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Consumerism took a big blow at the hands of Senate

(BUSINESS NEWS) Big business is not evil, but when the government actively pursues legislation (blocking mandatory arbitration clauses) that hurts the “little guy,” we must speak up.

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As a rule, American Genius isn’t about political debate. We have writers from all across the political and professional spectrum, bringing unique expertise to topics that matter in entrepreneurship, tech and business culture. That’s our offer. We’re proud of it.

But there’s a line.

Not every issue has two equal and opposite sides. On rare occasions, some things are flat out right or wrong. When that’s the case, it’s the responsibility of journalists to say so. We do. Net neutrality, for instance, is flat out right.

Vice President Pence’s tiebreaker vote to reverse the ban on mandatory arbitration clauses was flat out wrong.

Here’s why.

Mandatory arbitration clauses aren’t universal, but they’re a common tool. Banks do it. Credit cards do it. Service providers in just about every field dealing with capital-F Finance work mandatory arbitration clauses into their agreements.

They’re also a screwjob. Invariably tucked away nice and subtle roundabout paragraph 93 of the Joycean screed titled “Terms and Conditions” on any agreement involving meaningful money, mandatory arbitration clauses do exactly what they say they do: require the signatory to submit to a particular course of arbitration in the case of a dispute.

Tl;dr – sign a form or click a box with a mandatory arbitration clause in it, and no matter how badly the owner of the box subsequently shafts you, you’re not allowed to sue. Instead, you go through an arbitration process chosen by the people who shafted you.

To state the obvious, that’s a strategy designed to benefit one party to an agreement at the expense of the other. In the abstract, that would be repugnant but nothing new. Business plays rough. Film at 11.

But this isn’t debate class. It’s 2017. It’s Equifax screwing the security of 145 million Americans despite being warned 6 months in advance. It’s Wells Fargo opening fraudulent accounts in customers’ names. Facebook. Yahoo. The list goes on.

The plain fact is that the modern business climate is defined, at least in part, by businesses either failing to keep up with the dangers of advancing tech, or fecklessly using same to mess with their customers. To some degree, that’s just the price of progress.

But if screwing up is the price of progress, it’s the screwup’s responsibility to pay it. Vice President Pence’s vote means the next Equifax or Wells Fargo have an excellent way to duck that responsibility and pass along the cost of failure to their consumers.

This isn’t political. It certainly isn’t partisan. Even the vote broke party lines: Vice President Pence’s tiebreaker vote was only necessary because Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Florida, both Republicans from deep red states, broke ranks and voted their conscience.

It’s not anti-business, either. Mandatory arbitration clauses are textbook market obstacles. Obstructing consequences for businesses that screw up makes it harder to penalize poor practice, and so fails to incentivize doing things right. That’s the opposite of how the free market needs to work.

The legalization of mandatory arbitration clauses is exactly what it sounds like: a win for badly-run businesses at the expense of consumers.

That’s unacceptable. It’s our responsibility to say so.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Business News

Calvin Klein skips stores, opts for Amazon – smart or suicide?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Calvin Klein takes a creative step that may increasingly become common, but is it still risky at this stage?

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Calvin Klein has announced that it is taking a new approach this holiday season – instead of giving department stores access to its new stuff – online giant Amazon gets all that awesome underwear and denim first (here). Department stores won’t have access to their line until after Christmas sales have ended.

Wait, what?

It’s not a bad idea though. Basically, CK is following the money trail and with more and more consumers going to Amazon as the online shop of choice, compared to the thousands of stores closing across the country for the retail sector, it makes sense.

CK’s new approach is innovative- in addition to going online, it’s got two in-person pop-ups to create a new shopping experience that integrates Amazon Alexa devices and a highly personalized shopping experience. For example, you could literally see how those jeans pop in the club by having some delicious dance track play on Alexa and some clever lighting – dude! The pop up stores won’t even have prices, they just use the Amazon app to show relevant, changing prices (thanks to robots with algorithms).

How this new approach and unique shopping experience goes for this brand is going to set a new tone possibly – if it’s successful.

Amazon is set to benefit in its broader exposure and exclusivity (as though you needed a reason to shop at Amazon – I sure don’t!) of the relationship, but more importantly, as Amazon moves into fashion with things like “Prime Wardrobe” and seven new private-label clothes brand it’s set to become a great place for clothing. Earlier this year, Nike began selling on Amazon as well, so while CK isn’t the first to jump on it, it’s certainly doing it in a unique way.

Sadly, the pop-ups are only in the bougie locales of New York and Los Angeles, but everyone else should check out the customer site for all those good denim jackets, I mean, jeans. In terms of marketing, Model Karlie Kloss and YouTuber Lilly Singh are influencing the campaign, creating a one of a kind mix of fashion, technology, and engagement.

The great CK experiment is proving to be a fascinating show – and has some big implications for future retail.

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Business News

Working through job interview adrenaline and anxiety

(CAREER NEWS) Find out how to use the pressure and adrenaline of a face-to-face job interview to your advantage.

