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Flyers rarely complain even when they have cause to

By The Economist online…

BUSINESS travellers are hardy souls. It goes with the territory. Theirs is a life of jet lag, cramped seating and reheated meals, all washed down with weak cups of coffee. Small wonder, then, that a recent study by Clarabridge, a technology firm, suggests that few travellers ever actually lodge complaints about their flights. It surveyed almost 2,500 passengers in Britain and America and found that about two-thirds of respondents have never aired a grievance, even when they had good reason to do so. This is despite the fact that complaints are on the rise overall, as Gulliver has previously reported.

Why are so many reluctant to complain? One reason is that passengers think airlines will ignore them. This explanation was given by about a third of those who have never complained, according to Clarabridge’s study.

This should worry airlines. Being ignored leaves customers even more frustrated and can dent future revenue. An analysis by Twitter and Applied Marketing Science, a research group, examined the preferences of passengers who used the social-media platform to complain about a carrier. Not only did receiving a response boost customer satisfaction, but faster replies made it more likely that passengers would fork out for more expensive tickets from that airline in the future.

A less-concerning explanation of passenger’s willingness to suffer in silence is that service has never been so good. In the decades since deregulation in the 1970s, flights have become more punctual, more frequent and more convenient. Advances in technology have made it easier to buy tickets, board a plane and enjoy movies while flying.

Moreover, flying is now cheaper. Data from Airlines for America, a trade group, show that the average cost of air travel per mile halved between 1979 and 2012. And it has tumbled even further in the past few years thanks largely to lower oil prices. That will please the one-third of travellers who, according to Clarabridge, choose their flights solely on the basis of price. And for the rest? Well, nothing suppresses the urge to complain quite like getting a good deal.

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Category: Business and finance, Gulliver

Game Over for GameStop Bullls

GameStop Corp. shares fell more than 12% in the first hour of Friday’s session after the company missed second quarter earnings estimates while reaffirming fiscal year 2018 guidance. This bearish price action cut through at a key level that bulls need to defend in coming days to avoid a steep downtrend from getting worse and dropping the gaming-based brick-and-mortar retailer to the lowest low in more than five years.

New gaming systems have shifted to download and cloud-based media formats in recent years, denying profits from new and used disc-based game sales that have kept the retailer afloat in recent years. Heavy competition from, Inc. and privately held Newegg have also eaten into revenues, while mall foot traffic has contracted due to the ongoing exodus out of brick and mortar onto online sales portals. (See also: How the Video Game Industry Works.)


GameStop came public in February 2002, opening at $9.63 and grinding sideways into the May high at $12.15. A decline into the first quarter of 2003 posted an all-time low at $3.75, ahead of a strong recovery wave that reached the post-IPO high at the end of 2004. A breakout into 2005 caught fire, lifting the stock in a powerful trend advance that continued into the 2007 all-time high at $63.77. (For more, see: GameStop: Why It Might Be Game Over.)

The stock built a topping pattern into September 2008 and broke down during the economic collapse, dropping into the mid-teens, where it bottomed out in December. The subsequent recovery wave failed to generate substantial buying interest, stalling at the 50% sell-off retracement​ level and yielding multiple failed breakout attempts into 2012, followed by a steep decline that undercut the 2008 low by nearly two points.


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Category: GME, AMZN, BBY

Starbucks’ Surprise Pay Raise Comes With A Catch

Starbucks announced last week it will increase employee wages in the U.S. on Oct. 3 as part of an “ongoing commitment to make investments in our partners” and build trust, CEO Howard Schultz wrote in an open letter. But some employees won’t be getting as much of a raise as they might have expected.

The company — recently the target of an online petition about declining morale among workers due to labor cuts — confirmed to BuzzFeed News Wednesday that the raise in October “is an expedited wage increase for fiscal 2017” and “there will be no additional increase in January.” The company’s scheduled pay raises normally happen early in the calendar year.

“That’s disappointing, but not unexpected,” said Jaime Prater, the Starbucks worker who organized the petition (which now has gained more than 13,000 signatures). “Typically, when Starbucks gives something, they take away something else.” Many baristas, for instance, complained that after the company announced raises in late 2014, they only received a flat pay bump once a year, compared to twice-a-year merit raises previously.

