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Reusable bags: A license for junk food?

Fri, 2015-07-10 12:59

Shoppers who bring reusable tote bags to the store are more likely to buy organic foods, according to a new study out of Duke University and Harvard Business School.

But here's the better part: while those shoppers are filling their bags with organic food, they were also 7.3 percent more likely to buy, well, a little treat. The study looked at shoppers in one California supermarket between 2005 and 2007, and found that their purchases of so-called indulgent items went up when they brought their own bags.

The conclusion from the study? That bringing your own bag makes you feel a little smug. A little like you earned it. The researchers described it as being "licensed" to buy treats.

One important exception: parents with reusable totes actually bought fewer indulgent items.

Good job, moms and dads.

Men's Fashion Week debuts in New York

Fri, 2015-07-10 12:59

When the next edition of New York Fashion Week kicks off Monday, there will be something new on the catwalks: a bunch of dudes, wearing dude clothes. It will be the first event devoted solely to menswear.

Previous events did show menswear, but it was a bit like those technical awards at the Oscars: the little part of the big event that nobody watches. Now, just like in European fashion capitals, dudes and dude clothes get their own party. And menswear designers are excited about the opportunity for a showcase where they won’t be upstaged by women’s fashion.

Granted, the men’s event won’t be as big. The marquee fall event typically attracts about four times the number of designers participating next week. But even a smaller event is still a powerful platform for big names like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, as well as small labels looking to break through.

“Fashion Week is traditionally the place that allows designers to be able to get press attention, get buyer attention in a very efficient way,” says Wendy Liebmann with WSL Strategic Retail.

The event comes amid a growing interest in selling to men. In the U.S., men’s apparel sales hit more than $60 billion dollars in 2013, according to NPD Group.

Having a male-focused Fashion Week in summer also aligns it with stores and the way they buy clothes. When menswear lines went out along with the women’s lines in the fall event, many designers felt it was useless.

“The menswear will be bought during the summer time and the womenswear will be bought during the fall,” explains Veronique Hyland, fashion news editor for The Cut. “They would be showing collections that they had actually already sold.”

Mark Garrison: Previous Fashion Weeks here did show menswear, but it was kinda like those technical awards at the Oscars: the little part of the big event that nobody watches. Now, just like in European fashion capitals, dudes and dude clothes get their own party. That’s catnip for folks like stylist George Brescia.

George Brescia: It’s a huge, huge, huge deal.

Especially for menswear designers, who now have a showcase, where they won’t be upstaged by women’s fashion. It won’t be as big. The marquee fall event typically attracts four times the number of designers. But even a smaller event is still a powerful platform for big names like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, as well as small labels looking to break through.

Wendy Liebmann: Fashion Week is traditionally the place that allows designers to be able to get press attention, get buyer attention in a very efficient way.

Wendy Liebmann with WSL Strategic Retail says the new Fashion Week highlights a growing interest in selling to men.

Wendy Liebmann: We are interested in buying more men’s. We’ve got shoppers in the store. Show us what you’ve got.

In the U.S., men’s apparel sales hit more than $60 billion dollars in 2013, according to NPD Group.
Having a male-focused Fashion Week in summer also aligns it with stores and the way they buy clothes, explains Veronique Hyland, fashion news editor for The Cut.

Veronique Hyland: The menswear will be bought during the summer time and the womenswear will be bought during the fall.

When menswear lines went out with the women’s lines in the fall event, many designers felt it was useless.

Veronique Hyland: They would be showing collections that they had actually already sold.

This time, they’ve got buyers around the world in town with open wallets, and their very own stage to show off their wares. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

One number to rule them all

Fri, 2015-07-10 12:57

Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, resigned Friday in the wake of the agency’s announcement that 21.5 million current, former and prospective government employees and contractors were affected by a recent data breach, a tally higher than it initially expected. Among the stolen data were employment histories, addresses, fingerprints and Social Security numbers – and those nine digits carry their own boatload of information about us.

These days, employers, banks, doctors — possibly even your kids’ soccer team — might ask for your Social Security number. But that wasn’t the original idea.

