Numlock News: March 6, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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Five Finger Discounts

The global retail industry lost an estimated $34 billion in sales in 2017 thanks to shoplifting, which is the largest single source of lost goods. That’s about 2 percent of total revenue, and retail isn’t exactly known for its ample profit margins. As a result, this year retailers will spend $200 million on new tech to curb shoplifting. While many security sales people are touting things like AI cameras and programs to track suspicious body language, these are also the same con artists whose greatest security achievement in a generation has been a customer-operated system that screeches “UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA” until a nearby adult can assure the hunk of junk that the Safeway isn’t a site of mass looting.

Lisa Du and Ayaka Maki, Bloomberg

Internet Killed The Video Star

The average member of Gen Z — that is, the internet-savvy upbeat champs aged 22 and younger who are following up the acidic and jaded millennial generation to which I belong — prefers their video from the internet rather than television, in a statistic that will shock very few people. The extent is still pretty pronounced: the average member spends 3.4 hours per day watching online video, and if that sounds like a lot, calm down because the average American spent 3 hours, 58 minutes daily watching television in 2017.

Sarah Whitten, CNBC


For many, the key appeal of having to do their taxes is the possibility of a refund on the other side of it. Based on data from 2015 to 2017 — before the tax law was updated in 2017 — the average refund among a group of accounts studied by the JPMorgan Chase Institute was $3,602. But more notably, for about 29 percent of recipients, refund day was the largest single incoming cash-flow day of the year, and boy do I know it: before my taxes got all weird what with becoming a small business person and what have you, I blew my refunds on some truly frivolous stuff, including an obstructively large houseplant I named “Geithner” and had to carry back to New Jersey, a whole goat to roast on a spit in Queens and the ‘Miami Incidents of 2016.’ Apparently, the study found that lots of people don’t do that, and refunds actually provide a long-term boost to bank accounts.

Jeff Kearns, Bloomberg

Stuff People Mostly Agree On

Lost in the American political split is that lots of people agree on some pretty basic stuff: 83 percent of people like strong net neutrality laws, 60 percent want stronger privacy laws, 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and guaranteed paid maternity leave gets 67 percent support. Regrettably, the respective 17 percent, 40 percent, 8 percent and 33 percent have way more expensive lobbyists, so apologies to the majorities.

Tim Wu, The New York Times

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The winner of the largest-ever lottery prize won by a single person has claimed their winnings, with a little more than a month to go until the April 19 deadline to do so. Besides being lucky enough to win the $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot back in October, this individual managed to have even further good fortune, having the foresight to win the enormous sum in the great state of South Carolina, which allows lottery winners to remain anonymous. They elected to claim an $877,784,124 lump sum through an attorney and have also secured aid in managing that enormous sum, so good job, rando. South Carolina will reap $61 million in income taxes from our lucky winner.

Daniel Victor, The New York Times


The Emmy Awards are a pricey competition to play in, with an expanse of television and a large voter pool combining to produce a particularly wide field with deep pockets. In 1992, there were 29 dramas and 50 comedies submitted for the top prizes, a figure which rose to 87 dramas and 64 comedies by 2012 and has now reached 159 dramas and 117 comedies. Moreover, there’s a bigger fight at play: from 2008 through 2012, broadcast and cable networks were fairly evenly matched, with 2012 seeing 259 nominations for cable and 243 for broadcast. But the insurgent and well-funded streamers have burst in, just as cable pulled ahead as well: in 2018, there were 284 nominations for cable, 181 for broadband or online shows, and 169 for broadcast. The sheer cost of mounting credible bids for all that television is leading some to push for a campaign spending limit.

Michael Schneider, Variety


The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to put an end to a shortfall of special agent applicants by increasing its advertising budget and scaling back on the requirements necessary to become an agent. It’s doubled the advertising recruitment budget from $600,000 to $1.2 million. Applicants have dropped steeply: there were 68,500 special agent applications in 2009, which has since slipped to 11,500 special agent applications in 2018. That advertising budget is paltry in comparison to the private sector: the FBI has 37,000 employees of whom 13,500 are agents. Compare that to similarly sized work forces at Deloitte and Accenture, which spend $12 million to $26 million on advertising and recruitment. You can see how the feds may be outgunned here.

Justin Rohrlich, Quartz

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