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The Biz Roundup December 30

And the first one voted off the island is . . . eToys!

On Monday, the Parent Company, an Internet retailer of children’s products, had the dubious distinction of apparently becoming the first well-known retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after Christmas. The company, whose majority owner is the hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Company, made the filing along with nine of its subsidiaries, including eToys. Many analysts did not expect bankruptcy filings to begin until January or February.

(“Parent of eToys Files for Bankruptcy,” New York Times, December 30) Unlike The Christmas Carol, this year the happy Christmas scene is followed by the graveyard scene. The expected retailer shakeout (actually, it’s going to be at least an 8.0 on the Richter Scale of shakeouts) has begun with Parent Company, the owners of online retailers such as eToys, being the first to hit the ground.

The last (rare) vestige of the 1950′s employment dream is going the way of the Edsel.

The deepening recession is prompting layoffs at long-established employers that avoided job cuts in previous downturns. These layoffs demonstrate both the severity of the current recession and the continued erosion of workplace norms that once shielded many U.S. workers from permanent job loss.

(“No lay-off policies crumble in this climate,” Wall Street Journal, December 30) It was the keystone of the American employment dream; say goodbye, but don’t be too long about it. Years ago when I was young and dumb, I read Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and, in the intense seriousness only inexperience can muster, I thought it a profound indictment of the soulessness and anomie of of America’s job-and-suburbia culture. Now that I’m older and wiser and freshly bored by the recently-released motionless picture version of the novel, I’m thinking instead, “Boy, remember when modestly talented, self-indulgent boozers like Richard Yates had the security to bitch about having a good stable job that paid all the bills, the mortgage, and the Johnny-Walker-of-the-month club fees? Don’t you miss those good old days of anomie and soulessness salted faithfully with a good-as-guaranteed biweekly paycheck?” You know we’re in a bad way when folks are leaving cinemas showing Revolutionary Road with tears of nostalgia dewing their eyelashes.

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