One thing that you soon notice as you ramble around Los Angeles is that everything is cheap. Not just that our dollar is parity with the US dollar, food, alcohol, petrol, clothes and cars are all tremendous value here.
For example, the latest Fiat is very popular here and costs about US$17,000 but in Australia is about A$42,000 which is the cost we pay for protecting our car industry, which is highly inefficient. Petrol is $1.10 a litre. Go to a restaurant, and most have bars that you can sit at and have a few cold ones and also eat your meal. Beer, imported or local is about $6 and most meals around $12 to $15 and at a good restaurant you pay about $30 for the best steak. You then need to add a tip of 20% if the service is good which most times it is. But if you don’t eat everything, they pack it up for you and when I queried this the waitress said “doesn’t everybody do that, that’s lunch for the next day.” Eighteen months ago when I was last here a waitress was explaining that she earned $8 an hour, and the other day another waitress said that the rate is still $8 but with tips she earns about $25 an hour, and she was very happy with that.
Yesterday I was at a Vons supermarket and across the board prices were cheaper than Australia. In the US most supermarkets sell alcohol and a 750ml bottle of Absolut vodka was $15 and most wine is $12 to $18. Then there is a great range of food, and I bought a pack of 2 hard boiled eggs already peeled, plus there are tins of canned pumpkin!
Clothes are cheap, and I like to buy shirts and shoes as they are extremely good value and the shop assistants just want to help and when they know you are from Australia they just want to talk. I was in an Apple store at Newport Beach buying some adapters and cracked, I do have some humour, that I had to come all the way from Australia to buy these and the salesgirl, a very attractive African American, showed me their business centre that has a view over the ocean, and she insisted that I take some photos. If you are an Apple business user you can book the room and receive one on one training..
Saying all this, my overall impression is that retail in America is suffering as many shops, including on Rodeo Drive are bereft of customers, but like Australia restaurants and bars are doing good business, and the overall opinion from Americans is that the economy is turning for the better.