business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• Amazon-owned Zappos said yesterday that it is launching its first-ever loyalty program, described as a four-tier system that "will allow customers to earn Rewards Points towards future purchases, get free expedited shipping on all orders, and receive early access to exclusive products and sales."

The company says that customers can earn 10 points for every dollar spent, 50 points just for logging into Zappos from any device, and 100 points for writing product reviews; in addition to getting expedited shipping, the company says it will give members a "dedicated customer service phone number."

I have to be honest here. It is hard to imagine Zappos providing better service or faster shipping ... I routinely find that Zappos defies the laws of physics when shipping items, getting them to me amazingly fast.

I do like the idea that as a way of celebrating the new program, Zappos says that it "will surprise 1,000 customers at random today by shipping customers one item from his or her 'Favorites Wishlist'." I have a pretty good wishlist, so now I'm holding my breath...

• The Chicago Business Journal reports that Starbucks and Whole Foods have both opened stores in "Englewood, one of the most economically-challenged, violence-riddled neighborhoods on the city's south side."

"Hopes are high among executives with both companies," the story says. "But this is an experiment whose outcome is anything but certain. The biggest question looming over the two store openings is whether Englewood residents will frequent the two stores. Or more to the point, whether many of them can even afford to buy at them."

There is a political component to the openings: They are described as being "part of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to show that he cares just as much about his African American constituency as he does the rest of the city. Over the past year many African-American residents have turned against the mayor with a vengeance amid allegations that the mayor may have had a hand in keeping the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting by police under wraps until after he was re-elected for a second term."

• Fast casual restaurant chain Cosi has filed for bankruptcy protection and is attempting to sell itself after having closed 29 stores. The company, which now has 76 stores still operating, says it has assets of between $10 million and $50 million and the same amounts in debt.
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