Anyone notice something funny about this text?

Ramit Sethi · March 1st, 2010

Can you spot the cultural assumption in this screenshot from the SF Chronicle?

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  1. aliotsy

    “Home prices falling, but getting better”

    Assumes you’re a home owner losing value. For potential home buyers, falling prices is a benefit.

  2. Tom | Build That List

    I think I am missing it! Can’t wait to see what I didn’t work out.

  3. The assumption is that Amazon will be just fine if they have to pay sales tax, but all of the little companies will suffer.

  4. He is in a robe!

  5. Home prices getting better while sales are at an all time low looks crazy, but it sells newspapers!

  6. ‘California wants the online giant…’

    The people or the state government wants the online giant…

  7. that the public at large understand what “affiliates” are?

  8. Graham lutz

    why don’t you tell us? I’m unsubscribing

  9. Unsubscribing too. FEELs like a scam to direct traffic and clicks on the site. Super annoying. U shouldn’t post for the sake of posting – no value and a complete waste of ur readers time

  10. “California wants the online giant to pay sales tax.” Companies don’t pay sales tax, the people buying from them do.

  11. Gotta admit Ramit – kind of a wasted post. Hope theres a real jewel here that you are going to reveal =)


  12. Vikram

    The assumption is that Ramit read something that everyone sees as trivial on the page that has set him off. No doubt he’ll update the blog after a few hundred commenters have adequately scratched their heads wondering what’s going on.

    We’ll all respond with “Oooh..that’s interesting how Ramit sees things. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for me!”.

    Come on man! Give us the “Ramit Rant” already!!!


  13. Valerie M

    Are you serious? I mean this is a chance to learn something here… like trying to use critical thinking skills. You’re going to unsubscribe because someone asked you to think critically?? Suit yourself.

    I’d venture to say that it has to do with imposing sales tax. The burden is on the customer, not the small business owners. It’s possible but I doubt that demand would dip that much, if at all, considering you have to pay sales tax almost everywhere else.

    Also the “home prices falling, but getting better”: it’s like people are still clinging on to the dream of American homeownership and grasping for any straws that owning a home and living in it is actually a real investment. They’re reporting it like it’s the stock market.

  14. David H.

    ‘home prices hit record low’ implies that if you’ve been using the scrooge strategy/iwillteachyoutoberich method you should save to buy real estate as an investment. i’m sure there’s going to be some occam’s razor explanation. good luck!

  15. Kevin M

    First off, Amazon will NEVER pay sales tax, they may collect it, but the customers will pay it. To state otherwise is disingenuous.

    I’m not sure that qualifies as cultural though?

    Perhaps it’s the spiel about your “most trusted retailer” – somehow hinting that Amazon cannot in any way qualify as such?

  16. jordan

    I think the cultural difference is the Hispanic is seen as suffering. Why pick a Hispanic? If 25,000 affiliates could be effected, why select a Hispanic? Certainly a gay or lesbian could have been picked. Even an African-American, an Asian, middle eastern, anyone really, could have been picked.

    I don’t think it’s home prices, which is more economical than cultural.


  17. koolraaga

    Which group does “Nick Loper’s” belong too ?

    Why is there an African American (Am I correct?) with a “Shoe” ? Why not a Caucasian or Asian ?

    Whom does SFO / SFC Represent ?

  18. Hans Y

    The article seems to be singling out a store owned by an individual from a particular ethnic background to make its point of how a change in price will effect sales on Amazon and probably impact their smaller affiliates the most. This ties into the idea or stereotype of the “immigrant owned small business”.

  19. Online giant is refusing to “pay sales taxes”. Why would the associates suffer? Because the idea is to collect sales taxes not from people buying from California, but for the sales from associates located in California. When North Carolina (I think) passed a law like that, Amazon discontinued the associates program in that state. In other words — if Nick Loper’s primary business — selling on Amazon — he is in a pickle.

  20. From what I can tell Nick Loper’s site sells information about shoes not shoes themselves. I would guess the assumption is that the cultural assumptions is that he is in the shoes business when he is not.

  21. I like this site a lot but this does kind of have the impression of… “Wow… I haven’t posted anything on IWTYTBR for a week because I’ve been working on Earn1K. I better throw something up there…”

    As far as the cultural issue in question… I honestly have no idea.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I don’t post things because I need to. I find this interesting.

      It’s also interesting how many people are alarmed at something that’s a departure from the normal iwillteach-style posts.

  22. Raquel Mangual

    I’m sure the assumption has something to do with the person pictured, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet.

  23. JHunter

    “Home prices falling, but getting better”

    This assumes falling home prices are a bad thing. That’s what annoyed me at least about the screenshot.

    Also, I found Waldo. He’s in the second left-hand crease on top of that guy’s robe.

  24. The headline unfairly stereotypes against the taxing busts of Amazonian women.

  25. The affiliate is wearing a robe! Just chilling at home with Z E R O to do? lol

  26. Stacy McKenna Seip

    The trick with “cultural” assumptions is that most people of a culture won’t ever notice them (except the goofy anthropologist/sociologist types who seem to be able to step outside of it and observe like aliens whenever they feel like it). Every once in a while I’ll catch a cultural observation about “my culture”, but usually only after spending lots of time with other folk who aren’t part of it…

    My best guess is “House prices are falling BUT getting better” – our culture assumes high housing prices are good, which is only sometimes true. For many folk, low housing prices are good. For the sake of bubble market indicators, recent high prices were nightmarish.

  27. Brandon Adams

    I don’t think the cultural assumption is about tax incidence, but many commenters are mistaken about the fundamentals of tax incidence. There is no necessary connection between legal incidence and real incidence.

