Summary of “Boycotts, buying sprees, and the rise of conscious consumerism”

Sustainability-tinged consumer activism is a new flavor of an old tactic, one that falls under the umbrella of what we now call conscious consumerism.
Consumer activism can take the shape of two diametrically opposed actions – buying en masse and boycotting en masse – that are after the same goal ” either grassroots collective organization of consumption or its withdrawal,” explains Lawrence Glickman, an American historian at Cornell University and author of Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism.
Consumer activism, boycotts included, puts power in the hands of the people – “Or at least they think it is,” adds Glickman.
Conscious consumerism is today’s catchall to cover consumer dollars invested in a host of progressive values: worker rights, animal rights, low-carbon footprint, recycled and/or renewable materials, organic, local, etc.
“Small steps taken by thoughtful consumers – to recycle, to eat locally, to buy a blouse made of organic cotton instead of polyester – will not change the world.” Instead, she argues, conscious consumerism is an expensive distraction from the real work at hand.
With more opportunities to be a conscious consumer – thanks to more and more “Leading brands that compete to see who is greener,” as Joel Makower, author of 1990’s The Green Consumer, writes for GreenBiz – so too do opportunities for economic existential angst mount.
Okay, okay, but does consumer activism do anything? In a word: sometimes! In more words, whether or not consumer activism and conscious consumerism “Work” depends, really, on the definition of success.
Yes, phosphate-free dish detergent can curb water pollution, she says; but Kennedy’s research shows that conscious consumers often maintain very large carbon footprints themselves.

The orginal article.

Summary of “‘Zombie debt’: how collection agencies trick you into reviving debts that could’ve been written off”

The effort to revive Raymer’s old debt was part of what consumer advocates and financial experts say is an accelerating effort within the $11 billion debt collection industry to make profits from debts that the financial industry once wrote off.
The efforts to collect on old debts often focus on getting consumers to reset the statute of limitations through a variety of means, including sending them credit cards that let them pay off their old debts or by allowing them to make a small payment to halt debt collection calls.
“Consumers just don’t know the ins and outs of state and federal debt-collection laws and probably will not understand the consequences in the fine print” of making a payment that can revive an old debt, said Christine Hines, the legislative director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates, which lobbied for the CFPB to ban collection of debts beyond their statutes of limitations.
The CFPB fined two of the country’s largest debt buyers, Encore Capital Group and Portfolio Recovery Associates, a combined $80 million after they sent thousands of letters to consumers offering to “Settle” their old debts without explaining that the payments would revive the old debts.
New York’s state legislature also debated a bill this year that would have given debt collectors less time to collect on some old consumer debts – three years instead of six – and prevent the industry from going after the money at all once the debt reached its statute of limitations.
Consumer advocates worry the CFPB is giving the industry too much leeway, including more flexibility to pursue old debts by arguing the debt collector did not know a particular bill was past its statute of limitations.
According to the proposal, the bureau is also considering whether to require debt collectors to tell consumers up front when their debt is beyond its statute of limitations.
The proposal seeks to create “Clear rules of the road where consumers know their rights and debt collectors know their limitations,” CFPB Director Kathleen L. Kraninger said in May. A debt revived.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Amazon, Walmart, and Other Stores Have Too Many Options”

Over that same period of time, Amazon’s success has pushed retailers such as Walmart and Target to carry even more stuff-especially online-and to get that stuff to shoppers even faster.
The internet-shopping boom has spawned an excess-stuff economy, in which retailers such as Overstock.com buy up extra product from full-price retailers.
Instead, manufacturers ship directly to consumers, which helps keep stuff prices down.
The economic theory that governs many Americans’ understanding of consumer choice posits that a free, competitive market should drive down prices on the best-quality stuff.
Contemporary internet shopping conjures a perfect storm of choice anxiety.
Those infinite, meaningless options can result in something like a consumer fugue state.
Helping consumers figure out what to buy amid an endless sea of choice online has become a cottage industry unto itself.
Since Americans have lost the ability to sort through the sheer volume of the consumer choices available to them, a ghost now has to be in the retail machine, whether it’s an algorithm, an influencer, or some snazzy ad tech to help a product follow you around the internet.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All”

