- Fashion Nova sparked outrage after it sent customers an alert encouraging them to spend their stimulus checks on its site.
- The move came a day before new data showed that an unprecedented 22 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the last month.
- However, the attempt to bring in sales might not be surprising considering the fact that retail sales in the U.S. dropped by 8.7% in March, with clothing stores specifically seeing a 50.5% drop.
- While Americans can choose to spend their stimulus checks however they please, early data shows that most are using it on basics like food and gas.
Fast-fashion retailer Fashion Nova was slammed by Twitter users Wednesday after sending email and text alerts that encouraged people to spend their government-issued stimulus checks on its latest sale.
Many of the company’s loyal customers who have signed up for notifications received an alert that reads: “When That Stimulus Deposit Hits…Save Up To 80% OFF SITEWIDE. Use Code: STAYIN80. Shop ASAP.”
That message left several customers stunned, with many taking to Twitter to remind the brand that they have bills and other more important things to buy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some also took issue with Fashion Nova using the code ‘stay in,’ saying it felt like the company was mocking a situation in which people have died.
For many, the alert seemed pretty surprising since Fashion Nova is one of many retailers that has show support to those financially suffering. Earlier this month the brand teamed up with Cardi B to donated $1,000 every hour until May 20, for a total of $1 million.
At the time, founder and CEO Richard Saghian said in a press release, “We all feel compassion and concern for those affected by the coronavirus.”
“Fashion Nova Cares with Cardi B will provide people with necessary relief to help them get through this crisis. As a community-driven brand, we are inspired by the kindness and generosity of others and we wanted to do our part to help those in need.”
US Retail Sales Drop by Record 8.7% in March
However, Fashion Nova’s new marketing strategy might not actually be too surprising considering the fact that so many retail stores across the country are struggling.
The Commerce Department released new data Wednesday showing that U.S. retail sales have plunged by 8.7% between February and March. That’s the biggest monthly decline since the government started tracking in 1992, according to CNBC.
A more specific breakdown of the data showed that some retail sectors actually saw a surge, such as grocery stores, online retailers like Amazon, pharmacies, and places that sell essential items.
Meanwhile, clothing and accessory retailers took the hardest hit, dropping in sales by 50.5%. Others that saw major drops include furniture stores, motor vehicle and parts dealers, gas stations, and electronics stores.
22 Million File for Unemployment
Strict stay at home measures across the country have of course played a huge role in the sales decline since so many businesses have been forced to close their doors. But on top of that, consumers have generally pulled back on unnecessary spending during a time of unprecedented layoffs.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 5.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That means that in just one month, over 22 million workers have filed for unemployment.
As far as weeks go, the new data shows a slight decline compared to the 6.6 million claims filed last week and the 6.9 million filed the week before. Still, even if the peak of layoffs is behind us, the country is still in uncharted waters with these incredibly high numbers.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the highest number of new unemployment claims in a week was about 700,000 back in 1982. The largest number of people asking for unemployment benefits over a four-week stretch was 2.7 million that same year.
And according to The Washington Post, job losses in the past month have erased nearly all of the 22.8 million jobs gained from February 2010 to February 2020 during the rebound from the Great Recession.
Economists have noted that claims are surging, at least in part, because more people like gig economy workers and independent contractors are covered for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.
But at the same time, economists say the numbers could be even higher than they look on the surface. That’s because state labor departments have become totally overwhelmed by the volume of claims and some people have reported being unable to get help over the phone or online.
What Are People Spending Stimulus Checks On?
So given those unemployment figures, it clear why so many people were frustrated by Fashion Nova’s alert during this sensitive time for millions of people.
But at the same time, the strategy might have actually brought the brand in some much-needed business. In fact, some internet users signaled that the deals may have been too good for them to pass up.
Whatever people choose to spend their stimulus checks on is their choice, but of course because of tough circumstances, many are wisely choosing to use it on essentials. Early evidence indicates that many Americans are using the money to buy the basics, including food and gas.
Netspend, which processed nearly $1 billion in relief payments by Monday, said its customers are using the government money “for groceries, fast food, pharmacies and gas, as well as withdrawing cash from ATMs.” It also said that more than half of the transactions were PIN-based at ATMs or grocery stores, and about a quarter were done online.
