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Fashion Nova Sparks Outrage After Encouraging People to Spend Stimulus Checks on Its Site

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  • 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. 

Sale Alerts 

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)

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Uber Forks Over $19 Million in Fine for Misleading Australian Riders

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The penalty is just the latest in a string of lawsuits going back years.


Uber Gets Fined

Uber has agreed to pay a $19 million fine after being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for making false or misleading statements in its app.

The first offense stems from a company policy that allows users to cancel their ride at no cost up to five minutes after the driver has accepted the trip. Despite the terms, between at least December 2017 and September 2021, over two million Australians who wanted to cancel their ride were nevertheless warned that they may be charged a small fee for doing so.

Uber said in a statement that almost all of those users decided to cancel their trips despite the warnings.

The cancellation message has since been changed to: “You won’t be charged a cancellation fee.”

The second offense, occurring between June 2018 and August 2020, involved the company showing customers in Sydney inflated estimates of taxi fares on the app.

The commission said that Uber did not ensure the algorithm used to calculate the prices was accurate, leading to actual fares almost always being higher than estimated ones.

The taxi fare feature was removed in August 2020.

A Troubled Legal History

Uber has been sued for misleading its users or unfairly charging customers in the past.

In 2016, the company paid California-based prosecutors up to $25 million for misleading riders about the safety of its service.

An investigation at the time found that at least 25 of Uber’s approved drivers had serious criminal convictions including identity theft, burglary, child sex offenses and even one murder charge, despite background checks.

In 2017, the company also settled a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $20 million after it misled drivers about how much money they could earn.

In November 2021, the Justice Department sued the company for allegedly charging disabled customers a wait-time fee even though they needed more time to get in the car, then refused to refund them.

Later the same month, a class-action lawsuit in New York alleged that Uber charged riders a final price higher than the upfront price listed when they ordered the ride.

See what others are saying: (ABC) (NASDAQ) (Los Angeles Times)

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Report Finds That Instagram Promotes Pro-Eating Disorder Content to 20 Million Users, Including Children

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According to the study, even users hoping to recover were given eating disorder content because they were “still in Instagram’s algorithmically curated bubble.”


Instagram Promotes Eating Disorder Content

Instagram promotes pro-eating disorder content to millions of its users, including children as young as nine-years-old, according to a Thursday report from the child advocacy non-profit group Fairplay.

The report, titled “Designing for Disorder: Instagram’s Pro-eating Disorder Bubble,” studied what it called an eating disorder “bubble,” which consisted of nearly 90,000 accounts that reached 20 million unique users. The average age of the bubble was 19, but researchers found users aged nine- and 10-years-old that followed three or more of these accounts. Roughly one-third of those in the bubble were underage. 

According to Fairplay, Instagram’s parent company Meta derives $2 million in revenue a year from the bubble and another $228 million from those who follow it. 

“In addition to being profitable, this bubble is also undeniably harmful,” the report said. “Algorithms are profiling children and teens to serve them images, memes and videos encouraging restrictive diets and extreme weight loss.”

“Meta’s pro-eating disorder bubble is not an isolated incident nor an awful accident,” it continued. “Rather it is an example of how, without appropriate checks and balances, Meta systematically puts profit ahead of young people’s safety and wellbeing.”

Researchers identified the bubble by first looking at 153 seed accounts with over 1,000 followers that posted content celebrating eating disorders. Some used phrases like “thinspiration” or other slang terms like “ana” and “mia” to refer to specific eating disorders. Others included an underweight body mass index in their bios. 

Those seed accounts alone had roughly 2.3 million collective followers, 1.6 million of which were unique. Of those unique users, researchers looked at how many seed accounts each followed to determine that nearly 90,000 accounts were part of the eating disorder bubble. Those accounts totaled over 28 million followers, 20 million of which were unique.

These pages posted content ranging from memes and photos of extreme thinness to screenshots of progress on calorie counting apps. One user said they were on their third day of eating just 300 calories. 

Others, including children under the age of 13, put their current weights and goal weights in their account bios. Some wrote that they “hate food” or were “starving for perfection.”

Content’s Impact on Children

Fairplay claimed that many of those in the bubble wanted to recover but were essentially trapped in Instagram’s algorithm. 

“Many of the biographies of users in the bubble talk about wanting to or being in recovery, wanting to get ‘better’, to ‘heal’ or being aware of how unwell they were,” the report said. “However, these users are still in Instagram’s algorithmically curated bubble. They will still be feeding content from other accounts in the bubble, including the seed accounts, that normalizes, glamorizes or promotes eating disorders.”

