<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Mon, 22 Dec 2014 03:59:26 -0600 Mon, 22 Dec 2014 03:59:26 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Analysis: Eateries With Most Failed Inspections]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:07:19 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Trinity-Bar-chicago-1.jpg

More than 50 licensed Chicago restaurants failed inspections at least three times each this year, a review of city data shows.

Six of the eateries -- Trinity Bar, Taj Mahal, Hana Restaurant, Fischman's Wagyu Wagon, Nueovo Leon Restaurant, and Lawndale Food Market -- each failed four separate health inspections.

While the information is readily searchable on the City of Chicago Data Portal, it was Brandon Harris, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, who analyzed the information to come up with the easy-to-read comparison.

The number of fails doesn't necessarily mean a restaurant will be forced to close. Harris said his analysis revealed "a lot of missing and duplicated values." Additionally, a restaurant can fail an inspection for not being open when an inspector pays a visit.

Still, the data can give potential diners an idea of how well an eatery operates.

For example, Trinity Bar, on the 2700 block of North Halsted Street, failed an initial annual inspection on March 6, the data shows. The problems at that time included "excessive food debris" in the cooler and food that was stored at potentially unsafe temperatures.

That failed inspection triggered follow-up visits on March 13, March 14, and March 20. Those visits also resulted in failed results. Trinity Bar finally received a passing grade during a March 21 visit.

A man at Trinity Bar said "no comment" when asked about the inspection information on Friday morning.

Harris' analysis also easily determined which restaurants were the most frequently inspected and which had two or more failures within one mile of the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center.



Photo Credit: Regina Waldroup
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<![CDATA[Is Your Office Making a Bad Flu Season Worse?]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:18:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

'Tis the season for holiday cheer, gifts and celebration, but for office workers across the country,  it is also the season of something else: the flu.

As much as 20 percent of the U.S. population battles the flu each year, with workplaces serving as a common breeding ground for the virus. Each season, more than 11 million workdays are lost due to the flu, which translates to $7 billion in sick time and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

While employees may claim they’re “not that sick,” a recent Staples Advantage study found that 60 percent of workers who are infected with the virus still feel obligated to show up for work, contaminating everything from doorknobs and faucets to coffee pot handles. It’s a problem for any office but especially challenging for companies with open floor plans, which have been linked to higher levels of workplace illness.

In fact, a recent study published in Ergonomics found that employees who share an office with multiple coworkers are more likely to take short-term sick leave than individuals with their own private space. This shows how problematic the flu can be in open-office environments, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of workplaces in a 2010 survey conducted by the International Management Facility Association.

Fortunately, there are several steps businesses can take to prevent the virus from spreading in their office. These include:

1. Encouraging employees to take the day off or work from home: The Staples survey found that 40 percent of employees feel there is too much going on at work to stay home, while 31 percent said they show up sick because they think their boss appreciates it. Yet more than a third of workers surveyed acknowledged their personal productivity is less than half their usual level when they come to work with the flu – in other words, it’s not worth it. Employers therefore should have the technology in place (e.g., cloud-based file storage, VoIP phone systems, and so on) to enable employees to work from home if they feel it’s necessary. This will help discourage employees from coming into the office and exposing others to the virus.

2. Remembering the basics: It may seem obvious, but basic sanitation – even if it’s something as simple as hand sanitizer – can go a long way in preventing the spread of workplace illnesses. While larger companies often hire cleaning crews to assist with this, smaller businesses may think they’re unable to afford daily cleaning services. What some employers don’t realize is that the cost of these services – especially if they’re only used during flu season – can be offset by increased productivity that would otherwise be lost to employee sick leave. Another affordable alternative to traditional office space is a shared office, where the landlord is responsible for all cleaning duties.

3. Reevaluating your floor plan: Approximately 88 percent of employers in the Staples survey said they encourage sick employees to stay home, but even if they’re able to work remotely, some will inevitably show up at the office no matter how bad they feel. While open floor plans have been lauded for facilitating teamwork and collaboration, they’ve also given rise to new challenges that go beyond illness. People who work in open offices have reported higher levels of stress than those who work in standard offices and frequently say they’re less productive than they would be if they had a space of their own. If a company’s office layout is creating more problems than it solves, it may be time for a move or remodel.

By implementing one or more of these practices, businesses of all sizes can take a proactive approach to flu prevention, maximizing productivity and boosting employee morale.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.
 

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<![CDATA[Chicagoan Creates Lesbian Dating App Scissr]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:40:41 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/iPhone8.jpg

There’s Tinder, there’s Grindr and now there’s Scissr.

The new app, which was “designed by lesbians for lesbians,” aims to “create something together that’s mind blowing for lesbians,” according to its website.

Scissr, described as a new “lesbian dating app where woman can connect, share and chat about their local cultural interests and relationship needs,” was sparked by co-creator and Chicago resident Allison Ullrich.

