TIME Retail

Why Your Boss Will Turn a Blind Eye on Cyber Monday as You Shop Online

Most companies have given up trying to keep people from shopping at work

Braving the local mall this weekend may appeal to fewer shoppers this year than last, but online stores expect a cheery Cyber Monday. With total holiday sales forecast at $617 billion, up about 4% over last year, online shopping will jump 16%, according to the National Federation of Retailers—and more of those online shoppers will be sitting at their desks, especially if they work at tech companies.

The number of companies allowing “unrestricted access” to non-work sites has leapt 17 percentage points in just the past two years, says a new survey from staffing firm Robert Half Technology, and fewer employers bother monitoring for “excessive” web surfing. Altogether, about two-thirds (69%) have given up trying to keep people from shopping at work.

That’s not to say that the IT department is always thrilled with it. “There’s still a higher risk of corrupting the network when you have large numbers of employees visiting a lot of outside sites,” notes John Reed, RHT’s senior executive director. “But, even so, there’s more upside to allowing it than to trying to lock it down.”

One reason is that people bent on, say, the latest Disney “Frozen” doll or an Xbox One are nothing if not determined. “So it’s either a three-hour lunch for a trip to the mall, or 10 minutes online at their work stations,” observes Reed. The rise of BYOD (bring your own device) policies in most workplaces plays a part, too. “From a productivity standpoint, you gain nothing by blocking retail sites,” Reed says. “People will just use their own iPads.”

A subtler reason for turning a blind eye to online shopping is that “employees want control over their own time,” Reed notes. “So employers are trying harder to be flexible. They’re looking for any edge that will keep talent, especially tech talent, from taking a phone call from a recruiter.”

Besides, it’s tough to tell people they can’t shop online during work hours when they see their bosses doing it. More than half (53%) of senior managers—defined as “C-suite executives, vice presidents, directors, managers, and supervisors” —admit they’ll use company time to go cyber-shopping, says CareerBuilder’s 2014 Cyber Monday survey, versus 46% of professional and entry-level staffers who say the same.

If gift-buying online at the office looks like a major distraction, consider the following: It could help people focus on their work by serving as a seasonal stress reliever. A 2013 poll by the National Federation of Retailers found that 46% of women, and 78% of men, ranked in-person shopping—and battling the holiday crowds—as “more stressful than a trip to the DMV.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Retail

How Black Friday Invaded the U.K.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.K. Asda Supermarket Entices Shoppers With Black Friday Deals
Customers push loaded shopping carts through crowded aisles as they look for bargains during a Black Friday discount sale inside an Asda supermarket in Wembley, London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Black Friday, long an American tradition, is becoming a British one, too

Four years ago, Black Friday was considered a distinctly American tradition, as exotic to non-Americans as the running of the bulls to non-Spaniards. “It was never even on our radar,” says Elizabetta Camilleri, CEO of SalesGossip, a web service that tracks discounts at 1,400 fashion labels across Europe.

Three years ago, Camilleri’s team first spotted a handful of Black Friday sales cropping up in London. This year, they’re witnessing a veritable American invasion.

“We’re seeing promotions from 250 branded retailers,” says Camilleri. “It literally doubled over last year.” And the deals keep coming. “We’re getting all of these retailers phoning us, saying, ‘We’ve just realized we’re doing a big promotion next week. Can we get on your home page?'”

So nearly 400 years after the Mayflower made it to Plymouth, Black Friday has taken the return trip and officially landed in the Old World. Some 65% of U.K. retailers plan to hold Black Friday sales this year, according to a survey by Barclays. Giants such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have jumped in with aggressive, half-off discounts, while high-end boutiques, such as the clothing store Duchamp London, have shaved off 25% for the holiday.

Black Friday’s British invasion might seem odd, given that the sales revolve around an American holiday. Indeed, American retailers have considered the day so essential to their business that in the midst of the Great Depression, they lobbied to give Thanksgiving Day a little nudge on the calendar to prolong the shopping season. So how did Black Friday make the leap across the pond?

