Passover Business, Part II: The Aftermath

I mentioned in my last blog about how there is a tremendous amount of business associated with Passover. Interestingly enough, there is a great deal of post- Passover business, too.

blog 13.1

Once Passover ends, Jews are officially allowed to eat all kosher foods, including those that are leavened. Though the holiday is only eight days, many people think that it feels like an eternity. Indeed, there is a variety of foods available to eat. Nonetheless, knowing that something in particular is forbidden psychologically causes people to feel unbearably, excessively deprived. Cue the Egyt slavery jokes.

Definitely not of the same magnitude as lines on Black Friday. But all in the name of pizza? You bet.

Definitely not of the same magnitude as lines on Black Friday. But all in the name of pizza? You bet.

It comes as no surprise, then, that once Passover ends, there is a spiked demand for leavened foods. In particular, people crave pizza and donuts with such intense desire that one would think that these foods are rare delicacies (or that they have been starved for the past week. On the contrary, there are many heavy meals that are served.) Stores in my neighborhood have picked up on this opportunity for major sales and stay open very late after Passover ends. The scene is chaotic: people flock in and out of the stores to pick up huge orders, lines of teenagers go down the block, and the phones ring incessantly with calls from ravenous customers. It is shocking to see how Dunkin Donuts runs out of donuts almost immediately, and the pizzas fly off the shelves in the pizzerias. Interestingly, the pizza stores only sell entire pies, rather than bothering with individual slices; they wisely realize that it is more worthwhile to make whole pies than to invest their time cutting individual slices, which sell for less. Absolutely nothing has been done to these foods to make them tastier or cheaper. Rather, the level of desirability skyrockets is  based solely on the circumstances. Like I said, Passover plays an important economic role, shifting around normal supply and demand. I would venture to argue that in the three days following Passover, stores not only recoup the losses for having not been open the previous eight days, but actually come out on top and make a profit.

For a monopoly, there is only one supply curve. Since the demand is the only thing that is changing, in our case increasing, the price rises. Monopolies benefit because they do not have to worry about anyone else threatening them to lower current prices so as to entice customers.

For a monopoly, there is only one supply curve. Since the demand is the only thing that is changing, in our case increasing, the price rises. Monopolies benefit because they do not have to worry about anyone else threatening them to lower current prices so as to entice customers.

That there is so much potential for tremendous growth margins makes the scene on Main Street following Passover all the more shocking. Granted, people were busy organizing their homes and returning everything back to normal. Nonetheless, there is no excuse why all of the kosher pizza stores on Main Street were closed that night. It pained me that they were missing out on the opportunity to make their monthly profits at least double in matter of hours. I thought to myself at that moment that, had I not had three upcoming midterms and a major project, I would gladly have started making pizzas from scratch, and sold them from a temporary stand. I would have been a monopoly, the sole supplier, at least for the time being, and the money would have rolled in.

Stores do not want Passover foods to stay on the shelves once the holiday does not end. If people are not buying, then these items are wasting precious shelf space that could otherwise be given to foods that fly off the shelves.

Stores do not want Passover foods to stay on the shelves once the holiday does not end. If people are not buying, then these items are wasting precious shelf space that could otherwise be given to foods that fly off the shelves.

With the increase in demand for leavened food comes a decrease in demand for Passover foods. Stores are stuck with their excess supply of Passover foods that Jews suddenly have little interest in buying. In an attempt to entice buyers, the prices of the goods are slashed dramatically.  For example, my local Pathmark was already selling Matzah Meal at 75% off barely 2 days after Passover. While some might be disgusted at the sight of anything Matzah related after gorging on it for eight days straight, it is important not to block it out. Take advantage of these incredible savings by stocking up on some of the foods. No, not for now-you most certainly need a solid 3-month break from Matzah. Rather, save what you buy for next year’s Passover. Many of the goods have no expiration dates, so you can be rest assured that they will last. Passover is inherently an expensive holiday, so why not exploit an easy way to circumvent paying full price next time? I would also recommend buying discounted nuts, an item which is always expensive. Often times, stores do not realize that foods that are labeled kosher for Passover are normal foods that can be, and often times are, eaten year round, too. As a result, unnecessary discounts are given, there for you to benefit. Passover may be a time of extreme spending, but the time afterwards is an opportunity for extreme savings!

Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm Comments (0)

Passover Business

This was in an email I got from one of the QC clubs. This email epitomizes, on a small scale, the diversity that characterizes Queens College.

This was in an email I got from one of the QC clubs. This email epitomizes, on a small scale, the diversity that characterizes Queens College.