Ulrich, the general manager of Brooklyn Boulders Chicago, told DNAInfo.com the idea was sparked by “life, reality and conversations,” which proved to her that she wasn’t the only woman who struggled with meeting other lesbian women.

She said the app, which she designed with her longtime friend Adam Beck, is intended to be like Grindr, an all-male location-based social networking app, “but classier.”

Similar to Grindr, the app uses GPS to allow users to message nearby users and indicate whether they have a “crush” on them or add them to a private “wish list.”

Users can also indicate the type of relationship they’re interested in, such as love, networking, hookup or friendship.

The app is expected to launch worldwide “soon” for iOS users.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Low-Wage Workers Continue Push for $15/Hour Minimum Wage]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:41:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-min-wage-protest-1.jpg

An employee at a downtown BP gas station closed the store and walked off the job early Thursday to join a group of fast food workers demanding an increase to the minimum wage.

"It was time to fight. It was time to get something done. We need to make a movement to go ahead and get that $15 living wage," said Daryel Eatmonds.

The Chicago City Council earlier this week voted to hike the minimum wage within city limits to $13 an hour by 2019, but the protesters maintained that increase isn't big enough and takes too long to be phased in.

"[The protest] was necessary. It was something we need right now," Eatmonds said.

The low-wage workers and their supports began protesting at the McDonald's restaurant at 600 North Clark Street in the city's River North neighborhood early in the morning as part of a national day of protest.

"At this point what we're looking at is just making sure workers here in Chicago can not only survive but thrive," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said after joining the protest at about 7:30 a.m.

The City Council's vote could ultimately by trumped by action by state lawmakers. Some legislators are pushing for a law that would prohibit cities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level.

Illinois senators on Wednesday approved a proposal to increase the state's minimum wage to $11 for workers 18 and older by 2019. That bill wouldn't impact Chicago's ordinance.

Illinois voters last month approved a non-binding ballot question asking whether the station should raise its minimum wage to $10 from $8.25 by 2015.


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<![CDATA[Jewelry Retailer Lia Sophia Closing Its Doors]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 18:32:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LiaSophia11.jpg

The popular direct-sales jewelry retailer Lia Sophia announced Monday it will be closing its doors this month.

“We are so proud of building Lia Sophia over the past 28 years into an outstanding company that has empowered women, and whose jewelry has been a favorite of so many,” creative director Elena Kiam wrote in a blog post on the company's website Monday. “However, given the challenging business environment, we made the painful decision to wind down Lia Sophia in the United States and Canada by December 31, and cease operations by the end of February.”

Kiam’s husband, Lia Sophia CEO Tory Kiam, acquired the business from his father Victor Kiam. Victor Kiam, former owner of the New England Patriots, made a name for himself in the 1980s as president and CEO of Remington Products, famously appearing in commercials coining the slogan, “I liked the shavers so much, I bought the company."

Victor Kiam purchased the retailer in 1986 under its original name Act II Jewelry before renaming it to Lady Remington. Following the entrepreneur's death in 2001, the brand was acquired by his son Tory Kiam and his wife Elena. In 2004 the couple relaunched the brand under the name Lia Sophia.

"Most of all, we're proud to be a family company, and to see the names of our daughters, Lia and Sophia, on every box of our jewelry," the company's website states.

Lia Sophia sold its jewelry through a network of local independent sales representatives, relying on in-home demonstrations and a direct-selling approach similar to the practices of Avon and Tupperware.

An outpouring of messages to the company’s Facebook page from customers and employees expressed a mixture of shock, disappointment and appreciation for the products and jobs the company created during its operation.



Photo Credit: Lia Sophia]]>
<![CDATA[Valerie Jarrett Shops Chicago Small Businesses]]> Sat, 29 Nov 2014 18:02:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-29+at+5.56.46+PM.png Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama, was in her home town on Small Business Saturday shopping at local stores. Jarrett wants to put a spotlight on the initiative. ]]> <![CDATA[Target 5: Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 13:57:53 -0600 ]]> <![CDATA[$martMoney]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 08:08:56 -0600 ]]> <![CDATA[Local Shops Ready for Small Business Saturday]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:26:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/small+biz+saturday2.jpg

With the Black Friday frenzy coming to an end, small businesses are hoping to reign in on some of the holiday shopping madness.

Local businesses say the popularity of shopping local for the holidays is growing.

“We’ve definitely seen a jump on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday,” said Mel Nelson, owner of the M2 Boutique on Southport Avenue.

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American express. In part to help small retailers during the economic downturn and it continues to grow in popularity.

The US Small Business Administration estimated that customers spent nearly $5.5 billion nationwide in 2012 at small, independent stores during the event.

