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Amazon Prime Day 2.0 – another flop?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Last year, Amazon’s Prime Day wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Was the company able to fix it this year or was it yet another disappointment?

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A second chance for success

Today is Amazon’s second annual Prime Day. While last year’s Prime Day promised users hundreds upon hundreds of bargains, it was largely a flop: users couldn’t navigate the site, the site was crashing, and the few “good” deals sold out almost instantly. This year’s Prime Day promised to be bigger and better, but is it?

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Customer complaints before it even started

Before this year’s Prime Day even began, users were complaining that both the Amazon site and app were experiencing difficulties; whether this was due to an influx in users, or a problem on their end isn’t clear.

Amazon even acknowledged they were experiencing issues, stating in a Tweet, “Some customers are reporting difficulty with checkout. We’re working to resolve this issue quickly.” Not exactly helpful when Amazon’s Prime deals are time sensitive (you only have a certain amount of time to check out with your bargains or they’re removed from your cart).

Last year’s Prime Day sparked rumors that other retailers would begin having Christmas-in-July sales, but we’ve yet to see many retailers follow suit.

Even though many visitors were disappointed by Amazon’s 2015 sale, worldwide, Prime members ordered an average of 398 items per second.

This figure surpassed the retail giant’s Black Friday sales, so obviously some people were quite satisfied.

More variety this time around

This difference in this year’s Prime sales is the variety of items offered. From toys to electronics and everything in between, Amazon made an effort to offer at least one deal from nearly every category they stock. Amazon is offering over 100,000 deals today, with a new sale every five minutes. The best upgrade this year, is the ability to “watch” a deal via the Amazon app. This ensures that when the deal starts you get a heads-up to switch back to the app and make your purchase.

If you’re having a bit of trouble finding what you need on the Amazon home page, try switching to Amazon’s Gold Box page. Switching to this page allows you to sort and filter deals by price and type (like you can do within the app). There are also a few RSS feeds or browser extensions you can use to receive and read deal alerts.

In the end, people still want a deal

One thing is clear from Amazon’s Prime Day sales: everyone like to find a bargain. The problem seems to be that Amazon isn’t ready for the number of bargain hunters on their servers. If the annual Prime Day sales continue, Amazon may get a better idea of what users are looking for and how to keep a decent stock of sale items. For now, the sales seem to be a virtual fight-to-the-death for those $115 TVs and $2 socks.

While some of the bargains are great, Amazon definitely needs to work out a few of the kinks before next year’s Prime Day, at least in my opinion.

What did you think of this year’s Prime Day? Did you find any unbeatable bargains?

#AmazonPrimeDay2.0

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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How your company can take advantage of the gig economy, not fear it

(NEWS) The gig-economy is increasing in popularity and you shouldn’t be quick to write it off.

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Gigs are expanding

The gig economy is buzzing. The term has now come to signify any contractual, part-time, freelance work, and is not limited to the tech universe.

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Freelance freedom

Between 2004 and 2014, independent contracting employment increased from 12 percent to only about 18 percent. In the last several years the gig economy has exploded onto the scene.

The 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the rate of self-employment in America is falling, and yet more people are engaging in freelance work, which last year stood at an impressive 35 percent of the total economy.

What gives?

The answer, backed by several surveys, is simple.

People with full-time jobs are increasingly participating in part-time gigs.

And although the Uber driver has become the poster-child, the scope of the gig economy is much wider.

A growing gig nation

The BLS report clearly states, “Gig workers are spread among diverse occupation groups and are not easily identified (added emphasis) in surveys of employment and earnings.”

Linkedin predicts that by 2020, 43 percent Americans shall be engaged in gig economy.

Really not a shock

This should not come as a surprise. By now it is well known that our out-of-date model of success — “study hard—earn a degree—get a job” is failing.

There are too many graduates, and too few well-paid full time jobs.

The private sector has also struggled. In most American metro areas, more businesses are closing than new ones are opening up.