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It’s undeniable that there is a certain amount of adrenaline that flows through you during a face-to-face job interview. You’re theoretically vying for a job you really want (or need), so you have to make sure that you put in your best effort.

Even under the best of circumstances, this can make you feel like you’re in an interrogation room being asked what you were doing the night of December 2nd, 1997. This is where that adrenaline can come into play, which can make things harder – just make sure you’re properly utilizing it.

First off, use that adrenaline to get you to the interview location with plenty of time to spare. No employer values tardiness, and it’s good to walk into a high-pressure situation with all of your ducks in a row.

Being early also gives you a chance to get a feel for the environment and gives you a chance to make an impression with the receptionist. Speaking as a former receptionist, this is not something you should overlook as our opinions are often asked by the employer.

Once you’re in the interview setting, use the adrenaline to keep you engaged in the conversation. An important aspect of this is making eye contact.

Don’t confuse this with being creepy and staring without blinking. Just be sure to look into the eye of the person you’re speaking to, and be sure to share that eye contact with others if you’re speaking to a panel of interviewers, keeping a happy, interested (but not scared or overly enthusiastic) look on your face.

With rushing adrenaline, you may use self-soothing movements like playing with your hair or wringing your hands. You may exhibit anxious movements like toe tapping. Don’t do any of these things – they’re within your control. But if something like a shaky voice from these nerves are not within your control, apologize up front (“Apologies for my shaky voice, I have normal interview jitters, I usually speak like a normal human person”) and move on.

Depending on how the interviewer leads the conversation, the entire interview doesn’t have to be this stiff discussion. If given the opportunity, use this time to work in some small talk so they can see the personable side of your personality. For example, you can keep it related to the situation by making small talk about the traffic and asking how the interviewer typically gets to work each day (buying time is another great way to work through the anxiety of rushing adrenaline).

Throughout the course of the conversation, whether the small talk or the interview itself, make sure you’re showing your true colors and not lying. It isn’t hard (especially these days) to be caught in a lie, so don’t waste anyone’s time with the nonsense.

Once everything is said and done, say your thank yous and your goodbyes and make your way to the exit. Don’t try and overstay your welcome or linger in the lobby, just be on your way. But, don’t forget to send a courteous “thank you” email.

Above all, remember that everyone is nervous in a job interview situation – you’re not alone!

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Business News

If Amazon puts HQ in Chicago, they’ll get a cut of their workers’ income taxes

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon continues the hunt for a new city to set up shop, and cities across the nation are offering plenty to attract the brand.

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If Amazon sets up a new headquarters in Chicago, the company could get over two billion dollars in tax breaks, including $1.32 billion from their workers’ income taxes. How would they achieve this fiendish feat?

With the magic of personal income tax diversion, where employers withhold state income taxes from employee paychecks. Workers still pay full income taxes, but the company holds onto all or part of the funds.

This happens when a city says to a business, “please come live here, we want your money so much you can just not pay taxes okay?” In this case, both Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois presented this offering to Amazon.

In September, Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters, which was very originally dubbed Amazon HQ2. The new headquarters is intended to supplement the existing one in Seattle. Amazon intends to spend around five billion on new construction alone, and said it plans on having 50,000 workers at HQ2.

Amazon outlined core requirements for HQ2, including access to mass transit, metropolitan population of over one million, and up to eight million square feet of office space just in case they need to expand even more. Proximity to major universities and airports with direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. were part of the optional rider.

At least 238 other bids have been made for the headquarters. Chris Christie proposed paying Amazon up to $10,000 for every job created even though New Jersey has $60 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

Plenty of other cities want to take Amazon to prom too, and have launched promotional campaigns to stand out from the crowd. One Arizona economic development firm sent a 21-foot cactus, which was rejected due to Amazon’s corporate gift policy. Don’t worry about the cactus’ feelings though, it was donated to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

In another proposal, Kansas City, Missouri mayor Sly James purchased one thousand Amazon products, donated them to charity, then wrote five star reviews for every item, which all included shout outs to Kansas City’s positive attributes. James either has way too much time on his hands, or employs very productive interns.

This lovely display of cities offering incredible legal loopholes for Amazon is pretty heartwarming. After all, the company is definitely in need of financial help and government perks. Except that oh wait, founder Jeff Bezos is currently the only person in the world worth over $100 billion dollars.

Amazon’s soaring share price added around $43 billion to founder Jeff Bezos’ personal fortune this year, and Black Friday alone raked in $2.4 billion. There’s also all that fun stuff about subpar
workers’ conditions in Amazon’s warehouses that we all pretend to forget when there’s free two-day shipping on that thing you really, really want.

So far, Amazon has yet to accept Chicago’s tax-tastic bid, or any other offer. Based on the list of requirements, Moody’s Analytics released a data-specific analysis of the top cities.

Austin, Texas topped the list, followed by Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Rochester, New York. Other contenders include Pittsburgh, Portland, and New York City.

Amazon will announce the final site selection and plan sometime in 2018.

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