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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.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:09am
What would happen if the government moved away from financial aid for college students and more towards work study? Marketplace economics contributor Chris Farrell joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to make his case for growing work study. Click on the audio player above to hear more.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:56am
[UPDATED: 8:13AM EDT] General Motors said this morning that its profit fell 86 percent, its worst quarter since came out of bankruptcy in 2009. A series of recalls hurt the auto giant, but excluding these one-time items, profits radically beat expectations.
GM is suffering not just from bad weather during the winter months -- but also from bad PR over its handling of faulty ignition switches going back ten years.
The problem has caused at least 13 deaths, and the belated recall -- in February 2014 -- could cost the company $1.3 billion. GM faces ongoing inquiries into its knowledge and handling of the defect, as well as lawsuits from consumers.
Since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of the recession in June 2009, GM has gone from a message of redemption to an acknowledgment of mistakes.
"We will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future," new CEO Mary Barra told a Congressional hearing earlier this month about the ignition-switch recall. "Today's GM will do the right thing."
That appears to include heads moving and rolling. Several top executives, in HR, communications and engineering, are out, says Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, an auto-industry news service.
"Since the recall we have been seeing more and more changes in mid- to upper-management," says Eisenstein, and he adds that company executives have signaled to expect more of the same.
Meanwhile, GM plans to staff up two new engineering divisions -- one specifically to deal with safety and quality problems.
"The image of the company as a huge lumbering company where management holds back on innovation and change is an image that the company’s going to have to rid itself of very quickly," says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University who studies the auto industry. And he says HR shuffles alone aren’t likely to accomplish that goal.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 7:52am
The iconic New York restaurant Tavern on the Green is reopening Thursday under new ownership after being shut down for years. It has a storied history, but suffered in recent years from a reputation as a tourist trap with dreadful food. The new owners vow to restore it to its old glory and have invested millions in revitalizing the space and the menu.
By Shea Huffman
In light of Tavern on the Green's return, we decided to look at some of the most well-known, or infamous "tourist trap" restaurants around the country. These restaurants may have originally gained noteriety for good food or intriguing historical origins, but have since become better known for their tourist draw.
They may not be the worst restaurants around, but its the location and not the food that brings in diners to these spots.
Top of the World Restaurant - Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas
One could argue Las Vegas itself is one big tourist trap, but to pick one restaurant out of all of them, you have to go with the rotating restaurant atop the Stratosphere Hotel, the Top of the World. Like most touristy places to eat, this one banks mostly on the view it offers customers, but doesn't offer the high quality food to match its high price range (it costs $18 just for admission).
Zehnder's of Frankenmuth - Frankenmuth, Michigan
This all-you-can-eat chicken restaurant is somewhat of a landmark in Michigan, known for its massive 1,500 person seating area, making it one of the largest restaurants in the U.S. Zehnder's staff all wear traditional German-style uniforms to match the general style of the restaurant, though the food is decidedly American.
Fisherman's Warf - San Francisco
This is probably one of the most well known tourist traps in the world, and it would be unfair to single out just one of the restaurants that inhabit it for being unremarkable beyond the fact that they are in Fisherman's Warf.
The Billy Goat Taven - Chicago
"Cheezborger! Cheezborger!" The famous line from the Olympia Restaurant skit in Saturday Night Live was inspired by the Greek immigrant owners of the Billy Goat Taven in Chicago. To this day the restaurant is graced with long lines of patrons waiting to hear the staff recite the words, but the general consensus is that it's just typical diner food.
Times Square - New York
Another famous tourist trap whose restaurants we just couldn't single out. If we had to pick one though, it would probably be Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, the restaurant belonging to celebrity chef Guy Fieri, if only for its brilliantly scathing review in the New York Times.
P.O.V. Rooftop Bar at the W Hotel - Washington, D.C.
This lounge, sitting atop the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., offers patrons a great view of the White House and a number of the city's historic monuments, as well as a chance to rub elbows with a few classy politicos. But that might be all it has to offer, as reviewers contend the drinks are overpriced and the food isn't that good.
The Ivy - Los Angeles
Adorned with flowery cottage-style decor, this nouvelle American restaurant sits not far from the talent agency International Creative Management, which has prompted a number of visits from celebrities and pursuing paparazzi. The chance to spot their favorite movie stars drives many tourists to The Ivy, and they pay for it.
The Varsity - Atlanta
The main branch of this burger chain in Atlanta is the largest fast food drive-in in the world, and has become an iconic fixture in the city's culture. The unofficial catchphrase, "What'll ya have?" has become ingrained in Atlanta's folklore, and the restaurant has even been graced with visits from presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But pretty much everyone who goes there agrees, the food is just "meh."
