Posts in category Business and finance


ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Japanese banks grapple with ultra-low interest rates

BANKS the world over are wrestling with low interest rates. Nowhere have they grappled for longer than in Japan. Although the Bank of Japan (BoJ) introduced negative rates only in January, almost 20 months after the European Central Bank, its rates have been ultra-low for years: they first hit zero in 1999. In its long battle against deflation, it pioneered “quantitative easing”—buying vast amounts of government bonds—which depresses longer-term rates and thus banks’ lending margins. Since September the BoJ has also aimed to keep the ten-year bond yield at around nought, while holding its deposit rate at -0.1%.

Banks have had some relief lately: since Donald Trump’s election in November, the yield curve has steepened slightly—and share prices have leapt—as American interest rates have risen and the yen has tumbled. But on December 20th the BoJ kept policy on hold.

For Japan’s biggest lenders, negative rates are “an irritant, not a catastrophe”, says Brian Waterhouse of CLSA, a broker. Every tenth of a percentage point below zero, he estimates, shaves 5% from the earnings of the three “megabanks”: Mitsubishi UFJ…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Thomas Schelling, economist and nuclear strategist, died on December 13th, aged 95

WITHIN half an hour of waking up on October 10th 2005, Thomas Schelling received four phone calls. The first was from the secretary of the Nobel Committee, with news that he and Robert Aumann had jointly won that year’s prize for economics. During the fourth call, when asked how winning felt, he answered: “Well, it feels busy.” He was nothing if not truthful. He also confessed to feeling confused about which bit of his work had won the prize.

It might have been his work on addiction—flicked off like ash from his own struggles with smoking. Economists must understand, he wrote, the man who swears “never again to risk orphaning his children with lung cancer”, yet is scouring the streets three hours later for an open shop selling cigarettes. Mr Schelling’s work laid (largely unacknowledged) foundations for future behavioural economists. In his thinking, addicts have two selves, one keen for healthy lungs and another craving a smoke. Self-control strategies involve drawing battle lines between them.

The prize could also have been for his work on segregation, showing how mild individual preferences could lead to extreme group…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Indian business prepares to tap into Aadhaar, a state-owned fingerprint-identification system

THERE are two ways to sign up to Jio, a new and irresistibly priced mobile-telephony service which Mukesh Ambani, the boss of Reliance Industries, a conglomerate, launched in September 2016 and which is luring tens of millions of new customers each month. One way requires a wad of documents, multiple signatures and plenty of patience, since Jio takes days or weeks to go through “know-your-customer” procedures. The second way is magically simple: the person rests a finger on an inch-wide scanner, and if the print matches the identity the customer is claiming, Jio downloads the information it needs from the Indian authorities and activates the phone line within minutes.

Jio is tapping a database called Aadhaar, after the Hindi word for “foundation”. It is a cloud-based ID system that holds the details of over a billion Indians. The government’s purpose in setting it up in 2009 was to help the state correctly direct welfare payments to those entitled to them. By early 2017 all Indian adults should have provided their fingerprints, iris scans, name, birth date, address and gender in return for a single, crucial, 12-digit number.

In the public…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

What not to expect in 2017

IF 2016 was a year of shocks, what will the next 12 months bring? It is time for the annual tradition (dating all the way back to 2015) when this column tries to predict the surprises of the coming year.

By definition, a surprise is something the consensus does not expect. A regular survey of global fund managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) points to what most people believe. Following the election of Donald Trump, investors are expecting above-trend economic growth, higher inflation and stronger profits. They have invested heavily in equities and have a much lower-than-normal exposure to bonds.

