TripAdvisor’s Stocks Drop After Bungling Sexual Assault Charges

TripAdvisor's logo.

TripAdvisor, a website for both travel booking and discussion, came under fire this week for deleting and ignoring several reports of rape and assault.

Back in 2010, Kristie Love took a trip to Mexico, where she stayed at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya. She returned to the hotel after a night out to find that her electronic key card had been deactivated. When she asked a uniformed guard for help, he assaulted her. Hotel staff refused to call the police.

Love wrote on the TravelAdvisor message boards several times over the next seven years describing her experiences and asking that action be taken against the perpetrator—or at least that potential travelers be warned.

All of her posts were deleted.

Subsequently, two other women reported being assaulted at the same location.

After a well-publicized investigative report from USA Today, TripAdvisor addressed the issue in a recent press release. According to the release, TripAdvisor previously had a policy of removing language from its forums that wasn’t “family-friendly.” Love’s posts, for example, were removed because they contained the word “rape.” Now, however, TripAdvisor welcomes first-hand accounts of negative experiences such as robbery, theft, and assault in order to warn other travelers. Love’s posts have been republished.

Additionally, TripAdvisor has started a new campaign to mark travel locations like hotels and restaurants with warning symbols if any safety issues have been reported. Mexico’s Iberostar Paraiso Maya, Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, and Grand Velas Maya have all been flagged. According to TripAdvisor company spokesman Brian Hoyt, the warnings are meant to alert visitors that they should do more research before booking a stay at any of these places. The flags will remain active for at least three months, after which an internal committee will decide whether or not to remove them.

After the press release, TripAdvisor said it had issued an apology to Love. TripAdvisor Chief Executive Steve Kaufer also said on his LinkedIn that an apology had been made.

However, Love reacted with disdain: “WHAT APOLOGY?” she wrote on Kaufer’s LinkedIn page. “I’ve yet to hear a word from TripAdvisor, and certainly not an apology!”

The apology was reportedly made shortly after.

Meanwhile shares of TripAdvisor stock have dropped 20% to five-year lows. The company has lost $1 billion in market value since this issue came to light.

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Own a Business? Keep Politics Out of It

A businessman opens his shirt to reveal an American flag underneath.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Regardless of whether you voted for Hillary, Trump, or a third-party candidate, this key piece of advice remains the same: keep politics out of business. 

While it can be tempting to jump on the political bandwagon, doing so comes at the risk of losing your customers (and ultimately your business). The NFL learned this lesson the hard way.

It all started in 2016, when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to protest against racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem. Inspired by Kaepernick, other players decided to do the same. But not everyone viewed it as a peaceful form of protest. Some Americans found kneeling during the national anthem to be disrespectful to the men and women who died defending this country.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it was decidedly a bad call to allow employees of the NFL to insert their personal political agenda into a classic American sport. Why? Because those who disagreed with the act became so enraged that they launched their own form of protest.

Using the hashtag #BurnTheNFL, disgruntled fans started a social media campaign in which they ignited all their NFL merchandise in a sea of flames. Even more impactful, they vowed to stop purchasing game tickets and to stop watching the sport all together.

See the trickle down effect?

The better solution would have been for Kaepernick to protest on his own time and his own dime. What he does outside of work is his business, but so long as he is on the clock, he has an obligation to respect his customers’ opinions. And that’s how it ought to be for all employees and business owners.

As I stated earlier, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Conservative—this is nonpartisan post in which I advise everyone to keep politics out of business.

Trump and the Stock Market: Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

The front page cover for The Economist magazine. The cover features a photo of Trump with the word, "Trumponomics" written across his face.

Photo credit: dennizn / Shutterstock

Ever since Trump took office, the stock market has hit some record highs. Most recently, the Dow reached over 23,000 for the first time in history.

President Trump, of course, credits himself for this trend. In a series of tweets published on Oct. 11, the president wrote:

“Stock market has increased by 5.2 trillion dollars since the election on November 8th, a 25% increase. Lowest unemployment in 6 years and if Congress gives us the massive tax cuts (and reform) I am asking for, those numbers will grow by leaps and bounds.”

But while it’s tempting to attribute the recent economic growth to the newly elected president, experts say that just isn’t accurate.

Kevin Caron, a portfolio manager and market strategist who helped oversee $180 billion dollars at Stifel Nicolaus, attributes the growth to earnings rather than politics.

“The new records have everything to do with earnings,” Caron explained. “It’s obvious that the stock market follows earnings, but the market narrative always wants to find something more interest. But the reality is very simple: The market has gone higher because earnings have improved.”

Maris Ogg, president of Tower Bridge Advisors, agrees.

“So far, earnings have beat expectations,” said Ogg. “I think that the most important thing economically that has happened this year is the clear, sustainable recovery occurring in Europe. We’re getting confirmation of that with almost every economic release.”

