Leora Margelovich

  • Indeed, I am rather conspicuous among Persians. Then again, I am accustomed to standing out in a crowd, whether I want to or not.

    Indeed, I am rather conspicuous among Persians. Then again, I am accustomed to standing out in a crowd, whether I want to or not.

    Lately, you might have heard me mention the Persian Formal in conversation. Ok, maybe in every conversation. What I consider to be a mild infatuation, others misperceive as a full-blown obsession. Many are perplexed when I excitedly talk about Persians. Their immediate reaction is to point to my flaming red hair and proclaim: But you’re not Persian! While I am not Persian by blood, I have been (un)officially accepted as an honorary member of the clan. I am enamored by every aspect of their rich culture, from the history, to the aromatic spices, to the exciting music and revelry. For me, the Persian Formal is the one time of the year when I am successfully integrated into the Persian community.

    The Persian Empire sprawled all across the Middle East, continuously expanding for hundreds of years under various emperors. Those who identify as Persians hail specifically from Iran.

    The Persian Empire sprawled all across the Middle East, continuously expanding for hundreds of years under various emperors. Those who identify as Persians hail specifically from Iran.

    Persians are often surprised to see that I know my fair share about their past. The basics: they come from Iran-the capital being Tehran- and speak Farsi. In 1979, the Shah, then the dictator in power, was overthrown. In response, many surreptitiously arranged and executed escape plans, leaving behind almost everything. They came to America, ready to start anew. Interestingly, this immigrant mentality manifested itself in the form of entrepreneurialism: many Persians developed businesses from scratch. They engaged in various aspects of business, most notably in real estate, jewelry, and Persian rugs. Their immediate and current success is a testament to their dedication and solid work ethic.

     

    Like every television show that seeks to exploit a certain ethnicity or culture, this Bravo show accentuates many Persian stereotypes. While many Persian friends of mine laugh at the accuracy of the characters' behavior,  it should be noted that not all Persians are like those depicted on the show.

    Like every television show that seeks to exploit a certain ethnicity or culture, this Bravo show accentuates many Persian stereotypes. While many Persian friends of mine laugh at the accuracy of the characters’ behavior, it should be noted that not all Persians are like those depicted on the show.

    Nowadays, with thriving communities across America, most notably in Great Neck, New York and Los Angeles, California, Persians continue to succeed in professions other than business, including medicine and technology. A noteworthy feature of their communities is they are all intimately close, which lends itself well to networking, business prospects, and innovation. The Persian Formal is the perfect opportunity to celebrate their achievements by infusing Persian vitality into the banal, humdrum Queens College atmosphere.

     

    Rarely will you see an event being hosting at Queens that brings together so many diverse clubs.

    Rarely will you see an event being hosting at Queens College that brings together so many diverse clubs.

    The Persian Formal has a substantial budget, and for good reason. This event is poised to be one of the most expensive at Queens College all year. It will also be the largest, as it is cosponsored by six other clubs. As a result of the conglomeration, there will be a bigger, more diverse turnout. Moreover, having all these unrelated clubs come together showcases the power of synergy, a major driving force in the business world. If they were not involved, the Persian Club would not be able to afford a formal that would adequately live up to its reputation for being excessively ostentatious.

    GAAP governs the way in which accounting firms conduct tax and audit practices. The largest accounting firms are known as the Big Four, and include Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC. Answer to a trick question that the latter company sometimes asks: PwC stands for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    GAAP governs the way in which accounting firms conduct tax and audit practices. The largest accounting firms are known as the Big Four, and include Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC. Answer to a trick question that the latter company sometimes asks: PwC stands for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    In order to be admitted, you have to present a ticket, which can either be bought upfront for $5 at Q-tips or for $7 at the door. The concept of paying in advance has both a financial and accounting rationale. A crucial element to the success of any business is that of constantly earning revenue. The Persian Club similarly needs to see a substantial stream of cash in order to ensure that the event’s expenses are covered. While selling the $5 ticket generates less money in the long run, in the short run it guarantees an inflow of cash. This money, though, is not considered revenue. According to GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, revenue is only recognized when it is earned. It is earned when the service that people pay for, here the Persian Formal, is carried through and performed.