So it is not too difficult to see how the first surprise might play out. Expectations for the effectiveness of Mr Trump’s fiscal policies are extraordinarily high. But it takes time for such policies to be implemented, and they may be diluted by Congress along the way (especially on public spending). Indeed, it may well be that demography and sluggish productivity make it very hard to push economic growth up to the 3-4% hoped for by the new administration. Neither fiscal nor monetary stimulus has done much to lift Japan out of its torpor,…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

The best cities for some last-minute Christmas shopping

CHRISTMAS in New York is a time when, in the words of Meyer Berger, the city tries “to match the gems from her endless treasure chest against the winking and sparking brilliants in Heaven’s vault”. Only grinches fail to succumb to the seasonal spirit when the snow is falling in Manhattan, the steam is rising from the pavements and the lights twinkle. For many, though, Christmas means one thing: the chance to shop. New York may be magical, but is it the best place to stock up on gifts? Gulliver decided to compare the Big Apple with other shopping draws around the world. 

To be a good place to shop, a city first needs a wide selection of things to buy. We used a ranking by CB Richard Ellis, a real-estate firm, to assess the penetration of global retailers in cities around the world. Second, it must not break the bank. So we applied cost-of-living data from The Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company, both on the average cost of a night’s stay and the price of the sort of items Christmas…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Many airlines shamelessly exploit female sexuality

EVERY December, more than 1,000 female high school students, some as young as 15, take part in a “bikini competition” held in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. The event, hosted by Oriental Beauty, a modelling agency, provides a platform for aspiring flight attendants to show off their bikini bodies to eager recruiters from the Chinese airline industry. Those deemed the most attractive are invited to join a fast-track flight attendant trainee scheme, which can open the door to a dream job at one of China’s big airlines.

Many Chinese and other Asian airlines shamelessly exploit female sexuality. At China Southern Airlines, air hostesses must be 25 or younger and must not have “X or O shaped legs”. Stewardesses at Japan Airlines need to have “good skin complexion”. Indonesia’s flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, which Skytrax declared had the world’s best cabin staff in 2016 (not a single Western airline made the shortlist), refuses to hire older, married women. VietJet Air, Vietnam’s low-cost carrier, requires that its female flight attendants be under 30…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

Dorothy meets the Mnuchins

DOROTHY was unhappy. Life on the Kansas farm seemed dull, and her pocket money hadn’t risen in real terms for years. It was time for a change; time to make Kansas great again. Then, as she was sitting in the farmhouse with her dog Toto, a tornado came along, sweeping them up and taking her away, far from reality.

With a bump, the farmhouse landed on a woman. As Dorothy emerged, she saw a crowd of cheering little people.“You have killed the wicked witch of the east wing” they shouted. “We could not abide her charitable foundation or lax e-mail security procedure. But you have saved us.”

“Who are you?” asked Dorothy.

“We are the Mnuchins” they proclaimed “and we raise all the finance for the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, who lives in a giant tower with his name on the side.”

“What’s it called?” asked Dorothy.

“Ozterity” came the reply.

“Can the Wizard of Oz restore prosperity to my Kansas farm?” she asked.

“Of course” they cried.

“Can the Wizard help me and my dog Toto?” she asked.

“It depends. Is Toto a Hispanic name?” said one Mnuchin. “And…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Behind the bid for Sky is a less powerful Murdoch empire

IT WOULD seem to be a stunning comeback for Rupert Murdoch and his clan. Five years ago News Corporation was engulfed by scandal. One of its British papers, the News of the World, had routinely hacked private phones. In the aftermath the company gave up a bid it had made for BSkyB (now simply called Sky), a satellite broadcaster in which it had a stake. A parliamentary report declared Mr Murdoch unfit to lead a large company. James Murdoch, his son, resigned as chair of BSkyB and chief of the newspaper division. Ofcom, Britain’s media regulator, eviscerated his leadership as “difficult to comprehend and ill-judged”.

Now the Murdoch empire appears to be striking back. On December 9th, 21st Century Fox, the Murdochs’ entertainment business, said it had reached a preliminary deal to pay £11.2bn ($14.1bn) for the 61% of Sky it does not already own. James Murdoch is ascending once more: indeed, this deal is chiefly his doing. Last year he succeeded his father as boss of 21st Century Fox, and in January he reclaimed his Sky chairmanship. But the show of strength comes with new weaknesses.

