The WBFO Business & Economy News Desk is funded by The M&T Charitable Foundation.

March Madness at work: the cost of lost productivity

Mar 3, 2017
Mitchell Hartman

In workplaces across America, it’s time for March Madness. Sixty-eight men’s college basketball teams will compete for the National Championship, and tens of millions of fans will fill out “brackets” at work predicting which teams will survive each round and make it to the Final Four.

The tournament kicks off March 14 and diehards are already getting their office pools ready, but this nationwide paroxysm of basketball fandom in the workplace is not cost-free.

Jana Kasperkevic

It was a prank gone good.

After a Craigslist prank falsely advertised 3,000 boxes of free Hot Pockets up for grabs, Nestle — the maker of the microwaveable snack — has said it would donate the advertised amount of boxes to Boston area food banks.  

The ad, which appeared on Craigslist on Wednesday and has since been taken down, read:

“Hi just recently sold my convenience store and I have 3,000 boxes of Hot Pockets and I just don’t want them to go to waste. Please call me and come grab them.”

Community banks divided over Dodd-Frank

Mar 3, 2017
Marielle Segarra

Chris Martin is sitting in his office at the headquarters of Provident Bank, a community bank in New Jersey. There are some paintings and awards on the wall, but otherwise the CEO’s office is sparsely decorated.

“One would say that I’m parsimonious — so that would be that special word for being cheap,” Martin said. “But we’ll spend money to make money.”

What he doesn’t like is spending money complying with the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010.

Blog: A short history of Uber's many scandals

Mar 3, 2017
Tony Wagner

It's been a tough month for Uber.

The super-rich Silicon Valley darling is no stranger to bad PR, but lately Uber's been batting back boycotts, lawsuits and embarrassing leaks all at once. We talked about it on "Make Me Smart," but we can only record so fast. Update (March 20): We just added two new scandals to the list.

'Lower Ed' looks at the controversial role of for-profit colleges

Mar 3, 2017
Lizzie O'Leary and Hayley Hershman

In her new book "Lower Ed," sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom explores the controversial place for-profit colleges have in today's economy. She sat down with Lizzie O'Leary to discuss her book and the problems with for-profit colleges. An edited transcript of the conversation is below.

Video: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to change our privacy settings

Mar 3, 2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai intends to roll back rules that require internet providers get customer consent before selling their data. The EPA announced it will not need information about methane from oil and gas well operators. What that means and a whole lot more as we wrap up the Make Me Smart week. 

Make sure to join us Monday, March 6, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time for our weekly editorial video on Facebook Live

Annie Baxter

Costco is increasing its membership fees in June, which will affect about 35 million members. The company’s basic annual memberships will rise by $5, putting them at $60 a year, while executive memberships will increase from $110 to $120 a year.

The announcement follows the release of Costco's fiscal second-quarter earnings report, which fell short of Wall Street expectations.  

03/03/17: What's behind Bitcoin's success?

Mar 3, 2017

Bitcoin closed above the price of gold for the first time. It's seen wild swings in price during it short lifetime, but it's been up as of late. Steve Hanke, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins, breaks down the reasons. Afterwards, we'll explore Trump's decision to pursue one-on-one talks instead of multilateral trade negotiations. And finally, we'll look at the effect of March Madness on workplace productivity.

In England, fewer people own their homes

Mar 3, 2017

The British government released the latest English Housing Survey this week. It found that home ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years. It also noted that almost half of all the people in England age 25 to 34 currently rent their home from an individual private landlord. 

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

Jana Kasperkevic

Just feet away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, David Mendlewicz took the stage in front of about 80 young professionals. Looking over the audience, he asked: “How many of you are managers?”

The majority of people in the room raised their hands.

“How many of you ever received manager training?” Mendlewicz continued. Just three hands remained in the air. Awkward laughter filled the room.

Mendlewicz himself became a manager around the time he was 24. He, too, did not receive management training.

Multilateral trade deals? Trump's just not that into them

Mar 3, 2017
Ashley Milne-Tyte

President Donald Trump has made clear he is not into multilateral trade negotiations. Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He withdrew the U.S. from that agreement, and he says he will conduct these kinds of talks one-on-one from now on, which is quite a change from the past.

For decades, the U.S. has mostly pursued multilateral negotiations. Nora Bensahel, a professor in the School of International Service at American University, said there’s good reason for that.


Costco is raising its membership fees — its first hike since 2011. Marketplace's Annie Baxter explains why retailers are facing tricky times. Next, we'll discuss the reason for low levels of home ownership in England, and then look at how craft brewers feel about Trump's promises on regulation.


2017 hasn't been Uber's year. There have been accusations about sexual harassment from former employees, a lawsuit over intellectual property, and questions about the CEO's temperament. The ridesharing company might need some crisis management. Andy Gilman, the CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, shares how his company helps other companies respond to crises. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Simon Ogus, COO of the website 

Kim Adams

The Trump administration is moving ahead with efforts to build a border wall, even as questions about the financial and physical feasibility of the project remain.  

Beginning next week, the Department of Homeland Security will begin soliciting bids to design and build wall prototypes, and well over 300 businesses have already expressed interest in taking part.

Is Germany a currency manipulator?

Mar 2, 2017
Sam Beard

President Donald Trump’s chief trade adviser, Peter Navarro, recently accused the German government of gaining an unfair trade advantage over American businesses because its currency, the euro, is “grossly undervalued.” He also argued that the government in Berlin was using its dominant position in the currency union to unfairly exploit its European partners. Though many Europeans have voiced strong objections to the new U.S. administration, this is one pronouncement that they might actually agree with.

Snap's IPO creates a new class of young money

Mar 2, 2017
Reema Khrais

Back in 2013, Facebook offered Evan Spiegel $3 billion — in cash — for his fledgling disappearing message app, Snapchat.

Spiegel turned it down, leaving many people to think he needed to have his head examined. Spiegel later told Forbes magazine: "There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this. I think trading that for some short-term gain isn't very interesting."

WBFO's Mike Desmond

For well over a century, Tulip Molded Plastics Corporation and its predecessors have been on Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls. The company is now in a $12 million new plant using old plastics to make new molded plastics.

The greenback challenges Donald Trump’s agenda

Mar 2, 2017

 The U.S. dollar is moving full steam ahead. It's on its longest winning streak since May. That’s because investors like U.S. economic fundamentals and because they’re betting on an interest-rate hike by the Federal Reserve in March. But the rising dollar is creating problems for President Donald Trump.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

Investors cheered by the recent rally that took the stock market to record highs have another reason to celebrate. Some of the nation’s biggest brokerage firms — Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade — all announced this week that they're lowering their commission fees. What's going on? 

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

Snapchat is going to start trading its stock publicly today at $17 a share, placing its value at $24 billion. But despite that impressive amount, what does the future hold for the company? Its user growth is slowing and net losses are widening. Next up, we'll look at an end to water discounts in Flint, Michigan, and then explore Graceland's expansion plans. 

Emma Jacobs

During his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump reiterated his pledge to step up immigration enforcement, saying Americans cannot succeed in  “an environment of lawless chaos.” In memos, his administration has said it plans to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers within the next several years.

03/02/17: Trump vs. California

Mar 2, 2017

We'll explore Snapchat's plans to go public today, a move that could prompt other tech companies to have IPOs. Also on today's show: a look at how much a border-adjustment tax would cost consumers, and the cost of California's pushback against Trump.


Snap Inc. made a splash in its first day of trading today. Shares rose 44 percent from the initial offering, valuing Snapchat's parent company at about $33 billion. The company's young founders are billionaires, and many of its employees are now millionaires (on paper anyway). We'll look at the effect all that young money is having on Venice, California, where the company is based. Plus, more than 300 companies have expressed interest in building President Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico. We'll take a look at the bidding process and what these companies stand to make.

Best Buy released earnings this week, at a time when retailers are concerned about the imposition of a border adjustment tax. The National Retail Federation has launched a media campaign hoping to win consumers over by pointing out how costs of everyday purchases will go up. The TV ad is airing on "Fox and Friends" and "Saturday Night Live" this week, chosen, no doubt, to influence another key area of power: the president.  

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

California's resistance to Trump could cost it

Mar 2, 2017
Andy Uhler

Speaking with Bill O’Reilly on Fox before the Super Bowl, President Donald Trump said California was, “in many ways out of control.” But he said he didn’t want to defund anybody.

“I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state," he said. "If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.” 

03/02/17: Will Snapchat be a good investment?

Mar 2, 2017

Snapchat is going public today. On today's show, we'll talk about why its IPO will take place on the NYSE instead of tech-friendly Nasdaq, and whether its stock is overvalued or undervalued. We'll also look at the most interesting news coming from wireless providers at this year's Mobile World Congress.

Christopher Blank

Nearly 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley is getting a King-sized complex of buildings surrounding his famous home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennesee. The popular destination for visitors just quintupled in size, a testament to the singer’s legacy and future earning potential.

Nearly 600,000 people visit Graceland annually. For fans such as Marvin Hernandez, of Stockton, California, a trip inside Elvis’ inner sanctum is an emotional pilgrimage.

The accountants behind that Oscars flub are out

Mar 1, 2017
Kai Ryssdal

In a way, you knew it was coming.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told the Associated Press today that she's reviewing the Academy's relationship with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for the best picture debacle Sunday night.

Markets saw a big bounce today following President Donald Trump's speech last night. The Dow jumped more than 300 points, closing above 21,000 for the first time today. That follows an upward market trend since the election, which the president noted. But his speech lacked details about a lot of the promises he has made — to reform the tax system, undo Dodd-Frank, roll back regulations and repeal the Affordable Care Act — all things Wall Street cares about. So what is it, exactly, that the market is trading on? 

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Back in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the United Nations General Assembly with these words:

“I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all.”

But President Donald Trump is more skeptical of taking on other nations’ problems. He has made “America first” his mantra, and he’s talked about cutting funding to international organizations. That would mark a real change. The U.S. is a big contributor to many multilateral institutions, like the United Nations, and has been for decades.