    Interest rates now are now officially beyond abysmal- they fall into the laughable category. You are practically paying the bank to look after your money, when they should be paying you interest-which, by definition, is the cost of money.

    Interest rates are now officially beyond abysmal- they fall into the pathetic/laughable category. You are practically paying the bank to look after your money, when the bank should be paying you! After all, interest is the cost of money.

    It might seem obvious that, unless you are intent on only doing things at last minute, it is in your best interest to buy a ticket upfront. After all, with $2 in savings, you could buy (barely) two snacks from the vending machine! In reality, it is far more complicated. There is a concept of present and future value of money. You could spend your money now, or you can save it and invest it in the bank. How much interest can you accrue? For example, if the interest rate is 20% monthly, you can make $1 of interest on the $5. While in this case it is clear that buying in advance is still the better option, there are examples in real life when paying more at a later date is actually more beneficial and/or cheaper. As far as the case I just mentioned, please let me know if you find a non-risky investment that is paying 20% interest!

     

    My camera did not accurately capture the beauty of the rich blue fabrics flowing as the dancers moved to the beat of the music.

    My camera did not accurately capture the beauty of the rich blue fabrics flowing as the dancers moved to the beat of the music.

    So what do you get for the money you fork over? I frequently tell people that my ticket to the Persian Formal is “Hands down, the best $5 I have ever spent.” (With current interest rates at just above inflation, I did not hesitate to buy the ticket an hour after it went on sale.) At the event, there is a tremendous amount of free swag-my two favorite words. In addition to the tangible prizes, you also benefit from the experience. The belly dancers and a well-known DJ playing Persian music contribute to the festive atmosphere. It is the prime environment to let loose at the end of the week with your friends. Thus, you are paying for a certain ambience, not unlike how exclusive golf clubs charge their posh clientele.

    As the graph depicts, the more that is produced, the less the cost per unit is.

    As the graph depicts, the more that is produced, the less the cost per unit is.

    The most significant thing you get at the Persian Formal, in my opinion, is the food. After all, it comprises over 40% of the budget! Dinner from Colbeh, a widely known Persian restaurant, is served. Last year, I tried Colbeh for the first time and I instantly fell in love. Not having eaten all day to ensure that I fit into my dress, I gorged on every different meat and rice dish. Buying Colbeh at the restaurant is quite pricy, but here you are able to get a meal, in addition to all the other amenities of the Persian Formal, for the price of a ticket. In its production for this event, Colbeh experiences economies of scale: by producing more, its costs per unit of output decreases. This occurs because the fixed costs are spread out over a larger production. The Persian Club, in placing such a substantial order, similarly experiences reduced costs; buying in bulk is always cheaper.

    As the price approaches equilibrium, consumer suprius falls, while producer surplus rises. I recognize that whenever I go shopping, my goal is to maximize my consumer surplus by finding bargains.

    As the price approaches equilibrium, consumer surplus falls, while producer surplus rises. I recognize that whenever I go shopping, my goal is to maximize my consumer surplus by finding bargains.

    As I praised Colbeh, some Persian friends of mine were not so enthused. In fact, they said that this main attraction did not entice them because they frequently have Colbeh at celebrations and eat homemade Persian food on a daily basis.  I noticed that their willingness to pay was extremely low- in some cases zero. This stands in stark contrast to mine, as I view Colbeh as a treat. In fact, I would be willing to pay $10 for it! The difference between my willingness to pay and the actual price is called consumer surplus. Ideally, firms want consumer surplus to be zero in order to gain maximum revenue. Here, the Persian Club had to be extremely careful because of the high price elasticity, or the responsiveness to price change. Squeezing every last dollar from an audience that is on a tight budget will limit turnout, and will cause people to choose not to attend in the future.

    This is my favorite shirt in my wardrobe.And no, you cannot have it, it's mine!

    This is my favorite shirt in my wardrobe.

    A great deal of organization went into preparing this Persian Formal. For me, it is by far the highlight of the semester. Go out and buy a ticket before they are all sold out-and you are forced to pay $7 at the door!

  • Over 70% of the past participants of the program came to the conference.

    Over 70% of the past participants of the program came to the conference. That is an impressive showing considering how people flew in from all over the country.

