January 18, 2018

New Jersey Is Last State to Insist at Gas Stations: Don’t Touch That Pump

Mr. O’Scanlon said that he frequently pumps his own gas, ignoring the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act of 1949, the statute that first forbade civilians from putting their grubby hands on the nozzle.

“I break the law in New Jersey on a regular basis,” he said. “Someone can come to my door and cuff me if they want.”

Two years ago in the Assembly, Mr. O’Scanlon was one of several legislators to sponsor a bill allowing self-service stations. It stalled.

One prominent opponent of the idea is the president of the State Senate, Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat, who remains immovable. In an emailed statement Friday, Mr. Sweeney said that he saw no good reason to change a system that worked.

“When we have winters like the one this year, I don’t see many men and women who want to pump their own gas,” he said. “It’s something that makes New Jersey a little more unique and the people of New Jersey like it that way.”

Polling and interviews suggest that the state’s natives agree. The actor Bobby Cannavale, who grew up in the state, said that it never bothers him, though he does forget every time he leaves and comes back, and has to be ushered back into his car by the attendant. He added that he sometimes gets nervous for a split second that he’ll never get his credit card back.

“You’re sitting in your car just handing a guy your credit card,” he said. “He can hand it to another guy in another car and you’re done.”

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Chris Christie proposed self-serve gas during his gubernatorial campaign in 2009, but dropped the proposal because the negative response from the public was so ferocious. At a town hall-style meeting in 2016, he said that it was a gender issue, citing a poll that indicated that 78 percent of women in the state were only too happy to stay in their cars.

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Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said in an interview that the idea of pumping one’s own gas had never been broadly favorable in New Jersey.

“It’s kind of one of the third rails of state politics,” she said, noting that women and older people in particular enjoyed the service.

A December 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that almost three-quarters of the state’s residents preferred to have gas pumped for them, and that 84 percent of women preferred the service.

And when she takes off her polling hat, Ms. Koning said, she is one of those women.

“As a Jersey Girl, I’m definitely not for it,” she said. “Jersey is very proud and one of the things it’s proud of is not having to pump its own gas.”

Some pollsters have stopped asking the question altogether. Krista Jenkins, the director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s polling unit, said that it had not come up since 2012 because “it hasn’t really been that much of a debate.”

In that year, the university found that 63 percent of voters supported the law and only 23 percent opposed it, with a similarly exaggerated gender gap.

Ms. Jenkins grew up in Southern California, and pumped her own gas.

“But,” she said, “in the dead of winter when you don’t have to get out of your car, it’s a lovely feature of living in the state.”

The response of some Oregon residents to that state’s loosening of restrictions may not encourage change in Jersey. A widely shared tweet highlighted comments on a local news story from Medford, in Jackson County, Oregon. Among residents’ concerns were “smelling of gas when I get it on my hands or clothes” and the potential health effects of breathing in small amounts over time.

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New Jersey legislators cited safety concerns when they passed the original law that barred residents from pumping gas almost 70 years ago. But when gas station owners challenged the ban in 1951, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that self-serve was indeed “dangerous in use.” And the ban held up, despite attempts to fight it in the 1980s.

In the rest of the country, self-service stations became the norm. Safer unleaded gasoline became more common, thanks to federal regulations, as did pumps that accepted credit cards. In most of the United States, that spelled the end of an era when attendants offered to wipe your windshield and check your oil while the tank filled up and you fumbled for a tip.

Mr. O’Scanlon is undeterred by the dual weights of history and public opinion. He said that he may bring a new proposal this year, just to keep the conversation alive. He said that economic arguments about jobs and safety are absurd, given that drivers in other states have been pumping their own gas for decades and lived to tell the tale.

“The only thing you could argue is that New Jerseyans are more flammable than people in the other 49 states,” he said. “Because we eat so much oily pizza, funnel cake and fries, maybe you could make that argument. Otherwise, it’s simply ridiculous.”

Correction: January 5, 2018

A previous version of this article described incorrectly a new law in Oregon. The new law allows residents of most counties with fewer than 40,000 people to fuel up their cars themselves, at any hour of the day, not merely between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/nyregion/new-jersey-gas-pump.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

In a Complex Tax Bill, Let the Hunt for Loopholes Begin

The provision, known as the domestic production activities deduction, gave companies a tax break on income they earned from making things in the United States. It was intended to help American manufacturers, which were struggling to hold their own against competition from overseas.

Then a raft of other industries heard about the rule as it was being devised and fired up their lobbying machines. Suddenly, everyone became a manufacturer.

Movie studios got the break because they produced films, and tech giants won it, too, for making computer software. Construction companies got it for making buildings, and so did engineers and architects for designing them.