“When they started this system, there was this big room in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, that had files, literally files, which had everybody’s Social Security record,” says Edward Berkowitz, a history professor at George Washington University. He says Social Security numbers were created in the 1930s to simply track how much people were paying into the system. In the 1960s, they were added to income tax returns. Since then the number of places that use the numbers has gradually ballooned.

“The cat’s out of the bag,” says Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There are so many stolen databases of Social Security numbers out there, that the idea that it’s a private piece of information is frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

Tufekci thinks we should have stopped using Social Security numbers as identifiers about a decade ago.

But if not Social Security numbers – then what?

“The problem with Social Security, as with many other so-called universal identifiers, is that they’re used in many different settings,” says Marc Rotenberg, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “So if they get breached in one setting, the practical consequence is that they’ve been breached in all settings.”

The same way using one password for all your online account is asking for trouble, Rotenberg says we’d be better off with different numbers for different purposes.

He adds the rule for governments and companies alike should be if you can’t protect it, don’t collect it. 

One number to rule them all

Fri, 2015-07-10 12:57

Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, resigned Friday in the wake of the agency’s announcement that 21.5 million current, former and prospective government employees and contractors were affected by a recent data breach, a tally higher than it initially expected. Among the stolen data were employment histories, addresses, fingerprints and Social Security numbers – and those nine digits carry their own boatload of information about us.

These days, employer, banks, doctors — possibly even your kids’ soccer team — might ask for your Social Security number. But that wasn’t the original idea.

“When they started this system, there was this big room in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, that had files, literally files, which had everybody’s Social Security record,” says Edward Berkowitz, a history professor at George Washington University. He says Social Security numbers were created in the 1930s to simply track how much people were paying into the system. In the 1960s, they were added to income tax returns. Since then the number of places that use the numbers has gradually ballooned.

“The cat’s out of the bag,” says Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There are so many stolen databases of Social Security numbers out there, that the idea that it’s a private piece of information is frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

Tufekci thinks we should have stopped using Social Security numbers as identifiers about a decade ago.

But if not Social Security numbers – then what?

“The problem with Social Security, as with many other so-called universal identifiers, is that they’re used in many different settings,” says Marc Rotenberg, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “So if they get breached in one setting, the practical consequence is that they’ve been breached in all settings.”

The same way using one password for all your online account is asking for trouble, Rotenberg says we’d be better off with different numbers for different purposes.

He adds the rule for governments and companies alike should be if you can’t protect it, don’t collect it. 

Can employee tuition benefits boost graduation rates?

Fri, 2015-07-10 12:49

Corporate America is increasingly partnering with online higher education. First, it was Starbucks and Arizona State University. Then, it was Chrysler-Fiat and Strayer University in Virginia. Just this month, Chipotle got wrapped up in the movement. More businesses are paying for their workers to go to college, and employees are taking advantage of the opportunity.

After graduating from high school 19 years ago, Darby Conley promised herself she’d enroll in and finish college. She didn't.

“I decided to play house with a boyfriend who I was going to marry and fall madly in love with. And that didn’t work out,” she says.

To support herself, Conley got a job as a customer service representative with Anthem, one of the country’s largest healthcare companies.

At 22, she tried night school and then online classes at the University of Phoenix, but it was hard to schedule classes around her busy life.

Twelve years later, Conley was married with two young children and pregnant with her third, and she was still about five credentials shy of her associate degree. But Conley and her husband were worried about taking on more student loan debt. 

Darby Conley, 36, struggles to balance work, family and online schoolwork. 

Kirk Carapezza

“I was still talking another twelve grand. I didn't have that,” she says.

In 2013, Conley heard some exciting news.  Her employer, Anthem, announced it was piloting a free-tuition benefit through Southern New Hampshire University’s online program.

Conley signed up immediately.

Just this month, Anthem announced that it will expand this program, making it available to all of its 55,000 full- and part-time employees. Courses will be offered online. No instructors. No grades.

Instead, students will be evaluated on their mastery of certain skills — writing, communicating, problem solving — and they’ll be assigned a coach to work with them one on one.

Anthem says demand is high.

“Fifteen hundred signed up for information sessions,” says Aimee Skinner, who is responsible for hiring and retaining employees at Anthem.

At the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Skinner says in just the first week nearly 1,000 administrative assistants and call center representatives applied. Beyond generating loyalty, Skinner predicts the program will actually boost upward mobility within the company.

