Why I rarely ‘Buy Bermuda’

The article “‘Frightening’ rise in value of overseas purchases”  in yesterday’s gazette talks about retailers fears concerning the lack of Bermudians who are buying in Bermuda. 

Personally, I rarely ‘Buy Bermuda’.  It isn’t that I’m not interested in contributing to the nearly 10% of our workforce that is employed by the retail industry, nor is it that I want my dollars to leave Bermuda.  What it comes down to is that I get very annoyed by the lack of service and the frustration I experience as a consumer in Bermuda.

To begin with, shopping hours are a pain if you work full time.  Most stores are open between the hours of 9-5, Monday through Saturday.  Seeing as I work Monday through Friday, I either have to make plans to leave work during my lunch hour, leave during work hours, or shop on a Saturday.

I usually like to eat on my lunch hours and one of the last times I tried to leave work at 4:45 to quickly grab something before the store closed, well, the store closed early.  The person behind the counter on the inside was too busy chatting on the phone and mouthed the words “we’re closed”.  I was shocked as to how a store could close early so that the employee could chat.

In other circumstances when I’ve attempted to shop, rarely am I approached with polite customer service like I recieve abroad.  More often then not, if I’m looking for something I have to hunt for a salesperson to get assistance and even then if you’re not the utmost of polite in greeting them, they’ll suck their teeth at you and act like you’re asking them to lick the floor.  Bermudians have lost the concept of “the customer is always right” and replaced it with “if you don’t greet me properly I won’t acknowledge you”.  I can’t remember the last time a cashier said Good Morning/Afternoon to me as opposed to me being obliged to say it in order to be served.  Even in the cases when I do, it is often not returned and the people just glare at me like I shouldn’t be giving them the extra work of ringing up my purchase.

Beyond this, some retailers assume they can charge outrageous prices.  The other day I decided I wanted to purchase some computer software.  I went to 4 different stores before I found one that carried it and when I did.  The exact same software that was $80 in that store was selling for $30 online.  Buying it online may mean I have to wait a week or two to get it, but at least I can get it at a reasonable price, order at any time of the day or night and don’t have to put up with surly customer service.

If the Chamber of Commerce wants to do something to encourage more people in Bermuda.

    • Change store hours so that you’re open till 7pm in the evening at the minimum.  I shouldn’t have to inconvience myself by leaving work to shop.
    • Convince the government to let you open on Sundays.  Being forced to only be able to shop on Saturdays is very limiting as many people have things they like to do on the weekends.  Having two days to shop makes it alot easier to run out and grab something.
    • Ensure you’re employees have a good attitude and know the value of customer service.

Until these things happen, I’m sorry to say that I’m perfectly happy having my money leave the island by shopping abroad and online.

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Service with a scowl

Though I can no longer go to the site to confirm, Tony Brannon’s quote regarding tourism was essentially that Black Bermudians egged on by the BIU were responsible for the fall of tourism.

The island has been in an uproar since these comments were made with many people I’ve heard on the radio attacking them, threatening to boycott and condemning free speech.

For those who condemn free speech I’d like to remind them that without those first few who used freedom of speech to say slavery was wrong, we might still have slavery on our island today.  Despite the fact that Tony Brannon may forever be branded as a racist for his remark and nor do I agree with it, he does have a right to voice his opinion.

I’d like to take a moment to analyze Mr. Brannon’s comments.  “Black Bermudians egged on by the BIU” is being taken to imply that he meant all Black Bermudians are responsible for the fall of tourism.  I don’t believe this is the case and I think his message is being taken out of context.

A slight modification to his phrase changes it quite drastically.  “Black Bermudians [who were] egged on by the BIU” turns it into a phrase that points to a specific group of Bermudians who were egged on by the BIU to have a bad attitude.  It does unjustly identify a specific race of Bermudians yet many people are proclaiming that he meant all Black Bermudians are to blame for why Tourism has failed when this does not appear to be the case.

In all reality, noone could condone or approve of the way Mr. Brannon chose to phase his opinion.  Indeed he could have chosen much better ways to say it.  It was not Black Bermudians or White Bermudians who were responsible for the decline in tourism, it has been Bermudians in general. 

