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Grocery workers suffer the mental health effects of customer hostility and lack of safety in their workplace

Many grocery store workers have experienced high rates of anxiety and depression during the pandemic
Many grocery store workers have experienced high rates of anxiety and depression during the pandemic

With the holiday season here, consumers are understandably desperate for a “normal” holiday season. For many, that includes big family dinners and Black Friday shopping sprees.

Retail and service sector workers have been laboring to keep shelves stocked and customers happy from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Life on the front lines has been exceptionally stressful for these employees. Suddenly, they found themselves identified as “essential workers,” providing critical services while working in close contact with customers and coworkers. But unlike health care workers, grocery store employees had no prior experience or training in combating infectious diseases.

Early in the pandemic, the public celebrated grocery workers. They were hailed as “heroes” who were risking their lives for the benefit of their local communities. Billboards and the nightly news reminded the public to show kindness and compassion to store workers.

Major grocery chains initially offered their employees a ““hero bonus,” but that quickly went away. Many grocery workers soon felt forgotten as businesses and customers adjusted to the new normal.

We are a team of researchers from the University of Arizona with expertise in worker health, retail marketing, human development and public health. We have been following the impacts of the pandemic on grocery workers across the state of Arizona.

Our research and that of others show that rates of mental health distress among grocery workers are very high. In a newly published study, we reported that 20% of employees working in Arizona grocery stores in the summer of 2020 exhibited signs of severe anxiety and depression. And the mental health struggles of these workers do not show much improvement since we began our research in summer 2020.

Anxiety, depression and stress

By the summer of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 14% increase in symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders among the national adult U.S. population, compared with pre-pandemic levels. But for grocery workers, we found that the levels of anxiety and depression are more than twice the national average.

In July 2020, as the pandemic first peaked in Arizona, 22% of grocery workers reported symptoms of severe anxiety, while 16% reported symptoms of severe depression. Although those levels dropped slightly near the start of 2021, the effects of continually working in crisis mode can lead to significant persistent mental, physical and behavioral health problems.

Our online Arizona Frontline Worker Survey was developed in partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99. They represent some 24,000 workers in the retail, meatpacking, hospitality and administrative sectors throughout Arizona. This survey tracks the experiences of these essential workers as they navigate the complexities of protecting their own health amid frequently hostile customer interactions and poorly defined safety measures.

We asked grocery workers to rate their sense of safety in the workplace, both in terms of their ability to protect themselves and the degree to which management prioritized their personal safety. Overall, about 60% of the 3,000 workers we heard from did feel generally safe in their workplaces.

The two most important factors that explained grocery workers’ high rates of mental health distress were the perceived absence of effective workplace protections and lack of enforcement of store policies like mask-wearing and social distancing.

For example, only 18% of grocery workers reported that they had received any meaningful training on pandemic-related safety protocols from their employer, despite existing guidelines and recommendations. Importantly, federal guidelines require all employers to provide basic training on COVID-19 mitigation measures, along with meaningful ways for workers to report their concerns to management without fear of retaliation.

Grocery workers who believed that their workplaces were safe placed a high premium on the enforcement of safety protocols specifically targeting customer behaviors. For example, our research found that grocery workers’ sense of safety increased three-fold when they also believed that store managers maintained clear policies requiring customers to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Those workers who felt safe at work had significantly fewer symptoms of mental health distress than those who felt unsafe.

Confrontations with customers

It comes as no surprise that customer hostility plays a significant role in the mental health of grocery workers. Over time, shoppers have become increasingly rude, to the point that interactions with customers are now often contentious and occasionally violent.

More than half of the grocery workers we heard from believe that they will be verbally threatened by an angry customer at some point during the pandemic. Employees are often on their own when it comes to getting customers to observe basic public health measures and be civil. Many lack support from management in enforcing the public health guidelines that serve to keep them, their families, coworkers and customers safe.

Leanne – a pseudonym – a young employee who has worked at a major grocery chain for three years, told us about her struggles with abusive behaviors on the job, in particular with respect to mask-wearing.

“Customers have come right into my personal space and leaned in to tell me why they’re not going to wear one – politics, uncomfortable, too hot, can’t breathe, their medical condition, etc. But I wear mine correctly for eight hours every day… to protect THEM.”

Most grocery workers earn low wages. Only half of all retail workers are eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance or paid sick leave. Our research suggests that this economically vulnerable workforce is taking on additional health risks during the pandemic while fearing that customers may verbally or physically assault them.

With all these risks and stressors, it is not surprising that rates of mental health distress among grocery workers are high. Job burnout is a real possibility, likely contributing to the national worker shortage.

Add holiday stress, and there’s more in store

The stressful situation for grocery workers may be amplified in the coming months. The National Retail Federation forecasts a busy holiday shopping season. It may even eclipse last year’s records despite increasing inflation rates and supply shortages. This is against the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 cases across the country. And as of Nov. 24, 2021, not quite 63% of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated yet.

In our view, no worker – essential or not – should have to choose between a paycheck and risking their health and well-being. As shoppers flock to stores this holiday season in search of the perfect gift for their loved ones or ingredients for that favorite family recipe, their individual choices and consideration of local safety guidelines could help retail workers have a safer and merrier holiday season too.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why do frozen turkeys explode when deep-fried?

Why do frozen turkeys explode when deep-fried?
Why do frozen turkeys explode when deep-fried?

Deep-frying a turkey is a great way to get a delicious, moist meal for Thanksgiving. But this method of cooking can be a very dangerous undertaking.

Every fall, millions of dollars of damage, trips to the ER and even deaths result from attempts to deep-fry turkeys. The vast majority of these accidents happen because people put frozen turkeys into boiling oil. If you are considering deep-frying this year, do not forget to thaw and dry your turkey before placing it in the pot. Failure to do so may lead to an explosive disaster.

What is so dangerous about putting even a partially frozen turkey in a deep-fryer?

The reason frozen turkeys explode, at its core, has to do with differences in density. There is a difference in density between oil and water and differences in the density of water between its solid, liquid and gas states. When these density differences interact in just the right way, you get an explosion.