  28. Derek Epperson

    I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but two things catch my attention.

    1) The fact that Amazon affiliates are recognized as equal to Amazon as a company. The screenshot mentions how the affiliates will suffer, not Amazon.

    2) In the right side bar, we see two headlines “New home sales hit record low” and “Home prices falling, but getting better.” Does this insinuate that people aren’t buying new – but buying value with already built homes at lower prices? Or perhaps its all in the second headline – Home prices falling are good for buyers…but to say “but getting better” puts the emphasis on the home sellers and/or builders.

  29. Greg B.

    I think there are 2 related assumptions.

    1: rising house prices are always good, and
    2: homeownership is a business or money making venture (when it’s really just another way of spending your money).

  30. Leo Petr

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    The assumption is that stock markets react rationally to central bank announcements. It’s entirely possible that stock markets like having their feet shot off, that they are reacting to something else instead, or that they are acting in an entirely random manner.

  31. Andy Griesemer

    Thats pretty bold, to assume this guy’s business will suffer if amazon suffers. If I was this business owner, especially with my mug as the lead in photo, I’d be incredibly ticked off —  regardless if this guy is a success story with or with out amazon.

  32. Guy Bowring

    “Bernanke’s rate reassurances rally stocks”
    If Bernanke (someone considered by the general public to be “in charge” of the economy) reassures you that things are okay, the majority of the investing public will just lemming along and start making the market active–at least until the next “indicator” comes along to blindly follow.

  33. What do you see ramit?

  34. I’m gonna go with the Tea Party alert. Ramit specifically called it a cultural assumption and made a point to mention that it was from the San Francisco Chronicle, so there may be an assumption that the reader is left-leaning and would like to point and laugh at the Tea Party.

    The other option is the “Who’s your most trusted retailer?” link which assumes that you have such a thing.

  35. BrianS

    I think it has to do with the “Tea Party” alert. To me, this shows an assumption on the Chronicle’s part that if you’re reading the Business section, surely you are a Conservative and interested in the “Tea Party” movement.

  36. Ugh…you lost me today. Either you are promo/ marketing here or you want us to get enraged over something ..ugh… Unsubscribe me please!!

  37. Colorado Techie

    The picture has a guy holding a woman’s shoe. Perhaps the “cultural assumption” is that only women buy shoes online.

  38. David Wynn

    My money’s on nothing actually being n the picture… Ramit just felt like culling his subscriber list a bit.

  39. Patrick Lynch

    One assumption is that’s it’s actually commonplace to trust online retailers. I remember when parents/grandparents/older folks were afraid to use a credit card online. In some circles, this fear probably still lingers.

    On a related note, it’s fascinating how many cultural assumptions people are finding in one screenshot.

  40. MoneyEngineer

    I’m going with the “Tea Party Alert”. I don’t see how bankers returning to the GOP have anything to do with Tea Party activism.

  41. The assumption is that higher home prices are “better”. Says they’re falling “but getting better”. Why is high home prices (overpriced?) better?

  42. Shannon

    My eyes went straight to the question “Who’s your most trusted retailer?” Do we really trust retailers? Giving unwarranted, unearned, unrealistic trust to retailers to “give” us happiness in some form or another is probably what has lead many of us into debt. I know that was my story. There is no “most trusted” retailer in my own book… Lesson Learned

  43. Taxing amazon boon or bust? …should’nt be an issue if its users already list their purchase amounts when filing for taxes.

  44. Steven M

    Home prices/Real Estate is given a prominent place on a business page. Beyond a possible indicator of the general health of the economy, its a cultural assumption to suggest business and technology leaders care about the daily changes in non-commercial real estate.

    Posting this is messing with our assumptions of your blog, Ramit.

  45. Saying this in the least hostile way possible- it’s frustrating not to have the point of this post by now. If there’s no definitive answer by the time I leave work, I’m unsub. One fewer subscriber, for whatever that’s worth.

  46. Mark Allen

    And if you DO post an answer before I leave work, I’m unsubscribing. So who’s it going to be, me or this MS person?

    Jeez, take a chill pill people.

  47. Justin

    It’s gotta be the home thing.

    Home prices are falling but getting better, then RIGHT above it says new home sales are at a record low.

    Whatever it is Ramit, looks like you’ve found a unique way to strike a bunch of nerves with a simple question on your blog.

  48. dustin

    what is it!?!?! I’m missing something

  49. Jermaine Holmes

    You’re quitting because of one post? Geez!!! Anyhow, I think it’s about the home ownership thing like Greg B. said. And the fact that they think Californians wear robes and stuff.

  50. I know whats funny about this text. Below it are 50 comments about how we cant figure out whats funny about this text. Is that funny? Did I win?

  51. Do you guys really think Ramit cares at this point if people unsubscribe from his blog? I think he’s beyond “oh noes 5 ppl unsubscribe’d!!” (Which is totally what he wrote like once upon a time.)

    I would think low home prices would be a good thing in SF … Ramit has mentioned several times that it doesn’t make sense to buy there instead of rent, due to the cost.

  52. We are talking about the guy who refuses money on the reg and just gave someone back $1500 because they weren’t nice to his earn1k staff possibly being angry that someone unsubscribed to his free blog. That’s what’s funny with the text (in the comments section)

    • Ramit Sethi

      Haha, I know. I love these whiners. ‘Ohh no, not losing a reader who unsubscribes because they don’t like ONE post?!?! Noooooooooooooo’

      This blog isn’t for everyone. If this post somehow offended you (??), I think it’s great that you’re leaving. There are better sites out there for you.