“Corporations are now beginning to step up and say, ‘Our employees need opportunity, not just for themselves but for us,’ ” says George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Pernsteiner is cautiously optimistic about this self-paced model.

“Being online means that the student has to be self-motivated because you don’t have the kind of peer pressure, the kind of institutional supports,” Pernsteiner says.

A recent study from the University of California, Davis finds that students were 11 percent less likely to finish and pass an online course than students who took the same course in person. Still, Karen Kedem, a senior analyst with Moody’s, says these flexible degree programs should increase access to higher education and boost enrollment.

Many of these individuals would not have the ability to enroll and complete a degree either because of the financial implications or from a scheduling perspective,” she says.

For working mothers like Conley, scheduling her own schooling around her job and her kids is key.

Conley says she struggles to find time and space to study. “Wherever the children aren’t is where I take the laptop and I go to,” she says.

This past spring Conley finally earned her associate degree in business administration. Now she’s working on her B.A. in communication. Although she no longer feels stuck in her job, Conley says she plans to stay with Anthem.

This story was produced by On Campus, a public radio reporting initiative focused on higher education produced in Boston at WGBH.

Weekly Wrap: Greece's fate and China's stock market

Fri, 2015-07-10 11:59

Joining Marketplace's Molly Wood to talk about the week's business and economic news are Redfin's Nela Richardson and David Gura from Bloomberg TV. The big topics this week: European Union leaders plan to meet Sunday to discuss whether to approve another bailout for Greece; China's stock market experiences a loss worth nearly $3 trillion in value; and the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Katherine Archuleta, resigns from her position amid a massive data breach. 

The rise of niche streaming services

Fri, 2015-07-10 10:51

Whether you want to watch foreign TV shows, or horror flicks, or maybe something to inspire a good cry, there's a subscription streaming service that wants to sign you up.

"We're a boutique, niche service," says Rob Fried, the CEO of Hallmark-owned Feeln. "We're appealing to a certain audience."

Feeln's niche is feel-goodmovies. For about $2 a month, subscribers get a steady stream of Hallmark movies, Hollywood happy endings and some original content. It's all in one place, no digging through Netflix and Amazon required. 

"A lot of people don't like to poke around," Fried says. "We do a lot of that heavy lifting for you." 

Curation is a big selling point for many of these services.

But for others, access is the selling point. Take Screambox, a$4 a month streaming service for horror movies.

"When DVD's died, what were horror fans to do?" asks Ray Cannella, who heads programming at Screambox.

Video stores used to be the go to, but they have mostly disappeared. You're not going to find uncut slasher films on television. "I like to think that I like to shoot for a level of depravity that is not found anywhere else," laughs Cannella.

Other players rushing into the subscription game have more run-of-the-mill ambitions. They are looking for new ways to bundle and sell content they've already created.

Nickelodeon has a subscription service for toddlers. Lifetime has packaged up its special brand of melodramas.

"It makes sense for the entities that hold the rights to content to move into digital distribution and going straight to consumers," says Amanda Lotz, a communications professor at the University of Michigan.

Consumers, it seems, are increasingly willing to create their own entertainment experience and pay for it.

Amy Winehouse's complicated story

Fri, 2015-07-10 09:59

I have always loved soul music. My father is from Detroit, and I was raised on Motown and Stax records.

So when Amy Winehouse released “Back to Black,” and I heard her voice, it was like connecting with an old friend. She had a depth and emotion in her vocal range that seemed impossible for someone so young. Someone who wasn’t cutting one-take records in Memphis in the ‘60s.

That range – and the sense of a young, raw girl wrestling with fame – is on clear display in Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, “Amy.” As is how quickly the music business, and her fame, starts to wear on her.

Talking to Kapadia this week, I was struck by his determination to make Winehouse’s legacy in this film something intimate and human. Much has been written about her addictions, and in the movie it’s hard not to want to reach through the screen and save her, but Kapadia focuses just as much on her sweetness, humor and talent.

Indeed, as you’ll hear in the interview, he disagreed pretty strongly with me when I brought up other musicians who’ve died at the age of 27. But he didn’t shy away from a harsh critique of the music business and the what it can do to young people. 