The onset of spring break is welcomed with open arms. Everyone agrees that it marks the start of a short period of respite from being constantly inundated with work (However, even that is not entirely accurate, considering the amount of papers and midterms due once we return!) Being the highly diverse campus on which it prides itself, Queens College has a student population that celebrates various holidays that coincide with this break. Many celebrate Good Friday and Easter. I, along with many other Jews, celebrate Passover. From an Economics and Finance lens, my opinion of Passover is that it has metamorphosed into a significant business boosting opportunity for the kosher food industry-a perspective that my Jewish constituents might very well consider sacrilegious given the highly religious and holy nature of this holiday.

The contents of this Seder plate represent a infinitismal part of what needs to be purchased for Passover. My family never buys romaine lettuce, but for this holiday, we buy lots of it.

The contents of this Seder plate represent a infinitesimal part of what needs to be purchased for Passover. My family never buys romaine lettuce, but for this holiday, we buy lots of it.

Most people immediately associate Passover with Matzo, wine, and the Exodus from Egypt. Those who celebrate the holiday dread the month-long countdown.  Even though it is only 8 days and an enjoyable time spent with family and friends, Passover entails a tremendous amount of preparation and work, perhaps rival to that of what the Israelites faced in Egypt. (How fitting!) All this work requires spending a ton of money. It is not uncommon that, on a shopping excursion at Shoprite, one spends upwards of $150-and there are multiple such trips. The reason behind the tremendous expense is not simply due to the high prices of kosher for Passover food. To understand why, think about what this holiday entails: 8 days of eating nothing with leavened bread (by Jewish law, we mean that the flour has not been exposed to

For the next 8 days I will not be able to eat any spaghetti. People might not realize that I will not be able to eat my mother's special meatballs either because those contain breadcrumbs. Most people use lots of eggs and potato starch to substitute, but I am acutely sensitive to the difference in taste.

For the next 8 days I will not be able to eat any spaghetti. People might not realize that I will not be able to eat my mother’s special meatballs either because those contain breadcrumbs. Most people use lots of eggs and potato starch to substitute, but I am acutely sensitive to the difference in taste.

water, from harvest through baking, for more than 18 minutes); people have developed customs of also refraining from rice and beans. To put that in perspective, for almost my entire Spring Break, I do not eat pizza, pretzels, chips, sushi, and hummus, as well as any food made in even the same facilities as any of these items. With so many forbidden foods, a complete overhaul of one’s pantry is necessary. As a result, people must replenish their food stock entirely. Moreover, people buy even more fruits and vegetables than usual in order to counterbalance the many heavy, albeit delicious, meals. Finally, each person is required to drink 4 cups of wine at each of the 2 Seders; on average, there are more than 5 people at a Seder. That ends up being a lot of wine-and a bottle of wine is not cheap. It comes as no surprise that with a new food stockpile, tons of produce, and a new supply of wine, people celebrating Passover, even without realizing it, quickly spend a small fortune. Try as you might-and trust me, I tried-it is nearly impossible to stay below a set budget, unless that threshold is unlimited.

Available for free at Shoprite are Haggadahs that are distributed by Maxwell House.

Available for free at Shoprite are Haggadahs that are distributed by Maxwell House. Disclaimer: My family has caught many mistakes in it.

With the potential for making a tremendous amount of revenue, it comes as no surprise that many companies choose to specialize in the market for Passover items. Stores, especially on the East Coast, predict the increased demand and therefore designate special aisles exclusively with kosher for Passover foods. Additionally, in trying to connect with customers, they frequently have promotions offering free boxes of Matzo after spending a certain amount. I have noticed that, over the years, there has been a growing selection of foods available. A distinct trait of the kosher for Passover foods industry is that it is dynamic in nature. Indeed, there are the normal brands that everyone associates with the holiday that produce the classic Jewish foods, such as Manischewitz grape juice and Rokeach gefilte fish. However, there are so many more possibilities to choose from today- people might just forget the severe limitations that are imposed on them for these 8 days. There are cake mixes, cookies, and other prepared foods that are delectable. Also, there are new products on the market that will spice up any dull meal. For example, there was a great deal of excitement in the Jewish community recently when the Orthodox Union, a top kosher agency, declared that quinoa can now be eaten on Passover.  Time for a new tradition!

I predict that I will gain at least 10 pounds over Passover because of all my mother’s delicious food, but right now I am doing a ton of exercise. My house is currently hectic because of the many last minute preparations to which we must attend. Of course, I need to squeeze in some time to seek out those Easter sales at the mall, so I must go!

 

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm Comments (0)

It’s True: No more $15 for Printing –> Free Printing!