  53. I think it does have something to do with robe.

    It assumes for the reader that people who own Amazon affiliate stores are just slackers who make their money solely in this venture (ie: sitting at home, watching ‘Price is Right’, while monitoring their Amazon sales.) Truth of the matter is that many brick and mortar stores subsidize that business model with a simultaneous online model using Amazon and eBay. And further more, many people working the standard 9-5 are doing the same thing. Good one Ramit.

    And damn, people need to chill…

  54. If you do not write about monkeys in 24 hours I am unsubscribing and taking my money elsewhere.

    You have been warned.

  55. Again, I’m not angry or in any way upset (you can be frustrated without being upset) with the post. I have a smile on my face right now and I’m not trying to be a jerk, which seems to be the impression I gave. I’m just saying, I just got here (it was a google suggestion to check you out) and this is one of the few posts I’ve read so far. And it’s kinda worthless. Don’t get all angry, homers, but it IS kinda worthless. Either he’s not going to tell us and leave it to speculation, or he is going to tell us and as you can see from the comments here, it just wasn’t that obvious. Everyone here seems to have a lot of respect for this guy and I’m not knocking that but did it occur to everyone else that maybe the easteregg we’re looking for is much more telling of Ramit’s views than the culture’s? And Ramit, I’m sure you don’t care about losing some whiners like myself. But if you were really a bright guy you’d know that for every one of us that takes the time to express dissatisfaction, 5 just unsub and never look back. So let me ask you this, is the threat of unsub what makes it look like i have this huge problem? Maybe I just don’t see unsub as that big of a deal, or even a “threat.” How would one go about expressing dissatisfaction without offending the “chill out people!” crew? I guess, just not express dissatisfaction? I meant my first message as much more of an FYI thing.

  56. Actually, it’s the posts like these that seem ever so innocuous that makes us think outside our normal perceptions and analyze something we’d otherwise not register.

    For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out either.

    I’d like to know if the ‘state affiliates’ are in-state or out-of-state retailers. As I understand it, if you’re an out-of-state retailer, you cannot charge sales tax over state lines, only within the state(s) you have a physical business presence in. (I’m pretty sure this line of thinking is in no way related to the cultural assumption.)

  57. Nathan

    Maybe we should call whine-one-one, and get these peeps a waambulance…

    haha… yea, I said it.

  58. Damilola

    The assumption that the GOP is mostly made up of people who care about money i.e. Wall Streeters and Bankers?

  59. I haven’t read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat:

    1) Taxing Amazon is necessarily good (boon) or bad (bust). Also, boon/bust in whose opinion?

    2) “California wants” should be “some representatives elected by the citizens of California want.”

    3) “Home prices falling, but getting better” – “better” according to whom? Surely those falling prices are bad for some people (and/or lenders, bank stockholders, failed bank employees, etc.)

    4) “Wall St., bankers return to GOP” – as if they ever left. They just invested slightly more in Goldman Sachs Presents President Barack Obama than they invested in Goldman Sachs Presents Senator John McCain. Both parties are beholden to Wall St. to about the same extent.

    (Disqualified: “the customers really pay the tax” – sorry, the check written to the Treasury of California is drawn on Amazon’s accounts and signed by Amazon employees, unless Californians write separate sales tax checks to their state every year this is just false)

  60. I’ve always seen “boom and bust”, not “boon and bust”

  61. Joshua Solomon

    It’s the Tea party thing. Why does the site assume the people who care about this stuff are Republicans?

  62. Melani

    Is the guy’s ethnicity an issue – I can’t tell by looking at him if he is supposed to be representing a certain ethnicity.

    That the guy in the photo is representative of a Californian

    Men of Nick Loper’s age and background are representative of the 25,000 California affiliates

    That these 25000 state affiliates have a problem paying taxes –

    You can trust guys like Nick Loper.

    Nick Loper is the small guy and it’s hard to be the small guy.

    Clearly I am fixated on the picture – but a cultural assumption is based on someone’s cultural background so I may be missing the point if I can’t tell what he represents.

    I know that the SF Chronical serves a highly diverse population but not linking that clearly here either.

    Will you give us your perception of it before I go to sleep. I’m sick of trying to figure it out:)

  63. wedward

    I see many reference the home prices/a better thing, and some other oddities in there, but I am not seeing the “Cultural” assumption.

    Would love to know what it is, but am pissed at all the whining from the simpleton complaints! Where can I complain to get back my wasted pixels (not to mention time reading their whining)???

    Please do tell the assumption…

  64. banana republic

    It assumes that people buy their shoes online.

  65. Elizabeth Gage

    My turn to gripe; I came here from Twitter and assumed there would be a lot more green whiner-responses! I haven’t figured it out unless the cultural assumption is that sales taxes are bad, ignoring that if California collects incremental taxes from Amazon & affiliates, the nasty budget deficit could be helped a little.

  66. I’m not saying I’m unsubscribing. I think that’s ridiculous. If I unsubscribed from every blog on which I didn’t like every post, I’d unsubscribe from every blog including my own.

    I’m just giving feedback that the post didn’t really say anything to me because I don’t see anything culturally wrong with it and I’ve yet to see the answer. Maybe I’ll retract my criticism once I know the issue.

  67. “whos your most trusted retailer” a cultural assumption that everyone makes purchases off line. In the online space consumers have more loyalty to a retailer than a specific brand, but with brick and mortar stores, it is the reverse.

    Put it differently, I am more comfortable buying an ipod (even at a greater price) from than The trust with the retailer is more important than trust with the product.

  68. Brandon

    @ Post # 61, WD-

    The check may be written on Amazon’s account, but the money in that account is put there by customers purchasing goods.

