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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.




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

Claire’s deep debt may force them into Chapter 11 bankruptcy

(BUSINESS NEWS) Millennial nostalgia reaches peak levels as decades-old jewelry store Claire’s declares bankruptcy.




Poor, sweet Claire’s. The place I got my ears pierced in fifth grade along with countless other tweens over the years. Where nearly all my accessories from age nine to 19 were purchased.

The place I swore to stop shopping because apparently my skin is allergic to every material they use. Looks like losing me as a customer has had a huge impact, because Claire’s is filing for bankruptcy.

Formerly the go-to haven for all things sparkly, cheap, and sold in multipacks, the fashion accessory chain is now suffering the same fate as many other mall-based retailers.

Although inexpensive accessories remain popular, mall foot traffic has slowed significantly enough that Clarie’s and other retailers are suffering from crushing debt.

Claire’s current debt load is $2 billion, with a $60 million interest payment due March 13 of this year. More pressure is added with $1.4 million due to mature next year as well. Their debt load is over 10 times a key measure of their annual earnings.

Filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy means the decades-old store can remain open while a more formal plan for turnaround is established.

The chain has been around since the early 1970s after a merger. Longtime Claire’s owner Rowland Schaeffer founded Fashion Tress Industries in 1961, which at the time was a worldwide leader in fashion wigs.

By 1973, Schaeffer acquired jewelry chain Claire’s, and renamed the merged companies Claire’s Fashion Accessories. For several decades, the Schaeffer family ran the business, with Rowland’s daughters eventually taking over.

In 2007, Apollo Global Management LLC acquired the business from the Schaeffer family for $3.1 billion. From 2010 to 2013, the company added an additional 350 stores, and had over 2,700 stores globally.

Although the takeover was successful in terms of adding stores, it also added a huge debt to Claire’s, from which it has not been able to recover.

Early in 2017, the company withdrew their initial public offering and continued struggling despite operating over 3,000 stores worldwide.

As part of the Chapter 11 agreement, business control will pass from Apollo Global Management LLC to other lenders.

To stay afloat, they plan on selling merchandise in CVS Pharmacies and Giant Eagle supermarkets in hopes of reaching customers outside of the standard mall habitat Claire’s previously occupied.

So while Claire’s isn’t dead quite yet, you may want to stock up on BFF necklaces and 20-pair earring sets while you still have the chance.

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Business News

Toys ‘R’ Us to close all stores by week’s end?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Toys “R” Us just announced they’re dying, and fast. As in SURPRISE, all their stores might be closed by the end of the week fast.



toys r us

Following on the heels of Claire’s filing Chapter 11, the bankruptcy boogie man took things to the next level with Toys “R” Us, passing their fate along to the grim reaper of retail.

Last September, the toy retail giant filed for bankruptcy. A $3.1 billion loan kept them alive for a while, but so far, lenders haven’t issued a debt restructuring, and no buyers have stepped up.

In January this year, the store announced around 180 of their 880 U.S. locations would be closing, affecting over 4,500 employees. Then in February, another 200 stores got added to the chopping block due to poor performance over the holiday season.

Recent closures began in February, and are expected to take place through mid-April. Oh except that actually all of the United States stores may be closing. This week.

According to anonymous inside sources, Toys ‘R’ Us may end up liquidating their U.S. stores if a deal can’t be reached to settle the debt.

A huge portion of corporate staff will also be laid off. Worldwide, Toys R Us has over 1,600 stores that stock major brands, who are also suffering from this announcement.

Hasbro’s stock fell 3.5 percent last Friday, and Mattel took a 7.0 percent hit. Recent regulatory filings from both companies indicate that Toys ‘R’ Us made up nearly 10 percent of their overall sales.

Spin Master, owner of the crazy popular Hatchimals brand, fell 3.0 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Amazingly, even Lego reported their first sales drop in the last thirteen years.

While Toys R Us closing everything would certainly have an impact on major toy companies, fortunately, several other avenues exist for getting products to customers.

Other major retailers like Walmart and Target will likely see a boost to their toy sales, and local toy stores may fare well with at least one giant competitor slain.

So it’s not like you’re totally out of luck if you want to buy the next new thing. You just probably can’t go to Toys “R” Us anymore.

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Business News

3 educational models that apprenticeships are stumping

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apprenticeships are taking off, and disrupting various sectors, including education – but how?




We’re obsessing over the rapidly growing concept of apprenticeships as a way to accelerate careers and give employers meaningful ways to educate and employ. The internship model is often useless and people leave with little more than having memorized a list of coffee orders. One of the few success stories in the apprenticeship game is Digital Creative Institute (DCI), which is headquartered in Texas right near us.

Have a five minute conversation with anyone at DCI, and you’ll see why they’re leading the apprenticeship movement. I recently asked them about how the model disrupts education – they had so much expertise on the topic, that we asked them to put pen to paper, and boy did they.

