AndyThomas

AndyThomas

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AndyThomas
On November 20, 2016, AndyThomas commented on American Express and The Shift To Digital Payments :

What do you think about the threat posed by digital products like Venmo and Chase QuickPay? I would argue that that type of mobile payment system is the biggest threat to AMEX since, at least in the case of Venmo, users are incentivized to bypass using a credit card entirely when paying. (Venmo charges an extra fee to pay via credit card instead of using a linked bank account.) With so much of its revenue generated through card transaction fees, how will it adapt? Will it develop its own Venmo-like app, or, by leveraging the immense volume of data compiled from its closed-loop network, will it develop the “next big thing” in the payments industry?

The other question about AMEX as it moves forward and looks to enhance its digital products and capabilities has to do with its positioning in the marketplace — what will it do about its biggest-spending customers? Will future moves into digital be done with them in mind, or will the focus be on more everyday people? In general, since the introduction of credit cards, AMEX has positioned itself to grab the wealthiest, highest-spending people through products like the Platinum Centurion card, thereby generating high membership annual fees and a high amount of transaction fees on the wealthiest consumers’ spending. AMEX has already lost a solid chunk of these high spenders to Visa and Mastercard in recent years as it has started focusing on more everyday consumers, but will they shift back and focus future digital initiatives on the wealthy to try to entice defectors to return?

AndyThomas
On November 20, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Is The New York Times on its way to becoming old news? :

Great analysis, Sairah. One thing I’d like to get your take on is what the New York Times should do with their online paywall. Do you think they should try to increase the number of free articles a reader can access in a given period before they have to subscribe? Would doing that be a good way to continue to reach as many people as possible and thereby maintain relevancy in the years ahead? It’s also worth noting that a quick Google search for “NYT Paywall” uncovers a multitude of information about how to circumvent it and access double the, triple the, or even an unlimited number of articles per month. (Even something as simple as using two browsers allows a reader to read double the number of articles.) Has the number of subscribers decreased much in recent years as people have increasingly found ways around the paywall, or has it leveled off?

AndyThomas
On November 20, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Keeping “The Happiest Place on Earth” Happy :

Interesting post — I had no idea about any part of MyMagic+, the MagicBand, or the MyDisney Experiences website. Similar to Eric above, I started thinking about the 50% of first-time park-goers who cited long lines, high ticket costs, and other park pain points that would discourage them from returning for a future visit. Do we know (or has Disney tracked) the proportion who cited long lines as the primary reason? I just wonder how many of the “pain points” can be addressed by MyMagic+ and/or the MagicBand, and I wonder which issues are the biggest obstacles for people making a return trip. Taking price as one example, a family of 5 may feel like ticket prices may be the biggest obstacle to returning, and reduced wait times at the gates/for individual rides may not be enticing enough to convince them to make the investment, especially given that trips to these parks typically require expensive plane tickets and hotel stays. On a similar note, I think Disney should consider the overall economic environment as it hones its digital and park strategies, especially since, again, visits to the parks require also purchasing plane tickets and making hotel reservations. In an era of somewhat stagnating wages for the lower and middle classes in particular — the majority of the population by number — families are cutting back on out-of-town vacation budgets.

AndyThomas
On November 20, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Talking Trash :

I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic to try to poach haulers from the big players in this market. With Uber, all you really need is a car to get going, and many of the drivers who leave cab companies for Uber have their own cars anyway. In contrast, I would be shocked if the haulers for WM and Republic already own garbage (or recycling) vehicles. Doing a quick Google search, the prices I’m seeing for $100k+ prices for those trucks, even used. On top of that, I’m sure independent haulers would need to pay for the rights to dump non-recyclable garbage somewhere. Even with the generous credit terms they’re offering independent haulers to grow their businesses, it might be tough to convince WM/Republic haulers to become independent haulers. (I also feel like the Company might almost be able to create the biggest impact by partnering with the big players to help them challenge how they operate.)

AndyThomas
On November 20, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Samsung, connecting your everyday life. :

Interesting concepts from Samsung here. However, I can’t help but wonder how much some of this IoT technology will really take off in the near future, especially the Smart Home/appliance technology. I understand the usefulness of adjusting the A/C from wherever you are – at home or not – but how much use is it to be able to remotely access your washing machine? People still need to physically load clothes into the washing machine, and then they need to physically move it to the dryer when the washer is done. In addition, although it’d be handy to peek at your refrigerator from the grocery store to check whether you need to pick up more milk, how does it really tell how long things have been in the fridge, especially if you rearrange items regularly? Also, given that people tend to keep appliances almost a decade, will that make adoption slow?

Lastly, doesn’t connecting everything in your home and in your car make people increasingly vulnerable to hacking? (I mean both data stealing and the ability to hack and shut down a person’s home or car.)

AndyThomas
On November 7, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Marriott’s Take on Climate Change :

A Marriott property I stayed at two years ago struggled to reliably have hot water; I wonder if the property purposely scaled back the use of its water heater to help it look better on the Green Hotel Dashboard… (Just kidding, I think.)

In all seriousness, though it’s true that severe weather (and/or superstorms) cause damage to hotel properties around the world, for the most part, that damage is likely temporary. A more permanent threat to Marriott and its properties, I’d argue, is the threat of rising sea levels. After all, thinking about locations like New York City, Miami, and Honolulu, I’d have to assume that properties in those cities would generate a lot of revenue for the Company (at least compared to properties in, say, Boise, Sioux Falls, and Bozeman). Yet these popular cities are some of the cities most at risk of being permanently flooded if sea levels continue to rise. I’d hope Marriott’s at least considering this threat when evaluating how climate change may impact its business in the future. After all, if Times Square is partially submerged in 2100, the premium Marriott Marquis might also be underwater – possibly in both a literal and figurative sense.

