“In today’s social media landscape, it is imperative to take a proactive approach,” explained Scott Happ, CEO of Optimal Blue. “By introducing a comprehensive monitoring module, clients can easily detect and resolve issues before they become costly. This also creates a phenomenal opportunity to train staff and loan officers regarding the compliance responsibilities related to social and digital media.”
Starbucks, moving swiftly to confront a racially charged uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia, plans to close more than 8,000 U.S. stores for several hours next month to conduct racial-bias training for nearly 175,000 workers.
The announcement Tuesday comes after the arrests sparked protests and calls for a boycott on social media. A video shows police talking with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren’t doing anything wrong. Philadelphia-area media said the two were waiting for a friend.
Philadelphia police released a recording of the call from the Starbucks employee that led to the arrests. In the recording, a woman is heard saying, “Hi, I have two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.” She gives the address of the Starbucks store, and the entire call lasts less than 30 seconds. In the communications between police and dispatch that were also released, someone refers to “a group of males inside causing a disturbance,” and additional officers are sent.
Starbucks, which was once ridiculed for urging its employees to write “Race Together” on coffee cups to start a national conversation on race relations, has found itself through the looking glass: under fire for its treatment of black people.
The company reacted from a high level: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests “reprehensible” and said he wanted to apologize to the two men face-to-face. The company and a lawyer for the two men said they did meet, and Johnson delivered the apology. Starbucks also said the employee who called police no longer works at the store, but declined to give details.
Johnson also promised to revamp store management training to include “unconscious-bias” education. Starbucks said its U.S. company-owned stores and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of May 29 for the training, which will eventually be incorporated into the instruction process for all newly hired employees.
The episode highlights the risks large corporations run when they tie their brands so closely to social messaging. In 2015, then-CEO Howard Schultz shrugged off the “Race Together” fiasco as a well-intentioned mistake and pressed on with his public efforts to engage in the debate over race in America. Johnson was scrambling to keep the Philadelphia incident from shattering the message Schultz was going for: Starbucks is a corporation that stands for something beyond profit.
“The more your brand is trying to connect emotionally to people, the more hurt people feel when these kinds of things happen,” said Jacinta Gauda, the head of the Gauda Group, a New York strategic communications firm affiliated with the Grayling network. “They are breaking a promise. That’s what makes it hurt deeper.”
Beyond racial relations, Starbucks has staked much of its brand on its dual promise of providing good customer service and treating its employees well, said John Gordon, a restaurant industry analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group.
But in a multinational company with more than 28,000 stores worldwide, there has “to be a situation every day where some human being handles things wrong,” Gordon said. “Even with a huge operations manual that lays out what to say and what to do, you can’t cover everything.”
Gordon called the decision to hold the May 29 training sessions “the most practical way to get word out to all employees, the same way at one time.”
Starbucks has set its own high bar.
Last month, the company claimed it had achieved 100 percent pay equity across gender and race for all its U.S. employees and committed to doing the same for its overseas operations, an initiative publicly backed by equality activist Billie Jean King. The company also touts the diversity of its workforce, saying minorities comprise more than 40 percent of its employees in the U.S.
In 2016, Starbucks promised to invest in 15 “underserved” communities across the country, trying to counter an image of a company catering to a mostly white clientele. One of those stores opened in Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of 2014 protests following the police shooting of Michael Brown, one of several such killings that moved Schultz to launch the Race Together campaign.
Gauda, who has developed workplace inclusion strategies for corporate clients, called the bias training initiative “the right thing to do.”
“It’s a tremendous statement that they are making,” she said. “I think that the fact that they are making the whole company go through this is a recognition of how important this training is.”
Starbucks said the curriculum for the training would be developed with input from several experts, including Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The company said the educational materials would eventually be shared with its licensed stores. In addition to the company-owned stores, Starbucks had as of January about 5,700 licensed stores in the United States, such as the ones inside Target and Barnes & Noble stores.
Gauda and other corporate communications experts said they were impressed with Johnson’s hands-on approach to the crisis.
“I definitely applaud that. Most people won’t jump on the bomb,” said M.J. McCallum, vice president and creative director of Muse Communications, an advertising and communications agency with an African-American focus.
“As far as the company’s initiative to rectify this situation by closing all stores for racial bias education training, it’s a positive start,” McCallum said. “It may also inspire other companies to do the same.”
“But the question is, how can Starbucks have this program and not have it be viewed as “Training people on how to deal with black people?”