Why you need a will, even if you don't have kids

Fri, 2015-07-10 09:52

Sharon L. Klein, managing director of Family Office Services at Wilmington Trust, often gives advice to families pondering how to leave a legacy after they die.

"It's not about death or mortality, which no one wants to think about, it's about leaving a legacy," Klein says. "It's about empowering your descendants with the tools that they need to deal with wealth, or to do with a trust or to instill trust in their children. 

"The last part of the conversation is, 'How do you invest your assets?' The first part of the question is, 'What are your goals? What is your family structure? How do you want your children to benefit?' and you kind of work from there into the financial picture."

According to the U.S. Census, 47.6 percent of women age 15 to 44 are childless, the largest share since the census began tracking that data in 1976. Klein says that can make things more difficult when it comes to leaving assets to future generations.

"When it comes to couples who don't have children, in some ways their estate planning is a lot more complicated. If you think about it, a couple who has children, the logical beneficiaries of their estate are, of course, their children," she says. "Oftentimes the worst thing you can possibly do is do nothing. Why is that? State law takes over when you don't have a will. It's called the laws of intestacy, and that governs what happens when you don't leave direction on where you want your assets to go."

Those laws differ by state. In New York for example, your assets would be given to your spouse or your spouse's family. That could mean your own family could be left without anything.

Klein says even if you don't have a million-dollar estate, it's worth planning to save headaches down the road.

"If you don't have a living trust, if you don't have a power of attorney, you'll potentially have to go to court for an expensive and potentially embarrassing guardianship proceeding."

 

Exploring Picasso's sculptural legacy

Fri, 2015-07-10 09:09

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, curators create exhibits centered on single artists and periods of work.

MoMA attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers for a retrospective on Matisse last year. They've kept the museum open 24-hours a day for popular exhibits, like Christian Marclay's "The Clock," and sell out timed tickets to in-demand shows. 

Big shows draw tourists and attract big lines — at $25 for an adult ticket, a great exhibit can be very lucrative for the museum. 

This September, MoMA is showing an exhibit of Picasso's sculptures. It's not a medium typically associated with Picasso, who is best known for his oil paintings. 

MoMA's chief curator of painting and sculpture, Ann Temkin, and chief communication officer, Kim Mitchell, say there's a lot that goes into a high profile, expensive exhibit like this one. 

The Picasso sculpture show is years in the making and is expected to draw lots of viewers this fall and into the winter.

To hear the full interview about preserving, displaying and marketing the legacy of Picasso, tune in using the player above. 

PODCAST: Good jeans

Fri, 2015-07-10 09:09

Greece has drafted a new plan for budget cuts in return for a requested three years of additional support worth $59 billion. More on that. Plus, Alejandro García Padilla, governor of Puerto Rico, says Puerto Rico's $72 billion dollars in debt is quote "not payable" and some form of default or bankruptcy is necessary to avoid a quote "death spiral." Here to talk about Puerto Rico's economy is Leon Krauze, Univision anchor and correspondent for KMEX in Los Angeles. And Levi’s is the world biggest producer of jeans—but its customer base is 70 percent male. So it’s bringing on Alicia Keyes and making a play for more female customers. 

Levi's stretches for new sales

Fri, 2015-07-10 02:00

Levi Strauss & Co. is expected to report its second quarter earnings Friday. The legendary company is facing a sagging market for its signature product: Jeans. Denim sales have been dropping for years, especially among women

Levi’s made its first women’s jeans more than 80 years ago. Since then, we’ve seen bellbottoms, acid-wash, skinny jeans, low-rise, high-rise, super-pricey designer jeans ... the list goes on. But lately the innovation has slowed down, says Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association.

“There’s nothing new in the world of jean fashion,” she says. “There’s no reason for you to buy another pair of jeans.”

Levi’s is aiming to change that with a new collection of women’s jeans launched this week, promoted by the singer Alicia Keys. The line features new stretchier fabrics to compete with the “athleisure” trend (think yoga pants) that has cut into denim sales. 

Global Release Day plays across the world

Fri, 2015-07-10 02:00

Friday marks the kickoff of New Music Fridays, an effort to coordinate new music releases (singles and albums) in more than 45 countries on a single day of the week. Today, major artists including Owl City, Tyrese and Kidz Bop will release new albums internationally. 

