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Opinion Editorials

Do or die: there’s a store monopoly and Amazon’s the only option left?

(EDITORIAL) The monopoly is growing and competition is fierce, but we should be careful what we wish for – would this monopolistic world really work out to our advantage?

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It’s a mad world

Convenience is great. Choices are even better.

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Unfortunately, we’re creatures of convenience. But what if there weren’t choices and Amazon is our only option?
Let’s say you wake up one day and your local grocer’s, Target, Wal-Mart, and every other similar brick-and-mortar store had closed their gates for good. Maybe you’re thinking, “Who cares? Those guys are over-priced and suck anyway.”

Hold on now; think about it.

The things we take for granted

It’s an oddly satisfying feeling when you can tour a nearby everything-in-one-place joint like Target, find the thing you were looking for, and beeline toward Guest Services and ask (throwing a sheepish grin of utmost innocence and sincerity), “You guys do price matching, right?”

After the transaction is complete, you walk away with a slightly smug sense of self-satisfaction that you beat the system.

You did get to cut the rest of the normal lines, after all. It was worth it to price check the local shops along with mega e-commerce giants like Amazon, EBay, and the like.

You compared and calculated which retailer offered the most bang for your buck, which granted you the use of coupons, and which scored you the most points/rewards, and then ultimately: which spared you the least amount of hassle possible.

Careful what you wish for

Many would prefer the less-hassley-route, especially if said route has a number of different delivery options to choose from, caters to your every whim, and included a special bonus for introverts: no need to leave the house or have an awkward social interaction with someone in your head over and over again.

And this is how they get you.

The immediate impact of all brick-and-mortar businesses closing down would be the massive amount of job loss.

I’ve worked retail and I’ve slung my share of lattes and when you have little experience in anything else, the job-world can be a terrifying place.

Earlier this year Amazon announced that they would be adding 100,000 jobs despite the crumble of many brick-and-mortar locations (yay jobs!).

But does this offset the loss?

Transitional issues arise

In this hypothetical situation in which Amazon is our only option, hordes of people would be affiliated with Amazon in some way or another: whether as a delivery person, warehouse worker handling packing and shipping, software developer, or PR person; Amazon would naturally expand to include more Amabots (term used to describe someone who has drank the Kool-Aid) under their regime.

Even with the foresight of “destruction-by-Amazon,” many companies would not, or not be able to, financially support the re-training of individuals that may be impacted by such an event.

And what of the shade thrown at Amazon’s treatment of its employees?

Does the person working the cash register at a grocery store typically have on-hand the skillset needed to carry over into warehouse worker or driver roles? Maybe we’ll expect a rise in low pay high labor work or an increase in cardboard sign-carrying cup-jinglers at intersections.

Black market jobs and industries will begin to cultivate.

Devices needed in order to access Amazon will become a hot commodity because let’s face it, not everyone is connected to the Internet of Things.

As a result, internet cafes will also become more commonplace for those that don’t have access, because how else are you going to restock the toilet paper?

Marking their territory

In this brave new world, Amazon will undoubtedly expand to cover any remaining territories.

Take into consideration one of Amazon’s target goals: to deliver product to the consumer as quickly and efficiently as possible.

To do this will require the development of new distribution centers in order to be closer and readily available to a broader audience’s location in order to meet promises of same day delivery.

After all, this is now our only method of obtaining groceries and goods. With ghost towns of malls and grocery stores becoming more commonplace, available retail space is now prime for the taking.

This includes services such as Same Day, Prime Now, Amazon Restaurants, and Prime Pantry – all of which are available through Amazon Prime memberships exclusively.

As Amazon is now the chief-supplier of most goods and services with no immediate or accessible competition, they are free to charge whatever they want, whenever they want.

With a monopoly like this, one could hope that the increase in revenue might go toward a “greater good” such as new and innovative technologies for the benefit of humankind.

While wishful thinking for those affected, where’s the incentive for such a powerhouse?

Why should they?

