Archive for the 'Business' Category
One thing we are accustomed to (used to) when we shop is prices going up and down with sales and seasonal (different time of the year) deals. But what about prices changing frequently, as much as every 10 or 15 minutes?
If you’re like many Americans, you’re doing more and more of your shopping online (on the Internet). Popular websites are now using dynamic pricing to get the best price for their goods (items for sale) and urging (encouraging) you to buy. Dynamic pricing is when a business uses computer programs with complex (not simple) algorithms (math formula; math rules a computer follows in computing) to figure out the best price for a product. This algorithm takes into account (includes in its calculations) things such as inventory levels (how much of a product the seller has), competitor prices (how much other stores are charging), how quickly the item is selling in a given time frame (a certain amount of time), and your buying history (what you have already purchased from that website).
Dynamic pricing is not new. If you’ve purchased an airline ticket in the past 20 years, you know that you may get a different price depending on when you make your reservation (booking before purchasing). In recent years, some sports teams have begun to price their tickets according to how popular a game is predicted (expected) to be and how many tickets have already sold, among other things, to make sure that it sells the most tickets possible. Now, this practice (way of doing things) is being used for all kinds of products.
I noticed dynamic pricing when using a popular online retailer (seller): Amazon. Amazon’s pricing system is so sophisticated that it’s a mystery to most people. However, if you ever put an item in your shopping cart (list of things you’re getting ready to buy) and leave it there for a few days or a few weeks, you’ll see the price changing, perhaps many times over that time period, depending on the factors I mentioned above and more, including what you buy in the meantime. This use of customer information is somewhat (kind of; fairly) controversial because some critics (people who don’t like it) say that it’s an invasion of privacy (viewing and using of personal information without your knowledge or permission). However, it’s being done all of the time, and not just with large retailers like Amazon.
Have you noticed dynamic pricing used in your online shopping? What do you think of this pricing practice?
Photo Credit: Onedolar2009series from Wikipedia
In the old days, we learned about new restaurants, stores, and other businesses through word of mouth (one person telling another). We still do that these days, but many people have taken that online (on the Internet) to websites that allow user reviews (comments written by users or customers). One user review website that has become very popular in recent years is Yelp.com.
The word yelp means a short, sharp cry that comes out of your mouth when something suddenly gives you pain or surprises you. I associate yelping more with animals, like dogs, than with people, but if someone stepped on my foot, I would certainly yelp.
The website Yelp started in 2004 and allows people to post user reviews about restaurants, stores, services, and even prisons. What?! Prisons?? Yes, even U.S. prisons are listed on Yelp’s website and anyone can post a review of these “graybar hotels.” I don’t think anything could induce me (attract and convince me) to check in to a graybar hotel, but it’s interesting to read what former (in the past) or current inmates (prisoners) and those who visit inmates think of the prisons.
More commonly, people use Yelp to read about customers’ experiences before going to a new place or using a new service, and it’s a place where people can write laudatory (praising; complimentary) reviews or gripe (complain) about their experience. It’s so popular these days that it’s not uncommon to hear people use the verb “to yelp” to mean to read reviews on Yelp (or even other websites) similar to the way people use “to google” to mean to search the Internet, no matter what search engine they use.
In the past, I’ve used Yelp to get recommendations on all kinds of places and services: restaurants, car repair, plumbing repair, movers, hair salons, and many more.
Is there a popular user review website where you live? Do you use it, and if so, for what types of businesses or services?
Photo Credit: Cele.jpg from Wikipedia
Many businesses worry about their employees wasting time (not doing what you’re supposed to be doing; being unproductive) at work when they use the Internet. A common solution is to install (put in) special software that will block (prevent; stop) you from accessing (looking at) websites the software deems (decides; determines) are a waste of your (and the company’s) time. Sometimes the software gets carried away (goes too far; does too much), however.
I recently went to a mechanic (someone who fixes cars) in order to get an oil change (when you put in new motor oil into your car’s engine). Like a lot of places nowadays, the garage (place where you get your car fixed) had wifi for its customers, so I fired up (turned on) my laptop and tried to navigate (go to) a few websites.
Since it was a workday (a day I normally work; Monday through Friday), I needed to check out the ESL Podcast website for a few things. But when I tried to go to eslpod.com, I wasn’t allowed to access it. Instead (in place of getting it), I got a notice (see photo) which said:
Block Reason: Forbidden Category “Education.”
Forbidden means not allowed, not permitted.
Apparently, websites related to education were considered a waste of time by the software.
So, folks (guys; informal for “people”), be careful about learning too much at work. It might be considered a waste of time by your company’s software.
Photo credit: Jeff McQuillan
In the old days, if we wanted to get a recommendation for something, we would talk to our friends and acquaintances (people we know, but not well). These days, we go to the Internet. If you want to know about a business before you visit or about a product before you buy, you may look at online reviews, written opinions posted on the Internet.
