And now, vending machines that take plastic
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You're at a vending machine, you have no change, and the bill slot keeps spitting back your dollar bill for being insufficiently crisp. A modern tragedy, we know. But coming to a vending machine near you: credit card access! MasterCard and Coca-Cola recently rolled out 1,000 cashless vending machines in the Philadelphia area, the Chicago Tribune reports. And that's not all. Houston is installing about 1,500 parking meters that will accept credit cards. In June, all 8,300 parking meters in Vancouver, B.C., began allowing drivers to use credit cards, through cell phones, to pay for parking.
Are we heading toward the much hyped cashless society that never materialized? We're inching closer, it seems. About 60 percent of consumers carry less than $20 in cash, up from 49 percent three years ago, MasterCard research shows with apparent approval. By 2009, as many as a quarter of vending machines will accept electronic payments, estimates Michael Kasavana, National Automatic Merchandising Association endowed professor in the hospitality school at Michigan State University.
Question: Would Socrates be rolling over in his sarcophagus to know that the great Western tradition of academic inquiry has resulted in a major university having not only a school of hospitality but a National Automatic Merchandising Association endowed professor? We're just asking. Or would he simply say the unexamined vending machine is not worth risking your credit for?
America on the go
Each year, an estimated 21 million Americans, loaded down with credit cards, pull up stakes and relocate -- even if only across town. Some stats compiled by UBF U-Pack Moving:
Percentage of Americans who move each year: 15
Number who move out of state each year: 6 million
Median length of time people live in their homes: 5.2 years
Average number of times Americans move in their lifetimes: 11
Next time you're chatting up a cow, listen closely. Dairy farmers in Somerset, England, noticed a local twang, and experts confirmed that different herds make different sounds. John Wells, professor of phonetics at the University of London, told the Guardian, "This phenomena is well attested in birds. This could also be true of cows." The differences were noticed by members of the West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers group, who put it down to the close bond between farmer and cow. If it were the winemakers group, we'd have our suspicions, but the cheesemakers are a solid lot.
But that's not all!
Have you ever found yourself in front of the TV at 3 in morning and had the urge to buy The Genius Nicer Dicer, the Boiling on the Outside Pasta Express or the Home Theater Hot Dog Express? Charles Perry of the Los Angeles Times has, and he urges you to quell that urge. When a gadget has had its run on TV, it traditionally faces three possible fates: moving up to kitchen stores, becoming a plus-you-get for some other TV product or disappearing forever. The product may show up on Internet shopping sites or in a shopping mall store that specializes in TV gadgets.
But here's Mr. Perry's secret tip: You can often get a better price on these gizmos (with faster and more reasonably priced shipping) on eBay (which, of course, could use the money) than you can from either the phone number at the bottom of your screen or shopping Web sites. Says Mr. Perry: "It's food for thought that people put so many TV gadgets up for auction there, some in the unopened box (a spurned gift?), others having been used briefly (hmm)."
Warning: Don't read this
We live in a warning-label world, where no risk can go unwarned about. Here's the latest idea whose time has not yet come. Health expert professor Mike Lean of Glasgow University wants clothes for fat children to carry health warnings on the labels, The Dailyrecord.co.uk reports: "Any child with a waist of 36 inches and over should seek medical help urgently."
Right, but who's going to warn them about the risk of eye strain in reading the label?
Bonny Breen, of child model agency Bizzykidz, said clothes-makers and advertisers are being consumer-sensitive by using chubby models to peddle clothes for chubby kids. "Around 20 percent of the children on our books are overweight or obese because they reflect the size of children these days."
Statistics show that more than a third of 12-year-olds in Scotland are overweight. A fifth are obese and one in 10 is severely obese. One in five youngsters is overweight by the age of 3 1/2. But we're ahead of the Scots because we recently found out that our babies are chunky from the get-go.
Pollsters in Canada may have discovered another symptom of widespread childhood obesity: widespread parental delusion. The Globe and Mail reported on a poll showing that only 9 percent of Canadian parents believe their children are overweight or obese. That is markedly less than the 26 percent who are, in fact, overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada. Dr. Collins-Nakai, a pediatric cardiologist, said she worries that parents are too much concerned with cushioning kids from reality. "I have a very real fear we are killing our children with kindness by setting them up for a lifetime of inactivity and poor health."
First Published August 29, 2006 12:00 am