“America’s small business owners are on the front lines when it comes to creating new jobs and opportunities,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “Their efforts exemplify our Nation’s founding idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love, if you work hard, you can make it if you try. On Small Business Saturday, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring ours is a country where small businesses can thrive.”

As local shops gear up for Small Business Saturday, experts say shopping trends could be turning in favor of the “mom and pop” shops.

“Perhaps there’s an attitude change more toward people in your neighborhood helping them out,” said Shopping Deloitte Retail Expert Tom Compernolle.

And shoppers agree.

“I do think it’s great having local options where you don’t have to necessarily fight the traffic at the malls you can you know living in the neighborhood just kind of walk over,” said shopper Kristen Castelloni.

“I think people want to cheer on the small guy and not have everything look the same with the big retail boxes,” said shopper Carrie Mondschean.

In Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce said a recent study showed the benefits of customers buying into Small Business Saturday.

“For every dollar you typically spend at a local independent store about 60 percent of that stays within the community,” said Rudy Flores with the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

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<![CDATA[Website Lets Consumers Haggle on Pricing]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:56:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/greentoe-1.jpg Most consumers hate haggling, and most brick and mortar stores don't even embrace it, but an online venture can make consumers more comfortable over price negotiations. NBC Chicago's Lisa Parker reports.]]> <![CDATA[Businesses Giving Back for More Than the Holidays]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:51:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Gifts+Generic+Holiday+Shopping.jpg

Thanksgiving is near, and for many businesses, that means thanking clients, partners, employees, a community and supportive family and friends. But giving back as a business doesn't have to be just a holiday theme.

Some Chicago businesses, professional leaders, and organizations are contributing to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement and incorporating community-building and philanthropic initiatives into their missions, mantras, and even business models.

CSR is an effort companies take upon themselves to appeal to the ethical and social needs of its audience and the broader economy, population, or environment it serves, or serves within.

While CSR has become a widely recognized descriptor of business practices, the intent and impact go beyond responsibility, or obligation. Perhaps “social involvement” may more accurately depict the efforts companies large and small are taking to reduce waste in production, increase environmental sustainability, consider its impact on community, and prioritize people and society while maintaining profitability.

There’s proof that consumers are paying attention to company ideals too. According to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Social Responsiblity Report from June 2014, 55 percent of consumers will spend more for products and services from companies committed to making a positive impact.

If you’re looking for ways to give back year-round as a company, or as an employee, Chicago has several organizations and resources where you can connect with like-minded individuals and learn about how to increase your social impact.

One such group is Illinois B Corps., which represents Benefit Corporations, or companies that are “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Their website highlights that there are over 1,000 Certified B Corps globally, including well-known companies like Seventh Generation, method, and Patagonia, and nearly 15 in Chicago.

According to Nancy Goldstein, founder of Compass(x) Strategy and one of the Chicago B Corps' community leaders, “the group has been working on showing local business leaders how they can build a better business."

"We want to inspire people to think beyond short term shareholder gains to long term stakeholder gains. That means doing what is right for your customers, your employees, the environment, and your community,” she said.

To find events and resources about building a business that gives back year-round, see below:

Illinois B Corps
Social Enterprise Alliance
Chicagoland Environmental Network
Corporate Responsibility Group
Chicago Fair Trade


Rebecca Otis is a digital marketing strategist and consultant, speaker, and blogger that focuses on using simple marketing tactics to make a significant impact for businesses. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Google+.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Tips to Avoid Black Friday Shopping Scams]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:59:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black-friday-employees-thanksgiving+%281%29.jpg

Black Friday shopping isn't always easy.

With many retailers planning to start Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on Thanksgiving Day, some even sooner, the Better Business Bureau has listed the top ways for holiday shoppers to avoid scams and hackers.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Print out your coupons to have them on hand when you go to the store, ensuring that they can guarantee the low prices they’ve claimed to have.

Only Shop at Trusted Retailers
Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at www.bbb.org . When browsing online, look for and click on the BBB seal to confirm that it is a valid and trustworthy source.
Check Store Policies Prior to Buying
Confirming each store’s policies on returns and exchanges will help you decide where to spend your money, avoid costly restocking fees and miss short holiday return deadlines.
Use Your Credit Card
Shoppers are protected under Federal law to dispute any unauthorized charges on their credit card. Same goes for if you buy an item and it is never received. Many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card number.
Hold On to Documentation of Your Purchase
A printed gift receipt protects the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange an item at the full value you paid for it. When shopping online, the BBB recommends saving a copy of the final confirmation page you are brought to after purchasing you item. This saves you from relying on the business to email you a receipt and can serve as a back-up proof-of-purchase if need be.
Make Sure Your Personal Information is Protected
It’s worth taking the time to read the site's privacy policy to understand how your personal information will be used. If you can’t find one, consider that to be a red flag your information may be used and sold to others without permission.  Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying.
Yes, Some Deals Are Too Good To Be
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially those showcasing extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.  Go with your instincts. Sometimes the best deal is passing up a scam that would cost you more in the end.



