IKEA Ventures into Roblox with Paid Virtual Jobs

In a groundbreaking move, IKEA is offering 10 paid positions for real-life staff to work in its virtual store on the gaming platform Roblox. Dubbed “The Co-Worker Game,” this initiative marks IKEA’s first foray into mainstream gaming, allowing people to immerse themselves in the working world of the iconic furniture retailer.

Successful applicants, aged 18 and over and residing in the UK or Ireland, will work remotely in different sections of the online store. Their responsibilities include assisting customers with furniture selection, organizing virtual spaces using IKEA products, and even serving digital meatballs.

The fully remote positions pay £13.15 ($16.82) per hour, equivalent to a typical IKEA employee’s wage in London and higher than the US federal minimum wage. Employees will work alongside unpaid Roblox players, who can also serve customers, explore showrooms, and earn promotions.

IKEA’s unusual job listing has gone viral on social media, with users expressing their opinions through memes and videos. While it is still unclear whether virtual customers can purchase actual IKEA products through the game, this innovative move positions IKEA as a pioneer in the world of technology.

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, IKEA’s venture into Roblox showcases the potential for brands to engage with consumers in immersive and creative ways, blurring the lines between virtual and physical experiences.

Shoppers search for discounts in a strained economy

After two years of rising costs, Americans are becoming more cautious with their spending, prompting retailers to offer more discounts. In response, Target are reducing prices on groceries, and fast food establishments are introducing lower cost meals. Discount stores like Dollar General are attracting budget-conscious customers. CEO Todd Vasos noted that Dollar General shoppers are making tradeoffs, buying fewer items despite the store attracting more middle- and upper-income customers.

This financial strain is reflected in broader data as well. The Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” reports consumers resisting further price hikes. Target recently reduced prices on 1,500 items with plans for more cuts. This cautious spending contrasts with last year’s robust expenditure, which kept the economy growing. Revised figures show the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3% in the first quarter, down from the initially reported 1.6%, due to reduced consumer spending.

The slowdown continued in April, with consumer spending on goods falling 0.2%, according to the Commerce Department. However, spending on services like haircuts and event tickets increased, contributing to persistent inflation. Consumer prices rose 2.7% in April from a year ago, still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

Red Lobster Declares Bankruptcy

With more than 600 locations, Red Lobster has filed for bankruptcy. Burdened by debt and declining traffic, the seafood chain is set to transfer ownership to creditors. Despite still generating $2 billion in sales annually, the company has struggled to stay afloat.

The bankruptcy news drew nostalgic customers back to the nautical-themed restaurants. Some even sought to buy memorabilia from the closing locations.

Jess McKay, a 33-year-old fitness instructor, rushed to a Red Lobster upon hearing the news. She fondly recalled childhood memories of dining there with her family.

Red Lobster was founded in 1968 by Bill Darden in Lakeland, Florida, and rapidly expanded with the help of an investment by General Mills. However, recent years have been tough, and the chain has struggled to attract diners.

Despite the current challenges, Red Lobster still serves a significant portion of the lobster market. However, with nearly $300 million in debt and less than $30 million in cash by late 2023, the future remains uncertain.

Panera Bread to Phase out Charged Lemonade

Charged Lemonade, Panera Bread’s highly caffeinated beverage, is being phased out nationwide. Three current lawsuits link the drink to several health issues and two deaths. Fans of the drink are stocking up and finding ways to make their own charged lemonade at home. A spokesperson for Panera did not specify when all locations would stop selling the drink but denied any wrongdoing in response to the lawsuits.

Loyalty programs like Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club are effective in building a customer base by offering perceived value. Liz Parker from Michigan consumes Charged Lemonade daily and has stored several cups in her fridge and freezer. Similarly, Bruce Tarburton, a student at the University of Oregon, relied on the drink for its caffeine boost.

Despite the lawsuits, many loyal customers do not believe the drink poses a risk to their health. The lawsuits describe Charged Lemonade as a “dangerous energy drink,” with a large serving containing 390 milligrams of caffeine. The FDA states that 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is generally safe for healthy adults. In response to the lawsuits, Panera moved the drink behind the counter and updated its caffeine information.

Panera plans to introduce new beverages, including Blueberry Lavender Lemonade and Pomegranate Hibiscus Tea, following feedback from over 30,000 guests. However, it remains unclear whether these new drinks will contain caffeine. Some customers have reduced their consumption of Charged Lemonade due to the legal issues, while others continue to seek out their favorite drink before it’s gone for good.

New Version of Jeopardy to Stream on Prime Video

Iconic game show “Jeopardy!” is celebrating its 60th anniversary by making its streaming debut. Prime Video has commissioned “Pop Culture Jeopardy!,” a new spin-off that marks the first time “Jeopardy!” has been developed exclusively for a leading streaming platform.

This modern adaptation by Amazon introduces a fresh approach, featuring teams of three contestants who will tackle a variety of pop culture-themed categories, ranging from music and sports to Broadway and celebrities.

While the host has not yet been announced, the show will maintain the classic “answer-and-question” format, and will be produced by Michael Davies, the producer of the traditional TV version. The release date for “Pop Culture Jeopardy!” is still unknown, but it will be available exclusively to Prime Video’s 200 million-plus global subscribers.

This is not the show’s first foray into spin-offs or streaming; “Sports Jeopardy!” previously aired on Sony’s Crackle service. As part of its expansion into digital content, Amazon continues to invest heavily in its streaming services, including Prime Video and Freevee, with spending on video and music reaching nearly $19 billion last year, up 14% from 2022. In response to these rising costs, Prime Video has introduced an optional ad-supported service, with an ad-free upgrade available for an additional $2.99 per month.