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Showing posts from October, 2007

The Essex Jumeirah

We went to NY for the weekend and stayed in the Essex Hotel - now the Jumeirah Essex. The Essex is a landmark hotel on Central Park South, richer than a couple of its neighbors, but poorer than the St. Regis or Plaza.

I've stayed there many times over the years, from Essex to Essex by Marriott to the Nikko Essex.

Jumeirah is one of the Dubai investment groups. They clearly have invested millions in renovation (I heard $50 million). While the rooms are clearly small by today's standard, they have been totally redone and are quite nice and comfortable, with the requisite large plasma screen in every room.

The lobby has been restored or re-invented and, while small, is elegant.

However, the staff isn't yet up to the task.

Waits to check in were silly. Guests at these rates don't want to be standing in lines. Our rooms weren't ready when we checked in; we went to a leisurely lunch; they promised to call to let us know our rooms were ready; let's just say the phon…

Stock pick

Well, at this point, I would have to say that my homebuilder stock picks are looking extremely premature, or, equally likely, just wrong.

Ouch, I'm down significantly on every buy.

My NASDAQ QQQQ play is still alive and well, although up vs. down volume has been punk lately.

My Canadian IShares pick has done even better.

But I'll admit that I've about offset those gains with homebuilder stock losses - and I wracked those up far faster than I accumulated the gains on the others.

Watch Auction at Christie's

In light of the Wall St. Journal article about watch manufacturers buying their products at auctions, I expected that the Oct 17th NY Christie's watch auction might see some bargains.

I had my eye on a Breguet and a Vacheron & Constantin; both relatively modest compared to many of the other lots. However, between maxing out at work and fighting a full blown fall allergy attack, I didn't get around to placing any bids.

Didn't matter. Both watches, along with many others, went at prices above the range indicated in the catalog. So, my theory on the impact of the disclosure that the collector might be bidding against a deep-pocket manufacturer might dampen the enthusiasm, simply was disproved.

IVR Hell #1: Verizon

I have the Verizon FIOS service.

The complete package of fast Internet, cable television and land line phone service. Overall it has been fine. The installers did a nice job, everything works, and outages have been infrequent.

At the start of the college football season, I called the 888 number on the screen to get the ESPN Gameplan football package which includes eight or so additional college games each weekend. It took about thirty minutes of various IVR menus and holding periods before I reached a human. She promptly asked, and I would add not too courteously, what problem I was having with my phone.

That question was so unanticipated that I actually laughed out loud, before letting her know I wanted to spend money with Verizon.

After some unnecessarily long time gaps, the service was established, and we enjoyed a game that very evening.

However, when the following Saturday rolled around, the Gameplan stations announced that I wasn't a subscriber to those channels. So, back to…

Lee Scott Responds

I posted my letter to Lee Scott of WalMart here a few weeks ago.

To his credit - Mr. Scott responded through a regional VP. That VP called more than once (I was traveling and not too good at returning calls). He apologized about the condition of the store I reported, indicated their commitment to fixing it up and mentioned remodels at some other stores we discussed.

His attitude was certainly appropriate.

As a long time shareholder, I must admit that I was pleased at this response.

This week, The Wall St. Journal ran a lead page one article, basically stating that WalMart, despite being the world's largest retailer, was increasingly irrelevant. I think that may be a bit hasty. I'm certainly still not happy with the stock price, and believe the company is still too concerned with domestic store openings as opposed to capital spending to maintain and improve the base, but I wouldn't right them off just yet. There may still be some folks there with something to prove.