Understanding density

Density is how much an object weighs given a specific volume. For example, imagine you held an ice cube in one hand and a marshmallow in the other. While they are roughly the same size, the ice cube is heavier: It is more dense.

The first important density difference when it comes to frying is that water is more dense than oil. This has to do with how tightly the molecules of each substance pack together and how heavy the atoms are that make up each liquid.

Water molecules are small and pack tightly together. Oil molecules are much larger and don’t pack together as well by comparison. Additionally, water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen atoms, while oils are predominantly carbon and hydrogen. Oxygen is heavier than carbon. This means that, for example, one cup of water has more atoms than one cup of oil, and those individuals atoms are heavier. This is why oil floats on top of water. It is less dense.

While different materials have different densities, liquids, solids and gases of a single material can have different densities as well. You observe this every time you place an ice cube in a glass of water: The ice floats to the top because it is less dense than water.

When water absorbs heat, it changes to its gas phase, steam. Steam occupies 1,700 times the volume as the same number of liquid water molecules. You observe this effect when you boil water in a tea kettle. The force of expanding gas pushes steam out of the kettle through the whistle, causing the squealing noise.

Frozen turkeys are filled with water

For deep-frying, cooking oil is heated to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 C). This is much hotter than the boiling point of water, which is 212 F (100 C). So when the ice in a frozen turkey comes in contact with the hot oil, the surface ice quickly turns to steam.Frozen turkeys – or any kind of frozen meats, for that matter – contain a lot of ice. Raw meat can be anywhere from 56% to 73% water. If you have ever thawed a frozen piece of meat, you have probably seen all the liquid that comes out.

This quick transition is not a problem when it happens at the very surface of the oil. The steam escapes harmlessly into the air.

However, when you submerge a turkey into the oil, the ice inside the turkey absorbs the heat and melts, forming liquid water. Here is where the density comes into play.

This liquid water is more dense than the oil, so it falls the bottom of the pot. The water molecules continue to absorb heat and energy and eventually they change phases and become steam. The water molecules then rapidly spread far apart from one another and the volume expands by 1,700 times. This expansion causes the density of the water to drop to a fraction of a percent of the density of the oil, so the gas wants to quickly rise to the surface.

Combine the fast change in density together with the expansion of volume and you get an explosion. The steam expands and rises, blowing the boiling oil out the pot. If that weren’t dangerous enough, as the displaced oil comes into contact with a burner or flame, it can catch fire. Once some droplets of oil catch on fire, the flames will quickly ignite nearby oil molecules, resulting in a fast-moving and often catastrophic fire.

Every year, thousands of accidents like this happen. So, should you decide to deep-fry a turkey for this year’s Thanksgiving, be sure to thoroughly thaw it and pat it dry. And next time you add a bit of liquid to an oil-filled pan and end up with oil all over the stove, you’ll know the science of why.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Western luxury brands are entering a risky pact with China’s influencers

Western luxury brands are entering a risky pact with China’s influencers
Western luxury brands are entering a risky pact with China’s influencers

French cosmetics giant L’Oréal has been going through a massive retail row in China after two leading social media influencers sold large quantities of the company’s beauty face masks to consumers while inaccurately claiming it was the cheapest deal available anywhere.

Influencers Austin Li Jiaqi and Wei Ya regularly reach tens of millions of shoppers on their two e-commerce livestreams, and the November 11 “singles day” festival has become one of their most eagerly anticipated broadcasts. This year, among the many products they were each selling on that evening was the supposedly special offer of batches of 50 L’Oréal masks for ¥429 (£49.85). But it emerged shortly after that the same deal was available direct from L’Oréal for ¥258.

Li, known as China’s “lipstick king” for his ability to sell masses of product online, and Wei, a former pop star who rose to fame as the winner of China’s equivalent of Pop Idol, started receiving large volumes of complaints from furious shoppers.

Both influencers issued apologies. After L’Oréal did not immediately say it would compensate those who had bought the masks, the influencers said they would no longer showcase the company’s products.

Now L’Oréal has apologised and confirmed it will provide compensation. In a statement, the company blamed its “overly complicated sales mechanism” and said it had “found a constructive and satisfactory solution to address the recent customers complaints in relation with singles day promotion”.

The row has not been pleasant for anyone involved, but it shows how important influencers have become as endorsers of luxury goods in China. So how has the market changed, and what does it mean for customers?

Changing face of luxury retail

China is the most important market in the world for luxury goods, with Chanel, Dior, Cartier and Hermès among the leading brands in the country. The market has been doing strong business during COVID. For example, major Hong Kong-based luxuries retailer Chow Tai Fook has reported an annual revenue increase of nearly 24% in its 2021 financial year, mostly from mainland China.

Luxury brands have traditionally relied on flagship stores in the best shopping districts to connect with their customers. The number and size of stores has continued increasing in leading malls like Plaza 66 in Shanghai and SKP Beijing, where all the top luxury brands have large external facades and dazzling logo displays. They also use historical buildings, such as the ones situated at the north of the Shanghai Bund waterfront district.

But while physical stores are still important, most brands seek to extend their reach online. A major part of this is through using the internet as a way to communicate their relationships with celebrities.

Cartier, for example, invites Chinese movie stars to attend its promotional events. These would include star actors like Tony Leung, and more recently actor Chang Chen and actor/singer Lu Han, who would be described as “good friends of Cartier” to highlight the brand’s prestige through these connections.

But when Cartier has tried to use social media to promote these celebrity attachments, consumers have reacted badly. I have read thousands of comments (in Chinese) from people ridiculing the watchmaker for referring to its endorsers as “friends”, claiming that this detracts from the importance of their favourite stars. Most Chinese people would say that “guest” is a more respectful choice of word than “friend”.

Perhaps partly because of such experiences, luxury brands have turned to social media influencers to help communicate their messages. For example, Dior hired Angelababy, a famous actor and internet celebrity from Hong Kong, as a brand ambassador in 2017. The relationship has continued to the present day, with the actor appearing in virtual form at Shanghai Fashion Week in April.