He said the training should be aimed broadly to “make sure that you are respectful to everyone’s culture. First, just be good people.”
A Facebook page that claimed a connection to the Black Lives Matter movement and had more than twice as many followers as the movement’s official page has been removed for being inauthentic, the company said.
The disclosure came as Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, prepared to be questioned by members of Congress about, among other things, the veracity of material posted on the social media site.
The page, titled “Black Lives Matter,” was followed by nearly 700,000 people and was tied to online fundraising efforts that generated at least $100,000, purportedly to support racial-justice causes in the United States — but was run by a white man in Australia, according to a CNN report.
Facebook, which has been heavily criticized for its handling of users’ personal information and for allowing foreign meddling in the 2016 election, said Monday that the page violated the company’s community standards and was run by a person or people who were not who they claimed to be.
Facebook did not identify those behind the site, but CNN said the administrator of the page was Ian Mackay, an employee of the National Union of Workers in Australia.
The labor union has started its own investigation into the matter and has suspended Mackay and at least one other person, according to SBS News in Australia.
Some of the money raised through the page was funneled to Australian bank accounts, according to CNN, which noted that several online payment firms had suspended fundraising campaigns linked to the page.
Donorbox said it had removed all pages related to the Facebook group in January. Patreon, a crowdfunding site, also said it removed a page linked to the group, adding that only $194 was raised in total but never paid out.
PayPal confirmed that an account linked to the false Black Lives Matter page was no longer active on the payment platform. On Classy, a fundraising site, a campaign linked to the sham page was “found not to be valid” and had been disabled, with the account owners receiving no money, Monica Finch, a company spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
The scheme was yet another blemish for Facebook as Zuckerberg starts the first of two days of testimony before Congress. Legislators are expected to grill him about the company’s role in a series of scandals, including a toxic bloom of fake news during the 2016 election and the harvesting of data from up to 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Last week, in the runup to Zuckerberg’s testimony, Facebook announced new measures requiring those who manage pages with large followings and pages related to political candidates and issues to verify their identities. The requirement is meant to give users more information about such pages, including any previous names they may have had.
“This will make it much harder for people to administer a page using a fake account, which is strictly against our policies,” the company said in a blog post April 6.
Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday that she and her supporters had asked Facebook “over and over again” to shut down the fraudulent Black Lives Matter page, but that Facebook had balked at doing so.
“These fake BLM accounts and fake BLM people literally stealing money off Black Death is so stomach churning I can’t even begin to explain,” she wrote. “Glad it’s down now.”
Black Lives Matter activists said in a statement that they regretted that “so many people were deceived by the recent high profile scam” and had made gifts and donations that the movement did not receive.
“We live in a digital world, and it’s extremely important that platforms like Facebook and Twitter do their due diligence with users so that supporters of our movement, and movements like ours, aren’t misled and that resources aren’t misappropriated,” the statement said.
Mackay also ran a Black Lives Matter Facebook group, which functioned like a forum where members had to request access, with nearly 40,000 participants, according to CNN.
Mackay told CNN that buying and selling domain names was a personal hobby but he declined to clarify his role in the Black Lives Matter page.
In a partnership that brings together two of the preeminent technology companies in the mortgage space, Approved and LendingQB are joining together to launch a wholesale lending platform. Both Approved, a digital mortgage platform for independent lenders and brokers, and LendingQB, a provider of SaaS loan origination technology solutions, have been named to HousingWire Magazine’s HW Tech100 as one of the top tech companies in housing finance.
The mechanical bull has bucked its last rider at Saddle Ranch Chop House in Costa Mesa at The Triangle. The western-themed eatery closed March 27.
“I think that the restaurant was there for five years and enjoyed being there but it was not as busy as they would have liked, so that’s the reason,” said Justine Lazarus, general counsel for Saddle Ranch.
“My understanding is the restaurant in Orange is still open and doing well,” she said of the other Orange County restaurant in the chain. Saddle Ranch has Valencia, Glendale and West Hollywood locations. The one at Universal Citywalk closed on Jan. 2.
Some Costa Mesa employees were applying for positions at the Orange restaurant but Lazarus had no numbers or details.
The first Saddle Rock Ranch opened in 1999 and became a favorite set of television shows, seen on “Sex and the City,” “Desperate Housewives,” “American Idol,” “Six Feet Under,” “VH1’s Rock of Love” and others. The restaurant which serves steaks, sandwiches, cocktails and bar food, bills itself as “Rock meets Western” with campfire pits, saloon girls and western memorabilia décor.
