Archives July 2014

P&G’s “Bullying Tactics” Meet Their Match in Whitening Strip Battle

It’s not every day that a small company gains the advantage over a massive one, but Clio USA stands to do just that with pharmaceutical superpower Procter & Gamble.

If you’ve bought a tooth-whitening product recently, chances are it came from P&G, which controls the market for home tooth whitening devices. Products like Crest Whitestrips earn the company about $250 Million in revenue each year.

However, if you bought a generic tooth whitening product from a retailer like Target, CVS or K-Mart for about $20 less, there’s a good chance it came from Clio USA. The small New Jersey-based company only controls about 3% of the market, but that wasn’t enough to keep it from attracting the attention of P&G’s patent lawyers.

In 2012, P&G slapped Clio with a lawsuit claiming that the small company was infringing on their patents for teeth whitening strips. Unfortunately for the bigger company, the Cincinatti judge reviewing the case delayed the start of the trial to give Clio time to challenge the validity of P&G’s patents.

P&G’s struggles to control the whitening strip market didn’t start with Clio. In another lawsuit, the company settled with Johnson & Johnson to make it discontinue its Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips, but Clio is fighting back, which could have dramatic ramifications for the whole industry.

A preliminary ruling from the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board in January ruled in Clio’s favor, a decision which P&G challenged unsuccessfully. This bodes well for Clio’s case, which is bad for Clio but good for consumers. If white strip technology was available from more companies, competition will increase quality and decrease prices.

About 100 million people use teeth whitening treatments each year, and $15 billion of the $100 billion Americans spend on dental care each year goes to products and procedures for whitening teeth, the most popular cosmetic procedure in the country.

$1.4 billion a year is spent on over-the-counter products like those sold by P&G and Clio, and with tooth whitening expanding every year, controlling that growing chunk of market is becoming even more important.

The trial, set to begin in August, will definitely be one to watch. Not only does it stand to expand the cosmetic dentistry market, it also stands to make the Patent Board re-evaluate its practices.

Clio CEO Peter Cho believes his company has a good chance of success against what he calls P&G’s “bullying tactics” and plans to fight the lawsuit to the end.

Anti-Gambling Advertising in Singapore Fails to Send a Message After Germany’s World Cup Win

Singapore’s recent anti-gambling ad campaign didn’t produce its desired effect after Germany won this year’s FIFA World Cup.

According to a July 15 Irrawaddy article, the government-created public service announcement which debuted last month depicts two young boys sitting next to each other, wearing soccer uniforms.

One of the boys is shown telling the other that he hopes Germany wins, because his father had used all of his son’s savings to bet on the team’s victory in the World Cup. Beneath the photo, the message “Often, the people who suffer from problem gambling aren’t the gamblers.” is depicted.

While the ad was obviously meant to show the negative impacts gambling can have on the gamblers’ families, it gradually became an international punchline as Germany continually defeated its opponents in the tournament, reports Irrawaddy.

“Cheer up, kid, your dad bet on Germany,” Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show after Germany won over host country Brazil by 7-1. “He’s so rich you don’t even need to go to college anymore.”

Singapore’s government eventually responded not by pulling the ads, but by creating new ones featuring the same two children as a way to hit back at the country’s prominent gambling culture, which frequently uses total or over/under betting for sports events that determines whether a gambler will win based on his or her guess of the combined point total in a game.

“Your dad’s team won. Did you get your savings back?” the boy’s friend asks him.

“No, Dad never stops … he wants to bet one more time,” the boy replies.

The Bigger Problem Behind the Comcast Customer Service Rep Conversation

A sound recording of a customer’s conversation with a Comcast representative took the internet by storm last week, when AOL vice president Ryan Block uploaded the recording he began after attempting to cancel his Comcast account. The recording, which began around 10 minutes into the conversation and after Block’s wife had thoroughly given up talking to the Comcast rep, continues on for nearly 10 more excruciating minutes. The unnamed representative involved in the conversation wasn’t just annoying, rude and desperate — he was using tactics which are intended to bully customers into staying with the company. These tricks are nothing new, and it doesn’t seem to matter which industry you’re dealing with. Customers wishing to cancel services for everything from cable companies to gym memberships are often confronted with these representatives and end up not cancelling the service simply out of frustration and stress. But that doesn’t matter to the employee on the other end of the line — he doesn’t want to convince you that the company is friendly and welcoming; he just wants to make sure that you don’t leave.

But why is this so prevalent? It clearly does nothing for the company’s reputation — especially when customers like Block record these conversations and allow the entire internet to listen in. A look at Comcast’s wages and employment listings might shed some light on the issue.

Named the “Worst Company in America” in a Consumerist poll in 2010, Comcast doesn’t seem to treat employees with much dignity, either. The representatives are paid a low hourly wage which is supplemented by commissions, meaning that the reps only want to convince customers to stay so that they can get a normal and reasonable income. Technically, these employees aren’t even considered to be part of “sales,” but nevertheless, companies like Comcast pressure their employees into acting like salespeople rather than customer service representatives – which is what they are supposed to be. 

Their voracious attitudes are more of a survival technique than anything else. The practice of “customer bullying” is common in the telephone and internet industries, but a lack of viable competitors allows Comcast to put customer and employee satisfaction on the back burner. Studies have shown that between 35 percent and 45 percent of sales reps fail to meet their quotas, and that the turnover rate for sales reps is a whopping 26 percent. It’s easy to imagine that these numbers are even worse for Comcast employees, since the company clearly values quantity over quality. Regardless of whether Comcast customers are talking to sales reps or customer service reps, there seems to be an overarching idea that they should be bullied into choosing Comcast’s service – and this idea isn’t the fault of the representatives themselves; it’s the fault of the company executives. 

So what can be done about this? Unfortunately, as the customer, not much. But as more people like Block begin calling out companies on their shortcomings, it’s very possible that companies will eventually cave in and start treating their customers and employees with respect.

NJ Radio Station Uses New Content Platform To Revamp Website


A New Jersey-based public radio station is releasing a new online program in an attempt to bring their online presence into the modern age. The station, WFMU, plans on rolling out their new program titled Audience Engine, along with a new webpage layout, to make it easier for journalists and digital web marketers to insert the company’s webpage into various types on online platforms, thus expanding their audience.

One of the important features of Audience Engine will be a fundraising widget, which will appear as part of the radio webpage and will also have embedding capacities so staff members and supporters can encourage donations on social media sites like WordPress and Tumblr. A fundraising widget like this not only promotes the radio station itself, but it also encourages community participation and allows the radio station to give back to its community as much as possible.

One representative involved in the development process also notes that the webpage will include a revamped comments section, allowing listeners to communicate with each other without being dragged into “a pit,” which seems to happen all too often on social media pages like YouTube and Facebook.

The biggest benefit of this development seems to be simply increased freedom, on behalf of the listeners, to choose which pieces of the site they want to promote, rather than being forced to copy-paste the URL and directing others on how to locate certain pages on the site. Audience Engine will essentially allow internet users to pick apart WFMU’s new website so that they can re-post whatever they feel comfortable posting. There will be more emphasis on listener interaction and involvement with the station, as well as the ability to create various types of new content.

As the internet evolves, certain functions become obsolete while other functions become almost essential for a page’s functioning. Even though different industries often require different methods of marketing and advertising, it’s clear that certain functions, like widespread user participation, are becoming more important for any company attempting to maintain a strong online presence. A company’s website is becoming part of the product created, and companies like WFMU are realizing that it cannot be ignored.

Police Now Need Warrants to Search Cellphones

In a recent decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that cell phone data of an individual who’s been arrested may not be be searched by police without a warrant, addressing concerns about Fourth Amendment rights.

“This is a bold opinion,” said George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

The country definitely seems to have entered a new digital age. In fact, 90% of Americans own a cell phone; 25% of whom are making online searches with these mobile devices. That’s not to mention the fact that 29% of cellphone owners can’t imagine living without their devices.

However, perhaps the biggest indicator of a digital age is that this ruling has broader implications. According to the Adam Liptak of the New York Times, it almost certainly applies to other mobile devices, which means that police will also need warrants to search tablets and laptops. 

According to the ruling, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”

Though this ruling is definitely a win for privacy rights in the digital age, it will also make law enforcement more challenging, which Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged. 

“Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” wrote Roberts in the ruling. “Privacy comes at a cost.”

However, the ruling may not make it that much more difficult, considering the fact that similar technologies can make it easier than ever for police to get their warrants. The Chief Justice noted that using email and tablets, officers can sometimes obtain their warrants in just 15 minutes time.

Donald Trump Fights California Officials Over His American Flag

How much drama does a golf course create? A lot, apparently, even when it has nothing to do with golf. Donald Trump, who is no stranger to creating waves with the American media, is now bring his ferocious attitude onto his California golf course and fighting for his right to display an American flag.

The flag in question flies on a 70-foot pole at the Southland Trump National Golf Course, and according to state officials, Trump has not filed the proper paperwork to receive a permit allowing him to keep the flag up. Additionally, Trump has been accused of not paying a $10,000 fee to fly the flag on such a tall flagpole. Trump’s attorney is arguing that the investment mogul has, in fact, paid the fee, and that the flag has been flying on the pole for many years without complaint.

A proposed plan is that the golf course would lower the flagpole to 26 feet, but it appears that residents around the course would actually be upset by this move — if they care about the tall flagpole at all. As resident Scott Winters has noted to CBS Los Angeles, “There’s a lot of other local issues that are far more important than the height of a flag.” Trump, on the other hand, sees the issue as one of the utmost importance, and he has personally patriotically stated that he “will fight for the American flag.”

Local Councilman Jim Knight claims that the flagpole situation isn’t about being able to display the flag, but about not following city regulations. The proposed lowering of the flag does not technically violate the U.S. Flag Code, which is a federal law stating that no disrespect is to be shown toward the American flag; even if the proposed lowering did violate the Code, there are actually no penalties for violation.

It is likely that Trump and his supporters do not want state officials to succeed because the case could serve as an example that regulations and monetary fees seem to be more important than patriotism and the American right to freedom of expression.

At One Indiana National Guard Base, Communications Devices are Truly State-of-the-Art

Communications are always changing in the United States: just a few years ago in 2000, the U.S. reached a peak in the number of phone lines at 186 million. Today, however, there are approximately 100 million fewer copper landlines, with more consumers using cellular phones and fiberoptic cable services.

The communications for the military are not impervious to change, either. At one military base in Terre Haute, Indiana, the communication devices utilized by soldiers are evolving, too.

Senior Airman Joseph Bowlin showed off the Indiana National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing and some of its radio and communication equipment. 

In military uses, Bowlin said, communication equipment helps the U.S. target enemy sites.

One example of this is the a device the size of a laptop computer, which can show live video from either a manned or unmanned aircraft.

Some of these items were on display at an invitation-only domestic operation expo last week, which was hosted by the Indiana National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing and Indiana State University. The event was held at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

Bowlin explained, “We also have radios, with the ability to communicate if power goes down and there are no cellphones or no phone lines.”

Such radios can be either satellite radios or even HF tactical radios, which allow for long-range communication.

The unit also has access to thermal-imaging devices, which can help emergency response teams find people under rubble or in remote locations. Some of these devices can take these images from unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone aircraft, about 12 feet long with 14-feet wingspans.

Such aircraft can fly for six hours for 70 to 75 miles with a speed of up to 127 miles per hour. They are designed to be “purely reconnaissance,” says Spc. Tyson Pelo, who is training to fly one.

The devices are controlled by two people: the aircraft operator and the camera operator, the former of which can make the plane go as high as 15,000 feet into the air.

The drone’s purpose is to show an overview of damage from wildfires and other natural disasters.

The wing at Terre Haute employees personnel from 62 of 92 Indiana counties and 18 states and has a payroll of over $50 million per year. In addition to its employment roster, its use of technology adds much revenue to the nation’s economy, according to some Indiana National Guard members.

As Eyewear Becomes More Fashion Focused, Sunglass Sales are Picking Up

Sunglasses: are they the next lipstick? Historically, economists have observed that in times of economic strife — such as the recent U.S. Recession — sales of makeup go up rather than down, as consumers search for relatively inexpensive ways to boost their morale and update their look.

Over the past few years, a new, related trend has emerged to accompany this: the rising sale of sunglasses. While women’s apparel experienced a 4% overall sale increase from 2012 to 2013, sunglasses revenue rose 9%, more than double the pace. About a billion pairs of sunglasses are now sold each year.

There are, according to industry experts, a few reasons this trend is taking off. One reason is that eyewear has become more fashion-focused. Instead of just buying a pair of shades at the drugstore, people are searching for upscale designs that complement their overall look. Retailers like Warby Parker and the rise of the Google Glass have helped to keep glasses fashion on consumers’ minds.

And again, the Recession plays a part in this. Many consumers want high-end brands, but can’t afford a $3,000 handbag. Sunglasses represent a happy medium where they can access the brands they love, without paying the higher retail price. Gucci handbags, for example, typically cost more than $1,000, while their sunglasses frequently sell for $300. For the price-savvy consumer, it’s comparatively a bargain.

“We know that [the] average American owns lots of shoes and handbags,” says Kristen McCabe, VP of the Sunglass Hut North America. “They’re starting to think about eyewear in the same way, which is really important.”

Rumors of Radio’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

People have been talking about the death of radio for years. AM lost its social clout when FM began to dominate the airwaves. In 1979, one-hit-wonder Buggles claimed that video killed the radio star. Then cars began to have cassette players. Then CD players. Now, they have USB ports, Auxiliary outlets, and Bluetooth capabilities, all of which allow MP3s — the figurative villain in the analog v. digital debate — to be streamed through the car’s audio system.

Yet, it seems that rumors of radio’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, 92% of Americans age 12 and older listened to the radio at least once per week in 2012, which is down by only two percentage points from 2001. This means that for over a decade, people have continued to listen to the radio despite having other listening options available. 

In America’s major cities, radio also continues to ride shotgun on people’s daily commutes, or at least for a portion of it. Of New York’s 34.7 minute daily commute, more than three minutes is spent listening to the radio. Of Chicago’s 31.1 minute daily commute, three and a half minutes is spent listening to the news on the radio. Of Boston’s 28.9 minute commute, more than three minutes is spent listening to news and talk radio.

What’s more, it’s been found that 80% of people spend between one to three hours listening, and 40% of people are listening for one to two hour sessions at a time

Although people proclaim the death of radio so often that the very phrase “radio is dead” has become cliche, it simply isn’t. Despite new technologies and changing listening patterns, radio has continued — and will likely continue in the future — to be a part of our everyday lives.

Free Wedding Gowns for Military Brides; Brides Across America Is At It Again

For military brides, and fiancés of deployed military men, a fairy tale wedding is usually only a dream. Being stationed across the world for months or years at a time can hinder any grand wedding plans that a bride has imagined her entire life. 

But not all her fantasies will necessarily go by the wayside. In fact, she can get the perfect wedding gown, thanks to Brides Across the America, a six-year-old organization that supports military brides. 

In Oakville, Connecticut, the organization will team up with The Wedding Embassy to roll out their annual drive on July 12 and 13, to offer these brides a free wedding dress.

Brides Across America founder, Heidi Janson, stated that the event helps remember the sacrifices fiancés make when their husbands-to-be get deployed, as well as when engaged military women are sent overseas for duty. 

“A wedding is something everyone loves and to give a wedding gown to support our troops makes perfect sense! This is our gift to them, to say thank you for their service and sacrifice,” Janson says. 

The Wedding Embassy is also just one of over 60 bridal salons working with Brides Across America to fit military brides with the perfect gown for their big day. In Ankeny, Iowa, the Bridal Connection will host its annual red carpet event for military brides on July 3. The company expects that 20 designer gowns will reach the hands of these brides during the soiree.

Brides Across America was founded in 2008 by Janson, who wanted to do something to help men and women that serve in the armed forces. The first year of Janson’s efforts saw at least 50 gowns distributed to military brides, but the campaign has ballooned in recent years, with 2013 garnering 12,000 dresses. 

The organization was also featured in People Magazine last year, and in 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden, recognized the company during an event to celebrate organizations that help military families. 

These bridal giveaways could be the key to helping fiancés of deployed soldiers, and military women, save money on the expenses a wedding incurs. Studies show that couples spend an average of $28,000 on weddings in the U.S

In order to qualify, brides must either be currently deployed, have a future deployment scheduled, a fiancé serving the military, or have been deployed to Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, or Korea in the last five years. Brides will also need to prove their eligibility with deployment papers and proper identification.