Until now, new music has typically been released on different days: Mondays in Britain and France, Tuesdays in the U.S., Wednesdays in Japan and Fridays in Germany and Australia. In fact, Alex Jacob of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry says in China, local artists often jump from day to day: “Artists like to release on a particularly auspicious date. Eight is a particularly lucky number, so an 8th or an 18th or a 28th.”

The IFPI has worked for years to pull together record labels, trade groups and music artists to adopt Friday as the new single day for new releases worldwide. Music will now be available for online download and streaming from multiple platforms, as well as available for purchase in CD and record form at brick-and-mortar stores, on Fridays, just after midnight local time, in each market.

Jacob says the goal is to boost social media buzz and music sales, and also to discourage piracy. He says in the old system, someone could download songs earlier in one country than another, and then share the music without permission online.

Kansas City singer-guitarist Samantha Fish releases her newest album, “Wild Heart,” on the German-based Ruf Records label today. (It's available on iTunes and Amazon.) She describes her style as blues-Americana-rock-roots. She says initially she was confused by the Friday release of her album, since she associates Tuesday with "street day," the day music hits record stores (and now online sites for sale and download).

She’s cautiously optimistic about the new coordinated release day. “It’s probably going to help sales with the stores and distributors,” she says. “I think that’s the idea.”

Some industry critics have worried that the new single global release day will disadvantage smaller independent labels and artists, and be most helpful to major labels and artists with mega-marketing machines.

Fish says she and many artists she knows make most of their money touring, performing and selling CDs after shows from the stage. But she says any boost she does get in online and record-store sales from the new global release day will be welcome.

Global Release Day plays across the globe

Fri, 2015-07-10 02:00

Friday marks the kick-off of ‘New Music Fridays,’ an effort to coordinate new music releases (singles and albums) in more than 45 countries on a single day of the week. Today, major artists including Owl City, Tyrese and Kidz Bop will release new albums internationally. 

Until now, new music has typically been released on different days: Mondays in Britain and France, Tuesdays in the U.S., Wednesdays in Japan, and Fridays in Germany and Australia. In fact, Alex Jacob of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) says in China, local artists often jump from day to day: “Artists like to release on a particularly auspicious date — eight is a particularly lucky number so an 8th or an 18th or a 28th.”

The IFPI has worked for years to pull together record labels, trade groups and music artists to adopt Friday as the new single day for new releases worldwide. Music will now be available for online download and streaming from multiple platforms, as well as available for purchase in CD and record form at brick-and-mortar stores, on Friday, just after midnight local time, in each market.

Jacob says the goal is to boost social-media buzz and music sales, and also to discourage piracy. He says in the old system, someone could download songs earlier in one country than another, and then share the music without permission online.

Kansas-City singer-guitarist Samantha Fish releases her newest album, “Wild Heart,” on the German-based Ruf Records label today. (It's available on iTunes and Amazon.) She describes her style as blues-Americana-rock-roots. She says initially she was confused by the Friday release of her album, since she associates Tuesday with ‘street day,’ the day records hit record stores (and now online sites for sale and download).

She’s cautiously optimistic about the new coordinated release day. “It’s probably going to help sales with the stores and distributors,” she says. “I think that’s the idea.”

Some industry critics have worried that the new single global release day will disadvantage smaller independent labels and artists, and be most helpful to major labels and artists with mega-marketing machines.

Fish says she and many artists she knows make most of their money touring, performing, and selling CDs after shows from the stage. But she says any boost she does get in online and record-store sales from the new global release day will be welcome.

Silicon Tally: Move glitch, get out the way

Fri, 2015-07-10 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Steve Kovach, Deputy Tech Editor at Business Insider.

Click the media player above to play along.

What it's like to be a banker in Greece

Fri, 2015-07-10 02:00

Greece’s banks — shuttered for almost two weeks — are thought likely to run out of money by next Monday if they don’t get a fresh cash injection from the European Union.

But while the banks, besieged by angry customers, have been under the spotlight, we haven’t heard much from the bank workers; the men and women who have the unenviable task of looking after the dwindling pile of cash and  keeping Greece’s faltering financial system alive.

