Sometime Supersizers, Enemies Abroad, Etc.

Critics of fast-food chains view their “supersizing” options as a major menace to public health. But if consumers are to be believed, few of them—even those who weigh too much—often supersize their orders. That was one of the topics addressed in a survey by Thomson Medstat, which used body-mass data to classify the respondents as morbidly obese, obese, overweight, normal weight or underweight. Overall, 4 percent of respondents said they supersize all the time, with 22 percent saying they do so sometimes and 74 percent saying they never do. Among people who are morbidly obese, 61 percent said they never supersize. The same goes for 72 percent of the obese and 72 percent of the overweight. Snacking makes its own contribution to the U.S. weight problem. Here again, though, it’s not that folks are binging nonstop. Just 14 percent of morbidly obese respondents reported snacking three or more times per day, as did 8 percent of the obese and 7 percent of the overweight. (So, for that matter, did 5 percent of those classified as underweight.) The report concludes that it’s “hard to blame any one factor alone for America’s obesity epidemic.” The problem, rather, is that our “occasional indulgence in a number of risky behaviors” takes a cumulative toll.

From the decrepit-boomer perspective, Gen Xers (age 27-40) and Gen Yers (18-26) may seem like an undifferentiated mass of comparative youthfulness. But the two cohorts differ noticeably in their media habits. That’s one of the tidbits to be gleaned from an extensive Forrester Research study on use of new and old media in the U.S. and Canada. Though all age groups spend plenty of time online, the rise of social-computing activities has put Gen Yers in a class by themselves. As you can see from the chart at lower left, Gen Yers spend a bit less time than Gen Xers watching TV programming or listening to the radio. But the extra time Gen Yers devote to watching movies on DVD/video or playing video games means they spend about four more hours per week with media than Gen Xers do. When newspapers and magazines are included in the mix (though neither claims much time among these age groups), Gen Yers spend 43.2 hours per week with media, while Gen Xers spend 39.1 hours.

A trip to the nail salon used to be a luxury, but women now have enough spare cash rattling around in their purses to make it a mainstream indulgence—accounting for $6.3 billion in revenues last year. That has brought growth in the number of nail salons, which in turn has caused “fierce competition and price cuts among salons,” according to a report by Mintel. The result is that sales of nail-color and -care products at food, drug and mass-merchandise stores fell by more than $20 million between 2003 and 2005. Compounding the problem is a trend toward natural-looking nails. “Women have been following the fashion movement away from bold statements that colored nail polish and accessories provide.” These days, “roughly one in 10 women of all ages report keeping fingers and toes polished all the time.”

It must sound tempting: no employees to hire and fire, let alone a boss to worry about. But a new survey suggests that one-person businesses—which constitute three-fourths of all small businesses—have headaches all their own. Sole proprietors were surveyed recently by Visa USA and Score, a nonprofit association that calls itself “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” For 35 percent of respondents, their main problem in maintaining and growing their business is “an inability to focus on generating new business.” For 27 percent, the main problem is “stretching themselves across multiple roles and projects.” Fifty-two percent said that “with the help of an additional employee, generating new business would become a focal point and personal priority.” So, what’s keeping them from hiring someone? Two-thirds said it’s just not in their budget.

When you think about Shakespeare (as, no doubt, you often do), the phrase “office supplies” may not leap to your mind. But an ad (shown above right) for the Kids in Need Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the School, Home & Office Products Association, has a point in suggesting the old boy couldn’t have penned his plays without a pen. Of course, the ad will cut no ice with those readers who insist that someone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to the Bard. But even then, the non-Shakespeare behind the “Shakespeare” brand would have needed a pen, so such quibbles would be a little ado about not very much. New York-based agency Needleman Drossman & Partners created the ad, which promotes the foundation’s program to distribute free school supplies to kids in impoverished communities.

With recreational anti-Americanism threatening to replace hockey as Canadians’ favorite sport in recent years, people in the U.S. had begun to look askance at the Great White North. In annual Harris Polls asking Americans to rate countries as friend or foe, Canada’s “close ally” vote sank to 48 percent last year. (It stood at 73 percent as recently as 2001.) Perhaps because of a regime change in Canada this year, the country’s “close ally vote” has rebounded smartly, to 64 percent. Another 27 percent view Canada as “friendly but not a close ally,” with 7 percent calling it “not friendly but not an enemy” and 1 percent saying it’s an outright “enemy.” Only Britain scored better, with 74 percent calling it a close ally. Elsewhere in the poll, small numbers of Americans consigned some seemingly harmless countries to enemy status. For instance, 3 percent declared Norway to be an enemy. (Watch out, Oslo!) Four percent said the same of Greece and 6 percent said it of India. France remains in the maison du chien: Though just 9 percent classified it as an out-and-out enemy, an additional 35 percent put it in the “not friendly but not an enemy” category.