Xmas at Home – Continuing the Momentum

Last year, Stephanie Philbrick, Dr Samantha Thomas and I had a conversation that turned into Xmas at Home (I blogged about it here). It was a campaign that asked people to contribute to a hashtag that sought to offer company and companionship to those at home on Christmas Day – one of the loneliest times of the year for many people.

The success of last year’s campaign saw people connect in a variety of ways – tweeting comedy, music, pictures of pets – as well as spark conversations about things in common. The hashtag #xmasathome was what bound it together – that way, people discovered others on Twitter that normally they wouldn’t meet in their usual day to day life.  That stories about it reached news outlets was a good thing – if only to make people aware of the campaign, even if it was after the fact.

One of the difficulties of Twitter is that hashtags and campaigns disappear as soon as they appear.  I do hope, however, that people remember the publicity from last year and that we can this year’s #xmasathome as successful at last year’s, in terms of helping people find connections at a time where a lack of family connection is felt at its most acute level. It would a nice way to help close out the year – confirming that Twitter isn’t necessarily just the home of ranting, complaining and trolling. It can be used to reach out as well.

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Pork Barrelling Contests and CRT TVs – Moving On from Suburban Rugby League Grounds

In the year before each Federal Election, there’s one issue that continually bubbles to the surface.  That of funding home grounds for various Sydney NRL clubs.  It’s a sure fire way for politicians to show how much they support their local area when they promise an upgrade to local, “grassroots” facilities.  The pull on the public purse has been significant. There’s been Penrith Stadium, in the heart of Lindsay (though, it hasn’t cost all that much for Centrebet to assume the naming for the facility built with public money), Brookvale Oval, which is waiting for an Abbott Government for its $10 million, Campbelltown Stadium, Belmore Oval (even though it’s not going to be an NRL ground), Jubilee Oval in Kogarah (which received money from the NSW Labor Government a year before their departure) and Endeavour Oval / Shark Park in Cronulla.

I like suburban rugby league grounds – the game has an vibrant atmosphere that fans enjoy being a part of. When Preston Towers was where I lived, I used to be able to take a 5 minute walk to Penrith Stadium, pay not a lot to get in, buy a pie, take a seat and get a good view of a good Sunday afternoon game.  The ground is a relic of a bygone era, especially the 80s built Eastern Grandstand, with its tiny corporate boxes, still fitted with 80s era small CRT TVs. There aren’t many companies using those boxes these days. Corporate people usually sit in the more recently upgraded Western Grandstand. It was certainly a startling atmosphere for my fiancee, who was more used to AFL games at Docklands or the MCG.  Or maybe the more startling was the meat eating competition at half time.

While those nostalgic for bygone eras would love for this atmosphere to remain, it’s becoming clear that such a nostalgic vision for the NRL is an economically unsustainable one. As Richard Hinds wrote in his SMH column, grounds with inadequate catering and toilet facilities, as well as poor corporate facilities, can’t be sustainable in the long term. Sport supporters are increasingly expecting to have a game day experience that is free from stress and inconvenience.  The current suburban grounds won’t be able to do that into the future. This is especially the case with grounds like Leichhardt and Parramatta Stadium, with their woefully inadequate parking and public transport access. The future for the NRL is the same that is being seen in Melbourne, with its two stadiums with easy access to transport and parking; Adelaide with the move from Football Park to the Adelaide Oval.  The NRL must be cursing their missed opportunity in not organising the kind of deal the AFL secured with the excellent Skoda Stadium in Homebush.  Also in the picture is the increasing reality that sporting clubs make a lot of their revenue from fans unable to get to games but watch on TV.  They can’t watch night games from Leichhardt.  This future has been clearly supported by the NSW Government, who have recently stated that keeping grounds like Leichhardt are financially unsustainable – where the sport minister, former rugby league referee Graham Annesley stating:

“Review of stadia has identified the number of current venues requiring ongoing maintenance and or upgrading is financially unsustainable… Stakeholders suggested there are too many Tier 2 stadia in Greater Sydney, and the present decentralised approach leads to under-utilisation of venues.”