Much has…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

France’s corporate raider, Vincent Bolloré, makes a bid for Italy’s biggest broadcaster

NO BOSS in French business can match Vincent Bolloré for swagger and aggression. Variously described by the press in France as a stubborn Breton, a ruthless profiteer and a smiling killer, the 64-year-old corporate raider has acquired interests in media, transport, advertising, telecoms and more, scattered across Europe and Africa. Opinion at home is divided between those who say his methods are too brutal and others who welcome his effect on an often dozy business world.

This week it was the turn of Italian newspapers to rant against the French “pirate” and “mercenary”. On December 13th the news came that France’s Vivendi, a media firm in which Mr Bolloré’s company, Bolloré Group, owns 20% (he effectively controls it) was racing to buy up shares in Mediaset, Italy’s biggest TV-broadcaster. Things moved swiftly. By the next day Vivendi had a 20% stake in Mediaset, up from 3% two days earlier. The Italian firm claims a hostile takeover attempt—the smiling killer’s speciality—is under way.

Mr Bolloré has long aimed at winning a share of Mediaset. Earlier this year, Vivendi had agreed a plan with Mediaset in which…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Alphabet’s Google is searching for its next hit

Deflated hopes

“JUDGE a man by his questions, rather than his answers,” Voltaire advised. Google has become one of the most successful firms in history by heeding that advice. It evaluates the intention of web-surfers’ queries and returns relevant advertising alongside search results. But for years there has been a lingering question about Google: can it create a new, highly profitable unit to rival its search business?

Not yet. In the past five years, Alphabet, formed as a holding company for Google and other disparate projects in October 2015, has spent $46bn on research and development (see chart). Much has gone to so-called “moonshot” projects, such as self-driving cars, smart contact lenses and internet delivered via balloons. Its British artificial-intelligence unit, DeepMind, also falls into the category of other projects. Since the start of 2015, these bets have together recorded a loss of $6bn.

Continue reading
Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Do fiscal rules work in emerging markets?

FROM its headquarters in Brasília, a sterile, technocratic city, Brazil’s federal government doles out money for health, education, generous pensions and artistic awards, among other things. Over the past two decades, this spending has grown by more than 185% in real terms. Over the next 20 years, its growth will be zero.

That, at least, is the intention of a constitutional amendment passed this week by Brazil’s Senate. The measure, which allows federal spending (excluding interest payments and transfers to states and municipalities) to grow no faster than inflation, is an unusually ambitious example of a fiscal rule: a quantitative limit on budget-making, which lasts beyond a single year and perhaps beyond a single government.

The best known, and least loved, fiscal rule is the euro area’s stability and growth pact. But such rules are also now common among emerging economies. According to the IMF’s latest count, 56 developing countries in 2014 had rules of some kind, including 15, like Brazil, that impose limits on the growth of public spending.

The reasons so many emerging-market governments choose to limit their fiscal…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

European insurers and the curse of low interest rates

INSURANCE is banking’s boring cousin: it lacks the glamour, the sky-high bonuses and the ever-present whiff of danger. So European stress tests for insurers, whose results were due to be published on December 15th after The Economist went to press, have attracted far less attention than those for banks in July. Yet insurance also faces a grave threat, from prolonged low interest rates.

Insurers invest overwhelmingly in bonds, so low interest rates make their lives difficult. The last time the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) conducted an insurance stress test, in 2014, a quarter of participants scored poorly: they would not have met their capital requirements in the test’s long low-interest-rate scenario. The proportion jumped to 44% in an alternative scenario involving an asset-price shock. The new results are unlikely to be better. Each year of low interest rates worsens the problem. Higher-yielding bonds mature and insurers end up with ever more newer ones with low, or even negative, interest rates.

Insurers are focused on the problem. One strategy is to outsource more to external…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

In Germany mature workers are answering to young supervisors

Who’s the daddy?

“IF THEY resented me they didn’t talk to me about it,” says a young German manager at a media firm in Frankfurt. Still, he says it was noticeable that when a subordinate 20 years older than him thanked him for buying lunch he had to swallow twice before adding the word “boss”.