Effie Panoutsakopoulou works in one of the few bank branches in Athens that have remained open during the crisis. It’s her job to issue cashcards to the mostly older customers that don’t have one, and are therefore unable to use an ATM to draw out the daily limit of €60 ($66). Effie has to explain to customers that she can take their application  for a cashcard but nothing else. That ‘s not what they want  to hear.

"Today a customer told me, 'I have a gun and I’m going to kill you.’ Because we didn’t let him open his safety deposit box,” says Panoutsakopoulou.

Before the bank closures, many Greeks took cash out of their accounts and stashed it in a bank safety deposit box to protect their money from being suddenly converted to drachmas. But now, since the banks are officially closed, the boxes cannot be opened, so the tactic has backfired.

Customers threaten and abuse Panoutsakopoulou and, if all else fails, they plead.

“There’s an old pensioner coming in and  he says, ‘I’m going to die soon so I want to open my deposit box.' And we cannot open it. And he starts crying. Other old people coming in and they want money. And they’re crying," she says.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, Panoutsakopoulou seems close to tears herself.

But Helen Stathis, a high-flying executive at another bank, is angry.

“I am angry because I don’t want to lose my dreams. I have worked very, very hard — all my life — and I don’t like it when I see my dreams being destroyed," she says.

Forty years old, divorced, a mother of two, Stathis has sacrificed a lot to get where she is. But the fact that her bank and her career are now tottering doesn’t elicit much sympathy from family or friends.  

“They seem a bit jealous sometimes or they treat me unfairly, saying that I should not complain because I still have my job and because I haven’t suffered a lot in the crisis. But it’s not true. I have suffered,” says Stathis.

She claims that she has had many sleepless nights worrying about the plight of her customers, and she’s had a 20 percent cut in her own salary. Also, she stresses, “We did not create the crisis. It was government overspending that was mainly to blame. It was not the banks.”

Go set a publish date

Fri, 2015-07-10 01:55
20 million

That's the number of annual visitors to Japan. It may seem like a lot, but that's actually pretty moderate for international travel. Now Japan is looking to attract even more tourist attention in advance of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. And as Quartz reports, part of how it plans to do it is by offering free Wi-Fi ... on Mt. Fuji.

45

That's how many countries will be part of Global Release Day, an attempt by the record industry to consolidate music releases into a single day of the week. In the past, artists have chosen different days to put out new music. But that led to some countries getting music earlier than others, and that inevitably led to illegal sharing of content. Some industry professionals are hoping the concentrated release of new music will help get rid of some of the piracy.

2 million

That's at least how many hardcover copies of Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" have been printed by HarperCollins in anticipation of its July 14th release. The publishing company is hoping for a big debut. As the Wall Street Journal reports, some predictions estimate a potential $30 million to $33 million in revenue from first-year North American sales.

315 billion

That's how many video views Facebook has racked up in the first quarter of 2015. The social network has lately been making moves to go after YouTube's hold on online video. As the New York Times reports, there's talk that the company is seeking to license music video content as well.

And a long-read to enjoy this weekend:

33

That's how old the original emoticon turns this September. Its creator, Dr. Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University, usually spends the day of its anniversary handing out smiley-face cookies and posing for pictures with students. Over at Narrative.ly, they have an extensive profile on Fahlman's true passion: artificial intelligence. As Fahlman puts it, one of his great aspirations is to help a computer understand the story of the three little pigs.

Subway has bigger concerns than dropping its spokesman

Thu, 2015-07-09 13:17

Remember Jared Fogle, the guy who lost a bunch of weight by exercising and eating only Subway sandwiches? Well, he was just dropped as Subway’s spokesman because of his involvement in a child pornography investigation. 

But the company has a lot more to worry about than losing Jared: company co-founder and CEO Fred DeLuca is fighting leukemia, it has yet yet to adjust to the demands of millennials and business isn’t doing so well. Last year, U.S. sales dropped 3.3 percent — the worst drop among big fast-food chains. That might be because of over-expansion.

“Their competitors sometimes turn out to be other Subway owners who could be right down the block from them,” says Susan Berfield who wrote about Subway’s trouble for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s Subway’s 50th year in business, but the sandwich restaurant is probably not where it wants to be to celebrate. However, it’s worth noting that even though sales might be dropping, Subway is still a huge business and the largest fast-food chain in the world.

