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Updated: 42 min 11 sec ago

Delhi's rise to 'global hub' status

Mon, 2014-05-12 11:00

What used to be an administrative town has now become one of India's biggest hubs for the global economy.

Rana Dasgupta, author of the new book Capital: The Eruption of Delhi, lives there now, and says that he experienced this change firsthand.

"The whole city had been shaken up, and people's inner worlds had changed, too," he said. "I thought it was a chapter in the onward march of capitalism that needed to be written about and recorded."

Dasgupta dismisses the idea that a modern country has to become Westernized.

"Some people in the West will look at it and say, 'We know this, this happened in our past. And what will happen in the future is also known to us, because it happened in our past,'" he said. "There's nothing about the Western past that teaches us anything about the Asian future."

Whatever that future may hold, Dasgupta says, residents of India's capital city are optimistic.

"The only way forward is forward for people in India, and I think they think the 21st century is going to deliver all the things that the 20th century couldn't."

Your next car rental could be a Ford. Or... a Ferrari.

Mon, 2014-05-12 10:34

Norwegian Andreas Arnhoff hopped a flight to New York on a whim and when he arrived, he decided to rent a car.

But he didn’t want any old airport rental.

Arnhoff, 24, says he works in real estate and that cars are a hobby for him. Back in Norway, he owns a Porsche 911 and a Porsche Cayenne, both turbo. 

His first choice for a rental was a Lamborghini Murciélago, but it wasn't available when he called exotic car rental company Gotham Dream Cars.

“We had to go with the Ferrari,” Arnhoff says, laughing. 

Gotham delivered a bright red Ferrari 458 Spider with a retractable roof to his midtown hotel. The company paid about $340,000 for it – which is actually about $40,000 more than the list price because demand for the car is so high. For a one-day rental, it charges nearly $2,000, plus tax and a $15,000 security deposit.

In the last few years, more companies have started renting luxury and exotic cars, including big national chains like Enterprise and Hertz.

“We weren’t sure how customers were going to be receptive of the collection,” says Paula Riviera, a Hertz spokesperson.

About a year and a half ago, Hertz launched its Dream Car rental line with 25 cars, including “a couple Lamborghinis, a few Ferraris.”

“It’s proven so popular that today we have more than a thousand cars,” she says.

At the Newark Airport, a Jaguar and Mercedes sit parked on a ramp that Riviera calls the “eye candy display.” She says some people who have booked a regular old midsize might walk by the display and upgrade on the fly.

There are convertibles in California and Range Rovers in Colorado. The company shifts cars around to meet demand, even to smaller markets like Kansas City and Detroit.

The move into exotics makes sense for the national companies because the rental market is very competitive, says Chris Brown, the executive editor of Auto Rental News.

“I wouldn’t say [the market’s] saturated,” says Brown. “But it’s certainly full. So the major car rental companies are really looking for new avenues to exploit.

­­

However, he thinks exotics will remain a niche business.

“Although luxury and exotic rentals maybe growing into new parts of the country, the lion-share of the market is going in south Florida, southern California, maybe New York,” he says.

Many independent exotic rental companies are also looking for ways to expand.

Because rental bookings are most popular on the weekend, Gotham Dream Cars has created shorter, less expensive driving “experiences” on weekdays, which allow people to drive the cars in a closed parking lot or racetrack at higher speeds. These events typically target gear heads interested in testing the car’s performance.

In contrast, data from the cars show that renters don’t tend to drive the cars that far or fast.

“Most people rent the car to drive around,” says Gotham’s COO Rob Ferretti. “They go to Starbucks 50 times, they drive around Times Square a million times. You rent the car to be seen.”

It’s an accessory business, he says, like Rent The Runway – for men. Though women purchase these luxury car rentals as gifts, nine out of ten renters or “experience” drivers are indeed men.

As for Norwegian traveler Andreas Arnhoff, he says he's planning to take his Ferrari shopping – to an outlet mall in the suburbs.

The English language is one big brand graveyard

Mon, 2014-05-12 10:03

Turns out, the English language is a graveyard for brand names. We have a lot of words that were once trademarked brands.

Aspirin. Cellophane. Escalator. 

Yo Yo. Trampoline. Saran wrap.

Heroin.

Yeah, Heroin was a brand. Like Nike. Or Aunt Jemima.

“There used to be a branded form of morphine called heroin,” says Roger Schechter who teaches law at George Washington University. There’s a great list here.

Genericide and the Menace of Slang

(Can someone please make a movie with that title?)

In some cases, companies just went out of business and their brand name lived on as nouns. In other cases, the trademark was taken from them. In all cases, the trademarked name had become a generic buzz word for a type of product. The trademark and a company’s rights to it then slip away into the roiling ether of vernacular English. 

Intellectual property lawyers have a word for this: Genericide.

“It’s a disaster,” says Schechter: When trademark rights are lost, competitors can use the same word that you spent your life building up.

Sentenced to Death

It’s happened most often to companies that have invented something totally new, for which a word doesn't already exist.

“For example, a Frisbee,” says Ron Butters, professor Emeritus at Duke University. “What else do you call it?” (Frisbee, however, hasn’t yet lost its trademark).

The official, legally binding moment of trademark death occurs where many, many words have been sentenced to torture by parsing: in court.

“Company A will sue company B for trademark infringement, and company B will respond by saying ‘Your term has become generic and your mark needs to be canceled,” says Butters.

To prove it, lawyers would enlist linguists like Butters to do surveys and word counts in print, on TV, and online to see if people use a brand name in a generic way. That’s really all it takes. 

Synonyms and Vaccines

But, Butters says, genericide “doesn’t happen very often anymore.”

There’s a reason so many of the examples date from the middle of the 20th century. These days, companies do everything they can to prevent genericide.

“A classic example is Xerox,” says Jed Wakefield, a partner at Fenwick and West, where he advises firms who are anxious about losing their trademarks. “Xerox years ago used to advertise to remind the public that Xerox is a brand name for a photocopier and it’s not a generic term for making a photocopy.”

What Xerox did there was give the public another word to use instead of Xerox. The word “photocopy.” It’s a kind of legal vaccine. A company that did not offer up any alternative noun soon enough was Trampoline. The trademark died, but the noun lived on.

Generitol (jargonium methyl legalese) Cures What Ails You

The pharmaceutical industry has become especially adept at this synonym technique, says Schechter.

“When Viagra comes off patent, there’s going to be an enormous number of companies wanting to sell ‘generic Viagra’,” he says. “But they can’t call it that.”

It's not just because Viagra is trademarked, but because Pfizer has offered an alternate name: Sildenafil Citrate. It’s clearly placed on every logo. And it’s not particularly catchy. 

Have Your Cake And Brand It Too

Ideally, a firm these days could enjoy the best of both worlds: have their product become so popular that it begins to be used as a verb or noun, and still have everyone know it’s a brand at the same time.

“Like FedEx, someone might say 'I’ll FedEx that to you,'” says Wakefield. “One could certainly argue that’s promotional for the FedEx brand.” But FedEx the company would almost certainly not allow another shipping firm to use the word in any capacity.

“We counsel clients on where to draw the line, and ultimately where you draw those lines is as much a business question as a legal judgement.”

There's more to chlorine than just swimming pools

Mon, 2014-05-12 09:21

It keeps your pools clean and safe, it's half of the compound that makes up table salt, and -- in its purest form -- it can kill you.

And those are only three of the things chlorine can do.

"There are something like 15,000 chlorine-based chemicals that are used in industry," says the BBC's Justin Rowlatt.

One of the best examples is PVC--polyvinyl chloride, the durable plastic that the construction industry uses heavily. Over 70 percent of PVC makes up basically everything: drain pipes, vinyl floors, roofing products, and double-glazed window panes.

There's a funny side effect to its ubiquity in construction: Demand is tied to property booms and busts.

And because the supply of sodium is tied to that of chlorine--remember, table salt is made of both--a collapse in the housing market could make staple products that rely on sodium, such as soap and paper, more expensive.

As for the chlorine in swimming pools, it's not actually pure chlorine. It's actually a chlorine compound called "chloramine," which is created when chlorine reacts with organic substances in the water.

Those organic substances? Let's just leave it at this: there's a reason why the chlorine smell in the pool is much stronger when the pool is full of kids.

Swimsuit, camping gear, bug spray. A shopping list?

Mon, 2014-05-12 08:08

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Tuesday, May 13:

The 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery is marked with a wreath-laying ceremony, the first in a series of commemorative events.

Doing any shopping ahead of summer? Your purchases may be reflected in these numbers. The Commerce Department reports retail sales data for April.

The Senate Budget Committee discusses, "Expanding Economic Opportunity for Women and Families.

Ten years ago, after 11 seasons, the series finale of "Frazier" aired.

And one of the "Girls" has a birthday. Lena Dunham turns 28.

Why you should pay more attention to advertisements

Mon, 2014-05-12 07:59

In New York today, the annual television pageant known as the “upfronts” launches its big week. All the major TV networks will throw big parties to introduce their fall schedules to corporate advertisers.

But forget for a moment all the hype around the actual TV shows that will be announced this week. If you want some predictions about the health of the American consumer, pay attention to what will fill the little 30 to 60 second spaces between those shows.

Upfronts are a chance for major brands to lock in the ad dollars they're willing to spend next fall. The amount of those dollars, explains media consultant Jack Myers, “is a reflection of the long term economic prospects, how marketers are looking at the future, and where the growth is.”

Or where the growth isn’t: Brian Steinberg, Senior TV editor at Variety, notes that in the last few weeks several consumer brands—Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Procter & Gamble, Hershey—have announced plans to tamp down marketing spending.

“You have a fragile consumer, and advertisers who are very wary of not pushing them too much because they don't want to turn them off,” Steinberg says.

The stock market may be on an upswing lately, says Steinberg, but advertisers aren't sure average Americans are.

Still, even if advertisers are containing their confidence about consumer spending, it’s not like there will be gaping holes where the commercials are supposed to be when you turn on the TV next fall. 

Michael Learmonth, Advertising Age’s Deputy Managing Editor, says regardless of the economy or the growing importance of advertising on digital platforms from YouTube to Netflix, ultimately, big companies need to build some advertising spending in to premium television. So they can, you know, “do things like – open a movie in the fall, sell a new smartphone or move product off grocery shelves.”

PODCAST: Net Neutrality

Mon, 2014-05-12 07:30

This week, the FCC is scheduled to vote on the issue of net neutrality and technology and venture capital firms are asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reconsider a proposal that would let broadband companies charge content providers for access to internet "fast lanes." Etsy, the online marketplace with over 1 million sellers, says someday its vendors might be able to use video clips to introduce themselves and their handmade goods. If the company had to pay a premium to ensure rapid streaming of that video, it could spell trouble.

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country's infrastructure a whopping grade of D+. That was actually a step up. It was a D in 2009, says Casey Dinges, senior managing director of public affairs at ASCE. We have a rickety power grid, falling bridges and water mains that date to the 19th century. Groups as diverse as the right-leaning US Chamber of Commerce and the labor union AFL-CIO are spending a few days in Washington this week figuring out how to get more money and attention for our nation's roads, and bridges and everything else that makes the economy run.

The World Cup is set to kick off next month in Rio de Janiero. People who travel to Brazil for the games will see a country with a growing economy, but one with deep inequalities--in income and housing. The BBC's Katy Watson reports from Rio de Janiero and joined us to discuss.

When you talk about a 'first job,' what do you mean?

Mon, 2014-05-12 07:08

Graduation season is upon us and many college graduates are relentlessly sending out monotonous cover letters to any and every employer out there -- everyone hoping to land their first “real job.”

But what exactly is a first “real job?” Is it an internship? Is it working as a barista to pay the bills? Is it your first entry-level position on your prospective career path?

The concept of a first “real job” can mean a lot of things nowadays, considering the fact that many new grads are starting out by applying to internships.

And that's probably because you need more than just a college education to get your first "real job”.

A survey conducted by Marketplace and The Chronicle for Higher Education revealed that employers who hire recent graduates prefer on-the-job experience to academic credentials. Marketplace's Amy Scott recently attended an event sponsored by the Student Intern Network to get an insight into the minds of unpaid interns. There, she spoke with its founder, Zachary Huhn, who said, "over 60 percent of employers say that graduates are not prepared for the workforce when they graduate."

Is that true?

Take me, for example. I am an intern at Marketplace today, and when I graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in political science, my big resume bullet points included: two unpaid internships, one in Los Angeles and one in D.C., experience abroad -- living in Germany, to be exact -- and some work experience as a lifeguard.

I felt I was ahead of the game. I felt I was ready for my first career-starting job.

But was I? After applying online to various entry-level positions, I quickly realized I didn't have the qualifications hiring managers believed I needed to secure a full-time position.

Most jobs I applied to required at least one or two years of experience, as opposed to my six months' worth. So I sought out another internship after graduation, and now I am working on my fourth, as a digital intern here at Marketplace. The one-year anniversary of my graduation looms ahead.

How will internship expectations pan out for the class of 2013 graduates, like myself, who have been getting on-the-job experience  in order to get their first "real jobs"? We’re beginning a series of reports asking people: What did it take to get your first “real job”? And what exactly is a “real job” anyway?

As I tried to answer these questions for myself, I realized it's a bigger story. So I went to someone with expertise on the internship process: ProPublica's Project Intern intern, Casey McDermott.

“I don’t think it indicates something wrong with the hiring process. I would hope that hiring managers would be able to look at a student holistically, instead of just looking at the lines on a person's resume," says Casey McDermott. McDermott just got her first "real job" as a reporter for the New Hampshire newspaper, the Concord Monitor.

Prior to getting this latest job, McDermott traveled across the country with ProPublica, taking a closer look at the human impact of internships.

"The project we did was focused on highlighting student voices: How can we spotlight students’ stories who have been interns and how has that either helped them or hurt them or changed their view on the work force?" says McDermott.

In contrast to the survey, however, Casey attributes her success to more than just her internship experiences.

"I think it was a combination of what I learned and what I was able to communicate about my learning experiences in my internships during the application process," she says. "But it was also my experience in college. Working at my college newspaper the Daily Collegian at Penn State was also instrumental in getting me employment."

Lucky for current graduating seniors, the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2014 Spring Update survey is reporting that employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more class of 2014 graduates than they hired from the Class of 2013.

How will this vary among industries? Will this benefit the computer science major more than the liberal arts major?

This series is driven by viewer response, so we want to hear from you. Tweet us, tell us on Facebook or answer in the comments section below.

Why Etsy is against internet 'fast lanes'

Mon, 2014-05-12 02:38

This week, the FCC is scheduled to vote on the issue of net neutrality and technology and venture capital firms are asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reconsider a proposal that would let broadband companies charge content providers for access to internet "fast lanes." 

Etsy, the online marketplace with over 1 million sellers, says someday its vendors might be able to use video clips to introduce themselves and their handmade goods. If the company had to pay a premium to ensure rapid streaming of that video, it could spell trouble. 

"There's no way that we could afford to pay for priority access," said Althea Erickson, a policy director with Etsy. "And that would really hurt the sellers who depend on our platform."

Others predict new rules could kill future tech giants in the cradle.

"I'm concerned that the Kickstarters of tomorrow will be stifled by this telecom tax," said Yancey Strickler, the CEO and co-founder of the crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter. "I'm worried about the entrepreneurs of tomorrow." 

Net neutrality opponents, however, say internet access should, and will, operate like any other marketplace, with competition determing what succeeds and what fails. Jeff Eisenach, who directs the Center for Internet, Communications and Technology at the American Enterprise Institute, says broadband providers will in no way want to strangle content providers. 

"I think for the small companies, what they need to understand, is the last thing in the world that a big company like a broadband ISP wants to do, is discriminate against somebody who's coming up and might be competing," Eisenach said.

Because what they'll be competing for is access to broadband, and that could be a big win for service providers. 

Rethinking the unpaid internship

Mon, 2014-05-12 02:03

At General Assembly, an education/event space in New York, 20-somethings line up to sample gourmet oatmeal with truffle oil and bacon. Representatives from the Food Network and New York Magazine’s Grub Street are on hand. The event is sponsored by the Student Intern Network, to connect college students and recent grads with people in the food media business.

Zachary Huhn, 24, founded the network to help students find those all-important internships.

“Over 60 percent of employers say that graduates are not prepared for the workforce when they graduate,” he says. “I think that students do themselves a huge disservice if they don’t go out of their way to track down and take advantage of their own internships and opportunities, because you just have to do it.”

Skyler Bouchard, a junior at New York University, has done her part. She’s racked up an impressive list of internships, at Bullett Magazine, a food website called the Daily Meal, Hearst Magazines and Entertainment Tonight.

“And now I’m at CNN,” she says.

This summer she’ll add yet another stint, at the local news channel NY1. With the exception of CNN, all of her internships have been unpaid.

Bouchard says what she learned about the business was worth it.

“If I didn’t learn any of that I wouldn’t even be able to get a paying job, so I think it all is a stepping stone to helping you get somewhere bigger,” she says.

The media business has long been a bastion of the unpaid internship, but thanks to a wave of lawsuits, maybe not for much longer. Magazine company Condé Nast—home of Vogue and the New Yorker—just settled a case. Rather than pay its interns minimum wage, the company shut the program down. Other companies have started paying, or even given their interns raises.

“I thought that it was always a little bit unfair that the media businesses or some of the higher profile internship opportunities were only available to folks whose parents could support them over the summer,” says Geoff Bartakovics, CEO of TastingTable.com, an email magazine about food and wine.

Bartakovics, who moved out of his parents’ home at the age of 16, says he could not have afforded to live in New York City and work for free. That’s one reason he’s always paid his interns at least minimum wage. But there’s a more pragmatic reason.

“We just thought that it made more sense to pay people something upfront rather than deal with the possibility that we’d have legal issues later,” Bartakovics says.

Still, the Student Intern Network’s Zachary Huhn says an unpaid opportunity is better than no opportunity. Students may just have to get creative.

“I’ve seen students crowd-fund their internships, collect donations from family and friends, work a part time job,” he says.

Plenty of college students might be considering those options this summer. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers almost two-thirds of last year’s graduating class did some kind of internship while in school. About half of them were unpaid.

The other iPhone contract

Mon, 2014-05-12 01:00

You may have heard of author Janell Burley Hofmann and her iPhone contract. Last year, on Christmas morning, she gave her then 13-year-old son a smartphone, which he quickly used to snap photos, text his friends and generally disappear into the internet.

Taken aback by his response, Hofmann sat down that night and wrote out a contract outlining rules for her son. He was restricted to using the phone during certain hours, was not allowed to bring it to school, and was required to use proper phone etiquette (among other things).

What followed was a media storm, sparking a conversation on technology and how teenagers and adults use it.

With her experience in writing about technology and how it relates to the modern family, Hofmann has published a book, entitled "iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up." In it, she shares anecdotes about her families' experiences, as well as how restricing her son caused her to reflect on her own use of smart phones and devices.

Hofmann says that now her entire family enjoys limiting their use of technology.

"We have device free day. We’ll go to the beach, and all devices have to stay at home. And that includes the adults."

Though, opening up about her kids' relationship to the internet can be dangerous territory.

Hofmann says that the general agreement in selecting material for the book was that if her kids were old enough to feel the story reflected only on their younger selves, then it was alright to include. Still, it can be difficult to share personal stories, especially those that are embarrassing.

Hofmann points out, though, that her knowledge comes from being honest about her experiences.

"In no way do I think that I have all the answers for everybody else or my own family. I had to make myself look human, which I was happy to do, but you have to share some of those struggles."

 

 

 

How I got smarter this week (in just 105 minutes)

Sun, 2014-05-11 22:55

I am on a diet to make me smarter. A media diet. I'm trying to add at least one moment of depth per week to a movie habit that tends to play in the shallow end of the pool. This week my diet included "The Lunchbox," a film that I thought was going to be about relationships and sumptuous Indian food. Embedded therein was a fascinating lesson in business and logistics.

Yes, I know that to a fellow with a hammer, every problem is a nail. To a fellow with a business show, every movie has a lesson in business. "The Lunchbox" is a bittersweet comedy with a plot that pivots on an amazing delivery system in Mumbai, India that has been studied by Harvard researchers.

First of all, the movie: I promise, you will walk out of a viewing ravenous for South Asian food.

"The Lunchbox" is about a woman (Nimrat Kaur) who is trying to recapture the attentions of her husband by cooking and sending him fabulous lunches. The lunch gets delivered to the wrong man. The man, who starts getting the food by mistake and becomes entranced by the aromas, is played with subtle elegance by Irrfan Khan, the veteran actor who played the lead character as an older man in the Oscar-winning movie "Life of Pi."

Let's talk about that delivery service. A messenger known as a dabbawala picks up the lunch box, usually contained in a tiffen, an interlocking column of stainless steel bowls, and is surrounded by an insulating pouch. The 124-year old system for delivering the food that's grown up in Mumbai has long fascinated logistics experts. Messengers move the meals tied to bicycles. They are often stacked onto gurneys for insertion into railway carriages to be picked up by porters at the other end of the line. Many of the porters are semi-literate, yet they do interpret an alphanumeric code.

When the wife complains to the dabbawala at the door that her lunch is going to the wrong man, the deliveryman claims that is impossible because "Harvard says" their system never fails. Real-life studies show the system gets it right, on-time, with an astonishing 99.9 percent success rate. In fact, here is a 2010 case study in the Harvard Business Review.

A great meal like "The Lunchbox" in my media diet deserves a fine dessert. I was able to track down some additional short documentaries on the dabbawala delivery system and I commend one of them to you here:

It is a delivery system with a precision that would make the Post Office, FedEx, UPS and your pizza delivery professional blush with embarrassment.

Why Apple would want to buy Beats

Fri, 2014-05-09 13:40

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said the company was going to go on a shopping spree and now it looks like the company is making good on that. Apple has reportedly made a bid to buy Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. Beats was started by Rapper Andre "Dr. Dre" Young in 2008. It's best known for its headphones: they’re colorful, stylish and cost about $200.

"It’s certainly clear that this is a huge growth category within retail," says Ben Bajarin, a tech analyst with Creative Strategies. He says status headphones are big business. And Beats’ revenue reportedly topped $1 billion last year.

Not everyone agrees. "They certainly don’t need the headphone company, which makes second rate headphones based on marketing," says music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz. He thinks Apple would be a lot more interested in Beats’ music streaming service. Steve Jobs famously opposed the subscription music model and, instead, championed iTunes' current model, where you buy a song outright.

"The paradigm is shifting as I speak," says Lefsetz. "Apple iTunes sales are down, streaming revenue is up. Apple caught flat-footed, they’re trying to solve this problem by buying Beats."

But Apple doesn’t need to buy its way in to the streaming business says James McQuivey, a media and technology analyst at Forrester Research. "The subscription business is something Apple could have done by lifting a finger at any point during its history," says McQuivey. "This is not a unique skill set, industry relationship, technology, none of that."

McQuivey thinks the possible Beats buy would likely be part of a larger strategy. After all, Apple is sitting on $151 billion in cash and its shopping spree has just begun.

 

Publicis + Omnicom ≠ Merger

Fri, 2014-05-09 13:38

This was the first line of the press release—"Publicis and Omnicom agree to terminate proposed merger of equals." Big news if you care about the advertising industry. But even for those who could give a flip about the ad business, there's that "merger of equals" thing to think about.

The term sounds like an enlightened modern marriage. And in fact, when Publicis Chairman Maurice Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren first announced their "engagement" last summer, there were flowers, adoring looks, and the arc de triumph in the background.

Publicis Chief Executive Maurice Lévy, left, and Omnicom CEO John Wren at a news conference announcing the merger in July. (Via Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal)

"They looked like best friends," says Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University's Lubin School of Business in New York. It was like a portrait for a wedding announcement. "Big smiles. Great scenery in the back."

The ideals driving a "merger of equals" really are noble, says Lawrence Hrebiniak, emiritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. The conversation between CEOs who want to embark upon one usually goes something like this, he says:

"We're both competent, we're both good, we're both capable, so let's, like adults, get together and decide how best to run this new large company that benefits from both of our sets of skills and capabilities."

But you can probably guess how this romance usually ends. "How do I put this," says Hrebeniak. "There's no such thing as a merger of equals."

Instead well-intentioned attempts often turn into a clash of cultures and battle for control. Our financial person's better than yours. Our marketing head is more aggressive than yours. "You have divisions, you have politics, people pushing for one person or another to lead the show," Hrebeniak says.

The only successful merger of equals that Sri Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, can think of wasn't technically a merger of equals at all. And that helped, she says. "People don't start feeling that everything has to be absolutely split down the middle."

That was back in 1998, when Norwest bank acquired Wells Fargo, and took its name.

Weekly Wrap: Yellen's dark notes on housing

Fri, 2014-05-09 13:36

For a look at what's been happening on Wall Street and elsewhere Marketplace's David Gura talks to Cardiff Garcia of FT Alphaville and our own Lizzie O'Leary, who's recently been named host of our new show, Marketplace Weekend, which'll launch next month.

Up for discussion is Apple's rumored plans to purchase Beats Electronics, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's Senate testimony on the housing market.

Click play above to hear more.

Want to buy a home? Better bring cash

Fri, 2014-05-09 12:28

If you're buying real estate these days, you should probably come with bags of cash. More and more people seem to be doing that at least.

Last quarter, a third of the existing homes sold in the U.S. were purchased entirely in cash.

Who's buying them this way? Retirees, foreign investors and Americans who can, i.e. those who don't want to bother with trying to get a mortgage.

Something that's still tough.

Opinion: Of course P. Diddy should speak at graduation

Fri, 2014-05-09 11:14

Moguls, icons and millionaires like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were also welcomed back to their unofficial alma maters after dropping out of school. But Sean Combs, who many readily accept to host a party or give a shout out, is somehow shelled out of the realm of successful individuals who have made it without higher education.

America, you can't be that selective. If we are to teach hip-hop in universities, we can certainly have one of its most successful moguls speak to our students, no?

What makes Combs' story so special wasn't his rise to the top as a drop out. It's his rise to the top as a black man…who dropped out. And frankly, if we're to compare Jobs, Gates and Combs, let's get one thing clear - their starting points were not the same. There's this thing called "privilege."

Combs perfected the art of business. His Sean Jean clothing line, the unprecedented Revolt TV, or popularizing the "Vote Or Die" campaign that bolstered the numbers of young voter registration (and led to Barack Obama's presidential win). Howard University is still at the helm of that success.

Isn't demonizing and excluding Combs from academia for his musical content, or because he didn't make his money as a lawyer or doctor, a nuanced way to say this subset of black culture isn't good enough for Howard University?

Howard does need someone suggesting to its African-American graduates that he couldn't have made it without the knowledge he acquired at the esteemed college, and, possibly, insight to navigating in this faux "post-racial" world as educated black people.

And for that, I'm certain Bill Gates or Steve Jobs couldn't provide any insight or advice.

The triple tax break of a Health Savings Account

Fri, 2014-05-09 11:13

Higher deductibles and rising premiums got you down? We’re getting hammered by the high costs of healthcare and even employers are feeling the pinch.

To help offset some of the costs, many employers are now asking their workers to take a closer look at health savings accounts, or HSAs. With an HSA, you can get a triple tax break while saving money on healthcare expenses.

But are they the right move for everyone?

Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance says there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. “But it is an option for many more people now that so many of us are dealing with higher healthcare deductibles,” Lankford says.

Who can qualify for an HSA? If your health insurance plan has a deductible of at least $1,250 for an individual and $2,500 for family, you’ll most likely qualify for an HSA. That covers a lot of the Silver and Bronze plans for sale on the insurance exchanges. You can open them up with a bank, brokerage firm and many employers are now offering them to encourage employees to choose a cheaper, higher deductible plan.

Some employers are even contributing as much as $1,000 themselves to get the ball rolling.

Lankford says the benefit is in the tax savings. “It’s a triple break,” she says. “It’s either pre-tax with your employer, or tax-deductible if you’re buying on your own. The money grows tax-deferred, and you can use it tax-free for any medical expenses.”

The money continues to grow and you don’t have to use it every year, unlike a flexible spending account (or FSA). Lankford recommends depositing money every year and letting it grow until retirement and using it for Medicare expenses or even long term care.

The cash can be used to pay for deductibles or Medicare premiums, and even for portions of long-term care costs.

"It's a great way to build a tax-free stash of money for future healthcare costs,” she says.

The best time to jump into an HSA is when you’re young and healthy without too many fixed medical costs. If you’re older with more costs or are dealing with a medical condition, you’ll really need to crunch the numbers to see what kind of plan will leave you better off in the long run.

"For someone with higher fixed costs like diabetes it might not be a great deal,” Lankford says. “You need to not just look at premiums but look at what are your regular expenses for medicine, for doctors. If you have a condition where you have similar medical expenses every year, do the math and add it up. In some cases you may come out ahead with lower premiums but sometimes the higher premiums might leave you with lower expenses at the end of the year."

Employers are excited about the plans because anything that encourages people to take on a higher deductible plan will save the boss some cash.

And who doesn’t want to save their company some money?

Quiz: Americans use HOW much electricity?

Fri, 2014-05-09 10:33

It's international quiz time on the Marketplace Morning Report. Stephan Richter, editor-in-chief of the online international affairs magazine The Globalist brings us a question that will test your knowledge of our energy needs in context. 

The World Economic Forum for Africa wrapped up in Nigeria today, and energy production was a central theme. Richter's question: How much electricity does the average Nigerian use each year compared to an American? The equivalent of:

  1. A. One American's air conditioner running in the U.S. all year long.
  2. B. One American's refrigerator running all in the U.S. all year long.
  3. C. One American's microwave oven running in the U.S. all year long.
  4. D. One American's coffee maker running in the U.S. all year long.

Scroll down the page to see the answer -- and click play on the audio player above to hear our report about electricity. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER: C. The average American uses 13,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) per year. That's quite a bit. A microwave oven consumes 135 kilowatt hours per year. That is 1/100 of the average US energy consumption per person. 

Gear up for Bike to Work Day

Fri, 2014-05-09 10:09

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's an extended look at what's coming up the week of May 12, 2014:

In Washington, a look at the nation's balance sheet. The Treasury Department is scheduled to release its monthly statement for April.

Here's a tourist opportunity. The Washington Monument reopens to the public. It's been undergoing repairs for earthquake damage since August 2011.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on retail sales for April.

National Police Week continues with a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

The Senate Budget Committee discusses, "Expanding Economic Opportunity for Women and Families.

And America will be spending some late nights with him in the future. Stephen Colbert turns 50.

That brings us to Wednesday. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for April.

And thanks to him you are now obligated to publicly acknowledge the birthdays of people you may hardly know. Mark Zuckerberg turns 30.

On Thursday the Federal Reserve releases its monthly report on industrial production.

Friday is the anniversary of the first Academy Awards ceremony held in 1929. "Wings" took top honors for best picture, the only silent film to do so.

And put your high heels in your backpack for your daily commute. Friday is Bike to Work Day.

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