Author Adam Minter remembers two periods of grief after his mother died in 2015: the intense sadness of her death, followed by the challenge of sorting through what he calls "the material legacy of her life."
Over the course of a year, Minter and his sister worked through their mother's possessions until only her beloved china was left. Neither one of them wanted to take the china — but neither could bear to throw it out. Instead, they decided to donate it.
Waiting in the donation line at Goodwill, Minter began wondering what would happen to the dishes: "It occurred to me this is a very interesting subject," he says. "Nobody really knew what happened beyond the donation door at Goodwill."
Minter had spent nearly two decades reporting on the waste and recycling industries. Now he began looking into the market for secondhand goods, both domestically and in Africa and Asia.
"Your average thrift store in the United States only sells about one-third of the stuff that ends up on its shelves," he says. "The rest of the stuff ends up somewhere else."
Minter visited Goodwill donation centers in the U.S. and watched as employees engaged in a sophisticated sorting and pricing system. He noted that while designer clothes might be set aside as "boutique" items, other products — including heavy wooden furniture and outdated exercise equipment — were often destined for the dump.
"A 300-pound oak dining room table ... becomes a problem," he says. "You will see some of this very nice oak furniture, if it can't be sold, it will end up in the landfill."
Minter's new book, Secondhand, explores the afterlife of donated clothes and electronics. His previous book,Junkyard Planet, was about the recycling industry.
On the rise of "cleanup" companies, which help people sort through and dispose of their possessions
As populations age, and children move away from home, you have an increasingly elderly population in the United States, for example, that wants to downsize for whatever reason into retirement. ... And that means that they need to get rid of their stuff that they've accumulated for a lifetime.
This profession has existed for centuries, in a sense — there's always been scavengers going to people's homes as they leave them. But now it's taken on sort of a new tint. And what they do is they sort of counsel people on helping them get rid of the things, sometimes encourage them, sometimes nudge them, and then help them make the move. ...
The very best of the cleanup professionals that I spent time with, they kind of reminded me of therapists. Again, it was having to sit with somebody and explain to them, "You don't need this." And that person explaining to the cleanup professional, "This wedding china, when it was given to me 50, 60 years ago, I was going to keep it forever and now I'm downsizing. You're asking me to let go of this wedding china, which isn't just this material thing that I put in a cabinet and looks pretty, but it's really a part of my identity."
And what's so emotionally jarring ... [is] that you see people really taking apart their identities, because in contemporary America, [and] in Japan, where I spent a bunch of time, I mean, we increasingly sort of build up who we are on the basis of the things that we have owned and acquired over the years.
On how the proliferation of storage units affects the reuse industry
For the reuse industry, it's sort of a mixed blessing. The reuse industry thrives on having access to stuff — in particular good stuff. But increasingly, what we see in the United States in particular is that the quality of the stuff that people are acquiring — because we're acquiring more every year — is declining.
So all that stuff that's filling up these storage units isn't necessarily what my grandmother would call "merchandise." It's stuff that's going to go in the donation door at a thrift store — and ultimately going to find its way into a dumpster or a recycling bin. It's not going to be reused.
On the declining quality of electronic goods
If you think back say, 20, 25 years ago, a television that was 10 years old was something that could be reused. It could be refurbished and reused. ... They were very heavy, but they were also very robust. But these days, you can go and you can buy yourself a flat-panel television at an electronics retailer. I saw it over the recent Black Friday period and you can buy that flat panel for $150. But in a sense, you get what you pay for. You get a cheap television that maybe will last three years.
It's really troubling in some ways, because
depending on where you
are, people can actually pay more per square foot for a storage unit than they would for residential rental space. So we're actually paying more to store our stuff than we are to store ourselves.
When you go to storage units and see these flat-panel TVs sitting in them, somebody may have [thought], "I'm just going to store it here for a couple of years." By the time it's opened up and people say it's time to donate the stuff, that's not merchandise. That's something that's going to go to an electronics recycler. And that kind of phenomenon is increasing. The volume of stuff is increasing, but the volume of good stuff among the stuff, if you will, is declining.
On observing the sorting process at a Goodwill donation center
It's amazing the things that come through the door at Goodwill. I would literally follow it, walk with it to the sorting areas. It was really surprising to me. I didn't know what I was expecting, but I didn't expect the level of sophistication of sorting that you find at a Goodwill. ...
There'll be large carts full of clothing and they will go to sorters who, first of all, ... have almost like a flowchart. ... I think it's around 85 to 90 brands on there. And they will tell the sorters how to price those. But on top of that, they go through and they feel the fabric. Is it thin? Does it feel like something that's gonna fall apart after one to five washes? ...
And then you will go through there and you will find garments that simply don't even belong going to the rag-makers. ... That may be something that's just so badly soiled that you couldn't in good conscience send it to anybody, so it would go into the trash bin.
There's an objective side to it. But there's also sort of the subjective side that requires the sorters in these rooms — just talking about apparel — to use their subjective knowledge that they've acquired as they spend time with thousands and thousands of garments over periods of time to make that call.
