iPhone: a tax on the stupid? The iPhone launch appears to be a marketing triumph. Before the product was available, the consumer electronics industry was abuzz with shortage rumours. Telstra were alleged to be holding 6000 orders and were to only receive 5000 from Apple. iPhones started appearing on eBay (what’s wrong with an initial capital?) at prices higher than the RRP. Many sold. The highest price for a completed sale is $1800, with many around $1350. This compares with a retail price of about $900 for an unlocked phone not tied to a plan.

Well done enterprising eBay sellers as now we read in industry website Retailbiz: “Despite massive hype and predictions of limited supply, it appears Australians have taken slowly to the iPhone, with both Optus and Vodafone saying they still had stock left at most stores on Friday morning.”

In the good old days the rat with the gold tooth selling used cars always had another buyer looking at the car you were considering, or the salesman would let slip “this is the last one at this price”. Not much changes. — Rob Lake

Sensible approach by the little Aussie battler. There’s an old saying in the economics profession that there two types of economists – those who can’t forecast what the Australian dollar is going to do and those who don’t know that they can’t forecast what the Australian dollar is going to do.

It is therefore with a degree of fear and uncertainty that I’m daring to writing about the Aussie as it trades above 98 US cents for the first time in a quarter century, apparently determined to reach parity with the greenback sooner rather than later.

As another old saying goes, given an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters, one of them will write the complete works of Shakespeare. There are a lot of economic forecasters around taking a punt on where our currency is going, so inevitably one or two occasionally enjoys a run of seeming to get it right – but the run never lasts. No-one has a consistent track record of forecasting the dollar’s movements with reasonable accuracy. So, having made all my excuses and apologies up front, what’s the Australian dollar doing? — Michael Pascoe, Yahoo7

How, exactly, did Wal-Mart become the new Food and Drug Administration? The giant retailer, along with CVS and Toys ‘R Us, announced recently that it plans to stop selling baby bottles containing the chemical bisphenol-A. The question is, why? Bisphenol-A has been widely used since the 1950s. The Food and Drug Administration, as well as Japanese and European regulators, have no problems with it. Canada is about to ban it from baby bottles, but officials term the move purely precautionary. To be sure, other scientists worry because animal studies have linked small doses of BPA to cancer and other health problems. But scientific debate isn’t driving the baby bottle war; a hard-hitting push by activist groups, politicians and trial lawyers is. — Mark Gunther, Fortune

Mining your own neighbourhood for oil. U.S. homeowners scared of paying through the roof for heating oil this winter are cruising online classified sites for deals on unwanted fuel — and finding them. “I have an old pickup truck and I stock it with 50-gallon drums, and I have an oil transfer pump,” said Bob Difiore, a mechanic who lives on Long Island, outside New York City.

“I pull into people’s driveways and lower a hose through a window or other access points and I start pumping it into the drums.” The deals are possible because many homeowners in the Northeast are switching from heating oil to cheaper natural gas or other alternative fuels, leaving them with tanks full of unused oil. And those still using heating oil are eager to snap it up at a discount as the oil market skyrockets. “I just went on Craigslist one day and I saw someone selling heating oil. So I put an ad in there saying I was buying,” said Howard Urvine, a real estate agent in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. — Matthew Robinson, Reuters

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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