- 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)
SpaceX’s Starlink to Provide Dozens of Families in Rural Texas With Internet in 2021
- SpaceX has just agreed to use its Starlink satellite internet service to provide internet to 45 families who do not have broadband access and who live in the Pleasant Farms area of south Ector County, Texas.
- The internet will be free for families, but the Ector County Independent School District is paying SpaceX $300,000 per year, with $150,000 of that coming from a nonprofit.
- Services will later expand to 90 more families in the same area as the network evolves and as the district works to deal with the digital divide that has become more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic.
- The news follows reports that SpaceX is beginning public beta testing of Starlink at $99 a month, with a $499 upfront cost for the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router.
What is SpaceX’s Starlink?
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has agreed to a deal with a Texas school district that will bring internet service to dozens of families in need next year.
The internet will be provided though Starlink, which is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet anywhere on the planet.
According to the Ector County Independent School District, SpaceX will supply internet to 45 families who do not have broadband access and who live in the Pleasant Farms area of south Ector County.
The internet will be free for families, but the district is paying SpaceX $300,000 per year, with $150,000 of that coming from a nonprofit known as Chiefs for Change.
The district said services will later expand to 90 more families in the same area as the network evolves.
The plan is part of the district’s effort to deal with the digital divide that has become more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. As more students shift to online learning, a large number of them have been forced to work without stable internet and other essentials.
“The partners with us share our vision for equity and access for all students,” the district said in it’s announcement. “Today, we take a giant leap forward in closing the digital divide that exists within our community.”
According to the district’s own surveys, 39% of families have limited or no internet access in the area.
The announcement marks the first agreement for SpaceX to offer Starlink internet in the southern U.S. It will also make Ector County the first school district to utilize SpaceX satellites to provide internet for students.
SpaceX Expands Starlink Beta Testing
The news followed reports Monday that said SpaceX was expanding the beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service.
As of now, SpaceX has launched about 900 Starlink satellites, which is only a fraction of the total needed for global coverage but enough to start providing service in some areas.
For the last few months, the company has conducted a limited private beta test with employees. However, in emails sent to an unspecified number of people Monday, SpaceX offered its first-ever public beta testing of the service.
It’s reportedly called the “Better Than Nothing Beta,” and it’s priced at $99 a month. Customers must also pay the $499 upfront cost for the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router.
There’s also now a Starlink app listed by SpaceX on the Google Play and Apple iOS app stores.
At this time, it’s unclear where exactly service will be available, but Musk has recently suggested the public beta would be offered in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.
“Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all,” SpaceX warned in its email, according to CNBC.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our networking software, data speed, latency, and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.”
See what others are saying (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Business Insider)
Department of Justice Files Antitrust Suit Against Google Alleging Unlawful Monopoly
- The Department of Justice is filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of illegally maintaining its monopoly by using its hefty ad revenue to engage in exclusionary contracts that block competition.
- An example of this would be Google’s arrangement with Apple to be the default browser on Safari. The Department thinks this agreement makes it impossible for competition to break through.
- Google has defended itself and says that it does make room for competition, but that consumers choose Google of their own volition.
- This is one of the largest antitrust suits against a major tech company in years and could be a long legal battle. Depending on the outcome, there could be major implications for other tech companies outside of Google.
DOJ Files Suit Against Google
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is filing an antitrust suit against Google, launching one of the largest cases of its kind against a tech company in decades.
The suit will hurl multiple allegations against the tech giant, including claims that it maintains its monopoly via unlawful exclusionary and interlocking agreements and contracts that block the growth of competition. The Justice Department is claiming that the company spends billions of dollars in ad revenue to pay major phone and tech companies like Apple to make Google the default search engine on web browsers.
The lawsuit also alleges that Google has arrangements to make sure its search application is preloaded and cannot be deleted on mobile Android devices, which the department says hurts and prevents competition.
An action like this from the Justice Department has been highly anticipated for some time now. In the summer of 2019, Department officials announced a broad review of the practices of big companies, including Google. Their investigation into the company has lasted since and has included probes into several aspects of the Silicon Valley behemoth.
“An antitrust response is necessary to benefit consumers,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, deputy Attorney General said in a briefing. “If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google.”
Google’s Dominance on the Internet
The Attorneys General from eleven states will be joining the suit, and many more may decide to hop on as the legal battle continues. It could take years for this to play out and be resolved. Pending the results, it could also have major implications for other big tech companies.
