Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Retail’s new return policy: Keep it

As online shopping spurs a flood of gift returns, some retailers are deciding to opt out of the pricey task, allowing customers to keep their unwanted items instead. Amazon and Walmart are among the firms using artificial intelligence to decide whether it’s cheaper to refund the purchase price but leave certain products, particularly ones that are cheap or hard to ship, with customers to keep or donate. The move comes as e-commerce returns are forecast to reach $70.5 billion for this past holiday season, according to an estimate from CBRE Group. (The Wall Street Journal)


Parler Sues Amazon for Site Takedown, Citing Antitrust Violation

Parler, a social networking service favored by many supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, sued Inc on Monday, accusing its Web hosting service of violating antitrust law by suspending its account. In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Parler said Amazon’s decision to effectively shutter its account was “apparently motivated by political animus” and “apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.” Parler is seeking a court order requiring Amazon to reinstate its account, and blocking it from suspending services it had contracted for. It is also seeking unspecified triple damages. (NewsMax)


A rising number of retailers including Walmart and Amazon are asking customers to keep unwanted items due to the record surge in e-commerce returns

Returns in 2020 increased by 70% year over year. CBRE estimated that the volume of e-commerce returns for the recent holiday season could reach around $70.5B, a 73% increase from the previous five-year average. Last week, UPS carried out around 9 million returns, with a 23% increase, setting a new weekly return record. Overall, around 3 billion packages were delivered during the recent holiday season, 800 million more than the previous year. The cost to process online returns is around $10-$20, excluding freight. Hence, retailers allowing returns in the stores could save the freight cost, which could be about 10%-15% of the overall return cost. Cybersecurity experts say that the scammers involved in return-fraud are buying older accounts to avoid being detected by algorithms. (The Wall Street Journal)


FM radio signal coming from Jupiter’s moon Ganymede

The Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter has discovered an FM radio signal coming from the moon Ganymede. The find is a first-time detection from the moon. Juno was traveling across the polar region of Jupiter, where magnetic field lines connect to Ganymede, and that’s when it crossed the radio source. Scientifically, it is called a “decametric radio emission.” Here on earth we know it as Wi-Fi. And we use it every day. According to, Jupiter’s radio emissions were discovered in 1955, and over the last 66 years, more and more discoveries have been made about how the signals work. Juno’s mission is to study how the planet Jupiter formed and how it evolved. According to NASA, “Juno will observe Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields, atmospheric dynamics and composition, and evolution.” What caused the radio emissions from Jupiter’s moon? Again, aliens are not sending the signal. Electrons cause the signals. The electrons oscillate at a lower rate than they spin. This causes the electrons to amplify radio waves very rapidly. The process has an interesting name, cyclotron maser instability (CMI). The electrons that generate the radio signal can also cause auroras in the far-ultraviolet spectrum – which was also observed by the camera on Juno. (ABC 4)


Agnes Keleti, the world’s oldest Olympic champion, just turned 100

Agnes Keleti’s life story reads like a movie script. After winning her first national title at 16, the Hungarian gymnast was expected to attend the 1940 Tokyo games but was sidelined from her gymnastics team for being Jewish, the games were ultimately canceled when World War II started. Her father and uncles were some of the 550,000 Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust. She was able to obtain false identification papers and fled to a remote village where she worked as a maid. She did not compete in the 1948 London Games due to an injury. Four years later, at age 35, she took part in the Melbourne Games, winning six medals, four of them gold. Up until a few years ago, she was still doing full leg splits but had to stop due to her doctor’s advice. “I love life,” Keleti said while explaining her longevity. “Health is the essence. Without it, there is nothing.” (The Guardian)


Three gorillas at a California zoo have tested positive for COVID-19

Carers are monitoring a total of eight gorillas that share an enclosure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after some of them showed symptoms. Researchers believe that they contracted the virus from a member of the zoo’s staff who had COVID-19 but showed no symptoms. Samples from several gorillas were taken after two began coughing. All eight of the gorillas in the troop are being re-sampled and monitored. The gorillas are expected to fully recover. It is suspected that they acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member with COVID-19, despite precautions taken by the zoo. While additional animals may test positive as infections continue in people, it is important to note that performing this animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans. (USDA)


The most in-demand jobs

A number of career fields saw increased demand over the past year despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. A LinkedIn analysis found 15 areas, ranging from loan officers to education roles, that saw the most growth and demand. Many of the fields, such as nursing and e-commerce, saw increased demand driven by the pandemic. Other events, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, also led to demand for experts in areas like diversity. (LinkedIn)


Walmart steps into fintech

Walmart says it’s building a fintech startup with venture capital firm Ribbit Capital, vowing to develop affordable financial products for its employees and customers. The retail giant has increasingly expanded into new areas as it looks to compete with Amazon, recently launching its own health clinics and moving into the insurance business. Walmart, which already interacts with millions of customers, some of whom may not have banks,  didn’t say when the services will be released or what they will be called. (Bloomberg)


Population growth has stalled

U.S. population growth is at the lowest ebb since 1900, even before accounting for the full impact of the pandemic and recent declines in immigration. Like other developed countries, America has seen a slowdown in births, with the number of those under 25 years “stagnant,” and those under 5 declining. The number of those not in the workforce, meanwhile, is growing. So, even with the recent constriction of immigration, it remains a driver of population growth. (Axios)


Michigan plans to charge ex-Governor in Flint water investigation

Several Michigan officials have been told they will be charged in connection with the Flint water crisis, which saw lead-contaminated water cause a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak several years ago. It was not clear what specific charges will be leveled on former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, his health director Nick Lyon, and other administration officials. The water scandal put Flint, a majority Black city, in the national spotlight. Governor Snyder had been in office two years when the state-appointed managers in the city switched Flint’s water supply to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. Residents immediately began complaining of health issues, including hair loss and rashes. In 2015, doctors found dangerous levels of lead in the blood of children and urged the city to stop using water from the river. The water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, causing lead from old pipes to reach the distribution system used by residents. Many were forced to resort to bottled water. The crisis led some to accuse officials of racism. Governor Snyder announced the outbreak in January 2016, but Lyon said he knew of cases reported months earlier. The state eventually settled with victims for $500 million after dozens of lawsuits were filed. (Fox News)


Cuba Re-designated As State Sponsor Of Terrorism

The 11th hour policy decision could complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to renew relations with Cuba. Days before its departure, the Trump administration has re-designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the country of “granting safe harbor to terrorists.” The 11th hour policy decision could complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to renew relations with Cuba. (The New York Times)


Fake commutes have real benefits

It can be a walk around the block. It can be a stop at your local coffee pickup counter or your favorite drive-thru. Many workers have replaced their pre-coronavirus commutes with allotted time around work shifts where they break away from what can be the monotony of working from home, also known as the pretend or “fake commute.” Researchers recommend this practice as a means to fend off burnout. (The Wall Street Journal)


Ugly or not, Crocs had a great year

The colorful clogs that people love to hate had a banner year in 2020. Crocs is slated to report its “best annual sales ever,” according to the company, raking in about $1.4 billion in revenue last year as the pandemic drove up demand for its comfortable footwear. With more people spending time at home, the polarizing foam plastic clogs made a strong comeback, gaining popularity for their functionality (if not style). “Our brand momentum is exceptional, and we anticipate another record year in 2021,” according to their CEO. (Bloomberg)


Wednesday Brings Us:

  • Korean American Day
  • Make Your Dream Come True Day
  • Peach Melba Day
  • Public Radio Broadcasting Day
  • Rubber Ducky Day
  • Stephen Foster Day
  • Sticker Day

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