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Amazon got caught being sketchy but does it actually matter?

(NEWS) A feature on Amazon’s website recently came under scrutiny for being misleading but we doubt it creates too many waves.

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Amazin’ Amazon

I don’t have to tell you that Amazon is crazy convenient. Forgot to get a bunch of random stuff at the store? Order anything from lip balm to groceries and find it on your doorstep within a couple of days.

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There are tons of options for basically any category you can think of, whether it’s TVs or mattress covers, and prices are usually competitive.

Golden age of e-commerce

It’s also a great place to scroll through reviews for larger purchases, or products you aren’t familiar with.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find that golden reviewer who claims to have read every. single. review. and lists out all the important pros and cons for you.

You’ll feel sad for them and incredibly relieved that it wasn’t you all at the same time.

Less of a deal than you think

Amazon is understandably doing pretty well for itself, but a new report commissioned by Consumer Watchdog claims that the e-commerce powerhouse has been posting misleading discounts for about 40 percent of its merchandise.

That means a deal is not a deal is not a deal.

List price lies

The report focuses on falsification of the “list price,” which Amazon defines as “the suggested retail price of a product as provided by a manufacturer, supplier, or seller.”

Consumer Watchdog claims that for two out of every five items, the list price far exceeds any reasonable estimate of the market price for that item.

For example

Take this handy dandy Pneumatic brand drill, which currently sells for $182.99 on Amazon.

The list price, according to Amazon, is $305 – 40 percent off is a great deal, right?

Welllll the same drill sells at Jet.com for $182.99, and Walmart charges $189.99. Amazon looks a little less impressive now, huh?

Fishy fishy

This example was featured in the Consumer Watchdog report, which was released on a Monday.

Notably, as of that Tuesday, this drill no longer features a list price.

Anything you’d like to tell us, Amazon? Guilty conscience keeping you up at night, compulsively deleting list prices?

List price mark up

Amazon doesn’t make public its list price methods, but neither the average market prices, mean market prices, or median market prices jibed with all of Amazon’s claims.

The report found that 71% of the products scrutinized in the study featured list prices higher than those used by competitors.

In fact, Amazon’s list price was an average of $18.88 more expensive than the market mean.

Everything’s higher

And median (middle) list prices weren’t any better – 74 percent of the products covered by the report cited list prices higher than the median competitor prices, by an average of $22.

Compared with the most common competitor prices, a full half of Amazon’s list prices were higher.

False reference

“In other words, the reference prices were an entirely bogus notional price that created the false impression that customers were getting a deal when they were not,” said Consumer Watchdog.

This practice is misleading, for sure, and dishonest discounts are something every shopper should be wary of.

If the claims are justified, it’s a bad sign for Amazon’s integrity as a company.

Does this feature matter though?

But honestly, I never pay attention to how much “off” something is.

I and the fellow millennials I know who use Amazon regularly do our research, especially for a larger purchase like a fancy drill or a laptop.

We know what it retails for elsewhere. We only care what Amazon’s actual charging price is, not how much it originally cost.

Amazon’s rebuttal

Amazon released a statement in regards to the Consumerist report.

In that statement they said, “The Consumer Watchdog report is misleading. Manufacturers, vendors and sellers provide list prices, but our customers care about how the price they are paying compares to other retailers. We validate list prices against actual prices recently found across Amazon and other retailers, and we eliminate List Price when we believe it isn’t relevant to our customers. Using recent price history of the product on Amazon we’ve also introduced a ‘Was’ price to provide customers with an alternative reference price when we don’t display List Price.”

No harm, no foul?

That doesn’t mean Amazon’s off the hook, by any means.

But it does mean that there might not be too much of an uproar.Click To Tweet

Especially since shoppers are, sadly, pretty used to distorted discounts in all kinds of brick and mortar stores. Regardless, Amazon has largely set the tone for e-commerce, and they should be better than this.

#FakeDeal

Business News

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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