Times Asks Business Owners About the Recession, Finds Them Better Off Than Employees

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Talking to people whose homes are in foreclosure is a downer, so the Times today talks to people whose fortunes have been impacted by the recession in gentler ways because they own businesses, and more closely resemble their subscriber base than do the homeless. For example, the lady (pictured) who runs the Gossip Girl tours says "one thing that definitely happened over the winter and spring was our tour guides were not getting tipped." Good thing she doesn't rely on gratuities. Also, she's getting "a flood of resumes." Her response: "Raise prices by about 5 percent next year." Unemployed freelancers across America are slapping their foreheads and saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"...

A man who makes "industrial tricycles and heavy-duty bicycles" for whatever companies use them notices that "our core customers -- the G.M.'s, Fords and Chryslers -- were certainly not going to be able to support us with their normal level of business," probably because they're either bankrupt or nearly so. Nonetheless "there's been some uptick in our business activity" -- for instance, from prisons, one of America's few growth industries. 20 prisons are "now using tricycles in a trial basis to replace some of the motor vehicles that they were using." Lap it up while you can, fella -- some of your biggest potential customers are running low on cash and turning loose sex offenders to save money.

A restaurant owner in the Financial District says, "I just hired one guy... I'm hoping again, you know, that things they will get better. If they don't, I'm just going to let him go." The guy was not available for comment. A Ditmas Park contractor's business is flat; a worker quit recently, but he's not rushing to replace him. A meat market proprietor in The Bronx says "It's been a while since it was hopping. But you see signs of it coming back." Nonetheless, he says immediately afterwards, "We're just staying on kind of a skeleton crew, keeping the hours to a minimum." Some workers complain "that they're doing too many jobs" and they have to hold meetings to "remind everybody where we're at and that everybody needs to help each other out."

These people have their own problems; the restauranteur dropped his own health insurance, for example, and resorted to an acupuncturist to treat him for a bad fall; "I was in pain for about six to eight weeks." Fortunately, unlike the uninsured Ohio woman who got swine flu and couldn't afford treatment, he didn't die. So you see, as your own boss will tell you if you ask for a raise, everybody hurts. Now get back to work! Or do we have to have another meeting?

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