Marketplace on RADIO IQ with BBC

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Kai Ryssdal

Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.

The only national daily business news program originating from the West Coast, Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance. 

Marketplace, weekdays at 6:00 pm on WVTF and 6:30 pm on our RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ With BBC News networks.

Be sure to check out the  Marketplace Morning Report weekdays at 9:51 on RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ With BBC News.

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Program Headlines

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 6:15pm

    At 7:30 in the morning, the terminal inside Cheyenne, Wyoming's regional airport looks like a weary traveler’s dream. It’s quiet, there are no lines and parking is free. But Susan Mark is still tense.

    “I’m just hoping there is a plane and a pilot,” she says. “Because I have had both not show up before.”

    Fellow passenger Julia Tipsword says more than half the time her flight out of Cheyenne is canceled. The airline does accommodate her, she says — by putting her on a bus to the Denver airport.

    These sorts of experiences may explain why it's so empty here: This morning's flight to Denver has seven people on it.

    Jim Schell, aviation manager at Cheyenne Regional, isn't surprised the flight is so empty. Daily flights out of Cheyenne have been cut in half in the last year, and cancellations have skyrocketed. Small airports need to have 10,000 people get on and off planes each year to qualify for the full amount of Federal Aviation Administration infrastructure funding. For Cheyenne, that comes to $1 million a year. This year, the airport won’t even get half that many passengers and as a result its federal funding will drop by about $800,000, Schell says.

    That money means "being able to reconstruct portions of our runaway when we need it,” Schell says. "It definitely is a big deal, and it is not going to go away.”

    Lots of small airports are on track to lose FAA funding this year, and that is going to hurt. In Wyoming alone, regional airports generate $1.4 billion in annual economic activity. Regional airports may be suffering but it is not their fault.

    The problem is a lack of pilots.

    A few blocks from Cheyenne Regional is Wings of Wyoming, a local flight school that used to train a lot of pilots who flew for the local airline. But last year, Congress raised the minimum number of flight hours needed for a commercial pilot license from 250 to 1,500. Members were reacting to a deadly crash caused by an inexperienced pilot.  The change has had a big effect on the airline industry.

    Putting in a few hundred hours to get hired at a regional airline was doable, says flight instructor Ron Burnett. “But to get 1500 hours, that takes a long time. That could take a couple years,” he says.

    Traditionally, young pilots joined regional airlines, which served as a feeder system for national carriers. But Burnett says the new flight-hour standards have made it extremely difficult for young pilots to even qualify for a regional job.

    Roger Cohen, head of the Regional Airline Association, says regional airlines and airports are hurting now, but bigger cities are next. About a quarter of the pilots at major airlines are expected to retire over the next six years or so, and they're going to need to be replaced, he says.

    “And where are those pilots going to come from? The pipeline has not only been shrunk, the pipeline has been severed," Cohen says.

    There is some hope for small airports like Cheyenne Regional: A House Republican has proposed a law that would require the FAA to keep them fully funded. That would help in the short term, but without a fresh crop of pilots, these airports won’t be bustling anytime soon.

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 3:41pm

    We're talking about algorithms. Some of the algorithms that affect our lives the most are the ones airlines use to determine flight prices and the best days for ticket sales.

    We asked you- how do you make it work for you financially, and how do you work the system? 

    Lizzie O'Leary spoke to Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at, to find out when to fly and when to buy on a budget.

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 3:21pm

    This week's show on algorithms beings with a story about rain.

    In New York City, when it rains, something interesting happens. The commuters who are prepared pop open their umbrellas. The others, who are damp and cold, see an instant market appear in front of them.

    You may have seen this happen where you live. It starts to rain, people need umbrellas, and BOOM, vendors react.

    And New York shop owner Randy Thomas makes the decision to move them to the front of his store. This is a pretty straightforward market phenomenon - you increase supply to meet demand.

    But it also includes the element of timing. That's when it becomes a little more sophisticated. As simple as it seems, the umbrella market is driven by an algorithm of sorts, calculated in real time. A series of decisions based on changing variables.

    And some vendors ... Randy says he's not one of them .. Will even use a moment like this ... To jack up the prices.

    Decisions about supply, demand, external variables, timing, and price. All made by a human. In one small store.

    But that decision tree ... That's basically what a company like Amazon or Orbitz, does ... Just on a huge scale. Mountains of data, thousands of servers.

    And that model helps determine what you buy, for how much, and when. Algorithms can feel like the secret sauce for online commerce ... But they were once used primarily by massive corporations.

    Guru Harihan, who used to work at Amazon, now runs a company that makes algorithms accessible to lots of businesses. It's called Boomerang Commerce, and he spoke with Lizzie O'Leary to explain how it helps his clients sell products, increase their profits and compete.

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 3:18pm

    In Cuba internet access is heavily restricted to only a few people on the island. What most people see online is very much government controlled. This of course is very different to what American's have access to on a daily basis. But that my soon change, now that President Obama and Cuba are on the path to normalizing relations. This new policy will help Cuban's have more access to the internet. Nancy Scola, a reporter covering Tech Policy for The Washington Post joins Lizzie O'Leary to talk about Cuba's connectivity.

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 3:05pm

    If you’ve been online looking for presents over the holiday season, you might have noticed more and more chat boxes popping up, asking if you need some help. 

    Online customer service reps do everything from track down an out-of-stock pair of earnings, to reroute a package, to help pick the perfect red lipstick. Retailers are hoping the reps can help reach customers ... anywhere and everywhere. 

    Marketplace’s Adriene Hill spent a day in the Nordstrom customer service center in Seattle, Washington, to find out who, exactly, is writing back. The center estimates its reps talk to about 15,000 customers in one day. And though most people still prefer a phone call to talk to customer service, about 20 percent of customers use online chat.

    Click play above to hear this story

    Notable customer service stories from 2014:

    Wall Street Journal: Lowe’s Introduces Robotic Shopping Assistants

    Slate: Listen as a Desperate Comcast Rep Refuses to Cancel a Customer’s Service

    Business Insider: Why Richard Branson Once Prank-Called His Own Company Demanding to Speak To Richard Branson