    Accounting-wise, sales tax has no effect on a retailer’s profit/loss. Economically, though, people might be inclined to purchase less if it costs them more to do so

  69. That humans matter.

  70. Just cuz you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    Everything, even the Discovery Channel’s “I love the whole world” has TONS of cultural assumptions. I’m glad Ramit posts these thought-provoking nuggets on his blog.

    Some thoughts off the top of my head:

    1) Is this guy supposed to be representative of 25,000 Californians?

    2) Are these 25,000 Californians all miserable looking, malnourished, and well-dressed so dull?

    3) Are taxes really a bad thing? Why are taxes so frowned upon? They help pay for our social services and help our countries go ’round, if spent properly!

    4) Will San Francisco’s population really sympathize with this woe-is-me article?

    5) Do taxes really ruin your business, or is it YOU who dictates what happens to your business and how you can adapt to changes?

    I think I might have repeated what someone else said.. I figured maybe our opinions would get superficially polled, like “a bunch of people said…” or “only one person mentioned…” so I thought, why not take a stab with my own words?

  71. Can we spot THE cultural assumption? Did we used call cultural assumptions stereotypes?
    My guess:
    Online stores are run by people who are, or look like they are, Asian. Probably from India because there is so much computer/internet outsourcing to India.

  72. The cultural assumption is that Indians wear robes while making ballet flats.

  73. Kevin Khachatryan

    I don’t understand why people are complaining for one post. That’s simply ridiculous. Posts like these are what makes a blog unique. In fact, I probably spent more time on this post than on all others.

    Yet I still can’t find the cultural assumption. And that guy in the robe is not Indian or Asian, he’s probably Syrian.

  74. Elizabeth

    To WD– actually it IS the customer who pays the sales tax, based on the rate where the purchase is being made. The merchant is liable for it and must collect it from the customer or it would be taken out of the price of the item. We as Californians should be GLAD if Amazon has to pay sales tax because not doing so gives Amazon a price advantage (even bigger than the one thru get by discounting) over California -based merchants. Jeez who knew I was such a tax wonk.

  75. Maybe Ramit is trying to teach us to value our time more than we do. We could be out there earning money, instead of spending even one second speculating on what some random internet dude thinks is interesting about presentation of information in the mass media!

    Genius! Maybe he’s also trying to intone to us that the products he sells are likely to be full of the same bullpuckey that appears with increasing frequency on the blog. If we were as awesome as the people who paid him money, we’d be singing his praises, for sure!

  76. Michael

    Tax incidence depends on the relative price elasticity of demand and price elasticity of supply. So it doesn’t matter who is charged the tax, the burden of paying the tax will move (by a change in the pre-tax price) to the group that is relatively least price sensitive. In most markets both the seller and the buyer share the tax in some proportion.

  77. Brandon

    Michael, Post 78,

    Good call.

  78. “Home prices falling, but getting better” – assumes that falling house prices are a bad thing and that a levelling off or rise in house values would be preferable

  79. I think the cultural assumption may be that SF residents will sympathize with a male shoe store owner (holding a ballet slipper no less). Maybe I am now making my own assumptions about his sexual preferences. . . shoot.

  80. dench_p

    Not sure if anyone has hit this yet, but I think the assumption is in the taxing of Amazon. The assumption is that the ‘little guy’ matters – the 25,000 affiliates. In some other cultures they just wouldn’t amount.

  81. JustinF

    There is a heavy bias towards concern for taxes. The sales tax issue is forefront and would be a concern for any online shopper. Though the article stresses its effects on businesses rather the shopper, so it primary showing concern for business owners. While this could easily be a random a showing the Tea party alert seals the deal for what it thinks your beliefs are. Tea parties are all concerned with taxes is largely a conservative movement, and the mention of the GOP in the headline doesn’t help. The alert part is most telling, because here they are going to constantly up date you with the day to day dealings a tax concerned heavily conservative movement.

  82. This reminds me of all those classes where the teacher asks an open ended question with one answer in mind, and the whole class gives all sorts of answers while trying to guess what the teacher really wants to hear. I never thought that a good teaching technique – and, I am sorry, but that goes for this blog as well. If you have decided there is a correct answer, then you need to give sufficient clues to guide people towards that answer.
    And if there is no one correct answer, I hope you plan to follow up with another post discussing the basic threads of logic which people used here.

  83. Ramit just likes to screw with people.
    This is just a short cryptic post to give himself more time to work on his get-rich-freelancing and other courses for which people pay.

    [Note from Ramit: Mary, I just emailed you. Curious to see if you’ll respond.]

  84. Vikram

    Dude…give me the Ramit RANT already.

    Stop the teasing.

    You’re worse than a stripper (and uglier too).

  85. dustin

    i agree with everyone who said just tell us the answer, f*%k the puzzle and get to the point –

  86. Just a shot in the dark, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the term “Boon” which if I’m not mistaken is a common Hindu term. Is Ramit talking about the (wrong) cultural assumption that all Indians are Hindu? I still haven’t tied in all together though.

  87. Joseph

    @Ramit Sethi – I don’t mind nor care that you made this post. What does bother me is how you have responded to these criticisms in the comments. I, for one, do not want to get my financial advice from someone who acts like a child. You’ve lost credibility, and I will be unsubscribing from both your RSS feed and your newsletter/bootcamp.

  88. Reading back through some of the comments, I’d be inclined to agree with JustinF. There is definitely a cultural assumption that Americans are all overly concerned about taxes and are automatically adverse to them. Also, the article could be playing to the cultural assumption that Americans are inclined to sympathize with small businesses. That’s about all I can come up with. In any event it’s been a good brain teaser for the last 20 minutes or so for me.

