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2020 CV19 Lockdown: Winners and Losers

It is said that in any time in history, the winners and losers are determined when a unique set of circumstances arises the requires an unprecedented response. How a company responds to those conditions can often propel them to new heights, or sentence them to an ignominious end. This post is meant to be an ongoing and often updated list of those that may come out of the Great 2020 Covid19 Lockdown as champs...or chumps.

Winners

Zoom

How is it that, with all of the video conferencing choices in the market, a relatively obscure one (and a freemium one, to boot!) ran away with the title? Think of it: you had entrenched competitors like Skype and Facebook, as well as work-focused like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Amazon Chime, any one of which had far greater reach than Zoom. Yet Zoom won, to the point that they achieved the exalted state of having their product/platform become a verb ("I'll Zoom you later"). More amazingly, they even continued their growth when trolls started to disrupt meetings, forcing Zoom to revamp the product security. How did this happen? A few reasons:

  • It was one of the few platforms that handled large crowds' video well. The "Zoom matrix" is now a familiar sight for students and large companies, and the Grid view allows you to see all of the participants at once. Sounds simple, but compare that to the limited views platforms like Hangouts or Teams give you, and it was easy to see why they were the obvious choice for educators. And once the kids get into it, well, the rest is history.
  • Zoom didn't buckle under the increased load. When the country got told to work from home, that increasingly meant get on Zoom. You know the rest of that story, right? Promising platform becomes unusable under the strain of such an unforeseen surge in usage...but that never happened. Zoom kept zooming along, with nary a bump.
  • It's all about the backgrounds. Zoom was one of the first to address the problem with many of our home working areas: they are messy. Zoom's solution? Virtual backgrounds. Was it the best implementation? Definitely not: you needed to have a greens screen or neutral background to make it work well, and Teams does it far better with blurs, better detection, and backgrounds, but Zoom had first mover advantage. Plus, Zoom made it easy to add backgrounds, so you could be working in popular TV shows, movies, or more.
  • Let AI handle your makeup. Zoom has a feature to let the software "touch up" your appearance on screen; that encouraged a ton of folks to turn on the camera without fear of seeing flaws.

Postmates, UberEats

Food delivery is, mostly, a city thing: you have dense populations, so you can efficiently and cost effectively deliver


Losers

Cruise Ship Lines (Norwegian, etc.)

Long a source of misery for many gullible travelers, the cruise ships found themselves dead center in the coronavirus crisis. Take this recipe: travelers from many nations, who tend to skew older, packing themselves into tight quarters for weeks, mingling with the other guests, being served food from underpaid and overworked staff...what do you get? Well, normally, a lot of diarrhea and vomiting, but now, add severe respiratory illness and rapid contagion to the menu! 

It got worse: many of the healthy passengers could't escape the ships, as countries increasingly turned these floating infection barges away from their ports. Ships were forced to quarantine the passengers in their rooms, delivering meals to the door, and entertainment through the closed circuit TVs. Not sure if you are familiar with the rooms with "no view," but that is a more nicely furnished prison cell. So congrats: your 2 weeks in paradise just became solitary confinement in the 'shoe on Death Row. Enjoy!

And for the staff on these ships, it was already a dicey proposition. Work hours far longer than any law would allow, since you are in international waters. Get to see the world through a porthole. Oh, and your reward? Fairly low pay with the chance to contract norovirus, and as a bonus, coronoavirus. Worse, with all the passengers stuck on board instead of visiting local sights, that means there's no let up in your work, and you have to work 3x as hard. See the world, sail the seas, work to death.

But wait: there's more! These bloated hotels on water have repeatedly dodged paying taxes in the countries they mostly do business in for decades. But who were among the first to beg for aid from those countries they've been jumping the turnstiles of? Oh, yeah, you know it. And what about those countries they claim to be "flagged" under? Yeah, they don't want you anywhere near them.

Chipotle

Restaurants have been among the many that have been hit hard by this. But Chipotle was spreading disease and viruses to it's valued customers for years, and this week they got double whammied. Not only is their business down 80% or more, but they agreed to pay a record $25 million in California to settle the latest incident. Seems that, starting in 2015, they served norovirus-infected food, sickening almost 1,000 people. Nothing says "fresh ingredients" more than projectile vomiting!

Decades ago, Jack In The Box was a national chain, but then they served some pretty badly infected food in Fall River, MA (I believe; can't recall), and 4 kids died. It was a nightmare, a tragedy. They looked at the fact that their company name would be associated with killing children, and said "What do we do?" They didn't pull out of Fall River. They didn't pull out of MA. They didn't pull out of New England. No, they closed every location they had, east of the Mississippi River. It was that bad.

Chipotle is one infected burrito away from killing someone's elderly aunt, uncle, or grandpa. It's time to close up shop, pseudo-Mexicanos, and go infect some other country. I hear Kim Jong Un loves him some guac and beans.

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