Last semester, I divulged the details behind the QC administration’s decision to no longer give $15 in printing money to students who complete teacher evaluations. I was thrilled to see that blog go quasi-viral, having been shared on Facebook by many outraged students. Knowing that each time I printed something I was depleting my precious printing money, I was extremely parsimonious when it came to printing pages. As a result, I struggled to read multiple 60- page reading assignments, all of which were single spaced, from my computer screen. There was barely $6 left on my card, and I refused to use it all in one class.

About a month ago, out of the blue, a friend of mine insisted I go to the next Technology Fee committee meeting because part of the agenda was to discuss and vote on the new budget. One of the allocations to be considered was money for free printing in the library. To say I was skeptical and cynical would be an understatement. I, along with fellow student members of the Technology Fee Committee, had fought tooth and nail to reinstate the policy of rewarding students with printing money for filling out teacher evaluations. Now, they would suddenly be willing to simply allow students to print free of charge?

After some investigating, I discovered that SFC was behind this proposal. Everything clicked. This was a politically motivated move, carried out right before elections so that it would be fresh in students’ minds when they considered for whom they would vote.

At the Tech Fee committee meeting, there were two SFC members present. When the proposal came up for discussion, it received immediate backing from students, and vehement opposition from administrators. The latter alleged that funding for free printing did not fall under the Tech Fee category. Supporting our fellow SFC peers,  Tech Fee committee student members came to the defense of our SFC peers’ proposal, and cogently argued, with prior knowledge of how the committee’s funds are indeed allowed to be allocated, that the funding of free printing did directly enhance student learning through the use of technology. I even argued once I saw that this was a losing battle that at the very least the money currently on our cards should roll over to the next semester; since we were not able to get more, we should at least be able to keep what we have. Once we went through the proposed budget, it appeared that Queens College would be running a $2M deficit in 2015. We realized that certain costs clearly could not be avoided, and that the provost perceived our arguments to be tenuous, at best. I left the meeting unsurprised, and said to the dejected SFC members, “I should have warned you…”

I was shocked to receive a follow-up email barely a week later, stating that there had been some major numerical errors in the calculations, including accidentally doubling salaries. In fact, there was enough money for printing, and the Provost had decided that the Technology Fee Committee could cover it. With a long email feed in which people succinctly responded “I approve” (thus hiding my elation), free printing in the QC library had officially been implemented!

I was very excited to see that we now have free printing, but I made sure to discuss with others that this was not a free for all. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. There is a finite amount of every type of good in the world. When students were forced to pay, they were more conservative in their printing habits; they only printed when they needed to, such as for essays and documents. Now, since it is free, there is nothing stopping them from printing as much as they like. In the short run this might seem great. In this long run, though, this bears serious potential consequences. Having over 20,000 students print as much as they want is not sustainable. Queens College cannot afford to supply that quantity of toner, paper, and ink. If students continue to print so much, Queens College might very well revoke the free printing. We have seen them do it before, and they could do it again. Except the next time, Queens College might not give any money to students to fill out student evaluations. So while you should definitely be grateful for the option of free printing on campus, do not exploit it and ruin it for the rest of us!

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm Comments (0)

My Most Powerful Shopping Secret, Part II: Online Shopping and Outlet Stores

A lot of my friends seem to think that Lord & Taylor is synonymous with matronly. This is certainly not the case, and I find such an insult to be a personal affront!

A lot of my friends seem to think that Lord & Taylor is synonymous with matronly. This is certainly not the case, and I find such an insult to be a personal affront! (Most of Lord & Taylor’s clothing does NOT look like the above outfit.)

Last week, I shared with you all of my secrets about how I manage to shop at Lord & Taylor so frequently, but while still conserving the contents of my bank account. Unfortunately, most people I know do not share the same positive sentiments I hold toward Lord & Taylor, a place where you can buy clothing ranging from comfortable t-shirts to fancy dresses. They say that they go there once in a blue moon, which I cannot fathom; they are simply not as enamored by the store as I am. Indeed, it is true that you cannot stock your entire wardrobe by shopping there exclusively (although they do have the perfect LBDs!). Thus, my second major shopping tip for saving money: take advantage of deals available online and go shopping at outlet stores.

A typical Black Friday crowd. Now imagine how much worse it would be if there were no online outlet for the other thousands of shoppers  to shop!

A typical Black Friday crowd. Now imagine how much worse it would be if there were no online outlet for the other thousands of shoppers to shop!

Online shopping has taken almost every economic industry by storm. Stores can no longer depend on consumers to walk into their stores, despite governmental promises that revenue and sales will rise once the economy recovers. This can be seen most visibly the numbers on Black Friday in 2013: online shopping rose 15% last year, to a staggering $1.2 B. Many people no longer feel the need to go out shopping when they can do so in the confines of their home. There is a convenience factor to online shopping, in which you can simply place an order-the rest of the work in subsequently done for you. Except, of course, for opening those boxes that are stubbornly sealed shut!

