Coronavirus fears – Google and Amazon limit employee travel

Coronavirus fears – Google and Amazon limit employee travel

Photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

Google is preventing employees from traveling to Italy, Iran, Japan, and South Korea because of outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. A Google employee in Switzerland has a confirmed case of the virus.

Google is preventing employees from traveling to Italy, Iran, Japan, and South Korea because of outbreaks of the novel coronavirusBusiness Insider reported. Amazon is asking employees to defer all nonessential travel, a spokesperson confirmed to The Verge, which includes domestic travel within the US.

Both companies had already halted employee travel to China, and Google temporarily closed down its offices in China at the end of January.

A Google employee in Zurich, Switzerland, has the novel coronavirus, a spokesperson confirmed to The Verge. “They were in the Zurich office for a limited time, before they had any symptoms,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Amazon senior vice president Dave Clark wrote in an email that employees should not schedule meetings that call for travel until at least the end of April, The New York Times reported. The company is one of the leading buyers of corporate air travel, and it booked $220 million in flights in 2017.

Amazon is also canceling all on-site interviews for job candidates, Gizmodo reported. Interviews will be held over video chat.

There are currently over 83,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, worldwide. China has the largest number of cases, but outbreaks are escalating in countries like Japan and South Korea, which now has over 2,300 confirmed cases and 13 deaths.

The tech industry has seen significant impact from the ongoing outbreaks, including store closures across China and production delays. Organizers canceled Mobile World Congress after companies like Amazon, ZTE, and Sony pulled out, and Facebook canceled the in-person portion of its annual F8 developer conference.

AMEX Staff mislead small business owners to boost card signups

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express

American Express employees misled and coerced scores of small-business owners into signing up for cards, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Employees reportedly checked customers’ credit scores against their wishes, “misrepresented” the fees and rewards associated with the cards, and sometimes issued cards that customers didn’t ask for, according to more than a dozen current and former employees across sales, customer service, and compliance who spoke to the Journal.

Brian Daughtry, who owns a disaster-cleanup company in Ohio, was one such small business owner who one day received a $250 bill in the mail for a card he didn’t agree to sign up for. After he called to dispute the charge, the company canceled the bill.

The employees who spoke to the Journal said the practices came after Costco cut ties with American Express in 2015, leaving the company to chase after small-business owners who were frequent Costco shoppers, and therefore heavy spenders on AMEX credit cards connected to the wholesale chain.

Employees reportedly checked customers’ credit scores against their wishes, “misrepresented” the fees and rewards associated with the cards, and sometimes issued cards that customers didn’t ask for, according to more than a dozen current and former employees across sales, customer service, and compliance who spoke to the Journal.

Brian Daughtry, who owns a disaster-cleanup company in Ohio, was one such small business owner who one day received a $250 bill in the mail for a card he didn’t agree to sign up for. After he called to dispute the charge, the company canceled the bill.

The employees who spoke to the Journal said the practices came after Costco cut ties with American Express in 2015, leaving the company to chase after small-business owners who were frequent Costco shoppers, and therefore heavy spenders on AmEx credit cards connected to the wholesale chain.

Employees reportedly checked customers’ credit scores against their wishes, “misrepresented” the fees and rewards associated with the cards, and sometimes issued cards that customers didn’t ask for, according to more than a dozen current and former employees across sales, customer service, and compliance who spoke to the Journal.

Brian Daughtry, who owns a disaster-cleanup company in Ohio, was one such small business owner who one day received a $250 bill in the mail for a card he didn’t agree to sign up for. After he called to dispute the charge, the company canceled the bill.

The employees who spoke to the Journal said the practices came after Costco cut ties with American Express in 2015, leaving the company to chase after small-business owners who were frequent Costco shoppers, and therefore heavy spenders on AmEx credit cards connected to the wholesale chain.

In a Business Insider report recommending the best credit cards for small business owners to get in 2020, three of the nine top picks belonged to American Express, which boasts some cards offering travel benefits, no annual fees, and high-points returns.

Business accounts drive about 30% of the company’s revenue through the variety of services that business owners can sign up for, the Journal noted. 

A spokesperson for the company said in a statement to Business Insider that the telesales team referenced in the report was responsible for approximately 0.25% of the 65 million total cards American Express issued between 2014 and 2019, and the company found that less than 0.25% of the group’s sales activities were identified as “inconsistent with our sales policies.”

“We have rigorous, multilayered monitoring and independent risk-management processes in place, which we continuously review and enhance to ensure that all sales activities conform with our values, internal policies and regulatory requirements,” he said. “We carefully examine any issues raised through our various internal and external feedback channels and audits, and we do not tolerate any misconduct.”

American Express is not the only company in recent years that has been accused of padding its client numbers by enrolling customers in cards or accounts without their consent or knowledge.

In 2016, it was revealed that employees across Wells Fargo opened 2 million retail accounts without customers’ knowledge. Reuters reported at the time, citing sources familiar with the matter, that 10,000 small business accounts were also affected by the scandal.

The alleged effect on small businesses was also raised during Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf’s testimony to the House Financial Services Committee in the wake of the scandal, but he denied any knowledge of a ripple effect from the retail accounts.