Photo Credit: AP/FILE Photo]]>
<![CDATA[New Lammily Doll Aims to be "Normal Barbie" ]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:02:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/lammily+fashion+3.jpg

A graphic designer turned toy maker has created what some are calling the “anti-Barbie” and "normal Barbie."

The Lammily doll, which became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday, is intended to show what Barbie would look like if she had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body.

According to the doll’s website, she “is the first fashion doll that isn’t ‘enhanced.’”

Creator Nickolay Lamm says he started a crowndfunding campaign in March, hoping to develop a doll “with typical human body proportions.”

The idea quickly took off, as more than 13,621 supporters backed the idea, preordering more than 19,000 dolls.

But as the idea developed, Lamm created a new element to the “real life” doll—a sticker extension pack, which is set to become available in January.

The stickers, called Lammily marks, include options to give the doll face acne, freckles, moles, blush, scars, cellulite and even stretch marks.

“Lammily represents the idea of being true to yourself in a world that too often convinces us to pursue an unattainable fantasy,” Lamm wrote on his website.

New fashion options are also set to debut in January.
 



Photo Credit: Lammily.com
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<![CDATA[Best, Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:47:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

With so many stores offering up Black Friday deals, it can be tough to decide where to go.

To make bargain hunting a little easier this year, personal finance site WalletHub has released a list of “2014’s Best & Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals.”

The list, which the company said intends to “help consumers maximize their savings this year,” is based on a survey of 5,525 deals from Black Friday ad scans from 21 of the biggest U.S. retailers, according to researchers.

The list named J.C. Penney as the top retailer for Black Friday deals, with an average discount of 65.44 percent.

Also named among the best retailers were Macy’s, Rite Aid, Meijer, Sears, Walgreens, Office Depot and OfficeMax, Ace Hardware, Kohl’s and Staples.

Sears was dubbed the best retailer for those looking for deals in apparel, accessories and appliances, Office Depot and OfficeMax had the best discounts on electronics and computers, Macy’s topped the list for discounts on consumer electronics as well as consumer packaged goods, Kohl’s had the best deals on toys and furniture and Kmart was the top retailer for jewelry discounts.

Among the stores with the not-so-great discounts were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon, Big Lots and Costco, which all had average discounts less than 32.16 percent.

In addition to traditional deals this year, several retailers are offering pre-Black Friday sales and others are extending the shopping event into a days-long affair.

Experts say shoppers are better off mapping out their Black Friday plans beforehand.

“One way of making sure that the sales are real sales is to know ahead of time what exactly we want/need to buy and what the cost is before this event and where the best prices are and then compare them to what is offered on Black Friday,” Tahira K. Hira, professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University told WalletHub.

Hira also recommends making a list of needs ahead of time and sticking to that list to avoid overspending.

At least four major retailers were not included in the WalletHub survey as they did not provide data on their Black Friday deals. Those stores include Apple, Home Depot, IKEA and Lowe’s.
 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stores That Will Be Closed for Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:45:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nieman-Marcus.jpg

With many stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, some retailers are keeping their doors shut for the holiday.

Several retailers are closed on Thanksgiving to give their employees the chance to enjoy the holiday before the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Nordstrom announced that it would be closed Thursday, Nov. 28, "to celebrate one holiday at a time."

“This is how we’ve approached the holidays as long as anyone here can remember,” Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said.

T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced they would be closed on Thanksgiving, but would offer extended hours and new merchandise throughout the holiday season.

"As in past years, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends" Rebecca Leonard, spokesperson for T.J Maxx and Marshalls, said in a statement.

Home Depot also plans to close for the holiday, tweeting "Take time to enjoy food, family and friends, and we'll see you early Friday morning."

In addition, USA Today reports at least 12 other retailers will stay closed for the holiday, including:

  • Coscto
  • Ace Hardware
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Patagonia
  • Dillard's
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Neiman Marcus
  • GameStop
  • Nordstrom
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • REI



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Onion Looks Into Possible Sale: Report]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:14:12 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/the-onion86426287.jpg

This is not a joke. It appears the owners of Chicago-based satirical news site The Onion are looking into a possible sale, according to reports.

Onion Inc., owner of The Onion and the entertainment site A.V. Club, has hired a financial adviser to explore options for a possible sale, according to Bloomberg, which cites people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is also reportedly working with the investment bank GCA Savvian.

Onion CEO Steve Hannah confirmed the hiring of a financial adviser in a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg. The memo reportedly said the adviser was handling inquiries for both investment partners and potential buyers of The Onion.

The Onion released its last print edition in Chicago last year as it planned to moved to an all-digital format.

