Y2K A Sucker born Every Minute

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March 15, 1999

Year 2000 capitalists

The unknown of a new century has people scrambling for advice and survival basics, while retailers reap revenue.

Mike Sunnucks Staff Reporter

In running Christian Light Book Store in downtown Frederick, Mandy Gamber regularly recommends items such as Bible study guides and books filled with inspirational thoughts. But lately, she's been making money off a much less hopeful subject: the end of the world.

All kinds of retailers throughout the Washington region are benefiting from fears that 2000 will bring a lot more than computer glitches. And they're positioning themselves to cash in on the hype.

Some evangelical Christians believe the new century will usher in Biblical tribulations and Armadeggon as spelled out in the Book of Revelation. Increased interest has led to booming book sales on the subject, and more business for Gamber.

"We can't keep them in stock," said Gamber, who is constantly reordering these so-called "end-time" books.

The "Left Behind" series by the Rev.

Tim LaHaye, "Millennium Bug" by Mark Ludwig, and "End Times" by John F. Walvoord and Charles R. Swindoll are some of Christian bookstores' bestsellers.

Gamber, who employs 13, hopes to launch a year 2000-related ad campaign later this year in area newspapers, including the Frederick News-Post, which itself will cash in on the new year with a special section on the end of the century.

While some evangelical and fundamentalist Christians fear the worst, other religious bookstores are helping customers renew their faith.

Jane Clark, who owns Loving Hearts Catholic Store in Woodbridge, said her mostly Roman Catholic customers aren't flocking to end-time books.

Instead, they are buying self-help guides and books related to the Holy Trinity as laid out by Pope John Paul II in church preparations for the millennium.

"It's more in the idea that its the anniversary of Jesus' birth," Clark said.

Clark will continue to advertise in local Catholic publications directories and will market new books, including Y2K titles, as they come out.

Worst-case preparations

Survivalists are stocking up for the financial and social chaos that they believe will come in 2000, stemming from the breakdown of technological and communications systems.

They are preparing by hoarding portable heaters, military-style rations and cooking equipment.

At local Ranger Surplus stores, customers are snapping up water storage containers, portable lights, and other survival gear, say store managers in Bethesda and Tysons Corner.

To meet the demand, the Gaithersburg-based retailer has been stocking up on its survival items, especially since the recent ice storm. Prolonged power outages significantly heightened awareness of possible Y2K catastrophes.

"That was an ideal dry run for worst-case scenario," said C.J. Newchurch, manager of the Bethesda store.

Unfortunately, Ranger Surplus can't keep hot-ticket items, such as ready-to-eat meals and portable ovens, in stock due to demand in Western and more rural states. But managers have done what they can to building Y2K business by promoting and prominently displaying survival gear, and by educating staffers on survival skills.

Eye on opportunity

Chris Woods hopes anxieties about 2000 will help his fledgling solar-energy supply company get off the ground. Already, he said, he's received more interest from people concerned about keeping their heating systems programmed to "warm."

"They're worried about being self-sufficient," said Woods, who owns Manassas-based Thermal Systems.

But many customers become less interested when they discover the high cost of solar energy. Woods estimates it takes $40,000 to $50,000 to outfit a suburban house.

"The best option is to buy a nice, big-ass generator," Woods said.

With $150,000 in annual revenue and three employees, there's no room in the budget for ambitious advertising strategies .

But Woods is ahead of the game in one sense: Many small business owners fail to recognize the opportunities millennium concerns offer, said Lyle Wolinsky, president of Advertising Ideas in Laurel.

They are too preoccupied with short-term sales and problems to address any long-term possibilities, even if they are just six to nine months away. And for companies not already benefiting from the new millennium, Wolinsky added, Y2K is a nonissue.

"It's not an emotional issue to a retailer," he said. However, he added, it is an emotional issue to the customer, which provides a great opportunity to sell something.

But he cautions not to take Y2K and survival marketing too far: "We don't want to scare people," he said.

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), March 16, 1999


Troll alert.

-- KoFE (anywhere@U.SA), March 16, 1999.

Friggin Troll

-- KoFE (your@town.USA), March 16, 1999.

I guess GM must be a real sucker. Last estimate is that they will spend $780,000,000.00 fixing the bug. As for me, I'm really cashing in, my usual weekly paycheck. I hope I still have one next year. <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 16, 1999.

KoFE, the article was related to y2k. You might not agree with everything in the article, but I wouldn't call it an example of trolling.

-- RobbY2K (robby2k@uno.com), March 16, 1999.

I think it is interesting that articles of this type use the words "stockpile" and "hoard" interchangeably when consumers build up inventories, but when businesses do that, it is prudent or just good business sense. How could I as a consumer "hoard" portable heaters or cooking equipment? I don't have that much storage, and I can only use so much at one time. Are they inferring that I would hurt the marketplace somehow by purchasing these things? (which, by the way, I have not because my old cooking pots work just fine, thanks, and I live in a warm climate) Or, do they think that I would be trying to "corner the market" on gas heaters? Sure, an individual with my limited purchasing ability is going to monopolize the heater market. Give me a break.

The people who should be accused of "hoarding" are the ones who approached the PermaPak company and offered to buy all of their food kits for the year, in order to resell them in December at greatly inflated prices (PP didn't sell). The average Joe who buys stuff at Lucky's or Costco could not have made that offer, I'll bet, but HE is the one who is accused of "hoarding".


-- Margaret (janssm@aol.com), March 16, 1999.

The article is a great example of the way prudent people are being represented. WE may not agree with the selection of words, but it IS an example of the mindset of, and the flavor of the reportage at this point in the festivities.

Take it as that and we'll move on.

Thanks, Norm for the info.

Chuck, a night driver

-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 16, 1999.

Given the nature of the articles that Norm has posted this week and the way that he has posted them, I very much agree with KoFe that he is a troll, and rather more sophisticated than what we normally encounter.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), March 16, 1999.

But the sad thing is that he canso easily find such biased, misleading information by copying from the mainstream media.

Notice this writer started out aiming right at the right-wing conservative Christian press and books. Hit the obligatory "military-style" outfitting equipment (implying but neatly ducked around armis and weapons) and the "western" fringe groups.

And all aiming at the "immoral" profits involved. This reporter would never investigate the federal lies and misleading exaggerations would he now?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), March 17, 1999.


Where's the link Norm?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 17, 1999.


It really would be helpful to all (doomer or pollyanna) if you would post the URL with the story.


Year 2000 Capitalists

-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), March 17, 1999.

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