Below, in the words of Alexis Bonilla at DCI are the three educational models that apprenticeships are stumping:

“Apprenticeship” is the word on the street right now – the hot topic everyone is talking about. You probably know the basics, but we’re sure you still have a few questions. We’re going to try and answer the big, looming question: How does it compare to more traditional learning platforms?

We recently had a conversation surrounding technologists and the best way for them to learn coding. We explored Master’s Programs, bootcamps/coding schools, and teaching yourself while on the job. Then apprenticeships came up, and we decided to talk to the ones who designed the digital marketing apprenticeship here in Austin – Digital Creative Institute.

To sum it up, an apprenticeship is an educational structure where you work while you learn. A few nights a week you’ll take classes and work on projects and certifications, all while holding down a full-time job in the field you are studying. For a more in-depth look at apprenticeships, check out our article, ‘Apprenticeships: How focused training can jumpstart your career’.

Master’s Programs

For a lot of people, getting your Master’s Degree after graduation seems like the logical next step in their career path. But have you ever compared everything that goes into it to what you get out of it? On average, you spend about $60,000 on Grad School and 2 years in the program. The digital marketing apprenticeship structure is $12,000 and only takes one year. Because you’re in a full time role, apprentices graduate from the program with little or no debt and still earn throughout the year. Apprenticeships require only a fifth of the cost and deliver twice the experience.

You get training from the program, but the most valuable experience is what is acquired in the workplace. That’s the big differentiator. Instead of theoretical career situations, you are really experiencing them, and what makes it even better – it’s with the support of peers, mentors, and career coaches.

Of course the downside to apprenticeships is that there is a lack of recognition that exists in the United States right now compared to the more universal recognition you would get with an MBA. In the apprenticeship structure, that is made up for in the presentation of the portfolio work. Instead of simply presenting a degree to an employer, imagine presenting the prospective employer a presentation on how you created an email marketing campaign, how you solved a broken automation workflow, and how you achieved an impressive coding project. Which is more compelling?

Digital Bootcamps

Bootcamps began in 2012, and since then have grown more than 10x. They started off with about 2,000 enrollments and since then have jumped to around 22,000 in 2017. There’s no arguing that this educational model is on the rise, but we would argue that apprenticeships are preparing to make that same jump.

Bootcamps are quick courses on a specific subject that offer some kind of certificate of completion. They are great for getting overviews and basic knowledge, all while being time sensitive. So if you need a quick informational or refresher course, bootcamps are the way to go.

The benefit to apprenticeships is that you get more relevant and in-depth training for whatever it is that you’re studying. For example, the Digital Creative Institute Digital Marketing Apprenticeship doesn’t just look at marketing automation, email marketing, or web design, it looks at all of it and more. You might think you are going into it wanting to specialize in a certain topic, and then learn about something that is much more well suited to your needs and skill sets.

The average cost and timeline for a coding bootcamp is $11.4k for 3.5 months. The 15 month approach to the apprenticeship allows you to apply learning over a longer period of time, that way you have an even greater opportunity for application and personal transformation. A few weeks for a bootcamp just simply isn’t enough to answer all of your questions – some that you may not even know you have yet!

Apprenticeships have the advantage of situational and experiential learning, whereas bootcamps are limited to the examples the instructor thinks of. And because a majority of bootcamps are online, questions are limited as well. The apprenticeship structure allows for a year of personal development and professional training.

Again, it’s pay and pray vs earn and learn. Pray you paid to get the right resources in a short amount of time, or earn a salary while you invest 15 months into your career.

Teaching Yourself

Why not just teach yourself? It’s all on YouTube. There are millions of articles, infographics, and resources. Why pay for something when you can do it without any help?

Perhaps the greatest resources that apprenticeships offer are mentorship and career coaching. This takes your journey from a limited perspective to an experienced one. Coaching gives you direction and guidance from industry leaders in your field, and that’s really hard to put a price on. Forbes did put a price on it, however, reporting that the mean ROI of career coaching is 7x the initial investment. You gain the value of connections, resources, and lifelong relationships as well.

Just one introduction or opened door could be game-changing for your career and in itself prove the ROI of an apprenticeship. In fact, 70% of people in 2016 say they were hired somewhere where they had a connection. In the apprenticeship structure, you won’t have the same teacher week-by-week. You have industry leaders such as CEO’s, CMO’s, authors, and more teaching you specific sections of the curriculum based on their specialized experience. You present work, ask questions, and most of the time, you stay connected long after the class. You make connections it would have been really hard to make otherwise.

So although there may be a lot of time and money saved in teaching yourself certain skills, having the input of industry leaders, peers, and coaches will always be more valuable. There will be more time and money saved in mistake prevention, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of knowledge and wisdom you gain in carrying out your career path.

Apprenticeships are a new wave of education, skill building, and career preparation. They create a learning environment while maintaining a professional standard. Apprenticeships are changing the way we look at education by seamlessly integrating the world of work and learning.


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