    With barely a month left to the fall semester, I still find myself telling stories of my summer internship in Israel. This past weekend, I attended Birthright Excel’s annual conference, in which I met participants from the past four years. A three-day event, this reunion was an enlightening experience. Not only did I befriend and learn from new professionals in the workforce who could empathize with my internship application struggles, but I was also exposed to the often overlooked but important field of philanthropy.

    Just a short bus and subway ride, and I was there!

    Just a short bus and subway ride, and I was there!

    Rushing out of my psychology class in Queens, I soon realized that I had the shortest commute. Many participants from my cohort came from all across the country and were forced to miss class. Others were studying abroad and flew internationally, from countries such as Israel and Copenhagen. My utmost respect goes to the older participants, who had to take off work to make the trip; how they were able to appear completely unfazed despite the accumulation of work that awaited them come Monday morning is beyond my comprehension.

    Jumping on the bed in a fancy hotel? Check off the bucket list!

    Jumping on the bed in a fancy hotel? Check off the bucket list!

    Of course, it might have helped allay their concern knowing that the cost of transportation, hotel stay, and food were all covered. We stayed in a four star hotel, and were treated like royalty. There were a few rooms that were reserved exclusively for our meetings and speakers. To the unsuspecting onlooker, this must have looked like a legitimate corporate conference. For many of the young professionals on the trip, traveling to clients and meetings is the norm. I, on the other hand, was speechless. I never expected to experience a real business conference, albeit on a much less stressful level, by the age of 20!

    An important feature of this type of conference is networking. Birthright Excel encouraged participants from all four years to mingle on both a casual and professional level. I witnessed friendly banter among all different age groups, as participants connected through shared experiences and interests. What intrigued me more was seeing younger participants asking older ones for internship advice. Specifically, current juniors wanted to learn about what working at a particular company entailed, from someone who is young and can empathize with the stressful application process.

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    While these types of exchanges can be painfully uncomfortable due to their obvious opportunistic nature, these conversations were extremely organic; the interaction was devoid of awkwardness because both parties had an instant connection as Birthright Excel alumni. Thus, I frequently overheard the line “Just send me your resume, and I will forward it to HR.” I have heard that line many times recently, but I have never heard it said with such a genuine desire to help. This type of outreach is invaluable for people my age because, as I mentioned before, the summer following junior year is the crucial one. In addition to sitting at mixed tables where we interacted with unfamiliar faces, we also had the opportunity to sit at tables that were arranged according to company and/or field. I called it Speed Dating: Business Edition.

    I was shocked to see a real life example of this small, seemingly insignificant graph that I had skimmed over the previous month.

    I was shocked to see a real life example of this small, seemingly insignificant graph that I had skimmed over the previous month.

    Later on in the conference, a chart illustrated a breakdown of the percentage of the working participants in various sectors of business. The pie chart showed that the largest chunk worked in consulting and the second biggest in finance. Technology was a close third. On a superficial level, this illustrated how successful past participants have been.

    I noticed something different. The breakdown reminded me of an article I read in The Economist about a month ago. It said that the new trend for MBA students is to pursue consulting. Finance is becoming less popular, while technology is gaining steam.  I found it interesting that a pool of about 50 young professionals from the program who are now in the business world accurately depicted this statistic on a microcosmic scale.

    Everyone benefits from hearing another person's perspective. In short, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Everyone benefits from hearing another person’s perspective. In short, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Having people with various strengths and perspectives created an atmosphere at the conference that was ripe for innovation. Birthright Excel identified this potential and harnessed it by organizing a brainstorming session. At this event, we were told to let our creative juices flow and to think of innovative ideas for the program and/or the world in general. I was initially skeptical. I believe that the best ideas are those that are developed organically. It is stressful to think of something on the spot that is both feasible and innovative. And yet, I was mistaken. The people in my group raised points that I would never think of. Hearing one individual say something would spark an idea in the mind of another. In the end, each group had developed a creative solution to an issue they had identified. I realized that this process is very similar to what happens in certain divisions in firms such as R&D (research and development) or business and strategy. As I discussed before, having a stock of ideas, and consequently building on it, is conducive to long-term growth.