Meanwhile, data compiled by the digital banking service Current found that members who received stimulus payments over the past five days spent 16% of the money on food including takeout and delivery. An additional 14% went to money transfers, 10% went toward gas, 9% was spent on groceries.
Of course, these are all early reports, but for those who have managed to get their hands on their stimulus checks, the money has already provided some desperately needed relief.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (InStyle) (Business Insider)
Misinformation Makes Up 20% of Top Search Results For Current Events on TikTok, New Research Finds
According to the report, the app “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Misinformation Thrives on TikTok
As TikTok becomes Gen Z’s favorite search engine, new research by journalism and tech group NewsGuard found that the video app frequently suggests misinformation to users searching for news-related topics.
NewsGuard used TikTok’s search bar to look up trending news subjects like the 2020 election, COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, the upcoming midterms, abortion, school shootings, and more. It analyzed 540 videos based on the top 20 results from 27 subject searches, finding false or misleading claims in 105 of those posts.
In other words, roughly 20% of the results contained misinformation.
Some of NewsGuard’s searches contained neutral phrases and words like “2022 election” or “mRNA vaccine,” while others were loaded with more controversial language like “January 6 FBI” or “Uvalde TX conspiracy.” In many cases, those controversial phrases were suggested by TikTok’s own search bar.
The researchers noted that, for example, during a search on climate change, “climate change debunked” showed up. While looking up COVID-19 vaccines, searches for “covid vaccine injury” or “covid vaccine exposed” were recommended.
Dangerous Results Regarding Health and More
The consequences of some of the false claims made in these videos can be severe. NewsGuard wrote in its report that the search engine “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Among the hoards of hazardous health claims were videos falsely suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are toxic and cause permanent damage to organs. The report found that there are still several videos touting the anti-parasite hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all remedy, not just for COVID, but for any illness.
Searches regarding herbal abortions were particularly troublesome. While certain phrases like “mugwort abortion” were blocked, the researchers found several ways around this that lead to multiple videos touting debunked DIY abortion remedies that are not only proven to be ineffective, but can also pose serious health risks.
NewsGuard claimed that the social media app vowed to remove this content in July, but “two months later, herbal abortion content continues to be easily accessible on the platform.”
Other standard forms of conspiracy fodder also occupied space in top search results, including claims that the Uvalde school shooting was planned and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
TikTok’s Search Engine Vs. Google
As part of its research, NewsGuard compared TikTok’s search results and suggestions with Google and found that, by comparison, the latter “provided higher-quality and less-polarizing results, with far less misinformation.”
“For example, searching ‘covid vaccine’ on Google prompted ‘walk-in covid vaccine,’ ‘which covid vaccine is best,’ and ‘types of covid vaccines,’” NewsGuard wrote. “None of these terms was suggested by TikTok.”
This is significant because recent reports show that young Internet users have increasingly turned to TikTok as a search engine over Google. While this might elicit safe results for pasta recipes and DIY tutorials, for people searching for current affairs, there could be significant consequences.
NewsGuard said that it flagged six videos containing misinformation to TikTok, and the social media app ended up taking those posts down. In a statement to Mashable, the company pledged to fight against misinformation on its platform.
“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform,” the statement said. “We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”
Over 70 TikTok Creators Boycott Amazon as Workers Protest Conditions and Pay
As the company fends off pressure on both fronts, the Amazon Labor Union continues to back election petitions around the country including one filed Tuesday in upstate New York.
Gen Z Goes to War With Amazon
More than 70 big TikTok creators have pledged not to work with Amazon until it gives in to union workers’ demands, including calls for higher pay, safer working conditions, and increased paid time off.
Twenty-year-old TikToker Elise Joshi, who serves as deputy executive director for the advocacy group organizing the boycott, Gen Z for Change, posted an open letter on Twitter Tuesday.
“Dear Amazon.com,” it reads, “We are a coalition of over 70 TikTok creators with a combined following of 51 million people. Today, August 16th, 2022, we are joining together in solidarity with Amazon workers and union organizers through our People Over Prime Pledge.”
Amazon has refused to recognize the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) since workers voted to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse in April, and it has resisted collective bargaining negotiations.
Although the ALU is not involved in the boycott, its co-founder and interim President Chris Smalls expressed support for it in a statement to The Washington Post, saying, “It’s a good fight to take on because Amazon definitely is afraid of how we used TikTok during our campaigns.”