This hasn’t stopped the appeal for grounds to be funded by the Federal election barrel of pork.  It’s Leichhardt Oval that is again the focus of a pre Federal election demand for money.  The same Leichhardt that is in the middle of Grayndler, the seat of the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese.  The seat that was closely fought in the last Federal election against the Greens in 2010.  Now the newly elected Labor Mayor of Leichhardt, Darcy Byrne, has made Federal money for Leichhardt Oval a major issue, saying it would be a “disaster” if the Wests Tigers didn’t play their four games a year at Leichhardt.

It would not be a disaster for the Tigers if they played more games at Olympic Park, for example – after all, more Campbelltown based Tigers fans would be able to get to games there – getting to Leichhardt from Campbelltown is a virtual impossibility.  It’s also not a big journey from Balmain / Leichhardt to Homebush.  It would also not be a financial disaster for the Tigers club, who don’t have a leagues club facility close to Leichhardt and can’t be making a great deal of money from games at their old ground. This kind of emotive campaign is more about the politics, not the football.  We can wait to see if the other NRL grounds get promised all sorts of grants in the lead up to the next Federal election – money pledged more as a sign of political expediency than in supporting the game.

Spinning Around in Their Reality – Austereo Following the PR Playbook

The last days since what is now called the “Royal Prank Tragedy” has been curious, but not entirely surprising. Not in the least that I have had Gerard Henderson, of the Sydney Institute, basically writing a similar argument about radio pranks as I articulated in my previous blog post. Rarely have the Sydney and Preston Institutes agreed so heartily.  I had other responses from various people, including a former employee of Austereo who spoke of a headquarters “decorated from material that looked like seconds from the Death Star” and likened working for them to this scene from The Dark Crystal:

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) itself hasn’t covered itself in glory either in the last days, with a number of gaffes that seem to show that they haven’t any intention to change their culture or their macho approach to corporate responsibility to society.

1. Blame the Hospital for Not Answering the Phone.

Rhys Holleran, the CEO of SCA, said that the station “tried to ring the hospital” to gain permission to play the stunt.  Not only has this been denied by the hospital, it shows a complete misunderstanding by SCA of their culpability. Instead of trying to avoid censure from ACMA for not following the Commercial Radio Code of Practice, what they should have said is “we should never have run the prank, having not been able to contact the hospital”.  It sounds like the program director or whoever was responsible for the show said something like “oh, well, it’s just a great prank, let’s just get it on air and sort out the legals later”.   It comes out as blame shifting, rather than taking responsibility.

2. “It Can’t Have Just Been Our Prank That Did This”

Austereo’s Sandy Kaye, when speaking to the New York Post about the tragedy, said what a number of people around water coolers – and even the presenters on The View – have been saying for the past few days –

“Surely, there’s a lot more to suicide than a prank call where a woman has [done nothing more than] put through a phone call…  Perhaps the hospital should have known about that. If that turns out to be the case and they knew about her fragile situation, then why would you leave her on the front line?”

While this kind of speculation isn’t surprising amongst people away from the media and even on a public water cooler discussion show like The View, it’s astonishingly insensitive when coming from a spokesperson from the company directly involved.  It’s more blame shifting – inferring the King Edward VII should not have nurses working at their hospital if they are “fragile”. After all, as we know, it wasn’t usually her job to answer phones – she was a nurse on station at 5.30 am, who just happened to answer a phone.

Then there were the PR playbook moves that shouldn’t have been fooling anyone – but probably are.

1. Parade the Hosts On Tightly Controlled Media

Many people saw the tearful interview with the two hosts in question – it is not surprising that they feel great remorse and regret. Interestingly, they absolved themselves from an amount of responsibility from what happened after the call was made – which shows that this was indeed an Austereo blame shifting culture problem, where hosts are encouraged to make such calls, but then pass responsibility onto others.  The interview was intended to make viewers sympathise with the hosts, probably with the hope being that it distracts possible anger towards their bosses that foster the culture.

If Austereo were serious about having remorse for their action, the station staff directly responsible for co-ordinating pranks and allowing the material going to air should be interviewed – and not by a friendly, sympathetic interviewer like the ones found on ACA or TT. Or, maybe they should get the kind of treatment that “dodgy welfare cheats” get from those programs.  Doubtful, considering SCA is a major purchaser of advertising on Channels 7 and 9.

