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Inside The American Genius team: Jennifer Walpole

Senior Staff Writer, Jennifer Walpole is working on her PhD in English at OU, but still makes time to bring you quality reporting nearly every day. Get to know her!

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JENNIFER WALPOLE

JENNIFER WALPOLE

Get to know Jennifer

Senior Staff Writer, Jennifer Walpole has been with the team for more than two years now, consistently bringing you fresh news from the latest app to marketing tips to new business theories. She is truly a quality reporter, so very well known for her ability to succinctly explain complex materials so that you can walk away with a better understanding of what actions you can take to improve our business.

We interviewed Jennifer to learn more about her personal life, and we want you to get to know her – let’s see what you have in common with Jennifer!

Hometown / Where You Live Now

Yukon/Oakhurst, Yukon (I spent every summer in Oakhurst, CA at my grandma’s).

Instagram

Find me at @facemanfan.

Twitter or Facebook URL

I’m on Twitter @facemanfan or on Facebook – I’m good with both, or either one.

Current favorite album to play while working

Josh Groban’s “Awake” – it’s inspirational, beautiful, and one of my favorite ways to de-stress. When I can’t get anything done, it helps clear my mind.

What’s your favorite productivity trick?

I don’t really think I have a “trick.” One of the things I do when I’m writing is turn everything else off: phone, tv, social media, everything. This helps me focus. I also have a cork board full of inspirational messages on my desk to help keep me on track.

Tell us about your technologies

I use my iPhone to check email, and work-related projects when I’m away from my office. My HP laptop is where I do all my writing. As for gaming, I’m old school; I have an original xBox and a Wii.

What app has made the biggest impact in your work life?

Hmm. This is another tough one. I use too many apps in a day, I suppose. Trello is an amazing way to organize projects and ideas, but I also love the mail app on the iPhone. I can quickly check ALL my email accounts without logging in to each one.

What’s your favorite Pantone color these days?

pantone

Favorite story you’ve ever written on AG?

This is my favorite story, and it took me the longest to write. It took me a little while to get it just the way I wanted it. There’s a lot of me in this story.

Post-work drink of choice

This actually depends on the day. I’m not usually an alcoholic-drink type of person, so it’s usually something unexciting, like tea. When I’m in the mood, maybe 2-3 times a year, it’s a mojito. A raspberry mojito.

Favorite place to shop offline / Favorite place to shop online

Barnes and Noble, hands down is my favorite place to shop offline. I love the smell of the store. I love running my fingers across the spines of all the books. You simply cannot own too many books. Online, I love Amazon and eBay. I’m always watching the daily deals on Amazon.

What you miss most about your hometown

I’ve been lots of other places, but my hometown always feels like home. I have so many memories here, they seem to replay every time I’m home. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling, you just don’t get anywhere else.

If you could eat dinner with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?

This is so hard for me because I have so many favorite authors. I would want to talk to Shakespeare, but I would also want to talk to Jane Austen.

Shakespeare because I want to know more about his writing process; how did he create entire plays.

Jane Austen because I want to know what it was like to be a woman, a smart woman in a time when women weren’t valued and hearing it from her would be amazing.

When not working, what’s your hobby?

I play piano to de-stress. I also loom knit and scrapbook. I’m one of those people that do art projects that create trails of glitter throughout the house. I also enjoy reading, anything and everything, but I especially enjoy science fiction.

If you could choose, what would your final meal be?

My final meal would be macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, corn on the cob, and carrot cake. I mean, if you’re going to die, calories don’t matter.

What is your most cherished memory?

I have so many memories that I cherish. The first one that comes to mind, is my mom bringing home my first puppy for Christmas when I was eight. I wanted a dog for so long and I didn’t think I was going to get one, but somehow my mom managed to talk my dad into it.

She wrapped a book about taking care of your dog and said we’d be able to pick her up the first week of February when she was old enough to leave her mom. I brought Buffy home on Valentine’s Day and had her for 14 wonderful years. I’ll never forget all the love one simple act of love brought.

#AGstaff

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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Business News

RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.

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An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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Business News

2020 Black Friday shopping may break the mold

(BUSINESS NEWS) Home Depot states their new plan for deals and discounts over two months, in place of a 1-day Black Friday event.

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Men shopping in an empty aisle, Black Friday to come?

Humans change and adapt – that’s just in our nature. Retail stores have struggled to maintain their sales goals for years as more and more people move to ordering online. Online prices still seem to be within customer expectations and often come with free shipping. Additionally, people that may have preferred to shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store have changed their shopping habits dramatically in 2020; it’s hard to social distance and be safe in crowded stores or in small aisles. Black Friday may be next to change.

Amazon and other big box store’s online ordering platforms have simplified getting what you need delivered right to your front door. According to Statista, “Amazon was responsible for 45% of US e-commerce spending in 2019 – a figure which is expected to rise to 47% in 2020.”

Retailers count on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday deals (the day after Thanksgiving), to bring in up to 20% of their annual revenue. It’s hard to just remove that option completely. But considering the times of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and especially avoiding large crowds, the tradition of Black Friday will need to look different this year.

It will also be interesting to see what supply chain disruptions from early 2020 will have the most effect this shopping season. We saw predictions in March that said the United States would see the biggest disruptions in about six months. Black Friday falls right on that timeline.

Home Depot has announced their plans to go ahead and give the deals over a two month span, starting in early November through December (both online and in stores with the possibility of adding some special deals around the actual Black Friday date) to help encourage a more steady stream of shoppers versus so many packing in on the same day.

The home improvement chain has actually seen a great sales year. This is likely due to people working from home and being interested in doing more home projects (and possibly having a bit more time to do them as well). As of May 2020, “The Home Depot®, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $28.3 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, a 7.1 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Comparable sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 were positive 6.4 percent, and comparable sales in the U.S. were positive 7.5 percent.”

Home Depot, along with many other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have confirmed that they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which may not be new for all of them but has always signaled the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

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