Yet using Angelababy in this way was questioned by Dior’s customers online, as she is an agent of the brand rather than an independent influencer. This means she is seen as not being in a position to speak on behalf of Dior’s customers and fans in the way that she might otherwise have done.

Unpredictable behaviour

Just like celebrities, influencers come with the additional problem that brands have no direct control over their behaviour. Whatever exactly happened in the case of L’Oréal and its influencers, for instance, they have not been speaking in unison since the debacle with the face masks.

When it comes to the dangers of individual behaviour, the only consolation is that it can sometimes work in the brand’s favour. This happened to Dior, for instance, when footage surfaced in which Angelababy was perceived as speaking up for an actress in an encounter with pop star Kris Wu, who was subsequently arrested on suspicion of rape in relation to a separate incident.

At any rate, L’Oréal’s recent problems show that while influencers are potentially more objective moderators than traditional celebrities (particularly if you don’t use them as brand ambassadors), online marketing still presents great risks. In an era where millennials engage mainly online, an incident like the one with Li and Wei can spread quickly and stick in consumers’ minds much more than the glitzy marketing narratives that are pushed by the luxury brands. A fan exposed to a debacle like L’Oréal’s can turn hostile overnight to the brand they loved.

Perhaps the ideal relationship between brands and influencers arises from Vogue China’s decision earlier this year to appoint famous 27-year-old blogger Margaret Zhang as editor-in-chief. Even though she never trained in journalism, she is well accepted by consumers of high fashion, and her endorsement is now arguably one of the most valuable to brands in the business.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Misremembering might actually be a sign your memory is working optimally

Misremembering might actually be a sign your memory is working optimally
Misremembering might actually be a sign your memory is working optimally

When asked the other day about a bakery near my home, I responded that I’d recently eaten its mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies. My wife corrected me, noting that the cookies I ate were actually oatmeal raisin.

Why did I make this memory error? Is this an early sign of impending dementia? Should I call my doctor?

Or is forgetting the details of a dessert a good thing, given that everyday life is filled with an enormous number of details, too many for a finite human brain to remember accurately?

I am a cognitive scientist and have been studying human perception and cognition for more than 30 years. My colleagues and I have been developing new theoretical and experimental ways to explore this kind of error. Are these memory mistakes a bad thing, resulting from faulty mental processing? Or, counterintuitively, could they be a good thing, a desirable side effect of a cognitive system with limited capacity working efficiently? We’re leaning toward the latter – that memory errors may actually indicate a way in which the human cognitive system is “optimal” or “rational.”

Are people rational?

For decades, cognitive scientists have thought about whether human cognition is strictly rational. Starting in the 1960s, psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky conducted pioneering research on this topic. They concluded that people often use “quick and dirty” mental strategies, also known as heuristics.

For example, when asked whether the English language has more words starting with the letter “k” or with “k” as the third letter, most people say there are more words starting with “k.” Kahneman and Tversky argued that people reach this conclusion by quickly thinking of words that start with “k” and with “k” in the third position, and noticing that they can think of more words with that initial “k.” Kahneman and Tversky referred to this strategy as the “availability heuristic” – what comes most easily to mind influences your conclusion.

Although heuristics often yield good results, they sometimes do not. Therefore, Kahneman and Tversky argued that, no, human cognition is not optimal. Indeed, the English language has many more words with “k” in the third position than words starting with “k.”

Suboptimal or the best it can be?

In the 1980s, however, research started appearing in the scientific literature suggesting that human perception and cognition might often be optimal. For instance, several studies found that people combine information from multiple senses – such as vision and hearing, or vision and touch – in a manner that is statistically optimal, despite noise in the sensory signals.

Perhaps most important, research showed that at least some instances of seemingly suboptimal behavior are actually the opposite. For example, it was well known that people sometimes underestimate the speed of a moving object. So scientists hypothesized that human visual motion perception is suboptimal.

But more recent research showed that the statistically optimal sensory interpretation or percept is one that combines visual information about the speed of an object with general knowledge that most objects in the world tend to be stationary or slow moving. Moreover, this optimal interpretation underestimates the speed of an object when visual information is noisy or low quality.

Because the theoretically optimal interpretation and people’s actual interpretation make similar errors in similar circumstances, it may be that these errors are inevitable when visual information is imperfect, and that people are actually perceiving motion speeds as well as they can be perceived.

Scientists found related results when studying human cognition. People often make errors when remembering, reasoning, deciding, planning or acting, especially in situations when information is ambiguous or uncertain. As in the perceptual example on visual speed estimation, the statistically optimal strategy when performing cognitive tasks is to combine information from data, such as things one has observed or experienced, with general knowledge about how the world typically works. Researchers found that the errors made by optimal strategies – inevitable errors due to ambiguity and uncertainty – resemble the errors people really make, suggesting that people may be performing cognitive tasks as well as they can be performed.

Evidence has been mounting that errors are inevitable when perceiving and reasoning with ambiguous inputs and uncertain information. If so, then errors are not necessarily indicators of faulty mental processing. In fact, people’s perceptual and cognitive systems may actually be working quite well.

Your brain, under constraints

There are often constraints on human mental behavior. Some constraints are internal: People have limited capacity for paying attention – you can’t attend to everything simultaneously. And people have limited memory capacity – you can’t remember everything in full detail. Other constraints are external, such as the need to decide and act in a timely manner. Given these constraints, it may be that people cannot always perform optimal perception or cognition.

But – and this is the key point – although your perception and cognition might not be as good as they could be if there were no constraints, they might be as good as they could be given the presence of these constraints.

Consider a problem whose solution requires you to think simultaneously about many factors. If, because of capacity limits on attention, you cannot think about all factors at once, then you will not be able to think of the optimal solution. But if you think about as many factors as you can hold in your mind at the same time, and if these are the most informative factors for the problem, then you’ll be able to think of a solution that is as good as possible given your limited attention.

The limits of memory

This approach, emphasizing “constrained optimality,” is sometimes known as the “resource-rational” approach. My colleagues and I have developed a resource-rational approach to human memory. Our framework thinks of memory as a type of communication channel.