  89. Jermaine Holmes

    “I, for one, do not want to get my financial advice from someone who acts like a child.” You’ve got to be kidding me? Hahahaha……

  90. Elizabeth

    All the related links — home prices, Tea Party, etc. — and the main article (Big Government TAXING the little guy!) are tailored to the SFGate’s idea of what a business person looks like: old, white, male, GOP. There’s nothing there for an entrepreneur, and definitely nothing there for what I’d imagine is the SFGate’s target demo: liberal (socially and economically), ethnically diverse readers with degrees from Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, etc.

    Now, I’m not from CA — though I know northern CA is way more conservative — so maybe they are hitting a target audience, but I just can’t imagine a paper catering to San Fransisco is publishing anything their readers really want in this section, because the generally assumption they’re making about business readers is the antithesis of the niche demographic that actually reads *the rest* of the paper.

  91. The cultural assumption is in the click the larger image. People assume that if you click the larger image the image will be larger. That is not always the case. Many times you click the “click for larger image” and the image is just the same size. It points to our inherent trust of anything post modern in the internet. Deep stuff indeed.

  92. Andrew Baber

    My guesses?

    “California wants…” and “Idiot California lawmakers want..” are totally separate things and yet the distinction is not made.

    California residents do not want this, and if the lawmakers ran the damn numbers they would understand why THEY don’t want it either.

    OR Ramit is pointing out the fact that the headline is about added cost (taxes) and yet the question posed is about TRUSTED retailers, thus assuming that the only thing a typical online shopper is looking for is a site that is “trusted” to have the lowest price.

  93. cmadler

    Aside from things that others have already mentioned (“Home prices falling, but getting better” was the first thing I noticed), for a “Business & Technology” section of a SF media outlet, this is pretty heavy on business and light on technology.

  94. cmadler

    Or, on the face of it, “real estate” isn’t necessarily related to “business” or “technology”.

  95. People from the Middle East (like the guy in the picture) don’t wear shoes, but they do throw them. That’s pretty racist if you ask me.

  96. wedward

    I think this is a little “draining the swamp” of the leeches and trolls…

    “I, for one, do not want to get my financial advice from someone who acts like a child. You’ve lost credibility, and I will be unsubscribing from both your RSS feed and your newsletter/bootcamp.” Thank god you and others like you are leaving… gives me the edge and god how I am sick of hearing this whining! No one holds a gun to your head telling you to come here. Be here and be happy or get the &*^% out!

    Sorry – end rant/ so many updates and no answer to the riddle yet…

  97. That all online businesspeople work from home and wear their bath robes all day.

    I don’t know if this is the cultural assumption you’re speaking about or not Ramit, but it is certainly a stereotype that the public puts on e-businesses.

  98. lxmorj

    Yo Ramit, wtf? I’ve been reading this site for two years, and I’ve come to expect a certain type of post. You can’t just go posting whatever the hell interests you on your own blog…. seriously what the hell do you think this site is for? I’ve come to expect certain things for free…


  99. Ken Siew

    All the possible answers I could think of have been answered by others. I’m late in the party! Anyway, I don’t know why there’s a big fuss over this post. It’s different from the usual posts, but if you don’t like this one, there are few hundred other posts for you to read.

    Again, this blog is free. Just ignore the posts that do not interest you and pick the good stuffs.

  100. I work from my home office – Im thinking the bathrobe is an excellent idea….. !!

  101. #93 & #97 lol

  102. The problem with this post is that when you have every piece of information handed to you, you cant see the obvious point being made here. did you ever stop to thing that the lesson here is to use your own thought and not rely on him to for every answer. Think for yourself and you will see.

  103. Kevin P.

    Yes, but Ramit brought into question “the” cultural assumption in the screenshot. That implies that there’s one definite thing to spot. It’s only natural to wonder what he had in mind. The lesson could be “don’t take everything at face value,” but most adults already know this, or at least I hope they do. Or maybe the lesson is “ambiguous cliffhangers keep readers engaged,” but that’s also nothing new.

  104. ok – avg. joe schmo here. totally missing it. can’t wait for ramit to deliver the results. go ramit!

  105. Raphael Burnes


    I think it’s because they assume that everyone knows what Amazon is with the headline.

  106. Cassandra

    The only thing I can think of is the assumption that:

    any tax, sales or otherwise, hurts businesses (republicans like this one)

    And, I like Ramit’s brain teasers. Once in a while I actually get one.

  107. Michelle Shain

    Hm, I’ll bite. I think the cultural assumption is that homes/real estate fall under the category of “business.” Your home has nothing to do with business really (unless your Nick Loper there and running some sort of shoe business in your bathrobe).

  108. Ewan Tehupuring

    The text is in English.. so the reader should know the language..

  109. My two cents- since he mentioned “cultural assumptions”- it deals with the wall street bankers returning to the GOP.

  110. Above posters have indicated, the assumption is that readers will read in left to right, top to bottom manner. The way this content is laid out assumes the reader can understand the importance and thus the navigation scheme.

  111. Kurt M.

    It is pretty obvious that people are more likely to believe things if the people around them believe the same thing. So if California taxes Amazon, then 25,000 affiliates assume that they are gonna get taxed as well.

  112. Keith Sherwood

    There is nothing wrong with who they selected for the picture in the Amazon article…it is just a person who owns a business.

  113. MissNewMoney

    That Bernanke knows what he’s doing and therefore I should buy more stocks – hence the rally. Isn’t that the American way???

  114. Keith Sherwood

    I feel the same way MissNewMoney…I laugh when there are stories about how Bernanke, or any other “expert” creates market rallys by making promises. It might be true, but it just seems silly on many levels.