Older workers sometimes begrudge being managed by a callow colleague. Precocious youngsters, too, can feel awkward about bossing their elders around. But in Germany a shortage of skilled workers means that such situations are becoming ever more common.

The country’s population is projected to shrink. Among rich-world countries, only in six nations including Japan and Greece are populations expected to decrease faster. As more Germans retire, fewer youngsters are entering the workforce to replace them. As a share of the working population the number of 15-to-24-year-olds has fallen by ten percentage points since the 1980s, says the German Federal Employment Agency. Firms competing to retain young talent are tempted to promote them earlier as a result. A paper by professors at the University of Cambridge and WHU, a…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

What DeepMind brings to Alphabet

DEEPMIND’S office is tucked away in a nondescript building next to London’s Kings Cross train station. From the outside, it doesn’t look like something that two of the world’s most powerful technology companies, Facebook and Google, would have fought to acquire. Google won, buying DeepMind for £400m ($660m) in January 2014. But why did it want to own a British artificial-intelligence (AI) company in the first place? Google was already on the cutting edge of machine learning and AI, its newly trendy cousin. What value could DeepMind provide?

That question has become a little more pressing. Before October 2015 Google’s gigantic advertising revenues had cast a comfortable shade in which ambitious, zero-revenue projects like DeepMind could shelter. Then Google conjured up a corporate superstructure called Alphabet, slotting itself in as the only profitable firm. For the first time, other businesses had their combined revenues broken out from Google’s on the balance-sheet, placing them under more scrutiny (see Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

The management style of Amancio Ortega

IT IS a short walk from a tiny shop with peeling yellow paint in downtown La Coruña, in northern Spain, to a dazzling five-storey store, opened in September by Zara, by far the world’s most successful purveyor of “fast fashion”. In this stroll across three city blocks, the career of Amancio Ortega unfolds: from teenaged apprentice in the corner shop, Gala, a men’s clothing business, to Europe’s richest entrepreneur, the majority owner of one of its best-performing firms.

According to one employee of Zara who works with him, “the true story of Amancio Ortega has not been told.” Mr Ortega, the son of an itinerant railway worker, who started at the corner shop aged 13, had a basic upbringing: an ex-colleague says he talks of meals of “only potatoes”. He has lived mainly in Galicia, a relatively poor region with no history in textiles. Yet there, in 1975, he founded Zara—a manufacturer-cum-retailer that, along with its sister brands, has over 7,000 shops globally.  

Mr Ortega (pictured) is now 80 but he remains energetic and involved in the business (if uninterested in wearing trendy clothes). He owns nearly 60% of…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

A cheaper currency does not always boost economic growth

IN SEPTEMBER 2010 Brazil’s then-finance minister, Guido Mantega, gave warning that an “international currency war” had broken out. His beef was that in places where it was difficult to drum up domestic spending, the authorities had instead sought to weaken their currencies to make their exports cheaper and imports dearer. The dollar had recently fallen, for instance, because the Federal Reserve was expected to begin a second round of quantitative easing. The losers in this battle were those emerging markets, like Brazil, whose currencies had soared. Its currency, the real, was then trading at around 1.7 to the dollar.

These days a dollar buys 3.4 reais, but no one in Brazil or in other emerging markets with devalued currencies is declaring a belated victory. A cheap currency has not proved to be much of a boon. Indeed new research from Jonathan Kearns and Nikhil Patel, of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), a forum for central banks, finds that at times a rising currency can be a stimulant and a falling currency a depressant. They looked at a sample of 44 economies, half of them emerging markets, to gauge the effect of changes in the exchange rate on exports and imports (the trade channel) and also on the price and availability of credit (the financial channel).

They found a negative relationship between changes in GDP and currency shifts…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Management theory is becoming a compendium of dead ideas

NEXT year marks the 500th anniversary of the event which, more than any other, gave birth to the modern world: Martin Luther promulgated his 95 theses and called the Catholic church to account for its numerous theological errors and institutional sins. Revisionist historians have inevitably complicated the story (including questioning whether he did actually nail his proposals to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg) but the narrative remains clear. The church was ripe for change. It was sunk in corruption and divorced from the wider life of society. And by unleashing that change, Luther brought the Christian faith, including Roman Catholicism itself, a new lease of life.