When you place an item in memory, it’s as if you’re sending a message to your future self. However, this channel has limited capacity, and thus it cannot transmit all details of a message. Consequently, a message retrieved from memory at a later time may not be the same as the message placed into memory at the earlier time. That is why memory errors occur.

If your memory store cannot faithfully maintain all details of stored items because of its limited capacity, then it would be wise to make sure that whatever details it can maintain are the important ones. That is, memory should be the best it can be within limited circumstances.

Indeed, researchers have found that people tend to remember task-relevant details and to forget task-irrelevant details. In addition, people tend to remember the general gist of an item placed in memory, while forgetting its fine details. When this occurs, people tend to mentally “fill in” the missing details with the most frequent or commonplace properties. In a sense, the use of commonplace properties when details are missing is a type of heuristic – it is a quick-and-dirty strategy that will often work well but sometimes fail.

Why did I recall eating chocolate chip cookies when, in fact, I had eaten oatmeal raisin cookies? Because I remembered the gist of my experience – eating cookies – but I forgot the fine details, and thus filled in these details with the most common properties, namely cookies with chocolate chips. In other words, this error demonstrates that my memory is working as well as possible under its constraints. And that’s a good thing.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Space law hasn’t been changed since 1967 – but the UN aims to update laws and keep space peaceful

Space law hasn’t been changed since 1967 – but the UN aims to update laws and keep space peaceful
Space law hasn’t been changed since 1967 – but the UN aims to update laws and keep space peaceful

On Nov. 15, 2021, Russia destroyed one of its own old satellites using a missile launched from the surface of the Earth, creating a massive debris cloud that threatens many space assets, including astronauts onboard the International Space Station. This happened only two weeks after the United Nations General Assembly First Committee formally recognized the vital role that space and space assets play in international efforts to better the human experience – and the risks military activities in space pose to those goals.

The U.N. First Committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and threats to peace that affect the international community. On Nov. 1, it approved a resolution that creates an open-ended working group. The goals of the group are to assess current and future threats to space operations, determine when behavior may be considered irresponsible, “make recommendations on possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviors,” and “contribute to the negotiation of legally binding instruments” – including a treaty to prevent “an arms race in space.”

We are two space policy experts with specialties in space law and the business of commercial space. We are also the president and vice president at the National Space Society, a nonprofit space advocacy group. It is refreshing to see the U.N. acknowledge the harsh reality that peace in space remains uncomfortably tenuous. This timely resolution has been approved as activities in space become ever more important and – as shown by the Russian test – tensions continue to rise.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty

Outer space is far from a lawless vacuum.

Activities in space are governed by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is currently ratified by 111 nations. The treaty was negotiated in the shadow of the Cold War when only two nations – the Soviet Union and the U.S. – had spacefaring capabilities.

While the Outer Space Treaty offers broad principles to guide the activities of nations, it does not offer detailed “rules of the road.” Essentially, the treaty assures freedom of exploration and use of space to all humankind. There are just two caveats to this, and multiple gaps immediately present themselves.

The first caveat states that the Moon and other celestial bodies must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. It omits the rest of space in this blanket prohibition. The only guidance offered in this respect is found in the treaty’s preamble, which recognizes a “common interest” in the “progress of the exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes.” The second caveat says that those conducting activities in space must do so with “due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty.”

A major problem arises from the fact that the treaty does not offer clear definitions for either “peaceful purposes” or “due regard.”

While the Outer Space Treaty does specifically prohibit placing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction anywhere in space, it does not prohibit the use of conventional weapons in space or the use of ground-based weapons against assets in space. Finally, it is also unclear if some weapons – like China’s new nuclear capable partial-orbit hypersonic missile – should fall under the treaty’s ban.

The vague military limitations built into the treaty leave more than enough room for interpretation to result in conflict.

Space is militarized, conflict is possible

Space has been used for military purposes since Germany’s first V2 rocket launch in 1942.

Many early satellites, GPS technology, a Soviet Space Station and even NASA’s space shuttle were all either explicitly developed for or have been used for military purposes.

With increasing commercialization, the lines between military and civilian uses of space are less blurry. Most people are able to identify terrestrial benefits of satellites like weather forecasts, climate monitoring and internet connectivity but are unaware that they also increase agricultural yields and monitor human rights violations. The rush to develop a new space economy based on activities in and around Earth and the Moon suggests that humanity’s economic dependence on space will only increase.

However, satellites that provide terrestrial benefits could or already do serve military functions as well. We are forced to conclude that the lines between military and civilian uses remain sufficiently indistinct to make a potential conflict more likely than not. Growing commercial operations will also provide opportunities for disputes over operational zones to provoke governmental military responses.

Military testing

While there has not yet been any direct military conflict in space, there has been an escalation of efforts by nations to prove their military prowess in and around space. Russia’s test is only the most recent example. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon and created an enormous debris cloud that is still causing problems. The International Space Station had to dodge a piece from that Chinese test as recently as Nov. 10, 2021.

Similar demonstrations by the U.S. and India were far less destructive in terms of creating debris, but they were no more welcomed by the international community.

The new U.N. resolution is important because it sets in motion the development of new norms, rules and principles of responsible behavior. Properly executed, this could go a long way toward providing the guardrails needed to prevent conflict in space.

From guidelines to enforcement

The U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has been addressing space activities since 1959.

However, the remit of the 95-member committee is to promote international cooperation and study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. It lacks any ability to enforce the principles and guidelines set forth in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty or even to compel actors into negotiations.

The U.N. resolution from November 2021 requires the newly created working group to meet two times a year in both 2022 and 2023. While this pace of activity is glacial compared with the speed of commercial space development, it is a major step in global space policy.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

How You Can Afford Medical School with AAMC resources? 