Starbucks hired lobbyists to make the case that it, too, was a producer, because the company roasts coffee beans. Congress added language that allowed coffee shops to deduct a percentage of every cup sold if it was made with beans they roasted off site. It became known as the Starbucks footnote.

“This has been a boondoggle tax expenditure,” said Robert J. Shapiro, a former Commerce Department official who founded the economic advisory firm Sonecon. “It is a political lesson. You are always liable to create tax loopholes that grow.”

The government initially estimated that the 2004 law would cost a net $27.3 billion from 2005 through 2014. It ended up costing over $90 billion during that period, according to a congressional report.

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The Internal Revenue Service had to warn retailers that cutting keys doesn’t make you a manufacturer. Neither does mixing paint, putting plants in the sun to grow or writing “Happy birthday” on a cake you didn’t bake.

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But in more than a decade of battling with companies about the rule, the government gave up more ground than it won. One of its most epic losses came at the hands of a David-size challenger in Fullerton, Calif.

It all started in tax class. Dan Maguire, an accountant by trade, was sitting in a seminar about the new features of the tax code in 2005 when he first heard about the manufacturing deduction. He became obsessed.

“I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, as crazy as it is, this is a good deduction for Houdini,’” he said. Houdini Inc., better known as Wine Country Gift Baskets, is a plucky maker of assortments for special occasions that employs Mr. Maguire as its chief financial officer.

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Mr. Maguire filed for the deduction in amended returns for 2005 and 2006. The I.R.S. gave Houdini a refund of close to $300,000. Then, when it realized what had happened, it doubled back and audited the company, demanding that Houdini return the money.

“It’s the government — what do you expect?” Mr. Maguire said. “They aren’t exactly an efficiently run organization.”

When Houdini refused to give the refund back, the government sued the company in 2011.

At issue was a straightforward question: Does putting wine and chocolate into a basket amount to manufacturing? Federal lawyers sputtered at the thought.

“I can make a gift basket at home,” pleaded one government lawyer, according to a transcript in the case. “I can go to the store, and I can purchase these items and put them into a basket which I have purchased and put cellophane wrap around it, but in the process, I have not altered anything in it.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/business/economy/tax-loopholes.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Entrepreneurship: California Marijuana Start-Ups, Shut Out From Banks, Turn to Private Backing

Companies like Big Rock, which has invested more than $10 million in the cannabis industry, are playing an important part in funding the industry’s growth. “Starting up a testing lab or a dispensary is extremely capital intensive,” said Stephen Kaye, Big Rock’s chief operating officer. Private firms can make decisions and move large amounts of money quickly, he said. He receives pitches every day from entrepreneurs, and is especially interested in medical research.

For Jody Hall, an entrepreneur in Seattle, joining an investment company has freed her to focus on her core business, rather than the myriad regulations that accompany its operation. Ms. Hall, who runs a conventional cupcake business, started a new venture, GoodShip, two years ago to make cannabis edibles. She found that she was spending “way too much time” getting advice from lawyers on what was or wasn’t allowed. Ms. Hall recently sold GoodShip to Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm, and is staying on. The cash infusion has given her more time to develop products, she said, and has accelerated her plans to expand to California.

While states are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues from marijuana businesses, and a rising number of Americans favor legalization in some form, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s firm opposition to it poses a risk to cannabis-related companies. He could “shut the industry down tomorrow,” said Micah Tapman, co-founder of the Canopy cannabis accelerator and venture capital fund in Colorado.

Of course, there are other challenges. Evolving rules and regulations, like new packaging requirements, can add unexpected costs to processors and retailers. Companies forced to deal only in cash can run into safety and theft issues. Many small growers emerging from the black market “have no idea how to run a commercial-scale facility,” Mr. James of Marijuana Venture said.

Despite the hurdles and uncertainty facing the industry, Mr. Larson of Gateway has remained optimistic. “People are gaining confidence as legalization spreads, and the growth is going to be huge,” he said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/business/smallbusiness/california-marijuana-start-ups.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Many Unhappy Returns? Online Holiday Shopping’s Big Hangover

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Online shopping would save us time, we were told. It would free us from the torment of malls, angry clerks and wasted Saturdays. But as the fantasy becomes real — e-commerce will account for $2.3 trillion, or one-tenth of all retail sales, in 2017, according to eMarketer — some shoppers are surprised to discover they are devoting as much time to returns as they once did to in-person shopping, with less fun.

“I’ve ended up keeping stuff because the return process was such a pain,” said Rob Cromer, an entrepreneur in New York City, using profanity.

Likewise, Ms. Nicolas is currently making peace with the fact that the three wooden cutting boards she bought for Thanksgiving, total cost $100, are hers to keep at this point.

Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 31, 45 percent of Americans will try to return at least one gift, according to Optoro, an e-commerce software company. Today, that gift is more likely than ever to have been purchased online: 2017 is the first year that a majority of Americans planned to do their holiday shopping on the web, according to Deloitte.

