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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.

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Business News

After losing 13 employees to drugs, this restaurant hires recovering addicts

(BUSINESS) After losing 13 people to addiction-related deaths, DV8 Kitchen is a restaurant and bakery staffed 100% by recovering substance users.

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Woman viewing DV8 landing page on laptop discussing their employment opportunity's for recovering addicts.

The United States has been fighting a drug epidemic for decades. According to the CDC, the number of drug overdoses has significantly increased since 1999. From 2018 to 2019, even though heroin-involved death rates decreased by 6%, opioid-involved deaths increased by 6%, and synthetic opioid-involved deaths increased by 15%. Although the government keeps throwing money toward drug addiction and recovery, the problem doesn’t seem to be going away. After losing 13 people to addiction-related deaths, a Lexington, Kentucky restaurant decided to focus on giving employees a second chance. DV8 Kitchen is a restaurant and bakery staffed 100% by recovering substance users.

Second chance employment

According to its website, “DV8 Kitchen was developed and operates as a second chance employment opportunity for people who are trying to redirect their lives.  People in the early stages of substance abuse recovery often find it difficult to find employers willing to take a chance on them.” It’s working. The company opened a second location to give more people a chance to thrive. Other restaurants and employers can learn from them through training and modeling. DV8 Kitchen isn’t just changing recovering substance users, but they’re changing the restaurant industry by teaching those working in it how to combat addiction.

How big is the problem?

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that 20.4 million people aged 12 and older experienced substance use disorders in 2019. Another 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffered from an opioid use disorder related to prescription opioids. Employment is an important part of recovery. Studies show that individuals who are employed are less likely to have parole violations and criminal activity. There are higher rates of abstinence from substance abuse when a person is employed. Recovering addicts often face many hurdles in finding employment, from criminal history to scheduling conflicts with treatment, and poor work history. Being employed significantly contributes to a positive quality of life and helps individuals transition from addiction treatment back into the community.

Help those in recovery

Rob Perez, one of the founders of DV8 Kitchen, a 501c3 organization, says, “if every American business decides to hire one person that only wanted a job, but really needed it, we could make a massive difference in this country.”

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Business News

$100m reimagined convenience store startup to open 25 stores in 2022

(BUSINESS) Foxtrot is looking to redefine the convenience store as we know it. This startup is looking to make it a whole new experience.

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Laptop with Foxtrot convenience store locations in Chicago.

Move over 7-11, there’s a new player in town! There’s always room for competition, even in the world of convenience stores. Yes, you read that right, Quick Trip has some serious competition from a newcomer, Foxtrot.

Foxtrot is a curated, modern convenience store offering a brisk 30-minute delivery and 5-minute pick-up. It was created by Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom in 2014. These stores will undoubtedly be popular in walkable areas, but also with their online ordering convenience. This modern version of a convenience store offers the combination of an upscale corner store with a digital-first e-commerce platform. Sounds pretty glorious, right?

However, the original convenience store is safe as long as people are traveling and need to stop for gas or a restroom break.  If you’re from Texas, then you know and love, Buc-ee’s, the Texas-born chain. Buc-ee’s have been creating their own in-store products garnering a cult following among their customers. Still, Buc-ee’s doesn’t have an online ordering or delivery option unless it’s offered through a third party.

Foxtrot has raised $160 million in Series C funding and they are expecting to open 25 locations in many cities in 2022. There are a few different levels of funding. If a company makes it to Series C funding, they are already successful and looking to expand or develop new products per Investopedia.

According to Retail Dive, “About half of the new stores will be in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, where all of the 16 stores Foxtrot currently operates are located, LaVitola said. The tech-focused retailer is also planning to begin operations in Boston and Austin, and intends to open four or five new stores in each of those cities during the next year and a half, he said.”

Foxtrot is testing out technology equipment that would allow customers to leave the store without stopping to checkout at the counter. They plan isn’t to go entirely self-service, but as the creator LaVitola stated, “the more hours we can allocate towards sampling and storytelling and interacting with customers and less [on] tasks that don’t add on to value, like checkout, that’s great.”

Foxtrot is redefining convenience by including carefully curated products. They aim to offer local popular products as well core pantry items. They aim to make the commonly unpleasant experience of convenience stores enjoyable. Let’s hope they succeed.

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Business News

What small business owners can learn from Starbucks’ new D&I strategy

(BUSINESS) Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of Starbucks’ mission, but now they’re shifting strategy. What can we learn from it?

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Hands of all different skin colors on green background representing Starbucks' D&I.

Starbucks was one of many companies that promised to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020. What sets Starbucks apart from other companies were its specific goals.

How It Started

They began with hiring targets and have now added goals in corporate and manufacturing roles. Starbucks’ plans and goals revolve around transparency for accountability. They released the annual numbers for 2021 as a way to help hold themselves accountable. The data they’ve released so far show that they’ve met nearly a third of their 2025 goals according to Retail Brew. Because of this information, we can see why they are choosing to move in the direction of manufacturing and corporate jobs. In 2021, POC’s fell to 12.5% of director-level employees from 14.3% in 2020 in manufacturing.

How It’s Going

Per Starbucks’ website stories and news, “[I]t will increase its annual spend with diverse suppliers to $1.5 billion by 2030.  As part of this commitment, Starbucks will partner with other organizations to develop and grow supplier diversity excellence globally.” To put that into perspective, they spent nearly $800 million with diverse suppliers in 2021. With these moves, by 2030, it will increase by almost double.

As part of their accountability and progress, they plan to partner up with Arizona State University to give out free toolkits to entrepreneurs on fundamentals for running successful diverse-owned businesses. Another goal they’ve listed is to boost paid media representation by allocating 15 percent of the advertising budget to minority-owned and targeted media companies to reach diverse audiences.

At the heart of all this information on their goals and future plans, data transparency and accountability are what’s forcing them to look at the numbers to make specific goals. They are doing more than just throwing money at the problem, they are analyzing how they can do better and where the money will make a difference. Something that, as entrepreneurs, we should all do.

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