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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

Move over, rented scooters, lil’ baby Vespas are up to bat

(TECHNOLOGY) Scooters + technology + money = a parody of American life, but Lordy, it’s about to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective).

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As Austin learns to co-exist with the multitude of electric scooterists that have taken over its sidewalks and streets (and the detritus that has come to signal their top of the alternative mobility food chain), the popularity of the service has led to an unexpected evolution: the electric razor scooters may soon be replaced by a new machine.

Well, kind of. Vespa-esque scooters, developed by the company Ojo, are slated to appear on Austin streets by the end of February. These scooters can reach speeds up to 20 mph and, like the Birds scooters and similar existing competitors, are available to rent via an app for low prices.

Although this news may feel a little like opening a door in Resident Evil only to find that the Umbrella Corporation has created a new monstrosity, the subtle shift in the scooters’ design from standing to sitting may help address one of the biggest concerns of the original infestation: user recklessness.

Perhaps because these Ojo scooters resemble an actual vehicle, riders (and drivers) may be more apt to follow traffic laws and behave responsibly. The company seems to share this attitude, calling themselves “the adult commuter scooter.”

The truth is that there are three camps of attitudes about technology marrying neato transportation: those that rent the scooters, those that hate the scooters and want to burn them to the ground, and those that are unaware of their existence because they live and work in the suburbs. Seriously, even South Park has mocked the movement in several episodes this season.

Ultimately, this movement that we enjoy laughing at points out that the public transportation systems in many cities is seriously inferior, so we can laugh at bad riders (drivers?) in ties, trying to navigate a crowded sidewalk while also eating a burrito, but we should also note that there is a reason these vehicle rentals are thriving (and it’s not because of cultural douchiness).

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Business News

Is insecurity the root of overworking in today’s workforce?

(CAREER) Why are professionals who “made it” in their field still chronically overworked? Why are people still glorifying a lack of sleep in the name of the hustle?!

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So you got that job you wanted after prepping for months, and everything seems cool and good… but you’re working way more hours than scheduled. Skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late, and picking up any project that comes your way. You’re overworked.

Getting the job was supposed to be a mark of success in itself, but now, work is your life and everyone is wondering how you can be working so much if you’re already successful.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Laura Empson delves into what drives employees to overwork themselves. Empson is a professor of Management of Professional Service firms at the University of London, and has spend the last 25 years researching business practices.

Her recently published book Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas, focuses on business organizational theory and behavior, based on 500 interviews with senior professionals in the world’s largest organizations.

Over the course of her research, Empson encountered numerous reports of people in white-collar positions pushing themselves to work exhausting hours. Decades ago, those with white-collar jobs in law firms, accountancy firms, and management consultancies worked towards senior management positions to gain partnership.

Once partnership was reached, all the hard work paid off in the form of autonomy and flexibility with scheduling and projects. Now, even entry-level employees are working overextended hours.

An HR director interviewed by Empson noted, “The rest of the firm sees the senior people working these hours and emulates them.” There’s a drive to mirror upper management, even at the cost of health.

Empson’s research indicates insecurity is the root of this behavior. Insecurity about when work is really done, how management will perceive employees, and what counts as hard work. Intangible knowledge work provokes insecurity since there’s rarely ever a way to tell when this work is complete.

Colleagues turn into competitors, and suddenly working outside of your regular hours becomes seen as normal if you want to keep up with the competition. You want to stand out from the crowd, so staying late a few days a week starts to feel normal.

This can turn into a slippery slope, and when being overworked feels like the norm, you may not notice taking on even more extra hours and responsibilities to feel like you’re contributing efficiently to the company.

During her research, Empson found that some recruiters admitted to hiring “insecure overachievers” for their firms.

Insecure overachievers are incredibly ambitious and motivated, but driven by feelings of inadequacy. Financial insecurity and disproportionately tying self-worth to productivity are just a few contributing factors to their self-doubt.

As a result, these kind of people are amazingly self-disciplined, and likely to pursue elite positions with professional organizations. Fear of being exposed as inadequate drives insecure employees to work long hours to prove themselves

Even upper level management is subject to this same insecurity.

Organizational pressures can make even the most established leader overwork themselves.

Empson notes, “Working hard can be rewarding and exhilarating. But consider how you are living. Recognize when you are driving yourself and your staff too hard, and learn how to help yourself and your colleagues to step back from the brink.“

Analyze your organization’s conscious and unconscious messaging about achievement, and make sure you’re setting and enforcing realistic expectations for your team.

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Business News

The most common buzzwords (still) used in job descriptions

(BUSINESS) Employers are trying their best to attract really high quality talent, but the buzzwords that continue to plague the process are lame, annoying, and often insulting.

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It’s that time of year again. Year-in-review lists abound and Indeed.com is no exception. The website for employers and potential employees has taken a look back at the year in job descriptions and released its list of the weirdest job titles used in online listings.

They found the usual suspects — yes, sadly rockstar and hero still make the cut — but a few other keywords skyrocketed up the charts in 2018.

Indeed recognized seven top-performing buzzwords in its research: genius, guru, hero, ninja, superhero, rockstar, and wizard. Among these Top 7, some were up over previous years, while others’ popularity seems to be fading.

Employers really loved referencing masked assassins in their descriptions this year, resulting in a 90 percent year-over-year jump for ninja, and a 140 percent increase for the term since Indeed began tracking these stats in 2015.

Wizards and heroes didn’t fare as well. Job titles containing “wizard” were down 17 percent from 2017 and use of the word “hero” was down a whopping 44 percent since last year. Superhero ended the year up over 2017 (19 percent), but is still down by 55 percent since 2015.

So which states are touting these weird (some might say annoying) titles the most? The answers aren’t too surprising. California tops the list for ninja, genius, rockstar, wizard, and guru. Texas, whose capital is Austin, aka Silicon Hills, loves using hero, superhero, guru, rockstar, and ninja. Populous states New York and Florida make the list for using several of the buzzwords — no surprise there. But a few smaller states snuck into the Top 4, including Ohio (No. 1 “superhero” user) and Utah (No. 4 on the “rockstar” and “wizard” lists).

While many companies like to use these so-called creative terms to convey a sense of a hip and cool company culture, does using these “fun” titles actually find the best candidates? According to Indeed, the answer might be “not exactly.” Job seekers aren’t necessarily searching for terms like ninja or guru, so they might not even find the job they would be the perfect fit for. And truth be told, many experienced job seekers are turned off by these weird titles and might not even apply to the job in the first place.

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