The report also showcased the firsthand account of a 17-year-old eating disorder survivor and activist identified as Kelsey. Kelsey wrote that it was impossible to “imagine a time when the app didn’t have the sort of content that promotes disordered eating behavior.” 

“I felt like my feed was always pushed towards this sort of content from the moment I opened my account,” Kelsey continued.

“That type of content at one point even got so normalized that prominent figures such as the Kardashians and other female and male influencers were openly promoting weight loss supplements and diet suppressors in order to help lose weight.”

Kelsey said Instagram delivered that content without any relevant searches, but posts about body positivity needed to be actively sought out. 

The report concluded by arguing that there needs to be legislation that regulates platforms like Instagram by requiring them to prioritize user safety, particularly for children.

Meta and Instagram have long been accused of disregarding child safety. Last year, a whistleblower unveiled documents that revealed the company knew of the harm it posed to young people, specifically regarding body image. A Meta spokesperson told The Hill that they were unable to address the most recent allegations in Fairplay’s report.

“We’re not able to fully address this report because the authors declined to share it with us, but reports like this often misunderstand that completely removing content related to peoples’ journeys with or recovery from eating disorders can exacerbate difficult moments and cut people off from community,” the spokesperson said.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNet)

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Etsy Sellers Strike Amid Increased Transaction Fees and Mandatory Offsite Advertising

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“What began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople,” an Etsy seller wrote in a petition. 


Thousands of Etsy Sellers Shut Down Shops

Roughly 15,000 Etsy sellers are closing up their online shops starting Monday in protest of several grievances they have with the platform, including a new fee increase.

Starting on Monday, transaction fees are getting boosted from 5% to 6.5% on the platform. CEO Josh Silverman sent a memo claiming that this hike will allow the company to “make significant investments in marketing, seller tools, and creating a world-class customer experience,” but sellers have been frustrated by the change. 

“Etsy’s last fee increase was in July 2018. If this new one goes through, our basic fees to use the platform will have more than doubled in less than four years,” seller Kristi Cassidy wrote in a petition calling for a strike. As of Monday morning, over 50,000 Etsy sellers, customers, and employees had signed the petition.

“These basic fees do not include additional fees for Offsite ads – which started during the first wave of the pandemic,” Cassidy continued. 

Offsite ads allow Etsy to advertise sellers’ products on other websites like Google. Sellers who make over $10,000 a year reportedly have no way of opting out of the program and Etsy takes at least 12% of sales generated through the promotions. 

“Etsy fees are an unpredictable expense that can take more than 20% of each transaction,” Cassidy wrote. “We have no control over how these ads are administered, or how much of our money is spent.”

Etsy became a pandemic success story as online shopping rose amid lockdowns. Many turned to the platform to purchase masks and other goods, prompting its stock, sales, and number of sellers to rise. 

“It’s really obnoxious to tell us sellers, ‘Hey, we made record profits last year and we’re gonna celebrate by raising your fees a whole bunch,’” Bella Stander, a maps and guidebooks publisher who sells on Etsy, told the Wall Street Journal.  

What Etsy Sellers Are Demanding

Currently, there are over five million sellers on Etsy. Cassidy hopes that if enough of them unite, the company will have to respond. 

“As individual crafters, makers and small businesspeople, we may be easy for a giant corporation like Etsy to take advantage of,” she wrote. “But as an organized front of people, determined to use our diverse skills and boundless creativity to win ourselves a fairer deal, Etsy won’t have such an easy time shoving us around.”

In the petition’s list of demands, it asks that Etsy cancel the transaction fee increase, allow sellers to opt out of offsite ads, and provide a transparent plan to crack down on resellers who take up space on the platform.

It also demanded that Etsy end its “Star Seller Program,” which impacts how sellers can interact with their buyers.

“Etsy was founded with a vision of ‘keeping commerce human’ by ‘democratizing access to entrepreneurship.’ As a result, people who have been marginalized in traditional retail economies — women, people of color, LGBTQ people, neurodivergent people, etc. — make up a significant proportion of Etsy’s sellers,” Cassidy wrote.

“But as Etsy has strayed further and further from its founding vision over the years, what began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople.”

In a statement to Yahoo Finance, an Etsy spokesperson claimed that sellers were the company’s “top priority.”

“We are always receptive to seller feedback and, in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to providing great value for our 5.3 million sellers so they are able to grow their businesses while keeping Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace.”

The strike was a trending topic on Twitter Monday morning. Many sellers took to the social media site to pledge their support to the movement. 

Many sellers are urging buyers to refrain from using the site for the remainder of the week, which is how long the protest is currently scheduled to last.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Yahoo Finance) (TechCrunch)

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