Economic briefs and jockularity

IF YOU THINK the economy is not quite out of the woods yet, but things are getting better, you may just be feeling it in your jocks.

You are not alone. Millions of Americans feel the same way – although they tend to feel it in their underwear and briefs rather than jocks – as the MUI carries a lot of credence in the US.

The MUI is the Men’s Underwear Index and it even has former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as an aficionado. He has a long history of running things a bit loose.

The theory is, and it is widely reported by such luminary publications as The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, during times of severe financial stress, men will stretch the time between buying new jocks – so sales dip.

One of the most severe dips in underwear sales on record in the US has occurred over the past 18 months – but now sales are hitching up. Are we in for an underwear-led recovery, or is it just another adjustment out of discomfort?

A Washington Post interview by Ylan Q. Mui with Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group, qualified the trend as, “It’s like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles.”

Brings a whole new meaning to tightening fiscal policy …


But Time magazine has the economic indicator turf truly covered. Time has discovered 10 economic indicators that seem at least as conclusive as global warming.

Writer Brad Tuttle says indicative of the state of the US economy are ‘hot’ waitresses, blacked out football games, Appalachian Trail hikers, long distance relationship and – incredibly – the ‘toughness’ of Marine TV ads.

“You know the economy is struggling big time when your underwear is old, the armed forces don’t need recruits, there’s a hot resale market for cemetery plots, you can’t find the local pro football game on TV, your rich neighbors are clipping coupons, and your waitress looks like Megan Fox. That is, if you’re eating out at restaurants at all,” Mr Tuttle wrote.

He found that hikers on the Appalachian Trail were in the rise, “when the going gets tough, the tough take a hike”. Time put it down to people having lots of free time on their hands. The sale of cemetery plots has also gone up dramatically in the US. When times are tight, realising the cash now and saving a little bit on the side for cost-effective cremation seems to be the go.

In the US, the NFL tends to only play home games on television when the stadium’s seats are sold out. The seats remain unsold, even at a discount, and the fans are furious that not only can they not afford to go, they even miss out on TV. Are Americans happy about this? NFL.

A time-honoured indicator of the state of the US economy is the trend to postpone having children until finances recover. So tough has the job market been in the US that the Marines have met all their recruitment goals this year. So now the TV recruitment ads are showing Marines tackling barbed wire and even a spot of throwing up. “Because now they can be picky, and they want to attract the toughest, most highly motivated recruits.”

But most telling of Time’s indices is the Hot Waitress Index. When times are flush, attractive women have many opportunities to make money through marketing jobs, modelling, and hosting corporate parties and exhibitions. When it’s down, restaurateurs snap them up to wait on tables “and to attract diners who like being served by hot waitresses,” according to Time and Mr Tuttle.


One of the main economic indicators developed in the US and mimicked in Australia is the Consumer Confidence Index. We at Bottomline have developed an adjunct to that index which we have called the Consumer Confidence TRICK (Totally Reliable Index of Consumer K – where K stands for thousands of dollars).

This Bottomline Index points directly to where all the money is being spent. Here is what we have noted so far – and when these trends reverse, we are out of the Global F. Crisis.

• Sales of surfboard wax go up as the economy goes down and people have more time to surf. But maybe the poorer surfers make do with ear wax …

• Sales of Coles rubber thongs go up at the expense of leather and Billabong ones.

• Sales of male Speedos go down as learned economists stretch them for another season, as do sales of board shorts which stay in the drawer as they no longer fit. (This can have a disastrous affect on the tourist trade if allowed to persist).

• Foxtel probably gets replaced with digital set-top boxes.

• Cask wine and clean skin wine bottle sales go up at the expense of name brand bottles. Beer sales remain unaffected.

• Gym memberships cop a flogging as, contrary to popular belief, people utilise their memberships more to get fitter – time and reduced working hours are now on their side. There is also an increase of sporting activity in the home, with more digital set-top boxes and the savings from dumping Foxtel re-invested into guilt-free beer and cask wine.

Gardens are being weeded. Zero sales are down. Band-Aid and Dencorub sales are up. ♦


Contact Us


PO Box 2144