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West Elm Caleb saga is a story about online privacy
Jan 21, 2022
Episode 584

West Elm Caleb saga is a story about online privacy

Plus, Kimberly and Andy play Half Full/ Half Empty!

If you haven’t heard about Caleb from West Elm, get ready for a mini-deep dive. His story is all over TikTok and Twitter, and it’s raising serious questions about internet culture and a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. We’ll break it down. Plus, who knew what, when? That’s what House Democrats are asking of fossil fuel companies regarding climate change. Then, a round of our favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about today: 

Have thoughts about the West Elm Caleb saga or any other story we mentioned today? Hit us up at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voice message at 508-827-6278 (or 508-U-B-SMART).

Make Me Smart January 21, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams: I’m rolling. Let’s do this thing. … I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense or at least attempt to on any given day.

Andy Uhler: Hey, Kimberly. I’m Andy Uhler. It’s Friday, which around here means happy hour Friday Economics on Tap, as it’s known around here, thank you so much for joining us. It’s so wonderful to be here with you, my friend, my colleague, Kimberly Adams.

Kimberly Adams: Hello. It’s so nice to audibly be with you since we’re not doing the live stream, but it’s a lot of fun. And so yes, we are also going to talk about our drinks. We’re going to do some news fixes we’re going to do half full half empty all of the things but first, what are you drinking Mr. Uhler?

Andy Uhler: So it’s, it’s interesting. My wonderful partner, my girlfriend Caitlin just brought me an assortment of drinks. She bought me two different drinks. So, backstory. I turned 39 in September.

Kimberly Adams:  Happy belated birthday!

Andy Uhler: And so I decided – oh thank you! So I decided on the next day that I was going to do a year, no booze. So it’s dry January, yeah, it’s been super, super interesting. For me, everything turns into a game, I’m sure we’re gonna get into this in half empty half full. Um, but it’s been really interesting for me to do it and to sort of figure it out. I have two mocktails here that are really, really nice. It’s sort of a Moscow Mule with some ginger beer. And splash a bitters, a little bit of lime. And then we also have a frozen mango. Yeah, a frozen mango with a little bit of spicy, sort of like tajín on the on the crust there  on the rim of the glass with the sort of lemon lime –

Kimberly Adams: Wait I don’t understand – a tagine is a pot.

Andy Uhler: Oh, am I missing what –

Kimberly Adams: Explain to me what you mean by tagine.

Andy Uhler:  I’m probably saying the wrong thing.

Kimberly Adams: I don’t know but like tagine is like a Moroccan like cookware …

Andy Uhler: What am I thinking of?

Kimberly Adams: I don’t know.

Drew Jostad: You’re thinking of tajín.

Kimberly Adams: Tahini!

Drew Jostad: No, it’s that spice mixture that they put on the fruit here in LA.

Kimberly Adams: Ohhhh!

Andy Uhler: It makes your sort of fruit spicy. And so – tajín

Kimberly Adams: I do not know of this. Tajín.

Andy Uhler: Yeah, no, it’s a delight. So that’s on the rim of this frozen mango with a little bit of lemon lime seltzer water mocktail. She was absolutely jazzed to make me these two mocktails and I’m happy to be here.

Kimberly Adams: Aww, aren’t you lucky.

Andy Uhler: I know. What about you? What are you drinking?

Kimberly Adams: You’re so coddled.

Andy Uhler: I hear that you had a mixer and you were trying to figure out what to put in it right?

Kimberly Adams: Yes, I knew I wanted my mixer to be pomegranate juice, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to add to it. And so I of course went to the Discord. And we couldn’t decide between white rum and spiced rum so I have both. We both have two cocktails today. I have a pomegranate juice with a little bit of club soda and white rum and pomegranate juice with a little bit of club soda and spiced rum.

Andy Uhler: Spiced rum.

Kimberly Adams: And each of them because I want to be a little bit fancier than I really truly am, I put a little shard of fresh nutmeg into each of them. So I will be sampling and determining which one of those two I like best even though I hope I remember which one was which. Anyway.

Andy Uhler: No, I mean, the sort of the in game updates is what I’m looking for, while we’re doing this right.

