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Mattress maker Hästens subjected staff to ‘mind control’: suit

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A Swedish mattress maker to the stars is led by a kooky CEO who hires employees based on their “vibrations” and subjects underlings to obscene training videos, a new lawsuit alleges.

Chief executive Jan Ryde has effectively turned his bizarre beliefs into company policy at Hästens, whose iconic checkered beds fetch as much as $400,000 and are owned by the likes of Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Vladimir Putin and the Swedish royal family, court papers say.

Ryde — the fifth generation of his family to run the firm — pressures workers to attend “mindset” training sessions while keeping his personal hypnotist on the payroll to evaluate employees’ “enlightenment levels,” according to the federal lawsuit that accuses him of creating a hostile work environment.

Lizandra Vega, the former Hästens executive recruiter who filed the suit Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, claims she was forced to follow a mishmash of metaphysical philosophies to evaluate job candidates instead of looking to their skills or work experience.

Among them were “Spiral Dynamics” and the “Scale of Enlightenment,” which evaluates people based on their “vibrations and frequencies,” the suit says.

“Shockingly, as part of her job, Ms. Vega was subjected to this barrage of orchestrated belief systems that was meant to and did in fact impact the way she thought and approached all aspects of her life — not simply executive recruitment,” the lawsuit reads.

“Such mind control is akin to forced religious doctrine and has no lawful place in any work environment.”

Ryde’s right-hand man Gregory Downey, who has “increasingly outsized influence over executive decision-making” at Hästens, also allegedly led daily training sessions on vaguely spiritual topics like “intention mapping” or “self-reflection.” While Hästens claimed these sessions were only recommended, they were essentially mandatory because Ryde attended at least one a day and tracked who else was there, the complaint claims.

Despite his woo-woo beliefs, Ryde is a punishing boss who’s prone to cursing out subordinates on Zoom calls and making inappropriate remarks — like his repeated claim that Russian ruler Putin “now kills less people” because he bought a Hästens bed, the complaint says.

The last straw for Vega was a lewd “sales training” video that Ryde sent to more than a dozen senior staffers in November.

Hastens store in Toronto
Hastens mattresses are coveted by many A-listers.
Toronto Star via Getty Images

The 15-minute clip contained footage of lions killing live prey whom the narrator compared to salespeople while making copious use of the F-word and sexually explicit language, according to the suit.

The narrator also “states that the male lion had to jump in to hunt because he ‘got tired of waiting’ for the female lion that he referred to as a ‘bitch’ to do it,” the suit says.

“While watching the video, Ms. Vega shook uncontrollably,” the complaint reads.

Vega was one of several employees who complained to Hästens higher-ups about the salacious video, which Ryde “flippantly described” as containing “grown up language,” says the suit.

Ryde then excluded her from emails before she was demoted and then fired in January, which she says was retaliation for her complaints.

Vega’s lawsuit seeks a court ruling declaring Hästens’ and Ryde’s practices illegal as well as an unspecified amount of money damages to be determined at trial.

Hästens did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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