  115. Keith Sherwood

    I have to say, I am curious about this. Should we infer that “cultural assumption” means error in thinking due to cultural assumption? Am thinking yes because we know you like to bust on morons (which we love to witness) and there might not be a reason to call it out if it is not an error in thinking…got me wondering though.

  116. cmadler

    @Paul (#112): It’s in English, which is read left to right and top to bottom (LRTB). That’s not a cultural assumption, that’s a convention of the language system (if you’re reading/writing in English, or most other European languages, you’re reading/writing LRTB). Other languages and language groups have other conventions: Uighur is TBLR, Chinese languages have traditionally been TBRL (now sometimes LRTB due to Western influence), etc.

  117. Wynandt V

    “As the twentieth century came to a close, forty percent of all Buddhists in America resided in Southern California.”

    Does is have something to do with the guy in the pic appearing to be buddhist and the line just below the headline asking who your most trusted retailer is?

  118. It has been 3 days. Has the chum festered in the water enough? You can clearly see how active your readers are.

    I’d have to say it is something about the tea party assumptions.

  119. Keith Sherwood

    #71, lol

  120. Kelley

    “Bernanke’s rate reassurances rally stocks” Stocks go up……the media has to say it’s due to one thing, or one person, and the public assumes it must be true!

  121. wendy x

    boom, not boon.

  122. Carolyn

    So who DO you trust? An unhappy guy with lovely fingers from a culture hostile to women who is preparing to crush a representation of the commodified feminine rather than let it slip out of his control, or the online giant who really should be given free rein to go on cultivating your blind trust?

  123. Business & Technology are linked in one section? All entrepreneurs are using online techi stuff?

  124. Andrew Barbour

    I’m going to have to say it’s the Home Prices Falling but Getting Better.

    Ramit often points out that it’s unwise to consider homes as a worthwhile “investment” vehicle, since increases in value over the long term fall dramatically short of even the lowliest of index funds. The ideal of home ownership is a very American one and thus the “cultural assumption” he refers to.

    But I’ll also say that given this is the S.F.Chronicle (which has a very liberal Bay Area audience), it’s also pointing out that while taxing Amazon in CA is probably not by itself any concern, it would be a big problem if it ended up hurting the independent “little guy” businesses…perhaps the cultural assumption is that the SFC’s readership will side with that assessment.

  125. It’s the assumption that only wall street banker types are of interest to the Tea Party…or members of the Tea Party. Not quite sure, but I think I am in the right neighborhood…

  126. Maria Bareiss

    I went for a racial assumption, and then re-thought it, because the guy featured is fairly ambiguous. I am going with the Tea Party/conservative politics connection.

  127. How’s about, you know, putting some kind of “I’ll reveal the answer at such and such a time”?

  128. Cassandra

    Wait, wait, been mulling it over…
    Maybe it’s the assumption that we need to protect small businesses

  129. If you are familiar with Hofstede’s framework, You’ll remember that there are five dimensions for assessing culture.

    1. Small vs. Large Power distance
    2. Individual vs the Collective
    3. Animus vs Anima (Male/Female)
    4. Weak vs Strong uncertainty avoidance
    5 time horizon (long vs. short term) . this was added later to the original four.

    We somewhat expect there to be an equal power relationship, a bit democratic. We want there to be an egalitarion relationship between Amazon and the affiliates that sell-thru Amazon. The power distance between Amazon and it’s affiliates is ever increasing and does not reflect other retail/supplier relationships. amazon’s ‘shelves’ are stocked, in no small part, by an army of entrepreneurs.

    then again, what do I know?

    Could be that the implication is that all 25,000 Amazon Affiliates in CA are somehow similar to Nick. (hint: prolly not)

  130. Keith Sherwood


  131. How do you do it Ramit? (fold the toga that is)

  132. There’s an assumption that paying taxes is suffering and that taxes go to waste.

  133. Nichole

    I would say that the specifically cultural assumption (versus economic assumption) would be that the Wall Street people were originally in the GOP, as the word “return” would imply.

  134. WonderWoman

    he looks like a monk, do we assume he is one?

  135. Keith Sherwood

    I might be showing my age, but a glaring cultural reference seems to be the term “Bloom Box”, which looks to be a spin on “Boombox”…a cultural icon from the 70s.

    The cultural assumption might be that everyone in the digital culture will understand the reference, which carries an association of ubiquity; Bloom Boxes are destined to be in every household, just like Boomboxes were.

  136. Keith Sherwood

    Ramit is not going to tell us…he is waiting for someone to get the answer. And whoever does will get a prize (and maybe a job offer)! 😉

  137. In most countries, sales tax is not even thought about because there is VAT. The price you see is the price you actually pay. The notion that taxes cause suffering and not some added benefit to society relates directly to the American culture’s lack of trust in how government handles finance.

  138. First of all, Everything relies on cultural assumptions. The fact that the article is written in English makes certain assumptions about the audience.

    One of the interesting things is the “Taxes: good or bad” question implied here.

    To Liberal Democrats in general. Higher taxes equate to a more egalitarian society. The Robin Hood mentality. Should be a good thing, if it would work. The extra dough might keep Cops, Teachers and The Terminator employed for another year. Problem is that it won’t work.

    In this case, as was proven in a few other states, Amazon will simply cancel all affiliate contracts with Californians. All the ‘Nick Lopers’ will suffer and CA will not get the $150 Million/YR that the bills proponents claim.

    I think the Lawmakers know this and are more interested in appeasing the ‘brick & mortar’ retailers that pay taxes in the state but more importantly, donate to state politicians.

    This is my first time posting on this Blog. It is nice to see such excellent and thought provoking comments here. (a rarity elsewhere)

  139. Blake W.

    The title “Taxing Amazon a boon or bust?” makes the cultural assumption that readers immediately think of, Inc rather than.. you know, the world’s largest rainforest.

