Jun 052012

By Bob Sullivan (MSNBC) Judy Rivers isn’t dead after all. And, as anyone who’s had a maddening run-in with the nation’s credit system would agree, her “resurrection” is miraculous.

Some loyal Red Tape readers might recall an August 2010 story we published on Rivers titled, “Hey banks: This woman is alive.”  At the time, Rivers had fallen — or was pushed — into a credit system black hole. She was declared dead by someone, rendering her invisible to the nation’s lenders and other entities that rely on Social Security numbers for verification. She couldn’t open a bank account, write a check, use a credit card, get a loan or an apartment. In many cases, she couldn’t even apply for a job.

She was, by 21st century standards, dead. Or, in perhaps a more-apt description, she had become a credit zombie.

Rivers, who lives in Alabama outside Birmingham, became a mini-celebrity after we published her digital nightmare. “This woman is alive” was one of our most popular stories, and publications the world over retold Rivers’ tale. Even Reader’s Digest covered the story.

Her odyssey began in late 2010, when a bank told her its systems said she was dead – and had been for two years.

“This Social Security Number has been discontinued; the holder of this number was reported dead on August 3, 2008,” read a notice she was shown by a bank official. A check of her consumer report obtained from Chex Systems, which the bank had used to obtain that information, confirmed the error. It read, “number inactivated due to report of death.”

Chex Systems said it received the data directly from the Social Security Administration, but that agency told Rivers that she was alive and well, according to its data.  She had the same experience with every other creditor and credit bureau she talked to. And there she remained for years, stuck in a Catch-22 despite her herculean efforts to find and correct the error.

As a result of her experience, Rivers became an advocate of credit zombies everywhere.

via Red Tape – Famed ‘credit zombie’ resurrected, with lessons for anyone with a SSN.

 June 5, 2012  Posted by at 5:36 am Comments Off
Apr 142012

By  Melissa Boteach (ThinkProgress) Ann Romney has tweeted, “All moms are entitled to choose their path.” But unfortunately for low-wage working moms and nearly half of private sector workers, the” choice” is either “go to work and send my sick kid to school” or “stay at home with my sick child and risk losing my job or needed income.” That’s a choice no parent should have to make. Does Mitt Romney agree?

Women are now half of all workers on U.S. payrolls and breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of all families. Their incomes are sorely needed to provide basic economic security for their families.

Yet the U.S. also faces high rates of work-family conflict with few laws to support working families. One of the biggest culprits is workers’ lack of paid sick days to care for themselves, an elderly parent, or a sick kid – an issue that has been largely absent in the election debates.

Forty percent of private sector workers and 80 percent of low-wage workers do not have a single, paid sick day to recover from a short-term illness or to provide care for their loved ones.

via Does Mitt Romney Support Paid Sick Days? | ThinkProgress.

 April 14, 2012  Posted by at 6:26 pm Comments Off
Mar 212012

By James Surowiecki A recent Harvard Business Review study by Zeynep Ton, an M.I.T. professor, looked at four low-price retailers: Costco, Trader Joe’s, the convenience-store chain QuikTrip, and a Spanish supermarket chain called Mercadona. These companies have much higher labor costs than their competitors. They pay their employees more; they have more full-time workers and more salespeople on the floor; and they invest more in training them. (At QuikTrip, even part-time employees get forty hours of training.) Not surprisingly, these stores are better places to work. What’s more surprising is that they are more profitable than most of their competitors and have more sales per employee and per square foot.

The big challenge for any retailer is to make sure that the people coming into the store actually buy stuff, and research suggests that not scrimping on payroll is crucial. In a study published at the Wharton School, Marshall Fisher, Jayanth Krishnan, and Serguei Netessine looked at detailed sales data from a retailer with more than five hundred stores, and found that every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales. Stores that were understaffed to begin with benefitted more, stores that were close to fully staffed benefitted less, but, in all cases, spending more on workers led to higher sales. A study last year of a big apparel chain found that increasing the number of people working in stores led to a significant increase in sales at those stores.

via How Hiring Makes Uniqlo a Successful Retailer : The New Yorker.

 March 21, 2012  Posted by at 5:30 pm Comments Off
Mar 162012

By Frederick E. Allen (Forbes) Four university professors found that power breeds overconfidence, and overconfidence leads to bad decisions.

People who had been primed to think of themselves as more powerful had more confidence in their answers — and yet their answers were actually less accurate.

The fifth and final experiment the four conducted found that the tie between power and overconfidence “was eliminated when the powerful were made to feel incompetent.”

via Study Finds That Having Power Can Make You Stupid – Forbes.

 March 16, 2012  Posted by at 10:07 am Comments Off
Mar 142012

By Sara Robinson (AlterNet) How did we get to the 40-hour week in the first place? How did we lose it? And are there compelling bottom-line business reasons that we should bring it back?

The most essential thing to know about the 40-hour work-week is that, while it was the unions that pushed it, business leaders ultimately went along with it because their own data convinced them this was a solid, hard-nosed business decision.

Unions started fighting for the short week in both the UK and US in the early 19th century. By the latter part of the century, it was becoming the norm in an increasing number of industries. And a weird thing happened: over and over — across many business sectors in many countries — business owners discovered that when they gave into the union and cut the hours, their businesses became significantly more productive and profitable. As Tom Walker of the Work Less Institute puts it in his Prosperity Covenant:

That output does not rise or fall in direct proportion to the number of hours worked is a lesson that seemingly has to be relearned each generation. In 1848, the English parliament passed the ten-hours law and total output per-worker, per-day increased. In the 1890s employers experimented widely with the eight hour day and repeatedly found that total output per-worker increased. In the first decades of the 20th century, Frederick W. Taylor, the originator of “scientific management” prescribed reduced work times and attained remarkable increases in per-worker output.

via Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity | Visions | AlterNet.

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 9:16 am Comments Off