These are 15 new dishes Angel Stadium has added to the menu for the 2018 season
85º Bakery hosts grand opening in Orange with 10 cent coffees
Why the Travel Channel shot two different shows on the same day at Pacific City in Huntington Beach
This Torrance restaurant wants you to find bugs in your food
Southern California casinos are holding more wine pairing dinners — here’s why
In a partnership that brings together two of the top technology companies in the mortgage industry, Matic’s digital homeowners insurance platform is now available within MortgageHippo’s digital mortgage experience. Lenders that use MortgageHippo’s digital mortgage platform can make Matic homeowners insurance available to their borrowers with a one-click “get quote” button within the platform itself.
Private equity firm Narrow Gauge Capital announced it has acquired Class Appraisal, a valuations and appraisal management solutions provider. “We have made great progress over the past several years and are excited to work with Narrow Gauge to enhance our market-leading position,” said Jon Tallinger, Class Appraisal’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Self-driving car spinoff Waymo will buy up to 20,000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover to help realize its vision for a robotic ride-hailing service.
The commitment announced Tuesday marks another step in Waymo’s evolution from a secret project started in Google nine years ago to a spin-off that’s gearing up for an audacious attempt to reshape the transportation business.
Ralph Speth, the CEO of Jaguar, discusses the Jaguar I-Pace vehicle, Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in New York. Self-driving car pioneer Waymo will buy up to 20,000 of the electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover to help realize its vision for a robotic ride-hailing service. The commitment announced Tuesday marks another step in Waymo’s evolution from a secret project started in Google nine years ago to a spin-off that’s gearing up for an audacious attempt to reshape the transportation business. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)The Jaguar deal will expand upon a fleet of self-driving cars that Waymo has been gradually building in partnership with Fiat Chrysler since 2015. Waymo initially equipped about 600 Pacifica minivans with its self-driving technology before negotiating to buy “thousands” more of the vehicles.
The minivans will be part of a ride-hailing service that Waymo plans to launch in Phoenix later this year. If all goes well, Waymo expects to expand the service to other states.
Jaguar will deliver its vehicles for Waymo’s ride-hailing from 2020 to 2022. The 20,000 “I-Pace” models will provide up to 1 million rides per day, according to Waymo.
Financial terms of Jaguar’s deal with Waymo weren’t disclosed. Jaguar lists the starting price for its I-Pace model at about $70,000, a figure that translates into $1.4 billion for 20,000 vehicles.
The alliance with Jaguar will give Waymo a way to appeal to passengers who want to ride in a more luxurious car or want to avoid the pollution caused by vehicles fueled by gasoline.
Waymo’s planned ride-hailing service poses a potential threat to Uber and Lyft, the early leaders in that still-developing field. Both Uber and Lyft are trying to ward off Waymo by developing their own self-driving cars, even though they got a late start in autonomous technology.
Uber’s efforts suffered a major setback when one of its autonomous cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona last week. On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing privileges, stating in a letter to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi that video footage of the crash raised concerns about the San Francisco-based company’s ability to safely test its technology in Arizona.
Without mentioning Uber, Waymo CEO John Krafcik emphasized the company’s track record for safety while its cars have traveled more than 5 million miles on public roads as its engineers have continued to fine tune the robotic technology.
President Donald Trump has made eliminating regulations a top priority of his administration and has tried to limit the reach of one of the chief mortgage regulators — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But lenders who interpret that to mean they can relax their compliance efforts are sadly mistaken, according to several panels of experts at the Ellie Mae Encompass conference in Las Vegas.
Guitar Center, the nation’s leading musical-instrument retailer, is in trouble. Changing musical tastes are partly to blame.
Ratings agency S&P Global downgraded Westlake Village-based Guitar Center Holdings Inc. for the second time last week as the troubled instrument retailer seeks to refinance and restructure more than $1 billion of debt.
“Most of what’s really selling today is rap and hip hop,” said George Gruhn, owner of the Gruhn Guitars shop in Nashville. “That’s outpacing other forms of music and they don’t use a lot of recognizable musical instruments.”
The company’s challenges speak to shifting demographics, something Gruhn is well acquainted with.
Guitars don’t figure as heavily into chart-topping music as they once did, says.
He ought to know. Over the years, his customers have included everyone from Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Eric Clapton to Neil Young, Vince Gill and Billy Gibbons.