2. Suspend Advertising and Cancel the Show

This is the trick 2GB played when Alan Jones was receiving negative publicity after the Died in Shame incident.  They suspended advertising for two weeks – and now the advertisers would be knocking on the door, knowing that Jones’ ratings have increased since the incident. Austereo have done the same – it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.  The show, the Hot 30, has been cancelled, which is an odd decision, given that it’s mostly a music show, with the latest popular songs with a bit of banter between them. I can’t think 2Day won’t have a show like that again.  Again, more spin from the company.

I don’t agree with Tum Burrowes of Mumbrella that Holleran should resign. This would be yet another token sacrifice that companies do when they want to deflect criticism and don’t want to change their culture. This is why I suspect that he will probably resign soon enough.  What should happen is a root and branch review and a cancelling of pranks that target the bystanders.  I don’t think this will happen.  If The View is anything to go by, there is still a belief that such pranks in themselves are harmless and a bit of fun – as I have been told by many outside the Twitterverse in the last couple of days.

Little doubt this will story will continue to play out and then finally fade away, leaving behind the tragedy and the family involved. It can’t be easy to have a loved one’s mental state being speculated upon by American TV shows.  Ultimately, the executives of SC Austereo will survive this.  They will continue to live in what the former Austereo employee who talked to me called their alternative reality.  For those people trying to change their macho, rigid self belief, the phone message they will receive would go like this – “The reality you are accessing is no longer in service. Please contact your local reality provider.”

Destroying the Joint? Austereo and our Moral and Social Compass

The “Royal Prank” story and its fallout, including the tragic suicide of Jacinta Saldanha, the nurse at the centre of it, has produced some lively conversation about a variety of issues, including the nature of pranks and their place in society. It has also produced some (not very surprising) hypocrisy from an English media that demonised the nurse in question – publicly humiliating her, making her life difficult – and then turning and pointing the finger at the radio hosts who did the prank. Those hosts did not place the pressure on Ms. Saldanha in Britain, the media there did that. What it has also done is place pressure on the media company that fostered this prank, but one that will dissipate quickly. They already have started to cover themselves with lines like they are ‘”very confident” that the radio station had done nothing illegal’. Nothing illegal, maybe, but morally questionable? Yes.

The stations we know as Austereo today (MMM and The Today Network) were frequently on my radio during the late 80s, 90s and into the 00s. The main reason I listened to the network was because it has had a large amount of talent pass through their corridors – Andrew Denton, Wendy Harmer, Judith Lucy, Greg Fleet, Tony Martin, Ed Kavalee, Richard Marsland, Mick Molloy, The whole D Generation, Doug Mulray, Stuart MacGill, Brian Carlton (aka Spoonman) and Amanda Keller are some of the stars whose work I have largely enjoyed or at least been interested by. The station’s main approach to the making of revenue is to play music that they think people want to listen to, mixed with comedy and / or comment on society. They hold regular music juries / focus groups to define their playlists (I was even on such a group for MMM – the room was filled with Anglo Celtic men in our 30s). While some people would not like their playlist, there is an audience that enjoys it and that’s what radio should do – cater to different tastes.

Somehow over the years, however, Austereo’s executives seemed to have taken more control over their programs and presenters, to the extent where each city has a formula and format that is fairly rigid – and is shaping a negative culture amongst the largely working class and young audience that listens. One of the things the network does is perpetuate a rigid set of female stereotypes. These days, the role of women on the shows, especially, seems to be reduced to a set of three female stereotypes. These are:

1. The Red Card Wielder – as in, the woman who Brings the Blokes Back Into Line, when the boys say something offensive, racist, sexist and otherwise “politically incorrect”. “Boys will be Boys” the line goes for these women. Brigitte Duclos played this role for a number of years in Melbourne.

2. The Giggling Babe – the one who giggles and gushes about whatever random thing comes into their mind and is often the butt of jokes from other presenters. Jackie O is the most well known exponent of this role, as is Fifi Box.

3. The Sunny, Upbeat Girl – the one who is always optimistic and happy, though one that can be serious on occasion. Almost never do you hear a female presenter on an Austereo radio station being a “downer” and having the full gamut of emotions. This is why it was astonishing Judith Lucy was employed in Sydney.