But while a handful of retailers receive nearly unanimous praise from shoppers for open-ended, friction-free returns of purchases made online (Amazon, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Madewell, among others), and many offer more generous policies during the holiday season, plenty still impose tight limitations and draconian requirements that seem designed to either discourage returns or drive traffic into their physical locations.

Forever 21 and Shopbop require customers to return items bought online within 30 days, and like Victoria’s Secret, Kohl’s and Rue La La, don’t always pay for shipping (Shopbop offers refunds for items returned within 15 days). Returns to Net-a-Porter must be made within 28 days, and within 14 days for Apple and Barnes Noble — a narrow window if you factor in packing and shipping. Many retailers will send multiple items from a single order in separate boxes, each of which could require its own label (and box) in case of return.

And while Amazon refunds your money the moment UPS scans your box for return, others make customers wait weeks to see the refund on their credit card — a period of uncertainty too agonizing for some.

“If I can’t go the store to return something, I won’t make the purchase,” said Lauren Nolte, a marketing executive in Los Angeles. “It’s like you have to make up your mind the second you get the item, then run to the post office or you’re out of luck.” And good luck finding a post office open before or after work.

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One can also feel sorry for the stores. Returns cost retailers $260 billion in 2015, according to the National Retail Federation. And about 30 percent of items bought online end up being returned, versus 9 percent of items bought in stores.

Retailers can ease the expense if they can convince customers to return Web-purchased items to stores in person. On average, returns to stores cost companies half as much as returns to distribution centers, and allow retailers to get the items back on shelves faster, according to new research from AlixPartners, a consulting firm. And driving shoppers into stores has the added benefit of possibly resulting in more purchases. (The good news for retailers: 62 percent of consumers prefer in-store returns.)

In November, Walmart raised some of its prices online to encourage in-store foot traffic and cut down on shipping costs.

Whether its attempts to discourage online returns will save money or simply drive away customers remains to be seen. “This is principally a reason why many retailers aren’t making any money,” said Mark A. Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School and a former chief executive of Sears Canada. E-commerce start-ups have the extra challenge of needing to build loyalty. “These are new businesses that are just learning what they’re in for,” Mr. Cohen said.

The unavoidable shortcomings of online shopping may make a high return rate a necessary part of the process. Trying on clothes isn’t an option, and colors often appear different in person, leading many shoppers to buy an item in multiple sizes or colors with the intention of sending back the misfits.

But there is also the growing problem of so-called wardrobing: buying an item to use once knowing it can be returned afterward. The classic example is a prom dress, but generous return policies are luring more people to try bringing back, say, the camcorder they bought to record the prom, too.

Some third-party vendors are eager to cash in on the inconvenience of returns. In 2015, two former Nordstrom employees started Happy Returns, a company that operates physical “return bars” in malls where customers can give back items brought from e-commerce retailers including Everlane, Chubbies and Tradesy for immediate refunds. Happy Returns has 50 locations and expects to open 150 more by the end of 2018.

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And in October, Amazon paid a reported $50 to $70 million to acquire Body Labs, a start-up specializing in technology that allows shoppers to create 3-D avatars for trying on clothes online.

While you wait for a better system to come along, there are steps you can take to cut down on online returns, said Eric Himel, a stylist whose clients include Giuliana Rancic and Kristin Cavallari. “Shopping is something you have to be in the right frame of mind for, and you have to dig in and do a little work,” he said. That means no more clicking and buying at midnight, or after a second cocktail, and always taking the time to read reviews, check the fabrication and make yourself aware of return policies.

Most important, Mr. Himel advised, remember that clothes modeled by professionals online may not look the same in your mirror. “It’s like I tell women, ‘Don’t go shopping with your girlfriend, because they’re always going to say something looks cute on you.’”

If you miss the cut-off dates, you can sell mistakes through secondhand marketplaces like Letgo, Vestiaire Collective or the TheRealReal. You’re not likely to get full price, but getting anything can feel like a triumph (though of course, you still have to pack it up and ship it).

“I’ll say to my husband, ‘See I made money!’” Ms. Nicolas said. “He says, ‘No you did not. You lost money today.’”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/26/style/online-holiday-shopping-returns.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Somewhere Between a Food Truck and a Food Tent, You’ll Find a Cubert

For the fall test drive, an Off the Grid employee drove the Cubert to Fort Mason on a flatbed truck, unfolded it, extended the flap that shields customers from inclement weather and made sure that the self-contained sinks and refrigeration unit were working. Ms. Miranda, a 26-year-old baker, arrived later that morning with her ingredients and a deep fryer that she connected to the unit’s generator.

When she was done for the day, she went home. The Off the Grid driver cleaned, folded and loaded the cube back onto the truck, and drove it to a storage space.