Kimberly Adams: All right, well of your two which one do you like better?

Andy Uhler: Of my two I think I actually like the mango better. It’s really interesting. We we had some fresh mangoes here I don’t know – I mean, fresh mangoes in Texas I don’t know where they’re coming from. But we had some that I chopped up and so it’s it’s like sort of delightfully fruitful. And I could imagine some rum being in this too. I don’t know if it’d be the spice from it might be the wine room. I don’t know.

Kimberly Adams: I think I like the spiced rum version of this better. But I generally like spicy drinks like I’m that girl who has the drink with lighter slices of jalapenos in it and ghost pepper you know infuse tequila and stuff. So I’m gonna go – they’re both quite delicious. And I’ve definitely when I’ve had mocktails in the past I’ll do like pomegranate juice. With bitters and  ginger beer, or pomegranate juice and club soda, or any of those mixes, and they’re always good, so I like this one.

Andy Uhler: The ginger beer helps out a lot.

Kimberly Adams:  Mm hmm. Yeah. I think I had a stretch of something like, going dry for four or five months, and I did a lot of ginger beer in that time. But we should probably get to the news fix. So we don’t spend the whole time talking about drinks.

Andy Uhler: Okay, I’m gonna go first. And I love being able to talk to you about this. Because we got news, you’re there in Washington, we got news that the big oil companies are gonna be back on the on the Hill, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has said that it’s going to talk to the directors, or to some of the members of the board of directors of Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell about commitments to curbing global warming. Now, what’s interesting is, is sort of what it feels like this is now going to be a discussion about on the Hill is, how much did you know, when did you know it, and what did you tell people about global warming about climate change when you knew it? It feels like we keep sort of going back to this idea that oil companies knew what was going on. But because profits mattered a lot and they still do, they were pretty protective with what they were telling the public about climate change and about their findings. Because dating back decades, they’ve been hiring folks to understand what was happening. They hire the smartest scientists to figure out what’s happening when they’re drilling for oil or when they’re producing natural gas. And so the knowledge was there. And I think what’s going to happen, I’m curious, I would love to get what you think about what’s going to actually happen. I mean, there was a grilling that happened in October about, you know, when Big Oil was on the stand about all of this, do you feel like you know, is this going to be round two? Or is it going to be another one of those, Well, well, they’re the bad guys. And we’ll sort of move on what do you think?

Kimberly Adams: I’m struggling to understand what the penalty is, like, I get that the hearing plays into the push by the Democrats to pass the portions of the Build Back Better plan that try to address the consequences of climate change. But often, when, you know, these leaders are hauled before Congress to testify, it’s tied to a specific piece of legislation with a particular outcome. And I’m not sure what that is here other than the climate components of the build back better plan, and I’m not sure how hearing this will swing anyone one way or the other, but maybe it might, you know, build public support for those components to try to get it over the finish line. But I just wonder what the consequences are, because it’s been pretty well established what the industry has done in this regard. But they’re still functioning, they’re still making money, they’re still profitable.

Andy Uhler: They’re still making a ton of money, right.

Kimberly Adams: And it’s, and they are positioning themselves, as you know, leaders in the field of responding to climate change, which is fascinating. And so I’ll be curious, what is the “Okay, so now what” coming out of this hearing? I’m not sure what that is yet.

Andy Uhler: Yep, you’re, no, you’re right. Because, you know, a lot of these companies have been talking about net zero, and they’ve been talking about the different things that they’re going to do. And that’s great, and it’s wonderful PR, and I hope you’re – I don’t want to say I hope you’re wrong, but this does feel a little bit like PR for them saying look at how bad Big Oil is. We need to figure something out. So why don’t we pass this bill? I hope that’s not the case. What about you, what are you paying attention to?

Kimberly Adams: I’m paying attention to what half of the internet is paying attention to which is West Elm Caleb.

Andy Uhler: Okay break down West Elm Caleb for us, because – well, go ahead.

Kimberly Adams: Go ahead. No, had you heard of this before I put it in here.

