(The First) Weekly Link Roundup (of 2020)

Eating Wings Over on New Year’s Day, which is how I want to start every year

Eating for Luck on New Year’s: Why Foods From Grapes to Peas Promise Prosperity (USA Today): “Round foods resemble coins and money … Eat these symbolic foods, many believe, for a financially successful new year. On the contrary: Don’t eat the round foods and you could have a year of bad luck! … Pigs can be rich and fat, which is what you want in a meal promoting prosperity … Noodles are long, and that length is thought to symbolize long life and, yes, luck.”

Welcome to the Era of the Post-Shopping Mall (The New York Times): “… the 3-million-square-foot American Dream … After 15 years in development, the project’s attractions are finally lighting up one by one … In addition to Big Snow, there is a National Hockey League-sized ice rink, a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and a dusting of retail: a Big Snow ski shop, an IT’SUGAR candy department store and a Whoopi Goldberg-themed pop-up shop … Teased future reveals include a DreamWorks water park, a Legoland, a Vice-branded “Munchies” food hall, a KidZania play land featuring a full commercial airliner and a field hopping with live rabbits.”

Paris Billionaires’ Rivalry Fuels Pursuit of Tiffany, Moncler (Bloomberg): “… Kering SA … has held exploratory talks with Italian skiwear maker Moncler SpA about a potential acquisition … Kering has announced at least $14.7 billion of acquisitions since 1995 … compared with at least $45.5 billion for LVMH.”

It’s Not You. Clothing Sizes Are Broken. (The Wall Street Journal): “Size and fit are among the top reasons for returning online orders … the problem is so complicated, particularly for women’s clothes, which range in sizes from 00 to 18, with plus sizes generally starting at 20. There is no standard that requires an 8 in one brand to fit the same as an 8 in another … Inaccurate size tables are only part of the problem. Oftentimes, those tables are generic and don’t reflect the measurements of actual items … Further complicating matters is the diverse body shapes of American consumers. A study in the early 2000s … measured more than 10,000 people and found that the hip circumference of women with a 28-inch waist varied from 32 inches to 45 inches … Body-scanning offers precision, but it can cause a different type of discomfort.”

The War Vet, the Dating Site, and the Phone Call From Hell (Wired): “It’s easy to write off online scams as penny-ante crimes, small-time rip-offs that infuriate and embarrass victims but don’t do them serious harm. But the pain they inflict can be devastating … catfishing scams launched from South Carolina correctional facilities … Prisoners have been catfishing people into an ‘illicit’ relationship with a nonexistent lover, and then blackmailing them, since at least the 1990s. Back then, inmates would post personal ads in gay magazines, strike up a sexy snail-mail correspondence with men who responded, and then extort the ones who admitted they were closeted … At least 442 service members across almost every branch of the armed forces had been conned out of a total of more than half a million dollars … Service members and recent vets are often young and subject to military discipline, both of which can make them especially vulnerable to scammers.”

♥ The Ann Taylor extra 70% off sale (on three or more items) ends later today. It’s definitely a sale to browse if you have some gaps in your winter wardrobe. Shipping is free on orders over $125. My picks:

There Are No Children Here. Just Lots of Life-Size Dolls. (The New York Times): “Japan’s population is shrinking and aging, and nowhere is the trend felt more intensively than in its rural regions, where a low birthrate is exacerbated by dwindling employment opportunities and an inconvenient lifestyle … Some 350 dolls … outnumber the human residents by more than 10 to 1. All around Nagoro … the dolls — made of wood and wire frames, stuffed with newspapers and dressed in old clothes donated from across Japan — [staged] in various scenes evoking the real people who once populated the village.”

Love and Anger (The New Yorker): “… the empathetic description of the child as going through a turbulent and troubled period. This was new to me, this idea of Raffi not as a problem to be solved but as a person going through difficulty—a little person, but a person still … Raffi did not want to kill me and marry Emily. It was more complicated and more difficult than that. What he wanted was all of her attention, even as he also wanted to be his own person. He wanted to re-create the relationship they’d once had, when he was smaller, but in a way that it could no longer be re-created. He wanted the impossible and he knew it and it drove him crazy. It almost literally tore him to pieces. It really was life and death, though mostly it was life, the heartbreak of life.”

In Trump Country, a Season of Need on Family Farms (The Washington Post): “The decline in the dairy industry — driven by global overproduction and a drop in American liquid milk consumption — hit rural New York hard, with the state losing more than 1,100 dairy farms since 2012 … Then, last year came retaliatory tariffs from Mexico and China on dairy products after Trump-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum — a $125 million blow to New York’s dairy farmers.”

