While most Alaskans got their cash on Thursday, those who have their checks mailed will have to wait a little longer. Fewer Alaskans are getting their checks mailed, according to the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend Division, which has pushed to sign recipients up for direct deposit.
The effects of that push have shown up for Kodiak retailers, who still enjoy PFD day, but not as much as in past years.
At Wells Fargo Bank, president Greg Deal said it’s not a big deal.
“It’s virtually a non-event anymore for us,” he said.
He said the bank used to have its phones ringing off the hook with people asking about their PFD. Now, with electronic banking and direct deposits, he doesn’t see as much of an effect. Direct deposit has also given people a guarantee that their money will arrive on a certain day, he said.
“Sometimes people are so good at anticipating it, they’ll pre-spend it,” he said.
But that advance spending only goes so far. In 2010, Scott Goldsmith, an economics professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, released a study about how and when Alaskans spend their PFD. Unsurprisingly, he found that most people spend their money around the time the checks arrive.
At Warner Tire & Yamaha on Mill Bay Road, owner Ken Warner said PFD season coincides with the time most people begin buying snow tires.
“It’s probably now through the end of November,” he said.
While tire purchases are slow now, they tend to speed up when the first snow starts falling, Warner said.
“(The PFD) comes at a good time because it makes it affordable for people to get winter tires,” he said.
Warner has been taking advantage of the PFD by stepping up his marketing and offering a 10 percent off coupon. Other than that, he said he’ll be waiting.
“It’s the same price as it is in July and August,” he said.
Heating oil purchases also tend to coincide with PFD season, something North Pacific Fuel manager Pat Tabon said she has observed in past years.
“In the past, most of our customers would be coming and paying their bills or doing their autopsy,” she said. With the PFD just arriving Thursday, she couldn’t say if this year will be like the rest.
Employees at Petro Marine Services also said they see a surge in business, between 20 percent and 30 percent. One man, who asked to remain anonymous because he did not have permission to talk to the media, said the company tends to see a surge in business at its Kodiak Island service stations on paydays, and the PFD is like “an extra payday in the month.”
Down the street from Petro Marine, at Sutliff’s Hardware, Lani Carlsen said any impact from the PFD usually doesn’t come until later.
“We won’t see any effects probably until the weekend,” she said.
Carlsen said PFD spending doesn’t usually show up in a big way except in one case: “What you’ll see are when the village people come in. Those are the big bursts we see,” she said.
While heating fuel, winter tires and home hardware satisfy Kodiak residents’ needs, a lot of PFD spending buys “wants.”
At Riptide Pulltabs, Hanna Byers said there’s already been a rush.
“It’ll probably be busy through the weekend,” she said. Other Kodiak pull tab vendors reported similar business, as residents try to convert their PFD windfall into an even bigger gain.
The island’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, also sees a lot of Kodiakans spending their PFD.
“Day to day, our average daily sales, you’re looking at a jump of almost 40 percent, closer to 50 percent,” said store manager Scott Hosier.
He said PFD season sales aren’t quite as big as the day after Thanksgiving or a handful of the Christmas shopping season days, but they are among the top.
“As far as merchandising goes, we’ve planned for months ahead,” Hosier said. “Already, just watching people’s carts go out the door, it’s been flat-screen TVs, video game systems and some necessities, as well.”
At Wells Fargo, Deal said his busy time will come Monday — when stores deposit their weekend sales.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com. Be on guard
The Better Business Bureau says Alaskans should be on guard during PFD season.
“Whenever there’s an offer for money like this, scam artists come in,” spokeswoman Kyle Kavas said.
Impersonator scams, in which an emailer claims to be from the government or a bank, are on the rise, she said, and consumers should always independently verify the claims of anything received by email.