Mike McAvoy, president of Onion Inc., told Crain’s Chicago Business at the time it's sad to see the print edition no longer exist, "but it’s important to see the Onion succeed.”

The Onion consolidated its media operations and moved from New York to Chicago's River North two years ago.

The city welcomed the move, dubbing July 31 "The Onion Day."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Ways to Master the Exit Interview]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:17:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

When an employee leaves a company, both the departing party and the employer face many challenges, regardless of the circumstance. Employers lose a member of their staff – someone they’ve invested in – and then add on the cost of replacing the employee, which typically includes a 30 percent uptick in salary, and companies are looking at an expensive ordeal. Exits can be especially difficult in situations where the departure is unexpected or the result of a negative employee experience.

However, as difficult as it may be when an employee departs, employers can find value in the process, most notably through an exit interview.

Feedback from an exit interview has the potential to offset the cost of future employee losses by incentivizing business improvements by gaining valuable insight into areas of improvement.

Here are four tips to help employers navigate the sometimes challenging exit interview.

Treat the exit interview like any other interview. Due diligence is key. Review the employee’s work history so there are no surprises. In an effort to identify trends of exiting employees, take diligent notes. Be sure to send a thank you note afterward and invite them to an alumni group if your company has one. Encourage the employee to stay in touch – you never know when you could bump into them again!

Demonstrate empathy with employees. The key here is the tone and verbiage you use when asking questions. Disgruntled employees might find it hard to pinpoint the root of their frustration. Guide the employee to understanding their irritations by asking why they felt they didn’t have the resources they needed for a project. At the same time, its best to avoid pointed questions such as, “Why did you quit?” Instead, employers can pose more targeted questions to yield better responses: “What prompted your job search?” or “What does your new employer offer that we did not?”

Set a goal to learn about the organization’s culture. Aside from understanding why the employee is choosing to leave, gather information and feedback on the company’s culture and business practices. Ask questions about the employee’s satisfaction with his or her peers, career path and culture at the company.

Interview retirees, too. Often overlooked, retirees have valuable information and vast knowledge about his or her organization. They’re also more likely to be candid with their feedback, as they won’t be concerned with potential backlash. Questions you could ask to uncover more information about your company include, “Tell me about the core skill sets needed to succeed here,” and “What were the three best things about working here?”

Employers should remember that exit interviews can prove as useful as hiring procedures. Done correctly, exit interviews can improve company culture, hasten the vacant role filling process and improve employee retention.

Candace Murphy is an IT Recruiting Manager at Addison Group, a nationwide provider of professional staffing and search services. Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch. Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in Administration & Human Resources, Finance & Accounting, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for both Client and Candidate service for the past four years. Learn more at www.addisongroup.com.

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<![CDATA[McDonald's Reveals How It Makes McRib Sandwiches]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:54:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcrib+mcdonalds+youtube.jpg

McDonald's is making good on a recent promise to answer questions, even the potentially nasty ones, about the Oak Brook, Illinois-based burger chain's food.

Case in point: A video released Monday on YouTube shows just how McRib patties are made.

"Is it real pork? Why is it that shape?" the company ponders in the video description. "Some of the biggest questions about our food revolves around the McRib, so Grant Imahara and a McDonald’s skeptic are going to Lopez foods, one of our U.S. pork suppliers, to find answers."

In the video, Wes Bellamy, who apparently tweeted a photo of a frozen McRib while noting how "disgusting" it looked, meets up with former "Mythbusters" host Imahara for a tour of the pork processing plant where McRibs are born.

The video shows the broken-down meat ready for cooking and shaping, and at the end of the process, out pops a frozen McRib puck that's not dissimilar to the one Bellamy tweeted.

But by this point, he's convinced it's not disgusting.

"It's different now that I know what actually goes inside of it," he says.

Do you agree?



Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Shake Shack Opens First Chicago Location]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:57:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shake+shack+line.jpg

New York-based Shake Shack, as famous for its lines and web cam as its burgers and shakes, has officially opened in Chicago.

The fast-casual chain made its Second City debut at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ohio and Rush streets in the River North neighborhood, and the crowds were prepared. 

A line stretched clear down the street ahead of the location's opening.

This summer, the company announced another location to open next year on the ground floor of the new Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at Michigan and Madison.

Both locations will serve the modern-day, “roadside” burger-stand staples Shake Shack is known for: burgers, flat-top dogs made with Chicago’s Vienna Beef, frozen custard, craft beer and wine.

The original Shake Shack is so popular in New York that it has become known for long lines and a web camera that shows the real-time wait.

Leading up to the opening, Shake Shack unveiled six life-size, interactive sliding puzzles on Ohio Street. The puzzles featured artwork by artist Noah MacMillan, known in the city for the Chicago Loop District’s iconic “Float” mural.