Very simply put, many Bermudians have a bad attitude.  If we were to make a book of  “Bermudian phrases”, “That’s not in my job description”, “I can’t be fired, I’m Bermudian” and “suphht” (the sound of sucking your teeth) would be near the top.  When was the last time you went to a restaurant and got more pleasant service from a Bermudian then from a foreigner?   When was the last time you tried to buy something in a shop and when asking for assistance from a Bermudian they sucked their teeth and looked at you like you’re asking them to do something utterly below themselves, despite the fact that they’re getting paid to do exactly what you’re asking.

We, as Bermudians, seem to quickly forget what likely brought on Tony Brannon’s admittedly racist remarks.  Not too long ago, our former Premier made the comment “I am sick and tired of taking crap from people who look and sound like Tony Brannon”.  Many may be quick to disregard this comment, yet for many white people and especially Tony Brannon, it was a racist and offensive remark.  The Premier never apologized to Tony Brannon for it and only apologized for using the word crap.   It does not surprise me that Tony Brannon is now lashing out for the failure of Bermudians to step behind him and demand an apology.  He did deserve one whether the comment was a mistake or not.

How about our present Premier who suggested that Grant Gibbons is a racist dog.  I have yet to see any examples put forth of any circumstance where Grant Gibbons has done anything racist and to use the argument that he is white and rich to justify the claim is utterly appalling.  Simply because he is white and wealthy instantly makes him a racist?  Again, the apology of “I did not call him a racist dog for clearly he is not a dog” does not suffice.

Bermudians love to get all up in arms when a white person says something that he shouldn’t have said.  If a white UBP Premier said about a black person what former Premier Scott said about Mr. Brannon, many would have been ready to lynch him.  Yet when a black Premier says it of a white person, it’s not a racist remark.

We need to end our double standards about racism. Many Bermudians act like we have it so terrible, like it is such a horrible existence we live in as the richest country on the planet.  To all those who do, I recommend you go watch the movie “Blood Diamond” for a wakeup call of what life could be like.  We could go back to the days where we were ready to kill, rape, pillage and enslave each other simply so that we could betray ourselves for the mighty dollar.  Isn’t that how African slavery began in the first place?

If you’re going to boycott Hawkin’s Island, why don’t you also boycott every store, restaurant, hotel, taxi and every other service on the island who supports Bermudians with bad attitudes.  We need to get over ourselves.  Let’s stop fighting over race and realize that regardless of how poorly he said it, if you take out race and the BIU, Tony Brannon was right when he said Bermudians have destroyed tourism in Bermuda.

If you’re a tourist and unless you want service with a scowl, don’t come to Bermuda, we clearly don’t want your business.

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Studying the impact of interest rates on the trends in the US housing market

Disclaimer:  I have zero knowledge of nor expertise in the fields of economics or real estate.  The following is simply a summary of my own thoughts regarding trends in the housing market and what little I’ve learned of how to follow them.

Back in university, a friend of mine who was studying economics told me about a paper he was working on.  The subject of the paper was how when interest rates rise, people on variable rate mortgages have the level of their monthly payments rise and subsequently have a tougher time meeting them if they’ve overstretched their budget.  Subsequently some of those who are struggling to live paycheck to paycheck foreclose.  For each foreclosure, banks take on losses that they want to recover from quickly so they turn the homes over to the markets.

In an economy where interest rates are high, people are less likely to want to buy homes due to the high costs.  With extra homes being dumped on the markets by banks, it adds to the supply which outstretches demand and causes the market to become over saturated.  This causes the value of homes on the market to decrease.

Certainly I’m no expert on economics nor real estate, but as someone who wants to make the absolute most of the money I earn, I took heed of his suggestion.

As can be seen by the graph on the right, there was a higher percentage of customers behind on their payments after the last interest rate increase.

Over on the big picture there’s a couple great posts that are of considerable interest.  One on housing price risk and and the other demonstrating a heatmap of US foreclosures.  The graphic on the right was from one of these articles.

Regional_home_price_appreciationAnother interesting graphic is one that shows home prices by appreciation as diagramed by region.

Originally sourced from: Census Division, % change over previous four Qs (as of Q3 ’06)

This graphic demonstrates the trend in the last 20 years and showcases the negative appreciation across all regions.

Comparing these charts to the last 20 years of the federal fund rate as evidenced by the graph below obtained from wikipedia.