How You Can Afford Medical School with AAMC resources
How You Can Afford Medical School with AAMC resources

If you have decided to devote your life to medical sciences, as you feel the greatest passion towards it — greetings, you have chosen one of the most appreciated and well-payed fields of the modern world. However, even though you will have a lot after leaving it (in the sense of knowledge, skills, financial and social benefits), you do have to invest in it first. And, to be honest, you have to invest a lot, as not only it is one of the most progressive specialties, it is also one of the most expensive ones. But do not hurry to give up — learn about financial opportunities you can use in order to make the financial side of the issue easier for you.  

First of all, make sure to have good academic background. Try hard to achieve the highest grades at school and when taking the admission tests — they influence your chances to be admitted even in general. Also, your admission essay is one of the key steps of the whole process of applying to college, and paying enough time and attention to create a good one mostly guarantees your success. If you are not sure about your writing skills, you can always turn to a paper writing service online in order to either have your college essay written for you by professional authors or receive a high quality reference you can use to compose one on your own.  

Even though there are multiple ways to pay for your college education, the majority of medical students have to deal with college debt. You have to develop your financial and budgeting skills, as well as educating yourself about refund options, in order to simplify the monetary aspect of medical school education.  


If you have made the decision to apply to a medical school and have some of your loans covered, the first step you have to make is visiting FIRST website. According to their information, the majority of medical students can not pay the whole education fee themselves, and tens to ask for help. They usually want some part of their whole loan covered, and FIRST has a proposal that may help students achieve their goal.  

Basically, what they offer is having medical students to provide service to some companies, firms and organizations, which, in their turn, will be willing to thank them by covering some part of the student loan. Even if you aren’t familiar with some of these volunteering obligations, they can drastically reduce the expense of medical school. In fact, a lot of students appear to be happy with such an opportunity and do agree to participate in one of the programs offered by FIRST.  


As you may have already assumed, FIRST website is more than just a service, that only focuses on selling their own products. It is only about helping students with the things they may be struggling with financially. Moreover, it provides them with a whole strategy of managing and dealing with their student loan. It makes young people more aware of their expenses and makes them think and analyze what they are spending money on and how can it be spent instead. By helping them adjust to healthy financial habits and educating them on the subject, the FIRST workers turn students to wiser consumers, which, in the future, helps them not only in educational fee issues, but also in daily expenses in general.  

In addition to that, a new tool has been created by FIRST, which is basically the loan calculator. It helps students keep the information about their loans clear and well-organized, and, most importantly, is a customized service for medical students only.  


Your financial aid administration will work closely with you once you have been accepted to a med college in order to explain your financial aid choices and the costs of tuition as well. Moreover, a wide range of scholarships is always an option, and medical schools are not an exception. They do vary in the requirements needed to get them. For example, some of the main criteria may be academic performance, any type of privilege, or even a country the student comes from. In case of FIRST programs, they have a number of opportunities, from ones that rely on social aspects to the ones that only consider the grades.  

1. Military Scholarship 

One of the options students have is performing military service in exchange for having their student loans covered. You can attend any medical school of your choice, and many of these programs give financial assistance each month while you’re in school. By the end of your education, though, you will have to have your training and to work in a military medical institution (meaning that your clients will be only military members and their relatives) for four years minimum. Make sure to contact the person, responsible for that in your college, in order to receive more detail on the topic.  

2. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) 

As a federally supported scholarship program, the NHSC Scholarship provides financial assistance for health care professional students who are devoted to providing primary care in marginalized regions. It covers student fees, living expenses, and other academic expenditures.  So, a two-year scholarship entails a two-year commitment, whereas a four-year scholarship entails a four-year commitment. Not only it provides significant financial help, it also provides a student with a wide range of potential fields to work in, like pediatrics, internal and family medicine, obstetrician-gynecology and even psychiatry. A residency in one of these NHSC’s five authorized primary care specializations is all that’s required. Child and adolescent psychiatry, for example, is approved at the NHSC’s discretion. 

After NHSC service you can basically find work anywhere, both in rural and urban area, even though a lot of students, who plan on working in the city, are concerned at this point for some reason. In order to fulfill the service requirement, you must complete it promptly after completing your residency. Subspecializing after the service requirement is allowed, but it contradicts the goal of the NHSC. 

3. Federal Loan Repayment Options 

As an alternative, the NHSC offers Loan Repayment Programs, which are offered to physicians who have completed a “residency” program in primary care fields. The student must serve at an NHSC Loan Repayment Site for each year of loan repayment assistance. There is a two-year service requirement. Settlements with the community facilities will be negotiated. 

4. State Programs 

It has become quite a common experience in many states that doctors, who practice in rural or remote areas for a set period of time, usually at least two years, can get some or all of their student loans paid off. State and federal specific programs and information on them can be found in the AAMC database. 

5. Public Service 

Federal student loans can be forgiven after 10 years if you work for the government or a charitable organization, according to a program from the U.S. Department of Education. Doctors who complete a fellowship at a volunteer or public hospital qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is tax-free. 

It takes 120 months or 10 years to complete three areas of qualification at the same time. These 120 months of payments and labor don’t have to be sequential throughout the course of 10 years. Eligibility criteria include qualified loan repayments as well as job that qualifies. 


Doctors who work in the public sector or operate in remote areas for a particular period of time may be eligible for loan forgiveness, which is, in its turn, a fantastic way to pay off medical school debt if your professional aspirations align with those standards. In the public or military service sector, you’ll find that the rewards are not just emotional, but they may also be financial. 

Top Considerations When Purchasing a Rainwater Tank for Your Home

Top Considerations When Purchasing a Rainwater Tank for Your Home
Top Considerations When Purchasing a Rainwater Tank for Your Home

If you are currently researching the many alternatives for rainwater retention for your home, you should keep a few things in mind. The critical questions are how much water you require, how much water you can capture, and how much you can afford for this from your budget. Continue reading to learn more.

  • Volume of Water you Require

When building a vast rainwater tank, the first factor to keep in mind is how much water you will use. You capture most of your rainwater during the winter months, and then you must guarantee that the tank of water will survive through the summer so that you do not run out before the rains resume. Rainwater collected from your roof is often utilized for domestic water inside the home. Even if you have 200 or 300,000L of water, it will be insufficient to irrigate your plants and farm throughout the season. Therefore you will need to locate alternative sources.