Following last week’s announcement — which also included improved stock and healthcare benefits — some Starbucks workers expressed concern about how the company would deal with the regularly scheduled pay increase. “Does this take the place of our raise in January or do we get that as well?” one Facebook user asked. “Is the October increase in lieu of our January raise or in addition too?” wrote another. Others said they did not expect the October raise to exceed upcoming minimum wage increases in their area.

Still, Schultz’s letter drew many positive responses. Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Riley said because the raise will be moved up a few months, the October pay bump will be an additional partner investment for Starbucks.

“People are happy to know they will get a minimum increase of 5%, and that it is coming sooner” than 2017, she said. “People are excited. We’ve gotten positive feedback.” Riley added that the company understands there are still partner concerns and is working with employees to resolve them.

Starbucks Staff Are Getting A Raise After Claims Morale Is SinkingBaristas Say Morale At Starbucks Is Sinking

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Category: TGT

More airlines are auctioning off seats

By The Economist online

AS LONG-TIME readers of The Economist can testify, this newspaper likes auctions. For economists, it is the best solution to most problems. It is more elegant than the other two main forms of setting a fee: haggling and menu pricing. The former is inefficient because the seller might not be negotiating with the person prepared to pay the most. The latter will be inefficient unless the seller has exhaustive knowledge of the supply and demand conditions and can quickly adjust his prices accordingly.

Airlines generally take a version of the latter approach. They use dynamic pricing that calculates demand for seats on their planes and updates the fare accordingly. Generally, their algorithms do a pretty good job. Even though the price of the same seat on a flight can vary greatly over the period it is on sale, the average plane is around 80% full.

But more and more are also having a look at auctions, particularly for those looking to upgrade their seats. Some 30 carriers around the world have tried it out. The latest is Singapore Airlines, which has unveiled a new bidding system in which economy-class flyers can bid for a swankier seat in premium economy. Passengers receive an e-mail around a week before the flight asking whether they would like to bid for an upgrade and setting a minimum price. This can then be changed or cancelled any time until 50 hours before the flight, when the “winners” are informed.
Premium-economy seats offer a few marginal benefits over the standard ones, such as more legroom. For this, they cost perhaps $50 more. However, they are not always full. So sometimes airlines will simply shunt a few lucky passengers forward from the very back of the plane. But that is becoming a less common practice. As we have discussed before on this blog, many carriers now prefer to keep those hallowed seats empty, and in full view of the doleful souls who have refused to stump up the extra, pour encourager les autres.

Auctions should alleviate this problem. Assuming it is done efficiently, the issue of empty seats accruing no extra cash should disappear. For those who consider premium economy essential—the long-legged for example—the marginal saving of going through an auction will not be worth the risk of missing out altogether. For those who have always thought that the benefits do not warrant the extra expense, there is a chance to try their luck with a price they do consider to be worth it.…read more

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Category: Business and finance, Gulliver

5 ways to skip long airport lines

If TSA lines aren’t enough, there’s another summer travel delay to worry about. According to a recent study of Federal data, June and July are the worst months of the year for passport checkpoint waits returning to the U.S.

Some airports have average wait times of over 30 minutes, and maximum wait times often top out at around an hour or more.

But there are new ways around this and other airport delays that can save you aggravation.

Get Mobile Passport Control. This is an app officially authorized by the Department of Customs and Border Protection, which lets you use special passport checkpoint lanes with no paperwork involved. This is the simplest, and sometimes most effective way to cut down on passport checkpoint waits. It’s free, there’s no advance registration needed, and everyone in your family can use it. Download it and you’ll be able to skip the congested passport and customs lines at some of the busiest airports.

If you fly a lot, consider Global Entry. Global Entry, a trusted traveler program, is more involved than Mobile Passport Control because it requires an in-person interview and a $100 application fee. The benefit is it gets you both priority at passport checkpoints and regular domestic security lines via TSA Pre Check. It’s also available at more airports than Mobile Passport Control.

Some credit cards will reimburse you the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees. You probably don’t want to get a card just to offset the fee, because most of the cards that offer the benefit have annual fees of their own. Better to pick a travel credit card based on your spending habits.

