South Korea Puts Brakes on Über With Indictment; Walmart Raises Spirits and Paychecks; Jolly Jobless Claims Numbers

U-bummer….

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In what is yet another roadblock in the tech saga we call Über, South Korea has now entered the fray. Except this time there’s a twist because South Korea actually indicted Über CEO Travis Kalanick along with his local Korean business partner MK Korea Co. instead of just ceasing operations of the ride-sharing app, like all the other locales have been doing.  And like all the other countries, states and cities that have been putting the kibosh on the service, South Korean officials argue that Über is violating transportation law  – only this time, by allegedly using rental cars to run its business, apparently a major no-no in those parts. This latest snarl only adds to Über’s growing list of infractions, lawsuits, infringements, etc. The penalty for this latest hiccup, assuming Kalanick and his business partner are found guilty, is up to two years in prison or an $18,000 fine. Ironically, that $1.2 billion Über just got to help expand into Asia ought to help cover that fine, not to mention the legal expenses that are about to mount in China, where law enforcement officials raided an Über “training” facility. But at least back in the states things are looking up in Portland, Oregon, sort of. Even though Über operations were almost immediately halted after its launch there, the company was told to sit tight for three months while the city revamps its taxi rules, presumably to allow Über to fit right in.

And to all a good raise…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over 1.3 million Walmart employees can expect a few more dollars in their paychecks, provided they are among the retailer’s minimum-waged. The biggest private employer in the US will be giving wage increases in nearly a third of its stores, located in 21 states, effective January 1, to comply with new federal guidelines. The three lowest pay grades, including cashiers, cart pushers and maintenance workers will now be combined into one base-level and the gap between the premium paid for higher-skilled workers and the minimum wage will become that much smaller. Walmart has taken a lot of slack for the low wages it has been known to pay and not for nothing as low-paid Walmart employees already collect $2.66 billion annually in government assistance.

Jolly jobless numbers…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While the previously-owned housing market provided us with a very unwelcome and December buzz-killing decrease, the drop in the number of jobless claims filed almost makes up for that. In fact, 9,000 less people filed applications for jobless claims, bringing the total to 280,000 applicants –  making it the lowest number in seven weeks. Not only are employers not firing but they are hiring – even adding 321,000 jobs to the labor force. If that’s not merry, then I don’t know what is. By the way, a number under 300,000 is cause for celebration.  So take that, previously owned housing market! What this means for you, me and your neighbors who outdid you with their Christmas lights display is that the job market and the economy are both steadily improving. So let us all thank the Labor Department for doing its part to shame those housing numbers and giving us some good fiscal cheer.

Where in the World is Über?; Harvard Professor Gives Whole New Meaning to Chinese Take-out; See Which Company Made “The List”

Mo’ money, mo problems…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über just picked up another $1.2 billion in funding and is now valued at $40 billon. Awesome, right? Not even close. On the heels of its most recent “tracking-customers” scandal comes even more…problems. So on which part of the globe should we begin? How about Portland, Oregon? You might have downloaded the Über app there but don’t bother using it. Hours after it launched, the city put the kibosh on the ride-sharing device. In Über’s home state of California, San Francisco D.A. George Gascón and Los Angeles D.A. Jackie Lacey have filed suit against Über for, among other issues, not being totally honest about the quality of the background checks it conducts on its drivers. Which brings us to Chicago where an Über driver allegedly raped a female rider. And just because gambling and prostitution is legal in Nevada, that doesn’t mean Über is. Yes, oddly enough, it’s banned there too. On the other side of the pond, good luck finding an Über ride. Denmark and Norway have filed complaints, a Dutch court ruled it illegal, France has yet to decide, while Spain already but the brakes on Über’s operations. In Asia, Thailand also nixed the service and India’s having huge issues with it as well. But on his blog, Travis Kalanick did mention that Über operates in 250 cities on 50 countries. He must mean on a different planet.

Can I get the sauce on the side?

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re going to overcharge your clientele, you best make sure they aren’t professors from Harvard’s Business School. Just ask Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan. Except, he’s not so talkative lately. When Professor Benjamin Edelman ordered four dishes from the Boston eatery, he was over-charged a dollar more than the advertised price on the restaurant’s website.  So Professor Edelman, who, by the way,  fiercely and diligently took on the airline industry for misrepresenting fees, did the same with Mr. Duan. First, the professor suggested that Sichuan Garden refund him three times the amount of the over-charge. Mr. Duan, instead, offered to refund $3.00. After several emails were exchanged, which seemed to only fuel Professor Edelman’s irritation, he decided it was time to take the issue to the regulators, just as he had done with the airlines.  The lesson is? Well, there are several, aren’t there.

You call this work?

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your company on Glassdoor’s 2015 50 Best Places to Work list? If not, maybe it’s time to polish your resume and start spending lots of time on LinkedIn, which by the way, takes the number 23 spot. It’s no surprise, I guess that Google made the list. After all, didn’t Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make a movie just about being interns there? However, this was the first time Google took the top spot. Among the many storied perks behind the company is twelve weeks maternity leave…for the father. So where does that leave mom? With an additional six weeks’ quality time with baby. Thinking of trekking down to Antarctica? Bain and Company, which ranks second, has got an expedition with your name on it. Just make sure they have a position you can fill. Facebook ranks at lucky #13 with one employee writing about it: “Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food.” ‘Nuff said. Got IT problems? Great. Grab a beer and talk it over at Zillow’s “IT Happy Hour.” The real estate site ranks 33. Who is not in the top 50? Glad you asked. Twitter is noticeably absent from top 50 this year presumably thanks to some management “changes.”