They have ample means to do so: the immense data trail you leave behind whenever you place something in your online shopping cart or swipe your rewards card at a store register, top economists and data scientists capable of turning this information into useful price strategies, and what one tech economist calls “The ability to experiment on a scale that’s unparalleled in the history of economics.” In mid-March, Amazon alone had 59 listings for economists on its job site, and a website dedicated to recruiting them.
Not coincidentally, quaint pricing practices-an advertised discount off the “List price,” two for the price of one, or simply “Everyday low prices”-are yielding to far more exotic strategies.
The price of the headphones Google recommends may depend on how budget-conscious your web history shows you to be, one study found.
Prices were traditionally the purview of the second-most-powerful figure in a retail organization: the head merchant, whose intuitive knack for knowing what to sell, and for how much, was the source of a deep-seated mythos that she was not keen to dispel.
Carefully controlled experiments not only attempted to divine the shape of a demand curve-which shows just how much of a product people will buy as you keep raising the price, allowing retailers to find the optimal, profit-maximizing figure.
The complexity of retail pricing today has driven at least one of Boomerang’s clients into game theory-a branch of mathematics that, it’s safe to say, has seldom found practical use in shopping aisles.
Lest someone wonder, Would framing price as a moral dilemma be the ultimate pricing ploy?, the answer is no: 87 percent of customers chose the lowest price, Preysman reports.
“As a general matter,” she went on, “I find it so difficult to determine the actual price of the product that when I’m shopping for my kids, my new technique is to make all my decisions at the cashier. I pick up lots of clothes. I completely ignore all pricing until I get to the register. And then if something is too much, I say, ‘I don’t want it.’ ”.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All”

They have ample means to do so: the immense data trail you leave behind whenever you place something in your online shopping cart or swipe your rewards card at a store register, top economists and data scientists capable of turning this information into useful price strategies, and what one tech economist calls “The ability to experiment on a scale that’s unparalleled in the history of economics.” In mid-March, Amazon alone had 59 listings for economists on its job site, and a website dedicated to recruiting them.
Not coincidentally, quaint pricing practices-an advertised discount off the “List price,” two for the price of one, or simply “Everyday low prices”-are yielding to far more exotic strategies.
The price of the headphones Google recommends may depend on how budget-conscious your web history shows you to be, one study found.
Prices were traditionally the purview of the second-most-powerful figure in a retail organization: the head merchant, whose intuitive knack for knowing what to sell, and for how much, was the source of a deep-seated mythos that she was not keen to dispel.
Carefully controlled experiments not only attempted to divine the shape of a demand curve-which shows just how much of a product people will buy as you keep raising the price, allowing retailers to find the optimal, profit-maximizing figure.
The complexity of retail pricing today has driven at least one of Boomerang’s clients into game theory-a branch of mathematics that, it’s safe to say, has seldom found practical use in shopping aisles.
Lest someone wonder, Would framing price as a moral dilemma be the ultimate pricing ploy?, the answer is no: 87 percent of customers chose the lowest price, Preysman reports.
“As a general matter,” she went on, “I find it so difficult to determine the actual price of the product that when I’m shopping for my kids, my new technique is to make all my decisions at the cashier. I pick up lots of clothes. I completely ignore all pricing until I get to the register. And then if something is too much, I say, ‘I don’t want it.’ ”.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Foodie Localism Loves Farming in Theory, But Not in Practice”

A few years ago, as the co-owner of a direct-market vegetable farm, my life revolved around harvests and freeze dates, farmers’ market sales and enrolment numbers for our Community Supported Agriculture programme.
The economic realities for farmers still sit uncomfortably alongside the practice of many farmers’ markets.
A fellow farmer and I began composing an op-ed under the working title ‘No More Fucking Farmers’ Markets’.
The USDA’s aforementioned Trends in US Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress confirms this: ‘While the growth in farmers’ markets signals increased consumer interest, for some local food farmers, marketing food in multiple locations can increase marketing and transportation costs, reducing overall net farm income.
During the years in which farmers’ markets took off, the US lost 4.3 per cent of its farms, continuing a downward trend that began in the 1950s.
Net farm income is projected to go down, as are farm asset values.
While local food has emerged as an alternative to industrial food, many people have simply transferred their expectations from the grocery store to the farmers’ market.
Obvious options include expanding Individual Development Accounts for beginning farmers and adding farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programme through the Young Farmer Success Act.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Is Your Holiday Gift Spying On You? A Guide Rates The Security Of Smart Devices”

