Take my advice.
If you don’t like Neil Young, keep that shit to yourself. My inbox was flooded by people berating me over it. I would have been better off saying I like to kick puppies.
Also, this is my last email to all of you.
I’ll be way off the grid next weekend. It’s the 67th consecutive year – and my 31st – of our annual “Deer Camp” in the backwoods of Appalachia. Don’t worry. I can’t remember the last time anyone actually shot a deer.
That’s not really the point.
Early Friday morning after Thanksgiving, we leave town, stopping for breakfast at the same roadside diner where my dad, and his dad before him, ordered two eggs over-easy, bacon, and toast, at the exact same time on the same morning, every year since 1951.
From that point on, I can tell you precisely what we’ll be doing at any 15-minute juncture until the following Tuesday. We rake leaves when we arrive, then play poker, then go to the local watering hole. Saturday, we go scouting (for deer we never find), then play more poker, then another watering hole, rinse, repeat. Sunday, we watch the Steelers. Monday, so-called “hunting” season starts.
Each meal is preordained: Thanksgiving leftovers on Saturday, spaghetti on Sunday, hot sausage in a slow cooker 24/7. And lots of Miller Lite. Nothing else. Just Miller Lite. And Zantac.
One of my trademarked sayings is “’Because that’s the way it’s always been done’ is never the right answer to any question.” But for that weekend, it is. There’s something liberating about not having to make a single decision – knowing exactly what’s coming – for 4 straight days.
My dad and his friends used to go for 10 days. I prefer to stay married.
Not that my parents ever separated over it. Times were different. I didn’t have 27 daily activities like my kids do. My mom didn’t have to work 50 hours a week to stay ahead like Tara does. My dad didn’t travel every week for work. I’m grateful for the 4 days I do get.
And after my dad died a few years ago, it feels even more important. The fourth generation started that same year. Hopefully one of those kids will write about it 30 years from now.
In the meantime, here’s what we’re seeing today:
Consumer confidence isn’t trending all that great going into Thanksgiving. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its second consecutive negative reading, dragged down by reduced confidence in the housing and labor markets. Stock market volatility, mixed results from the election, and rising interest rates could have all played a role. Here’s hoping everybody’s mood improves before Black Friday.
Perhaps the saddest irony for Facebook is that nobody likes political content on the platform, anyway. In a crazy coincidence, I asked the poll question below two days before the New York Times bombshell Wednesday night. Why did I ask it? To settle a debate with a few of my friends on Facebook, naturally (that’s one of the privileges of my job, by the way). My theory was that most Facebook users would prefer to see zero political posts or content on the platform. And, that only people at the relative extreme ends of the political spectrum drove the vast majority of the political activity. Short story: I was right. I wrote a blog about it (which I hardly ever do anymore) but I realize you’re probably sick of me by the time you get to the bottom of this email. Just remember, most of your friends only want posts about your kids, your adventures, and your embarrassing moments. Take your politics to Twitter.
About 15% of Americans will be traveling somewhere for Thanksgiving and that number has remained uncannily steady over time. In an interesting report we ran about Thanksgiving travelers this week, we found that 85% of people will be staying close to home for Turkey Day. Two-thirds of the travelers – or 10% of Americans – will drive several hours or more. 4% will fly and 1% will take a train. Those numbers are almost exactly the same as when we started studying Thanksgiving travel in 2015, suggesting that it has little to do with macro forces. One finding that makes a lot of sense: People who will be traveling by car are much more likely to have large families. Flying is expensive, no matter the economic climate.
Only a small fraction of Americans are unhappy, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I told you last week that I’ve been geeking out about all of the daily tracking data we have about happiness going back to 2012. Trend lines aside, the simple fact is this: We are a happy bunch of people in the U.S.A. Only 8% of U.S. adults have identified as “Unhappy” or “Very Unhappy” over the past 90 days and that number has been consistent for six years. It sure doesn’t seem like it sometimes, right? All of the political angst, violence, people yelling at each other on Facebook…it leads you to believe we’re all miserable. But no. Life is – for the most part – good.
People at The Gap could be especially happy next week. I don’t spend as much time in our apparel and retail data as some other people here, so I was surprised to look at our Gap tracking data ahead of their earnings next week and see their steady improvement in sentiment over the past couple years. Apparently, they’ve been beating earnings estimates for several quarters, so this may not surprise everyone. What I found particularly interesting was WHO had such an improved opinion of the brand over time. Any guesses? It wasn’t a simple demographic like age or gender.
There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to binge-watch some of your favorite shows over the holiday weekend. Our latest data tell us that 40% of Americans today binge-watch TV shows or movies at least once a month or more. 20% do it at least once a week. Women do it more than men, Gen Z more than anyone else. You might be surprised to find out that Baby Boomers are much more likely than Gen Xers to binge-watch shows every day or every week. I’m not surprised. We always get the short end of the stick.
However you choose to spend your holiday weekend, I hope it’s a fun and restful one. My best to you and yours, as always.
In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.