Debt, What Debt?

Is Capital One worried about mailing too many credit card solicitations? The company holds the title of being the largest single generator of mail in the country, according to The Wall Street Journal, as it and other credit card companies mailed 5 billion new card solicitations last year. That's a record, up from 3.5 billion in 2000.

However, the Federal Reserve's interest rate cuts haven't carried over into the credit card world, so response rates are still anemic: in the 0.6 percent to 0.7 percent response range, says BAIGlobal, which tracks the field.

Despite the recession, Americans continued to charge their way through the holiday season and build up even more debt. By the start of the fourth quarter, consumer debt had already topped $7.5 trillion.

Several retailers reported holiday sales were down only 1 percent to 2 percent from 2000. Federated Department Stores wasn't that lucky, as sales were down 9 percent. J.C. Penney, meanwhile, said it was expecting a 5 percent bump in its December sales.

In the online world, a study by Pew Internet & American Life Project found that women outshopped men on the Internet for the first time: Of the 29 million people who made online purchases, 58 percent were women, up from 50 percent last year. The average amount spent online grew as well: $392, up from $330 a year ago. Total holiday sales are expected to be $10.5 billion.

Though customer service issues have improved, they're still not good enough. A Jupiter Media Metrix study found that 30 percent of all retailers resolved online customer service requests within six hours, compared with 27 percent last year. Some online-only companies took more than three days to respond. Want return traffic? Improve that.

Hello, Euro

Twelve European countries changed over to a common currency last week, pretty much without a hitch and paving the way for borderless travel and more consistent pricing. Though this doesn't mean much for the United States at this point, companies that do business overseas will be able to rid themselves of several money conversion headaches.

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