    Michael Steinhardt, net worth: $1.2 Billion. He is a noted philanthropist. Mr. Steinhardt: Where do you go to school? Me: Queens College Mr. Steinhardt: Do you know Moshe Shur? Me:...He's my landlord.

    Michael Steinhardt, net worth: $1.2 Billion. He is a noted philanthropist.Mr. Steinhardt: Where do you go to school?Me: Queens CollegeMr. Steinhardt: Do you know Moshe Shur?Me:…He’s my landlord.

    While innovation in business is crucial, it is equally necessary to take a step back and evaluate one’s priorities in life. Working 24/7 might be efficient from a productivity lens, but is detrimental to one’s welfare. At the conference, we heard from successful businessmen who discussed their contributions outside of their job.  Philanthropy is not only a way of networking with other like-minded individuals, but it also provides the opportunity to give back to the community. Even more so than business networking, charity connects people on an intimate level. It is not simply about giving away money, but rather about being passionate about a cause. I was not surprised to see that these speakers had been so engaged; they had harnessed the leadership skills that had made them successful businessman in their philanthropic endeavors. While I left each speech feeling intimidated by their professional achievements, I also felt inspired by their altruism.

    A large get together is never complete without an Ellen inspired selfie. Can you spot me?

    A large get-together is never complete without an Ellen inspired selfie. Can you spot me?

    In less than 72 hours, I felt that I had gained far more than I had in the past week of classes combined. (This could be due to the fact that I was distracted in the lectures by my excitement for the weekend.) The speakers were engaging, the people were pleasant, the location was scenic, and the food was delicious. I came out thinking about how fortunate I am to be part of Birthright Excel, and what a positive impact it has had on both my outlook and abilities. I cannot wait until next year’s conference!

  • When I first walked in, I thought that the sign  was permanent. My initial reaction: No way, this is too good to be true.

    When I first walked in, I thought that the sign was permanent. My initial reaction: No way, this is too good to be true. Indeed, it is temporary, both the deal and the sign.

    Last week, I walked into the kosher cafeteria and noticed something out of the ordinary. No, the fraternities and sororities had not ventured to the opposite side of the room. Next to the Dairy Stop stood a new shop with a sign that read “Grand Opening! All Sandwiches Five Dollars!” I peered inside and saw bread and various cuts of meat. I could not believe it: $5 for a kosher meat sandwich at Queens College? This was too good to be true. My curiosity piqued, I ventured inside. A menu hanging from the ceiling stated that sandwiches normally cost $8. But as a limited time offer, they were only $5- a significant 40% discount.

    I have never heard a single person say anything positive about Chartwells.

    I have never heard a single person say anything positive about Chartwells.

    I was skeptical of the legitimacy of this deal. Queens College food is always expensive. As I noted last semester, our school exploits ravenous students who are desperate for an afternoon pick-me-up by charging exorbitant prices for snacks in the vending machines. And when it comes to food for events, clubs must go through Chartwells to purchase food from vendors. Chartwells is the nefarious official middleman that bears no constructive purpose whatsoever; it serves exclusively to profit off of every transaction by jacking up prices. Moreover, kosher food in general is notorious for being expensive. Since more care goes into its preparation and it requires a kosher certification, the final cost of its production, determined by adding up the intermediate steps, is higher than that of something non-kosher. Thus, how could it be that at an institution like Queens College, which overcharges its students for everything but tuition, suddenly offers a reasonably priced meal option- and one that is kosher, no less?

    Normally, it costs $8 for the sandwich alone-no complimentary chips and/or beverage. If you do choose to have these, your meal would end up costing you about $10 bucks. You might as well go to a nice place off campus!

    Normally, it costs $8 for the sandwich alone-no complimentary chips and/or beverage. If you do choose to have these, your meal would end up costing you about $10 bucks. You might as well go to a nice place off campus!

    The rationale behind this promotion has nothing to do with having students smile like Jeff, the man behind the counter in the kosher cafeteria. Rather, it is a classic marketing tactic. In presenting a new product (a meat sandwich store), the shop had to find a way to gain a foothold into a relatively saturated market (the many food places in and around campus). Its goal was twofold: to garner publicity and, more importantly, to gain more customers. While this could have been implemented in a plethora of ways, Queens College chose to do so by adjusting a variable that it knew customers would notice and respond to: price. College students are on a tight budget and do not have money to frivolously spend on a new food joint. Here was an instance of the Holy Grail for the classic starving college student: a substantial, edible meal that did not break the bank. While the promotion is transient, it succeeded in getting people in the door, thereby increasing foot traffic. Of the people who walked in for the first time, many of them are likely to return.

