Weekly Link Roundup: September 18, 2020

McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets®, which launched earlier this week, is the first twist on the McNugget in the U.S. since its introduction in 1983: it may be the best fast food spicy chicken nugget, but only because the competition is weak

Travis Scott Meets McDonald’s (It’s Lit!) (The New York Times): “As merch goes, the Travis Scott Meal is imperfect in that it disappears — you’ve got nothing to show for it apart from oily skin and a mild gastric hangover. As a collector, I was much more interested in the grill slip, the small, grease-mottled piece of paper stuck to the top of the box that indicates a special order, and which was marked ‘The Travis Scott.’ It is peak ephemera, utilitarian debris of a peculiar cultural moment.”

Livestreams Are the Future of Shopping in America (Bloomberg): “… streaming e-commerce—or live selling—allows almost anyone (celebrities, influencers or your local store owner) to quickly create their own shopping television channel that’s also a social network and e-commerce platform—at a tiny fraction of the cost … This kind of shopping generated $60 billion in global sales in 2019 and should almost double this year … The U.S. accounts for a tiny sliver of that, less than $1 billion.”

Buying Myself Back (The Cut): “I’d been shot nude a handful of times before, always by men. I’d been told by plenty of photographers and agents that my body was one of the things that made me stand out among my peers. My body felt like a superpower. I was confident naked — unafraid and proud. Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated. I began to float outside of myself, watching as I climbed back onto the bed. I arched my back and pursed my lips, fixating on the idea of how I might look through his camera lens. Its flash was so bright and I’d had so much wine that giant black spots were expanding and floating in front of my eyes.”

Why Everything Is Sold Out (The Atlantic): “The United States’ disastrous coronavirus response means the supply chain has scant opportunity to regain its pre-pandemic stability, let alone anticipate and prepare for new changes in a consumer market unique the world over for its enormous per-capita scale and its reliance on cheap foreign labor. There’s no quick fix. Retailers don’t want to stockpile the supplies consumers need, because it’s expensive and they don’t want to be caught on the hook if demand evaporates. Sending the bulk of America’s manufacturing capacity overseas took decades … and bringing a meaningful portion of it back to help shorten shipping times and make the market more flexible would take just as long.”

Rent the Runway Drops Unlimited Rental (Retail Dive): “Rent the Runway … announced that it is doing away with its ‘Unlimited Swap’ subscription option … before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of its Unlimited Swap members were renting fewer than eight items per month … customers can pick from a four item plan at $89 per month, an eight item plan at $135 per month or a 16 item plan for $199 a month.”

Theranos May Have Been Crazy. Holmes Probably Wasn’t. (Bloomberg): “Presumably, Holmes’s lawyers will try to maintain that she didn’t know it was wrong to deceive investors and the rest of the world about Theranos’s blood tests. Given that her lawyers are apparently going to introduce testimony from a trauma expert, it seems that they will argue that some traumatic experience in Holmes’s past caused her to believe that lying was perfectly morally acceptable. What would make this defense so difficult to prove is that, at least based on public reports, there appears to be plenty of evidence that Holmes sought to conceal not only the fact that the company’s devices didn’t work, but also the fact that she was lying about that. Ordinarily, prosecutors can show the jury that a defendant wasn’t insane under the federal definition by demonstrating consciousness of guilt. A defendant who has tried to hide her crimes must’ve known that she did something wrong. And if she knew she was doing something wrong, she wasn’t legally insane under the federal standard … Holmes might’ve had a better chance if the question was whether she lacked substantial capacity to understand whether her actions were wrong, rather than whether she was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of her acts. But she is stuck with the current federal standard.”

This top is perhaps not the most practical for wearing out (with its open back and deep armscye), but it is so pretty. A&F has grown up a lot these last few years (and has managed to grow its online business at a healthy clip during the pandemic), but it still feels a little weird to shop there as a 30-something.

The Woman Taking Over TikTok at the Toughest Time (The New York Times): “Ms. Pappas … is focused on what TikTok’s future could look like if the app’s ownership is bifurcated. Most of all … she is doubling down on putting TikTok’s community of creators and users … first … TikTok in July formed a Creator Fund, where creators can earn cash for views, starting with $200 million … keeping TikTok’s community happy in such a turbulent period may be challenging. Some creators and fans have been rattled by Mr. Trump’s moves against the app. Since his executive order, people in the United States have installed TikTok about 6.5 million times, down 13 percent from before the order.”