Online reviews have become a huge influence in the global marketplace (world of buying and selling). Good or bad reviews, for example, can make or break (make successful or unsuccessful) a new restaurant, product, or hotel. It’s not unusual for businesses to post positive reviews about their own business, and even write unfavorable (negative) ones about their competitors (business competing for the same customers). The savvy (knowledgeable) customer knows that this happens and ignores a certain number of glowing (very positive) or very negative reviews.
Weighing (deciding what is useful and what isn’t) online reviews has become harder, however, because writing fake (false; untrue) online reviews has become a business. There are now companies that a book author (writer) or business owner can pay to get fake positive reviews. One company will give you 20 positive reviews for about $500 and 50 reviews for $1000.
Major online sellers do try to spot (find) fake reviews by doing linguistic (related to language) analysis. For example, if the same string of words (words in the same order) appear in multiple reviews, that’s a dead giveaway (an easy way to tell). If an anonymous (without showing one’s real identity) reviewer only writes one glowing review, that may also be a fake review.
A recent National Public Radio story gave some tips on how to spot fake reviews. Some of these suggestions are fairly obvious (clear; apparent), but may be useful as a reminder.
- Don’t just look at the reviews on one site. Look for the same product or business on different websites.
- Many sites give special status to people who are longtime reviewers or who are verified (confirmed to be real). Their reviews are more trustworthy (reliable) than anonymous ones.
- Don’t pay as much attention to how many stars a business gets. Instead, look for specific information about a visitor’s experience.
- Read reviews for specific, helpful information that fake review writers or business owners might not think of, such as how late the swimming pool stays open at a hotel.
- Pay attention to what the majority of reviews say, rather than outliers (an opinion that is very different from the majority).
Do you read online reviews, and if so, for what types of products, services, or businesses? In your opinion, what are good tip-offs (pieces of evidence) of a fake review?
Photo Credit: Stipula fountain pen from Wikipedia
Why did you decide on your particular career (job; what you do for money)? Perhaps you choose it because your mother or father did the same thing (my father was a teacher, I am a teacher). Perhaps you choose it because someone you admired (had high respect for or a high opinion of) also did that sort of work.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was because of your name.
I know, it sounds crazy, but your name can actually effect what you become in life.
For example, as Lucy pointed out a few years ago, if you are a dentist, you’re much more likely to be named Dennis than John or Peter (43% more likely, according to one study). There are more George’s who are geophysicists than Henry’s, and more Henry’s who work in hardware stores than Bill’s. (And although researchers haven’t studied this yet, there are probably more builders named Bill than Johnny.)
Social psychologist Brett Pelham’s research discovered these strange-but-true links (connections) 10 years ago. He called it “implicit egotism.” (Implicit means implied, or suggested but not actually stated explicitly for you. Egotism refers to thinking of ourselves as being very important.)
Could it all be true?
I know an accountant named Abrahams (three of them, actually).
If you ask people, they will say that their names had nothing to do with (no relation to) their career selection (choice). If you tell them it may have, they will probably think you are a little crazy. Or really stupid.
But from a psychological point of view, it makes perfect sense (is very reasonable or logical). We are attracted to things that have qualities or characteristics that we also have. We like people like us.
But there’s even more: All things being equal (assuming all other conditions are the same or the situation is identical), an Eric will more likely marry an Erica and a Charlotte will fall in love with a Charles.
Oh, and your name also affects whom you choose to do business with. My doctor’s first name is Jeffrey. My optometrist’s last name is Matsumoto.
It gets stranger: there are more Florence’s in Florida than in other states than would be predicted by chance (that would happen if the distribution (presence) of first names were random across states), and more Louie’s in Louisiana.
People born on February 2nd (2/2) are disproportionately (more than would be predicted statistically) found in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and more people born on March 3rd (3/3) live in Three Forks, Montana, than you should expect to find there. (Lucy has already reported that names can affect the products we buy and even the grades we get in school.)
Does “name-job similarity” hold (is it a fact) in other languages? I don’t know if researchers have looked at the question, but there is no reason to think it is not true. Will more Pedro’s in Peru become plomeros (plumbers) than Jose’s? Probablemente (probably).
I don’t want to become carried away with this (try to apply this to too many things; go crazy with it). Perhaps some similarities are just coincidences (things that happen at the same time by luck or chance). Is it likely that I live in Los Angeles and become a linguist because Lawrence is my middle name? (Or, for that matter, did Lucy?)
Did my ancestors (relatives born before I was, many years ago), the McQuillans, go from Ireland to Minnesota for a similar reason? Did my father, Patrick, work part-time at the post office for 25 years due to the P in his name? (He was a physical education teacher, by the way.) Perhaps.
