Ace of Lace: Adidas Soccer Boot Fits Like a Glove

Gizmag: “Dubbed the ACE 16+ Purecontrol, Adidas’ newest wheels do away with conventional laces and use a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) cage to secure the middle part of the foot. There’s also an internal locking system and the upper section is made from a combination of open and loose knitted structures, something called Primeknit which featured in Adidas’ all-in-one boot/sock hybrid concept from 2014.”

“The upshot of all this is, according to Adidas, a football boot that fits like a glove and offers closer ball control thanks to its larger surface area and absence of pesky laces. Beginning this weekend, some of the world’s most high-profile footballers will slip into the ACE 16+ Purecontrols and take to the field in professional competition … There’s no word on pricing, but a limited number will then become available in Adidas’ flagship stores in Paris, Marseille, London, Barcelona and Manchester and from selected retail partners.”

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The Glass Frog Croaks at Zappos

The Atlantic: “Why are so many employees leaving Zappos? Backtrack to 2013: Tony Hsieh, Zappos’s CEO, started promoting a new management structure called holacracy. It’s a setup that’s supposed to encourage collaboration by eliminating workplace hierarchy—meaning no more titles and no more bosses. The system instead asks workers to track all strategy decisions and their outcomes in a web-based app called Glass Frog.”

“But there was a result of holacracy that the company didn’t anticipate (but probably should have): confusion. Self-governing produced a bit of a mess, with some workers telling reporters that they weren’t sure how to get things done anymore. The New York Times reported last year that those in charge of payroll, for instance, had trouble determining salaries after titles had been banished, and some employees wanted a boss to consult when making important decisions.”

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He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Waiter

The Wall Street Journal: “In a new study … researchers wanted to find out whether a restaurant server’s body-mass index … influenced what diners chose to consume. Trained students working on the research team observed 497 interactions among diners and servers in 60 casual American full-service restaurants, such as Applebee’s. In each case, the observers estimated whether the server and the diners had a BMI of more or less than 25, the standard cutoff for being overweight. The result: ‘If you have a heavy server … you order more’.”

“What accounts for this finding? The scientists can only speculate” but suggest that “diners with a heavier server felt freer to order more fattening items.”

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Have We Reached Peak Home Furnishings?

The Guardian: The appetite of western consumers for home furnishings has reached its peak – according to Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer. “We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings,” Steve Howard (of Ikea) said at a Guardian Sustainable Business debate. He said the new state of affairs could be called “peak curtains.”

But Howard said his comments did not contradict Ikea’s target of almost doubling sales by 2020, and that changes in consumption were an opportunity for companies to rethink the way they did business. Ikea was trying to help customers live in a more environmentally friendly way, he added. “We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products,” Howard said.

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Strat-O-Matic Reinvents Itself Using Big Data

A board game from the 1960s has been updated with “digital” cards using algorithms and big data, reports The New York Times. In the past, Strat-O-Matic, a “baseball simulation game,” was “played using cards for each player based on statistics from the previous season.” In its latest iteration, called Baseball Daily, the cards are “updated daily,” allowing players “to play games in the present,” says Adam Richman, son of the game’s founder, Hal Richman.

“Every year, we try to push forward digitally,” Adam says. “We need to rethink how we are doing everything.” He adds: “This is a natural evolution that will allow more engagement for our fans and expand our purview.” The hope is that Baseball Daily will “scoop up some daily gamers who have been flocking to the fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings, although Baseball Daily does not involve cash prizes and is structured differently.”

Strat-O-Matic is also developing apps. Traditionalists will, of course, be able to continue play Strat-O-Matic the old-fashioned way, using last year’s data.

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Going Mental At The Car Rental

Customers can have very different car-rental experiences at Payless and Budget even though both are owned and run by Avis Budget Group, according to The New York Times. David Segal, writing in the newspaper’s “Haggler” column, relays two high-contrast anecdotes. The first, involving Payless, is the story of a 50-minute wait and then driving off in a “filthy” car only after arm-twisting a supervisor to get any car at all.

Filing a complaint afterwards via Twitter yielded no response, an email resulted only in a bounced message, and an online service-desk inexplicably pronounced the issue “closed.” An apology was received and a full refund promised only because The Times intervened.

