Monday, November 16, 2009

Crimbo Takes Center Stage

The holidays/Christmas/Hannukkah/Kwanzaa - or Crimbo as the Brits call it - is taking center stage early this year. As the economy crumbles around us and real unemployment probably tops 20%, retailers are desperate for us to start spending. In London the Xmas lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street were already up and lit last weekend. Last Sunday Oxford Street was so full of shoppers that you had to walk in the street. Here at the Cambridge Galleria yesterday I heard Xmas music in all the stores, and saw people walking out of Best Buy with mountains of boxes. The retail spending figures will be eagerly awaited by retailers and investors alike. If they are indeed up from last year, the stock market will no doubt rally in celebration. It seems you cannot dampen those Crimbo spirits. But wait. Goldman Sachs has canceled its Xmas party - again. The embattled bank apparently thought that throwing a glitzy bash might just enrage those taxpayers that bailed it out of last year's mess. And it might also remind them that Goldman Sachs employees are girding themselves for a bumper bonus season. They will have a Holly Jolly regardless of growing unemployment lines elsewhere. At the same time in a display of utter idiocy RBS applied for a liquor license (from 7am) and a permit to hold karaoke parties in its London offices, according to the Telegraph. This came only days after the bank took another 33bn pounds in bailout money from the UK government. I can see its probable logic in holding in-house Xmas parties - so no one could see that the bank was frittering away taxpayer money. But RBS was rumbled before it could party down. Crimbo parties or not, neither bank has learned anything from the economic crisis they helped to cause. That is called wasting a good crisis.

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