  140. Got tired of reading the comments about halfway down but I’ll bite. Cultural assumption for me is that the headlines gathered assume:
    1) the reader owns a home or is interested in home ownership
    2) The reader is probably invested in the stock market or following it
    3) Human interest story to go along with the news (olympics style)
    Sounds like they are going for the same target audience as usual, 30-60 yo’s who are still reading the chronicle even online.
    I don’t think race or anything has to do much with it more than class. I don’t think the screenshot is directed to small business owners, they are more likely to be invested in their company than the stock market. Its probably directed more to middle management/ lower executives pulling in a paycheck who might care about the poor little guy.

  141. Tanuja

    An assumption that when a loss is associated to a person the affect is more tangible than when you associate it with an entity. People can easily relate the to extent of loss when we break it down to an individual. Had the newspaper just showed an office building with that headline most of us might not even pick up the newspaper and read it.

  142. I think Blake W. hit it on the head, if not, that’s the best answer I’ve seen so far.

  143. is it about ‘trust?’ by asking ‘Who’s your most trusted retailer’ there is a cultural assumption that the reader does trust retailers and applies morality to a place where we simply buy things.

    I think in some other cultures retailers are not ‘trusted’ to the same degree as perhaps in western society.

    Also, that retailers should hold a moral stance, and that the reader will rate retailers / make purchases based on this, rather than, for example price.

    Also…the positioning of the question after the story implies that avoiding sales tax makes a retailer less trustworthy.

    If not that, then I like Blake’s rainforrest answer!

  144. That business & technology are the same thing.

  145. Jermaine Holmes

    I think Jim E. got it!!!

  146. Attila

    The headline just says ‘AMAZON’. They nowhere indicate that they are talking about the website and their affiliates. It is assumed people know that.

  147. the guy looks like a hispanic version of Jeff bezos? 😛

  148. How about the category being “Business & Technology”? All countries do business, but many third-world countries aren’t doing it via technology. Here in America (and several other advanced countries) we lump the two things together; e-commerce is world-wide courtesy of the World Wide Web (obvious, yes). However, this is culturally limited because there are still many, many nations that contain cultures that are doing business by way of hard work, harvesting and bartering. They ‘do business’ through blood, sweat and tears without much involvement of technology at all.

  149. cmadler

    BlakeW #141 and Attili #148: Although the headline says “Taxing Amazon a boon or bust?”, this is the “Business & Technology” section of the SF Chronicle, and the very next sentence states “California wants the online giant to pay sales tax.” There are more than enough contextual indicators to make it clear that they’re referring to the business, not the rain forest.

  150. It is a picture of a hispanic guy and the article is about amazon not paying taxes. It goes along with the fox news idea of protect the border or we will be over run with people who don’t pay taxes. haha

  151. To be asked “Who’s your most trusted retailer?” assumes that we all have a favorite retailer. Even those of us who live in affluent countries and who regularly shop at retail stores may never have considered this question. For people who live in cultures that focus on making or growing necessary goods at home and bartering, the question is meaningless.

  152. The article did not mention your website!! :O

  153. My time is valuable so I didn’t read many of the posts before mine. A simple analysis is that we see a hispanic (at least I think he is so I’m sorry if he isn’t. Regardless he is some color other than white which usually makes the difference from my experience in America) man with a shoe smiling. The articles assumption is that small business owners such as Nick Loper would suffer due to the taxation on Amazon. In other words, the article assumes business owners are so tied to amazon that could suffer greatly without it. This obviously is not a cultural assumption at its base level. However, taking it a step further the article might imply that ethnic minority business owners only have small businesses which need a larger business in order to do well. But this is just a guess.

  154. “Home prices falling, but getting better”

    That depends on what side of the fence you are on. If you are a home owner — it bites hard; if you are a buyer — cha-ching! 🙂

  155. Actually, I find some of the “cultural assumptions” stated in the postings fascinating. A term like “cultural” (or “culture”) is so widely used in so many different contexts that almost anything in the screen capture could be considered “an assumption.” Multiple readings and/or interpretations could be valid, and each would say almost as much about the reader as the author. Bravo, Ramit. I would like to know, however, your take, your motivation for asking this.

  156. it is talking about not being taxed and there is a picture of a hispanic

  157. The longer this goes on the more insightful I’m expecting Ramit’s “reveal” to be!

  158. Heh, I’m checking back in 6 days later, looking for an answer/response from Ramit. So far I’ve found a very interesting use of Crowd Sourcing for solutions/answers. I’m interested to see if other multiple theories were uncovered by the crowd that are on par with Ramit’s original observation. Will check back in next week!

  159. eugene yee

    – I use
    – I think this dude in the pic is relatively young and trendy, plus he sells shoes. It would suck if his business got killed.
    – I am interested in green technologies (fuel cell tech)
    – I am reaching the age where I will begin considering buying a house.

    This ad was made for me. Let’s all save Nick Loper…!

  160. A. Friend


    I would challenge your comments to the reader base that you “…think it is great that you’re leaving”. (addressing those that were jaded by your comments)

    Hardly would anyone, especially in our field feel this way. Much of your reader base are friends, people that have helped you with your success, and people that support you in the events, referrals, etc.

    So, I challenge you to reflect on, what seems a glib response, and see if you truly “don’t care”.

    A true leader will always reflect on the feedback they receive. If a post brought about such a negative reaction then YOU SHOULD care WHY?