On another note, from working on an audit of a hospitality company many years ago, I recall that many properties are franchised (or at least managed by a third party). To what extent must franchisees and/or third-party managers adhere to sustainability policies that Marriott sets? Are all of the franchised properties a part of the Green Hotel Dashboard?

AndyThomas

Wow, despite all of the studies and conversation in the media about major storms and rising sea levels, I can’t believe I’d never really thought about the impact that would have on the state of Hawaii, let alone Waikiki. As far as rising sea levels, this may sound ridiculous, especially given one of the current presidential candidates’ positions, but has there been any discussion about building a massive seawall of some sort that would encompass the majority of the island of Honolulu and offer additional protection from the encroaching sea? I wonder if something aimed at protecting a large portion of the island would be effective – and would be able to avoid the side effects smaller seawalls have had, as another commenter already noted here.

Also, to what extent has the state and/or private entities pushed solar in Hawaii? Realizing that the state as a whole has a rainy season (and that parts of individual islands can have very different weather patterns), it still likely enjoys a higher proportion of direct sunlight each year than most other states, and I remember seeing a surprisingly high number of solar panels on rooftops when my wife and I visited on our honeymoon. Given that the price of importing energy to the state must be outrageous, I’d think this would be a huge point of emphasis and hopefully a way for the state’s islands to reduce their own carbon footprints.

AndyThomas
On November 7, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Delta – Combat Climate Change by Flying into the Future :

I remember seeing in the news this spring that Delta placed a number of large orders for new aircraft, and I can’t help but wonder – were those orders placed because the Company (finally) decided to retire a number of its older aircraft due to age/cost-of-further-upkeep expenses, or was Delta starting to feel the pressure of having the oldest, least fuel-efficient fleet in the industry? In other words, was the decision financially motivated or made out of concern for the environment? Both, I hope?

Older planes undoubtedly belch far more greenhouse gasses, and Delta, frankly, hasn’t been doing its part over the past decade or so. I remember reading a feature in Fortune magazine a few years ago that touted then-CEO Richard Anderson’s supposedly smart strategy of buying up old planes on the cheap in lieu of buying brand-new planes. However, what bothered me then, and still bothers me now, was that while short-term costs might be lower with the older MD-88s and 757s, the older planes are much harder on the environment, and meanwhile Delta’s competition was making strides improving their fleet efficiencies. Indeed, as of April 29, Business Insider reported that Delta’s fleet had an average age of 17.1 years, whereas its primary competition, American and United, boasted average fleet ages of 11.2 years and 13.6 years, respectively [1]. The Delta website shows the breakdown of age by plane type, and the Company has a whopping 428 planes (51% of its fleet!) that average 19 years of age or older [2]. American, by contrast, only has 129 planes (14%) that are that old [3], and United has a scant 51 planes (7%) 19 years or older. For Delta’s sake (and all of ours, for that matter), I really hope that this push to buy new aircraft was at least partially rooted in a desire improve the impact its fleet has on the environment on a day-to-day basis.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/delta-airbus-a321-order-billion-2016-4
[2] http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/about-delta/corporate-information/aircraft-fleet.html
[3] http://www.airfleets.net/ageflotte/American%20Airlines.htm
[4] http://www.airfleets.net/ageflotte/United%20Airlines.htm

AndyThomas

Wow, roughly 2/3 of the water the Company uses for production goes to waste (in the sense that it never makes it into a bottle)? I never thought about the reality of bottling water – I naively ignored the idea that other parts of the production/packaging/distribution process would need water in some way, shape, or form.

Do you know how much recycled plastic Nestle uses in its production process? Are the bottles it uses sourced from some sort of contract manufacturer? If it primarily uses “new” plastic, I’m curious about the extent to which it would be feasible for Nestle (and/or its manufacturers) to produce and use bottles made from 100% recycled plastic.

I was surprised at your comment that Nestle Waters includes 11 brands in the U.S., and I had to up the Nestle Waters North America website (http://www.nestle-watersna.com/en) to take a look for myself. Ice Mountain, Poland Spring, Deer Park, Nestle Pure Life, etc. … It makes me wonder – are the production, packaging, and distribution processes the same across all of the brands, or are some of the individual brands harsher on the environment than others?

AndyThomas
On November 7, 2016, AndyThomas commented on Nike Tackles Climate Change :

Something else that Nike’s done from a manufacturing sustainability perspective is the introduction of its Flyknit shoes. With Flyknit, the Company went away from the leather, synthetic uppers, and breathable mesh that have been staples in the shoe industry, and instead opted to create the shoe uppers with a type of strong, lightweight spun yarn – yarn that now technically even consists of recycled polyester. The Company claims the Flyknit drastically reduces the shoe manufacturing waste compared to traditional cut-and-sew shoe manufacturing, and Nike has expanded Flyknit from running and racing to its other segments (e.g., basketball/Jordan brand). I’d be really interested in understanding whether Flyknit manufacturing results in a reduction in emissions (compared to the traditional cut-and-sew method) in addition to a reduction in raw material waste. Although Flyknit has been a financial and performance success from a running perspective thus far, as Nike moves the technology to other sports, I, like you, also wonder if changes to materials could negatively impact the quality of some products.