6 Curious Displays of How the Struggling Economy Is Hitting the Middle Class

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The impact of the Great Recession and its long-languishing fallout can be seen, among other places, in doctor’s offices, coffee shops, yard sales, and Nascar race tracks.
Nascar just isn’t what it used to be. The NY Times reports that Nascar—”a barometer of Middle American tastes” that in the 2000s was “a money-printing juggernaut”—is now struggling with lower fan attendance, lower spending fans attending races, and even lower TV ratings. In an attempt to lure back race car fans, track owners have cut ticket prices and rolled out promotions such as 99¢ gallons of gas at stations near the track.

Wi-Fi is disappearing at coffee shops. Coffeehouses are increasingly turning off the free Wi-Fi on evenings and weekends, and sometimes they’re removing power outlets and getting rid of Wi-Fi altogether, according to the LA Times. Why the removal of the perk techies have come to expect? It’s hard to run a business when your customers are “deadbeats who stayed too long and bought too little,” and when “too many customers spread out at big tables for long stretches over a lukewarm mug,” café owners have to turn away other, more profitable customers.

There might be a bar at your workplace. How could this be a sign of economic struggle? Well, per the Baltimore Sun, booze-filled employee lounges, employee-only farmers markets, free food, and other employee perks are being used to keep morale up while staffers are asked to work more hours—without overtime or pay increases. (More on Time.com: See the top 10 long forgotten liquors)

Yard sales have an air of desperation to them. Shoppers and sellers at this year’s World’s Largest Yard Sale aren’t out merely for fun, games, socializing, and the chance to get rid of (or bring home) some junk. Now, the scene is serious, with buyers who are trying to outfit their families with clothing at one-tenth of what items would cost at Wal-Mart, sellers who are eager to make money to pay the bills before they’re evicted, and heated haggling occurring over goods marked at a mere $2.

Folks who used to live the high life now feel like failures while trying to pretend nothing’s changed. “I am currently one of thousands of middle-class paupers out there putting on a brave face and pretending nothing has changed when, in fact, beneath the glossy varnish of the facade, our entire way of life is crumbling under the crushing pressure of the credit crunch,” writes a columnist at the UK Daily Mail. Consumers who had grown accustomed to dining out whenever and wherever they pleased, who traveled and spent outlandishly on clothing and homes, are now ashamed and have hard times admitting to friends that their lifestyles aren’t sustainable. (More on Time.com: See a stimulus report card at the one year mark)

Patients have to listen to doctors upselling them with cosmetic surgeries. Doctors love performing elective surgeries: The procedures are quick easy sources of profit, and they’re typically not covered by health insurance, so the doctors don’t have to deal with insurers. USA Today reports that doctors, eager to make money during an uneasy economic climate, are giving their best pitches to patients—suggesting, say, a tummy tuck after a woman gives birth, or some Botox during an eye exam. The fact that these procedures won’t be covered by insurance may or may not come up in the conversation.

Read more:
9 Signs That Your Town, State, or Country Is Broke
Top 10 Signs of a Troubled Economy and/or the Apocalypse