Google’s dominance across the internet is prominent. According to data from Vox, when it comes to searching, the company takes up 92% of the market, with its biggest competitor, Bing, owning just a small sliver of that space. When it comes to smartphone operating systems, it takes up 85% of the market. For web browsers, it takes up 66%.
The Justice Department is not the only part of the government to recently take aim at Google. In the first week of October, a House subcommittee released a report accusing Google, as well as Facebook, Amazon and Apple, of holding and abusing monopoly power in their respective industries. That report mentioned anti-competitive contracts at Google. The House suggested that there was a “pressing need for legislative action and reform” when it comes to monopolies at major tech companies.
Google has repeatedly denied that it holds an unlawful monopoly. In a Tuesday statement, the company maintained that it allows for healthy competition and condemned the Justice Department’s choice to bring an antitrust suit forward.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed,” the statement said. “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”
When it came to specifics in the suit, Google claimed the Justice Department was relying on “dubious antitrust arguments.” The company compared the agreements it has with companies like Apple to a cereal brand paying a grocery store to stock its boxes at eye level.
When it comes to Apple specifically, Google claims that it is the default in Safari because Apple believes Google to be the best search engine. Google also said their agreement is not exclusive and that Bing and Yahoo are also featured in Safari.
“This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM,” Google argued. “Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds—faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.”
“This lawsuit claims that Americans aren’t sophisticated enough to do this. But we know that’s not true.”
While it will take several years for this case to be resolved, many are analyzing what the potential outcomes may be. The Wall Street Journal said that if Google loses, there could be court-ordered changes to its practices, potentially to create openings for new rivals. However, the lawsuit will not immediately specify specific solutions. That step will come further down the road.
If Google wins this, it could throw a wrench in the government’s growing plans to go after big tech companies. Other investigations could get complicated or foiled, and it could mean that this issue might have to move into Congress’ hands.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Wall Street Journal) (CNN)
Thousands of Amazon Workers Demand Paid Time Off To Vote
- Around 4,000 Amazon tech workers signed a petition Tuesday that calls for eight hours of paid time off to be made available for employees to use up until Election Day for voting-related activities, including voting, registering, and volunteering.
- Amazon, which is the second-largest employer in the U.S., does not currently have a companywide policy that offers its over 1.3 million workers paid time off to vote.
- By contrast, companies like Walmart, Facebook, Apple, Uber, Starbucks, and dozens of others offer some sort of paid allotted time for voting.
- Amazon says employees can request time off to vote, but the number of hours and pay it will provide depends on local laws.
- Critics note that while some states require employees to be excused and paid for a few hours if voting conflicts with work schedules, several battleground states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, do not.
Employees Back Petition
Thousands of Amazon tech workers backed a petition Tuesday urging the company to offer employees paid time off to vote on or before Election Day.
Amazon is the second-largest employer in the country, with over 1.3 million U.S. workers, including Whole Foods employees. However, it does not have a companywide policy in place that offers paid time off to participate in federal elections.
For comparison, Walmart, which is the nation’s largest employer, offers up to three paid hours for its employees to vote. Other companies like Facebook, Apple, Uber, Twitter, and Starbucks also provide allotted time for voting. Some companies, like Patagonia, are even closing their doors completely on Election Day, while stores like Best Buy are reducing hours.
Supporters of such policies point out that for many Americans, voting, especially during a pandemic, can mean hours-long lines and other unexpected delays.
Because of this, on Tuesday, more than 4,000 Amazon tech workers added their support to a petition that was created internally that morning by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.
That group formed in 2018 to put pressure on the company to commit to reducing fossil fuel emissions, but has expanded its focus to speak out against poor working conditions and other issues.
The petition calls for eight hours of paid time off to be made available for employees to use up until Election Day for voting-related activities, including registering to vote and volunteering.
However, on the other side of the issue, Amazon spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said that the company has given employees information on how to register to vote and request time off.
“In all 47 states with in-person voting, employees that lack adequate time before or after their scheduled workday to vote, can request and be provided excused time off,” she explained. “The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.”
It appears that for now, Amazon doesn’t want to make paid time off for voting a company-wide policy and instead will only comply with local laws.
That’s a big deal because, although many states require employees to be excused and paid for a few hours if voting conflicts with work schedules, several battleground states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, do not.