Yesterday Crikey asked for anecdotal evidence of an economic slowdown – here’s what readers say:

Anonymous writes:

About the economy – one of my close friends has been a night/weekend shelf filler at a national supermarket chain while finishing a university degree. Over the last six months, he has seen a decline of 65% of “fillers” on the weekend. This has been compounded by the following problems:

1. The cheaper staff have been kept on, a tactic normally reserved for dire times (picking financial gain over experience has always happened, but culling all the experience isn’t normal).
2. Their hours of work have been reduced by 15%.
3. The amount of “pallets” they have to unpack has reduced 10% – and the rest of the pallets have shown evidence of “poor packaging,” “always being late” and “being knocked around during transport.”
4. With no training, he has become the Team Leader of the fillers. This happened through natural evolution – namely, he has been there the longest, not that he is the best qualified.

All of this started happening about two months ago. Before that, they always had the staff they needed, the time they needed and the pallets were always delivered very close to the nominated time. Now, they are even turning up just before knock off time on a Sunday. So that’s both the supermarket and the road transport company, possibly the (sea) freight company, beginning to cut corners to save costs – at the exact same time.

The O’Brien family in Dubai, writes:
A crane hire company proprietor told me last week that “things have just stopped.” Perhaps they have shipped them all here, to the tiny emirate of Dubai (see right), which due to the current white hot building boom now has over 15% of the world’s construction cranes.

Anonymous writes:
Holden last Friday announced employee pricing for all. A true sign that the sale of large cars have slowed. The only way to move all these unwanted Commodores produced on the soon to cease third shift sitting on grass is to heavily discount them and earn some cash. GM Holden is severely stressed following the collapse of Ion. Cylinder heads and engine blocks continue to be imported from Mexico at a cost very different to what the GM Holden engine plant was approved on. Combine that with a massive internal reject rate and soaring steel prices. The answer to all the profit not being made. Source more components in China. As for GM Holden being the biggest private R&D spender in Australia. Hmmm. Some of the expenditure classified as R&D would amaze many honest taxpayers. GM Holden is one to watch as just like its parent in North America there are tougher times ahead.

Anonymous writes: GM Australia’s new advertising campaign could point to either an anticipated slowdown in new vehicle sales or just a desire to clear old stock? “You pay what we pay” – Public receiving staff discount. Very dangerous stuff. GM US has just canned a similar campaign and the sales drop is significant. Opinions are that the market has been decimated in the US by this campaign and its only rescue is the significant damage that recent hurricanes have caused to vehicles.

Mick Whye writes:
I work at a small retail store selling pet products in Katoomba. After the NSW school holidays a couple of weeks ago the whole town has virtually stopped. In the lead up to the Xmas frenzy, this is very worrying. Usually the opposite is happening. We are a town that relies heavily on tourist bucks, hardly any tourists are coming, and the ones who are aren’t spending. The only thing my shop has in its advantage is that it is owned by a large animal welfare charity organisation, even that doesn’t seem to be helping much. I am looking for a new job.

Aniko writes:
Having seen our conveyancing workload double in the last month or so, mainly in the Byron Bay area, I can comment that most are for sales in the lower end of the market ($300-$500K) and a lot are sales which have been listed for some time (over 12 months) and seen the asking price reduced considerably, hence, finally sales are being effected. Lots of investor buyers. Could be abolition of vendors duty. Could be Vendors biting the bullet re prices falling. Could be the economy. Who knows?

Will writes:
I work in the automotive industry and talk daily to auto repairers. And 90% of them tell me that the workload has dramatically dropped off. Normally they are booked out several days in advance, but now you can call in the morning and you can drop off the car on the same day. Rather scary.

Squatter Steven (a bus enthusiast) writes:
I think next week’s Melbourne Cup will be a good barometer on the state of the economy. One way to find out is to count the number of buses (local and from the country and interstate) in the car park next Tuesday (excluding those on shuttle services). I’m happy to crunch the numbers on this one. I have even taken Oaks Day off and will act as a bean counter on Thursday.

Henry Ringwood writes:
I suggest we wait and see how much is punted on the Melbourne Cup (especially if Makybe Diva is running) before we make too many decisions on the economy.

Peter Fray

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