We’ve all read Orwell’s 1984 (and if not, stop now and read it- your life is incomplete otherwise). We all know the terrifying possibilities that an omniscient government provides, but what if it’s by choice? What if we wear tracking devices on purpose? We already have GPS on our phones and in real estate, we encourage each other to activate the GPS for our own safety. Many of us have navigation in our cars with a trackable GPS chip. What if every one of us put a chip in our purse (or murse for dudes) that broadcasts our exact location?
That day is already here. Seriously.
Introducing the RFID chips which stand for Radio Frequency Identification Devices like what is inside the Tollway Pass in your car. The chips are being voluntarily worn by students, engineers and staff at George Washington University in an effort to expand social networking, according to Truemors. That’s dumb, you say. No it’s not, I say.
Wearing a chip to track yourself in an effort to promote social networking is only the lazy man’s way of Twittering “I’m at Starbucks” or “I’m still in bed.” As a parent, I’ve thought of creating a chip myself, so I think this is awesome. As a user, I still think it’s cool for the following reasons:
- I already volunteer all of my information online, there isn’t much about me besides my SSN that isn’t available.
- I already send updates from my cell to Twitter about where I am, so any ol’ stalker can see.
- If it is my *choice* then it’s not as threatening as if it was mandatory.
Call it a “social networking” tool, make it voluntary, keep Big Brother out of it, and you’ve got a pretty cool project going on. I can see how this could very easily get out of hand and how people could fear this tool, but we already use GPS in our phones and cars, and we blog every life detail while we Twitter our whereabouts, so what’s new other than it’s automated? I’m lazy, so sign me up!
Small business owners furious over more PPP fraud this week
(FINANCE) With rampant fraud and huge companies receiving aid intended for small business… Who is the Payment Protection Program really protecting?
Small business owners are furious this week after yet another fraudulent PPP (Payment Protection Program) loan application was discovered. The program, which was originally conceived to protect small businesses with providing federal loans, was a part of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, which was passed by Congress in March.
The application came from Houston resident Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali (22) for almost $2 million. Kasali claimed she owned two small businesses – Lola’s Level and Charm Hair Extensions – and applied for two separate loans to cover her alleged employees and payroll expenses.
After receiving $1.9 million in loans, Kasali transferred the money to various other bank accounts. She was charged with fraud earlier this week.
Unfortunately, cases of PPP fraud are rampant, meaning that the funds allotted for struggling small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are being misused. While it’s easy to call out individuals who are scamming the system, we are seeing that everyone – even the rich – are trying to get a piece of this pie.
In April, fast casual giant Shake Shack returned their $10 million PPP back to the government in what many saw as a media stunt. Why did a multi-billion-dollar company apply to a program meant for small businesses anyway?
The same can be said about the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, the team does employ under 300 individuals. But do the wealthy members of a professional basketball team really need additional funds while the rest of the working class suffers?
Additionally, over 10,000 PPP loans were mistakenly dispersed to businesses that had already received a loan or those who were excluded from the program for various reasons.
Initially, the SBA put $349 billion into the program. Due to extremely high need – and many cases of mismanagement or fraud, like those mentioned earlier – the funds went in a flash. Though the SBA did replenish the Paycheck Protection Program with an additional $310 billion in April, the program expired on August 8th. And currently there is no solid plan to extend it, leaving small businesses to fend for themselves.
Another factor to consider regarding the faults of Payment Protection Program is the inherent discrimination. Experts say that, because of how the program is structured, more than 90% of businesses owned by women and people of color are or will be excluded from receiving funds from PPP. Our best bet for the time being is to help each other on a community level as much as we can.
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?
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”.
Amazon sets eyes on couture with launch of online Luxury Stores
(ENTREPRENEUR) As of this week, Amazon is an online luxury retailer. Is this good or bad news for smaller luxury retailers?
When I think of high-end fashion shopping, Amazon is not the first store that comes to mind. Groceries, random knick-knacks, and pet accessories for my adorable pooch are the items in my cart.
This week, Amazon confirmed the launch of its high-end online designer fashion and beauty brand shopping experience, Luxury Stores. Currently, Oscar de la Renta is the first brand to launch on the platform, but more are on the way.
Available by invitation only to eligible Prime members, the store launched on Amazon’s mobile app. Eligible customers received early access to the designer’s Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections. The collection included “ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume,” according to Amazon.
If you’re a Prime member and didn’t receive an invitation, you can request an invite by visiting amazon.com/LuxuryStores.
Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta said, “Oscar de la Renta is thrilled to partner with Amazon for the launch of Luxury Stores.” He told Vogue that “somewhere near 100% of our existing customers are on Amazon and a huge percentage of those are Prime members. For me to get more mindshare with existing customers in addition to getting new customers—that’s the name of the game.”
According to The Verge, Amazon has over 150 million Prime members. With that big of a number and potentially huge customer overlap, we can all see why Bolen is so thrilled.
But what does Amazon’s break into luxury retail mean for smaller luxury retailers? Smaller companies are still struggling to keep up with the retail giant. With small brick-and-mortar stores fighting to stay afloat during the pandemic, could Amazon’s online Luxury Stores be an all-inclusive solution?
According to Amazon’s press release, the company doesn’t plan on only partnering with established fashion brands, but also with “emerging luxury fashion and beauty brands.”
“We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and we are inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands in Amazon’s store,” said Christine Beauchamp, President of Amazon Fashion.
Engadget reported that Amazon is taking a hands-off approach with Luxury Stores. The company will offer backend and merchandising tools support. Brands will have control over their pricing, inventory, and selection. With brands being able to have more control over their experience, maybe smaller luxury retailers will feel inclined to use this new sales outlet.
“It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers,” Beauchamp said.
Amazon has yet to reveal which new luxury stores will arrive on the platform. Hopefully, we will also see our local luxury stores on Amazon in the future, too.
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