Down at MMM, there is another stereotype – the bikini babe. They will take any excuse to talk about women in an objectifying matter -this was the case in the MMM Hot Breakfast’s notorious “Bunga Bunga” party, which was supposedly “ironic”, but really was just an excuse to get girls in bikinis to appear on their website. That event also featured perpetuating discrimination against short statured people (as written about here by Stella Young). There was also the time where MMM Sydney’s Matthew Johns and the Grill Team (aka Sydney’s “Manliest Men”) talked, with testosterone dripping, about the attractiveness of Tony Abbott’s daughters – with Tony Abbott – which raised the hackles of not only Annabel Crabb. The examples showed that women, in Austereo land, seem to be just objects or are there to play some kind of second fiddle to the all important male star / stars. Not exactly providing positive role models to the teenage girls listening to the stations for One Direction tickets or to the teenage boys whose behavioural cues are being shaped in part by what they listen to on the media, not necessarily what they receive at home or at schools from authority figures like parents and teachers.

One such role model is Kyle Sandilands, who to the teenage girls and boys is the naughty kid at the back of the room who says what he thinks and doesn’t care what others think about those views. In other words, a bit of a hero. He adds to the stereotype of women being objects to look at, which show an astonishing lack of insight, sensitivity or intellect. One of the worst was his comment about Magda Szubanski “losing more weight in a concentration camp”. This comment, though, caused many in a class I was teaching at the time to ask exactly what a concentration camp actually was. This led to a discussion of Sandilands, which showed that the girls liked him, especially because he talked to stars they liked. The boys idolised him.

This is why I was a bemused and disaffected observer of the “Destroying the Joint” campaign. Alan Jones is a rigid sexist who appeals to a variety of sexist males who have held those views for a long time. Jones, being a cynical manipulator, just plays to those. The Destroy the Joint campaign to me was a way to distract progressives away from where the real fight should be – it was a little bit like people getting fired up about Peter Reith being on the largely unwatched The Drum. Worth a couple of tweets, but not a full campaign. Where we should be more concerned is with the way Austereo is bit by bit dismantling the victories won by feminism, especially amongst teenagers adults listening to them. People, I’ll add, who largely live in those outer suburban marginal seats of which we hear plenty.

The other side of the Austereo “winning formula” is the radio prank. I wrote of this in my previous post, where I discussed the idea that the radio pranks played by the various Austereo stations are almost always designed to play on the embarrassment of the poor working class person / student on a front desk at an important company or place where someone important is staying. A “bystander” as Mark Colvin put it during a Twitter conversation about this topic. They never intend to get through past the gatekeeper and the humour is derived from the embarrassment / truculence / unease of that person. Listeners to the stations are almost always working class people or teenagers who laugh at the fact that the person answering usually has to be polite, otherwise they lose their job. They know this because they themselves might find themselves in that position at some stage. It’s a case of “better them than me” because the humour is derived from the shared powerlessness with the person being called. In another Twitter conversation, Tad Tietze characterised this idea of humour as being “the feeling that, as long as those worse off than us are getting kicked, our own lack of power isn’t so bad”.

Another example of this manipulation of the powerless was a segment that finally severed me from listening to the Andrew Denton breakfast show. The segment involved people having to ring in to tell the audience why they deserved a cash prize. The bigger the story of need, the better. The audience were then challenged to either ring in the next day with a bigger story of need, or stay silent, not ring and the previous person would get the cash. Almost always, another person rang, meaning that the cash rarely went to anyone needing it. It was mean spirited and flesh crawling. Austereo at close to its meanest.

There has been a strain of comment that seems to work to absolve Austereo of responsibility for this turn of events. James Campbell from the Herald Sun blames the DJs – “I hope they stay unemployed. I hope that their names became a shorthand like Chernobyl – for a toxic disaster” and the audience – “Part of me can’t help feeling that the people who enjoy the sort of entertainment provided by Greig and Christian are partly responsible for Jacintha Saldanha’s death as well”. It’s not the DJs or the audience that we should be looking at. The DJs just played the well worn Austereo tune. It could well have been anyone at the station who could have triggered this tragedy accidentally, after following Austereo’s training and “blue sky sessions” that Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee used to joke about on Get This. The audience, too, are not responsible – they are the ones being shaped by a media organisation well honed at their task. It’s the Austereo people who should took a good hard look at this kind of call, rather than fix the PR disaster by simply playing by the 2GB trick of suspending advertising until it all blows over, when people find a new campaign, create a different hashtag or make Facebook updates about other things.