Amazon takes credit for introducing the tradition to the U.K. in 2010, though inklings of Black Friday sales could be found along one of London’s main shopping thoroughfares — Oxford Circus — as far back as seven years ago. Dan Taylor, retail manager for Duchamp London, recalls seeing Oxford Street closed to traffic and pedestrians pouring in for an embryonic version of a Black Friday sale. “It was packaged as something quite different,” Taylor says, “as ‘Christmas Comes Early.'”

Black Friday has further seeped into the U.K.’s public consciousness through a blend of media events from across the pond, global trade and plain old competition. “Everyone knows that it happens,” says Taylor. “Everyone then expects it to happen.”

This year, the shopping day got a boost from unseasonably warm fall weather. Sales of autumn apparel slackened over previous years. With fall boots and jackets taking up valuable shelf space and winter merchandise rapidly approaching, retailers had to find a way to move product fast.

“Black Friday became this holy grail of, ‘It’s going to solve all of our problems,” says Camilleri, who warns that the sales could undercut profits in the U.K. After all, Britain has already conditioned shoppers for its own version of Black Friday: Boxing Day, which falls on December 26. If retailers bookend the shopping season with steep discounts, some say, shoppers may steer clear of stores in the intervening period.

Still, there are signs that Black Friday’s spread may end at Britain’s shoreline. Retailers in continental Europe have — so far — proven immune to its charms.

“We’ve seen no sign of it happening in France or Spain,” says Camilleri. A strict regulatory environment prevents retailers in some EU nations from dropping prices outside of designated windows. But Camilleri notes a deeper instinct to resist. When she asked a German retailer if they might consider a Black Friday sale, the retailer simply replied, “We are not Americans.”

TIME Retail

7 Black Friday Haggling Secrets You Need to Know

Early Black Friday Shopping At A Target Store
Customers pick up shopping carts containing Element Electronics 50-inch light-emitting diode (LED) high definition televisions at a Target Corp. store opening ahead of Black Friday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Because paying full price is for suckers

If you’re chasing down a hot deal this week, your best bet is knowing the right way to haggle. Consumer Reports says almost nine out of 10 people who haggle over prices are at least somewhat successful.

The magazine surveyed 2,000 savvy shoppers to find out what tricks work best when you’re trying to score a steal. Here’s what they found out, along with some other insider secrets.

Comparison-shop. More than half of successful hagglers say they either tell a salesperson they’re going to check out the competition’s prices or just go ahead and scout different stores for better prices, and 42% arm themselves with circulars or coupons from competitors. With predictions about how well retailers will fare this holiday season all over the map, it’s obvious that stores will be paying very close attention to prices, and the customers who force merchants to compete on price will be the winners.

Be nice. More than four in 10 survey respondents found that friendliness is the ticket to a bargain-basement price, with 43% saying they chat up the salesperson and try to form a connection before hitting them up for a discount.

Find out what others paid. Using social media to your advantage can pay off. Almost 40% of hagglers say they scope out user reviews to find out what other people have paid for the items on their wish lists.

Don’t be bashful. Haggling isn’t just for car dealerships and furniture stores; here’s a list of situations when you should go into a transaction with the mindset that the list price is just a starting point.

Talk a good game. Consumer Reports says another way successful hagglers chip away at prices is by telling a story that turns the negotiation into a dialogue: Give them a sob story, show them how much you understand about what you’re buying, argue that a blemish lowers the item’s value or ask an open-ended question like, “How can you help me out?” That puts the ball in the salesperson’s court.

Know when to shut up. Talk about silence literally being golden: Negotiating expert Steven Cohen tells Consumer Reports a well-placed pause in the conversation can throw a salesperson off their game just a little bit and make them work harder to win your business.

Check out these tips. Negotiating experts tell TIME which tricks they keep up their sleeves when they want a better deal.