Forced resourcefulness

So while Amazon is rapidly expanding as a company and as an icon, I don’t think we’ll quite run into Mad Max-levels of dystopian destituteness, but it certainly feels like we’re on the way.

First, things like proxy services, privacy-specialized toolbars, and special barrios of the internet where you can buy and sell just about anything you want will become much more widely accessible. Everyone will learn real quick how to grow gardens or care for chickens when their only option is to have food delivered.

Those living in rural areas who rely on the weekly drive up to town to go to Wal-Mart will likely struggle the most.

Aside from this, we’d have very little reason to leave the house.

I mean Amazon is basically already trying to get us accustomed to the “just a touch of a button away” approach with their Amazon Dash doo-dads. They want us to sit on our butts, totally reliant on them.

So no longer can we (or should we, really) blow our paychecks on Moonpies and whistles, but instead must make intelligent, strategic choices about the things we buy, how much, and when. Glob knows when there’s a sudden price hike on “X” item for some finite amount of time.

Or what of availability of goods? If Amazon doesn’t have it, no one does.

Because of these uncertainties, perhaps we’re more inclined to hit up our neighbor, friend, or family member for a cup of sugar, pain reliever, or a clean pair of socks?

Maybe we rally together in communal boycott of our expected reliance on the system and find ways to look for loopholes to take advantage of in order to stay afloat.

No hate

I love Amazon, I really do, but it’s only because I have them to compare to other things. I’d like to not see them become LexCorp, but in this hypothetical it’s worth considering how drastically different our way of living would become if they did have a monopoly on the market.

#therecanonlybeone

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Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Opinion Editorials

Funny females are less likely to be promoted

(CAREER) Science says that the funnier a female, the less likely she is to be promoted. Uhh…

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Faceless keyboard warriors around the world have been — incorrectly — lamenting that women just aren’t funny for years now (remember the “Ghostbusters” remake backlash?).The good news is they are obviously wrong. The bad news? When women dare to reveal their comedic side in the workplace they are often perceived as “disruptive” while men are rewarded.

That’s right. Women not only have to worry about being constantly interrupted, receiving raises less frequently than men despite asking for them equally as often, and still making nearly $10,000 less than men each year, but now they have to worry about being too funny at the office.

A recent University of Arizona study asked more than 300 people to read the fictional resume of a clothing store manager with the gender-neutral name “Sam” and watch a video presentation featuring Sam. The videos came in four versions: a serious male speaker, a humorous male speaker, a serious female speaker and a humorous female speaker.

According to the researchers, “humorous males are ascribed higher status compared with nonhumorous males, while humorous females are ascribed lower status compared with nonhumorous females.” Translation: Male workers earn respect for being funny while their funny female coworkers are often seen in a more negative light.

There are, of course, several reasons this could be the case. The researchers behind this particular study pointed to the stereotype that women are more dedicated to their families than their work, and being perceived as humorous could convey the sense they don’t take their work as seriously as men.

Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon offered another take, putting the blame directly on Sam the clothing store manager, calling out their seemingly narcissistic behavior and how society’s tolerance for such behavior is “distinctly gender-based.” She says these biases go back to the social programming of our childhoods and the roles mothers and fathers tend to play in our upbringing.

So what are women supposed to do with this information?

Gourgechon’s status quo advice includes telling women to not stop being funny, but “to be aware of the the feelings and subjectivities of the people around you.” While recommending an empathetic stance isn’t necessarily bad advice, it still puts the onus on women to change their behavior, worry about what everyone else thinks and attempt to please everyone around them.

We already know that professional women can have an extremely hard time remaining true to themselves in the workplace — especially women in the tech industry — and authenticity is often a privilege saved for those who conform to the accepted culture. We obviously still have a long way to go before women stop being “punished” for being funny at work, but things seem to be progressing, however slowly.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama shared her thoughts last year on the improvements that have been made and the changes that still need to happen, including encouraging men to step up and do their part. In the wake of the #metoo movement, CNBC recommended five things men can do to support women at work. There are amazing women in STEM positions around the world we can all admire and shine a spotlight on.

