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  • Shutterfly's Photographic Vision

    Shutterfly was a survivor of the dotcom crash. Now it's a leader in online photographic services and a trusted brand. The CEO explains how he did it.
  • Travel: Rent a Chauffer With Your Car

    Here's a new accessory for rental cars: a driver. Avis Rent A Car is offering chauffeurs to its customers in 10 top business markets, including New York, L.A., Chicago, Washington, Detroit and the Bay Area.A driver costs about $35 an hour, with a minimum of three hours. WeDriveU, a San Mateo, Calif., firm, provides the drivers. Time-pressed business customers like the new service because drivers can pick up the car and collect renters at baggage claim, says WeDriveU CEO Dennis Carlson.And it's still cheaper than hiring a limo service. One customer, for example, recently rented a car and driver at New York's La Guardia Airport for a day of meetings. He spent $280 for the driver and $120 for the car, compared with $640 for a car-for-hire. At the end of the trip, the driver drove him back to the airport and returned the car. Booking the driver is done separately from the car rental, through an additional phone call. WeDriveU provides extra insurance to cover its drivers.Some customers...
  • Travel: Luxe Hotels Better Than Ever

    Hotels are getting more fabulous. With even mid-tier rooms sporting Egyptian cotton linens, granite baths and Wi-Fi, the bar is being raised for upscale spots worldwide. U.S. luxe hotels have higher occupancy rates and are raising prices more rapidly (7.3 percent this year) than any other category, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Developers are responding with new hotels offering top amenities, says Steve Joyce of Marriott International.Starwood Capital Group, which already owns the vaunted Hotel de Crillon in Paris and is building a Crillon chain, recently announced it's developing Baccarat Hotels and Resorts, named after the crystal company it owns. The first will be in Hawaii. Marriott is putting up Ritz-Carltons and JW Marriotts in China and elsewhere. It has also partnered with Ian Schrager, a boutique hotelier who developed Studio 54 in the 1970s, to come up with an international chain of 100 small hotels it describes as "luxury redefined."Not all new luxe hotels are...
  • Gross: Businesses Go 'Green' and Get Positive Press

    Westport Wash & Wax proudly bills itself as the only solar-powered carwash in the state of Connecticut. The proprietors, brothers Craig and Scott Tiefenthaler, have just covered the roof of their business with 18 panels. The total cost: $21,000, with the state's taxpayers footing 60 percent of the bill.This sort of behavior drives economists and global-warming skeptics to distraction. Even with the massive government subsidy, it'll take seven years for the owners to recoup their investment. And on sunny days, the panels provide only enough juice to run the shop's refrigerators and lights. "To run my main motors, I'd need a city block of solar panels," says Craig.At first blush, the carwash has all the hallmarks of a greenwash: a feel-good gesture that detracts attention from painful efforts that could really influence energy use. People who are serious about using less energy could skip the carwash altogether and bathe their vehicles with a hose and cold water. And if they're...
  • Gross: Why Mattel Must Save Face with China

    Quick to blame its Chinese suppliers for a massive recall, the toy giant now apologizes for its own mistakes. Why Mattel—and other major American companies—must save face with China.
  • Net Interest

    Squeeze more out of your money with tools and tips at these sites: FINRA.org Check out your broker, your mutual-fund expenses and the latest scams at this new securities regulator. ambest.com/consumers Get free insurance-company ratings and learn the basics before you buy a policy. finance-weblog.com A clever blog about money with a philosophical bent and a healthy dose of cynicism. financialaidletter.com See real examples of college financial-aid award letters and plan your own strategy.
  • From Me To You

    Who needs banks when you've got Facebook? Peer-to-peer lending sites are drawing more borrowers and lenders who prefer to make their deals directly with each other. Sites like prosper.com and circlelending.com have done $85.5 million and $200 million in loans, respectively. Lendingclub.com integrated with social-networking site facebook.com early in the summer and says it arranged $500,000 in loans in its first seven weeks.But are these sensible places to borrow or lend money? The interest rates on these unsecured loans tend to be high, so borrowers with good credit scores could get better rates on most mainstream credit cards. Lenders—anyone willing to put up money in the hopes of earning better rates than they would at a bank—might find more to like. Prosper and Lending Club both check borrowers' credit records and are aggressive about collecting on payments, and lenders can make up to 13 percent on their loans.Would-be borrowers and lenders should check out prosperlenders.com for...
  • Getting A Bang For Your Buck

    Here's the silver lining of the mortgage mess: those cash-strapped banks are raising the rates they pay on certificates of deposit and money-market accounts to bring in more green. Why not lend them some money and pick up some safe FDIC-insured returns?For example, Countrywide Bank (countrywide.com) is currently offering 5.55 percent interest on a six-month CD and 5.65 percent on a one-year CD. AmTrust Direct (amtrustdirect.com) is paying 5.3 percent on its money-market deposit account. That's better than the rates being offered by most money-market mutual funds these days, and way more stable than anything this year's stock market might hand you.You can compare rates at bankrate.com or banx.com, but go to individual bank Web sites, too, as the rates listed there can be better than the ones at secondary sites.Also, check with your broker: most online and full-service brokers can get top CD rates and pass them on to you. Brokers can split your money among several banks, and that's...
  • Freeze, Id Thief!

    There's an easy way to protect yourself from identity theft without spending time and money on costly credit-monitoring services: just freeze your credit file.Credit-file freezing is relatively new. Two years ago only four states had laws allowing it; now 39 states and the District of Columbia do. When you freeze your file, nobody—not even you—can use it to open a new account. You can lift the freeze temporarily if you want to apply for a mortgage, car loan or new credit card yourself. "We recommend that everyone consider it," says Gail Hillebrand of Consumers Union. To freeze your file, you'll have to notify all three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. There will probably be a small fee, but the procedures are different in every state, so find your state at consumersunion.org/securityfreeze.htm and follow the steps outlined. The freeze won't change your credit score, but if you're about to enter a flurry of credit applications yourself, wait until your own borrowing...
  • Ask the Pro

    Linda Sherry: Director, National Priorities, Consumer Action
  • Start Planning Now

    When you turn 50, it's more than an embarrassing birthday. It's the outer door to retirement, whether you know it or not. Some people save for years so they can retire early (55 is a favorite age). Others have retirement thrust upon them: they're fired, their health breaks down or they have to take care of an ailing spouse. Of those 60 to 65, a mere 33 percent still work at their primary jobs full time, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Joanna Rotenberg of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. says that 40 percent of retirees are forced to leave work earlier than they'd planned—ready or not. The average retirement age is currently 57.That's what makes your 50th birthday so important. From then on, your employment options narrow. "If you're 20 years older than your boss, you can assume that your days are numbered," says Bedda D'Angelo of Fiduciary Solutions in Durham, N.C. You have to be ready if your boss, your knees or your spirit cries "halt."To retire early...
  • Schmooze Nation

    Geeks don't normally get to play the role of national hero, but Orkut Buyukkokten will not soon forget the trip he made to Brazil earlier this year. The 32-year-old creator of the social-networking site Orkut.com was mobbed by reporters, photographers and autograph seekers. In the United States or Europe, Orkut's name would probably draw a blank stare.Brazil, it seems, is emerging as a bellwether nation for Internet trends. Brazilians have been quick to check out new social-networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Fotolog. And they're largely responsible for the spectacular growth of Orkut's site—Brazilians account for 57 percent of its 44 million members. This is impressive, considering how badly the country is wired. Only a fifth of Brazilians have ever gone online, and fewer than 11 million have Web access at home. But they're a zealous minority. A recent Nielsen/Net Ratings poll showed that Brazilians spend almost 24 hours a month online on average—more than Net surfers from...
  • Q&A: Is the Tiny Smart Car a Dumb Idea?

    It's hip, it's fuel-efficient, and it's cheap. Smart USA's president explains why he's betting on this tiny Euro two-seater gaining  traction in the United States.
  • Hiking In High Style

    There's no better way to explore a place than on foot. But forget the trail mix and sleeping bags; walking tours are increasingly going upscale, adding amenities from goat-cheese tastings to bath butlers. The Wayfarers' Pathways of the Impressionists is a seven-day journey through the French Provençal landscape. The easy-to-moderate daily walks through hilltop olive groves incorporate side trips like a visit to an herb farm and a cooking lesson with a two-star Michelin chef (from $3,850; thewayfarers.com).Bothfeet's new Great Ocean Walk, southwest of Melbourne, covers 56 miles of remote Australian coastline in six days. But a personal masseuse visits hikers' rooms to ease the pain. And the trip concludes with a spectacular helicopter ride retracing the journey (from $2,295; bothfeet.com.au).On the Heritage Tours Private Travel personalized vineyard and tea tour in northern Portugal, visitors stroll through a 17th-century wine village for port tastings en route to a tea ceremony...
  • Gross: The Tao of Junk

    Pundits bemoan our trade deficit with China. But those container ships aren't heading home empty. Here's what's inside.
  • Capital Ideas

    September can be a painful time for small-business owners: their quarterly estimated taxes are due on the 17th. Next year could hurt even worse. The Internal Revenue Service will scrutinize more small-business returns to try to collect more of the $68 billion in lost tax revenue created by owners who underreport income. Here's how to use legitimate moves, and what's left of 2007, to cut your taxes without provoking the Feds. ...
  • Ray-Ban Revival

    The last time Ray-Ban Wayfarers were this popular, a young Tom Cruise was sporting a pair while rocking out in his skivvies to Bob Seger in "Risky Business." Lately there's been a big comeback of the black, thick-framed Original Wayfarers on celebrities and hipsters alike. But there are all sorts of new models to choose from: Ray-Ban now makes them in red, white and tortoiseshell ($130; ray-ban.com). Camo Wayfarers—in both orange and green camouflage patterns—are available through authorized Ray-Ban dealers, including Harvey Nichols in Britain and Ireland ($245; www.harveynichols.com). Ultrahip consumers have to dig through vintage outlets and eBay to find the multicolored 1992 special-edition Olympics Wayfarers, which bear the rings on the arms. And now others are capitalizing on the trend. In Paris, Linda Farrow Vintage teamed up with Kuntzel+Deygas to produce glasses with K+D's trademark Caperino & Peperone dogs silhouetted on each lens and a splatter of white bones on the...
  • Trading Places

    John Thain left Goldman Sachs for the New York Stock Exchange—and a new life in the public eye.
  • Where It’s Always A Windy Day

    Here's an idea for anyone who's ever felt the traffic blow by a busy highway: why not capture the wind created by the cars and turn it into energy? That's the thought behind two new alternative-energy projects. Austin, Texas, architect Mark Oberholzer wants to install small high-speed turbines in the barriers that separate lanes of traffic. He estimates that cars moving at 60 miles per hour could push 120mph winds past the turbines. Recent Arizona State University graduate Joe De Le Ree developed a similar plan using overhead turbines to be built into overpasses. Currently both entrepreneurs are seeking funding to build prototypes.Like other alternative-energy brainstorms, the economics aren't wildly compelling. De Le Ree figures that freeway wind could allow each turbine to generate about 9,600 kilowatt-hours a year, worth just under $800 at current prices—a low return on the estimated $48,000 cost of each overhead turbine.But higher traditional-energy costs and the desire to...
  • Meet The Parentocrats

    Marketing execs have been tagging new consumer types—from yuppies to alpha males—for decades. But to replace those outmoded labels, the New York branding firm Consumer Eyes has profiled nine new 21st-century consumer groups setting market trends now. Company founder Ron Rentel describes them in his new book, "Karma Queens, Geek Gods & Innerpreneurs." Among the new trendsetters are Karma Queens, middle-aged women who buy organic food, Eileen Fisher clothes and gourmet bath and tea products; Parentocrats, upper-class obsessives who consider their kids their most important projects and worry about safety; Geek Gods, the young men who need every electronic toy; Denim Dads, who are sort of like neo-Mr. Moms, and E-litists, or upper-income, educated, environmentally conscious luxury lovers.How does knowing that help move product? Consumer Eyes staffers practice "immersion" research by hanging out where trendy types congregate, reading their magazines and blogs, and developing products...
  • Paul Volcker: How to Fix the World Bank

    The World Bank, reeling from scandal and questions about its role, needs to get its act together, says former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Paul Volcker.
  • Beethoven Goes Digital

    Classical music is making money again, thanks largely to online downloads. It's a great example of how the 'long tail' theory is changing an industry.
  • The Tao of Junk

    Pundits bemoan our trade deficit with China. But those container ships aren't heading home empty. Here's what's inside.
  • Meet the Parentocrats

    Marketing execs have been tagging new consumer types—from yuppies to alpha males—for decades. But to replace those outmoded labels, the New York branding firm Consumer Eyes has profiled nine new 21st-century consumer groups setting market trends now. Company founder Ron Rentel describes them in his new book, "Karma Queens, Geek Gods & Innerpreneurs." Among the new trendsetters are Karma Queens, middle-aged women who buy organic food, Eileen Fisher clothes and gourmet bath and tea products; Parentocrats, upper-class obsessives who consider their kids their most important projects and worry about safety; Geek Gods, the young men who need every electronic toy; Denim Dads, who are sort of like neo-Mr. Moms, and E-litists, or upper-income, educated, environmentally conscious luxury lovers.How does knowing that help move product? Consumer Eyes staffers practice "immersion" research by hanging out where trendy types congregate, reading their magazines and blogs, and developing...
  • Samuelson: Is World Economic Boom in Peril?

    The U.S. mortgage crisis is dominating headlines, but it's not the real threat to the global economy. Robert Samuelson makes sense of our complex world financial system.
  • Survey: Companies Face the Future

    MORE:Issue Ranker | What strategies will help your company pull through the current economic slump?Join the Online Forum Now | Submit your questions and comments below.// ////// ////// if (window.Mailbag) {Mailbag(oMailbag); } ////