Pay up for priority once. Some airlines let you pay a fee to get access to priority security and boarding lanes. And you can buy it right up until check-in via mobile apps, kiosks, or online checkin. So if you get to the airport, and lines look hopeless, the fee might help you make your flight.

Become a SkyMiles member. Delta SkyMiles members get discounted membership to CLEAR, which is a private service that offers expedited biometric security clearance at several airports. Instead of paying $179 a year, SkyMiles members pay $99, and anyone can become a SkyMiles member for free.

Try a different terminal. If lines are really bad at one terminal, consider another in the same airport. Many big airports let you clear security in a different terminal than the one you’re departing. Some terminals are connected behind security, while others have shuttles running in between, If you’re facing an hour plus wait at your terminal, it may be worth the walk to a terminal with little or no wait.

RELATED: 9 of the best airports to kill time in

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Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

By Dr Penny Pincher…

Frugal people who pay off their debt and achieve financial independence don’t succeed by accident. They establish habits that allow them to consistently reach their goals over the long haul.
During the past few years as a personal finance blogger and author, I have noticed that the most successful frugal people tend to follow a common set of habits. These same habits remind me of the traits that Stephen Covey detailed in his popular 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For this article, I kept the original seven habits, but updated them for achieving financial independence today.
What are the seven habits that allow some people to excel at being frugal?
1. Be Proactive
Frugal people are proactive about their money, taking action to monitor and control spending and maximize income. They find ways to spend less and reduce expenses – even if it requires effort and creative thinking. They direct most of the money they save from reduced expenses into savings and investments for long term goals.
Although the first thing that comes to mind with frugality is saving money, many frugal people maximize income through side hustles or by generating passive income in addition to controlling their spending. An extra dollar saved or an extra dollar earned both contribute favorably to the bottom line.
Frugal people know how much money they have coming in and how much is going out, often with great precision. This is accomplished by creating and following a budget and proactively monitoring spending. They focus on what they can control within their budget to achieve financial success.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
Why do frugal people work so hard to control spending and keep track of their money? Are they simply not interested in buying things? On the contrary, most frugal people are striving to reach financial independence so that they can travel or launch a second career or to have plenty of money to buy the things that matter to them. Frugal people are willing to worry about money now so they don’t need to worry about it later.
Surprisingly, many frugal people care more about their time than their money. Saving money buys financial independence, which buys time to do whatever you want. Frugal people want freedom to use their time as they wish and not be locked into working at a job until they reach old age.
Frugal people begin with the end in mind. The end they want to achieve is financial independence. With that end in mind, they make a plan to reach the goal and follow it every day. The sacrifices along the way are worth reaching the goal.
3. Put First Things First
What is the first thing you pay every month? Do you pay your mortgage first? Perhaps you pay your utility bill or car payment first. Frugal people pay something else first – themselves.
Paying yourself first means that you invest in your retirement fund or other savings accounts first, then you …read more

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Category: budgeting, frugal, money, personal finance, saving

As U.S. shale sinks, pipeline fight sends woes downstream

Within weeks, two low-profile legal disputes may determine whether an unprecedented wave of bankruptcies expected to hit U.S. oil and gas producers this year will imperil the $500 billion pipeline sector as well.

In the two court fights, U.S. energy producers are trying to use Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to shed long-term contracts with the pipeline operators that gather and process shale gas before it is delivered to consumer markets.

The attempts to shed the contracts by Sabine Oil & Gas (SOGCQ.PK) and Quicksilver Resources (KWKAQ.PK) are viewed by executives and lawyers as a litmus test for deals worth billions of dollars annually for the so-called midstream sector.

Pipeline operators have argued the contracts are secure, but restructuring experts say that if the two producers manage to tear up or renegotiate their deals, others will follow. That could add a new element of risk for already hard-hit investors in midstream companies, which have plowed up to $30 billion a year into infrastructure to serve the U.S. fracking boom.

“It’s a hellacious problem,” said Hugh Ray, a bankruptcy lawyer with McKool Smith in Houston. “It will end with even more bankruptcies.”

