Numlock News: August 2, 2022 • Jazzercise, Tabletop RPGs, Macao
By Walt Hickey
Beginning in 2013, AT&T tacked on an “administrative fee” to monthly bills of its customers, a fee it hiked to $1.99 a month in 2018. To be clear, this fee does nothing; it’s just the phone company getting two extra dollars from you because it said so. A class-action lawsuit in California was launched, but in May came to a settlement of $14 million. AT&T will have to pay out $15 to $29 per customer in California, but AT&T’s records indicated that thanks to the fee they’ve reaped $180 per customer on average since 2015, and also they get to keep charging the fee.
Sales of hobby games hit $2.69 billion in 2021 in the United States and Canada, up substantially from the $2.03 billion worth of games sold in 2020. That pandemic-fueled figure was already up considerably from the $1.68 billion worth of hobby games — trading cards, miniatures, role-playing tabletop games, board games, card games and the like — that sold in 2019. The sector is, for the purposes of the report, the kind of games specifically sold through game and card specialty stores rather than the broader market of play. What’s most remarkable is that the sector managed to add a billion dollars in sales at the same time it’s undergoing a striking supply and material crunch, imperiling things like trading cards given the limited availability of paper stock, and jeopardizing Warhammer miniatures given the serious challenges sourcing blood for the Blood God.
From 1997 to 2021, the Department of Education estimated that its federal direct student loans would generate $114 billion. Their math was super wrong, and in fact the program has cost the government $197 billion according to the Government Accountability Office. Of that, $102 billion of the shortfall is from the federal student loan pause, but even setting aside the pandemic relief measures, the program is still operating unexpectedly in the red. The main reason is that half of all borrowers are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan that will cancel the loan after 20 to 25 years of payments based on their income.
About 19 percent of dishwasher machines in U.S. households are simply not used, 17 million households that have a machine that will clean their plates that they choose instead to forgo because of the perception that dishwashers are inefficient and ineffective. That’s an old reputation that the manufacturers of detergent are really trying to combat: These days, modern dishwashers use 10 percent of the water that hand-washing does according to the EPA. As of 2020, 73 percent of households in the U.S. have a dishwasher, and for Procter & Gamble, the makers of Cascade, getting a few percentage points more of households trusting their equipment could add millions more to the $900 million worth of Cascade it moves annually.
The Blanco blind salamander is one of over 2,000 species of plants, animals and fungi around the world that are considered to be “lost species.” To be clear, this is not to say that they’re extinct; they’re literally just lost. The last time anyone saw a Blanco blind salamander in its native Texas was in 1951, and while that doesn’t mean it’s gone, it doesn’t mean it’s doing great either. On one hand, lots of amphibians are threatened with extinction. On the other hand, the native habitat of the salamander is (or was) the complex subterranean Edwards Aquifer that covers 4,000 cavernous square miles in Texas, and good luck snorkeling around down there for salamanders. The fact that it’s lost is actually a strike against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service being able to classify it as endangered, because the agency literally does not know if it exists anymore.
Jazzercise Inc., founded in 1969 and best known for its aerobic hegemony during the 1980s, is not only around but doing remarkably well. There are currently 8,000 franchisees worldwide, with the fitness company posting $73 million in revenue last year. Today, instructors have updated the music and emphasized high intensity interval training over the aerobics of the Reagan era, and they’ve even had a considerable amount of success with a $24.99-per-month streaming service, Jazzercise on Demand, which exploded from 4,000 subscribers in March of 2020 to 60,000 by the end of that April, and still holding strong at a respectable 22,000 subscribers.
Roll The Dice
The city of Macao in China is pretty much a global gambling hub, but due to the coronavirus outbreak has been locked down since the middle of June. Rare for a casino town, the government hasn’t been taking any chances, and has waited until nine days without reported community spread. Tuesday, the tourism hub will reopen, but the fiscal picture looks rough. Over 50 percent of Macao’s GDP is in the gaming sector, and the casinos are responsible for 80 percent of the government’s revenue. In July, revenue from the casinos in Macao was down a shocking 95.3 percent year over year. While the island has historically been a global destination for gamblers, for the time being it’s open only to Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.
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