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Planet 13, the largest cannabis dispensary, is about to get a whole lot bigger

(BUSINESS NEWS) Larry Scheffler, the co-founder and co-CEO of Planet-13, shares his experience as his baby turns 2 years old.

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Exterior of Planet 13 building with red filter.

“One of our competitors said when we first opened: ‘just give it 6 months and they’ll be a Korean BBQ’.” Larry Scheffler – co-Founder and co-CEO of Planet 13 dispensary— recalled fondly to me last Friday. “We like proving them wrong.”

Planet-13, which turned two years old on November 1st, isn’t your average dispensary. This place has an 80-foot infinity entertainment wall, a Willie Wonka style production-line that utilizes robotic arms to make cannabis products, and a partnership with Mike Tyson! Very Vegas!

And though it’s already the largest dispensary in the world, it’s about to get a whole lot bigger this year.

For Scheffler, who seems to love just about every part of his job, the fun is just beginning.

A little history on Planet 13: As Las Vegas politicians, Scheffler and Bob Groesbeck – the other “co-” – got started in the cannabis industry right from the get-go of legalization. “We decided to get into it. It was more brains than guts, but we did it”, remembered Scheffler.

The two partners opened a small dispensary in 2018 that catered to Vegas’s 2.3 million locals, though the store faced considerable competition. After some thought, they decided to go big: why not make a superstore and entertainment venue for the 50 million tourists that come through the city each year?

By conducting zoning checks (dispensaries aren’t allowed to be within a mile of the Las Vegas Strip), Groesbeck was able to find the perfect location for Planet 13 right on the edge of the Gaming Corridor. Thus, Planet 13 became an inextricable staple on the Strip and has been excelling better than anyone had anticipated ever since – last month with Vegas at a 50% tourism capacity, Planet 13 saw 7.8 million in revenue, which is their second highest month to date.

With Planet 13 being the giant money maker that it is, I was delightfully surprised to learn that the superstore has been supporting Vegas locals during the pandemic.

“Before COVID, we only did about 14% locals but of course with COVID we had to turn around on a dime and do 100% locals, no tourists.” Said Scheffler, who told me that they were offering 20%-50% discounts to Vegas residents, as well extensive delivery options to those who need their medicine but can’t pick it up. “We have 27 vehicles and 100 drivers to make deliveries, and 24 people full-time on the phones to take orders.”

Besides the new expansion, which he anticipates to be finished by the start of Q1, Scheffler is focused on extending the Planet 13 model to new cities. As the more creative mind of the two partners (Scheffler ran a very successful graphics company for 42 years), he loves the challenge of coming up with individualized, innovative ways to bring his brand to different spaces. “I enjoy figuring out what works in a town, what the people like to see.”

At the end of the day, Scheffler is confident that Planet 13 will simply keep growing – he anticipates sales will double the moment tourism picks back up in Vegas, hence the expansion. He hopes every customer has as much fun with the shopping experience as he has in providing it: “I love it, It’s not even a job, it’s fun coming to work and creating something new every time”.

If you find yourself in Vegas and in need of some cannabis, food, or simply wild theatrics (there is no shortage of that on the Strip!), check out the massive, ever growing Disney Land-esque dispensary right at the edge of the Corridor. I sincerely doubt it will disappoint.

Happy 2nd birthday, Planet 13!

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Business News

Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns

(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.

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Package delivery people holding deliveries. Refund instead of returns are common now.

The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.

When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”

Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.

For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.

Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.

But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.

While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.

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Business News

Google workers have formed company’s first labor union

(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.

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Google complex with human sized chessboard, where a labor union has been formed.

On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.

The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.

“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.

AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.

In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.

So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.

Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.

“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.

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Business News

Ticketmaster caught red-handed hacking, hit with major fines

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after hacking into a competitor’s network specifically to sabotage.

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Person open on hacking computer screen, typing on keyboard.

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after admitting to hacking into a competitor’s network and scheming to “choke off” the ticket seller company and “cut [victim company] off at the knees”.

Ticketmaster admitted hiring former employee, Stephen Mead, from startup rival CrowdSurge (which merged with Songkick) in 2013. In 2012, Mead signed a separation agreement to keep his previous company’s information confidential. When he joined Live Nation, Mead provided that confidential information to the former head of the Artist Services division, Zeeshan Zaidi, and other Ticketmaster employees. The hacking information shared with the company included usernames, passwords, data analytics, and other insider secrets.

“When employees walk out of one company and into another, it’s illegal for them to take proprietary information with them. Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law. This investigation is a perfect example of why these laws exist – to protect consumers from being cheated in what should be a fair market place,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

In January 2014, Mead gave a Ticketmaster executive multiple sets of login information to Toolboxes, the competitor’s password-protected app that provides real-time data about tickets sold through the company. Later, at an Artists Services Summit, Mead logged into a Toolbox and demonstrated the product to Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees. Information collected from the Toolboxes were used to “benchmark” Ticketmaster’s offerings against the competitor.

“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme in a statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.”

The hacking violations were first reported in 2017 when CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations. A spokesperson told The Verge, “Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light. Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

To resolve the case, Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal penalty, create a compliance and ethics program, and report to the United States Attorney’s Office annually during a three-year term. If the agreement is breached, Ticketmaster will be charged with: “One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of computer intrusion for commercial advantage, one count of computer intrusion in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.”

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