All of these steps — both big and small — will continue to chip away at the gender inequality that permeates today’s workplaces. And perhaps one day in the near future, female clothing store manager Sam will be allowed to be just as funny as male clothing store manager Sam.

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Opinion Editorials

Two common business myths that could get you sued

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors:

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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Opinion Editorials

Living as a 7 in the Instagram world of 11s (why hotties rule IG)

(OPINION) Hot people have it, not people want it, Instagram perpetuates it – beauty, and it’s a prime ingredient for success.

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Who runs the world? Girls. Who runs the social media world (read: Instagram)? Hot girls. And hot guys.

Social media has always fascinated me. When I was a freshman in high school I got a Facebook – all you older millennials that had to wait ‘til college can hop off because I wasn’t allowed to have Myspace / Xanga / any other predecessor social sites.

That Facebook allowed me to connect to my camp friends, one of whom lived in a different country, family in other states and the friends that I saw every day.

My story is pretty predictable after that. Social media blew up, I did my millennial duty to help the creation and exposure of new sites and now here we are. Living in a society where hot girls on Instagram selling tea that makes you poo make more money than that girl with multiple degrees.

I’m not gonna blame millennials, but I kind of am, but everyone had a hand in this.

As a society we value celebrity. When I was a child that value manifested into society with tabloid magazines and copying haircuts (hello, Rachel Green). As a teen, that value on celebrity pivoted into the daytime/nighttime / anytime talk show. Now, as an adult that missed the opportunity to make an ascent into stardom via YouTube, celebrity is valued by way of social media.

EVEN CELEBRITIES HAVE THEIR CELEBRITY VALUE MEASURE BY SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS.

Don’t get me wrong. Several *actually* talented and wonderful people have leveraged social media in niche ways and created a nice lifestyle for themselves. However, I’m also going to assert that 80% of social media influencers / modern celebrities would be nothing if they weren’t hot.

Singers that have worked their way up the ranks with 6 second Vine video snippets and two minute YouTube videos can have insanely gifted voices but it also doesn’t hurt that were nice to look at while they hit that E5 note.

Artists and illustrators that have busted their butts and their hands creating and making stunning visual pieces can create one-of-a-kind masterpieces but it also helps that they throw the occasional full-glam face selfie.

That one guy or gal that posts photos of (seemingly) delectable food can have grown a 100% organic following by creating content that people want to see but it will also never be a negative for them to post a photo of them in their swimsuit on that tropical island they got paid to visit.

And please hear me when I say this: being attractive helps offline too. The amount of times my insanely attractive guy friend has profited from his jawline jaw line is almost as crazy as the amount of times my unfairly gorgeous gal pal has reaped the benefits of having phenomenal facial symmetry. Hell, even I’ve used a hair flip and batted an eye in lieu of twisting arms.

I’m pretty sure there’s some science somewhere that says that its natural for people to be inherently attracted to attractive people. I’m not sure why that is, but at least in my life, I’ve found it to be true. Unashamedly (and slightly shamefully) I’ve listened to authority figures better when they were kind on the eyes, I’ve gone to the cash register with the prettier human, I’ve followed the accounts of people who created an aesthetic I vibed with more.

Sometimes it just feels like that if a quarter of the pictures on a highly followed account – skilled or otherwise — weren’t of the person made up, or shirtless, or provocatively posed, they might not have the same level of following or at least engagement. Honestly, it makes the whole exchange feel insincere (which is a funny thing to say about internet interactions to begin with). Like, even if I buy that gadget / get those clothes / put that makeup on / fill-in-the-blank from that #ad on your Instagram story the exact way you do I still won’t look like you.

Reminds me of that old saying, “you can put lipstick on a pig but its still a pig.” You can buy that stuff off that one hottie’s Instagram but you’re still going to be you.

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