Thursday, April 24, 2014 7:39am
Airbnb has had an up-and-down couple of days. On Friday, investors put an additional $500 million into the company, valuing it at roughly $10 billion. This week, they're in a New York courtroom, defending their model against a subpoena for their list of New York hosts. Hotel regulators argue that the company violates New York law that an apartment cannot be rented for less than 30 days.
Jeremy Rifkin, author of "The Zero Marginal Cost Society," thinks the way Airbnb operates is a sign of a shift in how business will be done in the future. The conflict comes down to the elimination of marginal costs. That's the term for how much it costs for a business to add an additional good or service. According to Rifkin, Airbnb's marginal costs are almost nothing, and that's problematic for brick-and-mortar businesses.
"Businesses have always wanted to reduce marginal costs. They simply never anticipated a tech revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could reduce MC to near zero, making goods and services nearly free, abundant, and sometimes not prone to market exchange forces."
Rifkin also points out that this struggle between Airbnb and hotel regulators is different than, say, what the music industry went through when users tried to share content for free. In that case, the market had to adjust and learn to coexist with new technologies. Sharing economies, however, may have larger implications with how bussinesses operate. According to Rifkin:
"The capitalist market will stay. It will have a role to play. I don't think it'll be the primary arbiter of economic life in 30 years from now. I think the collaborative commons is here to stay."
Thursday, April 24, 2014 6:29am
College admissions rates across the country hit some all-time lows this year. Stanford University, for instance, took only around five percent of applicants. In response to the crazy numbers game of college admissions, schools are growing their wait lists and using them in some surprising ways.
You may think a wait list is for applicants who aren't quite as good as those admitted outright. But it's not that simple. Chris Munoz, the vice president for enrollment at Rice University, says the differences between candidates accepted and those on the wait list "are so subtle and so nuanced." It is less about who is "better" or "worse," and more about the college making sure it can get the exact student body it wants.
Schools stock wait lists with all kinds of applicants -- A-plus students, athletes, candidates who can pay full tuition. Munoz says wait-listing students is like choosing back-ups for a sports team. You want one for every position."Sometimes you need quarterbacks," he says, "and sometimes you need tight ends. So it's luck."
In the end, the wait list comes down to "yield." This is the percentage of students who will accept the college's acceptance. Schools use wait lists to manage the uncertainty of who will actually say yes when admitted. The yield percentage isn't just important for hitting enrollment targets, it has big financial implications.
Over the years, yield numbers have come to affect a school's ranking and bond rating. Low yields will pull down the rank and make it harder to secure financing. To keep yield high, colleges want as many of the students they initially admit to come.
For the most elite colleges, this is less of a problem. Few applicants are going to turn down an Ivy League college or top liberal arts school. But for other institutions it's not so easy. Some schools try to predict which applicants will actually say yes by factoring in a student's "demonstrated interest." This includes things like campus visits and alumni interviews. Other schools, however, are suspected of playing the numbers game a bit more aggressively.
There are rumors that some colleges actually wait-list applicants who seem too good to be true. Admissions offices realize certain top-notch candidates have a high chance of getting in somewhere higher up the rankings food chain. By putting them on the wait list, the admissions office can see if the applicant gets rejected by other schools and comes back begging to be accepted. This way, colleges can catch some prized applicants without risking their yield numbers. Basically, a school doesn't want to be used as safety and then ditched for a first choice.
Admissions consultant Annie Roskin thinks some of her clients may have been wait-listed in this way.
"The thing is you don't know what a wait list means," she says, "kids don't know." Maybe too many quarterbacks applied that year. Did they show enough demonstrated interest? Perhaps their applications just weren't strong enough. Or, the school wanted to soften the blow of rejection and gave them "courtesy wait lists"—a tactic sometimes used for students related to wealthy donors or who have alumni relatives. Who knows?
Katy Murphy is the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. She says the wait list "is purgatory for a kid, basically."
Increased use of the wait lists are part of the vicious admissions cycle. Acceptance rates are falling. That panics kids into applying to more and more schools, which drives acceptance rates further down. All of this lowers yield numbers and encourages colleges to use the wait list. "It's our own admissions march madness vortex," Murphy says.
School rankings fuel all this madness. Murphy says it's part of the increasing commodification of higher education—this idea that college is a product that will predictably deliver things like great jobs and happiness. The rankings establish a brand. They suggest some kind of quantification—the better the number, the higher the return on investment.
Murphy says the reduction of schools to numbers drives ambitious applicants to pursue a small group of elite colleges, not because they are the best fits, but because they are the most effectively branded. She says, "I think everybody would be better off if they didn't believe that there were only thirty colleges that were good colleges."
If that doesn't change, expect more kids to be stuck in admissions limbo on the wait list.
December 30, 2013