By Walt Hickey
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Chuck E. Cheese
Got a hot stock tip for you all — Chuck E. Cheese’s will join the likes of tech unicorns Lyft, Uber, Slack and more in going public soon. The tech-forward firm — Chuck E. Cheese’s was replacing human labor with terrifying musical animatronics in the ‘90s, how about that Amazon? — expects to have a $1.4 billion enterprise valuation after the merger, which means that, yes, Chuck E. Cheese’s is technically a unicorn. Chuck E. Cheese’s units average $1.6 million per restaurant, which is wild given I was not really aware Chuck E. Cheese’s remained in operation in a major way anymore, but apparently they have 515 locations nationwide.
Dollar Bills, Y’all
It was charmingly counterintuitive, but for a while it appeared to make sense financially to switch over from dollar bills to dollar coins. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office estimated $5.5 billion in savings over 30 years. But a newer look with updated numbers upends the argument, finding that the government would instead lose $611 million to $2.6 billion over 30 years if it phased out the bill. That’s all because the paper notes have become more durable: when last examined in 2011, those bills lasted about three years before becoming too gross to remain in circulation. Today the paper dollar is lasting eight years, partly because of how we use cash (considerably less) and partly because of improvements from the Federal Reserve.
I’m a comic book fan who enjoys gambling and also box office reporting, so the quest to forecast the Avengers: Endgame opening weekend box office is basically my Haley’s Comet. Early tracking shows the film hitting $200 million to $260 million domestically, but not so fast: it smashed records for the first 24 hours of ticket sales, and I bet it would have smashed even more if the ticket retailer servers weren’t running on the Apple II. Some box office watchers think the more realistic range will be $250 million to $280 million. Its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, was initially tracking at $185 million to $225 million and made $257.6 million last April. Whether Endgame, starring Jeremy Renner, can crack at $300 million domestically is one thing, but it’s also tracking towards $800 million to $900 million globally in its first weekend.
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Yahoo, a company that was hit with data breach after data breach from 2013 to 2016, the first of which affected 3 billion customer accounts, thinks like $117.5 million is enough to smooth this all over and become squaresies with those affected. In 2016, the company was acquired for $4.48 billion, a fairly large chunk of change, so 4 cents per exposed account seems like they’re not really all that sorry.
Intuit and H&R Block spent a combined $6.6 million last year lobbying congress to advance the tax prep industry’s long-held goal of barring the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. That investment appears close to paying off, as the House Ways and Means Committee passed an act that would make a number of changes to the way the IRS operates, one of which would make it illegal for the agency to make its own online filing system. Readers from other countries may be flummoxed at this, as in many other countries, tax prep for vanilla filers is a fairly simple endeavor. People will always need accountants — as a dude coming off a year where I became a small business owner, I must say accountants are wonderful — but the bread and butter of the big guys, the “tax prep for people who don’t really need that much tax prep” racket, well, that hustle may soon be here to stay, legislatively.
New York City is declaring a public health emergency. That’s what we in the business call an “evergreen story,” but no, it’s not because of the vermin, the sewage, the poop condition on 59th, the port authority, the subway, the Pizza Rats, the combined sewer overflows, the situation in the 14th Street Taco Bell, not even the Gowanus. No, this is a much more mundane crisis, because people have not vaccinated their kids and now measles has affected 285 New Yorkers since October. Health department workers will check the vaccination records of people who are in contact with affected patients and, if unvaccinated, they will have the choice of either vaccination or a $1,000 fine. The urgent steps are taking place ahead of holidays when families with possible exposed young children may be coming together.
New York recently became the second state to ban plastic bags, joining more than 240 cities and counties that have banned or put a tax on bags since 2007. The issue is that taxing bag use may be a more effective use of resources than banning them. One study of 139 California cities and counties that banned bags indicated that the change led to 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But dogs still pooped, and that mini can in the bathroom still needs a liner, and so replacements had to be found: 4-gallon bags saw a 120 percent increase in sales after the ban went into effect, and at the end of the day 30 percent of the plastic eliminated came back in the form of thicker garbage bags, and an estimated 80 million pounds of paper trash per year was further generated. Taxes on all bags tend to do a better job of steering consumers towards reusable bags.
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