Meanwhile, a Budget customer who was given “a car smaller than the one he reserved” didn’t have to make a fuss or ask for anything. He simply described his bad experience in a routine customer-satisfaction survey. The next day, he received an email with an apology and promise of a refund check for the price difference. In other words: “One part of this company is taking care of consumers; the other is ignoring them. The secret to good service is no secret to the Avis Budget Group. It is just a secret that nobody bothered to share with Payless.”

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When Dumb Devices Make Us Feel Smart

On Thursday, The New York Times ran a story about Nest, the “smart” thermostat. Apparently, a glitch in a software update caused users “across America” to lose heat on a cold winter’s night. Babies were crying and grandmothers caught chills. Customer support lines were jammed. Those lucky enough to get assistance were talked through a nine-step procedure that required a mini USB cable.

Shortly after I read this story, my own low-tech, “dumb” thermostat went haywire. Part of the house felt like St. Martin in the summertime while other rooms recalled Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. So, off to Home Depot I went, to buy a new thermostat. At the low end was a basic model, priced at $24.95. The priciest — The Nest — was ten times (ten times!) as expensive. Two hundred and forty-five dollars!

It’s often said that we tend to buy things that make us feel smart — whether that’s based on a relatively rational price-value calculation or a more emotional rationalization. All I can say is, I have rarely felt as smart (even to the point of smug) about a purchase as I did walking out of that store with my $24.95 “dumb” thermostat. The three-step installation took about 10 minutes and specified only a screwdriver.

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How United Airlines Became “Less Awful”

Bringing back free snacks in Economy class and upgrading the coffee are central to United Airlines’ efforts to reintroduce itself to customers, reports Bloomberg Business. “More fundamentally, United is reexamining the way it boards planes.” The airline “came up with a system with only two main lanes: one for the group currently boarding and one for the group that was next. To preserve the prerogative of late-arriving priority passengers, a ‘bypass’ lane was added.”

United is also re-designing its routes, moving from “linear routing” that “maximizes the hours each aircraft is in the air full of revenue-generating customers, but bad weather at one airport can cause delays and cancellations among numerous routes.” It now uses more “out-and-back” routing and “also increased the amount of time budgeted for turning planes around.”

“Recent months have seen marked improvements in United’s performance. Its on-time and missed-connections metrics over the past few months have been the best since the merger. Its rates for mishandled baggage are also sharply down … New planes have steadily been replacing older ones. And fliers are happier: Internal customer satisfaction scores were better in 2015 than in 2014, better in the fourth quarter of 2015 than in the third, and in December were the highest in two years.”

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Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

Some restaurants now charge a “cakeage” fee to patrons who bring their own celebratory cake, reports The New York Times. At some restaurants the fee is as much as $14 per person. Some patrons are outraged, but so are some of the chefs, who think that bringing a supermarket cake into their restaurants is an “abomination.”

At WD-50 in New York, the pastry chef “didn’t want anyone in the dining room to see it and think it was coming out of his kitchen.” At Miller Union in Atlanta, owner Neal McCarthy complains: “These people sought out a nice restaurant, yet they undermine it by bringing in the world’s most hideous cakes.”

However, Vinny Accardi of Room 55 in Queens, New York takes a more accommodating view: “It’s a restaurant and it’s the hospitality industry,” he says. “The whole goal is to make people have a good time.”

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Like Amazon for Your Diet

“Research increasingly suggests that each of us is unique in the way we absorb and metabolize nutrients,” reports The New York Times. “This dawning realization has scientists and entrepreneurs scrambling to provide more effective nutritional advice based on such distinguishing factors as genetic makeup, gut bacteria, body type and chemical exposures.”

Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel “found a startling variation in the glucose responses of 800 subjects fed the same foods … By combining data gleaned from subjects’ glucose responses with information about their gut bacteria, medications, family histories and lifestyles, the scientists devised an algorithm that accurately predicted blood sugar responses to foods the participants hadn’t yet eaten in the study.”

“The algorithm is similar to what Amazon uses to tell you which books you want to read,” says Eran Segal, also of Weizmann and a co-author of the study. “We just do it with food.”

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