Unintended Perk of the Online Mattress Boom: Never-Ending Free Trials (The Wall Street Journal): “Online mattress sales are booming in the U.S. The success of direct-to-consumer services like Casper Sleep Inc. and Tuft & Needle, which deliver neatly boxed mattresses to consumers’ doors, has spawned hundreds of copycats. To entice shoppers who would otherwise prefer to test the firmness of the mattress in the showroom, many of these online upstarts offer free home trials that can run for as long as a year … Over the past three years, roughly 50 new brands have launched each year … The overall total peaked at nearly 200 players at one point, though the current count is somewhere around 175 … Consumers have tended to regard a mattress as a long-term investment, spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the assumption that it will be used for many years. These traditionalists are typically reluctant to buy or accept used mattresses, and many states have strict labeling and sanitation restrictions on sales of secondhand mattresses.”

♥ Some random sale finds: Soia & Kyo Shawl Collar Coat, Red Valentino Flat Sandals, Valentino Garavani Rockstud pumps, Bally Audrey Leather Pump, Nicholas Kirkwood Pearl-Embellished Slippers, Vince Shrunken Turtleneck Sweater, Each X Other Vegan Leather Midi Skirt, Gianvito Rossi Vernice Pumps (additional colorway here), Adrianna Papell Beaded Blouson Gown, ALLSAINTS Allie Reversible Puffer Coat, Veronica Beard Miller Dickey Jacket, Lauren Ralph Lauren Belted Wide-Leg Jumpsuit, Tibi Ribbed Wool Sweater, Kobi Halperin Gina Puff-Shoulder Blazer, Red Valentino Bow Leather Ankle Boots, and Longchamp Le Pliage Cuir Medium Leather Tote (additional colorway here).

Where Rent Is $13,500, She Lives Off What’s Left at the Curb (The New York Times): “In recent years, an entire economic ecosystem has sprouted from the artificial turf of a 5-cent deposit … tensions are growing over a proposal to expand the types of drinks that come under the deposit law. The measure would mean more money for canners, but an unlikely alliance of environmental activists, beverage companies and government officials opposes it … No one knows how many people in the city make a living returning deposit containers, but this year an environmental consulting firm … estimated the number at 4,000 to 8,000. And the operators of half a dozen of the city’s 40-odd redemption centers said the ranks of canners were growing … Technically, once recycling is left on the curb, it belongs to the city. It is a further violation to use a motor vehicle to collect recyclable materials from curbside, but … the city has essentially left them alone, too.”

For the Worst-Performing Industry of 2019, the Only Way Out Is to Shrink (Bloomberg): “Department stores were the worst sector on the S&P 500 this year, and Macy’s and Gap, along with Kohl’s Corp., L Brands Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., were among the poorest-performing individual stocks in the index … More than 7,600 stores closed this year through October, a record for that point in the year.”

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR): “Insurance companies base premiums on their expenses, and the more those rise, the more participants have to pay … Surprise bills often arise when an in-network doctor or hospital involves another provider who isn’t in the patient’s insurance network, without the patient’s consent. But it is often nearly impossible for a patient to detect when that is occurring. Patients can try to protect themselves from surprise bills by asking for details at their doctor’s appointments … New York state has a law to protect patients from surprise bills. The law requires doctors’ offices to warn patients in advance that they are using an out-of-network provider and that patients may be responsible for excess charges. If a patient doesn’t consent to the involvement of an out-of-network doctor, then the patient must be held financially harmless from the bill. But it doesn’t prevent an out-of-network provider from sending a bill or collecting from an insurer.”

An $809 Car Payment, a $660 Income: How Dealers Make the Math Work (The Wall Street Journal): “Some dealerships around the country are dressing up car-loan applications with fake, inflated incomes … Certain large lenders have cut back on some safeguards that could catch the forged applications, in much the same way some mortgage lenders stopped double-checking applications in the run-up to the financial crisis. Federal and state authorities have sued dealerships and lenders over these practices … Auto lenders verified income on about 7% of their loans on average since 2017 … U.S. consumers held a record $1.3 trillion of debt tied to their cars at the end of September … up from about $740 billion a decade earlier … Dealerships now make more money arranging financing than selling vehicles. If a car loan goes bad, it isn’t usually the dealership on the hook. When a borrower defaults, the lender can repossess the car and try to resell it. Often, though, that isn’t enough to cover the borrower’s unpaid balance, and the lender can write off the loss and can send the borrower to collections.”

Chinese Restaurants Are Closing. That’s a Good Thing, the Owners Say. (The New York Times): “According to … Yelp, the share of Chinese restaurants in the top 20 metropolitan areas has been consistently falling. Five years ago, an average of 7.3 percent of all restaurants in these areas were Chinese, compared with 6.5 percent today. That reflects 1,200 fewer Chinese restaurants at a time when these 20 places added more than 15,000 restaurants over all … With social mobility and inclusion in more mainstream parts of the economy, the children of immigrants are less likely than their parents to own their own businesses … family-run Chinese restaurants are typically not being passed to the next generation. Some may close up shop, sell their businesses to other first-generation immigrants or move on and see their former storefronts become something else entirely.”

♥ Recently purchased: Club Monaco Faux Shearling Teddy Coat, Ann Taylor Nettie Suede Booties, J. Crew Double-breasted Sweater-Blazer, & Other Stories Wool Blend Long Coat, and ALLSAINTS Vale Mock Neck Cashmere Sweater.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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