As per recent research, the average family uses 56,000L of water per person per year for indoor water consumption. This indicates that each living in your home consumes around 155L of water each day. So, for a household of four with occasional visitors, you may require 225,000 -250,000L of water each year.

Since your reservoir must be finished by the end of the winter, you will not need a 250,000L reservoir, but instead, sufficient water in reserve to help you survive the 6-7 months of dry season with a little extra safety. Using the four-person household as an example, you’ll need 125,000L plus a bit of wiggle room to get through the summer. This implies you’ll need at least a 150,000L rainwater tank to last your family the entire year.

  • Amount Of Water You Can Capture

The next step is to figure how much water you can capture from your present or prospective house and outbuildings. If the structures are still in the design stages, this is a helpful check to guarantee that the roof area you are developing will capture adequate rainwater. If the structures are already in place, you may quickly calculate how much water you ought to be able to capture. Everything will function if this corresponds to the amount of water you want to use or if you have an excess. According to experts such as, to determine the quantity of rainfall you can capture, you must first know two things:

    • In square meters, the total roof area that you intend to gather rainwater from (m2)

    • The annual average precipitation in the location where your home is located (in mm.) A millimeter of rain represents one liter per square meter.

  • The Price Of A Rainwater Tank

There are four significant expenditures associated with establishing a big rainwater tank. They are as follows:

    • Site prep and excavations

    • Tank supply and placement

    • Downpipe and inlet pipework installation

    • The installation of a pumping system as well as water purification

While the tank is only advertised at $8000-$12,000 installed, this covers the tank’s supply and installation. This is only a portion of the entire work expenses, and you must ensure that you have planned for everything you will require.

This guide should provide you with a decent understanding of what is necessary for choosing a water tank and some of the essential considerations that, if kept in mind, will make the process easier and more pleasurable. Contact a reputable vendor, such as, for assistance on your rainwater tank installation and discuss installing a high-quality tank.

Ruby Has Fulfillment: Changing the ecommerce landscape.


Ruby Has Fulfillment: Changing the ecommerce landscape.



In recent years, the ecommerce industry has transformed into a key business vertical. With many brands relying on it to ensure smooth and flawless growth, it is becoming increasingly important to the business world. Led by Founder & CEO Rafael Zakinov, Ruby Has Fulfillment is one brand that has established itself as the face of change and with its unique operational styles and innovation, is leading the ecommerce industry. Headquartered in Bay Shore, New York, Ruby Has Fulfillment has highly trained, caring team members that utilize powerful technology to deliver the highest accuracy rates in the industry. Ruby Has Fulfillment received the prestigious Bronze Stevie Award by the American Business Awards for its’ Covid-19 response and the Excellence in Customer Service Award for 2021. Ruby Has Fulfillment was listed as one of Multichannel Merchant’s Top Third Party Logistics Services for the fourth consecutive year and ranked by Inc.5000 for six consecutive years: 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 and 2021. It was also ranked by Crain’s Fast 50, a list of the 50 fastest-growing companies in the New York area for four consecutive years, and was listed in the Inc. 5000 Regionals NY Metro: 2021. 

We, at Aspioneer, interviewed Rafael Zakinov to understand more about the company and how it is driving the ecommerce industry.

Aspioneer (A): What is Ruby Has Fulfillment about? Can you tell us a bit about how it works, its mission, and what led you into forming it?

Rafael Zakinov (R): “Ruby Has Fulfillment offers a full suite of ecommerce fulfilments services to help clients get their products to their customers on time and as promised. We fulfill our clients’ brand promises with the highest speed and accuracy rates in the industry, leveraging our expanding national and international footprints, using cutting-edge technology and an uncompromising commitment to quality.  Having started out with my own ecommerce brand, I know the ins and outs of this business and what it feels like to be in the client’s shoes. I started Ruby Has Fulfillment to manage this part of the order process that many companies and brands don’t want to or don’t have the bandwidth, budget, or capability to do themselves. Ruby Has Fulfillment started in 2011 and has since expanded to include distribution centers in the following locations: New York, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Kentucky, Canada and the United Kingdom.

(A): What makes Ruby Has Fulfillment stand out from its competitors? Can you mention some major factors that act as the key differentiators?

(R): “Our commitment to delivering value to our clients separates us from our competitors. Also, partnering with brands who we believe have a strong likelihood to grow. We believe that as they grow, we grow. For example, the well-known DTC brand, Brooklinen, has been a client of ours from the very beginning when they were a small start-up. We’ve grown together tremendously over the past few years and maintain a strong partnership in supporting mutual growth and success. Our president, Esther Kestenbaum Prozan has a lifelong career in ecommerce. Every decision or investment made is done with our clients in mind. Just like Shopify, we are here to fully empower and enable the merchants.

Compared to the direct competition at the larger end of the market, we accommodate nuanced needs like custom packaging and kitting whereas others are less flexible. Additionally, Ruby Has Fulfillment values  building and maintaining personal relationships in an effort to cultivate a true partnership with our clients. This is often missing with other large fulfillment providers. Even well-known brands can feel like they get lost in the shuffle when partnering with some enterprise-level fulfillment companies. We frequently acquire new clients as a result of the rigidity or callousness of enterprise solutions.

Compared to the /smaller end of the market, Ruby Has Fulfillment offers clients a reliable, efficient fulfillment solution that does not break at scale. This differentiator is one of our highest sources of lead generation. Many of our competitors began as software companies that sought to back a real-world fulfillment entity into the constraints of their software. We are the reverse. We built the fulfillment business first and we’re now building the technology to back into the real-world parameters that have been tested and proven to work.. We believe that the software-first approach fails.”

Rafael Zakinov

“Our commitment to delivering value to our clients separates us from our competitors. Also, partnering with brands who we believe have a strong likelihood to grow. We believe that as they grow, we grow.”

(A): What are some of the major changes the business has undergone? What strategies have you deployed to meet the increasing demands of this fast-paced world?

