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Wish pushes inventory to small businesses: Helpful or hurtful?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Wish offers small stores large quantities of items to sell, but do they actually want to help, or just get cheaper shipping?

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Wish, persistent purveyor of oddities, fetish fuel, and a seemingly endless collection of mostly made-in-China cheapie junk, is moving their inventory into small, local businesses near you.

Wish built its empire by having suppliers in China ship directly to their customers, avoiding the need to receive, store, and deliver inventory stateside. It’s a slick, sneaky move that helped them keep their shipping costs down, thanks to a shipping subsidy. However, the Universal Postal Union, a branch of the United Nations responsible for international shipping rates, has recently done away with this subsidy, and now those shipping costs have doubled.

While Wish has been utilizing small businesses to sell their goods since January 2019, they now plan to expand their on-the-ground sales by pushing out their goods into small boutiques around the country. In doing so, they can bundle sales from China to circumvent the shipping laws and still not need to invest in warehouses or pay employees like Amazon.

So, does this help or hurt small businesses?

It’s an undeniable fact that small stores in the U.S. are hurting due to the pandemic. Perhaps they need this saving grace – this low-hanging fruit of inventory to stay afloat.

People aren’t out and about as much as they have been for obvious reasons. And when they are, they aren’t spending hours browsing in stores, either; most have a list or an idea of what they need and are in and out as quickly as possible. By acting as a Wish pickup location, small businesses will be able to attract people into their stores. Odds are, many of these people will splurge on an impulse buy or two since they’re already there.

Retail is already hard enough with the proliferation of online shopping. Maybe this is a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Amazon partnered with bigger chains to serve as pickup spots; at least Wish is offering the same opportunity to smaller stores.

This may also be beneficial for consumers as Wish is also known for its bargain prices. It is not merely cheaply made goods they’re selling; they are also selling them for cheap. With more people unemployed and underemployed than ever before, many customers are seeking those deals. According to Forbes, Wish has traditionally catered to those in the bottom 25% of household incomes, making it a good alternative to Amazon and other online retailers.

On the flip side, while I want our charming small stores to survive, my concern is that with Wish merch flooding the shelves of our local businesses that are in survival mode, there will be less room for the handmade, local, unique goods that these stores have built their name and reputations on.

Instead of bailing out these original stores with charm and personality, Wish may be turning them into thousands of tiny clones. Sure, I mean, if I needed loose, pink plastic panties that look like an upside-down shower cap, affordable “diamond” ring, or body part enlarging cream, Wish would have definitely have those. But if I want dollar store stuff, I will go to the dollar store. I’m not ready to see my charming local businesses carry that many cheap goods made in who-knows-where and under what conditions.

Many of us make the effort to shop at local stores because we want to support unique artists and makers. I want to feel good about buying my artisanal whatnots and take pride in paying a little more, knowing my purchase goes back to an individual who made it with passion.

Lest you think I’m picking on them, Wish is the 4th largest digital marketplace in the U.S., moving around 3 million items a day. They’re an $11 billion business, so I’m pretty sure they are too busy counting their money to have their feelings hurt. According to Forbes, it was the most downloaded shopping app in 2019. So, they’re laughing all the way to the bank, if you will. Wish is already utilizing 36k stores in the U.S. this way, with a goal of 100k by the end of 2020. Fingers crossed that this move actually provides a temporary lifeline for our favorite small businesses.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

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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