The similarities between medieval Christianity and the world of management theory may not be obvious, but seek and ye shall find. Management theorists sanctify capitalism in much the same way that clergymen of yore sanctified feudalism. Business schools are the cathedrals of capitalism. Consultants are its travelling friars. Just as the clergy in the Middle Ages spoke in Latin to give their words an air of authority, management theorists speak in mumbo-jumbo. The medieval…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

An early salvo in a trade war between America and China?

ANNIVERSARIES should be happier than that on December 11th, marking China’s 15 years as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). On that day, China expected to be unshackled from its legal label as a “non-market economy” and attain “market-economy status”. In the event, America and the European Union refused to give it the nod. On December 12th the Chinese reacted: see you in court.

The fight will focus on the wording in the original accession agreement. The Americans and the Chinese are both confident of winning. Legal experts are divided. The WTO does not provide a clear definition of a “market economy”. And clumsy legal drafting does not help.   

The meat of the row is over the method WTO members use to protect their industries against cheap Chinese imports. Alleging that Chinese companies enjoy subsidised credit, energy and raw materials, America and the EU slap anti-dumping duties on 7% (see chart) and 5% respectively of their Chinese imports. The agreement welcoming China into the WTO explicitly gave other members licence to treat it as a non-market economy until December 11th 2016….Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Republican plans to cut corporate taxes may have unpleasant side-effects

SINCE Donald Trump won America’s presidential election investors have salivated over the prospect of lower taxes. Mr Trump has promised to cut corporation tax, a levy on firms’ profits, from 35% to 15%. Republicans remain in charge of both houses of Congress; Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, wants to cut the levy to 20%. The coming reforms, though, are about more than just lower rates. Republicans want to overhaul business taxes completely. Unfortunately, this task is far from straightforward.

America’s corporate-tax rate, which reaches 39.6% once state and local levies are included, is the highest in the rich world. But a panoply of deductions and credits keeps firms’ bills down. These include huge distortions, such as a deduction for debt-interest payments, as well as smaller scratchings of pork like special treatment for NASCAR racetracks. After all the deductions are doled out, corporate-tax revenues are roughly in line with the average in the rest of the G7, according to economists at Goldman Sachs.

Still, a high tax rate and a narrow tax base is a glaringly inefficient combination. Politicians of all…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeFree exchange

The Fed finally manages to lift rates in 2016

TODAY, finance and economics journalist gathered for a long-awaited Federal Reserve announcement: that the Fed’s benchmark interest rate would rise once more, by 25 basis points, to a range between 0.5% and 0.75%. If the scene looked familiar, well, no surprise there. It was December a year ago that the Federal Reserve announced another increase in its benchmark interest rate, of 25 basis points—the first in nearly a decade. It was also December a year ago that Fed projections suggested that rates would soar upward in 2016, to close to 1.5% by year’s end. The Fed has repeated that tradition as well; the projections published today repeat last year’s heroic call, of a rate near 1.5% one year hence.

Whether the third act of the holiday tradition—an inevitably disappointing performance of inflation and wage growth, which forces the Fed to abandon all but one of its expected rate hikes—will also be repeated remains to be seen. In some…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Food packaging is not the enemy of the environment that it is assumed to be

ROUGHLY a third of food produced—1.3bn tonnes of the stuff—never makes it from farm to fork, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. In the poor world much of this waste occurs before consumers even set eyes on items. Pests feast on badly stored produce; rough roads mean vittles rot on slow journeys to market. In the rich world, waste takes a different form—items that never get picked off supermarket shelves, food that is bought but then goes out of date.