It is interesting to note that in many cases, housing markets depreciated when interest rates went up in 1998 and failed to gain considerable ground throughout the downwards rate trend leading into 2002.  By 2003, with really low interest rates, all markets in the graphic above showed signs of appreciating up until rates began increasing in 2005 where another major downward trend began.

Historical chart of the effective Federal Funds Rate














Thinking back to the comments made by my friend, what he described may have been on point. 

The first thought that may comes to mind is that these individuals who have outstretched their variable rate mortgages may be able to refinance.  However, as is outlined later in the housing price risk article, some variable rate mortgages carry a prepayment penalty which many may not be able to afford.

If this creates a trend that continues, it could cause housing values to continue dropping and an overall devaluation of the market.  How long this trend shall last is unknown, however there may be some who are able to capitalize on the depreciation in the housing market and pick up homes before the markets reappreciate in the distant future.

Of particular further reading on the subject is one blogger’s perspectives on the forecasting by lenders of how how the fed’s will change interest rates. 

I’m slowly learning more of the principles of economics.  One such example is the zero-balance of the economy.  Those who live paycheck to paycheck deep in debt are the ones who end up foreclosing while those who have the savings and solid financial foundation are able to capitalize on those losses to purchase a house for less then it is worth given the flood of foreclosures.

For those jumping on the new 100% financing offered by Bermudian banks to Bermudians, you should ask yourself what the potential is that the property you’re purchasing could at some point depreciate.  If this was to occur, would you be able to cover the losses in the equity value of your home that you actually never had?

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Does our island’s drug policy breed criminals?

Today’s Gazette outlines an article entitled “Don’t put me on the stop list” about a 22 year old Bermudian youth who was found with .4 grams of marijuana on his person.

Possession of marijuana is against the law, however the potential punishment of posession heavily outweighs the risks of use. 

Lets assume this individual had been given a criminal record and put on the “stop list”.  This means he would effectively be barred from travelling to the US and potentially other countries.  Should he care to further his education, his options for doing so would be limited.  Should he care to take a job he would also be limited to one that does not include trips off island.

Certainly, Magistrate Tokunbo is free to ask the question of “Why didn’t you think about that before?” However,  do people still smoke cigarettes despite knowing that they are more likely to get cancer?  Do people still eat too much sugar despite knowing that it can give them diabetes.  To use such a justification for such harsh sentences is not a solution to our island’s drug problems.  In all reality, it won’t discourage people from doing what they’re going to do anyway simply because they won’t have to deal with the consiquences until much later.

If our citizens are put on the stop list, can it effectively end their ability to further themselves as productive members of society?  Having already broken the mould and ruined their lives, what stops them from asking themselves why they should not delve further into criminal activity? 

If you’re an individual already on the stop list, what further have you got to lose?  Are our prisons not already compared to being a club med for drug addicts as some people claim given how freely it is rumored to be able to attain drugs there.  With such harsh punishments for an act that does more to hurt the individual then it does society, are we encouraging those who briefly step off the beaten path into a life of crime?

Maybe there is a reason why we’re in the top 10 list for imprisonment and perhaps it’s time we started cracking down on the causes of our problems rather then the effects?   Such as by asking the question of why these individuals are turning to drugs in the first place?

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METEC Town Hall Meeting

Kudos to North Rock for sending out the notice below of a discussion on proposed changes to our telecom regulations.  I very much would have liked to be able to attend this event, however unfortunately this is one circumstance where I regret having a requirement to attend Regiment as it conflicts with the timing of this meeting.

Considering that it is the Ministry of Environment Telecommunications and E-commerce (what environment has in common with telecommunications entirely escapes me, but thats a different discussion), it would be nice if they created an online discussion forum including summaries of what was discussed at this meeting for those of us who are unable to attend.

Somehow I doubt it, but I’d love to be proven wrong.



Dear Valued Customer;

North Rock Communications invites you to attend the Town Hall Meeting being held by the Ministry of Environment Telecommunications and E-Commerce (METEC) this Thursday, February 8 2007 at the Cathedral Hall from 5:30 to 7:30.

The purpose of this event is to allow the Ministry to present and explain the recently announced proposed changes to Bermuda’s telecommunications regulations to the public and to allow you to ask questions of a panel, and express your views.