Is Your Holiday Gift Spying On You? A Guide Rates The Security Of Smart Devices Before you start making that wish list, you might want to check another list: The Mozilla Foundation made a “Privacy Not Included” guide to help shoppers be more proactive against security threats.
Americans are expected to spend $3.8 billion on Amazon’s Echo Dot, Google’s Home and other smart home devices this holiday season.
The Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit behind the Firefox search browser, is encouraging consumers to consider security and privacy in their purchases as much as performance or price.
Mozilla just rolled out its second annual “Privacy Not Included” guide, which now includes reviews for 70 Internet-connected devices.
“Mozilla developed this gift guide to help people make informed decisions about privacy and security this holiday season,” Mozilla’s vice president of advocacy, Ashley Boyd, tells NPR’s Scott Simon.
From baby monitors to drones, the guide invites consumers to score products on a privacy scale that slides from “Not Creepy!” to “Super Creepy!”.
Some 55 percent of consumers surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers this year consider the Internet of Things and AI devices, including smart homes, a threat to their personal privacy.
The FREDI Baby Monitor, for one, doesn’t fit Mozilla’s security bill.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why robocalls have taken over your phone”

The Portland area realtor was getting bombarded with spam texts and calls, as many as 10 a day, despite having his number on the Do Not Call Registry.
Hughson, who studied law but never practiced, has filed dozens of lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law that lets consumers take callers to court if they’re called while on the Do Not Call Registry.
There’s no immediate financial hurdle preventing a company from running a system, and if even a tiny percentage of people called respond positively to the caller’s message, it was likely worth it.
Barlow points to more than 100 lawsuits the agency has brought against callers, and he notes that the agency has also promoted products like apps that consumers can use to block calls.
Still, for many, the calls continue: the Do Not Call Registry was meant to preemptively stop calls, but if marketers are already breaking the rules, it’s unlikely the list will stop them.
According to the agency, the marketer used spoofing technology to fake caller IDs, then made more than 21 million calls to sell health insurance.
Under Pai’s leadership, the agency has also touted the passage of rules that allow carriers to block calls from phone numbers that are likely fraudulent, either because the number isn’t used for outgoing calls or it shouldn’t be able to make outgoing calls.
In the past year, federal court decisions have questioned exactly which systems the definition applies to, and the FCC has been seeking comment on what a new definition should look like – opening the door for a system that’s substantially more beneficial to callers, who have been pushing for a more marginal definition that could allow them more leeway to make calls.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Vermont passes first law to crack down on data brokers – TechCrunch”

Data brokers in Vermont will now have to register as such with the state; they must take standard security measures and notify authorities of security breaches; and using their data for criminal purposes like fraud is now its own actionable offense.
As long as they step carefully, data brokers can maintain what amounts to a shadow profile on consumers.
Data brokers have been quietly supplying everyone with your personal information for a long time.
Vermont’s new law, which took effect late last week, is the nation’s first to address the data broker problem directly.
“Until Vermont passed this law there was no regulation for data brokers. It’s that serious. We’ve been looking for something like this to be put in place for like 20 years.”
While data brokers offer many benefits, there are also risks associated with the widespread aggregation and sale of data about consumers, including risks related to consumers’ ability to know and control information held and sold about them and risks arising from the unauthorized or harmful acquisition and use of consumer information.
Consumers may not be aware that data brokers exist, who the companies are, or what information they collect, and may not be aware of available recourse.
Data breach rules mean prompt notification if personal data is leaked in spite of them.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Can You Learn From Ring’s Astounding Success?”

Jamie Siminoff is not only one of the single best true entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, he’s amongst the best we’ve worked with in the country.
We would have gladly followed Jamie right through an IPO if we could have.
Jamie is truly a visionary and a focused executioner.
We were sure that Jamie would be maniacally focused on improving the product, marketing the dream to consumers and out-maneuvering the slower-moving competition.
Then Jamie built “Stick up cams” to allow you to protect the perimeter of your house and floodlight cams for night time that screwed into existing floodlight sockets, making installation a piece of cake.3.
Jamie’s ethos led him to price at just $3 / user / camera / month at a time when traditional home security companies’ monthly fees were so unaffordable.
On numerous occasions I heard investors suggest that there was a much higher price point that consumers would pay but Jamie would have none of it.
See bullet point 1.Next Jamie told me he planned to sell products on QVC. That was probably one step further away from the Silicon Valley ethos than even Shark Tank! Jamie’s logic was clear - millions of people watch QVC and I will have unique access to them to tell our story that they might not pay attention to in an online ad - so he went on.

The orginal article.