There will be those who say I “don’t have a sense of humour” and “you are trying to tread on freedom of speech” in regards to this kind of prank. But it does need to be analysed, discussed and eventually cut out from the Austereo playbook. It does belittle people who shouldn’t be treated in such a way – who never asked to be public figures, just people who do their job.

What Austereo should do is shape a more positive, progressive set of values and role models for its audiences. Have less of the giggly / house mother stereotypes and dial down the bikini babe references. They are able to attract good comedic talent and they should play that up. There have been examples of good, positive shows. I have (mostly) fond memories of the show Paul Murray and his genuine co-host, Rachel Corbett, did on MMM – intelligent, informed, stereotype and prank free (except for the time when people took a baseball bat to Gillard and Abbott shaped mannequins). Those of us who remember Get This with Tony Martin, Ed Kavalee and the tragically late Richard Marsland (aka Marslando Calrissian) would remember a show that was both popular and lacking in the kind of offensive stereotypes and pranks that we hear too much on Austereo.

I can’t imagine that a more mature and sensitive network would lose them their audience. Perhaps they fear changing from what they see as a winning formula and that’s why they won’t take a lead and change from their sexism and manipulation of the powerless. After all, they cancelled Get This, despite its very good ratings. I doubt the executives of Austereo – led by the infamous Max “the Axe” Moore – Wilton, (who once upon a time was the head of the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Howard era) would ever want to listen to criticism. Especially that summarised by the following comment by Mark Twain (provided to me by Leroy Lynch, who also provided two of the links in this post), quoted in this excellent article – “When grown-ups indulge in practical jokes, the fact gauges them. They’ve lived narrow, ignorant lives, full of leftover standards that would have been long since discarded with their boyhood if they’d led a fuller life.” I think they’ll just continue to live out their Mad Men fantasies, down another drink and continue to manage the PR.

Prank Calls – Taking Advantage of the Vulnerable

Anyone who reads roadside banners and watches TV will know that the Austereo network adores the prank call – they use it as a cornerstone of their advertising. Someone rings up somewhere important and makes silly enquiries, in order to receive (apparently hilarious) confusion, then an “angry” slamming of the phone. Or a good natured “haha, funny mate”. That’s the 2DayFM / Fox FM style. Then there’s the MMM style, where “mates” set up other “mates” by suggesting how a phone call could really “get” the mate by picking on a sensitivity or promise something, get their hopes up – but then laugh when all is revealed. Often these calls involve some kind of barely disguised racism in the form of a “funny” accent, usually “Indian” or “Asian”.

The men of my school staffroom love MMM. Hence, I was once a victim of a MMM style prank in my staffroom at work involving lottery tickets and winning an amount of money. Hilarious to those around, but to me, it wasn’t, due largely to the fact I was under enormous financial stress as the only salary earner in a household of 4, living in a pretty dodgy suburb. Having that money would have made my life a lot easier.

This is the problem with phone pranks such as these – if you think about them and their implications, they aren’t funny. The person at the end of the line is often in a low paying job where they have to appear professional and courteous, no matter what is being said to them. They are usually monitored for their performance. The person calling, however, is in a much more secure, powerful position – he / she is in a well paid, comfortable job where they are encouraged to make fools of the lower paid through the phone call.

This was certainly the case with the nurse* at the King Edward VII hospital who made the “mistake” of assuming that the phone call being made was sincere. I can’t imagine the “prank call” is as big a “funny bit” in the UK as it is here. I at least hope it isn’t. It’s lazy, arrogant and painful to listen to.

Now the story seems to have a much darker edge that could not be anticipated by Mel Greig and Michael Christian when they made the call. Both the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard have reported that the nurse involved has appeared to have taken her own life. As has been pointed out by the excellent deputy editor of the New Statesman and excellent Twitter news source, @helenlewis, it would inadvisable to jump to the conclusion that the prank led directly to the suicide. She also cited the Samaritans’ guidelines for reporting on suicide, as well as a resource on how Tweeps should be reporting on such an act. It will be interesting to see how many media organisations draw upon Ms Lewis’ sensible advice. Not many in Australia, I suspect.

If it is proven that there is a link, however, then it’s a tragedy of which I doubt either of the radio hosts will ever fully forgive themselves. They certainly would never have guessed that this would happen, nor would their bosses. They will be made to feel guilty over the next few days, even if the link isn’t explicitly made – which is probably the most likely occurrence. What we will see, though – and I can see it happening already – is a gathering storm of disgust, revulsion and shame that will take a few days of screaming banner headlines and furious discussion on radio and TV.

