Monthly Archives: December 2014

Private Safe Deposit Boxes

I recently heard that many UK banks are dispensing with their safe deposit services, and it’s a trend that is mirrored in the United States.  A number of US entrepreneurs, including Bryant Stone, have spotted an opportunity and are now offering  private deposit facilities.

Stone operates a business called The Vault which houses safety deposit boxes of all sizes. Customers are able to store their valuables in secure and fire proof facilities and have 24 hour access to anything they need. It’s pretty much a straight replacement of what the banks were doing, but with easier access.

I don’t know a great deal about this market in the UK, but I do know that general storage facilities are booming. Perhaps people would welcome a secure storage facility to house their valuables and important documents.

Obviously this isn’t something to enter into without a great deal of planning, but here’s what I think is exciting about it – once you attract a customer, they will continue to pay you month after month and year after year. And there’s no additional work to do!

Not Done Your Christmas Shopping?

If you haven’t got around to buying that important Christmas gift for someone special, I have a ‘Get out of jail free’ card for you today, courtesy of a couple of respected economists. Just give cash. It makes perfect sense.

Writing in The Armchair Economist, Stephen Landsburg  says he doesn’t understand  why people give each other shop-bought gifts instead of cash, which is never the wrong size or color. Some say that we give gifts because it shows that we took the time to shop. But Landsburg argues we could accomplish the same thing by giving the cash value of our shopping time, showing that we took the time to earn the money.

In a 1993 American Economic Review article “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” economist Joel Waldfogel concluded that holiday gift-giving destroys a significant portion of the value of the gifts given because the best outcome possible is to duplicate the choices that the gift-recipient would have made on his or her own with the cash-equivalent of the gift. But in reality, it’s inevitable  that many gifts given will not perfectly match the recipient’s own preferences. In those cases, the recipient will be worse off with the sub-optimal gift selected by the gift-giver than if the recipient was given cash and allowed to choose his or her own gift.

So there you are, the perfect economic explanation when you hand over a few notes in an envelope on Christmas morning. Nobody could reasonably argue with that and if you try it I’d love you to video the reaction…just to prove that economic logic wins every time

Fabulous Flatulence

I wasn’t going to bother telling you about this, and then I read something that changed my mind.

French inventor Christian Poincheval makes pills that he claims will perfume your farts into smelling like violets or roses. And now he has a new product – a pill that will make flatulence smell like chocolate!

According to Poincheval’s website, the idea for the pills  came from a dinner with friends during which nobody could stop farting. I don’t know about you, but if  I was at a dinner party where nobody could stop farting, my first thought would be to question my choice of friends rather than puzzling over how to enhance the aroma. But  Mr Poincheval responded by developing his pills which sell for ten Euro’s a pack.

I can perhaps see people buying these as a joke, but that’s about it. But here’s what’s more interesting  – Poincheval also has a powder-based product aimed at dogs.

Now as any dog owner will know, our four legged friends can be particularly gaseous, and unlike humans, they don’t have the will or ability to exercise any restraint. I can see a good market for  a product like this which actually works.

I’ve no idea whether this does work, or what would but it’s perhaps something to investigate?

The Balance Rider

I just read about a new piece of exercise equipment which has won top prize in a business plan competition in the United States. The Balance Rider is said to replicate the action of horseback riding and offers the same exercise benefits in terms of strengthening core muscles.

This is just the latest in a whole range of devices like running machines, rowing machines and exercise bikes which are designed to replicate the exercise benefits of another activity. The business benefit of introducing a device like this is that you already have participants in the activity who are pre-sold on a complementary activity.

So two questions for you to consider:

  1. Might there be money to be made by introducing Balance Rider to UK horse riding enthusiasts?
  1. What other mass participant sport or activity would lend itself to the development of a related exercise device?

The Doctor’s Waiting Room

I went to the doctor’s last week and was surprised to learn that Ford are about to phase out the Escort and a young fellow by the name of Tony Blair is tipped to be our next Prime Minister. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but if you’ve ever sat in a medical waiting room of any kind, you can’t fail to have noticed that the magazines are rarely current. Continue reading