Laundro-bars: Sudsy fun or struggles for snuggles?

Stocks gained on merger news and positive economic data about consumer optimism. The Dow gained 29 points, with 17 of its 30 components advancing; the S&P 500 Index added 2 points; and the Nasdaq rose 13. Advancers led decliners by two to one on the NYSE and the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures rose $6.30 to close at $1,285.20 an ounce, and the price of crude oil added 51 cents to settle at $93.86 a barrel.

In Earnings News:

  • Best Buy Co., Inc., posted a 41% drop in net income to $146 million, or an adjusted 44 cents a share, from one year ago, on revenue of $8.89 billion, down 4%. While in-store sales declined 2.7%, online sales rose 22%, driven by the company’s Renew Blue strategy to meet consumers’ e-commerce preferences. Net income beat analysts’ expectations, but the company’s shares (BBY) sank 6.85% on concerns about falling revenue.

In Other Business News:

  • As of January 2014, 61% of the 9.5 million workers who lost their jobs from 2011 to 2013 were reemployed, up from 56% two years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, 52% of long-tenured workers who were displaced and then reemployed in full-time wage and salary jobs reported earnings that were “as much or greater than” what their previous jobs paid.
  • Led by a spike in demand for Boeing aircrafts, durable goods orders increased 22.6% to $300.1 billion in July, according to the Department of Commerce. Excluding transportation, orders fell 0.8% from a revised 3.0% in June.
  • Home prices increased 8.1% in June, marking the smallest year-over-year gain since January 2013, according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index. Growing home inventories, combined with declining home affordability and stagnant wages, put downward pressure on property values across the 20 cities tracked.
  • The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.4 in August from a revised 90.3 in July, marking four consecutive months of improvement, according to The Conference Board. While consumers’ views on current economic conditions improved, their forward-looking expectations edged downward.
  • Burger King Worldwide Inc.’s shares (BKW) fell 4.32% after confirming it will buy Canadian coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons for nearly $11 billion and that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will invest $3 billion in the deal. While Burger King plans to move its headquarters to Canada for its lower tax rate, Berkshire will pay the U.S. tax rate on any income it receives from the acquisition. Tim Hortons (THI) gained 8.47%.

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According to Reviewed.com, a new crop of Laundromats are opening across the country with a—let’s call it buzzworthy—approach to serving customers. In addition to washing wears and drying delicates, patrons can sit down at these sudsy storefronts and enjoy a cold beer and gourmet pub grub.

The Bar of Soap in Asheville, North Carolina, features a sleek, polished bar fully stocked with local, domestic, and international craft brews, as well as a library room stocked with books, so visitors can read and relax while their T-shirts tumble. In San Francisco, residents can visit the BrainWash Café and Laundromat, featuring not only a bar but an open mic night, a weekly comedy show, and a food menu so impressive that I’m feeling the urge to pack up my family’s clothes and move us out West.

Still, I have to wonder: How will the Laundro-bars’ managers diffuse the inevitable awkward confrontations that occur when patrons feel the instinctive need to compete for machines?

The situation: After an errand or two, you return to the Laundromat to move your clothes from the washer into the dryer when you notice, “Hey, this nice stranger is already moving my clothes; how wonderful!” Soon after, you realize that person is actually relocating your clothes into a plastic garbage bag or setting them upon the lint-adorned top of another washing machine—or, best of all, throwing your clothes onto the dirty floor (which, if you factor a bar into the equation, can only get dirtier).

“Hey, you—what are you doing?” you might ask your fellow patron, in an effort to stand up for you and your laundry. But that brave declaration only gets you a wild-eyed and surly explanation of the Laundromat Code, delivered with the fervency of a bad TV drama defense lawyer. The code, of course, is simple: Move your wears out of the washer within 60 seconds of the buzzer going off or surrender all rights to your apparel and dignity.

Now add beer to the mix. Hmm.

Suddenly, I’m envisioning the Laundro-bar quickly turning into a raucous Old West saloon, as the tumble cycle gives way to the rumble cycle. Look out, Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear. I hope you had a stint as a bar bouncer prior to your current employ as laundry’s most adorable spokesperson.

I’m hoping, however, that the Laundro-bars’ casual social element will be a catalyst for transforming those awkward laundry room stalemates into something more fun (… cut to two at-odds laundry patrons letting bygones be bygones and clinking their glasses in the name of friendship—aww).

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