Do you see any of these “unrelated” connections in your own life? In your own job?
P.S. My dentist’s name is actually not Dennis. Her first name begins with an S, so we can’t explain her choice of career from her name. But why did I choose her as my dentist? Could it be because her last name begins with…an M?
Photo credit: Model and film star Megan Fox, with (model) Marilyn Monroe tattoo, Wikipedia CC
Summer is in full swing (in the middle of something, usually with a lot of activity) and the summer blockbusters, or those movies likely to make a lot of money, are out. I recently read an interesting story about Hollywood films becoming popular in countries that have, in the past, not been very interested in them. These new opportunities for new customers (or audiences, in this case) are often called new markets or emerging markets.
I thought I’d take just one paragraph from this article and explain some of the terms:
“Box-office growth in countries such as Russia, Brazil and China (Europe and Japan have long been fertile ground for American movies) comes as theater attendance in the U.S. and Canada has flattened and once-lucrative DVD sales have plummeted.”
A box-office is the place where we buy movie, play, and other performance tickets, so this term is used to refer to how many tickets are sold. If a movie has a big box-office, it has sold a lot of tickets and is a money-making success. When a movie sells very few tickets, we say that the movie has bombed.
If something is fertile, it is easy to grow things there. A woman can be described as fertile if, for example, she gives birth to 11 children. The ground or soil is often described as fertile, meaning that plants and crops (plants used for food) grow easily and well there.
For something to flatten means to for it to not change, not increase or decrease. We usually use this to talk about something that has been growing or increasing, but now, that growth or increase has stopped. This use of “flattened” probably comes from line charts or graphs, showing trends or movement over time.
If something is lucrative, it is likely to make you a lot of money. We use it to talk about business deals or opportunities: “My brother told me about a lucrative new stock, but I’m too unsure about it to buy it.”
To plummet means to fall or decrease very quickly and very much. You can use this word literally to mean that someone or something falls very quickly from a high place: “Jeff dropped the water balloon out of the window, but it plummeted to the ground without hitting me.” More often, we use “plummet” figuratively to talk about things that decrease quickly:
- “Sales of bananas grown in this area plummeted when people got sick from eating them.”
- “The price of our company’s stocks plummeted with news of the scandal.”
These are all common terms we use, not only to talk about the market for movies, but to talk about business in general (with the exception of “box office,” of course). You can read the full article here.
Have you seen any Hollywood blockbusters recently you’d recommend? Are you looking forward to any that you’ve heard about?
Photo Credit: “Movie Premier Setup” from Wikipedia
You are a public school principal (director) and school funding (money) is down. You have a difficult choice: Eliminate (cut) the school’s music, art, or sports program or allow advertisements to be place in the school. What would you do?
That’s the dilemma (difficult problem or decision) facing many schools in the U.S. today. With a poor economy comes less governmental funding, and advertisers are offering schools an alternative (another choice) to eliminating educational programs. Advertisers want to put advertising in schools, placing them on school lockers (metal boxes where students keep books and supplies) and on the side of school buses.
More and more schools are feeling desperate (hopeless; without other options) and opting for (choosing) advertising. For example, in a school district (organization of many schools in one area) in St. Francis, Minnesota, the superintendent (director responsible for a district) agreed to cover 10% to 15% of the school’s lockers with ads. Parents don’t like it, but have not been too vocal (expressing an opinion aloud or loudly) because they know of the poor condition of school funding.
Advertisers, of course, love this form of advertising. School advertising reaches children and teenagers, an important demographic (specific group or part of the population) and the students are a captive audience (cannot leave or avoid what they see or experience).
What do you think of this form of advertising? What if the choice was between eliminating upper-level (advanced) math or science courses and school advertising? Would your opinion be different?
Is there school advertising where you live? Are there other types of funding for schools?
You drop out of law school. You’re a disappointment to your parents. You spend your days sitting on the couch (sofa) watching TV. That doesn’t sound like the start of a successful business, does it?
However, it is the beginning of the unlikely road to success for Roy Choi. Back in 1996, Roy didn’t know what he would do with his life. Then, one day while watching the Food Network, a cable TV station devoted to (focused on) cooking and food, he got an inspiration (sudden idea). He wanted to become a chef (professional cook). He enrolled in a good culinary (cooking) school, and eventually worked his way up to chef at the Los Angeles Beverly Hilton Hotel, where many celebrity events take place. After he was fired from his next job, he decided to try something different.
