Common transmission modes
COVID-19 is likely to burn off in the summer
Children and Teens aren’t at risk
Strong, but unknown viral effect
What about asymptomatic spread?
93% of people who think they are positive aren’t
1% of cases will be severe
Declining fatality rate
So what should we do?
Start with basic hygiene
More data

Open schools
Open up public spaces
Support business and productivity
People fear what the government will do, not infection

Expand medical capacity
Don’t let them forget it and vote

    beagleEar in reply to 4fun. | March 21, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    All the numbers are approximate, but it does seem like well more than 1/100 are severe. Commonly cited figures are 15-20%, roughly the same range from a variety of sources. Very mild cases who see no reason to seek Rx may dilute (lower) those numbers, but not to 1%. Lung scarring is seen in people under 40 who are not near-death but did progress to lower respiratory infection.
    Not Ebola, also not your common cold causing coronavirus, which is what we’ve had until now.

    Another Ed in reply to 4fun. | March 22, 2020 at 12:30 am

    If you do read that link, be sure to read the comments as they have valid criticisms of the content.

    SteelCrabs in reply to 4fun. | March 22, 2020 at 11:37 am

    Medium has apparently deleted this article. It can now be found here:

Good to support the local business.

But why must they be so at risk of closing? If they can’t pay rent now, then don’t. A standard force majeure clause would offer some protection, but anyway most landlords should understand these circumstances and work something out. And if they’re hard-asses then what, they’re going to attempt evicting somebody now? –
and then put up a vacancy listing and find a new tenant in the midst of pandemic chaos? Ditto for many other major fixed costs. “Sorry, can’t pay this month.”

Not saying this isn’t terribly disruptive, but I don’t think we are dealing with a typical path of failure here.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to Uncledave. | March 21, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    my understanding is that restaurants operate on a thin line. They have money coming in but they have to pay suppliers and staff. My son works for a mom-n-pop shop, and they let the entire staff go yesterday. They are keeping the family on (5 adults) and they should be able to handle the workload. But that is suddenly 10 people out of a job. Some have that as a college job, some, like my son, are still in high school, and some that is their job for their family. It is more than not being able to pay rent.

Local gunshop closed this past Wednesday. They had sold out of ammo and most of their guns. The owner gave the staff a bonus and laid them off for 2 months to shelter at home. He packed up his wife, step daughter and grandkid then headed to his cabin in the mountains for the next 2 months.

He has the rent and utilities covered for two months. All employees will be drawing unemployment for 8 weeks but they all got bonuses that almost cover their salaries for that time period.

In 2 months his orders for new inventory will be filled and his employees will come back to work after a 2 month break. He is one of the lucky ones. The restaurant and services small business are going to take a hit.

Morning Sunshine | March 21, 2020 at 10:17 pm

We went out to dinner tonight. Not cuz we don’t have enough food here – we do (and enough toilet paper, but I digress). We went to support our community and our friends and people like my son and his co-workers

Yes of course they would need to lay-off staff. A lot of this sucks. Overdue bills will just get more overdue. New supplies won’t be ordered if there’s few customers coming in. If you have a good relationship with a supplier, who knows what you’re going through, things can be worked out on short term. I think it’ll suck for some weeks or months, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a lot or most of these places that are in trouble will go under.

Katy L. Stamper | March 21, 2020 at 10:56 pm

Trump has asked us to take 15 days to do what amounts to be careful and mindful. Aside from flattening any curve, it is giving FEMA etc., time to gear up and get supplies in the pipeline and delivered.

I also observe that this bailout appears to be headed as much to citizens as to the “too big to fail” set, which is a great paradigm change cf.’d to 2008-9.

What would make me happier is if I could be tested early and often. My work mostly involves older retired people. It’s been said repeatedly that you can test negative one day and the next day be positive, which makes sense. My clients want me to work, I’m happy to do so, but I would like to be certain that I’m not contagious to them. They are working to get testing up and going and maybe that will be possible soon.

In the alternative, if N95 masks supplies aren’t/weren’t depleted, that would be a huge help.

As far as doing business with small businesses right now, I agree, that is a good move if you’re able to do it. If you’re like the Professor and have a project you were planning to do and you can bump it up, now is the time.

Sure would like to help like so many fine folks here. I’m in oil and gas and just had my hours/pay cut in half. More due to Russia/Saudis than the pandemic. Put them together and we’re going to see massive layoffs in two months. Could force me into early retirement, which I can handle. But I love my job and want to put more money in my autistic son’s trust fund. So I’m having to socially distance myself from spending for now. I have hope and faith in God. Things are bleak for now. But we’ll bounce back. We always have. Just say a prayer it’s sooner than later. Wishing everyone good luck.

    Massinsanity in reply to Max17. | March 22, 2020 at 11:20 am

    A double whammy for your industry resulting in a massive supply/demand imbalance. Trump needs to put severe diplomatic pressure on the Saudis to reduce output. They are clearly trying to kill US domestic production which is a major national security issue.

Now is the perfect time for all these small business owners to get caught up with low priority items in the shop. Maybe some painting, some deep cleaning, rearrange the seating. Get caught up on all the low cost labor intensive tasks when you have the chance.

We will have to realize the best path forward is to quarantine and / mask the at-risk. The world needs to get turning again.

Small biz will take it on the chin and weather it. Commercial land lords aren’t eager to see huge vacancies. Banks aren’t hungry to be sitting on foreclosures. The wise will be lenient…the non-lenient will hopefully get some Karma.

I’ve been out just about every day – not necessarily because I wanted to, but because you have to track down the necessities over a number of stores. OTOH, I’ve also been eating a lot of drive-thru food.

