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Amazon accepts third party liability, raising stakes for the competition

(BUSINESS NEWS) A controversial consumer protections bill in California will not make it onto the 2020 ballot, despite (or maybe because of) Amazon’s influence.

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Man covered in Amazon packages.

E-commerce platforms rely heavily on third party vendors for their bottom lines. Amazon is no exception: Over half of the company’s profits came from third party sellers in 2019. Some of these sellers are tiny, while others are massive. But historically, not all of them have been reputable.

Last month, a California woman successfully sued Amazon in court after a laptop battery that she ordered through the website combusted, giving her third degree burns. In response to the incident, Mark Stone, a Democratic assembly member from Santa Cruz, introduced AB 3262.

Up until now, it has been standard practice for online retailers of third party products to position themselves as intermediary service providers, and refrain from assuming any legal liability for them. Advocates of AB 3262 claim the bill aims to hold virtual retailers to the same standards as brick-and-mortar stores.

Amazon publicly backed the measure in a statement on their corporate blog – with one catch. Public Policy Chief Brian Huseman wrote, “If AB 3262 is amended so that all stores, including online marketplaces, are held to the same standards, Amazon stands ready to support this legislation.”

In the same post, Amazon implicitly called out their competition, saying “For AB 3262 to be a successful, lasting, and meaningful law, it cannot leave open loopholes for some marketplaces to escape accountability.”

It’s almost refreshing to see something like accountability from Amazon right now – until you realize the strategic advantage they stood to gain from the amendments that they were pushing.

Amazon is one of the biggest and most profitable companies of all time. It has made founder Jeff Bezos into the wealthiest man alive. Their Q2 earnings report indicates that they have been raking in record profits this year, thanks to a COVID-fueled boom in online shopping.

Frankly, Amazon is capable of absorbing any damage that AB 3262 might have inflicted. However, competitors like eBay, Etsy, and Shopify would have been hit considerably harder.

Etsy CEO, Josh Silverman, responded to these points late last month, calling it “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” He claimed that “with Amazon’s lobbying, AB 3262 has become an increasingly complicated piece of legislation that is going to be expensive for any small or mid-sized business to try to comply with.”

He continues: “The reality is that many of Etsy’s creative entrepreneurs will opt out of selling into California, to avoid the hassle and expense. Of course, those buyers will still have access to Amazon.”

Though AB 3262 has been put on indefinite hold, the fact remains that ultimately, Amazon attempted to leverage their own critical failure against the rest of their competition. That’s a bold move at best, and at worst, downright dastardly.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Business News

Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) As a vaccine gets closer to reality, employees are making their remote work preferences known – companies may miss out if they don’t keep up.

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Black man doing remote work at an in-home desk and laptop setup while talking on the phone.

COVID-19 transformed the workplace by leveraging the home office. Working from home isn’t easy, but I feel privileged to have the opportunity. Not everyone has that luxury. As promises of an effective vaccine suggest an end to the pandemic, it’s time to think about the future of remote work. Owl Labs recently released its 4th annual State of Remote Work. This information can help business leaders support workers by understanding trends in remote work.

How do employees feel about remote work?

Obviously, the pandemic is the force behind the push to telecommute. According to Owl Labs’ survey, 70% of full-time workers are working from home. Working remotely saves workers 40 minutes every day on their commute. The survey reports that people are saving about $500 each month by working from home. Working from home is keeping people from getting sick, but it’s also adding to their quality of life. Here are a few of the other findings:

  • 77% of respondents agree that working from home after Covid-19 would make them happier
  • 1 in 2 people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after Covid-19
  • Almost 25% of employees are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely some or all the time
  • 1 in 2 people would move if they could work from home all or most of the time

To retain top talent, employers may need to rethink their attitudes about remote work

Before COVID-19, many employers were concerned about productivity from remote workers. The attitude seems to be that if you’re not in the office, you won’t be as focused. The Owl Labs’ survey found that 75% of the respondents were the same or more productive from home under COVID-19. Granted, 44% of the respondents didn’t want to get dressed up for video meetings, but they were still productive. One in 5 people worked more while working from home.

Remote work may decline as the pandemic ends, but workers want that flexibility. Employers who aren’t aware of what their workers need will lose out to other organizations. Remote work can increase diversity and give you options to retain your best team members. Keep up with the changing landscape of work to understand how to support your employees.

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Business News

Inflation is coming to big brand goods, how small business can keep up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Big brands providing everyday goods are raising prices—take note, smaller producers, to determine if you need to follow suit for inflation.

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Woman holding a package of toilet paper, affected by inflation.

Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola are two of the mega-corporations that have said they are raising prices by September due to their own rising commodity costs. Kimberly-Clark has also warned of a “mid-to-high single digit” percentage price hikes to mitigate their own inflated costs in getting commodities.

Coca-Cola has already started to raise prices. Overall, prices are starting to go up. The Associated Press reports that it is beginning to happen, “U.S. consumer prices increased a sharp 0.6% in March, the biggest uptick since 2012, while inflation over the past year jumped 2.6%.”

Supply chains, along with so many things, got all kinds of jacked up in 2020, and we are continuing to see the effects as prices creep or sometimes shoot upward. With manufacturing and shipping prices rising, along with the costs of pulp and oil-related products, P&G, Kimberly-Clark, and Coca-Cola have stated they are hiking the prices of their popular, everyday items, things in fairly universal, high demand. Think diapers, feminine products, shampoo, paper products, and of course, food and beverages. Hopefully consumers can keep up, and hopefully small businesses are not affected too badly in the fallout.