After cooking gourmet (high quality, made with a lot of skill) food in some of the best restaurants, he decided to take his cooking on the road — in a lunch truck. The lunch truck is a large truck with a simple kitchen that travels from place to place to sell food. Traditionally, in the U.S., lunch trucks sell inexpensive food, such as sandwiches and burgers, and travel to places with a lot of workers, such as near large business buildings or construction sites, where workers are doing the physical work to put up a building. Roy wanted to turn (change; replace) that traditional lunch truck food into gourmet food. Instead of unhealthy fast food, he would serve quick, cheap, and convenient gourmet food, and his specialty was a new type of cuisine that combined Korean and Mexican food. From these lunch truck, he sells unusual dishes such as kimchi quesadillas and (Korean) short-rib tacos.
Soon after the Kogi trucks began traveling around Los Angeles, they became a cult hit (very popular with a small group of people). The owners of the lunch trucks used viral media to tell people where the trucks would park and serve. Viral media includes Twitter and Facebook, and is any type of electronic communication that can get information to a lot of people in a very short amount of time. An announcement would go out on Twitter about the time and location of the next appearance of the truck and people would flock to (many people would move quickly to) that location. Good food, cheap prices, cooked by a top chef — visiting these lunch trucks become the in thing (trendy; popular thing) to do.
Even though I live in Los Angeles and have heard about these lunch trucks for over a year, I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting one yet, but I hope to soon. I want to know what Korean-Mexican food tastes like!
Are lunch trucks popular in other countries? If not, are there special restaurants or food stalls (table or stands on the street) where people can go for a quick meal?
Most people know about the Internet selling website eBay. It is a website that allows individuals and businesses to list items for sale. Then, buyers use an auction process, where each buyer indicates how much he or she is willing to pay for an item and the person who is willing to pay the most buys the product.
eBay is probably the most well known Internet auction website, but recently, I heard about a new Internet selling site aimed at (designed for) individual sellers who are crafty (two meanings: 1) clever; 2) able to make things with one’s hands, especially decorative things).
In the past five to ten years in the U.S., there has been a resurgence of interest (increased interest after a period of not being popular) in crafts, especially knitting and crocheting. Knitting and crocheting are two methods of using yarn (thick thread) and long needles (sticks) to make things like sweaters, scarves, baby clothes, handbags, and many other things. (Crocheting (pronounced “crow-shay-ing”) uses one needle with a hook at the end, and knitting uses two needles, with no hook.)
This new selling website takes advantage of this interest in crafts and is called Etsy. All of the products listed on the website are crafts, or things that are handmade (made by one’s hands, rather than by machines in factories). On the website, you will find sweaters and scarves (long pieces of fabric you put around your neck to keep you warm), of course, but also handmade greeting cards (such as birthday cards, Christmas cards), cases for cell phones, candles, furniture, clocks, jewelry, and much more. On the site, the seller sets (determines) the price. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the website, there is a page where customers can ask for custom (made for a specific customer) products and the price they are willing to pay.
For many people, crafts are a hobby (activity done in one’s free time for fun), but many people are turning crafts into cash, especially in these difficult economic times. When I was little, my mother taught me how to knit, and later on, my sister taught me how to crochet. Looking at the nice quality products that other people can make on this site has really put my own efforts to shame (makes me embarrassed about the low quality of the things I’ve made). If you ever see me with an odd-shaped (strangely-shaped) scarf or a lopsided (with one side smaller or lower than the other) hat, you’ll know I didn’t get it from Etsy. I made it myself. I’m afraid I’m not too crafty with my crafts.
Are you crafty? What can you make? What would you like to learn to make?
Me? I’ve always wanted to learn to make things with wood, perhaps to build small pieces of furniture or other practical things. But given (considering; keeping in mind) I’m not very good with my hands, I think I better stick with (stay with) writing scripts!
I recently read something surprising: In the past few years, many universities in other countries have hired Americans for top-level jobs. For example, in 2009, a provost (senior administrator) at one of the top universities in the U.S.–Yale–will become the head (director; person in charge) of Oxford University, one of the most prestigious universities in England. Another American academic (university teacher or scholar) at Harvard, perhaps the most well-known American university, will become the new head of the University of St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland.
What accounts for (explains) these high-level appointments? The answer is money.
Universities have become big businesses and one of the main duties of a senior university official is fundraising, getting donations and other forms of money for the institution. Apparently, Americans or people exposed to American ways of doing things have good fundraising skills. These skills are a product of (result of) experience and necessity (need).
U.S. universities rely heavily (very much) on philanthropy, which is when someone gives a generous donation of money to build or help an organization or a cause. For example, at Harvard last year, 40% of the total budget came from philanthropy. This is in contrast to (very different from) universities abroad (in other countries): At Cambridge University in England, only 10% came from philanthropy, and at the University of Melbourne in Australia, only 6% did.
In recent months, donations to universities have dropped significantly, making a fundraiser’s job even harder. However, in general, when it comes to separating wealthy (rich) people from their money, I guess an American is the one for the job!