North Rock has put together a document outlining our views that can be accessed from www.northrock.bm/pdf/Reform.pdf

To view the complete METEC recommendations visit the Telecommunications Notices section of the www.gov.bm portal.

There has been much discussion in the media on the negative impact that these changes will likely have throughout the Telecommunications Industry. We encourage you to attend the Meeting so that you have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the proposed changes and express your views.


North Rock Communications Ltd.
Tel: 441-540-2700
Fax: 441-540-2701
TTY: 441-540-0585 for the hearing impaired

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A casino?

“Southlands developer: We would welcome a casino” is the title of an interesting article in yesterday’s gazette.

Could this be a planted question based on a historically controversial subject that will stir up discussion and sell papers?  If so, how much of a factor will the religious community play this time around in attacking the very nature of any gambling other then church sanctioned bingo? 

Could it be a seed planted by the developer having come to the island with a preconception that a casino could (or would) be a part of their hotel?  Will Premier Brown announce that we’re going to get a ‘Special Development Order’ style change in legislature to allow for a casino and woo the people into going along with the project?

Beyond all of these questions, one question will undoubtedly rise to the top. 

Should we have a casino?

For that question, which is most important? 

  • The answer to the question?
  • How the question is asked?  
  • Who answers it?
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Are politicians listening?

According to a recent article on socialtext’s website.  Utah State Representative, Steve Urquhart, Chairman of the Rules Committee that decides what legislation goes to the floor, has launched a wiki dedicated to promoting open government called Politicopia, based on enterprise collaboration software Socialtext.

Describing the project, he says “One week into the experiment, Politicopia is working. Citizens are participating and citizens are being heard. Legislators are talking to me about things they’ve read on Politicopia. Because of input I received, I have changed a position I’ve held for years. Already, citizens are using Politicopia to shape the debate. As a matter of fact, a reporter emailed me, to ask why Politicopia wasn’t linking to her article. That has never happened in the two-plus years I’ve been blogging.”

Politicopia enables citizens to discuss pros, cons, amendments, find further resources and get more information.  Example laws that are presently being discussed:

  • Cell Phone Restrictions for Teen Drivers
  • Drivers License — Revocation for Dangerous Drivers
  • Higher Speed Limit, Violation Amendments
  • Vouchers for Private School Tuition
  • All-day Kindergarten
  • Payday Lending (Sen. Mayne’s Bill)
  • Fee Waiver Appropriation for School Districts
  • Illegal Immigrants — In-State College Tuition
  • Who do I need to talk to in order to get something like this in use here?

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    $15 million for football?

    Are you kidding me?  Last year it was $11 million on cricket and we all witnessed how well that turned out.  I must be reading this incorrectly.  Are we honestly going to spend $15 million on football?

    Don’t get me wrong, football is a much loved Bermudian sport that needs the support of the country, but I do need to ask about the motivations behind throwing a large amount of cash behind another professional sport when there may be more important things we should be focusing on.

    Should our government not be focusing more of their efforts and $$$ on education?  I don’t just mean improving the system for future students but also fixing the horrible mess that has been made of my generation.  Certainly my generation has gotten the short end of the stick.

    There is one perfect example that springs to mind that will help illustrate my point.  While at recruit camp, we had regular evening lectures to learn various topics.  In one such lecture on the combination of making schooling more accessable to recruits, one recruit asked if it was possible for him to attain his GED through the program.  This may have been something whose responsibility was passed off to the National Training Board, however what concerned me was that this recruit was requested later in the presentation to stand up and read a slide.  It surely was an embarassing scenerio for the individual as he struggled to read many of the words and did so at a snails pace.  It was such an abysmal performance that one could do nothing but feel very sorry him and feel enraged at the system that was supposed to educate him to enough of a level to survive in our society.  While he is just one example, there were many others who showed signs of being very poorly educated.

    The regiment education program is a good first step, but the approx $100,000 of funding is pennies in comparison to $15 million.  Especially when many recruits arn’t even capable of performing at the college level considering they missed out on the basics.

    If government is interested in preventing “young people from getting mixed up in crime and drugs”, the first step should be to ensure they are educated well enough to afford themselves a future.  Spare funding should be put towards helping all of those who have fallen through the cracks of our failed system.

    Bermuda has failed my generation.  Football is all fine and nice, but we should be focusing more heavily on core issues not just paying idle lip service to them.

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