TIME Earnings

Uber Reportedly Valued at $40 Billion by Investors

Uber
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Uber’s PR troubles are not scaring off investors

On-demand ride service Uber is raising new funding at a valuation of between $35 billion and $40 billion, according to a new report from Bloomberg. This would be one of the richest “venture capital” rounds in history (Facebook still holds the crown), and likely mean that investors expect Uber to eventually go public at a valuation of at least $100 billion.

T. Rowe Price reportedly is in talks to come aboard as a new investor, while existing shareholder Fidelity Investments also would participate.

There have been market rumors that the round would be structured as convertible debt rather than preferred equity, although those rumors also were married to a $25 billion valuation. If the price has changed, so might have the security type.

It also is unclear if the round — which Bloomberg reports is designed to raise at least $1 billion — would include any so-called secondary sales by Uber employees or early investors. Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick is on record as saying that, to date, he has never sold any of his stock in the company.

Uber last raised money earlier this year, when it secured around $1.2 billion at a $17 billion pre-money valuation. Since then, it has experienced massive growth and more than its fair share of controversy. Just last week, a company executive floated the idea of creating an opposition research arm to dig up dirt on critical reporters, while another Uber executive was accused of improperly accessing and displaying a specific user’s data.

In addition to Fidelity, existing Uber shareholders include Benchmark, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Menlo Ventures, Google Ventures, TPG Capital, Summit Partners, Wellington Management, BlackRock and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Smartphones

These Are the Best Smartphone Deals This Black Friday

Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus Launch in Japan
A member of the press compares the new iPhone models at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus at the Apple Omotesando store on September 19, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Chris McGrath—Getty Images

And this Cyber Monday

Couldn’t snag a new phone earlier this fall? This weekend might be the best time — if you’re willing to brave the lines and the early wake-up times, or manage to get a good deal online. Here are a few big smartphone deals to watch out for:

Apple iPhone 6 16GB
Original price: $199 with two-year contract

Starting Friday, Walmart and Sam’s Club will offer a 16GB iPhone 6 for $179 with a two-year contract in addition a bonus $75 gift card. At Target, the 16GB iPhone 6 with a two-year contract will be sold at $180 with a $30 gift card. At Best Buy, the same iPhone 6 with a two-year contract is sold at $199 with a $100 gift card if you trade in your old iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S5
Original price: $199 with a two-year contract

At Best Buy, the Galaxy S5 with a two-year contract will be sold for $1.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Original price: $299 with two-year contract

Verizon is offering a $199 Galaxy Note 4s with a two-year contract on Friday.

Unlocked Second Generation Motorola Moto X
Original price: $499

Motorola is selling the unlocked second generation Moto X 16GB at $359 on Monday. For Verizon customers, a new Moto X is only $0.01 with a two-year contract.

Unlocked Amazon Fire Phone
Original price: $649

The unlocked Amazon Fire phone without a contract will be $199 on Amazon, and it also comes with a full year of Amazon Prime, valued at $99 — meaning the phone works out to $100, all told. It’s unclear if this is just a Black Friday deal or a permanent price change to spark the lagging Fire Phone’s sales.

TIME Money

Your Credit Score Reveals Way More Than You Realize

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Credit Balance Report teekid—Getty Images

Bad scores can be a sign of poor health

Never mind the blood pressure test: A new study finds that you can tell how healthy someone’s heart is just by looking at their credit score.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds a correlation between high credit, cognitive ability and self-control. Researchers studied health and financial data from more than 1,000 people who had been monitored since birth for nearly 40 years. They discovered that your credit does a lot more than tell a bank whether or not it should give you a loan.

Employers, insurers and even landlords regularly pull the applicants’ credit already, treating it as a proxy for a vague sort of approximation of your diligence, honesty and character. Consumer groups have raised questions about the use of credit as a way to assess things like people’s ethics, arguing that the two aren’t necessarily related.

“Credit reports were not designed as an employment screening tool,” says nonprofit group Demos. “Employment credit checks are an illegitimate barrier to employment, often for the very job applicants who need work the most.” In a survey of job-seekers, Demos found that one in seven people with blemished credit said that they’d been denied a job as a result.

But scientists insist the link is real and they have the proof to back it up. “What it comes down to is that people who don’t take care of their money don’t take care of their health,” study leader Terrie Moffitt says in a statement.

At least some of the factors that influence both health and credit have deep psychological roots. Moffitt’s team found about 20% of the correlation between credit scores and cardiovascular health can be attributed to attitudes and behaviors that are either innate or ingrained very early — the attributes in question were all observed before the participants were 10 years old.

On one hand, it makes sense that someone who exercises poor impulse control when it comes to their diet or fitness regimen might be similarly lackadaisical about their finances, but this doesn’t mean that hard-wired personality traits doom you to poor health and poor credit. Social scientists say they hope the knowledge can lay the groundwork for people to make positive changes in their lives.

“It provides hope that early life intervention can impede the development of life-long patterns of illness and financial struggle,” says Lamar Pierce, an associate professor of organization and strategy at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study.

TIME Media

Spotify Still Doesn’t Make Any Money

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

Music streaming service lost $80 million in 2013

Music streaming service Spotify likes to crow about how it hands 70% of the revenue it generates right back to artists in the form of royalty payments. Such a massive expense has led the company to be wildly unprofitable in recent years — but Spotify may be slowly crawling its way out of the red.

A new regulatory filing released in Luxembourg shows Spotify had revenues of 747 million euros (around $1 billion) in 2013, up 74% from 2012, according to The New York Times. The startup posted a loss of $80 million, but that was smaller than its $115 million loss in 2012.

Spotify has long claimed that as it gains more users, it will be able to both pay artists more handsomely and begin earning some profits itself. The company’s financial trends indicate that the plan may actually work, assuming they can keep adding new users at a steady clip.

But Spotify’s biggest threat is growing dissatisfaction in the music industry with the service’s free tier, which allows users to listen to Spotify’s entire song library while hearing a few ads in between tunes. It was this free offering that compelled Taylor Swift to remove her catalogue from the streaming service, while a Sony Music executive recently expressed concern that the free version of Spotify might deter people from signing up for paid subscriptions. The new financial figures show why Swift and others are wary of the ad-supported model: Spotify made just $90 million in revenue from its ad business in 2013, less than 10% of its overall revenue. That’s despite the fact that free users outnumber paid users on Spotify by about four to one.

Spotify maintains that many free users are eventually converted into paying customers, so the free offering serves as a valuable gateway. But it’s likely that industry players are going to become increasingly fixated on the growth in paid subscribers instead. That’s where the money is.

TIME Retail

San Francisco Passes First-Ever Retail Worker ‘Bill of Rights’

Ahead of the hectic Thanksgiving and Black Friday shifts

Just in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, the measure will make the worker-friendly city even friendlier.

Hours before retail employees punch in for their stores’ hectic Thanksgiving and Black Friday shifts, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved new protections for the city’s retail workers.

The supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon in favor of measures aimed at giving retail staffers more predictable schedules and access to extra hours. The ordinances will require businesses to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks in advance. Workers will receive compensation for last-minute schedule changes, “on-call” hours, and instances in which they’re sent home before completing their assigned shifts.

Businesses must also offer existing part-time workers additional hours before hiring new employees, and they are required to give part-timers and full-timers equal access to scheduling and time-off requests. The legislation will apply to retail chains with 20 or more locations nationally or worldwide and that have at least 20 employees in San Francisco under one management system. David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, told Fortune on Tuesday that the proposal will affect approximately 5% of the city’s workforce.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has opposed the bill, arguing that it is too onerous for business owners. In particular, the Chamber has taken issue with the limits the new requirements will impose on employers’ staffing decisions.

Now that it has board approval, the proposal just needs the signature of Mayor Ed Lee, a Democrat, to become law. Even if the mayor rejects the legislation, which is unlikely, the measure has enough support among the city’s supervisors to override a veto.

While the action San Francisco is set to take on workers’ behalf is the first of its kind, one aspect of the legislation has precedent. Last year, voters in SeaTac, Wash. approved a measure that requires companies to offer more hours to part-time workers before they hire new employees. They voted for it as part of a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, one of the nation’s highest rates.

If San Francisco’s retail worker bill becomes law, it will make a city already known as worker-friendly even more so. Earlier this month, 59% of voters cast ballots in favor of increasing San Francisco’s current minimum wage of $10.74 to $15 by 2017.

San Francisco’s proposal takes sharp aim at employers’ tendency to schedule workers’ hours with little notice—a practice especially prevalent in retail. Earlier this year, University of Chicago professors found that employers determined the work schedules of about half of young adults without employee input, which resulted in part-time schedules that fluctuated between 17 and 28 hours per week. Forty-seven percent of employees ages 26 to 32 who work part time receive one week or less in advance notice of the hours they’re expected to work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Congress attempted to tackle this issue at the federal level in July when they proposed legislation that would give retail workers more predictable hours. “Workers need scheduling predictability so they can arrange for child care, pick up kids from school, or take an elderly parent to the doctor,” co-sponsor Representative George Miller, a Democrat from California, said at the time. But the “Schedules that Work” bill has gone nowhere since it was introduced.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Your Thank You Note Could Lose You the Job

thank you note
Getty Images

You might think that going through the motions and sending a generic thank you note is better than sending nothing, but you’d be wrong

The Muse logo

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Let’s be honest: When it comes to applying for jobs, the “it can’t hurt” benchmark is often the deciding factor over whether or not to do something. Sending a cover letter? It can’t hurt. Finding your interviewer on LinkedIn? It can’t hurt. Sending a thank you note? It can’t hurt.

Or can it?

Actually, yes, it absolutely can. Here are just a few scenarios in which sending a thank you note might hurt your chances of landing the job.

1. It’s Full of Typos

If you’re really serious about a job, you probably had your resume and cover letter reviewed by a couple other people before you hit submit. But, even the most careful job seeker can make mistakes during the high that comes after a successful interview. Don’t blow your carefully crafted image, and double check to make sure that your thank you note is typo-free. (Here are a few tips for editing your own work.)

2. It’s a Week Late

Another good impression killer is sending your note in late. Thank you notes are the most effective when you send them ASAP or at least within 48 hours of your interview. If you want to leave the impression that you’re only mildly interested in the position, then go ahead and take your time. If not, then send it immediately. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

3. It’s Generic

You might think that going through the motions and sending a generic thank you note is better than sending nothing, but you’d be wrong. Hiring managers get excited when they find exceptional candidates who are really excited about the job. And sending a boring thank you note that could have been addressed to anyone? That’s an easy way to shatter your image.

Oh, and don’t think you can just write one spectacular thank you note and send it to all the different people you interacted with during the interview. Many companies request that thank you notes get forwarded to HR so they can be attached to a candidate’s file. Having the same five notes on file probably won’t help you land the job, so take the time to actually personalize some aspects of your message. It’s worth it.

(For a truly exceptional thank you note, check out communication expert Alexandra Franzen’s method.)

4. It’s Just a Way to Talk About Yourself More

Did you forget to mention that one time you did something that was extremely relevant to the job you’re interviewing for now? Think the thank you note is the right place to share this relevant experience? It might be okay to mention it briefly, but it’s definitely a mistake for you to transform your thank you note into a take two of your interview. Thank you notes shouldn’t be long, so you don’t really have a lot of space to, you know, thank your interviewer—let alone share another story. If you must do it, make it brief.

5. It’s Inappropriate

You don’t have the job yet, so don’t get too chummy in your note. No matter how sure you are that you nailed the interview, your best bet is to remain professional throughout the process. (That means no nicknames, no sarcasm, and definitely no cursing.)

I’ve gone on and on about the various ways sending a thank you note can hurt your chances of getting the job offer, but naturally the biggest thank you note blunder would be to not send one. So, please send a thank you note after your interview—just make it great.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How a Little Gratitude Can Help You Get Ahead at Work

donut and coffee
Getty Images

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a donut or a cup of coffee

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Thanksgiving is just days away—and in between thoughts of casserole recipes and how to navigate your annual family dinner, you’re probably also thinking about all you have to be grateful for.

According to Alison Green from Ask a Manager, this is the perfect time to let your co-workers know how much you appreciate them—and why. “Showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger relationships and help you get better results in your work,” Green writes.

Just think: When a co-worker has shown appreciation for something you’ve done to help him or her, you’ve probably been more likely to help that person again in the future. And when he or she hasn’t shown that gratitude, you probably haven’t gone out of your way to lend a hand again.

Plus, showing thankfulness helps improve the quality of the relationship as a whole. “People tend to feel warmly and positively toward people who appreciate them,” Green says, which can have a positive effect on future networking, references, and your interactions at work in general.

Feeling thankful for your cube mate or project partner? Try these four ideas to show your appreciation.

1. Give a Straightforward (and Specific) Compliment

A standard thank you may not be extraordinarily creative, but it works—and that’s the important thing.

You want to make sure your co-worker knows you appreciate her? Walk up to her desk or office and give her a genuine, straightforward thank you. To make the most impact, mention what you’re specifically grateful for (“Christine, thank you so much for jumping in and helping me with my presentation yesterday. I know it was a late night; I really appreciate you taking the extra time to make sure it was perfect. I couldn’t have done it without you!”).

Face-to-face, specific, and full of appreciation—it’s a thank you that anyone would want to hear.

2. Speak Up in a Team Meeting

An individual, face-to-face thank you is personal and effective, but there’s also room for more public appreciation—and a team meeting is the perfect place to recognize someone who’s helped you out recently.

It doesn’t have to be big and flashy. Try working it in naturally, like as part of a project update that you were going to give anyway: “The project is right on track, thanks to Joe, who reviewed it and helped me adjust the intro and conclusion—and I think it really hits the nail on the head now.”

The public (but not over-the-top) recognition will make your colleague feel extra special—and it’ll help boost his or her value within the team.

3. Bring in a Treat

I know. It seems a little silly—and perhaps a tad reminiscent of your elementary school birthdays when you brought in cupcakes for the class.

But then again, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a donut or a cup of coffee that’s not from the lukewarm pot that’s been sitting idly on the break room counter for the past two hours. Simple as it may seem, a treat with a quick “Just wanted to say thanks for your help with the Smith account. I couldn’t have done it without you!” goes a long way to make a co-worker feel appreciated.

If that still seems a little awkward, swing for enough for the entire team, then throw in a personal note: “Hey everyone, I brought in some doughnuts to say thanks for your hard work this past week—especially Sarah, who really came through in the 11th hour for me on a big client account.”

4. Email the Boss

Part of your job as an employee is to make sure your boss knows how awesome you are—but it’s even better if your co-workers do that for you.

One of the most meaningful thank yous I’ve ever received came when a co-worker emailed my boss (and copied me), explaining how I’d been a huge help to him with a client situation over the past couple days and that he wanted to extend his gratitude. He forwarded it to his supervisor, and all of a sudden, my good dead was known throughout the department without me having to say a word.

So if you want to thank a co-worker, consider sending an email to his or her boss. The compliment on its own will make your colleague feel appreciated—but knowing that the boss also knows what he or she has done makes the gratitude even more meaningful.

A thank you to your colleagues doesn’t have to be a big show—but displaying your appreciation will help your relationships, your quality of life at the office, and your ability to continue receiving your co-workers’ help in the future.

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