For many millennials, it is the sole source of income. For others, it is an easy way to make some extra cash. Today’s millennials have less purchasing power than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. But this picture no longer accurately portrays the essence of the gig economy.

Many of today’s gig economy participants, especially younger employees, actually have full-time jobs.

However, instead of opening their own businesses by quitting their full-time jobs (a common practice in the past), they are pouring their passion into these freelance gigs IN ADDITION to their full time jobs.

The gig economy today has thus become an outlet that captures their expressions of creativity.

Gigs reaching beyond their stereotypical niche

The tech industry is already well known for a thriving gig economy. Contractual Web-developers (~$31/hr), Software developers (~$48/hr), Graphic Designers, and Multimedia Artists are all experiencing high demands.

But gig economy culture is spreading to other sectors of the economy, largely facilitated by the internet experience.

It is infiltrating administrative & support services, healthcare and even real estate.

Seasonal gigs are still a thing

Some demands are very much seasonal. Contract Accountants (~$30/hr) are in high demand as taxpayers try to submit their returns before April 15. Other gig economies are in demand year round.

Truck delivery is one of the highest paid gigs, which got a boost through the popularity of Amazon and eBay.

Low barriers to entry also make gig economies attractive. Take for example, Airbnb. So long as you have a spare room in a well-located, highly visited city, you can partake in the hospitality business!
This is good news for our economy! The criticisms it faces are mostly unfounded, and must be resisted.

Don’t listen to the haterz

The media and the government often unfairly characterizes the gig economy. The contract worker is seen as a victim, as being preyed upon by the big businesses, entering an exploitative arrangement, often unknowingly and against his own best interest.
The advent of the gig economy is painted as the death of salaries, health insurance and vacation days.
The goal of such criticism seems to be to reduce the number of contract workers and increase the number of definable “employees”. This argument overlooks the fact that each of these contracts were entered voluntarily and fulfilled a service that was a gap in the market.

Too many benefits

A 2016 Fastcompany survey found that 75 percent of employees still prefer health benefits to usual industry benefits like remote work.

While that is certainly true of a job seeker without any other job, statistics show us that more freelancers are full-time employees fishing for side gigs.

Forcing contractors to supply fringe benefits would result in duplicative benefits.

Gigging is not predatory

The debate over how to appropriately regulate the gig economy shall continue.

Obviously, companies may come up with strategies to exploit contract employees.

But at a time when traditional employers are experiencing downward pressure on their profit margins and retaining employees while tackling soaring insurance costs has become a challenge, engaging the best and the brightest from the gig economy becomes increasingly necessary. Industries that engage in it should not be seen as predatory.

Helping not hurting

In fact, it is quite the opposite. Gig economies empower the labor market in new innovative ways, when traditional markets have failed them.

Even the best schools in our land now advise their graduates to stop looking for full time jobs and participate in the gig economy.

Therefore, the caricature that the eager job seekers of the gig market must be bottom-of-the-barrel talent pool is also grossly erroneous.

Gotta up the ante

Yet, many companies have under-invested in this area. They have done too little to lobby for themselves and entirely miss out reaping its benefits.

Some still wait for traditional application to populate their inbox instead of actively recruiting from the gig-economy.

Their recruiting strategies are also failing. Mentioning “working remotely” as a reward on the job description is simply not good enough anymore.

Take the first step

Instead, companies should stress on their own unique story: a passion-driven project, with lots of creative leeway and good pay.

Research shows that the modern employee wants flexible hours, fair but few rules, and transparent pay structures.Click To Tweet

All of this can be easily achieved in a gig economy setting. What are we waiting for?

This editorial originally ran on March 21, 2017.

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This chatbot was designed to scam the scammers #beautiful

(NEWS) This AI chatbot has been designed to waste spammers’ time intelligently, and it is just oh so beautiful!

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re:scam spam chatbot

Spam emails are unfortunately a never-ending source of email annoyance. No matter how we improve our spam filters, 2017’s Nigerian Princes never fail to come out of the woodwork.