The price hikes will initially affect the retailers buying the goods, but it stands to reason the consumers will feel the hit shortly thereafter. CBS News reported “Most retailers will pass on the higher costs to consumers, who might not even notice the difference because of the savvy methods deployed by these companies.” Demand for the big brands went up during the pandemic, even though some goods already saw early and continued upticks in pricing—toilet paper, for example.

Bloomberg adds, “P&G, whose lineup of brands also includes Charmin and Tide, is trying to navigate the waning stages of the pandemic, which had given it a boost as quarantined consumers stocked up on toilet paper and other household supplies. Wall Street is watching for signs of slowing demand as vaccinations increase and consumer behavior begins to normalize.”

As vaccine rates go up, and things move more and more toward fully opening, demand will continue to increase. However, commodity costs are rising, ports, highways and airports are more congested, and shipping prices are also rising. While the big brands and big retailers should be able to ride out the rising tide of increased costs, smaller producers need to pay attention and evaluate their own production and shipping costs. Smaller retailers need to decide who will bear the brunt when the big brands start charging them more. Will the smaller businesses be able to pass on the cost hikes to their customers?

It behooves the smaller guys to stay tuned in to what the big companies are doing, particularly with inflation. If P&G, Kimberly-Clark, and Coca-Cola are groaning about their costs, odds are it will be painful to the smaller businesses. It’s time to evaluate production methods, materials, and supply chains again. Buckle your seat belts; we’re in for some turbulence.

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Business News

The 7 deadly sins of technical interviews

(TECH NEWS) When you’re preparing for technical interviews, there are a number of things to consider, including these 7 tips of what NOT to do.

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Woman seated across from three interviewers for technical interviews

The economic world has never before been so mismatched. In October of 2019 I was let go from my Oil & Gas position. Through no fault of my own, I might add. The downturn for oil started in the summer of that year and a financial impact from other countries contributed to the beginning of a major downturn for the industry. Thousands of professionals lost their jobs in probably the worst downturn O&G has scene ever. Then of course we had a global pandemic to contend with.

During the ensuing 16 months of part-time work, I not only worked as a Wal-Mart employee (don’t ask!), but also a maid, a bartender, a writer, a hawker, and pretty much anything that would allow me to survive to the next paycheck. I’ll be giving back to friends for their generosity too for a while to come. Nothing I did professionally was making any headway so just like thousands of other people on the planet I was stuck trying to find employment while being drowned in bills.

After hundreds of applications, I do not exaggerate, I was able to land a number of professional interviews. Unfortunately, I only received limited interviews because of my advanced degrees. The number of times I heard that I was over-qualified would have made a nun curse.

During these interviews however, I remembered a great deal about good practices. An article published in Smashing Magazine actually categorized the 7 worst things you can do in technical interviews. Overall, they hit the nail on the head.

  1. Not Communicating Effectively: This is surefire way to not get a job. You have to know how to communicate to get anything done.
  2. Not Admitting when you don’t know the Answer: If you get caught not knowing some information, just admit that you don’t know and demonstrate that you know how to learn it. Or that you know where to find the correct information. If you lie and they figure it out, you’re screwed.
  3. Cramming the night before an interview: This is a surefire way to tire yourself out and be in worse shape than if you hadn’t crammed at all, remain balanced.
  4. Memorizing code for algorithms & Data Structures: You have no real clue about what you’re going to be asked. Filling your head with useless information right before technical interviews that could destroy your chances of answering something effectively.
  5. Overlooking the “Cultural Fit” Interview: Technical interviewers almost all come from a background of doing it themselves. This being said, they are typically not really looking for your full technical knowledge background, that’s what your resume is for. They want to know if they’ll want to spend most of their week with you, or whether you can handle stressful situations and fast paced changes. Having someone who is extremely technical but who can’t actually handle a social situation is almost always worse.
  6. Starting with the Optimized Solution: Always starting off with the optimized solution can show a very structured and inflexible mind. Show off your versatility, not just that you get straight to the point.
  7. Overlooking Programming Foundations: Instead of going off on fancy things, start with the basics – if they start asking about more advanced thins then that’s the opener for you to get creative. If you just jump over the basics they wont know where your base is.

These 7 shortfalls of technical interviewees are well established. They each come from well-known interview practices. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a must, no matter what job you’re interviewing for. Taking time to relax and stay calm before an interview and not cramming your brain full of information you may have no idea is going to be talked about. It’s a good list for technical interviews to be sure.

While it is a broader perspective, there are a few more points of information in the article itself.

The thing I always try and remember in any interview, whatever it be for a CEO or for McDonalds, I have a few rules to keep in mind. Not that they always got me what I wanted but it’s something to start with for those of you reentering the work force for whatever reason:

  • Be yourself: If your main goal is to hide character flaws, then ultimately one mistake could give them a bad impression. If you go into the meeting being yourself, you can at least be truthful on your strong or weak points to ensure best fit.
  • Be prepared: You know yourself, or at least I’d hope so. You know whether its best for you to study the week before or the night before technical interviews. Make sure you know the position you’re interviewing for and the company itself. You don’t have to memorize everything but you need to be prepared.
  • Be calm: You might be the nervous sort who has to pace on phone interviews. Well, if you are, just keep that in mind. I know for a fact that those interviews that I took on the phone without video, I paced around my room continuously. Whatever you need to do to appear calm and coordinated, do it.
  • Be observant: Reading the room is an essential skill for anyone trying to get a job. You could be blabbing the secrets of becoming a millionaire to someone who just doesn’t want to hear it. You wouldn’t get hired. You have to be able to know what’s going on around you.

As the world is, finding job is just a difficult process. You have to remember to not give up. That is the only thing that will stop you, quitting. Use any and all connections that you’ve made to keep moving forward. Don’t hesitate to use social media either. It’s there for a reason. Good luck!

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