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Amazon’s insanely low prices have piqued the interest of the FTC

(BUSINESS NEWS) The FTC has decided to look into Amazon’s insanely low prices as a potentially unethical practice. Yikes!

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Bargain hunters

The power of a bargain is an alluring thing to consumers. Many times, people can be compelled to purchase for a number of reasons – fear of missing out, competition, whatever. There is a good bit of psychology behind that.

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Powerful price comparisons where we feel we are saving 30-60% percent can be very compelling (PS: the entire psychology behind Groupon).

Amazon in the cross hairs

Creative price points indicate opportunities for businesses to possibly engage in unethical practice. FTC regulations require businesses be “up-front” with customers, and price deception can be a way to influence consumer decisions.

In 2013, retailer Kohl’s was accused by a retailer about marking up prices that may make bargains seem questionable, giving prices a more dramatic difference.

Consumer Watchdog recently sent a letter to the FTC encouraging them to review the advertising strategies of Amazon during the review of the merger to purchase grocer Whole Foods for 13.7 billion.

Consumer Watchdog alleges that a great deal of sales were never actually sold at the original price at all. This would mean a product mentioned at a price point of 200, but listed as 40% off at 120, may have never been sold at all at 200 when compared to other retailers.

Of the over 1000 products they reviewed, they showed that just under half of their products had completive pricing listed, 61% of those had a higher completive price listed as to what was listed 90 days before.

Clients on the hook

This is problematic for consumers, many of whom do not have the time to validate price differences across online and brick-and-mortar retailers, or who are not tracking an item over time. (Also relevant: Amazon has been removing reference prices for some products.) The results of that probe are not yet available.

The verdict is still out on what this means for Amazon, but the company has expressed that it feels the FTC probe is a bit misleading: they remain committed to reporting accurate pricing.

This may be bad timing, given the review of Amazon’s merger and the likelihood that the same auditors are going to be reviewing this claim and the deal. Given that Whole Foods had some challenges with price gouging during a NYC probe in 2015, and a case that is moving towards appeals court, it is not clear what this will mean for the merger or for consumers.

Due dilligence

Price points continue to be a major part of consumer purchasing decisions, so retailers and consumers alike should be checking to ensure they are getting the best bargain. Amazon is a big marketplace, and continues to be strong performer.

The outcomes of this case will have impacts on how amazon reports its pricing, and may change the way we decide to buy things on our prime accounts – let’s see if that FTC probe delivers anything worth considering.

#Amazon

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Business News

How hemp could be used to stop marijuana at the border #YeahOk

(BUSINESS NEWS) 2019 was one wacky year. Maybe that’s why the possibility of building The Wall out of hemp doesn’t shock us anymore?

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Show of hands, how many of you believe people eating tide pods was this year? Seems at least five years ago, right? That’s because 2019 was a humdinger when it comes to the pace of the news cycle. And due to that, you might have missed this little tidbit about The Wall, Steve Bannon and hemp, of all things.

After President Trump legalized hemp almost a year ago, this plant started sprouting up in farms across the country. According to Quartz, hemp experienced a planting surge of 368 percent in 2019 as compared to 2018 planting data. Of course, you can chalk that up to the explosion of the CBD industry. But there are other industrial uses for this hearty plant. Enter hempcrete and The Wall.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon is reportedly enamored with hempcrete, a concrete compound made with 40 percent hemp byproducts. Bannon is on record telling Vice News that “I’m obsessed with the hempcrete. I think this plant has got tremendous entrepreneurial aspects to it, and it’s innovative.”

There’s more evidence to suggest Bannon considered hempcrete for The Wall. After Bannon raised millions of dollars to build his own private border wall in May, he told Politico reporters that, “Do you understand the irony of using hempcrete to keep out marijuana?” That got us wondering: could there be a hempcrete border wall? Some analysts say that it could be possible, in theory.

“One million acres of hemp builds Trump’s wall and $700 million buys the hemp, a pittance compared to overall construction estimates ranging from $15 billion to $70 billion,” wrote Chris Bennett in reporting for Ag Web Farm Journal.

$700 million would be a huge boon for cannabusiness — that is if supply could keep up with demand. US Farmers have only grown a little under 130,000 acres of hemp this year. For a hempcrete wall to be even slightly feasible, farmers would have to massively step up supply OR import the crop from overseas. That doesn’t gel well with Trump and Bannon’s trade agenda, does it? Plus, the price point, while much better than non-hempcrete construction estimates, is still much more than the 22 million managed to raise during Bannon’s GoFundMe effort this year.

Looks like without funding assistance from the feds and an incentive for farmers to grow more hemp, hempcrete border wall is just another pipe dream.

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Business News

Chick-fil-a stops donating to anti-LGBTQ orgs; can we eat hate nuggets now!?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Boycotts, protests, and media coverage about the controversy may finally be making an impact as the company attempts to alter its reputation.