A Doctor Went to His Own Employer for a COVID-19 Antibody Test. It Cost $10,984. (ProPublica): “Congress opened the door to profiteering during the pandemic when it passed the CARES Act. The legislation, signed into law in March, says health insurers must pay for out-of-network testing at the cash price a facility posts on its website, or less. But there may be other charges associated with the tests, and insurers generally have tried to avoid making patients pay any portion of costs related to COVID-19 testing or treatment … It’s illegal for medical providers to charge for services they did not provide … For-profit insurance companies don’t want to spend the time and money it takes to hold fraudulent medical providers accountable … Also, the insurance companies want to keep providers in their networks, so they easily cave.”

How The Kardashians Spent Years Destroying The Show At The Center Of Their Empire (Buzzfeed News): “Thirteen years ago, KUWTK began as an opportunity to introduce the family to the public and maximize their 15 minutes of fame, but it quickly became the foundation on which all their future successes were built … Without KUWTK, the family enters uncharted waters. They risk losing the ubiquity and connection to one another and their public that’s underpinned their success for so long.”

Snowflake CEO Slootman Scores IPO Hat Trick With Big Bet on Data (The Wall Street Journal): “Over the past decade, businesses have shifted data from servers they own to the cloud … Companies now increasingly are using multiple cloud providers to take advantage of different products they offer and to gain leverage over costs that can, depending on use, run into the hundreds of millions of dollars or more annually … But the cloud landscape is increasingly competitive, which brings risks, analysts note. Snowflake both runs on the cloud and competes with some of those vendors. Amazon’s competing product is estimated to have about four times the number of customers of Snowflake, while Google has twice as many … Snowflake lost $348.5 million in the last fiscal year ended Jan. 31, almost double the year-earlier figure. Sales and marketing expenses alone outpaced revenue in the past year.”

The Costco Membership Model Comes for Luxury Fashion (Bloomberg): “In July the site moved to a ­members-only model: Italic customers must now pay $100 a year simply to shop the 800 products on the site … it was a necessary step to lessen reliance on investors … A few luxury retailers have been testing a similar Costco-light model: Restoration Hardware’s Grey Card costs $100 and offers exclusive access, flash sales, and a variety of discounts.”

The FTC Is Investigating Intuit Over TurboTax Practices (ProPublica): “The investigation, which has been underway for more than a year, was revealed publicly in a recent Intuit filing in which the company’s lawyers appealed to the commission to limit the scope of its investigation … The escalating fight over company records suggests that the FTC has significant concerns about Intuit’s conduct.”

Will This Time Be Different for Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney? (The Business of Fashion): “The trend of malls owning their most troubled tenants is the latest chapter in a story many expected to be wrapped up by now. It’s been conventional wisdom for a decade that there are too many stores competing for the attention of American shoppers, but there’s too much money sunk into brands and the malls that house them for investors, landlords and creditors to pull the plug.”

How Hermès Got Away From LVMH—And Thrived (The Economist): “By just about any measure, Hermès has led the luxury pack, nearly trebling revenues between 2010 and 2019, to €6.9bn ($7.7bn). Operating margins last year hit 34%, best in the industry. Even as it has been roiled by covid-19, its market capitalisation has risen this year to €78bn, while big competitors have shrunk … Though listed since 1993, most of Hermès’s shares belonged to 60 or so descendants, split into various branches … Ultimately, Hermès family members eager to remain in charge created a structure which pooled just over 50% of shares, committing themselves to owning their stakes come what may until 2031.”

Big-Name Bankruptcies Flock to Two-Judge Court in Virginia (Bloomberg Law): “The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has developed a reputation among corporate restructuring practitioners as a debtor-friendly venue that issues consistent rulings while running efficient operations. So far in 2020, 9% of large, publicly traded company bankruptcies have been filed in the Eastern District of Virginia … That’s more than double the district’s share of major cases during the previous five years … Unlike some other major Chapter 11 courts, Richmond operates with only two judges … In comparison, the courts in Wilmington, Del., and New York each have seven.”

♥ Recently purchased: Y-3 adidas Beyoncé Superstar Platform Sneaker, Free People Back Into It Cutout Hoodie, J. Crew Ribbed Mockneck Sweater Tank, Uniqlo U Wool-Jersey Jacket, and H&M Long Faux Shearling Shacket.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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