Those artists have left indelible imprints on the music landscape, all the way from Clapton’s burning solo on “Crossroads” to Harrison’s signature guitar part on “Daytripper.”
But these days? Well, things aren’t as guitar-oriented.
“Baby boomers are the best customers I’ve ever had. They’ve driven a lot of the guitar trends, but they are aging and many of them are downsizing their guitar collections,” he added. “This doesn’t mean that guitar sales are dying, but instrument sales in general are under stress.”
No more guitar heroes
The instrument is also facing an identity crisis. Guitar heroes – who have inspired many a player and fueled strong instrument sales – are few and far between these days, according to Gruhn.
“I would be hard-pressed to name any new ones,” he said. “You’ve got Joe Bonamassa who is a great player. But he isn’t selling as many guitars as the other big time heroes. And Eric Clapton is arthritic. He’s having difficulty playing and is retiring from touring.”
Rickenbacker guitars were on display at this year’s NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim.Louie Concotilli, owner of Mugzey Music in Canyon Country, spoke to the shifting demographics.
“Rock is almost dead,” he said. “It’s almost nonexistent. And with guitar there’s no almost one to look up to anymore – no one to get you to want to learn. I have three or four guitar students who are about 12 to 14 years old, and I told one of them she should find someone in her class to play guitar with. She said, ‘No one else plays the guitar, and people think I’m weird because I do.’ ”
To lazy to learn?
The bigger problem, according to Concotelli, is that most aspiring players don’t want to put in the time to become proficient on the instrument.
“If they do want to learn they’ll just go to YouTube, but they’re not getting the proper instruction,” he said. “With kids these days, it’s all about instant gratification. No one wants to take six months or a year to learn. They don’t want to do the work.”
A report released last year by the Washington Post revealed electric guitar sales have plummeted over the past decade from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars, the report said.
Gruhn acknowledged that the demand for both acoustic and electric instruments has fallen.
“I think the guitar market was built up into a bubble at a pace that was unsustainable,” he said. “It’s leveled off to something that reflects more normalcy. Factories that were designed to produce 100,000 instruments a year may now find that their demand has dropped to 75,000, and that’s a problem because now you have higher overhead.”
Still, Guitar Center has forged on. The company currently operates more than 280 stores throughout the U.S. with Southern California locations in such communities as Westlake Village, Stevenson Ranch, Sherman Oaks, Northridge, Pasadena, Glendora, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Orange.
The financial strains
Last week, S&P lowered the company’s rating to CC from CCC- and issued a negative outlook.
Guitar Center has issued $635 million in senior secured notes that will be due in 2021. Those notes and some additional cash will be used to refinance the company’s existing $615 million in secured notes which carry a lower interest rate and were set to mature next month, according to S&P.
By extending the timeline on its debt, Guitar Center will achieve increased liquidity and boost its financial stability for the next three years.
Still, analysts with S&P view the exchange as distressed because it falls short of the original bonds’ promise and creditors view it as a form of default. Guitar Center declined to comment beyond the news of its debt restructuring.
Amazon eyes some Toys ‘R’ Us stores to expand brick-and-mortar presence
Claire’s, the ear-piercing mall chain, files for bankruptcy
Retail-restaurant roundup: Drink the rainbow at Taco Bell; Parallel Pizza delayed; Panini Kabob Grill opens in MV
Here are 11 dead retail chains that I miss … sort of!
Toys R Us closures will result in heavy job losses for Southern California
School of Rock
One of the brighter spots in the industry these days can be found in School of Rock, a Canton, Massachusetts-based chain of 207 music schools which span 10 countries worldwide. Elliott Baldini, the company’s senior vice president of marketing, said the schools are designed to draw students in by giving them more of what they actually want to learn.
“Music is at its core a social activity,” he said. “People get inspired to play because they listen to their favorite artists or see them at a live venue. But that experience isn’t translated when you take music lessons. It’s usually a very solitary, one-on-one experience experience with one teacher and the students aren’t necessarily learning the play the songs they want to learn.”
School of Rock offers something different, according to Baldini.
“We teach students of all ages the same music theory they’d learn anywhere else, but you learn to use that theory with a band. Students have group rehearsals where they can practice with a band every week. And we also have our version of a recital, which is really a rock show at a live venue. We put on more than 3,000 shows a year across the world.”
School of Rock has Southern California schools in Santa Clarita, Woodland Hills, Burbank, Pasadena, Redondo Beach, Tustin and Rancho Santa Margarita, among other locations.