 

Medicare to pay for end-of-life discussions

Thu, 2015-07-09 12:59

We’re all going to die one day. And though we like to think we’ll have some control over how we die, that’s not always the case in the U.S.  People who want to die at home surrounded by their families instead breathe their last breath in a hospital or nursing home.

“Patients’ preferences actually had no effect on the treatments that they received, absolutely none,” says Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, referring to a study of 9,000 patients that found some receive more care than they want.  Others don't get enough. 

The problem: they don’t have an end-of-life, heart-to-heart with their doctor about what they want. One reason? Most doctors don’t get paid for that. Dr. Morrison does, because he’s salaried.

“I couldn’t do that if I was in private practice,” he says.

These aren’t easy conversations. Dr. Vicki Jackson has them a lot.  She’s chief of the division of palliative care at Massachusetts General Hospital.

She says doctors will need training on things like, what questions to ask the patient.

For example: “What worries you?  When you think about what’s coming next, how do you want to be spending this time?” she says.

Medicare plans to start paying for these conversations this January. And private insurers usually follow Medicare’s lead. 

“They’ll cover the same types of services and diagnostic tests," says Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University. "So it’s not just a question of how much they’ll reimburse, but also what services they’ll reimburse for.”

Ho says that eventually doctors could be paid to have end-of-life talks with everyone. So the people they’re trying to help are actually heard. 

Why the market for flame-resistant clothing is growing

Thu, 2015-07-09 12:38

The massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production over the last five or so years is rippling across the economies where that drilling is taking place. More oil workers need more welders, more restaurants — and more clothes. Specifically, workers are required to wear flame-resistant clothes, or FR for short, when they're on oil and gas sites everywhere in the country.

Data from the federal Bureau of Labor statistics shows 80 people died from fires or explosions on oil and gas operations from 2009 to 2013, the latest five years available. Inside Energy has confirmed that’s more than any other private industry. So every little bit of protection helps.

Martin Jenkins, the excavation manager for C&H Solutions, a company that builds infrastructure for oil and gas rigs in Northern Colorado, says he’s seen a lot of changes over the last three or four years in the FR stuff you can get.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” he says. “(Before), you had basically two shirts that you could choose from and one style of pants, and that was it.”

Today, he lets his guys pick out whatever works for them, sending them to Frackin’ Hot FR, a shop in Greeley, CO dedicated to flame-resistant clothes. There are at least a half dozen stores in the area, the heart of Colorado’s oil and gas production, trying to tap into the FR market.

Frackin' Hot FR in Greeley, CO.

Dan Boyce

“You can drive anywhere in Greeley and go shopping for FR clothing,” Jenkins says.

Demand has been surging and big-time clothing brands around the country are taking notice. Working clothes brand Carhartt out of Michigan is now offering FR. Cinch out of Denver is too.

“Everyone is jumping in on it,” says Tara Roemke, who works in marketing for California-based Ariat, a brand usually known for cowboy boots and other western wear.

A couple of years ago the stores selling Ariat products started asking for more FR, and customers wanted an upgrade. Roemke says typically, FRs were stiff and heavy, with little thought to fashion.

“Nothing about it really makes it a joy to wear,” she says.

Ariat developed new garments that still provide protection against fire, but look and feel like their regular jeans and western shirts. Roemke says over the past year Ariat’s FR sales have been 60 percent higher than what the company forecast. A couple of their FR jeans are also now among their top products.

“And for that to happen within a little over a two-year period is pretty incredible,” she says.

One of the employees of C&H Solutions, Will Kessler, recently went to Frackin’ Hot FR to choose a shirt for heading out into the oil fields. He picked a button-up with a collar; dark blue so it doesn’t reflect the light from welding into his eyes.

“It’s almost like a regular long-sleeve shirt,” he said.

It’s going to set his company back $55, which Kessler didn’t think sounded so bad. Heading to the register, he noticed something he wasn’t expecting.

“(It’s) what appears to be some lingerie,” he said, and he was right.

Frackin’ Hot Manager Deania Christopher says they’re a one-stop shop.

“A lot of people know us as the FR store that sells lingerie,” she says. 

Well, whatever it takes to build a brand.

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