Such prodigious waste exacts multiple costs, from hunger to misspent cash. Few producers and processors record accurately what they throw away, and supermarkets resist sharing such information. But some estimates exist: retailers are reckoned to mark down or throw out about 2-4% of meat, for example. Even a tiny reduction in that amount can mean millions of dollars in savings for large chains.

Waste also damages the environment. The amounts of water, fertiliser, fuel and other resources used to produce never-consumed food are vast. The emissions generated during the process of making wasted food exceeds those of Brazil in total. Squandering meat is particularly…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

An airline apologises after threatening to sack a pilot who was too tired to fly

A POST on this blog from earlier this month talked about how airlines are sweeping the issue of pilot fatigue under the carpet. The London School of Economics had surveyed some 7,000 European captains and first officers—around 14% of all commercial pilots in the region—on various issues. Although most said that airline managers take safety seriously, they have a blindspot when it comes to tiredness. Close to 60% of pilots said that they and their colleagues were often fatigued and half said that their employers do not pay enough heed to the issue.

Right on cue, Thomas Cook Airlines, a British carrier, has been forced to apologise to a pilot who refused to take to the air because he was too knackered to fly. Captain Mike Simkins was suspended for six months and told he faced the sack after refusing to fly his Boeing 767 with over 200 passengers. According to BALPA, a pilots’ union, Mr Simkins took the difficult decision not to take off “after three extremely early starts…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

Dow 20,000?

SOME time soon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average seems likely to break through the 20,000 barrier, an event that will be greeted with banner headlines and a sign that capitalism is flourishing again. In fact, the Dow is a flawed measure, which uses the odd approach of weighting its component companies by share price. The biggest stock in the Dow is Goldman Sachs and despite its prominence on the campaign trail (and among Donald Trump’s new team), it is hardly the most important company in America; its weight depends on its near-$240 share price. Like other financial shares, it has shot up in the wake of Mr Trump’s election; boosted both by hopes of bank deregulation and of potentially higher interest rates, which tend to boost bank profits. William Wright of New Financial estimates that Goldman staff’s wealth, in the form of options and shares, has risen by $2.3bn since the polls; not exactly a “revolt against the elite”.

The Dow is up 9% since November 7th, well ahead of the more broadly-based S&P 500’s 6.6% gain. The S&P uses a weighting by market value—its…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Qantas is to fly direct between Australia and Britain

WHEN the England cricket team travelled to play Australia in the first ever Test match in 1887, the journey down under took around 50 days by steamship. (The Aussies won, as they have mostly continued to do over the subsequent 129 years.) When the team flies out to compete in the latest installment of the Ashes next year, the journey time will be much reduced. If they fly from London to Perth on Qantas, they could conceivably do it in under 17 hours, nonstop.

The Australian flag carrier announced over the weekend that it is to launch a direct service from Western Australia to London. According to Forbes the 14,498-kilometre journey will slot in behind Air India’s Delhi to San Francisco route (15,140 kilometres) to become the second longest nonstop flight in the world—although the Qantas plane will in fact be in the air for two hours longer because the India-America route takes advantage of the jet stream.

We don’t have to look back to the 19th century to see just how far things have improved. According to Alan Joyce,…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Why do hotels still bother with receptionists?

AS A rule, when Gulliver first arrives at a hotel, he would prefer not to have to deal with another human. There are three main reasons for this. The first is that he is, by nature, cantankerous. The forced jollity of the initial exchange with a receptionist does not come easily after an exhausting trip. The second, perhaps not unrelated, is the fear that a porter might latch on to him and insist on showing him to his room. What is it about Gulliver’s demeanour that suggests he is incapable of counting room numbers sequentially, or is unable to identify which of the two chambers in his room is the toilet? (If in doubt, it is usually the smaller one.) Being pressured to tip a porter whose sole purpose seems to be to point out which of the Gulliver-length objects in the room is for sleeping in, and which he might fill with bubble bath, is always riling. Finally there is the annoyance of having to hang around at the front desk, with the heating on full blast, while the receptionist deals with a queue of other people. At that point all he really wants to do is head to his room and peel off a few of the layers that have been protecting him from the arctic conditions…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments