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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Valley Talk

VALLEYTALK/24 inches/LK1st/mike2nd Making a List Wondering what’s on the minds of holiday shoppers as they part with their money? Macerich Co., a real estate investment trust and owner of shopping malls including the Panorama Mall, has been conducting surveys at its malls since early November, hoping to get inside the heads of Christmas shoppers. According to the survey results, the average holiday shopper has budgeted $781.41 for gift-giving this year, and plans to spend that amount for presents for an average of 12 people. If the survey is any indication, retailers won’t have much of an increase to crow about this season. Of the shoppers surveyed, 57.2 percent said they plan to spend the same amount of money on gift-buying as they did last year. Another 27.2 percent said they plan to spend more and 15.5 percent said they plan to spend less. Maybe that’s because shoppers will be too busy pondering the big questions of the season, like the names of Santa’s reindeer. It seems that among the things Macerich asked shoppers was whether they could name the creatures that pull Santa’s sleigh. It turns out most of them could except for one that is. Shoppers surveyed had the hardest time remembering “Cupid.” Big Tree Scandal Next time that cute neighbor kid comes by selling raffle tickets, think twice. Raffles are illegal. Just ask the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. The group was knee-deep in an event to raise about $30,000 with $20,000 going to buy the raffle’s grand prize, a Volkswagen Beetle, and $10,000 going toward tree-planting in the community. Then the police crackdown came, with the LAPD forcing the homeowners to return the $20,000 collected. “Technically, the only legal raffle is the California State Lottery,” said Det. Kurt Joachimstaler, a field evaluator at LAPD’s organized crime and vice division, the office that monitors raffle bandits. Actually, the office has never arrested anyone for selling raffle tickets, but it has issued warnings to many organizations, including the Catholic Church. “I’m like the scrooge of the LAPD,” said Joachimstaler, who is no longer on raffle detail. “I’ve even had to shut down operations in our department.” The Sherman Oaks group was exposed when a tipster mailed a copy of the association’s solicitation letter along with the raffle coupons to the LAPD. When he got the call, Jules Feir, a member of the association’s board of directors, who was overseeing the raffle effort, tried a little name-dropping. He told the detective that he had already sold a raffle ticket to Assemblyman Robert Herzberg, but to no avail. “It was a pain in the neck,” said Feir. “We had a big expense of paying for printing the tickets and mailing all the letters, and we had to refund all the money.” Holiday Scratchers A new California Lottery ticket is striking a familiar chord in Los Angeles. The Holiday Scratcher, called “Christmas Traffic Jam,” is the first state officials have issued with original artwork. It was designed by Jane Wooster Scott, an American folk art painter who lives in Studio City. The ticket depicts a winter holiday scene from a turn-of-the-century American town. It features horse-drawn carriages, Christmas trees and children playing in the snow. “I was thinking of L.A. traffic jams come to mind,” said Scott, who also has a home in Sun Valley, Idaho. “When I’m at home in California, I’m overwhelmed with the traffic.” Scott said she combined images of both her Idaho and Studio City homes in the postcard-like design. Her design is on more than 4.8 million Holiday Greeting Scratchers, which sell for $3 each. The California Lottery picked up the idea after Idaho put Scott’s artwork on its lottery tickets last year, she said. Her work has also appeared on lottery tickets in Rhode Island and Virginia, and Scott said Minnesota and Illinois are also considering her designs. Scott said she is surprised by the amount of fan mail and reaction she gets. “It’s overwhelming how many people it reaches,” she said. “It’s lovely to have that outlet and reach people in many stages of life.” ZZZZBest.com? The trend of Internet-related companies filing for initial public offerings before posting any earnings has rankled many a Wall Street veteran. But it also annoys a more unlikely market observer: Barry Minkow. Minkow was the whiz kid behind the ZZZZ Best carpet-cleaning company, a business he started in his parents’ Reseda garage at 16 and later took public. The company became a pyramid scheme that used fake financial documents, phony credit-card charges and other financial tomfoolery to lure investors crimes for which Minkow spent more than four years in prison. Minkow, now a church pastor and radio talk show host in San Diego, said that if ZZZZ Best had been able to do in the ’80s what Internet companies are doing now, he wouldn’t have committed such crimes. “If I thought I could take a company public without earnings, I wouldn’t have needed to lie,” said Minkow, 32. “They’ve taken the reason to lie away from the CEO who wants to take his company public. Now you don’t need earnings, you just need a good story.” Free Ride at the Getty It seems people will do almost anything to get into the Getty Museum. Since it opened a year ago, classes from all over Southern California have visited the complex during the two-hour window allotted for schoolchildren every morning Tuesdays through Thursdays. Demand was so high that more than 80,000 signups for class visits were received on the first day reservations were taken in September. As a result of the special program, parents are taking a sudden interest in their children’s field trips, according to Getty Trust President and Chief Executive Barry Munitz. “We have broken all records for the ratio of volunteer parents on school field trips,” Munitz told members of Town Hall Los Angeles last week. “A 30-student class may have one or two parents accompanying them to the zoo, but they have 60 parents accompanying them to the Getty. This is the way that grownups have discovered they can get here when the museum is closed to everybody else.”

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