Andy Uhler: I had not heard of this before you put it in here and then I went –

Kimberly Adams: Down the absolute deepest rabbit hole ever.

Andy Uhler: Oh, man. It was perfect. Thank you. Thank you for my evening.

Kimberly Adams: Um, yes, I will thank our former colleague Nicole Childers for sending me down this rabbit hole the other day when this was breaking. And the, for those who have, you know, been under the proverbial internet rock and have missed this. This is basically a series of Tik Tok videos from young women in New York who are all talking about dating the same guy and criticizing him for what you know, they lay out some really negative dating behaviors. And it escalated each time that an additional woman who claimed to be dating this guy posted a video and added more details about how he was, you know, allegedly this really bad dater. It then got even more significant because there were some pretty heavy accusations lobbed at this guy, including sending unsolicited photos that were inappropriate, including cheating on various women. His photo was shared, information about where he worked, some people were calling for him to get fired. And, you know, at first you get down the rabbit hole. And it’s like this juicy gossip and you’re like, you know, the group chat amplified by a million degrees. But then it’s kind of like, I am also on dating apps. And as a person who is on dating apps, I like to believe I’m not a trash dater. But if somebody thought I was, how would I feel about all of it –

Andy Uhler: It being broadcasted.

Kimberly Adams: Not just being quoted, broadcast and published and amplified and viewed by millions of people, and it crossed over into Twitter and into mainstream media, to the point that now, there’s a decent amount of criticism coming out about this sort of piling on to this guy, including from Taylor Lorenz, who is a tech culture reporter for the New York Times, and she posted a video that captures some of the sort of concerns about this.

Taylor Lorenz on Tik Tok: It doesn’t seem like he has any kind of like institutional power over anyone or anything. He’s not like some big time CEO, we’re calling him out in this public and urgent way is necessary. And while sending unsolicited … pics is bad, I don’t think it warrants a mass cancellation event.

Kimberly Adams: And, you know, she says that, you know, some of the stuff that people are saying could verge on defamatory, potentially, you know, and I’m sure legal scholars will be unpacking this, but there has been plenty of incidences of people being, you know, outed or doxxed or identified via social media for really bad behavior being racist, or, you know, being rude –

Andy Uhler: Or illegal activity, right.

Kimberly Adams: Mean or aggressive  with people for not wearing masks or something like that. And it, it makes you wonder where that line of as a private citizen, do you have the expectation of privacy? And, you know, you and I are not technically private citizens. So, you know, it’s a different thing. But this dude, you know, like many guys, you know, dated, and, apparently, left a group of women behind him who didn’t like the way he dated, but does that warrant this? And it just makes you makes you wonder, makes you pause, makes you think twice about sharing private information about private people broadly on the internet?

Andy Uhler: Was it a matter too have folks, these women sort of understanding? Because there were remarks of “hey, are you talking about this guy?” Right? Is that sort of?

Kimberly Adams: Yes.

Andy Uhler: That’s how it worked?

Kimberly Adams: Yes. And there’s some suspicion that the algorithm may have connected these women more easily to each other, because they were all contacts on his phone. Again, a lot of this is hearsay and guessing, but yes, some of it was identifying and this moment of sort of empowerment of women getting together to you know, identify someone who they felt was doing them wrong. And that, you know, made them feel good and connected and like they were, you know, helping each other out. You know, on that level that happens in group chats all the time. Fine. But it’s sort of that next level of it when it goes viral around the world. Are we okay with that?

Andy Uhler: Mm. Yeah, I mean, sort of how does it? Yeah, I mean, it does sort of make you think about your behavior or, you know, my behavior, certainly on social media all the time, right. Like, I’m not going to put that out there. Meghan McCarty Carino and I were joking yesterday about Wordle and I said I only send it to I don’t put it on Twitter. I just put you know, I just send it to my buddies that I play with. That’s very, very low stakes. But I don’t even do that because I’m sort of with you. It’s scary out there.

Kimberly Adams: I played Wordle for the first time yesterday.

Andy Uhler: Yeah, how’d it go?

Kimberly Adams:  Our newsletter writer asked me to play it for our newsletter, and I was apparently doing all right. I got it in three tries.