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The Cubert eliminates hours of setup and shutdown. And Ms. Miranda left the cleanup and storage to someone else. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

Mobile food has grown exponentially since the Los Angeles chef Roy Choi hit the road in 2008 with his Koji Korean barbecue truck; there are now more than 4,000 food trucks nationwide, according to the market research firm IBISWorld.

The temporary-stall model has grown as well: For the last two years, Mr. Cohen — who started with three markets and now runs 15 (with as many as 60 weekly events in the March-through-October season) — has fielded about 350 applications for eight or nine open slots at Fort Mason alone.

Jon Feldman, Stumptown’s vice president in charge of wholesale accounts, sees potential for growth at sites where specialty coffee couldn’t go before. “It’s hard to do what we do from any old place: power and water requirements, space constraints,” he said. “With Cubert you can open a small coffee outlet in the middle of a field,” for, say, a music festival.

Brian Lewis, senior vice president for retail development and curation at Kilroy Realty Corporation in San Diego, plans to install a Cubert in a San Francisco office building early in 2018, to see if it can revive a moribund corner of a ground-floor plaza. He wants to replace a cafe in a Santa Monica, Calif., property with one as well, betting that the Cubert can give older properties an edge in what he calls “an all-out amenities war with our competition.”

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The floor of the Cubert. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

If big companies bite, Mr. Cohen will be able to expand his transportation and support network beyond the Bay Area, though he is quick to reassure potential customers outside the region that hiring “a flatbed truck isn’t a big thing,” and that Off the Grid is ready to help purchasers find a local transport company. He is already thinking about ways to improve the basic Cubert, including climate control to make them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

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It’s a tantalizing notion to anyone who sells food outdoors, which includes farmers as well as purveyors of prepared foods. Michael Hurwitz, director of Greenmarkets for GrowNYC, was excited about the idea before he ever saw a photo of the Cubert. He thinks that farmers’ markets are ready for a gut renovation.

For now, Ms. Miranda is grateful simply to have been awarded a Cubert at Fort Mason in the spring, as a way of thanking her for trying it last fall. The cube made her life “so much easier,” she said, and made her dream of a bakery seem within reach.

“It would be a huge next step,” she said. “It’s not quite a food truck or brick and mortar, but it’s not a tent outside. It has a little more of that brick-and-mortar feel.”

Follow NYT Food on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Get regular updates from NYT Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/dining/cubert-portable-food-stall.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Entrepreneurship: Giving a Family Business a Jolt With Coffee That Empowers Women

So after taking control of the family business just under three years ago, she made the start of a sister company, City Girl Coffee Company, her primary focus. Unlike Alakef, City Girl is bold and risky, from its bright-pink logo and packaging to its business plan’s central tenet: fighting gender inequity in the coffee industry.

On average, according to the International Trade Center, women do 70 percent of the work in getting coffee to market but regularly cede or are barred from financial control, so City Girl gets its beans exclusively from farms and cooperatives that are owned or managed by women. In addition, the company donates 5 percent of all profit to organizations that support women in the industry, including the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, or I.W.C.A., and Café Femenino.

When consultants told her that “it’s great to have a mission, but it’s not enough to drive sales,” Ms. Bohbot insisted that an “unapologetically feminine” coffee brand would find consumers. Even so, the company’s success has exceeded her expectations: Sales — principally through City Girl’s online store and in the Twin Cities’ high-end retailers, including Kowalski’s Markets and Lunds Byerlys — are up 300 percent year over year.

City Girl aims to break into other Midwest markets, including Chicago, St. Louis and Des Moines, and then to select cities on the East Coast. Still, Ms. Bohbot is willing to be patient.

“If you blow up too quickly, you will sacrifice something,” she said.

She has played witness to a slow build before. When her parents, Nessim and Deborah Bohbot, moved to Duluth from Israel in the late 1980s, they were dumbfounded by their new neighbors’ preference for mass-market coffee brands like Folgers and Maxwell House, so they began roasting coffee in their basement. After locals started taking notice and wanting to buy the coffee, Alakef was formed.

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“People thought we were crazy,” Mr. Bohbot, 70, recalled with a laugh. “At first, people didn’t understand why they had to pay so much for specialty coffee when you could go to a gas station and get it for 20 cents a cup. We had to educate them.”

Back then, Alakef was one of only a handful of specialty coffee roasters in Minnesota. Mr. and Mrs. Bohbot, speaking from their second home in Nice, France, noted that theirs was also one of the first coffee companies to be certified organic by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association. Now specialty coffee accounts for 55 percent of a national coffee industry valued at $48 billion annually, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s “State of the Coffee Industry” report this year. And as a share of cups, the report said, 51 percent of all coffee consumed in 2016 was considered gourmet.

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Ezra Bennett monitors his computer as he roasts coffee beans at Alakef Coffee Roaster in Duluth, Minn. A sister company, City Girl Coffee Company, has exceeded sales expectations. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times
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Alyza Bohbot came up with the idea for City Girl Coffee Co. when she learned that while women do most of the work in getting coffee to market, few are allowed to have any financial control. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Ms. Bohbot initially intended to study vocal jazz at Syracuse University but, after discovering she had vocal cord nodules, switched to retail management. In 2008, she moved to Boston to work in sales for the maker of Samuel Adams beer; after two years, she went back to school for a master’s degree in guidance counseling. In mid-2014, when her parents told her that they were contemplating selling Alakef, she thought for the first time about taking over the business.

Her parents were excited for her but reluctant to let her take over the business. “We wanted to be sure it was her passion,” Mrs. Bohbot, 65, said.

Returning home for a six-month trial period, Ms. Bohbot quickly realized she couldn’t bear to see the company trade hands. “That was my whole life” when she was growing up, she remembered thinking. “Wait a minute, we’re just going to walk away from it?”

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Only a few months later, in April 2015, Ms. Bohbot struck upon her idea for City Girl after attending an International Women’s Coffee Alliance breakfast at a conference in Seattle. There she learned of a Colombian widow unable to keep her family’s coffee farm simply because of her gender; in many countries where coffee is grown, women are silent laborers left out of decision making largely because of cultural norms.

“The women were out of the loop even though they were doing the majority of the work,” said Connie Kolosvary, program director for Café Femenino. Café Femenino, which was formed in 2004, not only pays a premium for beans from cooperatives that follow its strict guidelines to empower women but also pays its female members directly for their harvests.

With the men aware that more money is coming in simply because of female involvement, Ms. Kolosvary said, “for the very first time these women are now viewed as having a leadership role in their communities.”

The I.W.C.A., with legally recognized chapters in 22 countries, helps mobilize women in the industry and provides a platform for them to share the challenges they face. Josiane Cotrim, chapter president for Brazil, the largest coffee-exporting country, said the support of organizations like the I.W.C.A. meant “the woman was no longer the daughter or the sister or the wife of someone in coffee.”

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“We were women in coffee,” added Ms. Cotrim, who was raised on a coffee farm. “We had an identity.”

Ms. Bohbot, who serves as a marketing co-chairwoman of the I.W.C.A., said she, too, faced challenges when she entered the coffee world, though they were largely business-related. Some of her chief competitors have argued that City Girl’s female-empowerment message is little more than a marketing ploy. But “in this day and age, you can’t have a good product without having a good marketing story,” Ms. Bohbot said.

Also, buying coffee from growers run by women “adds a whole other layer of stress on our company,” she said. “We have to work diligently to reach out to all of our importers to use our connections to find this coffee and bring it in.”

Ms. Bohbot, who has made local philanthropy an increased priority at Alakef and will introduce new packaging and an updated logo there next year, said she got personal satisfaction from City Girl’s success and being viewed as a leader among her female peers.

When women in every industry are fighting daily battles to achieve equality, “I feel hopeful,” she said. “Women are vocalizing more than ever before. To speak out and not settle. To demand our place in society.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/business/smallbusiness/coffee-women.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Rollback of Net Neutrality Has Small Businesses Worried

The regulations, established by the F.C.C. in 2015, have heavyweights on both sides of the debate. Internet giants like Google and Amazon say that net neutrality preserves free speech; telecom titans like ATT and Verizon warn that the existing rules put a chokehold on free-market commerce. In a blog post on Tuesday, Comcast’s chief executive, David N. Watson, wrote that his company “does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

Internet service providers say that the proposal would lead to a better variety of services for online customers and more innovation in the industry.

For small businesses, a rollback could fundamentally change how, and whether, they do business. Many started online or turned to e-commerce to expand their thin margins.

“Things are already difficult enough as it is for a small businesses,” Mr. Callicott said. “You’re busy enough just keeping your company running, trying to grow and succeed or just stay alive, that you don’t have the resources or the time to contemplate how to prepare for something like this.”

In the United States, 99.7 percent of all businesses have fewer than 500 employees, according to government statistics. Of those, nearly 80 percent, or more than 23 million enterprises, are one-person operations.

More than a quarter of small firms said they planned to expand their e-commerce platforms in 2017, according to the National Small Business Association.

In August, the American Sustainable Business Council and other small business groups published an open letter to the F.C.C. on behalf of more than 500 small businesses in the country. Weakening or undoing net neutrality protections would be “disastrous” for American businesses, according to the letter.

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“The open internet has made it possible for us to rely on a free market where each of us has the chance to bring our best business ideas to the world without interference or seeking permission from any gatekeeper first,” the groups wrote.

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Many entrepreneurs worried that, without net neutrality provisions, internet providers would wield their increased power to control how businesses reach consumers.

Online consumers are a demanding crowd. Research from a Google subsidiary suggested that visitors who have to wait more than 3 seconds for a mobile site to load will abandon their search 53 percent of the time.

Critics of the F.C.C. proposal say internet service providers could manipulate traffic speeds to establish a “fast lane” of sorts or cap or block access to certain sites, charging fees to lift the restrictions. Small enterprises would struggle to pay, leaving them at a commercial disadvantage, they said.

Independent contractors like Clayton Cowles, who works in upstate New York, could also be vulnerable.

Mr. Cowles draws the text for comic book publishers including Marvel, DC and Image, and has worked on Batman, Star Wars and other popular series.

Each month, he pays Spectrum, his internet service provider, $90.70 for the company’s most powerful service package, which is supposed to allow him to send enormous digital documents within seconds. Instead, his files sometimes take 15 minutes to be delivered, he said.

A more deeply deregulated Spectrum is one of his “greatest fears,” he said.

“They pretty much have a monopoly,” he said. “I’m stuck with them.”

Changes in net neutrality regulations could also affect the freelancers, franchisees and temporary workers who earn a living doing piecemeal work in the so-called gig economy. Nearly a quarter of American adults made money last year using digital platforms to take on a job or a task, selling something online or renting out their properties using a home-sharing site like Airbnb, according to the Pew Research Center.

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A pay-for-play internet system could also be problematic for Codecademy, an education company founded in 2011. Its services include courses on tech-related subjects like data analysis, website design and coding language — all conducted online.

But Zach Sims, the company’s chief executive, said that students, many of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs, would suffer most.

“They’ll perceive it as an unfair playing field,” he said. “As every industry is upended by tech, the barrier to entry is knowing what technology is and how to implement it, but this adds another level of confusion, making the hurdle even higher for normal businesses to participate.”

Follow Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @tiffkhsu

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting

A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2017, on Page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Rollback of Net Neutrality Worries Small Businesses.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/net-neutrality-small-businesses.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

F.C.C. Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality Worries Small Businesses

The regulations, established by the F.C.C. in 2015, have heavyweights on both sides of the debate. Internet giants like Google and Amazon say that net neutrality preserves free speech; telecom titans like ATT and Verizon warn that the existing rules put a chokehold on free-market commerce. In a blog post on Tuesday, Comcast’s chief executive, David N. Watson, wrote that his company “does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

Internet service providers say that the proposal would lead to a better variety of services for online customers and more innovation in the industry.

For small businesses, a rollback could fundamentally change how, and whether, they do business. Many started online or turned to e-commerce to expand their thin margins.

“Things are already difficult enough as it is for a small businesses,” Mr. Callicott said. “You’re busy enough just keeping your company running, trying to grow and succeed or just stay alive, that you don’t have the resources or the time to contemplate how to prepare for something like this.”

In the United States, 99.7 percent of all businesses have fewer than 500 employees, according to government statistics. Of those, nearly 80 percent, or more than 23 million enterprises, are one-person operations.

More than a quarter of small firms said they planned to expand their e-commerce platforms in 2017, according to the National Small Business Association.

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David Callicott runs a small company, GoodLight Natural Candles, in San Francisco. “For such an analog product, we’re heavily reliant on the digital world and the internet for our day-to-day operations,” he said. “The internet, the speed of it, our entire business revolves around that.” Credit Peter Prato for The New York Times

In August, the American Sustainable Business Council and other small business groups published an open letter to the F.C.C. on behalf of more than 500 small businesses in the country. Weakening or undoing net neutrality protections would be “disastrous” for American businesses, according to the letter.

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“The open internet has made it possible for us to rely on a free market where each of us has the chance to bring our best business ideas to the world without interference or seeking permission from any gatekeeper first,” the groups wrote.

Many entrepreneurs worried that, without net neutrality provisions, internet providers would wield their increased power to control how businesses reach consumers.

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Online consumers are a demanding crowd. Research from a Google subsidiary suggested that visitors who have to wait more than 3 seconds for a mobile site to load will abandon their search 53 percent of the time.

Critics of the F.C.C. proposal say internet service providers could manipulate traffic speeds to establish a “fast lane” of sorts or cap or block access to certain sites, charging fees to lift the restrictions. Small enterprises would struggle to pay, leaving them at a commercial disadvantage, they said.

Independent contractors like Clayton Cowles, who works in upstate New York, could also be vulnerable.

Mr. Cowles draws the text for comic book publishers including Marvel, DC and Image, and has worked on Batman, Star Wars and other popular series.

Each month, he pays Spectrum, his internet service provider, $90.70 for the company’s most powerful service package, which is supposed to allow him to send enormous digital documents within seconds. Instead, his files sometimes take 15 minutes to be delivered, he said.

A more deeply deregulated Spectrum is one of his “greatest fears,” he said.

“They pretty much have a monopoly,” he said. “I’m stuck with them.”

Changes in net neutrality regulations could also affect the freelancers, franchisees and temporary workers who earn a living doing piecemeal work in the so-called gig economy. Nearly a quarter of American adults made money last year using digital platforms to take on a job or a task, selling something online or renting out their properties using a home-sharing site like Airbnb, according to the Pew Research Center.

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A pay-for-play internet system could also be problematic for Codecademy, an education company founded in 2011. Its services include courses on tech-related subjects like data analysis, website design and coding language — all conducted online.

But Zach Sims, the company’s chief executive, said that students, many of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs, would suffer most.

“They’ll perceive it as an unfair playing field,” he said. “As every industry is upended by tech, the barrier to entry is knowing what technology is and how to implement it, but this adds another level of confusion, making the hurdle even higher for normal businesses to participate.”

Follow Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @tiffkhsu

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting

A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2017, on Page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Rollback of Net Neutrality Worries Small Businesses.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/net-neutrality-small-businesses.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Future Tense: Amazon Key Is a Lot Less Scary Than My Post-1-Click Remorse

So, too, may more information about our choices, according to a 2008 study, “The Blissful Ignorance Effect: Pre‐ versus Post‐Action Effects on Outcome Expectancies Arising From Precise and Vague Information,” published in The Journal of Consumer Research. Researchers found that the less knowledge consumers had about something before a purchase, the better they expected it to be — and the more they convinced themselves that they liked it afterward.

This reduction of cognitive dissonance is easier inside and after leaving a store, which never reveals anything negative about its products and doesn’t typically burden the consumer with an onslaught of information that might impede an impulse purchase. But the sprawling internet bazaar is filled with scathing critiques, and every pertinent spec exists somewhere online for the diligent buyer to seek out. That one-star rating is hard to forget when your product is failing in the exact way the unhappy reviewer described.

The most obvious difference between brick-and-mortar and online shopping is physicality, both of the item itself and the consumer’s presence in the store. Beyond the potential pitfall of not getting exactly what you thought you were buying online, a problem that is minimized when you can assess the product in person, the lack of tactile interaction may reduce our connection to the object.

Martin Lindstrom, the author of several books on branding, has conducted studies on what makes consumers buy a product and how they feel about it after. In one, 34 percent of people who asked an employee for a product in a supermarket and were made to touch it ended up buying it; just 21 percent did if the employee merely pointed it out to them.

In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of 20 subjects, when the senses of smell and touch were paired with pictures of a product, the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in the perception of pleasantness, was activated more strongly than when those senses were independently engaged. (On its own, smell was the most important sense.)

The tactile experience doesn’t end in the checkout line. After purchasing an item, the consumer typically takes it home. This act of carrying it into one’s domestic space can bolster one’s proprietary pride: You are now responsible for its existence in your world. That act, plus roaming through aisles beforehand and going from shop to shop, can also be physically and mentally tiring.

But ordering online for an anonymous deliveryman to leave the item at one’s doorstep — or, with the help of Amazon Key, just inside — is impersonal and not enervating. It’s the difference between the estrangement of ordering takeout and the intimacy of cooking for oneself. And a pavement-pounding, shop-till-you-drop marathon may recall an even more primal method for acquiring nutrients.

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“You’re coming back to hunters and gatherers,” Mr. Lindstrom said of in-store purchases. “Dopamine kicks in when we’re buying stuff — there’s a reptile brain that tells us we need to gather things before winter happens. The more we have to fight for things, the less likely we are to return it after. When it’s delivered on Amazon Prime, you forget it was so hard to get this product.”

The tactility of how one finalizes the transaction itself can have an effect on remorse, too. Mr. Lindstrom found that 93 percent of consumers feel a stronger connection to cash than to credit cards and are more careful when spending with it. Likewise, for the least tactile connection he studied, Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering, 70 percent of respondents said it made them spend more money than even with a credit card.

But whereas cash-based transactions lead to more immediate remorse, 89 percent of shoppers said they feel guiltier when they receive their credit card statements after 1-Click orders than when they pay in cash. The remorse still exists with online shopping; it’s just deferred, with extra pain later.

Shopping on a website featuring attractive models or beautiful homes may engender the same sense of inadequacy that leafing through catalogs can, unlike picking them up in person, and that visual memory may linger when the object has been delivered, leading to remorse. Buying something online can also lead quickly to a social-media search after the fact for friends’ and strangers’ superior products (or “better” use of the same product).

The sneakers I bought in this troublesomely bottomless marketplace were for casual wear, but I also needed a new pair of running shoes, a purchase that I undertook with more serious online research: reading reviews from specialized publications and individual users, comparing models from different years, taking quizzes to determine what was best for my particular stride.

But even the highest-rated sneakers had their detractors, and those damning, all-caps review headlines (“SHODDILY MADE,” “THEY RUINED IT”) made me hesitate whenever I was on the verge of adding them to my virtual shopping cart.

A week after searching in vain and the ensuing deluge of targeted ads, I visited a nearby running store. I tried on a few pairs and solicited opinions from one employee, then picked the sneakers that felt best.

Within 20 minutes I was walking out with them, glad to have given my money to a local business over a soulless national chain. There is undoubtedly a better running shoe out there for me, and I could probably find it if I spent enough time scouring the internet. But je ne regrette rien.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/style/amazon-key-1-click-buyers-remorse.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Chickens Come Home to Roost on Long Island’s North Fork

Mr. Browder is a fugitive from a 20-year banking career. The Browders sell the poultry and eggs at their farm and at other farmstands, stores and restaurants. The sheep are kept for their wool, which supplies the $250 hand-knit sweaters in their store.

A more exotic population of poultry is in the care of Abra Morawiec at Feisty Acres Farm in Jamesport on the fallow fields of the Biophilia Organic Farm, where she also works part time. She nurtures hundreds of bobwhite and Japanese quail, fluffy Chinese black-skinned Silkie chickens, guinea hens, partridge and heritage breed turkeys. The Browders process her game birds.

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She got into farming with a degree in English literature after a stint in the Peace Corps in Mali, where she worked on a farm. She sells some of her birds at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays. Some of her bobwhite quail, which were once native to the area, are being released into the wild, where they eat ticks.

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Hal Goodale, who returned 10 years ago to the 40 acres at the eastern edge of Riverhead that had been in his family since the 1800s, is making cheese and raising livestock. “I didn’t want to get into farming just to raise cabbages, cauliflower and potatoes like they were doing years ago,” he said. “But I saw that there was no local meat or dairy.”

He started with four goats and two cows, and now has 200 goats and 50 cows as well as chickens, sheep and pigs. There’s a store at the farm stocked mostly with dairy products, including fresh cheeses like ricotta, and ice cream, along with pork products like bacon. Most of what Mr. Goodale produces is sold through a C.S.A. “We’re the personal farmers for about 200 families,” he said.

The towns and hamlets where these farmers are located have accepted the livestock as their neighbors. But less than 30 miles away, in Orient, the easternmost part of the North Fork, the community is holding a petitioning campaign over a 34.5-acre farm that a New York restaurant chain, Freshco, is establishing on bayside land to raise vegetables and animals to supply its kitchens. All but five acres is preserved farmland.

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Abra Morawiec with a partridge at Feisty Acres in Jamesport Credit Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

Troy Gustavson, the former publisher of The Suffolk Times newspaper and an Orient resident for the last 40 years, said the chief objections involve raising pigs on acreage that is part wetland. “It’s a protected bay area, and we’re concerned about the manure and the runoff,” Mr. Gustavson said. “This is farmland and they want to farm. We’re not anti-agriculture, but the quality of the groundwater and the bay has to be taken into account.” Some of the wetlands are shellfish breeding grounds.

Another issue is what is called agritainment, concerns over crowds and traffic on country roads as the Freshco property becomes a tourist attraction with various festivities. On weekends, the North Fork’s roads are already choked with crowds visiting wineries for weddings and other celebrations, not just to sample the latest bottlings.

“Their application did not mention events and festivals, but their website does,” Mr. Gustavson said. Freshco has also announced plans to build a 9,000-square-foot barn on the property.

The petition opposing the Freshco plans has been signed by more than 900 people so far, The Suffolk Times has reported. The Town of Southold Planning Department (which has jurisdiction over Orient) and the State Department of Environmental Conservation are reviewing Freshco’s proposal. A spokeswoman for Freshco said the company declined to comment.

North Fork Farms to Visit

These North Fork farms welcome visitors. Call ahead to check hours and availability of products.

BROWDER’S BIRDS, 4050 Soundview Avenue, Mattituck, browdersbirds.com, 631-599-3394.

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DEEP ROOTS FARM, 57685 Route 25, Southold, 631-745-7928.

8 HANDS FARM, 4735 Cox Lane, Cutchogue, 8handsfarm.com, 631-533-2768.

FEISTY ACRES, 211 Manor Lane, Jamesport, feistyacres.com.

GOODALE FARMS, 250 Main Road, Riverhead, goodalefarms.com, 631-901-5975.

MCCALL WINES, 22600 Main Road, Cutchogue, mccallwines.com, 631-734-5764.

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Correction: October 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the game birds from Feisty Acres Farms. They are in fact processed by the Browders of Browder’s Birds; they are not taken out of state for processing.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/dining/livestock-returns-to-north-fork-farms-long-island.html?partner=rss&emc=rss