Originally created 01/08/01


Hotels heat up service

According to the 2001 Zagat survey of hotels, spas and resorts throughout the country, carefully planted chocolates on pillows, Jacuzzis and terrycloth bathrobes apparently no longer cut it when it comes to pampering. Instead, some of the swankier places are offering such amenities as heated toilet seats, binoculars, new toys for kids and feather beds.

Aside from generous amenities, more hotels are equipping rooms with high-speed Internet connections, multiple phone lines, fax machines and big desks.

With all the extra frills, it's no wonder the average price of a night's stay at the surveyed hotels has risen, with the average double-occupancy rate reaching $221.

Pension brochure offered

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. is a federal agency devoted to guaranteeing payment of basic pension benefits to more than 40 million Americans in private-sector, defined-benefit pension plans.

If you were vested in a company that went out of business or that you know ended its pension plan after you left, you may have money owed you.

For a free copy of the brochure, Finding a Lost Pension, go to www.pbgc.gov/ and click on publications. You also can request the brochure in writing. Write to: PBGC Public Affairs, 1200 K St. N.W., Washington, DC 20005-4026.

Internet failures continue

Unless one of your favorite Web sites has gone dark, you may not have noticed the shakeout under way in the dot-com industry.

But what began as a trickle of Web site failures early this year has turned into something of a flood. At least 130 Internet companies have shut down since last January, according to a study by Webmergers.com.

And the pace is accelerating with 21 companies closing shop in the first half of November. That compares with 22 shutdowns for the entire month of October, which was the highest month to date.

Economy helps car sales

Thanks to the booming economy, more Americans are buying new cars than ever before. The auto industry is on track to set a sales record this year of around 18 million.

Many of the vehicles being sold are fuel thirsty, expensive sport-utility vehicles, pricey luxury cars and flashy sports cars.

But there's another booming segment of the market, one that might be surprising in these prosperous times: inexpensive economy cars. Even though many new-car buyers could afford something more expensive, they are choosing relatively low-cost entry-level cars in the $10,000 to $12,000 price range in increasing numbers this year.

Site aims to burst rage

Urban75 has come up with a way to get out your office aggressions, without fighting over the bubble wrap. Virtual bubble wrap allows you to pop within the confines of your cubicle by simply rolling your mouse over the wrap on the screen to see and hear those familiar bursts - over and over and over and over ... www.urban75.com/Mag/bubble.html.

Night jobs can be good

From computer programming and global finance to police work and grocery stores, the old 9-to-5 job has often turned into a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift.

And for many it's a constant battle between the body and brain to keep awake during hours when most people are asleep.

But there are advantages to night hours. No traffic. No lines at all-night grocery stores, a quieter, less hectic workplace and experiencing the sunshine.

Tool leasing sees growth

A construction company needs an expensive backhoe, but there's not much cash in the kitty. What should the owner do? Spend all his reserves and run up a personal credit card, or lease the equipment, putting a few dollars down and making payments each month?

Not much of a contest, really. And that explains a lot of the growth in the equipment-leasing industry.

In a recent report, the Equipment Leasing Association estimated that $260 billion of goods would be leased by businesses this year, accounting for nearly one-third of all the equipment in use at companies across the nation. Leases cover everything from bucket trucks to beepers, computers and office copiers. Software and related products account for nearly $1 of every $5 spent on leases.

Study before negotiations

Negotiating a salary is one of the toughest things job seekers have to do: Information about what the job pays usually is scarce and salary discussions are not held on a level playing field.

But, as always, knowledge is power, and if you know what to do, you may get the money you want.

Finding out what you should be paid means doing your homework in advance of the actual negotiations, which usually occur after the job offer is made. It's important to study surveys, talk to colleagues, contact professional associations in your field and do an Internet search of wage structures.

And, remember, everything is not set in stone.

Recession forecasted

Official forecasters are sticking firmly with their prediction of a soft landing for the global economy in 2001. But some Wall Street analysts and business school economists are much less complacent.

A new forecast issued by UCLA's Anderson School of Business predicts that on the basis of past experience there is a 60 percent chance that the next occupant of the White House will face a recession, or a severe economic slowdown. UCLA's business school has analyzed data from the 10-year boom of the 1990s and compared it with the five longest periods of expansion since 1950. It found that despite the complacency of official forecasters such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the five main historical warnings of recession are now flashing red.

There are falling corporate profits, high real interest rates and an unemployment rate that has stopped falling. On top of this there has been a severe setback in the stock market that could choke off foreign investment in U.S. stocks, which has been running at $400 billion net a year or 4 percent of gross domestic product.


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