Andy Uhler: Oh, that’s good.

Kimberly Adams: Speaking of games!

Andy Uhler: I know.

Kimberly Adams: Best segue ever! Right? Okay, Drew. Hey, this is Half Full, Half Empty, where we give you our thoughts and feelings on various topics. Drew Jostad is our host today. Hey, Drew!

Drew Jostad: Hey, Kimberly, are you half full or half empty on Microsoft proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Kimberly Adams: 

Half empty. Andy, are you familiar with this story?

Andy Uhler: Absolutely.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, cool. So just to tell everybody else. Microsoft is trying to make its largest acquisition ever of Activision Blizzard, which is a gaming company. And it would be a huge deal in the gaming industry. And we covered this on Marketplace Tech this week with the help of the our resident gamer Daniel Shin. Who, and if you know Activision, Blizzard has all sorts of problems for –

Andy Uhler: Lots of problems.

Kimberly Adams:  alleged harassment and discrimination at the company. And so there’s that mess there. And then on top of that, you have Microsoft, which controls the Xbox, you know, now, potentially acquiring a company that has really big name games that are played on other platforms. And so, of course, the antitrust regulators are having a look, I don’t know I’m a little bit skeptical of the consolidation. And gaming is such a big industry and putting more and more of that under just these large umbrella companies. I’m half empty. What do you think?

Andy Uhler: Are you half empty on this being a good acquisition for Microsoft?

Kimberly Adams: It’s definitely gonna make them money, if it goes through. If the regulator’s allow it. We’re not just talking about US regulators, but global regulators also. And I think, for Microsoft, sure , it’s a great deal. You know, for gamers, probably half empty.

Andy Uhler: That’s what I was going to tell you is that I was probably going to err on the side of half full for Microsoft, but I’m absolutely 100% in your in line with you on for people who are actually playing these games? No, half empty.

Kimberly Adams:  Yeah. Okay. Next.

Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on this week’s rollout of the at home COVID-19 rapid tests from the government.

Kimberly Adams: Andy you go first.

Andy Uhler: Sure. You know, it’s funny, I am half full, I think. I’m sort of half full on the idea that the government sort of coming through and getting at home COVID tests to people, I think there are a lot of problems with it. You need to have an address to get these at home tests, which I think is really important. And also how quickly they’re going to get to people that need them. I think that’s really, really tough. I mean, I guess it’s one of those things where the government making a step or taking a step in some sort of direction is always sort of one of those like, oh, okay, the government’s trying. I’m sort of reluctantly half full. What about you?

Kimberly Adams: Wow, the bar is so low. I’m gonna say half full, better late than never. The website did not crash, like when they launched Obamacare. So we’ll count that as a win.

Andy Uhler: Small victories.

Kimberly Adams:  I was able to sign up myself. I signed up my uncles, I signed up my mom, I tried to sign up my grandpa, somebody else had already signed him up, I was able to get older relatives who aren’t as tech savvy, you could put in their address and have it sent to them, which is great. People who live in homes with more than four people are having problems because I live alone. But I’m going to get four tests. But somebody who lives in a multi generational household with six or seven people still gets four tests or if you live in an apartment building. A lot of people with apartment buildings had problems signing up. I’m tentatively, you know, optimistic that this is going to get resolved. And but we’ll see once they’re in the mail.

Andy Uhler: It does sound like we’re both sort of very reluctantly, half full on that one.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, yes. Okay.

Andy Uhler: Go ahead Drew.

Drew Jostad: Your next topic is half full or half empty on Amazon’s new brick and mortar clothing store.

Andy Uhler: What do you think Kimberly?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty. I just the more I read about the business practices, the more skeptical I am.

Andy Uhler: Sure. What do you mean? What’s – okay, fair enough.

Kimberly Adams: Like we’ve done … No, no, I mean, we’ve done a lot of reporting here about, you know, the injuries at Amazon warehouses and the way that workers are dealing and the strain on drivers and delivery. And, you know, this is a totally different thing. This is a brick and mortar store, they’re trying out a different model of retail. And like, that’s interesting. But it’s, it’s really hard to be half full on Amazon, given some of the reporting coming out about the company just more broadly, at the moment.