"In the spirit of Chicago’s vibrant public art collection and in homage to Shake Shack’s roots as a hot dog cart art installation in New York City," organizers said, "the puzzles invite the neighboring community to engage with them."



Photo Credit: LeeAnn Trotter / NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Big Clippers Tax Write-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 00:50:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_steve_ballmer_clippers_microsoft.jpg

Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper (paywall, registration required).

Ballmer paid the Sterling family almost four times as much for the Clippers as the previous record NBA franchise purchase, $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ballmer bought the Clippers at a tough time for fans, many of whom were distraught at apparently racist comments made by previous owner Donald Sterling on a tape recording. Those comments kicked off a long battle with the NBA that eventually led to a bidding war, which Ballmer won.

The difference between the value of the company's assets and what the purchaser paid for it is the key to the tax breaks Ballmer may be able to take, according to the Financial Times article:

"Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."

Most corporations can't charge for goodwill, but sports franchises are an exception, according to the Financial Times.

Representatives of the Clippers and of Ballmer didn't comment for the Financial Times report. Ballmer didn't immediately reply to an e-mail from NBC4 Sunday afternoon.

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<![CDATA[Man Creates Off-Road Wheelchair]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:58:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tankchair.jpg 10/24/14: A man who created a "tankchair" for his outdoor-loving wife has created a business for the product to help others in similar situations.]]> <![CDATA[Which Big City is Better for Business?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:50:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

New York and Los Angeles may be bigger than Chicago, but bigger isn’t always better when it comes to running a business in the nation’s three largest cities.

Chicago outranks both New York and LA in terms of overall quality of life, a key metric for employers looking to recruit top talent. According to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which considers everything from housing and education to cities’ social, political and economic environments, the Windy City ranks 42nd globally, compared with 44th for New York and 59th for LA.

Chicago, which was recently named one of the top cities for fast-growing companies, is also more affordable than its coastal counterparts. Not only are average real estate costs lower – $22.62 per square foot in Chicago vs. $29.61 and $55.28 for LA and New York, respectively – but the value of a dollar is higher in Illinois than in California and New York, giving businesses, and the people who work for them, more purchasing power.

Here’s an infographic with more information on how “the big three” stack up:

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.


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<![CDATA[Firm Ranks Chicago No. 1 in Wireless Performance]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:47:03 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cellular+phone.jpg

When it comes to cellular phone service, there are apparently few hang-ups in Chicago.

The Second City was rated No. 1 overall in the nation by Root Metrics, an industry watch group, for the best mobile phone service on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Chicago beat out 125 other cities around the country and also came in tops for best data performance.

Chicago was the only city to finish with a top ranking in multiple categories.

See the full list of rankings at RootMetrics.com.

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<![CDATA[Microsoft Tech Conference to Come to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:15:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/mccormick+place+chicago.jpg

A mega-tech conference is coming to Chicago this spring, officials announced Thursday.

Thousands of Microsoft’s brightest minds will unite at McCormick Place for the company’s Ignite event.

“Ignite is really the signature event we have for our business customers,” said Microsoft General Manager Julia White. “We are really happy it will be here in Chicago for the first time.”

It’s a major coup for tourism and technology in the city.

Microsoft says it will combine five of its annual tech conferences into a singular one event, set to be hosted at McCormick Place.

“The desirability of Chicago in general—the food, the entertainment, the sports—made it really ideal,” White said.

The conference is scheduled for May 4-8. It could bring as many as 20,000 people to the city and an estimated $47 million in spending.

“This is a testament to what has happened at McCormick Place and all the other strengths—our airport, our hotels, our entertainment, our restaurants and it plays to Chicago’s strengths,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The announcement was made at 1871, one of five startup incubators in Chicago. The newest, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, opened Thursday morning in Hyde Park.

The city’s growing tech sector is another reason Microsoft chose Chicago.

“We are recognizing it for what it is—a real technology hub,” White said. “Ignite is the first great partnership but I think there will be more.”

The Microsoft announcement comes on the heels of news that next year Chicago will host both the NFL Draft and the James Beard awards, events that were previously in New York.

So far, Microsoft's agreement with the city is for one year only.

“My goal is to make it an annual conference so they keep coming back,” Emanuel said.

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<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:32:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App, Garner Worldwide Attention]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:13:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

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<![CDATA[Allstate Raising Rates in Illinois]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:12:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Allstate_tag_4color_hor.jpg

Allstate is upping its rates for customers in Illinois.

The Northbrook-based insurer will be increasing its car and home insurance rates in the state by an average of 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner Jones said the increase equates to an average of about $3 a month per auto policy and $10 a month per home policy.

“The reason for this change is to keep up with rising costs,” she said in a statement. “Customers are encouraged to talk with their local agent about discounts for which they may be eligible to help offset these increases, including our Full Pay discount and Easy Pay discounts, among many others. Customers can also work with their local agent to migrate to higher deductibles as a way to help keep premium costs lower.”