On how the environmental impact of stuff is more on the manufacturing side
A "life cycle assessment" is basically where somebody goes and looks at the full environmental impact of a product — say a smartphone — from manufacturing to disposal and looks at what the air pollution impacts are, the mining impacts, the carbon impacts. The one thing we do know is that the biggest impact of most products is the manufacturing side. So if you want to reduce the environmental impact of your consumption, the best way to do that is to not manufacture more stuff. In that sense, the best thing you can do is not buy more stuff.
The longer that your product lasts, the longer that you use that smartphone, the less likely it is that you're going to be buying a new one. So the goal really should be to keep your stuff in use for as long as possible, whether it's by you or somebody in Ghana or somebody in Cambodia. So in that sense, it's a really good thing, because if somebody in Cambodia is using your phone, they're probably not buying a new cheap handset there.
On where goods go to die
They end up in the landfill or the incinerator. I mean, there is no green heaven, if you will. Everything wears out eventually and everything gets tossed out. ...That's the fate of stuff. That's the fate of our consumerist societies. If we spend our time thinking this is going to be used perpetually, forever, even the best-made garment, the most robust smartphone, we're deluding ourselves a bit. Eventually, everything does have to die. ... It's sort of the ultimate story of consumerism and it's the dark side. We can't really delude ourselves into thinking everything lasts forever.
Sam Briger and Seth Kelley produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.
The old way to think about your dog's "human age" — the age in actual years times seven — is wrong. And researchers now have a new formula they think will calculate your dog's age more accurately.
Simply put, compared with humans, dogs age very quickly at first, but then their aging slows down, a lot.
Trey Ideker of the University of California, San Diego was part of a team of researchersthat looked at aging on the molecular level.
Humans and dogs have DNA that basically doesn't change over the course of life, Ideker says. However, "we have these additional chemical marks, called epigenetic marks. The particular epigenetic mark that has turned out to be pretty important for the study of age is called methylation," he says.
"It's basically a wrinkle on your genome. So you have DNA that does not change, but then you have these additional marks that do change as you age. And they change in a very predictable way, so that you can use the pattern of marks to read out your age."
The comparison of humans and dogs was made easier because they both often live in similar environments and get similar access to health care.
For the study, they drew the blood of 104 Labrador retrievers ages 4 weeks to 16 years.
"All I have to do is take dogs in a certain age group, like in a 1-year-old age group, and look at what are the most similar molecular profiles in the humans," Ideker says. "And what ages those humans are. And it turns out that if you do that for like a 1-year-old dog, you find that the matching humans at the molecular profile level are surprisingly old. They're about 30 years old."
Using a dog age calculator based on the research, a 2-year-old dog is about 42 in human years. But a dog twice as old, 4 years, is roughly equivalent to a 53-year-old human. Double it again and an 8-year-old dog is only 64 in human age.
According to an IG Wealth Management study, recently retired women are more worried than their male counterparts about stretching funds over their remaining years. This heightened concern may be related to the fact that women generally live longer than men. Another likely contributor is that women tend to earn less than men. In the end, women have less money to spread over more years.
Financial priorities are also different among retired women and men. The study found that it’s more important for women to leave behind money for family and charities, by a margin of 14 per cent. Of course, overspending in retirement can present a problem — but what about underliving? If fear of running out of money makes you ultra-conservative, you may pass on activities that help you fully enjoy your golden years.
For example, travel was high on the list of priorities for pre-retirees in the study. The vast majority of women (81 per cent) and men (89 per cent) intend to spend money during retirement on things they want, such as trips and hobbies. But nearly two-thirds of recent retirees find it hard to strike a balance between making their money last and enjoying retirement. Interestingly, this sentiment was expressed more often by survey respondents who don’t work with a financial advisor.
The key, it seems, to fully enjoying retirement is preparation. A Statistics Canada study using data from the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey concluded that respondents who rely on advice from a financial advisor have increased levels of financial knowledge.
So, whether you are a man or a woman worried about having enough money to fund a long and enjoyable retirement, the best step forward is discussing your priorities and concerns with your professional advisor who will help you build a plan — so you can retire with confidence.
Best Buy Co. Inc. says it’s now serving 1 million seniors through its health offerings, with the goal of serving 5 million by fiscal 2025.
Best Buy’s health initiatives aim to help seniors stay in their homes, which they say reduces health-care costs and stress for families.
“Today, most of the seniors we serve are utilizing easy-to-use mobile phone products and connected devices that are tailored for seniors and come with a range of relevant services,” said Best Buy Chief Executive Corie Barry on the earnings call, according to a FactSet transcript.
Best Buy is also providing a “Five-Star Service” that connects customers with U.S.-based agents who can send emergency professionals, act as a concierge and more.
Best Buy has been making inroads into the health space through its GreatCall devices and services and the acquisition of Critical Signal Technologies, a monitoring business that has a supplemental benefit covered by the Medicare Advantage plan.
In addition, Best Buy has added a practicing emergency doctor, Dr. Daniel Grossman, as chief medical officer.
