April 9, 2020

Runaway rent problems?

April 9, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Christopher Cloos

🔈Sound on, podcast buffs. Exit Strategy, our new show with Moiz Ali — the founder of Native, the personal-care pros — launches today. Read on for details.

Past Due

When paying the rent is too damn hard

The rent came due, and the picture ain’t pretty.

New numbers released on Wednesday showed that nearly ⅓ of American apartment renters didn’t pay any rent during the first week of April.

Just 69% of tenants paid any of their rent in the first 5 days of the month, compared to 82% in the same period last year.

Jimmy McMillan had a point

The numbers are another sign of how far — and how quickly — the economy has cratered, with 10m Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits in the last 2 weeks of March.

The jobs crisis led to a crazy cash crunch for both renters and their landlords:

  • The head of CommonBond Properties, a nonprofit developer that manages affordable housing and has about 6k apartments in the Midwest, told The New York Times that she expected as many 40% of tenants to fall behind.

The feds — and local governments — are trying to help by easing eviction rules.

The $2T coronavirus relief package signed by President Trump last month suspended evictions for some federally subsidized housing and federally backed mortgages. But the Urban Institute estimated that just 28% of rental units were covered under the law.

Homeowner requests to delay mortgage payments are skyrocketing, and people are reporting trouble getting the help they were promised in the stimulus package.

Things aren’t much prettier at your local mall

Some retailers simply told their commercial landlords: no way, no how, no rent check, not this month. (If only it were so easy for the rest of us!)

Axios reported Wednesday that Staples was the latest big chain to refuse to pay rent. In late March, Subway, Mattress Firm, and others told their landlords not to expect a check.

Some landlords are taking it easy…

…like Walmart, which waived rents for businesses that operate within its Supercenters and Sam’s Clubs.

And some heroes don’t wear capes: Last week, a landlord in Brooklyn who manages 18 apartment buildings wiped away April rents for hundreds of tenants.

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Snack Comeback

Out with the kale, in with the Goldfish

The titans of the junk food world are rejoicing. 

When Americans zip through the grocery store to top off their quarantine stockpiles, they aren’t reaching for the low-carb, low-fat meals that gained popularity in recent years. They’re heading straight for the popcorn, the Goldfish, the Oreos, and the SpaghettiOs.

Uh oh, the health foods must go

That’s big news for the likes of Conagra Brands, J.M. Smucker, and Kraft Heinz — all of whom struggled to stay relevant in the health-conscious 2010s. 

Thanks to quarantine, traditional snack products are up big: 

  • Campbell’s soup saw sales jump 59% compared to last year.
  • Pretzel sales are up 47%.
  • Goldfish crackers are seeing a 23% bump.

Just let us have nice things, OK?

As The New York Times noted, part of the reason for the junk-food surge is that people are abandoning old rules like “no chips in the house.” 

But it also goes deeper than that: We just need comfort right now. And for many, cooking childhood comfort foods — or just snacking on them — is a psychological balm

That shift to old-school comforts is happening across the board, even outside of the food sector. People are turning to puzzles, Pokémon, and Club Penguin to resurrect some glimmer of childhood joy. 

The trend’s got us wondering… 

What childhood favorites are you turning back to these days? They can be beloved foods, or items you dug out of the depths of your closet. Let us know here.

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Sponsored

Trouble sleeping lately? It may be your eyes

Blasting your e-balls with blue light — the special, not-so-great type of light emitted by computers, smartphones, and TVs — every day can lead to headaches, strained eyes, and insomnia. 

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A wide range of styles (plus polarized sunglasses, for when you take a siesta on the island Frontporch) means there’s a Cloos for everyone.

If you find yourself staring at a screen and struggling to sleep, try their blue light blocking lenses for 20% off when you use code H20

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Couchella Forever

A streaming concert platform finally lands a gig on the big stage

Evan Lowenstein has a pretty amazing story to tell: His company pulled in more money in the last 2 weeks ($884k, he says) than it did all of last year ($500k).