The increases, which are larger than ones implemented by the company in other states, both take effect this month-- The homeowners’ hike takes effect Oct. 27 while the car increase begins Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The insurance company is reportedly Illinois’ second-largest property and casualty carrier, following State Farm.

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<![CDATA[Determining the Best Lease for Your Business]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:48:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

As the No. 2 city in the country for fast-growing small businesses, Chicago has become the go-to place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new business ventures.

But before they can bring their big ideas to fruition, small business owners have to find a place to house their companies. One of the most common questions that come up when leasing office space is whether it’s better to sign a long-term or short-term lease.

This is especially important for small businesses whose success, or failure, could be at least partially dictated by this decision. While there’s no right answer – every company’s needs are different – there are certain advantages to each that, when carefully analyzed with the help of a commercial broker, can help steer businesses toward the best option.

Benefits of a long-term lease include:

  • Stability – If you find your dream location, a long-term lease (typically five years or more) ensures you’ll be able to stay there for an extended period of time, even if your building is sold. Short-term tenants (one to five years) risk being forced out of their space unexpectedly, inconveniencing customers and employees and jeopardizing the future of their business.
  • Predictability – Tenants that sign a long-term lease know how much their rent will increase from year to year, regardless of market conditions. By comparison, companies that sign a short-term agreement could see their real estate costs soar each year, hampering growth.
  • Tenant Improvements/Concessions – Landlords are often more willing to give tenant improvement allowances and other concessions like free rent to tenants that sign long-term leases. These aren’t off the table for short-term tenants, but they may be more difficult to negotiate.

Short-term leases are attractive for the following reasons:

 

  • Flexibility – Tenants that need to scale up or down, or move to a new location altogether, are easily able to do so with a short-term lease. Conversely, long-term tenants would either need to sublease or transfer their lease to another tenant in order to relocate.
  • An “Easy Out” – It’s estimated that eight out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of opening. Unlike long-term leases, which leave tenants on the hook for unpaid rent if they ever go out of business, short-term leases allow entrepreneurs to cut their losses and move on if a business venture fails to take off.

One alternative to a traditional short-term lease is shared office space, which allows businesses of all sizes to rent space on an annual or month-to-month basis. In addition to offering amenities like conference rooms and cafeterias, as well as a full support staff to assist with back-office functions, these centers make it easy for tenants to add space as their businesses grow or reduce their footprint during down periods.

Another option is to sign a short-term lease with several renewal options. For example, a tenant who inks a three-year lease could have an option to renew for an additional year or two – often at a higher rate – after the initial term expires. Doing so allows tenants to have the best of both worlds by remaining in their existing location if business is going well or relocating to another location (without penalty) if they run into problems with their landlord or simply want a change of scene.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

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<![CDATA[Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Avoid Misclassification]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:41:59 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, companies have been creatively looking to “trim the fat” when it comes to expenses.

The recession, coupled with increased business regulations and health care reform has led businesses to continue expense-minimization efforts.

One way this has been achieved is by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The cost advantage of this is that you aren’t responsible for providing them with certain perks (healthcare benefits) and you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages. But because this is a way of avoiding certain taxes, this is something that is highly monitored and regulated by the IRS. We all know that Uncle Sam needs his money and that the IRS is there to ensure that businesses are giving their just due to the government.

With that being said, companies found to be misclassifying their employees are leaving themselves open to receive a hefty civil fine of up to $25,000 per event PLUS potential back employment taxes.

So how do you know if you’re misclassifying your employees? Here are the three factors that the IRS uses:

  • Behavioral Control – To what extent do you control how the worker performs the work? If you are directing how work is accomplished, providing training, giving instructions, etc. the worker may be seen as an employee. This factor is all about asking how much autonomy does the worker have and how much are you controlling the “who, what, when, where, and how” of his work.
  • Financial Control – To what extent do you control the financial aspects of the work? If you are purchasing the tools necessary for the work to be done and/or reimbursing the incurred expenses of the worker, the worker may be seen to be an employee. Likewise, the IRS looks to see if the independent contractor is able to realize profits or losses in the performance of duties. If the worker can incur no losses, he/she can be viewed as an employee.
  • Relationship of the Parties – How do the parties view the relationship? Here the IRS looks at how permanent the relationship is, if the worker receives any benefits (i.e. insurance), and what business relationship was intended (as shown by written contracts).

These three factors are all taken into account and the IRS looks at the whole situation to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Being aware of the test the IRS uses can help you in avoiding the misclassification of workers and the penalties that comes along with it.

Jamal Jackson, JD/MBA is a corporate attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. He is the Managing Partner of Jackson Corporate Law Offices, Co-Founder of Initiative Consulting Group, LLC, and a Public/Motivational Speaker engaging audiences in the topic areas of Business, Leadership, and Legacy (www.JamalEJackson.com).