    The firm only maximizes its profit when the marginal cost equals the marginal product.

    The firm  maximizes its profit when the marginal cost equals the marginal product. The concept of promotions and taking a short term hit for a long term benefit is unfortunately not reflected in graphs of economic models.

    That there will be a significant number of students who will come back offsets a major shortcoming of this promotion. Technically, the store loses $3 for each sandwich sold. In the short run, they make a loss by selling below the marginal cost. Through the promotion, though, business is rejuvenated. Not only has there been a daily deluge of customers, but there is also a substantial inflow of cash, which is the lifeline of any business. A steady stream of cash is a positive indicator of the well being of a firm. In particular, it is especially important for a firm in its nascent stage, like this sandwich shop, to generate cash, for it needs to recoup the money it spent on the initial and fixed costs. From the perspective of generating positive revenue, the promotion is only a success if the reduced price is offset by a substantial increase in quantity purchased. Indeed, the promotion appeared to be a massive success. Students, from cafeteria veterans to freshman who are always cooped up in the library, pounced. In classic supply/demand fashion, demand soared. People responded well to the price change. For example, a friend of mine told me that he had purchased a sandwich every day that week, whereas he would normally purchase two slices of pizza for lunch. In this instance, the sandwich had become a substitute to the pizza; he was willing to switch because he viewed the two meals, which cost roughly the same, as interchangeable. I am sure others were thinking similarly, and pizza sales suffered as a result that week.

    Kosher meat is a bit more complicated than a cow with a kipa (skullcap).

    Kosher meat is a bit more complicated than a cow with a kipa (skullcap).

    I asked another individual what he thought of the promotion, and he gushed, “It’s a steal!” He elaborated that one does not find such reasonably priced food on campus, especially not kosher meat. Even in local off-campus eateries, one would not find an option on par with this deal. People kept coming, and at one point the hero bread and rolls had completely sold out.

    Always ask: What's the catch?

    Always ask: What’s the catch?

    Frugal and cynical individual that I am, I investigated further. Was Queens College implementing any deceptive tactics along with this promotional strategy? While everyone was waiting on line, I peppered the man at the register with questions: Was the sandwich size smaller than usual? Were there any required additional purchases, such as an extra large beverage that I do not need? Is there a limit of one per customer? What was the quality of the meat, and where was it purchased? In hindsight, I suppose I was excessively harsh on a man whose responsibility is simply to slice the meat. Still, I firmly believe that it is of the utmost importance to be an educated customer, lest you fall prey to classic business ploys.

    i certainly feel less guilty after eating my favorite flavor of Chobani, Key Lime Pie, than I do after having eaten the sandwich.

    I certainly feel less guilty after eating my favorite flavor of Chobani, Key Lime Pie, than I do after having eaten the sandwich.

    Having done my due diligence about the product, I thought that the best way to determine if the sandwich was worth $5 was to try it.  Handing over a $5 bill that, through a stroke of luck, I had found on the ground, I felt like I was getting the sandwich for free. I ordered the Abe Lincoln, which was the most popular choice. Though the meat was a bit salty, the sandwich overall was substantial and I was full once I had devoured it. Five dollars was definitely a reasonable price. But would I pay $8? Let’s be honest: I’ll stick to my Chobani for $1.

    Those who keep Kosher and want to eat meat always flock to Carlos & Gabby's. If they do not want Mexican food, they now have a closer option.

    Those who keep Kosher and want to eat meat often flock to Carlos & Gabby’s. If they do not want Mexican food, they now have a closer option.

    I think that this store is going to thrive. It fills a void in the food market at Queens College, and is conveniently located. In particular, it caters to a male audience that is often starving and wants something substantial to eat. It is important to be careful and not buy it too often, as $8 adds up; buying it for 7 days over the course of a month will set you back over $50! If you did like the sandwiches, make sure to take advantage of the promotion now, as it ends this week!

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