Why so successful? The pandemic has delivered ready-made audiences to companies in a few select industries. After 11 years in relative obscurity, Variety says Stageit has finally found its big stage.

It’s the streaming hero of indie musicians

The pandemic crushed the touring business for artists around the world. Musicians are entertaining quarantined listeners with homebrew sets on Facebook Live and Instagram — but on those platforms, there’s typically no way for the artists to get paid.

Stageit gives artists a platform to pick set times and ticket prices, with a virtual tip jar. The musicians keep 80% of the money.

Lowenstein says 25k artists have signed up with Stageit over the years, but most didn’t actually play a show. In recent weeks, 5k+ performers have signed on or reactivated their old accounts.

Now every weekend is Couchella weekend

Live-streamed Coachella used to be for bummed-out music fans who couldn’t snag a ticket to Indio. But now that we can’t leave our houses, digital festivals are popping up everywhere. 

Just one example: The subscription-based Live From Out There recently made $100k in a single weekend.

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The Hustle Says

There may be no single greater time-killer in the entire galaxy than Universal Paperclips. Don’t worry, guys — it’ll be Friday before you know it.

Adam just gave Public.com his Presidential Seal of Approval. That’s kind of a big deal. Follow him on their social investing app and see for yourself how fun investing can be.*

WFH got you eating breakfast, brunch, lunch, second lunch, early dinner, and late-night snack? Same, which is why now’s the time to let Noom help you make better dietary and lifestyle choices.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Essential for What?

Bowling balls, nipple clamps, rubber chickens: Essential or not, you can get ‘em on Amazon

The CDC has yet to clarify whether bowling balls slow the spread of the coronavirus. But right now, Amazon will sell you one anyway. 

An investigation by The Markup found that Amazon was offering rubber chickens, prom dresses, and bowling balls for quick delivery, even after it said last month that it was prioritizing shipments of essential goods. 

There are also hand spas, dollhouses, and — in the case of one customer — 392 nipple clamps, as discovered by Business Insider.

Amazon can’t get its priorities straight

The mess all began on March 17, when Amazon announced a pause on warehouse shipments of nonessential products through April 5. 

Amazon’s stated goal was to prioritize the baby products and medical supplies that customers need right now — and to take the burden off of its warehouse workers, some of whom are getting sick with the virus. 

Amazon initially defined “essential” loosely: The company said items under the umbrellas of “Baby Products,” “Health & Household,” “Beauty & Personal Care,” “Grocery,” “Industrial & Scientific,” and “Pet Supplies” were available to be shipped. 

By early April, Amazon had changed its mind: As its bottom line soared, it decided to treat products on an unspecified “item-by-item” basis. Enter the nipple clamps, apparently.

An Amazon rep told The Markup that the ecommerce giant had started “selectively bringing more products from our selling partners into our fulfillment centers.”

But workers have noticed you might not NEED some things 

As one of them put it: “Dildos are not essential items.”

The debate extends beyond what you can buy — it’s all about which businesses get to stay open. At times, golf courses, craft shops, and mattress stores managed to skirt coronavirus-related closures in some states. 

But it’s not a good look. Amazon’s warehouse workers are stuck in close quarters, and they’ve walked out in protest of dangerous working conditions, leading to human-rights investigations in places like Staten Island. All that for a rubber chicken.

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Snippets

👀 More bad news for Zoom: Google has banned the video conferencing software from its employees’ devices.

🚘 Many Uber and Lyft drivers say they’re struggling to secure benefits they were supposed to receive in the coronavirus relief bill.

🚁 Of course it is: Demand for drone delivery is taking off in the Virginia area where it’s being tested.

🚽 May this TP treatise flush away your questions about why there’s a shortage of toilet paper.

🍰 But there’s no shortage of ideas: A Finnish bakery’s orders went down the drain. It saved itself with a cake that looks like a roll of TP.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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