Other business moguls have different theories. Walter Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, believes the recent growth has more to do with the time of year.

“The seasonal factor is playing a big role,” Hellwig told Business Insider. “We’re out of the ‘sell in May and go away’ time frame. Between now and the end of the year, I think people are going to keep buying, with good earnings still coming in.”

And then there’s Bill Schultz, chief investment officer at McQueen, Ball, & Associates. Schultz gave several reasons for the rise of the Dow, none of which have to do with Trump.

“The underlying economy has performed better than a lot of people expected,” Schultz expounded in an interview with Business Insider. “You’re starting to see a lot of capital expenditures take place through corporations. You’ve got better confidence coming from individuals. There’s not as much concern about the Fed aggressively raising rates. And the economies around the world have performed better.”

In summation, Trump’s involvement with the rise of the stock market is likely more coincidental than anything. However, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever stop taking credit for it.

Upscale Fashion Company Coach Changes its Name to Tapestry

A photo of the Coach logo plastered on the outside of a building.

Photo credit: NYgraphic / Shutterstock

Coach stock prices took a dip on Wednesday after the company announced that it is changing its name to Tapestry. The news caused uproar among brand loyalists.

“When I think of Tapestry the first thing that comes to mind is my college dorm room, where I hung tapestries,” said Ariana Moshref, a 23-year-old San Franciscan.

Kathleen O’Leary, a 35-year-old residing in New York, echoed Moshref’s distaste.

“I feel so strongly against this—who can I call about it?” O’Leary told CNBC.

But the public outrage quelled when fans learned that the new name was strictly for the corporate parent company, not for the Coach brand itself. The new name is meant to encompass the two other fashion brands that the company owns: Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman.

“In Tapestry, we found a name that speaks to creativity, craftsmanship, authenticity and inclusivity on a shared platform and values,” said CEO Victor Luis. “As such, we believe that Tapestry can grow with our portfolio and with our current brands as they extend into new categories and markets.”

Other companies have undergone similar name changes in the past. Google, for example, renamed itself Alphabet in 2015.

As The Wall Street Journal points out, CEO Victor Luis was mimicking the likes of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE and Kering SA, which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, and other high-end European fashion brands. The corporate name change is meant to reflect the umbrella of ownership. The company is also changing its symbol on the New York Stock Exchange from “COH” to TPR.”

CEO Victor Luis said that his one reservation with the name change is that people will associate it with being old-fashioned. He also acknowledged its musical connotation.

“For anyone who is aware of the album, Carole King does come up,” Luis stated. “But we discovered most millennials had not heard of it.”

The name change will officially go into effect at the end of this month.

Sexual Harassment Allegations Could Topple $4 Billion Company

A businessman places his hand on his female colleague's leg.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Online lending start-up Social Finance (SoFi) is facing a sex scandal so big that it makes Uber’s work culture look like paradise.

Yesterday, The New York Times published a scathing new report on SoFi, in which more than 30 current and former employees dished on the company’s discriminatory and unethical practices. Among the numerous complaints that were made, perhaps the most shocking are allegations of sexual harassment coming from the company’s top dog.

Laura Munoz, a former executive assistant at SoFi, said that she received sexually explicit text messages from Mike Cagney, the company’s CEO. In 2012, SoFi’s board was notified of the inappropriate exchanges, but an investigation yielded no evidence of a sexual relationship. SoFi then paid Munoz about $75,000 to leave the company, according to sources familiar with the case.

Cagney, who is married with two children, is also accused of sexually harassing other employees. Six employees claim they saw Cagney holding hands with and engaging in intimate conversations with another young female worker. He’s also alleged to have bragged about his sexual experiences along with the size of his penis at a late-night corporate event.

Cagney has since resigned from his position as a result of the scandal.

But Cagney isn’t the only one accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior. Witnesses also say that Nino Fanlo, SoFi’s chief financial officer, commented on women’s body’s, including their breasts. He is also reported to have said that women would be happier as homemakers. More than a dozen employees who worked with Fanlo also claim that he once offered two female employees $5,000 if they lost 30 pounds by the year’s end.

As if that’s not bad enough, Brandon Charles, a former senior operations manager at SoFi, alleges that he was fired after speaking up about the sexual harassment that his female colleague were subjected to.

“The culture of male bravado filters down from the leadership team at SoFi headquarters in San Francisco throughout the company, empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace,” Charles said.

The controversy surrounding the scandal could be enough to topple SoFi, which private equity firm Silver Lake partners values at $4.3 billion.

America’s First Vegetarian Fast Food Restaurant Could Be Coming to a City Near You

A photo of the outside of Amy's Drive Thru, a fast food restaurant that serves vegetarian and gluten-free meals.

Amy’s Drive Thru, a fast food restaurant that serves vegetarian and gluten-free meals.
Photo courtesy of Tony Webster at Flickr Creative Commons.

Two years ago, vegetarian fast food restaurant Amy’s Drive Thru opened in Rohnert Park, CA. Since its inception, business has been booming. In fact, the restaurant is doing so well that the company recently announced plans to open more eateries across the U.S.

If the name “Amy’s” sounds familiar, that’s because there’s a good chance you’ve seen their food in the frozen isle of your local supermarket. The brand has been in business for over 27 years and specializes in providing convenient, pre-made, organic vegetarian meals. Stick it in the microwave for a couple minutes and you’ve got a wholesome dinner made with natural ingredients.

As the company grew in popularity, loyal customers began requesting dairy-free and gluten-free options. Today, you can find a variety of heat-and-serve Amy’s meals for nearly every diet imaginable. There’s even vegan and kosher options.

If the company’s steady growth shows anything, it’s that there’s a demand for healthy fast food, whether that be frozen or freshly made. Most everyone wants to eat healthy, but most don’t have the time to eat healthy.

And that’s the brilliance behind Amy’s business model. The company meets this demand by providing easy-to-make meals that feature high quality ingredients.

So if the thought of a healthy fast food chain with vegetarian and gluten-free options excites you, that’s great. But don’t get too excited, as it’s going to be a while before the new Amy’s Drive Thru locations are in operation.

Fast Company reports that the newest location in Corte Madera, CA isn’t slated to open until 2018. Also of note: Amy’s is eyeing five more locations in Northern California.

Unfortunately, the company hasn’t announced any locations outside the state of California as of yet. However, director of operations Paul Schiefer told Fast Company that Amy’s does intend to expand across the U.S., there’s just no word yet on when that will be happening.

Most Americans Face Hostile Work Environments, According to Survey

According to a new survey, most Americans face a hostile work environment.

Photo: Shutterstock

A recently released survey from the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School, and UCLA revealed some pretty disturbing findings about the current American workplace: many employees are under constant stress, workplaces are often hazardous, and social environments are frequently hostile, especially for women.

The survey was given to about 3,000 workers, and while not all of the information gleaned was negative, much of it does give reason for pause:

  • More than one in four American workers say they have too little time to complete their work. This complaint was most frequent among white-collar workers.
  • More than half do some sort of work outside of their workplace, impacting their ability to spend quality time with their friends and family.
  • More than half of those surveyed reported that they are exposed to unpleasant and even hazardous working conditions, including hostility and threats.
  • About 62 percent of American workers reported their work tasks are typically monotonous and unenjoyable.
  • Only 38 percent reported opportunities to advance within their employment.

It’s not all bad news, though. The survey revealed some positive traits of the modern workplace, too:

  • Four out of five Americans said their jobs met at least one definition of “meaningful” most of the time.
  • Eight out of ten American workers said their job is steady and predictable.
  • The majority of those surveyed said they saw “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying [their] own ideas” as important parts of their work.
  • Many reported a certain degree of autonomy and confidence about their skillset.
  • More than half of the surveyed workers (58 percent) said their boss is supportive, and 56 percent said they have good friends at work.

“There’s a message for employers here,” said the study lead author, Nicole Maestas. “Working conditions really do matter.”

This was the first survey of its kind, focusing on American workers ages 25-71. The RAND Corporation and its partners intend to collect data again next year to compare American and European working conditions.

New Ways to Show Employees Some Love

Check out these three new ways that employers are showing their appreciation.

There are many ways to show employees you appreciate them. Photo via Pixabay

Whether it’s providing employees with a stake in the company, creating an intranet system of recognition, or rearranging a profit-sharing plan so that it takes into account age (and thereby rewards employees who have been with the company longer), the business world continues to create new ways to show its appreciation for hardworking individuals.

Gardner Denver

In May of this year, Gardner Denver, an industrial company based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made a bold move toward showing appreciation for its employees…to the tune of $100 million in stock.

“It makes our companies stronger and more effective,” explained Pete Stavros, the KKR executive who represents KKR’s investment in Gardner and is also chairman of the Gardner board. He added that this sort of incentive helps motivate employees and encourage engagement.

More than 6,000 Gardner employees will be receiving stock as part of Gardner’s recent IPO. The shares will be worth up to 40% of their annual salaries.

“We have big aspirations for Gardner Denver,” said Stavros. “We hope a significant portion of the [employees] will see what we see—that there’s a lot of room to run.”

Jostle and Bonusly

This month Jostle and Bonusly teamed up to offer their employees a new sort of benefit: an easier way to receive recognition from their coworkers. The new intranet is set up to encourage employee engagement via a point system. When employees leave notes about the good things they’ve seen or experienced each other doing, the person on the receiving end gets points that can be redeemed for small rewards.

Called the People Engagement platform, this intranet has already had a positive effect n the various companies like Bonusly and Jostle who use it.

“What we have created is a framework for post hoc recognition,” explains Raphael Crawford-Marks, co-founder and CEO of Bonusly. “People want to be able to give praise and recognition in the workforce, but they often don’t have a venue to do it. That is what we provide.”

Cross-Tested Plans

For small professional firms looking to reward long-time employees, a cross-tested plan allows managers to divide workers into groups when it comes to determining contributions to their retirement plans. That means older employees can get bonus contributions as an extra thank you for all their years of service. Small physicians’ offices, law firms, and engineering companies often take advantage of this setup.

“This [program] takes age into account, enabling the contributions allocated to older employees to be larger than those made to younger employees” because older employees have a shorter time to go until retirement, says Rob Massa, Director of Retirement at Ascende Wealth Advisors in Houston, Texas. This year, the maximum that can be contributed is $54,000.

A cross-tested plan can help with employee retention—not to mention giving a big thank you to the dedicated workers who have helped build a company over the years.

All three of these options are great ways to show employees that their work is valued—and that it will be rewarded, both in the long term and the short term.

MoviePass is Now Only $10 a Month

People watching a movie in a theatre.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

This week, MoviePass (the movie theater subscription app) has drastically lowered its prices from $50 a month to just $9.95. This means you can now see a new movie every single day and only pay $10. For people who live in major cities, that is less than a regular priced ticket.

MoviePass has been around since 2011 but has only recently gained traction. According to Business Insider, the news of the price slashing caused MoviePass’ site to crash from all the newfound interest.

So how does MoviePass work?

Once you sign up for the service you will be sent a debit card in the mail. Register the card on the MoviePass app then enter your zip code and it will give you a list of participating theaters (MoviePass claims that 91% of theaters nation-wide accept the service). Choose your preferred film and MoviePass adds money to your debit card for you to purchase the ticket.

There are, of course, a few caveats.

For starters, it will only work for standard 2D films, so you will have to go ahead and pay separately for a 3D or IMAX showing. You’re also limited to day-of showings, so you can’t plan ahead. Most importantly, you have to be near the theater for the app to work, as this ensures someone else isn’t using your account. As soon as you are within tracking distance, the app will let you choose your movie and book a ticket, which you have to buy at the counter. This, of course, can be a problem if the movie is popular and the chances of being sold out are high.

While consumers are happy, AMC Theaters is not. The company has threatened a lawsuit against MoviePass, claiming its business model is unsustainable and MoviePass (and therefore AMC) could potentially lose money.

“From what we can tell, by definition and absent some other form of other compensation, MoviePass will be losing money on every subscriber seeing two movies or more in a month,” the company stated.

An Inside Look at the Equestrian Business

A photo of a man riding a horse.

Jürgen Gabler (photo: A. Moser).

A business that one doesn’t hear much about (unless you are in the equestrian world) is horse training.

It’s actually somewhat of a lucrative market, considering that wherever there are horses and people riding them, there are horse trainers. I spoke with Jürgen Gabler, a horse trainer in Hannover, Germany, to find out more about the business.

Gabler explained that the primary purpose of a horse trainer is to teach the horse to perform specific behaviors. Most often, these behaviors are related to riding, racing, or therapy. It’s important to understand that a horse’s first instinct is to run, especially when someone is on its back. A good trainer will help a horse relax and be attentive to the rider’s needs.

Gabler started out as a horse farmer (Pferdewirt in German). He began training horses at the young age of 16. He went on to study breeding and stock (the handling of horses and their young) and then became a veterinarian’s assistant. After his Abitur (end of high school degree), he pursued a degree in veterinary medicine but dropped out due to financial reasons.

He then started riding full-time on a professional basis. He noticed that there were many problematic horses. But he also noticed that he had a knack for training them and smoothing out the issues, bringing the rider and the horse back to a harmonious relationship. This led to full-time horse training becoming his main form of income.

However, on a long-term basis, he feared that if he suffered a serious injury (a very real and common occurrence in horse training) he needed an additional activity to ensure that he would have a steady stream of income. So he obtained the necessary licenses to transport horses: driving a trailer and livestock transportation. This is also an activity he can pursue when he is too old to continue training horses.

His customers include horse owners from all over the world, and he often crosses European borders. He also holds a teaching license that allows him instruct riding courses.

Gabler also participates in the equestrian sport of dressage and frequently enters championships. In dressage, the horse and rider perform a series of predetermined movements from memory, which include specific gait sequences. Gabler reached the “M**” level, which is just two levels below the “last championship” stage.

Just recently, yet another happy horse rider said of him: “Without Jürgen, I would not be riding any longer, or [even] have my lovely horse. I was so frightened of riding him, and he was so confused. He [Jürgen] got us back together, built our trust in each other, and we are a great team again.”

This is Jürgen’s goal: to help riders and their horses work as a team.

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