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<![CDATA[Fans Line Up for Final Hot Doug's Taste]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:44:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot-dougs-line.jpg 10/03/14: NBC Chicago's Regina Waldroup was outside Hot Doug's Friday morning talking to hot dog and sausage lovers hoping to get in on the last of the action.]]> <![CDATA[McDonald's Launches Squid Ink Burger]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 16:24:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2D274906915346-mcdonaldssquidinkburger.blocks_desktop_small.jpg

Trick or treat?

McDonald’s isn’t letting Burger King have the only spooky burger.

McDonald’s Japan has launched a Halloween-themed “Squid Ink Burger,” sporting black-dyed buns and a “squid ink sauce.”

The burger, which costs $3.40, also features two beef patties, cheese and fried onions.

The company said the squid ink sauce was added to a chipotle sauce with a smoked flavor and pungent taste to give it “the flavor of squid ink.”

It is the second black burger to hit the market in Japan after Burger King Japan launched the Kuro Burger.

The Kuro Burger, "kuro" meaning "black" in Japanese, features bread and cheese colored using bamboo charcoal and a black sauce, which has a soy and a garlic base, turned a shade of ebony using squid ink.

The Kuro Burger, also dubbed the “goth burger,” is scheduled to end in early November.

While both burgers were launched as limited-time Halloween treat, they might be too spooky for many to bite into.



Photo Credit: McDonald's Japan]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Doug's Owner Doug Sohn Reveals Plans for Auction]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:13:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Doug_Sohn.jpg

Fans sporting a Hot Doug’s tattoo may already have a piece of the famous encased meat eatery with them forever, but for those not brave enough to ink their love for the Avondale hot dog stand, there may be another way to walk away with a sausage souvenir.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hot Doug’s owner Doug Sohn said he plans to auction off meaty memorabilia for charity. Details on when and where have not yet been revealed, but fans are sure to be chomping at the bit to take home part of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

Sohn also left some hope for fans as he prepares to serve his last Hot Doug’s meal Friday.

In the interview, Sohn noted that a pop-up restaurant isn’t off the table following the shocking closure of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

"I haven’t ruled that out," he said. "Like a one-night charity thing. Not saying I would, but I’d consider that."

Lines at the Avondale restaurant are longer than ever leading up the “permanent vacation.”

The hot dog stand has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

A man even proposed at the restaurant and had owner Doug Sohn ordain his wedding, and a number of followers got tattoos when it was announced that Sohn would give free meals for life to the questionable souls who inked their loyalty.

The restaurant will even live on in a movie as filmmakers plan to document its final days.

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<![CDATA[Madigan Opens Investigation Into Jimmy John's Breach]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:42:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday warned residents who made purchases with their credit or debit cards at Jimmy John's to immediately be on the lookout for unauthorized charges on their accounts.

“Identity theft is a serious threat to consumers," Madigan said. "It’s critical to start incorporating extra precautions in your daily routine to limit the damage done as a result of a data breach.”

Madigan has opened an investigation into the security breach at 216 of the Champaign-based company's restaurants.
 
Jimmy John's said Wednesday that stores in 37 states, including Illinois, were affected by the breach that occurred between June 16 and Sept. 5.

It appears customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores, company officials said.

The security issue has been contained and the company said customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third-party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The restaurant chain is offering credit protection services to customers impacted by the breaks. Call 1-855-398-6442 for more information.
 
Madigan said Illinois residents also can call her office’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 for assistance.

Affected Chicago-area stores include:

    Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
    Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
    Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
    Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
    Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
    Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
    Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
    Lombard, 1235 South Main St
    Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
    Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.

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<![CDATA[Twitter Analysis Ranks Best and Worst Airlines]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:24:53 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United-Continental-merger.jpg

Apparently, United Airlines travelers are uniting over their disappointment with the airline via Twitter.

According to recent data from text analysis startup Luminoso, the Chicago-based company has received some of the most complaints via social media.

An article on re/code reports Luminoso “used natural language processing technology to analyze more than 157,000 tweets directly mentioning five airplane handles” during the month of August to look at five major airlines, including United, jetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta Airlines.

The results showed Virgin Airlines passengers were most pleased with their travels, followed by
jetBlue, Delta and American, while United Airlines customers complained more than others.

United had the lowest overall rating, with last-place rankings in categories like “delays/ cancellations” and “luggage,” but the results don’t necessarily mean United Airlines is the worst carrier.

The analysis is only a reflection of social media users’ sentiments over a short period of time, the study explains, and the results can easily be affected by weather or other news.

While the study may not show customer satisfaction on a large-scale level, it is clear that social media is being used by customers more frequently, and companies should pay attention to the feedback they receive on these sites.



Photo Credit: AP]]>