Vanishing in America 2010: New American classics in danger


Each year, little pieces of our American life disappear, and each year WalletPop notes their passing. In past years we've commemorated the decline of professional typists, neighborhood kids who would do odd jobs, stick-shift cars, shade-tree mechanics, land lines, blue crab, personal checks and much more. This year we've noted ten more items, some of which will be missed. Others we'll be happy to see disappear.

Coin-fed parking meters

Free parking scored from broken coin-fed parking meters will soon become a faint memory as big cities scramble to install high tech machines that accept credit and debit cards to bring in revenue usually lost to damaged meters. Coin-operated parking meters have always been targets for vandals, especially in metropolises like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where parking fee hikes have incited protests. Recently, the city of Los Angeles announced that it will replace 10,000 coin-fed parking meters with those that also accept credit and debit cards. The City estimates a $1 million to $1.5 million gain in revenue each year from the new meters. -- Jane Tuv

Soap Operas

The bloodshed has been shocking for soap opera fans over the past year. However, it's the behind-the-scenes drama that has viewers perched on the edge of their seats. Will they? Won't they? Stay on TV, I mean. Long time fans lost their Guiding Light this year when after 70 years the longest-running soap on TV was canceled. For others, the days of drama and intrigue are numbered. As The World Turns will be grinding to a halt come September. After 54 years, earning a whopping 58 Daytime Emmys and launching the careers of Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore, Dana Delaney, Courtney Cox, Meg Ryan, and James Earl Jones, it seems impossible to imagine. A TV world without the addictive, guilty pleasures of daytime dramas? Stay tuned ... -- Bonnie McCarthy

Steroids in sports

The Olympics. The Tour De France. Major League baseball. The NFL. One sport after another has fallen victim to performance-enhancing drugs, foremost among them steroids. Now organized sports are fighting back. The bicycle racing scene now has extensive testing. Baseball, after the tragic ruination of long-standing records by scammers like Mark McGuire, has finally begun to crack down on abuse, even tossing possible future Hall of Fame outfielder Manny Ramirez out for 50 games last year. The NFL tests players six times during the off-season and repeatedly between games. In the struggle to attain dominance in sports, athletes will continue to seek pharmaceutical advantage, but steroids will no longer be the answer. -- Tom Barlow

Restaurant matchbooks

As an avid collector of restaurant matchbooks, I've taken notice of the fact that they're much tougher to come by. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (Publication 4117, December 2009), matchbook production has steadily decreased since 2007. Production hit a low in early 2009, when the demand for cigarettes decreased. Matchbook importers report that a decrease in demand like this one hasn't occurred since lighters entered the market in the 1970s -- though a decrease in cigarette smokers wouldn't help matchbook sales, as it's estimated more than 95% of matchbooks are used to light cigarettes. With an increase in statewide smoking bans in the last decade -- in 2009, 71% of Americans lived under some kind of smoking regulation (American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, April 2010) -- it's no surprise matchbooks are now few and far between. -- Jean Chatzky

Bluetooth headsets

For a while, Bluetooth headsets were attached to ears wandering supermarket aisles, sardined in traffic or hunting through shopping malls. In 2008, a slew of states including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, California, Washington and Oregon enacted laws requiring drivers to use headsets while speaking on cell phones. Now, however, the Bluetooth phenomenon began to vanish, and now fewer folks are keeping mini torpedoes attached to their ears. According to Alex Spektor, Handset analyst at Strategy Analytics, a company that researches technology strategy and issues, there was a 30% decline in 2009 headset sales compared with 2008. Spektor forecasts there will be a 10% increase in 2010 North American sales; however, sales will not be at the same high rates that they were in the earlier 2000s. The reasons behind the sales drop are consumers' questionable attitudes toward the style of headsets and walking around with ear devices, he said. In addition, many cars are wired with hands-free technology, allowing drivers to cruise without an ear bug. -- Nicole Charky

Getting shopping bags for your purchases

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. uses 100 billion plastic grocery bags annually, but those numbers may soon be dwindling. In 2007, San Francisco was the first American city to ban plastic grocery bags from its major grocery store chains. Washington D.C. taxes each plastic bag $0.05 and six other states are considering doing the same. Connecticut has a law allowing individual cities and towns to rule on their own bans. Ikea does not provide any shopping bags but will sell customers inexpensive totes for $0.59. The proceeds from Ikea's bag sales benefit American forests. Trader Joe's has elevated their humble, reusable totes to an art form. -- Bonnie McCarthy

Flash for video on the web

Since broadband became big and YouTube became the go-to website for funny videos, Flash software has been the way the world watches online videos. Odds are if you've watched a video on the Internet you've used Flash, but that's changing thanks to a crusade by Apple and a new web-standard called HTML5. Since Apple won't let you watch Flash on your iPhone and iPad, it is pushing for adoption of HTML5 video streaming, which YouTube and others are already using, because this technology may provide better battery life on mobile devices. So, while you can't yet stream Hulu or Comedy Central shows on the iPad or iPhone, expect to see HTML5 videos come to the rescue and put Flash out with last decade's re-runs. -- Josh Smith

Checking luggage

Remember steamer trunks? Our kids will probably consider checked bags at the airport in the very same way. Old school. Modern travel means packing light, toiletries in 3-ounce sample sizes and paying sky-high prices for stowing a suitcase under the plane. Fees range from $15 to $25 for the first checked bag, and may require your first-born child if you dare to check more than two. Pudgy bags (read more than 50 pounds) and extra-large luggage are penalized with additional fees ranging from $50 to $175. So, if you thought you could just use a giant trunk and cram everyone's stuff in, think again. The Bureau of Transportation reported that the airlines collected $2.7 billion in 2009 for baggage fees, so this is a trend that has already unpacked and isn't going to leave any time soon.. -- Bonnie McCarthy

Mechanical slot machines

The one-armed bandits of our childhood, the mechanical devices that whirred and dinged when you pulled to handle to start it in motion before informing you that you'd just wasted a quarter, have been sent to the antique stores in favor of new electronic machines. And the reason is obvious. The new computer-controlled machines are flexible, easy to reprogram, and can produce any number of exciting sounds. The lack of mechanical gears also makes them less prone to breakdown. Best of all, from the casino's point of view, is that the odds of winning can be easily varied. -- Tom Barlow


According to the Pet Food Institute, there are about 75 million dogs in the U.S.. But if you look at trends in designer dogs, a much smaller number of them are likely mutts. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes over 300 designer dog breeds (versus the 150 purebreds recognized by the AKC), ranging from the obscure Pekachon (Bichon Frise and Pekingese) to the Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle) -- more than 1,300 of which are registered with the International Labradoodle Association. The breeds in these designer dogs are carefully chosen -- whereas mutts (technically referred to as mixed-breeds) are called such because the exact percentage of each breed involved isn't known. (Though before the association existed and this sort of breeding was highly profitable, if a Labrador and a poodle happened to hook up and a litter resulted, the spawn were known as -- you got it -- mutts.) While the birthdate of the first designer dog is debated, nowadays they've become a fast-growing trend, rising in popularity after being seen in the arms of celebrities like Mischa Barton and Jake Gyllenhaal -- despite the fact that they'll cost you, on average, about $400 more to purchase than a purebred. -- Jean Chatzky