A judge on New York’s influential bankruptcy court said on Feb. 2 she was inclined to allow Houston-based Sabine to end its pipeline contract, which guaranteed it would ship a minimum volume of gas through a system built by a Cheniere Energy (LNG.A) subsidiary until 2024. Sabine’s lawyers argued they could save $35 million by ending the Cheniere contract, and then save millions more by building an entirely new system.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Quicksilver’s request to shed a contract with another midstream operator, Crestwood Equity Partners (CEQP.N), is set for Feb. 26.

The concerns have grown more evident in recent days, raised in law firms’ client memos and investment bank research notes.

Last week, executives from Williams Companies Inc (WMB.N) and Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO), two of the world’s largest pipeline operators, sought to allay growing investor fears, saying they were reviewing contracts or securing additional credit guarantees to minimize the impact of the biggest oil bust in a generation.


So far, relatively few oil and gas producers have entered bankruptcy, and most were smaller firms. But with oil prices down 70 percent since mid-2014 and natural gas prices in a prolonged slump, up to a third of them are at risk of bankruptcy this year, consultancy Deloitte said in a Feb. 16 report.

Midstream operators have been considered relatively secure as investors and analysts focus on risks to the hundreds of billions of dollars in equity and debt of firms most directly exposed to commodity prices.

That’s because firms such as Enterprise Products (EPD.N), Kinder Morgan KM.N and Plains All American (PAA.N) relied upon multi-year contracts — the kind targeted in the two bankruptcies — that guarantee pipeline operators fixed fees to transport minimum volumes of oil or gas.

Now, with U.S. oil output shrinking and gas production stalling, many of the cash-strapped producers entering bankruptcy will be seeking to rid themselves of pricey agreements, particularly those with so-called minimum volume commitments that require paying for space even if it is not used.

“They will be probably among the first things thrown out,” said Michael Grande, director for U.S. midstream energy and infrastructure at Standard & Poor’s.


In bankruptcy court, Sabine’s lawyers argued for undoing a pipeline and gathering contract with Cheniere unit Nordheim Eagle Ford Gathering that is worth tens of millions of dollars in coming years.

Instead, a different midstream operator would be hired to build a new system that Sabine’s lawyer told the bankruptcy court would literally “wrap around” Nordheim’s existing infrastructure….read more @ REUTERS

The worst may finally be over for stocks

Where have all those scaredy-cat investors gone?
The Dow was up more than 200 points Monday, extending last week’s winning streak. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have each gained more than 7% from the multi-year lows they hit back on February 11.

The big spike in oil prices in the last couple of weeks has helped. But investors also don’t seem as worried as they did just a few day ago.

CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index, which measures seven indicators of investor sentiment, is now in Neutral territory. It had been showing signs of Extreme Fear for most of this year.

Market volatility has died down considerably. The VIX (VIX), a gauge of volatility that is part of our Fear & Greed Index, has fallen 35% since February 11.

Related: U.S. recession fears fade after market rally

So is the worst over? Or is this what traders like to morbidly call a dead cat bounce? (Two references to cats in one market story. If I just add a feline GIF, this story will be Trump-like “yuge” on social media!)

It is encouraging to see some of the most beaten up stocks, such as energy and other commodity companies as well as banks, rebound so sharply.

Oil driller Diamond Offshore (DO) is up 30% since February 11, for example. Aluminum giant Alcoa(AA) has surged more than 20%. Bank of America (BAC) and Citi (C) have each gained 15%.

The rally in banks is particularly welcome. Many banks have suffered due to worries that troubles in the oil patch will lead to a big wave of energy loan defaults.

Consumers living in states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota could also potentially have problems making mortgage, credit card and auto loan payments. In other words, oil was feared to be the 2016 version of subprime. But that may be an overreaction.

“We still haven’t hit the end of this bull market. The challenges in the energy sector aren’t spilling into the broader economy,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust, in a report Monday.

Another positive sign? Some high quality companies are looking to sell bonds again. Apple (AAPL,Tech30), IBM (IBM, Tech30) and Toyota (TM) all raised money through debt offerings last Tuesday.

Related: Why people are freaking out about cheap oil

To be sure, junk bond demand remains weak. That’s one of the seven indicators in our Fear & Greed Index and it’s showing Extreme Fear.