(R): “Ecommerce has changed the retail supply chain significantly. Today, customers expect their orders to be delivered quickly, on time and exactly as promised. This makes the need to move goods quickly and accurately one of the most important parts of the customer experience.

  • Multi-warehouse strategy: Splitting inventory into more than one fulfillment center. We encourage our clients to move their products closer to their end customers, which lowers shipping costs while also protecting brands from the unexpected. If one distribution center closes due to a Covid outbreak or there’s a blizzard on the east coast, orders can be fulfilled from another location. We have a national and international footprint and see the difference it makes to our brands that we have a variety of locations that enables us to be responsive to their evolving needs.

  • Leveraging automation and robotics: We all see in the media that hiring becomes a challenge periodically. At the same time, speed and efficiency requirements continue to rise. That’s where automation and robotics come in. These impressive high-tech solutions provide redundancies and efficiencies that are unprecedented and dramatically reduce naturally occurring human error. We are proud of the way we have judiciously applied automation and robotics in our fulfillment centers and we kind of geek out over them.

  • Having the ability to partner with more than one shipping carrier. Having the flexibility to choose from multiple carriers based upon what matters most to our clients is key.

What does that look like in a truly resilient environment? See this fun video here: .”

(A): Could you please share what your clients are saying about your services?

(R): Chris Wichert, Co-Founder/ Co-CEO, Koio- “Ruby Has Fulfillment has proven an invaluable partner for Koio, helping us to best manage our inventory, maintain seamless order flow, and timely, consistent delivery during periods of rapid brand growth.”

Sean Frank COO, The Ridge- “Ruby Has Fulfillment proved themselves this year. When most companies were struggling, the Ruby Has Fulfillment leadership team buckled down and focused on what mattered most- safety, operational excellence, and client support. This year tested supply chains and logistics globally, and very few have been able to thrive during these tests. I am proud to say Ruby Has Fulfillment is one of the few.”

(A): Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, how has Ruby Has Fulfillment contributed? 

(R): “Ruby Has Fulfillment has given back in many ways during the pandemic. One example is when Covid-19 first hit and PPE was in short supply, we teamed up with one of our customers, Nanoleaf, to produce and transport 50,000 masks to hospitals and front-line workers most in need.  

We’ve now increased our focus on automation and robotics, grown our footprint of distribution centers, and expanded our carrier network so we can build redundancy across our business to better protect our clients.”

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Lori McCauley: Transforming homecare and healthcare through innovations.


Lori McCauley: Transforming homecare and healthcare through innovations.

Managing a franchise is just as difficult as managing any other operating sector within an organization. The key to prevailing in such a role is to comprehend the changing franchising industry and predict a profitable outcome for the franchisor. Approximately after three years of offering franchises, Home Care for the 21st Century required a decisive leader and public moderator for sales pitching the franchise; Lori McCauley was a perfect fit for the role. Lori has risen to prominence in the industry due to her impressive background in operations management and as an astute sales professional. Although at first, Lori was skeptical when she was offered the position of Vice President of Franchise Development for Home Care for the 21st Century; but her previous experiences in the field cleared the haze and served as the vertebral for her to be the spearhead in taking Home Care for the 21st Century franchise business to next level.   

Initially, the organization started as a healthcare consulting firm called 21st Century HealthCare Consultants, which assisted over 5000 agencies across the country in opening their doors. The company’s goal was to provide multiple revenue streams for healthcare businesses, multiple payors, unlimited training, a breadth of support while offering unique platforms to differentiate their business in the marketplace. Being driven by innovation and passionate about quality care, the organization has presented continually researched concepts that are ahead of the healthcare curve. Lori says, “the company had been supporting independent agencies open their doors for several years and many agencies were looking for a way to continue the support once they were open.” When the company’s CEO/Owner, John Dapello, noticed that other franchisees attended the company’s boot camp training sessions and purchased additional support, the idea of offering a franchise seemed rational. “We were offering things others were not, so it just made sense,” she adds. Soon after, the company decided to take things a step further by offering an all-inclusive full continuum of care and a healthcare franchise model. “The first time to be offered in the marketplace,” Lori asserts. Going forward, the company began offering 7-8 home care business models under one umbrella. It includes Personal/Companion Care (non-medical), Skilled Private Duty, Medicare Home Health, Hospice, Durable Medical Equipment, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, and Medical Staffing. During these years, Lori supervised all the offerings made to the franchisees including more support than most other healthcare franchisors encompassing aspects like “licensing, credentialing for all payors, accreditation and clinical quality support, recruitment, sales & marketing, business & accounting, day to day operations, policies and procedures, onsite clinical and operations visits and a billing solution,” she highlights. She adheres to the Home Care for the 21st Century’s philosophy of enabling someone to age comfortably in the comforts of their own home. Her ambition is to be able to provide all healthcare services in the home using the company’s model, supplemented by some additional support programs with its partners. Impressed with Lori’s undeniable personality, Gary Sanchez—the owner in Albuquerque, shares, “I was searching for a home care company for two years. When I met Lori, I knew this was a Franchise for us. There was no pressure. Lori explained the franchise very clearly and thoroughly. For the last few years, we feel she’s been a large part of the team. Any questions that our team has she’s there for us. Lori is educated in every aspect of the Home Care business. Thank you so much for being there for us.”  

In her two years of tenure in Home Care for the 21st Century, Lori has updated the company’s model/products in response to technological advancements in the field. She has added telehealth and sensor monitoring programs to its platform which are far more in-depth than the traditional vital monitoring platform. “We use artificial technology to be our eyes and ears when we are not present in the home to monitor behavior changes that may indicate a healthcare need,” she mentions. “This type of technology will have us working smarter not harder and will help us identify issues before they become a crisis.”

Lori McCauley

“We are looking at technology to help create a Smart health environment in the home. We are also piloting a residential care community in Northern California to potentially add another arm to our franchise offering in our future.”