Efforts to fight scammers and the ever evolving techniques of scams they try to do come in varied forms, or in the case of New Zealand’s tech company NetSafe – multiple personalities.

NetSafe, an international non-profit dedicated to internet safety, has created a chatbot that could best be described as a sophisticated AI troll.

Re:scam is an email bot that is designed to reply to scam emails and give them a taste of their own drama.

How it works: forward any scam email to me@rescam.org – from there, the various personalities of the app work together to respond to that scamming email as though it was a would-be victim.

This helps keep scamming relevant by drawing attention to the issue. The emails exchanged can help teach us more about scammers, who regularly adjust their techniques, and it’s hitting scammers where it hurts – their wallet. Lost profits and wasted time mean the scammers have less time to do the scamming spam sucking that they thrive on.

The website details a few of the most common scams: banking, beneficiaries, romance, and #WesternUnion. With examples of how the app responds. The emails are humorously trolling, and I could see the romance one being an almost awkward comedy skit. Plus, Re:scam boasts some amazing success: over 47,000 emails have been sent and the app is getting a lot done – so far the app boasts five months of wasted time for scammers.

The biggest concern I would have had with this chatbot is quickly dispelled: Re:scam uses a proxy email and doesn’t tangle any of your personal information after you forward the email into the conversation. The site also reminds you that this application does not serve as a spam detection tool, but it does teach you some information to help you recognize spam emails.

In addition to sounding like a perfect revenge via scamming the scammer, the Re:scam chatbot is showing some promise as a great tool to help make the internet a slightly safer place. Give it a go and #SpamtheSpamoutoftheSpammers

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How to get what you want through negotiation, sans agression

(BUSINESS NEWS) There are a myriad of different approaches to negotiation. We’ve compiled a few tips for you, the first being avoid aggression.

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Art of persuasion

Persuasion as a tactic in negotiations and conversations is often times the only way we can arrive at a solution. We are prompted to negotiate at work, with our children, at our gigs, and many times with ourselves. Negotiations are cognitively, emotionally, and in ways physically, exhausting.

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In addition, the demands that lead us to the persuasion table often push negotiators into aggressive, or even threatening directions, even when that person would not normally use threats or aggression as a communication style.

Do not B-E-aggressive

The problem with threatening or aggressive negotiations is that for the most part – they don’t work. Many times threats are simply emotional outburst, even if they are successful at best they are short-term wins with the potential for future collateral damage.

To avoid threatening your way into a ruined relationship and negotiate with poise and skills, consider the following:

  • Emphasize the role of reciprocity – people will be more receptive to demands or needs if something is given.
  • Be the first to offer something. It sets the tone and makes people more receptive to what you are trying to influence.
  • Embrace the “common ground” –
  • Align your attitude with theirs to create comradery
  • Do not accuse them of being wrong – this simply becomes a personal attack.
  • Do not insult or demean their position. Even if you disagree, acknowledge that you understand the perspective.
  • Make yourself likable:
    • Be polite and practice your manners.
    • Dress well and convey your confidence.
    • Be present and listen to what is said.
    • Be confident.
  • When you present information, ensure that information doesn’t violate conversational maxims, this means that the information will be better received and you won’t be forced to rely on threats:
    • Information is complete and full.
    • Information is truthful and accurate.
    • Information is relevant to the conversation.
    • Information is expressed in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Express humility – admit when you are wrong. It prevents it from becoming an emotional derailed later in the argument.
  • Check your emotions regularly. We often resort to threats as an emotional outburst in an argument. If you find yourself resorting to threats
  • Utilize the scarcity principle – instead of a threat, indicate that an offer or a situation has a time limit and will expire.
  • Stop the negotiation if you feel like you can’t negotiate without being angry. It’s better to walk away rather than risk the potentially negative consequences for future negotiations.

Better to avoid

Although there are some cases where threats MAY be helpful for the most part it is better to maintain poise and avoid threats.
The consequences of threats can be ruined relationships and reputations, and ultimately, may keep you from reaching the ultimate goal of your negotiations.

#TalkItOut

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