But if investors are willing to buy bonds from top companies, that could be an indication that the “this is another 2008” story line might be getting tired. The corporate bond market is not seizing up.

“Healthy demand for credit, albeit isolated to the higher quality issuers, is a bright spot,” wrote Jason Pride, director of investment strategy with money manager Glenmede, in a note to clients.

Still, investors should be cautious. Just as the pendulum may have swung too far in the bearish direction a few weeks ago, there is now a risk that sentiment is rapidly shifting too far into bullish territory.

Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist with BTIG, wrote in a report Monday that the stock market may now be “overbought” following the recent rally.


Not even OPEC saw oil crash coming

“This cycle is very nasty,” Abdalla Salem el-Badri, OPEC’s top official, said on Monday at the IHS CeraWeek oil conference in Houston.

he oil cartel shocked markets in November 2014 by refusing to cut production despite the emerging supply glut that was weighing down prices. The move has been chalked up as a savvy long-term play at maintaining OPEC’s share of the global oil market.

But Badri said on Monday that OPEC was not “expecting” the dramatic 40% plunge in oil prices that materialized in just the weeks following that landmark decision.

“Prices fell dramatically while fundamentals have not changed really that much. The financial markets are playing a great role,” the OPEC official said in comments that were live-streamed by CNBC.

The remarks highlight OPEC’s diminished role in the world. The oil cartel was once thought to be the all-powerful hand manipulating global energy prices.

But OPEC has been relegated to mere mortal status by the American shale oil revolution, which hascreated a flood of production. U.S. oil production has nearly doubled in the past decade, fueling an oversupply of oil that is not being met by today’s sluggish global economy.

Domestic oil output slowed at the end of 2015, but it continues to remain near record highs.

Related: U.S. running out of room to store oil

The oversupply problem has caused oil prices to collapse by 70% since mid-2014 to just $33 a barrel on Monday.

Oil prices briefly rebounded last week after Saudi Arabia, the leader of OPEC, reached a tentative deal with Russia to freeze production at January’s already-high levels.

However, the agreement would only take effect if other major producers did the same. Iran and Iraq, two pivotal players, have yet to agree to cap their own output. Analysts are skeptical it will create a lasting rebound in oil prices.

On Monday OPEC’s top official characterized the tentative deal as a “first step” to see what can be achieved.

“If this is successful, maybe we can take other steps in the future,” Badri said, adding that such a move would only happen after three or four months.

Related: Big oil producers are dumping stocks to raise money

Badri said OPEC is discussing options with all oil producers — including countries not in the cartel like Brazil, Mexico and Oman.

Badri even said OPEC is open to talks with the U.S., which unlike many other big oil producers doesn’t have a government-run oil company….read more @ CNN MONEY

Starbucks Changed Its Rewards Program And People Are Not Happy

Starbucks announced Monday morning that starting in April, customers in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico who participate its rewards program will start earning points per dollar spent, and no longer per visit as in the current program.

The new system incentivizes higher spending and larger orders. Previously, customers earned one point, or “star” as they are called in the Starbucks system, per visit or transaction, and received a free food or drink item per 12 visits, no matter how much they spent. So if you ordered a $2 coffee every day, you could earn a reward after spending about $24.

Starting April, customers will earn two stars per dollar spent and will receive a free item only after accumulating 125 points, or spending more than $62.

Starbucks said it currently has about 11 million active rewards customers. Nationwide, its U.S. cafes receive 75 million customers each month.

Starbucks Global Chief Strategy Officer Matthew Ryan told investors this was “the number-one customer-requested update” and “as we switch the mechanics of the program, we are not using it as an opportunity to opaquely weaken the rewards proposition.” He added that most customers spend about $5, and that “there are a small minority of people who would either be advantaged or disadvantaged” by the change.

That disadvantaged group, however, is not pleased.

“If customers simply continue to engage as they currently do, instead of engaging more as we believe they will, the vast majority of our customers will earn rewards just as fast as or faster than they would today,” a Starbucks spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Starbucks has been responding to consumer complaints on Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook / Via Facebook: Starbucks

Facebook / Via Facebook: Starbucks

Facebook / Via Facebook: Starbucks



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Category: SBUX

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