Seeking Fervent Franchisees

At $69,500, Lori seeks entrepreneurs who are currently in the healthcare industry, nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, therapists, and business individuals who have had a less than satisfying experience with in-home care and want to change how healthcare is delivered. Lastly, she looks for entrepreneurs that are looking to diversify their business portfolio in a recession-proof industry. She says, “All owners will need to be well networked within their community or know someone that is because this is a relationship-based industry and it is often on who you know not just what you know. Liquid Capital $200K to operate your business.” One of the ardent individuals was Mukesh Patel, the East Orlando Owner, who shares, “I recently decided to open a home healthcare business and after considering many options, decided to invest in a franchise from Home Care for the 21st Century. I have found HC21 to be a great partner and Lori was instrumental in convincing me that HC21 was the best decision. Lori is very professional, highly motivated, and has an energy that is contagious!”  

Lori provides a tremendous amount of support licensing for all models and for all renewal, articles, NPI, EIN, credentialing for all 3rd party payors (insurance), mock surveys for accreditation, Quality Assurance Performance Improvement (QAPI) – required by Medicare HH and Hospice and ongoing clinical quality support, recruitment strategy support and resources, sales training and ongoing oversite, production of all marketing materials, website, SEO, and social media support, business & accounting (QuickBooks and budget forecasting), day to day operations, policies and procedures for every model for both state and federal compliance annually, onsite clinical and operations visits and a 3rd party billing solution. Moreover, the company has unlimited lifetime training with franchise workshops and industry boot camps that are at no cost to the franchisee.

Sustaining in a Recessive Proof Industry

Healthcare is one of the most recessive proof industries,” Lori emphasizes. The need for home care franchise services will continue to rise at an astonishing rate because the world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. “The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent,” highlights Lori. 

In many ways, 2018 was a coming of age for the home care industry, as it steadily became recognized as a key part of the overall continuum of care due to its ability to keep older adults safely at home and out of the hospital. To add momentum to the industry, the ‘aging-in-place’ movement is upon Lori and her team, and it is huge. “According to AARP, 90%+ seniors want to ‘age in Place’,” she mentions. Seniors want to stay in their home for the duration of care which requires more home care agency services to be available to support their wellbeing. Lori highlights by being a Home Care for the 21st Century franchise one would be buying into a business that they can be passionate about, secure a financial future, and attain unprecedented support that will guide to success. It will also help them to develop the potential to diversify their business by expanding the services and revenue streams with Home Care for the 21st Century’s model. 

Lori is currently working on incorporating artificial intelligence into the platform. She reckons the company needs to work smarter not harder; “with the staffing crisis we need to find ways to be present without physically being present,” she asserts. At Home Care for the 21st Century, she and her team are creating a continuous care environment in the home that is more affordable than the typical one-on-one care model. The technology will be the conduit to bridge the gaps in care, and it will be used to create a better preventative care model as opposed to a reactionary care model. She shares, “We are looking at technology to help create a Smart health environment in the home. We are also piloting a residential care community in Northern California to potentially add another arm to our franchise offering in our future.” Home Care for the 21st Century was established with a mission is to be a visionary leader in the ever-evolving healthcare industry. The company’s future endeavours will be based on maintaining its current status by consistently exceeding expectations in service, delivery, and providing families with peace of mind at all costs. Lori is also collaborating with a number of other partners to provide unique offerings for the hearing impaired, people with osteo-replacements, and other services in the future. 

The world is our oyster on ideas it is just working through what makes the most sense ironing out the kinks and timing to launch,” says Lori.

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5 Factors to Consider When Investing In A Mattress

5 Factors to Consider When Investing In A Mattress
5 Factors to Consider When Investing In A Mattress

A good mattress provides you with the necessary support and comfort that translates into quality sleep. Moreover, it helps maintain the body posture and natural spine alignment to enable a good night’s sleep. Therefore, a good mattress for sleeping is crucial.

So if you are troubled with sleepless nights and are looking for a comfortable mattress, here are the tips you need to consider when investing in a mattress:

  1. Comfort

The most important thing to look at while choosing a mattress is comfort. When you feel comfortable on the mattress you are sleeping on, your body will relax and you will sleep better. Being relaxed also ensures that you sleep undisturbed and for longer hours. Good night’s sleep is essential for better health. Sleep enables the body to repair and get ready for the next day.

The cost of a mattress is not related to comfort. That is, a costly mattress does not equate to more comfort. Therefore, compare the mattress with its comfort levels and choose wisely.

  1. Size

The mattress size is also a crucial factor. You need to pick the right size mattress for your bed. Some like to sleep on narrow beds, while others like to sleep on king-size beds. It all depends upon personal preferences. If you want a spacious bed, you need to select a king-size mattress. A king-size mattress is perfect for couples as it provides enough space for both to sleep comfortably.

  1. Firmness

Firmness refers to the mattress’s ability to support your body weight and provide you with an even sleep surface. The mattress does come with firmness labels. So, you should check the firmness of the mattress before buying one. For example, a medium-firm option of one brand will equal an extra firm mattress of another brand. You can check the firmness levels of all mattress brands at and make a decision.

Firmness plays a vital role in a good night’s sleep. The firmness levels are expressed as an extra soft, soft, medium, medium soft. However, choosing an extra-soft or excessive firm mattress might make you uncomfortable. It would be best if you decided the right firmness of the mattress by lying on it and testing its firmness.

  1. Availability of More Options

There is a wide variety of mattresses available in the market like hybrid pressure mattresses, air beds, innerspring mattresses, latex mattresses. You need to research all these types of mattresses and select the one that suits your requirement. Here is a brief description of 2 common types of mattresses:

  1. Hybrid pressure – it features a combination of foam and air cells. The non-powered mattress replacement system minimises tissue breakdown and reduces interface pressures through air displacement.

  2. Air beds – these are inflatable mattresses made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), rubber, or textile-reinforced urethane plastic.

5. Customer Reviews

There are several brands of mattresses. But before selecting a mattress of any particular brand, you need to check customer reviews on the internet to know people’s experience with that mattress. A good brand is sure about the build quality of the mattress and would offer a more extended warranty which is a sign of a quality mattress.

To sum up, a good mattress is essential if you want to have a good sleep. Focusing on the tips given above will help you select a mattress that will ensure you wake up fresh and stay energetic throughout the day.