    WHEN you understand why- THEN you can brush it off arrogantly and say good riddance. To do this prematurely reflects greatly on the type of critical thinker you are.
    (and yes, I have known you for years and am a little surprised that you are so fast to dismiss a group of negative comments)

    You may ultimately be right in dismissing your critics, but you comments seem more defensive than sincere. Credibility is a powerful asset in this business. And the way a person responds to criticism is interwoven in person’s professional image and credibility.

    I wish you continued success in 2010.


  161. Thomas

    The funny thing about this text is the articles about the housing market are under Business and Technology. Our culture likes to categorize home ownership as a form of an “investment” or “business.”

  162. Seems like the assumption was that Ramit was going to get back on this thing and tell us the correct answer…lol…maybe this is some sort of sociological experiment.

  163. In Ramit’s defense these people got upset because this thread was different then his other threads. Which is ridiculous because it’s in effect saying that giving an example or teaching in a different way is wrong because its different. I think that he’d do well rid his blog of closed minded morons.

  164. I think Thomas #163 has got it right

  165. Ah, but the housing market is important to businesses which depend on it, such as construction and landscaping companies. In that respect, it’d be fair to place it under business and technology.

    Personally, I think the folks that pointed out that the article assumes we all know that Amazon means have the best answers I’ve seen.

  166. This post was the last straw on Ramit’s arrogance for me…so I unsubscribed a few days ago. I just checked back to see if there was any follow up at all by him…what were HIS thoughts? Did he address any of the comments made that weren’t the “I’m outta here” comments? Nope. I don’t care that you posted what you did…I care about the fact that you responded to people the way you did and that you have a serious arrogance issue.

    Ramit: You may be the real deal and offer really quality stuff, but if so, you’re guilty of false advertising b/c you seem petty a lot of the time and like you’re just trying to be on the cusp of whatever’s the latest stuff. Honestly…who really responds to people the way you did? You’re like Donald Trump or something – trying to get people buzzed over your apparent lack of caring about whether you have visitors. News flash: without the people who visit your blog and buy your book, you wouldn’t be who you are today.

    I hope you don’t filter this comment either.

  167. Amen #162!

    Wow, Ramit. Wow.

  168. Pamela

    I didn’t read through all the posts on this, but my bet is the propaganda photo is referring to women. The pic tells it all. Women will (once again) suffer from the ever increasing and imposing tax. Its a woman’s slipper – how simple it that? Its a way to make everyone “feel” something because women will take a hit – you know, tugging at the ole heart strings. It could be your wife’s slipper, your mother’s slipper or your sister’s slipper.

    But what I find odd about this is the fact they kinda make women out to be (almost) dumb – do they not know how to run a business? Do they not know that selling typically involves bookkeeping and state/Federal regulations? Is everything they do looked at as a hobby?

  169. Keith Sherwood

    Guys…have to say that regarding Ramit’s comments, I do not really have an issue with it. He said what he thought in both posts…how can people have a problem with that?

    I for one would rather have someone say, hey, “this is me -like it or not” instead of adjusting to everyone who says something negative. It actually increases my trust in that person, regardless of whether or not I have any issues with their personality or style or whatever.

    In the end, this was not supposed to be a very serious post by Ramit. I am interested in what he saw, but I am going to bet that it will not be life changing for me or you. It is not so important that it needs to ruin your day if you do not like the post.

  170. Ea Exam

    Is the stereotype here a non caucasian shoe maker?

  171. dench_p

    An interesting developmen here in CO. Amazon is now refusing to pay local affiliates their commission due to the state collecting sales tax from Amazon.

  172. dench_p,

    Not sure if this is what Ramit was thinking but as an affiliate myself it is what instantly popped out for me. Earlier I posted:

    “In this case, as was proven in a few other states, Amazon will simply cancel all affiliate contracts with Californians. All the ‘Nick Lopers’ will suffer and CA will not get the $150 Million/YR that the bills proponents claim.

    I think the Lawmakers know this and are more interested in appeasing the ‘brick & mortar’ retailers that pay taxes in the state but more importantly, donate to state politicians.”

    States are desperate to stem the mounting losses. Going after is much more palatable than firing a bunch of school teachers or even closing the DMV 2 days a week.

    That said, California Lawmakers know that this will hurt their local affiliates. They don’t care. They think this will force people to shop at Target, Best Buy and Borders which do collect sales tax on purchases.


  173. Haywood

    At this point, I don’t think even Ramit or Kermit the Frog know why he posted this.

  174. fedup_of_waiting

    well what is it? The berlin wall has come down since u posted this.

  175. okay guys…I’m getting worried about Ramit. Has anyone heard from the guy?

  176. Ramit : see #80 – when do I get my prize?

  177. Vikram Kumar Khare

    I agree with the others – as someone who earns passive income doing affiliate stuff I know this is hurting people.

    I figured Ramit would come out swinging with a classic “Ramit Rant” but it’s a no-go – he’s clearly hungry and thinking about food.

  178. Keith Sherwood

    For those interested in psychology (apparently most of the folks here), the range and evolution of the discussion for this post is particularly interesting stuff. Sort of an educational bonus for being even a small part of this community.

  179. Brother, you have distressed me to no end. You have lost many followers of your information. May God have mercy on your soul.

  180. Its amazing how many people are getting butt sore over one simple little post. I mean If I let little stuff like this affect me, I’d find the nearest bridge or building and jump.

    If I were Ramit I would be reading this for entertainment value. If stupidity can be counted as entertainment.

  181. for those of you still complaining about no answer look at his new post.

  182. @Dan: Or … Ramit too might also be planning to jump off the nearest bridge / building in despair at the gross stupidity of his own readership


  183. Free advice on everday problems

    A term like “cultural” (or “culture”) is so widely used in so many different contexts that almost anything in the screen capture could be considered “an assumption.”