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📸 Gen Z loves Y2K stuff

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The Hustle

Scammers are reactivating old Airbnb listings to steal travelers’ money (though the company said it was rare), which is how a Philly woman returned home to find a confused family on her doorstep.

In today’s email:

  • NOTAMs: Or why all US flights were grounded.
  • Chart: Avatar’s China boost.
  • Y2K: Gen Z loves aughts tech and fashion.
  • Around the web: An old menu, virtual pen pals, post-interview thank-you emails, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Jacob and Juliet discuss air travel woes, Apple Maps’ game changer, Avatar in China, and more.

The big idea
plane departures

The NOTAM plane debacle, explained

Days after the Southwest Airlines snafu, a computer glitch grounded all US flights on Wednesday morning.

Such an order hasn’t been issued since 9/11, per NPR.

What happened?

An FAA computer system that sends out NOTAMs (Notice to Air Missions) failed.

Though separate from air traffic control systems, NOTAMs share crucial info about potential safety hazards with pilots.

  • For example: Runway closures, lights out of service, military exercises, lasers, or air shows.
  • NOTAMs date back to 1947. The name once stood for “Notice to Airmen,” but in December 2021, it changed to be more inclusive of all aviators, including drone pilots.

Aviation consultant Mike Boyd told CNN, “It’s like telling a trucker that a road is closed up ahead.” So, no NOTAMs, no flights.

What’s next?

The FAA lifted the ground stop shortly before 9am EST, after ~1.5 hours, though air travel was snarled due to the 8.2k+ delays and 1.2k+ cancellations reported by FlightAware as of Wednesday afternoon.

President Joe Biden has ordered an investigation into why the system failed. Currently, there’s no evidence of a cyberattack.

Cybersecurity experts think the culprit was likely a software update, per NBC; others told USA Today it could be outdated tech.

Meanwhile: It’s not just planes. On Monday, passengers on an Amtrak train from Washington, DC to Florida, were stuck aboard for 29+ hours due to a freight train derailment. Eventually, the conductor had to tell them to stop calling 911 as they were not being held hostage.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Uh, what? The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Geico doesn’t have to pay $5.2m to a woman who contracted HPV from a Geico customer. Geico covers in-car injuries but argues sex isn’t typical vehicle use. The case now heads back to a lower court.


Netflix will livestream the SAG Awards starting in 2024, the streaming service’s first live awards show.

Disney prices are… going down? With Bob Iger back as CEO, select parks will offer more lower-cost days, free parking, and free digital photo downloads.

In-N-Out is expanding to Tennessee, the farthest east the California burger chain has expanded. It expects to open its Nashville-area office and restaurants by 2026.

Meta will cut off its original Oculus Quest headset — only four years old — on March 5, meaning no more new features, or creating or joining parties.

OpenAI will test ChatGPT Professional, a paid version of its AI chatbot that includes unlimited messaging and faster responses.

Apple Maps’ latest update will let businesses showcase photos, deals, reservation buttons, and more to better compete with Google Maps. The company is also reportedly developing touch-screen MacBooks, a concept Steve Jobs once said “doesn’t work.”

Supply chain software startup Flexport is laying off 20% of its staff, citing lower volume forecasts from customers and overstaffing.

Update: US Consumer Product Safety Commission head Alexander Hoehn-Saric said the agency will not ban gas stoves. Read our previous coverage here.

Risky business: Great movie, but bad news for your biz. Here’s how to mitigate financial risk and make sure your money stays where it belongs: in your bank account.

biggest movies of all time
Olivia Heller

The Way of Water gets a boost from China

Recommendation: If you haven’t yet seen Avatar: The Way of Water — IMAX, fifth row is the right way to do it. 4D seems cool, too, though a tad violent.

The film has earned $1.75B at the box office. Those earnings include $189.4m in China, despite a surge of covid infections there, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Chinese ticketing app Maoyan projects the film will peak at $222m — more than the $202m Avatar collected in China a decade ago, when there were ~5.7k movie screens in the country. Today, there are 82k+.

Attention could dwindle, though, with the Lunar New Year coming up, when a host of domestic films will hit theaters — among them, The Wandering Earth 2. The first Wandering Earth pulled in $700m in 2019 (and is on Netflix, in case you’re interested).

“We’re [going] back to theaters around the world,” Avatar director James Cameron told Variety. “They’re even going back to theaters in China.”

He added, “Enough with the streaming already — I’m tired of sitting on my ass.”

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Free Resource

The economics of unused gift cards

Be honest — you’ve got one in your wallet. Our copywriter’s eating at the Cheesecake Factory tonight.

Forty-seven percent of US adults have at least one unused gift card, voucher, or store credit, according to a 2022 YouGov study.

Nationwide, that’s $20B+ in unspent credit. What happens to those untapped funds over time? Find out on the latest episode of “Hustlenomics.”

The story of forgotten gift cards:

  • Why so many gift cards go to waste
  • Use ‘em (or be prepared to lose ‘em)
  • Why it’s a win-win for retailers

TLDR: Here’s how companies capitalize on the gift-card graveyard.

The gift card game →
Why Not Y2K?
old cameras

Gen Z loves outdated tech

Rolling into the school cafeteria with the newest smartphone was once the pinnacle of cool — but not anymore.

Today’s teenagers seek the opposite: They’re ditching modern tech for phones and cameras from the days of yore (AKA the early 2000s), per the The New York Times.

Uh, why?

The choice to part with a smartphone — and its top-tier camera — to bang out texts on T9 might seem a little confusing.

But old-school phones and cameras appeal to today’s teens:

  • They can take photos without being on their cell phones.
  • They get space from social media, which 36% of teens say they use too much.

Older digital cameras capture less detail and let in less light through their lenses, producing lower-quality photos. But blurry, vintage-looking photos are exactly what Gen Zers want to stand out from the crowd — and, ironically, to stand out on Instagram.

EBay searches for “digital camera” increased 10% from 2021 to 2022, with searches for specific camera models rising even more sharply (“Nikon COOLPIX,” for example, saw a 90% jump).

Y2K nostalgia…

… has gripped more than just the tech industry. It’s fueled the return of fashion trends like low-rise jeans and velour tracksuits, with brands like Juicy Couture, True Religion, and Abercrombie making lucrative comebacks.

So BRB, blasting Eminem and digging out our Razr phones.

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😊 On this day: In 2001, the Downtown Disney District opened to the public in Anaheim, California, adding a variety of activities for fans that didn’t require a park pass.

🍔 That’s interesting: If you’d visited the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, in 1941, this would have been the lunch menu.

✉️ That’s cool: Slowly is an app for finding digital pen pals. The farther away they are, the longer it takes to deliver your message.

🙏 How to: Write a post-interview thank-you email.

🦨 Aww: And now, where’s Lilly?

drafting an email meme

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, Sara Friedman, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “Juicy Couture velour tracksuit” Dent.

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