Gyms have been among COVID-19’s most dramatically impacted victims, due to the transmission risks of packing heavily breathing people into a confined space for hours at a time. But there’s one thing the pandemic hasn’t changed: It’s still exasperatingly difficult to get out of a gym contract.

Fitness clubs have long relied on long-term membership agreements to prevent flighty customers from abandoning their New Year’s resolutions without a financial penalty. But given the public health considerations of the coronavirus pandemic, gyms’ generally stringent membership cancelation policies—specifically, requirements that members must visit a physical location or send a certified letter to terminate their contracts—have come into relief.

Information on outbreaks linked to gyms paints a hazy picture. Since the summer, numerous COVID-19 outbreaks have been tied to fitness centers, including ones in Elmhurt, Ill., San Diego, and Hawaii’s Oahu island.

Data released by the Minnesota Department of Health … Read the rest

New York-based businesswoman Ruth Harrigan usually sells her honey and beeswax products in souvenir shops. But with Covid-19 pausing tourism, she’s been almost entirely dependent on Facebook ads to drive online sales. On Nov. 11, this new financial lifeline was abruptly cut when the social media company blocked her HoneyGramz ad account for violating its policies. She couldn’t imagine what about her tiny honey-filled gifts would have triggered the problem.

Friends told Harrigan to just wait a couple of days and the problem might resolve itself. She waited, until she lost an estimated $5,000 in revenue.

“I was getting a little anxious thinking, ‘Oh my God, Black Friday is around the corner, most of my sales for the year happen in November and December and that’s it,’” she explained. “I said, ‘If I’m shut down any longer than this, it’ll cripple me.’”

Harrigan is one of millions of small business … Read the rest

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For decades, Switzerland has been a favorite headquarters for global corporations, and for good reason: It transformed its tiny Alpine country into an economic powerhouse, in good part by keeping business secrets and asking few questions.

But that could be about to change—as soon as this weekend.

In a nationwide referendum on Sunday, Swiss voters will decide whether companies headquartered there should be held legally liable for whatever environment wreckage and human rights abuses occur as a result of their operations, no matter where. The so-called Business Responsibility Initiative, or BRI as the Swiss call it, has been nearly a decade in the making, and would compel companies to report on non-financial aspects involved in every part of their global supply chain—a potentially mammoth undertaking for giants like … Read the rest

Prior to 1980, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 maintained a strict separation between our banking system and our capital markets. However, financial regulators opened loopholes in Glass-Steagall during the 1980s and 1990s, allowing banks to engage in securities activities and permitting nonbanks to offer bank-like products. 

“Universal banks” (banks engaged in securities activities) and “shadow banks” (nonbanks offering bank-like services) dominated our financial markets after Congress repealed Glass-Steagall in 1999. Universal banks and shadow banks played leading roles in the toxic subprime lending boom that led to the financial crisis of 2007–09.

In response to the financial crisis, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve bailed out big banks as well as large shadow banks (including AIG, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs). Federal agencies also protected short-term financial instruments that functioned as substitutes for bank deposits, such as money market mutual funds, commercial paper, and securities repurchase agreements … Read the rest

The 2020 holiday season is going to be a little different, to say the least. We won’t be traveling. We won’t be hosting cocktail parties or soirees. And many of us won’t be able to visit our loved ones. But what we can still do is give a special gift, and let those near and dear to us know we’re thinking about them.

Photograph by Jarren Vink; Styling by Alex Silva

The Homebody

Explore a world of new tastes.

Clockwise from top left:
Our Place The Always Pan The pan that took Instagram by storm. Sauté, steam, sear, or sizzle; $150.
Poketo Jazz up a picnic or dinnertime at home with these designer bamboo plates in a variety of bold designs; $48 for four.
Group Partner Faces Planter Whimsy up a houseplant. Designed in Brooklyn and made in Portugal. ;$65.
Sabah Shearling Babas Turkish-made slippers for warming winter toes; … Read the rest