Besides the continued focus on health offerings, Best Buy also discussed fulfillment and delivery expansion, with New York prominent in the rollout and trial of new services.
During the quarter the company opened 175 alternate pickup locations at UPS Stores and CVS Health locations in New York, and curbside pickup is rolling out in New York. And the retailer is adding in-home advisors in order to capitalize on what the company sees as an “untapped opportunity” in the market.
In New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, online customers can order until 8 p.m. and receive their purchase for free the next day.
And nationally, the company has added 100 in-home advisors, with a total of 720 at the end of the quarter.
Best Buy reported third-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations. Same-store sales growth of 1.7% also beat the FactSet consensus with the company, with appliances, tablets, headphones and computing the drivers.
The results sent shares soaring nearly 10% in Tuesday trading.
Despite the good news, GlobalData Retail also identifies challenges, including a cautious consumer spending environment.
“Our data show that consumers are more reticent to buy big-ticket items now than they were at the start of this year,” wrote Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData.
Still, Best Buy has an advantage, thanks to a strong mix of stores and e-commerce, with data showing that customers who see an item in person are more likely to make the purchase.
Wells Fargo thinks tariffs could be an issue going forward.
“Q4 will be telling with six fewer holiday selling days, a ramping promotional environment and tariffs just beginning to enter the gross margin line,” analysts led by Zachary Fadem wrote. “Looking further ahead, we see reason for fiscal 2021 optimism on an improving product lineup (5G, 8K TV, gaming consoles), and easing compares, but in our view, tariffs remain the single biggest sticking point for shares today.”
Best Buy has been making inroads into the health space through its GreatCall devices and services and the acquisition of Critical Signal Technologies, a
(BPT) - The end of daylight saving time marks the start of longer, darker nights. That means many of us will spend more time over the next few months driving in the dark, relying on our headlights to light the way. Are your headlights up to the task?
If you have older halogen headlight bulbs, they may not be. That’s a safety concern. Sylvania Automotive’s Headlight Savings Time campaign highlights headlight safety.
Halogen headlight bulbs actually dim over time — up to 20-30%. As halogen bulbs age, the glass walls haze, blocking some of the light. Also, the filaments become faceted and thin in some places, leading to irregular light distribution.
Unfortunately, most drivers are unaware of this fact, not realizing they need to replace bulbs before they wear out. Or, drivers will only replace one bulb, even though the other bulb is most likely the same age and already worn, creating an uneven field of vision. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t remember the last time you replaced your headlights, it’s probably time.
“As the leading headlight manufacturer in North America, educating drivers about headlight safety is important to us. Tires, brakes, and wipers are synonymous with driver safety, but headlights and headlight replacement need to be part of the safety conversation,” said Joe Verbanic, managing director of Sylvania Automotive. “Your headlights are the most important safety device when driving at night. If you can’t see what’s on the road ahead of you, your tires and brakes can’t be used effectively.”
Verbanic added, “During the day, your vision is limited by just your eyesight. But at night, your headlights define your field of vision. You can’t react to what you don’t see, which means better headlights lead to safer driving.”
A 20-30% dimming of your headlights means less light on the road and makes a huge difference at night, especially when traveling on dark roads with minimal overhead lighting. A recent AAA study found that over 80% of the vehicles on the road have halogen headlights, and that these lights may fail to safely illuminate dark roads at speeds as low as 40 mph.
When it comes to replacing your headlight bulbs, you have options. Not all halogen headlight bulbs are created equal. Most halogen headlights that come with new cars are basic level bulbs. They’re OK. They meet minimum requirements. Upgraded bulbs go far beyond basic bulbs to offer brighter, whiter light, and farther downroad visibility.
So, with the end of daylight saving time, it’s time to think about your headlights. Headlights are your first line of defense. To stay safe, make sure yours are providing the best protection. For more information, visit https://headlightsavingstime.com.
Q. I applied for a replacement Social Security card last week but haven’t received it yet. When should I expect to receive my new card?
A: You’ll usually receive your replacement card in about 10 days. We work hard to protect you, to prevent identity theft, and to ensure the integrity of your Social Security number. To do that, we have to verify documents you present as proof of identity. In some cases, we must verify the documents before we can issue the card. For more information about your Social Security card and number, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Q: How are my retirement benefits calculated?
A: Your Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over your lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or “indexed” to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then we calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. We apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit. This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using our Retirement Estimator which offers estimates based on your Social Security earnings. You can find the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Q: My husband has been in poor health for some time, and doctors have recently diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I’ve heard Social Security has a “fast track” for some people who are disabled. Can you tell me about it?
A: We have two processes to “fast track” applications for disability benefits. Our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. There are dozens of different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, including ALS, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and see the full list of conditions at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.
Q: How do I terminate my Medicare Part B (medical insurance)?
A: You can voluntarily terminate your Medicare Part B (medical insurance). Because this is a serious decision that could have negative ramifications for you in the future, you’ll need to have a personal interview with a Social Security representative first. The representative will help you complete Form CMS 1763. This form isn’t available online. To schedule your interview, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or contact your nearest Social Security office. For more information, go to www.medicare.gov.