The government has your back (unless you're a credit card company). Serious talks are underway within the Obama administration to set up a watchdog commission charged with protecting consumers against unfair credit card practices, predatory mortgage lending, and other consumer financial products industry injustices, The Washington Post reported today. Plans for the new commission remain "fluid," but would likely centralize regulation and enforcement now spread across several agencies. This news comes a day after the Senate passed a bill aimed at prohibiting credit card companies from implementing sudden interest-rate hikes and charging extra fees, while giving consumers more, and clearer, information on their debt.
Customer reviews, mystical powers, drive T-shirt sales. The Chicago Tribune has the amusing story of how New Hampshire T-shirt maker, The Mountain, has found itself the subject of the latest internet craze. At the center of the commotion is "Three Wolf Moon," one of the company's T-shirts that features a mystical (some might argue cheesy) tableau of three wolves howling at a shimmering moon. Amazon.com has been flooded with over 250 snarky, yet glowing, customer reviews of the shirt, many attributing supernatural powers and sexual prowess to whoever dons the wolf-themed apparel. As one reviewer wrote, "I put on this shirt 42 days ago and could not find the willpower to remove it due to the power it gave me." Or, "I accidentally spilled a glass of Tuscan Whole Milk down the front of this shirt, and my soul was torn from my body and thrown into heaven by a jealous God." The Mountain, however, is getting the last laugh. The shirt now ranks as Amazon's top seller in apparel. For a look at all of the reviews, click here.
Want to pay less for gas, cell phone plans, and credit cards? Silicon Valley startup BillShrink launched last year with $9 million in VC funding and a plan to help consumers get the best deals with its online comparison and alert system. Today, just in time for the econalypse, reports BoomTown, BillShrink announces that it will be part of a huge national campaign run by T-Mobile offering consumers a "mobile makeover," kicking off on the finale of "American Idol" and starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. Even if BillShrink doesn't recommend T-Mobile, it still gets the hits. CEO Peter Pham, formerly of PhotoBucket, which was bought by MySpace, plans to branch out and start comparing other services to get consumers the best deals.
Mark Zuckerberg looks to the future. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivered a speech at the Reuters Global Technology Summit Tuesday in which he predicted that his company would go public within a "few years". He said that Facebook would grow revenue by 70 percent this year and become cash flow positive next year. Zuckerberg also hinted that the site could "do something with ads or a number of other things we've considered." I have no idea what that means, but Business Insider thinks it's confirmation of a Facebook ad network.
Mandatory paid sick leave on the horizon? Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill requiring companies with more than 15 employees to offer full-timers 7 days of paid sick leave per year, the New York Times reports. Workers would also be entitled to the time off when a family member is ill. Unions and women's groups are backing the bill; business groups are lining up to oppose the measure. "Given that small businesses are barely able to keep their heads above water in this economy, we don't think this is the right legislation to be pushing right now," said Susan Eckerly, the NFIB's senior vice president.
Inspired by Slumdog Millionaire, marketers target Indian-Americans The buzz surrounding Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, and the attendant spike in interest in Bollywood, has inspired marketers to develop promotions targeted at Indian-Americans, reports Wall Street Journal. State Farm is sponsoring a karaoke contest where the winners get to perform in a Bollywood film. New York-based digital media firm Saavn, which just inked a deal with Hulu to provide Bollywood content for the site, is helping State Farm with its campaigns. Execs say the relatively affluent, highly-educated South Asian demographic is a desirable market, despite the fact that it represents just over two million people. Still, cross-cultural marketing has its pratfalls. State Farm reached out to the community through ads in targeted magazines, sponsoring cricket matches, and grass roots events. Digital media, like the U.S. editions of Indian web portals and 24-hour Bollywood subscriptions channels, now make this market easier to reach. If you haven't already seen it, check out Michael Scott's crash-and-burn parody from The Office finale, Slumdunder Mifflinaire
Tesla worth $550 million. That Tesla investment we told you about yesterday: Techcrunch is reporting it came to $50 million, giving the company a valuation of $550 million. The site also comes through with a few more bits of good news for the upstart car company: a $350 million loan from the government should be formerly approved soon and 1000 people have placed reservations for the company's new Model S sedan.
Can't afford to start a company? Why not go get one for free. That's the advice of Atari founder and serial entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell (read more about him here). On his blog, Bushnell points out that the economy is so bad right now that "many business owners would rather just get out than continue to bleed," he writes. "As a result, you can walk in, sign the papers, and take over a business. All you have to do is to convince the owner that you have the ability to fulfill the lease or to pay the mortgage."
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