Because of this article, I decided to walk down to my friendly local coffee shop to get a large latte to go. I paid with a $10 bill, and got a five dollar bill and a nickel in change. I broke the five, and told the waitress what a man told me when I was waitressing. I suggested that in the future, she give the customer five $1 bills as change instead of the five dollar bill, to help ensure she gets a tip. She thanked me. And a few minutes later, a man noticed my to-go cup, and I was able to tell him our coffee shop is taking to go orders. I want this place to survive, so I am going to try to do this every few days. And I had to eat some ice cream tonight.

The take out deal works very well for small families. Chinese and Italian restaurants would be wise to offer home delivery like they did until 1980 or so. Simply leave on stoop of residence or at door. No cash transactions. All paid for via phone ahead of time.

On my neighborhood NextDoor someone suggested that if you weren’t comfortable getting take out food right now then purchase gift certificates from one of our local restaurants. A gift certificate gives them needed cash right now and you can redeem it when things have settled down a bit.

    Provided they’re still around when it’s all over. That being said, I’ve also heard of people buying gift certificates for local restaurants and donating them to hospitals and first responders so people can use them right away, such as picking up food on the way home at the end of a shift.

    Clown 1396 XL in reply to B Buchanan. | March 22, 2020 at 11:25 am

    I think that gift certs are highly risky considering you don’t know if that biz will be there in a month. Also, no biz should use gift cert income as an interest free loan.

Good post.

It’s about how we come together instead of waiting for government to fix things for us that matters.

I have seen a small re-awakening of civic spirit that I haven’t seen since 9/11. It’s not as big yet but I hope it grows.

buckeyeminuteman | March 22, 2020 at 9:01 am

Our city has an old restaurant from the 1960s that still operates a drive in. It’s usually pretty slow, a few cars now and then. The past few days, it’s been hopping. Lines to get in! Hurray for small business!

    Clown 1396 XL in reply to buckeyeminuteman. | March 22, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Enterprising restaurants can create a drive-in out of a driveway and parking lot. The bottom line is don’t be a victim, make lemonade out of those lemons!

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Clown 1396 XL. | March 23, 2020 at 2:49 pm


      One of the local, legendary Bar-B-Ques doesn’t have a drive through, but are taking orders and meeting customers outside with the order.

nordic_prince | March 22, 2020 at 9:09 am

I’ve been driving a taxi for the past seven months – mostly airport runs because that’s where the money is, but some locals here and there. Now things are DEAD – virtually no travel, and much fewer locals than normal. Many drivers have turned in their leased cars, but I have a note on mine. Taxi drivers are independent contractors, so there’s no UI or anything for us. No option to “work from home.” The longer this thing drags on, the more devastating it will be.

    Clown 1396 XL in reply to nordic_prince. | March 22, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Can you come up with some creative adjustment to your business model where you can utilize your vehicle for other purposes?

      nordic_prince in reply to Clown 1396 XL. | March 22, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks for the idea. I have some personals, but the thing is nobody’s going anywhere, and there are too few local calls for the drivers who are hanging in there. Taxi drivers are considered “essential services,” but there are only so many grocery shopping trips out there on any given day.

      In the meantime I’m trying to pick up freelance work as a writer/content creator. The thing is that’s more a long-term solution.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | March 22, 2020 at 9:10 am

The second and fifth graphs at Worldometer are interesting.

Great post, Professor. Thank you and be well!

Clown 1396 XL | March 22, 2020 at 9:53 am

Businesses that can be creative with marketing have a better chance to survive. Time to change up the business model just a bit. Case in point would be the ice cream place in the OP. As was stated, they are the go-to place for ice cream after a little league game, but people aren’t really going anywhere right now so no sales. But what if they started delivery? Just open up the phone lines, let people choose items based on real time inventory*, charge the total to a credit card, and the owner gets in his car and drops off product to bored families in the burbs. Drop off the stuff in front of the door, ring the doorbell and leave. No contact delivery is so in right now.

*The clerk walks over to the display, returns and says “yes, we have that.”

ps: I think that a business that has lots of goodwill in good times will take it into bad times as well. A business that has a cracks in their business model during good times, not so much, payback is a bish.

Escaped from RI | March 22, 2020 at 12:01 pm

This is not a bug it is a feature. This is a test of what we are willing to tolerate, so far it seems we will tolerate totalitarianism, so that’s what we are going to get. Small business is not coming back. YouR church will not be allowed to re-open. Unemployment has already risen to the point that in Texas the Workforce Commission’s servers have crashed. You can’t apply for benefits because they closed their offices. Rationing is coming because workers are locked out of the places that make the packaging your food comes in. When the dust clears you will either be dependent on a welfare check or you will work in an industry the government deemed worth bailing out. America as you knew it is done.

Escaped from RI | March 22, 2020 at 12:01 pm

This is not a bug it is a feature. This is a test of what we are willing to tolerate, so far it seems we will tolerate totalitarianism, so that’s what we are going to get. Small business is not coming back. YouR church will not be allowed to re-open. Unemployment has already risen to the point that in Texas the Workforce Commission’s servers have crashed. You can’t apply for benefits because they closed their offices. Rationing is coming because workers are locked out of the places that make the packaging your food comes in. When the dust clears you will either be dependent on a welfare check or you will work in an industry the government deemed worth bailing out. America as you knew it is done.

The “reports” from around the world have everyone well freaked out down here in NZ. I work in IT and, luckily, most of my office can work from home.

So I’ve got coffee, a laptop and most importantly: a job.


    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to LisaGinNZ. | March 23, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Don’t worry Lisa, this is all a Communist Chinese/Democrat Party (but I repeat myself) FAKE OUT!

texansamurai | March 22, 2020 at 7:48 pm

America as you knew it is done.

put the bong down, man

I’d love to help my local businesses but our POS libtard Governor here in Kentucky is ordering all business shuttered by 8 PM tonight.