Tuesday, November 30, 2021

After opening, successfully building and subsequently selling the first Kosher grocery store in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York (an amazing tale in of itself), my parents went on to their next venture. They were immigrants who came to this country not ten years earlier and were now undertaking their third business. It was a fantastic story of determination and diligence - the true “American dream,” – but I, for one, was not happy about it.

I know my parents occasionally read my articles, but I am sorry to say, I really disliked going to their new store at the time. I was around eight years old when they opened for business, and I would hang out there on Sundays and other days when no one was home to watch me. I often did school work in the tiny room in the back, where my father set up a makeshift office for accounting and paperwork. I would also play with my toys in the stock room, far enough to be out of sight but close enough to observe what was happening.

They opened a large boutique shoe store on one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood and worked tirelessly to make it prosper. I remember being upset watching how hard my parents worked, often resulting in no sales- seeing customers spend hours in the store, leaving without a purchase, and leaving behind a massive mess of opened boxes.

I recall how impolite some customers were and how they acted most arrogantly, under the guise of being “a paying customer.” A variation of “the customer is always right” is what I used to hear when the store was empty.

My “favorite” memories were those customers who came to return shoes that either didn’t fit or they didn’t like, demanding a full refund – yet it was more than evident that the shoes were worn excessively. My parents courteously reimbursed them in full, every time.

But mostly, I remember witnessing how my father and mother reacted in each instance - with patience, compassion and optimism. They wrote off the ‘fake returns’ without ever saying a word. They turned a blind eye to the cynical comments and critiques. They put on a happy face all day long as they mostly stood on their feet for 10-12 hours per day. Their customer service skills were impeccable, something I have yet to see matched. They continued to work diligently to promote the business and expand their stellar reputation.

Undoubtedly, it was during those years that I developed my sense of business acumen and learned the true “value of a dollar.” Those memories and lessons are indeed priceless, and I now treasure them with much fondness.

Recently I was reminiscing about another experience during those days that I used to cherish so much. It was when my parents would click open the cash register and hand me four quarters so I could buy something at one of the local stores. When I wasn’t buying an assortment of chotchkies from the discount store next door, I used the quarters to buy a delicious slice of pizza at Jerusalem II. I guess it was also during those years that my love of pizza began.

Not much has changed since, except that the average price for a slice of pizza these days is $3. One can’t help but wonder; It’s the same dough, cheese, and sauce - but it now comes with a 200-300% increase in cost. This is an excellent example of how the value of a dollar can corrode and has less buying power for the consumer. The same can be said about eggs, milk and various other staples that are now more expensive than ever.

This week we got word that U.S. consumer confidence plunged to a 10-year low in November. The report reflects heightened concerns among Americans about hotter-than-expected inflation and the rising price of everyday goods. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the anticipated rise in costs.

To highlight a few examples from the report- confidence in buying a vehicle fell to its lowest level since 1978, as auto prices are up 20-30% annually. Confidence in buying a home declined to its lowest level since 1982, and major household purchases fell to the lowest level since 1980. The survey showed that one in four consumers had reduced their living standards due to higher prices, and more than half of families expect to see their real income reduced in the years ahead when adjusted for inflation.

While you can no longer purchase a slice of pizza for a buck, you do still have the opportunity to maximize your dollar today. Decisions you make now regarding how you obtain real estate, and the mortgage financing terms you receive will have a significant impact in years to come. The value of a dollar is changing before our very eyes; what are you doing to capitalize on it?!

Shout out and happy birthday to Rabbi Dr. Yosef Glassman, Lauren Green, Rabbi Mendy Kaminker, Yonatan Klayman, Jenny Russell Rosenfeld, Chaya Segelman, Revital Sholomon, Jacob Spadaro, Michelle Vernuccio, David Wagner and Aaron Zoldan.

Shmuel Shayowitz (N.M.L.S. #19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well as specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct F.H.A. specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at [email protected]

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