Amongst that storm, we will be reminded that it was all over a news story that wasn’t even that vital – how the Duchess of Cambridge was doing in hospital.

They shouldn’t be made to feel overly guilty, however. It really wasn’t their fault. It’s the culture fostered by Austereo that created the call. Truth is, the prank call needs to be really examined and reconsidered as a “humour” device. Especially those made to the poor people in call centres and working as receptionists who can’t really bite back against the arrogance of an “only a joke” phone call made to keep Australian radio listeners mildly amused for 3 minutes.

* I have since discovered that the person involved was a nurse covering for a receptionist. My point still holds that these calls do target those who have to be polite and respectful in phone calls.

Keeping a Real World Shopfront is Tough at Westfields

Now it’s officially time to admit that Christmas is coming (not in October, when the decorations go up in the shops), I am doing the little bit of shopping I need to do in small stages. Today, I went to a shop that sells the type of things kids would like for Christmas in a large Westfield.  Such places are often held to be guides to our prosperity, our wealth.  You would think things would be fine in a Westfield – especially as they tend to suck in the bulk of shoppers in any regional centre / city in Australia.  I soon discovered, however, that they are not.

I picked up a present for my daughter – she is nearly 11 and I’m not trying to guess what she’d like.  We had been to this shop before and she pointed the item out as being a thing she’d like. Now I was buying it from the same shop – maybe not how things are done for some these days.  I like to buy things from shops, because the shop keepers can tell me something about it and I can take it back if necessary.

On this occasion, the shop’s owner, after telling me that it was a good unit, was unsure of the price. This was because, for the first time, he was having to discount his goods. Usually, he was telling me, he based his price on the original wholesale price, plus rent, plus wages.  Now, however, he was having to compete with online sales – someone in China selling the unit on ebay – usually an outlet that has disappeared the next day or week. As a result, he was having to reduce the price.

There would be some who would call this a triumph of neoliberalism, the free market, where greedy shopkeepers are forced to reduce prices because of the ever shrinking world and the ability to buy stuff online. The same people who stridently oppose any kind of GST on goods imported into Australia.

For this shopkeeper, however, it just means that he isn’t making any money from the exercise. What is cut off the price are his wages, because the rent to be in the Westfield is fairly high and nigh on impossible to change – unless you close down and open again, having negotiated a lower rental, or if you are up for a lease renewal.  The former is expensive and could cost goodwill, the latter can be a long waiting game, especially if business flattens out. There are shopkeepers, he was telling me that are shutting down, just to force Westfield’s hand.

Again, people could argue that such business are free to leave, to move to a premises with less rent. This is not a viable option in many regional centres, where Westfields or equivalent shopping centres are the only places where you can attract passing trade.

This loss of business – the worst seen by many – is the result of people going online to save a few dollars on discretionary items, rather than going to a shop that has a responsibility to follow through if something is wrong.  That is part of the reason why I was the only person to be buying something from him for the hour before my purchase.  He surmised that it’s probably a good thing that Westfield doesn’t seem to be too interested in building new shopping centres – the current ones seem to be struggling to hang onto all the current tenants, especially independent operators or people with a few outlets.

It was a rambling, fascinating conversation.  After I wished him well, a few things struck me.  Firstly, that last week’s absolute nonsense about the AWU and bagmen whatever has no relevance to anyone outside Canberra. None.  More importantly, it showed me just what today’s freedom of the market is doing – the dramatic impact that is being felt in the community. That this “boom” economy is for many people an illusion, something they hear about in the media, but are not experiencing.  It’s little wonder Tony Abbott likes to be seen in shopping centres – he’d be hearing stories like this all the time. About how things are tough. Not that he would ever have any ability or interest in doing anything about it.

Finally, it struck me that I know that people like buying online, they save money, they get precisely the colour they want, it saves having to brave crowds.  This is, however, affecting people trying to make a dollar by selling things they like to sell and mostly know something about. Places that are also trying to employ younger people wanting their first job in somewhere other than a McDonalds.  It is a reality that these places are sliding away, the world gets just a little more clinical, a little colder and that is a shame.