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After years of controversy for its anti-LGBTQ policies and donations, Chick-Fil-A announced Monday that it would stop funding three faith-based organizations similarly known for their anti-LGBTQ activities. The chicken sandwich empire has donated millions to The Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Paul Anderson Youth Home, but from 2020 going forward, the chain will cease donations to these organizations.

Controversy over Chick-fil-A’s ethos exploded in 2012 when a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A sponsored a Christian seminar promoting “traditional” marriage, and its CEO Dan Cathy made public comments opposing same-sex marriage. While these events brought Chick-fil-A’s homophobic politics to light, the chain had already, for years prior, been donating millions of dollars to organizations that either discriminate against or work explicitly to curtail the rights of LGBTQ people.

Some queers put down their sandwiches and joined a national boycott and protests, while others found tongue-in-cheek ways to process feeling guilty for continuing to enjoy waffle fries. At first the boycott backfired, with Governor Mike Huckabee hosting a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, encouraging conservative chicken lovers to show up en masse to support the chain and deliver a proverbial middle finger to the LGBT community by ordering extra nuggets.

However, the boycotts, protests, and media coverage about the controversy may finally be making an impact as the company attempts to alter its reputation. Chick-fil-A president, Tim Tassopoulos noted that there have been numerous news stories about the chain’s politics, explaining that “as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are.” Attempts to expand into Europe hit a major setback when one of its two UK locations closed because the shopping center in which it was located took offense to Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ stance and decided not to renew the lease.

A spokeswoman told the Thomas Reuters Foundation that the company had fulfilled the “multi-year commitments” it made to Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and that now that their “obligations” were complete, they would focus their charitable giving elsewhere.

Future donations will go toward charities that focus on education and homelessness, such as Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House. Grants will be distributed and reviewed annually. LGBTQ activists are optimistic, but slightly skeptical of the change. GLAAD director of campaign and rapid response Drew Anderson called for “further transparency” regarding Chick-fil-A’s “deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families.”

Anderson further pointed out that Chick-fil-A has no non-discrimination policies protecting LGBTQ employees. The chain is also known for asking applicants about their religious and marital status in job interviews, making discrimination against non-Christian and LGBTQ applicants all too easy. Anderson called for Chick-fil-A to “unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.”

CEO Dan Cathy has been notoriously unapologetic for his homophobic views, expressing in 2014 that he regretted getting Chick-fil-A embroiled in controversy, but that his opinions about same-sex marriage had not changed.

While many are celebrating the withdrawal of funds towards certain anti-LGBTQ organizations, there’s no guarantee that more donations of this kind won’t be made in the future. So enjoy those hate nuggets with a large grain of salt.

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Business News

Ford rolls out a weird electric SUV that is somehow also a Mustang

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford’s new Mach E is part of their big electric push, and their plan to get you in one is to appeal to the American dream of a mustang.

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What do you get when you cross a Mustang, Tesla and SUV? A traffic accident!

(Just kidding, bad joke; it’s the 2021 Ford Mach E, one of Ford’s 22 upcoming electric or hybrid vehicles. )

Since when has Ford been pushing for electric cars? Actually, it’s been a while, but Ford’s efforts have definitely increased since Jim Hackett took over as CEO of Ford Motors in 2017.

Hackett revitalized Ford’s mission and began pushing for a greater focus on electric and hybrid cars. In fact, Hackett even created an internal team – Team Edison – which oversaw the development of electric cars. The Ford Mach E is actually the first car to be unveiled.

One down, 21 to go.

Sure, the name Ford Mach E is pretty cool, but how cool can a sports car/SUV hybrid really be? It’s the first non-sports car to use the Mustang name, which is a bold move. Luckily, the Ford Mach E is slated to go 0 – 60 in under four seconds, which means it can keep up with other Mustangs and even go faster than some Porches. It also boasts around a 459 horsepower, which is higher than most SUVs on the market. Not half bad for an electric SUV.

Along with the battery – which will be able to last anywhere from 200 to 300 miles, depending on the unit – the Mach E is chock full of exciting new tech. For instance, it’ll boast hands-free driving assist technology comparable to Tesla’s.

It also includes a sleek interior, a large center screen and Ford’s new SYNC system, which will adjust entertainment customizations based on user preference.

This cloud-based system learns from drivers’ habits: if a driver typically stop for coffee in the morning, the system might automatically suggest routes to a coffee shop.

Kind of creepy, but also pretty neat.

The car is projected to hit the market in late 2020 and will be competing with other electric models from Tesla and Volkswagen.

Prices for the Ford Mach E will range from $43,000 to about $60,000, which is fairly comparable to other companies. With a $500 refundable deposit through the Ford website, individuals can place a reservation on one of these upcoming cars now.

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