Online businesses facilitate the process of achieving better deals than can be found at brick and mortar stores. They can afford to do so because they need not worry about many costs that regular stores must contend with on a monthly basis. Indeed, overhead expenses, which are one of the largest costs for running a business, are virtually absent.

The word's most popular shoe store...and I've never even checked it out until now. What can I say, when it comes to shoes, Lord & Taylor has my loyalty.

The word’s most popular shoe store…and I’ve never even checked it out until now. What can I say, when it comes to shoes, Lord & Taylor has my loyalty.

To get clothing online, people often flock to company websites; to get shoes online, most go to Zappos. Zappos has a great business model, in which it provides free shipping as well as next day delivery. According to a friend of mine, Zappos truly keeps this promise. She was such a convincingly satisfied customer that I just might take a look there.

Before I check Zappos, though, I will stick to my method. When I buy clothing or shoes online, I go to ebay. People think I am insane for doing this; reactions range from “How do you know it will fit?” to “How do you know it’s not used?” I especially do not get any slack for the latter when I am buying shoes. My answer to these questions: I don’t. However, in my experience, descriptions of the items, as well as pictures from many angles, are accurate. For clothing, I look for the tag-it is a red flag if it is missing. Then, I either go to the store to see the item in person, or flock to the store’s website to see the official picture and retail price. Only then do I determine whether or not I want to buy the item. When it comes to clothing being sold by an infrequent ebay seller, you often can bid, leaving room for tremendous savings. However, a new trend has emerged on ebay, in which people who sell large volumes of clothing create a virtual “store”. While the prices are often fixed, the major boon of the virtual store is that you can browse for multiple items that are similar in style. In that respect, virtual stores similar to brick and mortal ones, except for the fact that you need not lug around clothing you are considering, nor must you tirelessly go through many racks. In my experience, I have had much success using both ebay forums, and I am happy to say that all the items were unused and cost far below retail. The major downside to online shopping, through, is that sellers often force you to pay more by charging outrageous sums for shipping. Really, there is no need for something, unless it is china or porcelain, to require priority mail! In some cases, I have actually decided against buying something, despite the item’s low price, because the final cost of the transaction actually exceeded the retail price!

Just seeing this sign makes me nostalgic. Daffy's motto really resonated with me, as you can imagine.

Just seeing this sign makes me nostalgic.

While shopping online is all the rage nowadays, do not forget about the opportunity for extreme savings at brick and mortar stores (in addition to Lord & Taylor). In the past, there used to be many off-price retailer stores. In places such as Syms, Filene’s Basement, and Daffy’s, one could buy various designer duds at a discount. Personally, I was not so keen on these stores, which had a tendency to sell clothing that looked rather dated. Daffy’s, in particular, was a hit or miss store. Unfortunately, due to the financial pressure from the Great Recession and the growing competition from online shopping, many were forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate (convert all assets, such as inventory, to cash by selling them so as to pay off existing debts).

Secret: At Banana Republic Factory Store and Gap Outlet, show your AAA card to get an additional 10% off! Crazy enough, this discount doesn't apply to the regular stores!

Secret: At Banana Republic Factory Store and Gap Outlet, show your AAA card to get an additional 10% off! Crazy enough, this discount doesn’t apply to the regular stores!

With the disappearance of such stores, what’s a frugal girl like me to do? Two words: outlet stores. These stores are extensions of the original stores, carrying what was not sold. The fact that this merchandise was not sold does not indicate poor quality. It could very well be that the company manufactured in excess, and therefore selling so much at the original stores was not feasible. Prices at the outlet stores are usually substantially less than those of the original ones. But be careful of a ubiquitous trick they sometimes do. Say, for example, an item is significantly reduced at Gap. If it still does not sell, and gets moved to Gap Outlet, the price of the item might be returned to normal, or have a less substantial markdown. If you want to guarantee that you are paying less than the original price, look at the sales and clearance section-that is where I find my best deals! I love casually telling people that I paid a mere $8 for a certain skirt from Banana Republic. (I do not think it is dishonest to say this, even if it is from the outlet store, because both sell the same merchandise.) Just like the case with Lord & Taylor, you can buy quality clothing for major markdowns, but still look trendy and chic.

I hope this blog will further help you save money when you go shopping for clothing for Spring Break! It might be tempting to splurge on the new arrivals for the summer, but I beseech of you to not give in!

Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 4:17 am Comments (0)

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar