new service sector
Wanted: Restaurant manager. Competitive salary: $100,000.
The six-figure sum is not being offered at a haute cuisine location with culinary accolades, but at fast-food chain Taco Bell. Amid an increasingly tough U.S. labor market, the company is betting a higher salary will help it attract workers and keep them on the team.
The Yum! Brands Inc.-owned chain will test the higher salary in select restaurants in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, and will also try a new role for employees who want leadership experience but don’t want to be in the management role.
Diane Reynolds had been racing for a few months when she won her first amateur cycling event, the Farm to Fork Fondo near upstate New York’s Finger Lakes in August. She left more than 500 riders in the dust, including all the men.
The win earned the 49-year-old novice a jersey decorated with polka-dot chickens, but it didn’t come cheap: She paid about $1,000 for former pro cyclist Hunter Allen to ride all 84 miles with her as a private coach.
Mr. Allen, 50, gave her real-time pointers on pacing, technical skills and race strategy. He also ran interference for her. “Early on, there were about 10 guys riding hard taking turns up front—I was one of them—and I knew we were going to break away from the peloton,” or main group of riders, he says. “I made sure Diane stayed with us, sheltered in the middle and conserved her energy as we widened the gap.”
That is from Hilary Potkewitz at the WSJ.
…we find that total employment rises substantially in industries with rising concentration. this is true even when we look at total employment of the smaller firms in these industries. This evidence is consistent with our view that increasing concentration is driven by new ICT-enabled technologies that ultimately raise aggregate industry TFP. It is not consistent with the view that concentration is due to declining competition or entry barriers…as those forces will result in a decline in industry employment.
That is from a new paper by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg. The paper presents a larger picture too:
…the secular changes the U.S. economy has experienced for the last four decades…amount to a new industrialization process. One that allows firms to expand geographically and deliver its goods and services to customers locally. We have argued that this evolution was the result of an underlying technological change that led to reductions in variable costs (and establishment-level fixed costs) in exchange for larger firm-level fixed costs.
TITUSS BURGESS doesn’t like to travel and says he knows “zero” about South Africa, which would seem to make him an unlikely host for a 10-day tour of that nation, especially one that costs nearly $27,000 a head. But on a chill March night, the actor, best known for his role as Titus Andromedon on the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” patiently posed for selfies with travel journalists at a Manhattan wine bar to kick off Heritage Tours’ new Spotlight Series of trips. The company describes the tours as “immersive small-group experiences enhanced by the presence of expert personalities and influencers.”
…While Mr. MacMillan says that the hosts for his trips were chosen for their connection to the destinations, the link can seem tenuous. Courtney Reed, who played Princess Jasmine in Disney ’s “Aladdin” on Broadway will be hosting a trip to Spain focused on wine, fashion and food. She’s never been to Spain, but is “extra thrilled” about going. “I think my role is just to provide social ambience,” she said. “I’m a very easygoing person and I can create extra flair just having fun and appreciating our surroundings. I’m like a cheerleader….We’re going to have a blast!”
…Other travel companies are hitching their wagons to stars who don’t merely gild the travel experience, but add bona fide knowledge or expertise. “There’s only so much caviar and champagne you can give passengers, so we like to enrich their experience in an intelligent way,” said Barbara Muckermann, chief marketing officer of Silversea Cruises. The cruise line, which has at least one expert lecturer on each of its ships, invited nine artists, writers and other creative types including authors Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer and Saroo Brierley to make appearances during its 133-day World Cruise 2019. Besides giving lectures, each is contributing to a commemorative anthology that Silversea line is creating for the passengers.
Imagine: For the rest of your life, you are assigned no tasks at work. You can watch movies, read books, work on creative projects or just sleep. In fact, the only thing that you have to do is clock in and out every day. Since the position is permanent, you’ll never need to worry about getting another job again.
Starting in 2026, this will be one lucky (or extremely bored) worker’s everyday reality, thanks to a government-funded conceptual art project in Gothenburg, Sweden. The employee in question will report to Korsvägen, a train station under construction in the city, and will receive a salary of about $2,320 a month in U.S. dollars, plus annual wage increases, vacation time off and a pension for retirement. While the artists behind the project won’t be taking applications until 2025, when the station will be closer to opening, a draft of the help-wanted ad is already available online, as Atlas Obscura reported on Monday.
The job’s requirements couldn’t be simpler: An employee shows up to the train station each morning and punches the time clock. That, in turn, illuminates an extra bank of fluorescent lights over the platform, letting travelers and commuters know that the otherwise functionless employee is on the job. At the end of the day, the worker returns to clock out, and the lights go off. In between, they can do whatever they want, aside from work at another paying job.
That is by Antonia Noori Farzan at WaPo. The project is called “Eternal Employment.”
For the pointer I thank Peter Sperry.
Advansun, 39, is a full-time “sleep writer” in Toronto. He writes with one goal in mind — to lull people off to la-la land.
Advansun publishes his bedtime stories for adults on the popular app Calm.com, where they are voiced by famous actors like Matthew McConaughey.
Calm.com says its roster of 120 sleep stories has been listened to more than 100 million times.
“I think we are putting a modern take to something that’s pretty timeless,” he says. “We are giving grownups permission to drift off to sleep to a story, and that’s not something a lot of people have thought about before.”
Advansun says the key is to get the attention of the listener and then “hold it gently” without ever jostling them awake. He maintains this is a tough balance to achieve … especially since Advansun is trained as a screenwriter (think plot twists, car chases and explosions).
“I certainly didn’t set out to write stories that put people to sleep,” he jokes. “I have sort of fallen into it, and I adore it. It’s not only quite rewarding, it is a great challenge as a writer.”
Ms. Golden, 43, has developed these no-fly lists in her four years as a dating app ghostwriter. For $2,000 a month, she swipes, chats and charms, impersonating her clients. Once she has earned a client a date, she tags them in and becomes a more traditional dating coach, reviewing each encounter in detailed post-mortems, helping to guide their next moves. Some clients disclose to their dates that they have used Ms. Golden’s services, and others do not.
And what does she use for input?:
Tone is essential to Ms. Golden’s — and her clients’ — success. She learns to imitate their conversational styles through the use of an eight-page intake form that includes specific questions: How do you take your coffee? Have you ever “swam with dolphins or stingrays or enormous turtles”?
By the time a potential client has answered those questions and had an hourlong introductory conversation, Ms. Golden thinks she can mimic them convincingly enough — down to whether they would type “gonna” or “going to” — to start chatting.
Don’t forget this:
She subscribes to a less-is-more mind-set, and much of the work she does is in how little she says.
In a nation where people lead ever more busy lives and increasingly view their dogs as family members, professional dog walking is flourishing. And along with it is what might be viewed as the unusual art of dog walker communication. Many of today’s walkers do not simply stroll — not if they want to be rehired, anyway. Over text and email, they craft fine-grained, delightful narratives tracing the journey from arrival at the residence to drop-off. They report the number of bathroom stops. They take artistic photos, and lots of them.
“For an hour-long walk, I send six or eight, depending,” said Griffin, 44, who holds a treat in her hand when shooting to ensure her charge is looking at the camera. “Then I give a full report that includes not only peeing and pooping but also kind of general well-being, and if the dog socialized with other dogs.”
After walking a dog named Stevie Nicks earlier this year, Griffin’s blow-by-blow mentioned that the dog had collected a chicken bone from under a bush, then “crunched down on it and broke into 3 pieces.” At the end of another walk, Griffin related that she “picked the foxtails out of her little beard and mustache,” and explained precisely where the foxtails had come from — “the fence around the yard at the corner.”
Dog walkers’ notes are often more exhaustive than those parents get from the caregivers of their human children.
The article is interesting throughout:
“Ongoing, two-way communication is actually one of the most important components to a successful walk,” White said. “What we’ve heard from owners is the more details, the better. You can’t have too many details.”…
“All of our dog walkers have been really good communicators, but Perry wins the prize,” said Tucci, a nonprofit executive. His texts “are really are more logistical and poop-oriented than anything else. But they’re always so enthusiastic.”
The DAWN Café is an upcoming trial project that will test an inclusive working environment. The café will seemingly be staffed with robots that will wait on you by bringing you your coffee and asking if you need anything. But if you think this is another example of robots coming for our jobs, you would be mistaken. Embedded within the robots are real intelligence: they’re operated remotely by people with severe disabilities who often can’t leave their bed.
Here is the story, via Dustin Palmer.
Hedge funds, especially activist hedge funds, are established users of private-investigation services. Sometimes simply paying an investigator to go through publicly available information can yield valuable leverage in an investment. The hedge-fund investor Daniel Loeb, of Third Point, exposed misrepresentations on the résumé of Scott Thompson, the C.E.O. of Yahoo, who subsequently resigned. But some private-investigation firms or consultants will do much more for a well-paying client. “There are thousands of tiny shops out there, run by former C.I.A. operatives, MI6 guys, former Mossad people, or people on the fringes, who bring the tactics that they learned in the intelligence service to the investigative and corporate world,” the head of a boutique investigation firm told me. “Smaller players who will do whatever it takes.”
Here is the Sheelah Kholkatkar piece (New Yorker), via Hugo Lindgren.
Darth Vader Is in Demand at Summer Weddings
Forget flower girls. Couples want stormtroopers throwing petals, and Vader leading the congo line.
There is, however, a shortage. Note this:
Disney forbids the garrisons from participating in certain events without approval, such as gatherings that promote a local business or professional sporting events. Weddings are allowed because they’re considered “community service.”
The 501st has had to adopt an unofficial list of rules to narrow the number of wedding requests. That includes sufficient space to get dressed in costume and having drinking water available on hot days. The plastic and rubber costumes offer no ventilation. “They’re basically death traps,” said Mr. Johnson, who recently returned from a Star Wars event in Singapore where three people dressed as stormtroopers passed out from the heat.
Via Samir Varma. Oh, wait, that is puppies, not dogs.
Ms. Shen is a “programmer motivator,” as they are known in China. Part psychologist, part cheerleader, the women are hired to chat up and calm stressed-out coders. The jobs are proliferating in a society that largely adheres to gender stereotypes and believes that male programmers are “zhai,” or nerds who have no social lives.
…He said he was open to the idea of male programmer motivators but somewhat skeptical. “A man chatting with another man, it’s like going out on a date with a guy,” Mr. Feng said. “A little awkward, isn’t it?”
Ms. Zhang, the human resources executive who was part of the panel that hired Ms. Shen, stressed that it is important for a programmer motivator to look good. She said the applicants needed to have “five facial features that must definitely be in their proper order” and speak in a gentle way.
They should also have a contagious laugh, be able to apply simple makeup and be taller than 5 feet 2 inches.
…Ms. Shen said that she does not consider her job to be sexist.
In North America the modern undertaker’s job is increasingly one of event-planning, says Sherri Tovell, an undertaker in Windsor, Canada. Among the requirements at her recent funerals have been a tiki hut, margaritas, karaoke and pizza delivery. Some people want to hire an officiant to lead a “life celebration”, others to shoot ashes into the skies with fireworks. Old-fashioned undertakers are hard put to find their place in such antics. Another trend—known as “direct cremation”—has no role for them at all.
Besides having to offer more diverse services, the trade also faces increased competition in its products. Its roots are in carpentry. “You’d buy an expensive casket and the funeral would be included in the price,” remembers Dan Isard, a funeral consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. The unwritten agreement was that the dead would be treated with dignity and that families would not ask if there was an alternative to the $1,000 or $2,000 coffin, or whether embalming was really needed. The business has something in common with prostitution, reflects Dominic Akyel of the University of Cologne. It is legal (as prostitution is in some places) but taboo, “and certainly not to be discussed or haggled over”.
The undertaker used to be able to rely on a steady stream of customers who asked few questions and of whom he (and it was usually a he) would ask few in return. Protestant or Catholic? Open coffin or closed? And, in some parts of the world, burial or cremation? A new generation of customers, though, no longer unthinkingly hands over its dead to the nearest funeral director. They are looking elsewhere, be it to a new breed of undertaker, to hotel chains that “do” funerals, or—for their coffin or urn—to Amazon or Walmart.
Here is more from The Economist, interesting throughout
Grant, a former Auburn University sorority girl, founded Rushbiddies in 2009 after helping see her own daughter through a successful recruitment week at Auburn. She now works with girls, and usually also their moms, in private consultations in person or over the phone (prices start at $100 for a 90 minute session) and through group workshops, covering everything from what to wear to what to say. She’ll also suggest who to ask for recommendations and how to get in if your GPA is under 3.0—essentially preparing girls for every scenario, question, dress code requirement, and trap that will come up.
That is by Alyssa Giacobbe.