While the ALU posts videos on TikTok to drum up popular support for the labor movement, Amazon has sought to win large influencers over to its side. In 2017, it launched the Amazon Influencer Program, which offered influencers the opportunity to earn revenue by recommending products in personalized Amazon storefronts.
Last May, the company flew over a dozen Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok stars to a luxurious resort in Mexico.
Emily Rayna Shaw, a TikTok creator with 5.4 million followers who has partnered with Amazon in the past, is participating in the boycott.
“I think their method of offering influencers life-changing payouts to make them feel as if they need to work with them while also refusing to pay their workers behind the scenes is extremely wrong,” she told The Post.
“As an influencer, it’s important to choose the right companies to work with,” said Jackie James, a 19-year-old TikTok creator with 3.4 million followers, who told the outlet she will cease doing deals with Amazon until it changes its ways.
The ALU is demanding that Amazon bump its minimum wage to $30 per hour and stop its union-busting activities.
Slogging Through the ‘Suffocating’ Heat
Amazon is also facing challenges from workers themselves, with some walking out this week at its largest air hub in California, where company-branded planes transport packages to warehouses across the country.
They are asking for the base pay rate to be raised from $17 per hour to $22 per hour.
A group organizing the work stoppage under the name Inland Empire Amazon Workers United said in a statement that over 150 workers participated, but Amazon countered that the true number was only 74.
The Warehouse Worker Resource Center counted 900 workers who signed a petition demanding pay raises.
Inland Empire Amazon Workers United has complained about the “suffocating” heat in the facility, saying that temperatures at the San Bernardino airport reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 24 days last month.
Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan, however, claimed to CNBC that the temperature never surpassed 77 degrees and said the company respects its workers’ right to voice their opinions.
On Tuesday, the ALU backed another warehouse’s decision to file a petition for a union election in upstate New York, roughly 10 miles outside Albany.
The National Labor Relations Board requires signatures from 30% of employees to trigger an election.
See what others are Saying: (The Washington Post (CNBC) (Associated Press)
Twitter Roasts Tim Hortons for Offering Coffee and Donut to Settle Lawsuit for Spying on Customers
The company allegedly tracked app users’ movements 24/7 to determine when they visited a competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.
A Not So Tasty Compensation
Social media users ridiculed Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons over the weekend for a leaked email in which it offered to compensate customers whom it allegedly spied on by giving them a free beverage and pastry.
Twitter user James McLeod posted pictures of the email Friday, which was sent to affected users of the company’s app.
“You are receiving this email in connection with a proposed settlement, subject to Court approval, of a national class action lawsuit involving the Tim Hortons app and the collection of geolocation data between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020,” it read.
“As part of the proposed settlement agreement, eligible app users will receive a free hot beverage and a free baked good,” it continued. “Distribution details will be provided following approval, in the event that the court approves the settlement.”
The email specified that the free beverage would have a retail value of $6.19 (CAD) plus tax, and the free baked good would be $2.39 (CAD).
In a statement to Vice, Tim Hortons said the settlement is not admission of any wrongdoing and that the allegations in the lawsuits have not been proven in court.
“Add to this the fact that the coffee is absolutely abysmal and it becomes even more hilarious,” one person tweeted amid a flurry of criticism toward the company.
Another added, “Do you think the donut will have the good sprinkles or the bad sprinkles?”
‘Vast Amounts’ of Data Collected Illegally
Suspicion that Tim Hortons had violated its customers’ privacy began in 2020 when a reporter from the National Post found that the company’s app had tracked their location over 2,700 times in under five months.
Last Month, Canadian authorities wrapped up an investigation into the matter, finding that Tim Hortons tracked and recorded the movements of people who downloaded its app every few minutes of every day, even when the app wasn’t open.
Although the app requested permission to access geolocation data, authorities concluded that it misled users to believe it would only gather data while the app was open.
Using “vast amounts” of geolocation data, the company inferred where users lived, where they worked and whether they were traveling, according to investigators.
It even allegedly generated an “event” anytime a user entered or exited a Tim Hortons competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.
The investigation found that the company continued gathering data for a year even despite having shelved plans to use it for targeted advertising.
The company, which has committed to deleting all geolocation data on group members, said in a statement that it only used the data in a limited way, such as to analyze user trends.