Andy Uhler: I think I’m half empty on this idea of sort of going back to, you know, the old I mean, this is how we used to do it, I understand that you’re trying to expand your market, and you’re trying to sort of, you know, get to people however you can, if you’re Amazon, but everybody else is trying to figure out how to do more Amazon-y stuff, and you’re building brick and mortars, or at least acquiring these buildings that maybe they were in malls, maybe they were already sort of abandoned. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because people are already switching to ordering everything online. Anyway. It’s like, I mean, I guess if you can return stuff. I don’t know, I’m half empty on, let’s make sure we understand we’re still in 2022.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Okay. Next.

Drew Jostad: Next topic. Have you heard of the NFT Museum?

Kimberly Adams: No.

Andy Uhler: I have not.

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on a physical and virtual space for NFT art, education, collaboration and exhibition now open in South Carolina?

Kimberly Adams: You mean like an art museum?

Andy Uhler: I think so. Right? That’s exactly what it sounds like, I have a couple of buddies who are visual artists and I have been digging into the idea of doing a story about NFTs and whether or not they make sense from the artists perspective, and how difficult it is to sort of think about these things. If your platform is digital, I think it’s a little bit easier to sort of think about, okay, you know, these sorts of things are now being acquired and, you know, purchased and sold and things like that. I think for somebody in – I have a buddy who’s a who’s a visual artist who paints and so for him, it’s a different space to sort of think about. I don’t know, I mean,

Kimberly Adams: Is your buddy who did your avatar?

Andy Uhler: Yeah. Yeah, my buddy Graham. Um, yeah, he and I were talking, we went out to, we went out to dinner, and I had, we talked for about an hour about because he’s been approached by some folks who want to make NFTs out of some of his paintings. And he’s just really reticent. Because, you know, he’s a painter, and it’s tangible things. And for him, he doesn’t really understand sort of the market. And he’s not, you know, he’s, he’s our age. It’s just such an interesting sort of, I guess, a confluence of art and tack that I think a lot of people are – I’m half empty on this sort of at least two being viable right now. Is that fair?

Kimberly Adams: Sure. I’m empty. It’s an art museum. Yeah, it is what it is. All right. Do we have any more I know, we’re going like extra long. Did we win?

Andy Uhler: Oh, yeah.

Kimberly Adams: There’s no winners or losers? Yay Okay. I’ll take it.All right. So then that is it for us. Kai and Marielle will be back on Monday. Until then, please keep sending your questions, comments and make me smiles to makemesmart@marketplace.org. I’m especially interested to hear what people think about the West Elm Caleb saga, because I’m quite torn personally.

Andy Uhler: I would love to hear too. Yeah, no, I was I was thinking about the same thing. When  Drew was bringing up and I would love to hear what people think. Like I said, I’m thinking about doing a story about NFTs. I would love to hear what you guys are curious about what what that sort of space makes you think about? Love to.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, again, makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or you can leave us a voice message. We are at 508-827-6278 That’s 508-UB-SMART.

Andy Uhler : Today’s episode. Oh, well. That’s fine.

Kimberly Adams: You can start whenever you want, Andy.

Andy Uhler: That’s really nice. This episode was produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green. It was engineered by Drew Jostad. Jostad, right. Senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

Kimberly Adams: The team behind our game Half Full Half Empty is Mel Rosenberg and Emily McCune. The theme music for Half Full Half Empty was written by the guy who does everything Drew Jostad. And the director of on demand is Donna Tam. Well, that was fun Andy.

Andy Uhler: That was very fun.

Kimberly Adams: Now I just have to drink both of these cocktails.

Andy Uhler: Do you think the is the is the white rum just is there not enough going on?

Kimberly Adams: Honestly, it’s been kind of growing on me throughout the show. I feel like the white rum lets the nutmeg shine a little bit more.

Andy Uhler: Yeah.

Kimberly Adams:  And the spiced rum is just like, you know, good like, I think it would be fine without the nutmeg. So they’re just different slightly different cocktails, but I enjoy them both.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer