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There's a scientific reason why you should put your Christmas decorations up early

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buddy the elf

  • Christmas decorations make a person appear "friendly and cohesive," according to a study.
  • This could be because the excitement highlights our inner child, according to psychoanalyst Steve McKeown.
  • For some people, however, celebrating the festive period prematurely could be a sign of escapism.


While some people tut when they see Christmas lights, trees, and adverts as early as November, there's a scientific reason why getting excited for Christmas a few weeks ahead of everyone else is good for you.

Spreading the festive cheer as early as November makes a person seem more sociable, friendly, and approachable, according to evidence from the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The report states that a house lit up doormat-to-chimney in blinking lights and tinsel "cues as a way of communicating their accessibility to neighbours."

Participants in the study were shown a selection of houses — some adorned with festive decorations and some without. The houses were of various sizes and appeared to represent a spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Participants remarked that houses dressed to the nines made their owners seem "friendly and cohesive" — proving that Christmas decorations make a person look sociable and kind.

This could be because of the association many of us make between the festive period and our childhoods. Mince pies and baubles cause nostalgia and remind us of past Christmases spent with family and loved ones. This nostalgic reaction to the buildup to Christmas induces a mild childish giddiness in many of us.

Steve McKeown, psychoanalyst and founder of MindFixers, told UNILAD: "Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend[s] the excitement!"

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Most commonly, McKeown said that people who put up decorations early are simply keen "to relive the magic" of previous festive periods. However, McKeown also said that getting out the tinsel and fairy lights as early as November could be a sign of a person trying to overcompensate for previously disappointing festive periods.

"In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate [with] things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," he said.

This could stem from a missing loved one or a change in personal circumstances that the person is trying to escape from.

Nevertheless, if dragging out the festivities works, then it can't hurt to be a little more in touch with our inner child.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Tech billionaires sank $170 million into a new kind of school — now classrooms are shrinking and some parents say their kids are 'guinea pigs'

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  • A new kind of school crafted by the minds and wallets of Silicon Valley influencers is struggling to keep parents happy and students in seats.
  • AltSchool shuttered more than half of the schools it's opened since 2013.
  • Parents of former and current students at AltSchool told Business Insider the startup treats their children like "guinea pigs."


It says it in the name: AltSchool. And it set out to be a different kind of school.

Max Ventilla, a Google executive who left the search giant to launch AltSchool in 2013, wooed parents with his vision to bring traditional models of elementary education into the digital age.

AltSchool has raised $175 million from Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, and others, and the startup is closing a Series C round of funding. But now some parents are bailing out of the school because they say AltSchool put its ambitions as a tech company above its responsibility to teach their children.

The startup, which launched in 2013, develops educational software and runs a network of small schools with four locations, in California and New York; two others closed their doors in the past year, and three more will close in the spring of 2018. These schools serve as testing grounds for an in-house team of technologists to work on tools for the modern classroom.

Since August, 12 parents spoke with Business Insider on the condition of anonymity, some because they worried that speaking out against AltSchool could hurt their children's chances of being enrolled elsewhere. Six parents have withdrawn their children from AltSchool in the past year, and two others said they planned to do so as soon as they found a transfer spot at a different school. AltSchool enrolls between 30 and 100 students at each campus.

"We kind of came to the conclusion that, really, AltSchool as a school was kind of a front for what Max really wants to do, which is develop software that he's selling," a parent of a former AltSchool student told Business Insider.

The criticism comes after an announcement that AltSchool would shutter locations in Manhattan's East Village and Palo Alto, California, at the end of the school year. Ventilla told Bloomberg the company was scaling back its "lab schools" to focus on software development, a more profitable business. AltSchool started licensing its technology to four private schools in August and has plans to reach schools nationwide in the next three to five years.

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Some parents say that AltSchool, which charges $27,000 for tuition, uses students as "guinea pigs" for testing new modes of teaching and offers screen time instead of human instruction.

In rare cases, parents said their children's learning disabilities went undiagnosed because their work, which was sometimes done on tablets and computers, wasn't monitored. The startup's response, parents said, was to hire a specialist who provided pay-by-the-hour tutoring.

According to data provided by AltSchool, the majority of its classrooms — which range between 10 and 25 students — lose one to two students annually. In 2016, when AltSchool saw the biggest increase in class sizes, the attrition rate reached about 30% for some classrooms.

AltSchool set out to change the way children learn

I've visited AltSchool's flagship location in San Francisco twice since 2015. In a sunny two-story schoolhouse, I saw kindergarteners sprawled across rainbow rugs and propped up on elbows, absorbed by their iPads. Their screens showed a proprietary piece of software known as the "playlist," which displays tasks that are due.

At AltSchool, students receive tablets in preschool and graduate to laptops in later years. They take attendance on an iPad and track their progress by uploading screenshots of their work to the class web server. Wall-mounted cameras record lessons so teachers can review them later.

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Ventilla, who helped build products such as Google+, said he was inspired to built AltSchool during a search for a preschool for his daughter. He envisioned a new kind of school that could teach children a sense of agency.

"My daughter is such a different person than I am, and the world that she's going to grow up in is so different than the world that I grew up in," Ventilla told Business Insider in 2016. "That future is going to demand of her this ability to kind of constantly make her own path instead of following a roadmap that's given to her. And her education needs to prepare her for that."

Like any startup, AltSchool needed beta testers

Some parents told Business Insider that when they first heard about AltSchool, the idea of personalized learning — an increasingly popular learning style defined by efforts to tailor lessons to students of different ability levels — appealed to them.

Devin Vodicka, a former school superintendent and now chief impact officer at AltSchool, explained that, over the years, AltSchool has tested a number of variables, including class size and student-to-teacher ratio, "to see what works and what doesn't." The startup makes tweaks in the classroom and in the technology based on observations from teachers and engineers.

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Many parents remembered their surprise when, in the spring of 2015, Ventilla announced onstage at South by Southwest that the startup would begin soliciting partners — specifically, other private schools interested in adopting the AltSchool model and licensing its software.

The expansion came much earlier than some parents anticipated.

"We knew that [Ventilla] was trying to create software that would improve the educational system," a parent of a former AltSchool student said. But, she added, "How can you bring personalized learning to other schools when it's failing miserably at the school you're running?"

Parents say AltSchool hasn't delivered on its promises

According to parents, the startup failed to deliver on several promises it made.

Some parents had the impression they would be able to monitor their children's playlist activities and other educational outcomes on a mobile app built by AltSchool called "Stream," but parents said updates were few. Maggie Quale, a communications officer of AltSchool, said the school changed the frequency of updates over time so as not to "spam" parents.

Parents told Business Insider they expected their children to be engaged in activities handpicked for them but that assignments were more or less the same for the class.

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Class sizes started to increase in 2015, and some parents began to see technology as a way for teachers to maintain control of their growing classrooms. AltSchool used a combination of proprietary software and third-party apps, like Khan Academy and Eureka Math, to help students practice skills.

According to AltSchool, children ages 4 to 8 use tablets for 2% to 5% of the day; students in upper elementary and middle school might be on their laptops for up to a quarter of the day.

A parent told Business Insider that she figured the startup — which has poached talent from Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Zynga — would provide "cutting-edge" technology as a supplement to human instruction. Instead, she and others said, technology replaced it at the cost of learning.

"We had this impression that he didn't learn anything," the parent said of her child.

A different mother, whose children no longer attend AltSchool, told Business Insider that her second-grader listened to audio books on a tablet in class, instead of being taught to read. The parent said she had taken her concerns to AltSchool several times and was repeatedly told to be patient as her daughter fell behind in reading. She was later diagnosed with a learning disability.

Her story resembles several others that parents told to Business Insider. When they realized their children were falling behind, parents said teachers and administrators dismissed their concerns. If the situation grew severe, the school recommended "individualized services," like one-on-one tutoring, which AltSchool provides for a monthly fee of $200 to $850.

"You signed up with the thought that we are going to be early adopters, but you didn't think we were going to be in the beta stage of it," a parent of a former AltSchool student said.

"Here I am paying all this money, and I'm thinking they're taking care of everything," one parent said. "We were always told our child was doing fine and to not be concerned."

Lisa Kieu enrolled her two children, both of whom have learning disabilities, at AltSchool. The children struggled with the basics. "We were told, 'No big deal — kids learn differently,'" Kieu said. She and her husband paid an estimated $40,000 on individualized services last year.

They pulled their children from AltSchool at the end of October after Kieu said that AltSchool had told them their son required a full-time aide, which would cost $2,500 more per month. After the recent school closures, Kieu said, "It just hit me these people don't give a damn."

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Some parents want to save AltSchool from closures

Business Insider also spoke with four parents who said they had no intention of pulling their children from AltSchool. In Palo Alto, parents started a petition on Change.org committing their support to save the school that closed there. As of Monday, 52 people had signed it.

Parents who support AltSchool said they knew there would be constant changes in the classroom and in the technology.

"I'm thrilled every time there's a change or something is morphing because I know it's in my child's best interest," said one parent in San Francisco.

Another parent said that AltSchool could do a better job with communication — "This isn't a tech startup where you can sort of just do PR — parents have their kids there" — but his son is thriving. His partner's daughter attends a different private school, which he described as a "black hole" because teachers don't address her progress outside of parent-teacher conferences. At AltSchool, he feels as if he can ask his son's teacher for an update any day he drops him off.

The parent figured that, like any startup, AltSchool would have missteps. "Is Max doing something that's noble and is a worthy cause? I think so. Is he going to make mistakes? Yeah," he said.

AltSchool's fate is unclear

According to Bloomberg, the startup's losses are piling up. AltSchool has been spending about $40 million a year, and it has at least $60 million left in the bank. It's not uncommon for startups focused on research and development to take on debt before launching a product. AltSchool is counting on its licensing model, not tuition dollars, to generate revenue.

Most private schools rely on families to fill their coffers. Parents pay their children's tuition, children become alumni, and alumni cut checks to their alma maters. Things are different at AltSchool because it's backed by venture capital, according to parents. Investors matter.

"We're not the constituency of the school," a parent of a former AltSchool student told Business Insider. "We were not the ones [Ventilla] had to be accountable to."

SEE ALSO: Generation Z is creating a $5 billion market for fake meat and seafood

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Silicon Valley billionaires are appalled by normal schools — so they created this new one

You probably shouldn't hug your dogs, regardless of how adorable they are

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Dogs are adorable and friendly. Your dog is probably a member of your family — not just your pet.

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I certainly sympathize.

My dog Goodwin, seen above surveying Brooklyn, sleeps in the same bed I do. He goes on vacation with my wife and me. He gets Christmas presents. He's a member of the family.

And that means he gets hugged. If I'm being honest, he gets hugged every single day. And though it seems as if he's OK with it — happy to be hugged, even! — it's entirely possible he's not such a fan.

"A lot of dog professionals would agree that hugging a dog is nonideal," dog-cognition scientist Dr. Alexandra Horowitz told me in an interview earlier this year. "I've never seen a dog who — when you hug them — they stand up and wag their tail and they're so excited. They do something else. They deal with it, you know?"

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The question of dog hugs has come up a lot in the past. Headlines fought for both sides of the argument:

So, what's going on?

This all started with a weekly column in Psychology Today, called "Canine Corner," by Dr. Stanley Coren. It wasn't based on a study or a new set of evidence — it was, as Coren described it to The Washington Post, "a set of casual observations." Coren has a long history in dog science and psychology: He has written books on the subject, and he continues to write a weekly column for Psychology Today that is focused on dogs.

That said, as Coren himself points out, the column was based on observations and wasn't intended to have the same impact as a peer-reviewed study — the bare minimum for scientific evidence.

So, should you hug your dog? Even without a conclusive study, the answer continues to be probably not.

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"The reason we say they don't like being hugged is because of what they look like when you're hugging them," Horowitz told me. "They pin their ears back, they lick their lips (sort of air licking). Or they yawn, which is another stress behavior. Or they move to get away. Or they show this kind of whale-eye posture — you can see the whites of their eyes. They show behavior that's like, 'This is uncomfortable.'"

Or, as Horowitz succinctly put it, dogs are dealing with it.

So, as adult humans, we can limit our own impulse to hug dogs. Impulse control, however, is much harder when you're an infant.

"Children like to give dogs hugs, and some dogs do not deal with it," Horowitz said. That's where problems can happen, like a normally calm dog attacking a child.

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"The child is right at dog-face level, and they could get a real bad injury by the dog snapping — a perfectly good dog," Horowitz added. "There's nothing wrong with the dog. You've done something they don't like. You're right there. They're growling. You're not listening. And they snap at you. And that could really injure a child."

That's just common sense, of course — you don't need to be an accomplished dog-cognition researcher like Horowitz to realize that children should be taught limits when it comes to the family dog (or cat, or bird, or whatever). And when it comes to hugs, however hard it is to resist, limitations may be necessary.

Or, as Horowitz puts it: "We assume because it shows our love that the dog feels our love, but I think in that case we're probably wrong."

SEE ALSO: 7 weird dog behaviors and what they mean

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: One of the best things you can do for your dog is brush its teeth — here’s why

People are threatening to boycott Starbucks over its holiday cup's 'gay agenda' — but the controversy was invented by the media (SBUX)

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Starbucks

  • #BoycottStarbucks is trending after a conspiracy theory emerged that the chain's holiday cups featured the hands of a lesbian couple. 
  • BuzzFeed News and other publications promoted and created the theory based on little evidence. 
  • Now, homophobic people are actually threatening to boycott Starbucks. 

 

People are freaking out over a Starbucks boycott that has essentially been invented by the media. 

Last week, BuzzFeed News published an article with the headline "Is Starbucks' New Holiday Cup Totally Gay?"

The article was based on an ad campaign that came out in late October and featured what appears to be one lesbian couple — among other couples — and fewer than 10 tweets, most of them extremely tongue-in-cheek. Last week, Business Insider could only find a single tweet —with zero likes and retweets — that expressed negative sentiments about what BuzzFeed News called the holiday cup's "gay agenda." 

Starbucks

The author additionally cited a "gay BuzzFeed colleague" who said, "I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands." 

All in all, the article created a lesbian hand conspiracy out of nothing — complete with an over-the-top image of a Starbucks holiday cup with "GAY?" written on it in purple, capital letters. 

We interpreted the article as either a tone-deaf attempt at satire that used queer people as a punchline, or an offensive article by a news publication attempting to incite anger over an inclusive ad.

The BuzzFeed reporter who wrote the article did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment. 

Other publications quickly picked up on the story and wrote it as straight news.

Fox News published an article titled "Starbucks holiday cup causes social media buzz over mystery hands" late last week. On Monday, Salon published "War on Christmas 2017: Fox News asks if Starbucks holiday cups are pushing a 'gay agenda'" (Conservative media site The Blaze and BuzzFeed News asked if the cups are pushing a "gay agenda" — Fox only used the term in a direct quote from BuzzFeed's article.) 

Even The New York Times weighed in, publishing an article on Monday that also questioned if the cups are a sign of "a gay agenda." 

With the increased media coverage — much of it from left-leaning and "progressive" publications — more people began talking about the cups on social media. Again, there was a single negative tweet about cups prior to BuzzFeed News' story. 

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While some people are actually unhappy about the cups, those who don't care or see the issue as a joke seem to outnumber boycotters. The bulk of the response has continued to be joking and tongue-in-cheek, and mocking people for being offended. 

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It is a similar issue to the last big Starbucks holiday cup boycott, when the chain debuted a minimalist red cup in 2015. American evangelist and internet personality Joshua Feuerstein posted a video on Facebook saying that Starbucks "removed Christmas from their cups," and that in protest, Christians should ask baristas to write “Merry Christmas” on their cups.

While the video immediately went viral, most people who appeared to be part of Feuerstein’s social media movement were, in fact, attacking the man. However, their involvement merely served to make the #MerryChristmasStarbucks hashtag more prominent, making it a topic of discussion for most major publications, late-night talk show hosts, and even Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate. 

A similar thing is happening here. BuzzFeed News published an article saying the cups could be "totally gay" based on a handful of tweets and an inclusive ad campaign. This article was aggregated by several other news publications, which created enough of a narrative that backlash finally emerged.

However, there was no outrage until it was manufactured by the media. Now, homophobic people have a new reason to boycott Starbucks, a company that has worked to push progressive workplace policies and promote LGBT rights — the real reason some people on the right were already boycotting the chain. 

SEE ALSO: People are mad about the outrage over Starbucks' red holiday cups — but it's unclear if customers were ever upset to begin with

Join the conversation about this story »

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Go behind the scenes of the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which reportedly costs millions to produce each year

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  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has happened since 1924.
  • A majority of the floats, balloons, and costumes are constructed inside their Moonachie, New Jersey warehouse.
  • Business Insider got a tour of the warehouse to see the process behind the parade that's watched by millions.

 

Inside a warehouse in Moonachie, New Jersey, where gingerbread men and nutcrackers line the walls, live two massive turkeys, a larger-than-life robot, a dragon, Pikachu, and Spongebob Squarepants.

While this isn't Santa's North Pole workshop, it might be the closest thing in the world to it. The Macy's Parade Studio, where a group of workers build the floats, balloons, and costumes that are on display during the Thanksgiving Day Parade, devotes itself to the holiday season 365 days a year. The famed parade, which happens in New York City every year, was started in 1924 by Macy's store employees and is now a Thanksgiving tradition that millions of Americans tune in to NBC to watch. 

Macy's does not disclose any of the costs associated with putting on the parade each year. Some sites like Ebates.com have estimated it could be several million dollars, taking into account the presumed cost of float construction, costumes, and studio rent. A representative for Macy's declined to confirm that estimate with Business Insider, however.

We took a tour of the studio at the height of 2015's Thanksgiving parade prep. John Piper, VP of the Macy's Parade Studio, showed us how their team helps put the magic together. 

SEE ALSO: These doormen guard the residences of New York's wealthiest residents

Each parade float starts out as an idea, a sketch on a piece of paper.



Models are then made scaled to size; you can see them sitting on the table here. Hanging above are balloon models from past parades.



The studio has a library of books, mostly for children, that the artists use as a reference to help turn two-dimensional characters into real-life, 3D figures.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This guy started paragliding full-time after failing to become a ski instructor — now he's pioneering the sport

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  • Professional paraglider pilot Jean-Baptiste Chandelier performs outrageous stunts.
  • He is a pioneer of "proximity flying." He flies in tight spaces with amazing precision.
  • He started paragliding full time after failing his exams to become a ski instructor.

 

Jean-Baptiste Chandelier is a professional paraglider pilot. He performs incredible stunts where he looks like he's flying.

He is a pioneer of "proximity flying" which involves flying in tight spaces with amazing precision.

Chandelier wanted to become a ski instructor but decided to quit after failing his exam many times.

That's when he started paragliding full time. He has over 10 years experience now.

He describes flying as "the ultimate feeling of freedom."

He makes videos to share the feeling of flight with others.

Produced by Claudia Romeo 

Join the conversation about this story »

HGTV stars explain how an abandoned cotton mill in their Texas hometown became the smartest investment they ever made

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Fixer Upper Magnolia Market

This month, Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV's hit home-renovation show "Fixer Upper," celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of Magnolia Market at the Silos, the Waco, Texas, headquarters for their growing retail brand.

The 2.5-acre space built around a pair of rusted cotton-oil mill silos is a large-scale model of what the Gaines — as renovators, business owners, and community advocates — are capable of. They're masters at transforming dilapidated properties while preserving history and character. They told Business Insider in a recent interview that this project, in particular, is the smartest investment they've made.

"At first when we looked at [the silos], it had been abandoned for years," Joanna said. "When we first drove up, we saw the land and there wasn't a lot of life to it, but just imagining what it could be ..."

Prompted by the reopening of Joanna's quaint retail shop in 2015 — which was drawing about 1,000 customers daily, in part due to the popularity of "Fixer Upper" — the Gaines decided to re-establish their growing business at the silos, they explain in their new book "The Magnolia Story." Joanna often admired the silos in downtown Waco and dreamt of reviving the property as a center for their community.

Fixer Upper Magnolia Market

But the road to renovation wasn't easy. Joanna shares in their book that Chip had to negotiate with the property's owners, who were tied to the history of the silos and hesitant to sell.

"I think a lot of people liked seeing them [downtown], whether they thought about it consciously or not," Joanna wrote. "So when we came along and said we wanted to preserve the silos as the landmark they are and to turn this property into something that could serve as a vibrant centerpiece for the whole community, he was interested."

The property at the silos now covers 16,000 square-feet of floor space housing the Magnolia retail shop and Silos Baking Co., a garden designed by Joanna, a large outdoor space for concerts and gatherings, and a collection of local food trucks. About 15,000 people visit the location weekly, according to HGTV, and Joanna writes that "it's also providing jobs to dozens upon dozens of new and long-time Magnolia employees."

"Now when we look at it, it's like, we're investing in our town, we're investing in downtown Waco, and I think that's definitely one of my favorite investments, by far," Joanna told Business Insider.

Watch more from the Gaines' interview with Business Insider below:

 

SEE ALSO: The stars of HGTV's 'Fixer Upper' share their best piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs

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Chip Gaines of HGTV's 'Fixer Upper' explains how to know when it's 'a no-brainer to buy' in real estate

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Chip and Joanna Gaines

Two years ago, Waco, Texas-residents Chip and Joanna Gaines debuted their now-hit show "Fixer Upper" on HGTV, the de facto television network for all things home improvement.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, the pair joked that while Joanna has become "America's sweetheart," Chip is "America's contractor."

When they married in 2003, Chip had begun flipping houses and renting them out to Baylor University students in Waco. He brought Joanna on board and she quickly discovered a hidden passion for home decor, opening a small boutique to sell her vintage finds, which would become the flagship of their ever-expanding brand.

Together they now own and operate Magnolia Homes, a real estate, renovation, and design company, in addition to several small businesses under the Magnolia brand, including a retail shop, bakery, furniture line, paint collection, and a "Fixer Upper"-style bed and breakfast.

Throughout his career as a contractor and a business owner, Chip has believed that "real estate has always been a vehicle for wealth." In order to build that wealth, the self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" prefers to buy property rather than rent.

"[E]ven when we were broke, I was investing constantly in properties," Chip told Business Insider. "Some properties we would own and rent out to college students that were around the university. Sometimes we would rent them out to local folks, and sometimes we would we live in them."

"So, for me, I have a very difficult time renting anything," he continued. "If I'm going to take office space, I want to own the building. If I want to buy a car, I buy it."

Chip says that people considering whether to rent or buy should ask themselves one question: "Is this asset going to depreciate in value?" If yes, then it's generally not worth purchasing. Chip acknowledges that this strategy holds true for the auto industry, though he admits that he still purchases cars rather than leasing.

"But in the housing universe, if you're confident or nearly positive that these assets are going to appreciate in value, it's a no-brainer to buy," Chip said. "If you get into complicated markets to where you're not confident, rent for a season, or rent for a year or two, and let the market sort of calm itself down before you jump in with both feet."

Watch more from the Gaines' interview with Business Insider below:

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HGTV's 'Fixer Upper' makes house flipping seem like a good investment — but there's a catch

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Chip and Joanna Gaines fixer upper

If you hadn't heard much of the term "fixer upper" before a few years ago, you can thank Chip and Joanna Gaines for launching it into the mainstream.

Since 2013, the Gaineses have starred in one of HGTV's most-watched home improvement shows, aptly called "Fixer Upper."

The couple announced earlier this week their show will conclude after its fifth season airs this fall, much to the disappointment of the show's obsessive fan base. By the end of their run, Chip and Joanna will have completed nearly 80 on-screen "dream home" renovations in Waco, Texas.

For many featured on the show, working with Chip and Joanna gives them more than their dream home — they also clinch a good investment.

When it's time for the big reveal at the end of each episode, Chip guesstimates the new value of the home, after the purchase price and renovation costs. "You're upside right on this thing almost $30,000," Chip tells a satisfied client who sunk about $272,000 into a property in one episode. "Not only did you pick a beautiful house, but I think you made a great investment."

In a small town like Waco, where the median list price is just under $180,000, that's something to celebrate. But in the off-camera world of real estate, the outlook isn't as bright.

In fact, when the housing market imploded nearly a decade ago, over-zealous real estate investors may have played a big part, according to a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). That's in sharp contrast to the typical narrative blaming Americans with bad credit who bought homes they couldn't afford. Through an analysis of anonymous mortgage data, the NBER found that it was actually wealthy and middle-class investors — who bought cheap properties in smaller markets, fixed them up and sold them for a profit until the financial crisis struck — who defaulted on their loans en masse.

Just a few years into the economic recovery, HGTV introduced the Gaineses, who have inspired countless Americans to dive back into real estate and invest in fixer uppers of their own.

Fixer Upper big reveal

Shows like "Fixer Upper" make it look easy. Every episode has the same formula. The Gaineses visit three homes with their clients, who come armed with an "all-in budget" to cover the purchase of the home and the various renovation costs, which Chip estimates seemingly on the spot. Improvements almost always include updating countertops, floors, and cabinets, and expanding rooms.

After they purchase the house, construction gets underway. There may be a hiccup here or there that requires the client to fork over an extra couple thousand dollars, but it never derails the project (as far as the viewer can see).

The client in the episode mentioned above bought his home for $169,000, which left him with a renovation budget of $103,000. Though most of the clients featured on "Fixer Upper" have a renovation budget in the mid-five figures — thanks to remarkably low purchase prices — that's a far cry from reality.

A 2016 analysis from Zillow Digs found the average fixer upper was listed for 8% below market value, saving buyers just $11,000 to complete renovations before they break even.

Still, fixer uppers can be a cheaper way to come into homeownership: Buy a run-down, albeit livable, house on the cheap and slowly but surely make improvements without draining your savings account.

"Fixer uppers can be a great deal, and they allow buyers to incorporate their personal style into a home while renovating, but it's still a good idea to do the math before making the leap," Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist, said.

"While an 8% discount or $11,000 in upfront savings on a fixer upper is certainly a good chunk of change, it likely won't be enough to cover a kitchen remodel, let alone structural updates like a new roof or plumbing, which many of these properties may require," Gudell said. When you're left with barely enough cash to cover renovations, the chances of earning a good return on investment are slim to none.

"Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?" Joanna asks during each episode's opening credits. Guts are one thing, but finances are another.

Although a few "Fixer Upper" alum have been able to capitalize on the show's popularity — like one couple who listed their home for about 10 times the area's median price per square foot— the average house-flipper doesn't have that luxury.

In the real world, the true cost of a fixer upper may not be worth the potential treasure.

SEE ALSO: Million-dollar ZIP codes are on the rise — and it could spell trouble for America's homeownership rate

DON'T MISS: 20 of the best US housing markets for investing in real estate

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NOW WATCH: HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines choose the opposite of trendy when designing a home

15 photos that show why tourists are swarming to Portugal like never before

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Lisbon, Portugal

  • In 2016, travel writers predicted that Portugal would be a hot spot for tourists. 
  • This year, the country saw a record-breaking number of visitors.
  • Planned travel for the first quarter of 2018 is already up by 86% compared to last year.

 

Portugal has quickly become a top destination for tourists.

And it's not just over the summer— travelers are making their way to Portugal during its off-season in larger numbers than ever before. According to American Express Travel, planned trips to Portugal are up 86% for January through March 2018, compared with the same period this year. 

Colder temperatures are a trade-off for shorter lines and lower prices for accommodations during the off-season.

Below, we've compiled photos from the photo-sharing app EyeEm to show the gorgeous sights Portugal has to offer year-round.

SEE ALSO: 50 amazing photos taken in 2017

Portugal received its name from the Latin "portus cale," which means "warm harbor."

Source: Travel + Leisure



Portugal's high travel season runs from July through August.

Source: Lonely Planet



During those times, warm ocean waters have the beaches packed with swimmers ...



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

10 sad, sad facts about your Thanksgiving turkey

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No traditional Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a glistening turkey to compliment that heaping pile of mashed potatoes and gravy.

For those of us eating turkey this Thanksgiving, there are some facts you should know, first. Facts about flying turkeys, frozen turkeys, and the sad secret of the lucky pardoned turkey that might not be so lucky.

SEE ALSO: The most Googled Thanksgiving recipe in every state

DON'T MISS: The turkey you're about to eat weighs twice as much as it did a few decades ago

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MGM is in crisis as hundreds of Las Vegas shooting victims accuse the Mandalay Bay of missing red flags

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  • Hundreds of victims of the Las Vegas shooting are filing lawsuits against the operator of the hotel where the gunman was staying.
  • The lawsuits argue that the hotel and its parent company should have taken greater security measures.
  • If the victims win in court, it could change how hotels handle security.

 

Hundreds of victims of the Las Vegas shooting have filed lawsuits against the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and its parent company MGM Resorts International.

Several lawsuits — the largest of which was filed on behalf of 450 people— attempt to hold MGM legally liable for the shooting, which killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. Victims are additionally suing the shooter Stephen Paddock's estate and the concert organizer Live Nation Entertainment Inc. as well as, in some cases, the manufacturer of the bump stocks that allowed Paddock to fire as if he were using automatic weapons.

The crux of the lawsuits' arguments is that MGM and the Mandalay Bay failed to take preventive measures that might have foiled the attack. Plaintiffs argue that staff members should have been better trained to spot red flags with Paddock.

Over the three days between when Paddock checked in to the hotel and fired from his window at a concert across the street, Paddock took at least 10 suitcases filled with firearms into his room. Police officials said Paddock also constructed an elaborate surveillance system in the hotel, placing two cameras in the hallway outside his suite — one on a service cart — as well as a camera in his door's peephole.

New decision is ominous for Mandalay Bay

mandalay bay windows las vegas shooting

In October, the Nevada Supreme Court found that MGM could be held liable in a 2010 assault on a California couple at one of the company's hotels, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The court ruled that the attack was “foreseeable” because there had been similar cases of violence at the hotel.

The question of whether the Las Vegas shooting was foreseeable is at the center of the Mandalay Bay lawsuits.

With several high-profile mass shootings having taken place in the US before the Las Vegas shooting, attorneys may argue that hotels and other venues should know to expand measures to try to prevent them, legal experts told Business Insider before any cases were filed.

"Foreseeability is one of the key components of liability," said Dick Hudak, a managing partner of Resort Security Consulting.

Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School, says it's "entirely feasible" that an attorney would make this argument based on the fact that mass shootings have taken place at other entertainment venues.

"If Congress isn't regulating gun ownership, it is going to be private parties ... who end up regulating their own premises," Feldman said.

The hotel industry has no national standards for security, and hotels aren't typically held accountable for guests' behavior. But if any of the hundreds of victims suing Mandalay Bay win their case, it could set a new precedent for the way hotels handle security.

SEE ALSO: The Las Vegas shooting could change how hotels think about security

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NOW WATCH: A self-made millionaire describes the financial mistakes to avoid if you want to get rich by 30

Ikea recalls millions of dressers again, following the eighth report of a toddler being killed by a piece of its furniture

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  • Ikea is reissuing its recall on Malm dressers and chests. 
  • Eight children have reportedly died after furniture from the line tipped on top of them. 
  • The company is offering full refunds. 

 

Ikea is recalling the Malm dresser again, after another toddler was reportedly crushed by the furniture. 

On Tuesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a new recall of the Malm dresser following a newly reported toddler death. In May, a two-year-old in Buena Park, California, reportedly died after being trapped under an unanchored Malm chest that tipped over.

Ikea is offering full refunds for the dresser, which costs $70 to $200, if it was manufactured from 2002 to 2016. 

Alternately, customers can request a free wall-anchoring kit for the dressers to prevent them from tipping over on small children. 

The recall impacts 17.3 million million chests and dressers from Ikea's Malm series.

The CPSC renewed the recall after previously recalled Ikea chests and dressers were blamed in eight reports of tip-over-related child deaths.

Other reports include a 22-month-old in Minnesota named Theodore McGee, who died in February when Ikea's Malm chest of drawers toppled over on him. A two-year-old boy from West Chester, Pennsylvania, also died after an unanchored Malm chest tipped over and pinned him to his bed, according to CPSC.

According to Ikea, the company has received 186 reports of Malm chests and dressers tipping over, including 91 reports of the line injuring children. Ikea has also received 113 reports of other recalled Ikea chests and dressers tipping over, resulting in 53 reported injuries. 

Ikea discontinued sales of the Malm furniture line in 2016, when the first toddler deaths were reported. 

To claim the refund or anchoring kit, customers should contact Ikea at 866-856-4532 or online at www.IKEA-USA.com/recallchestsanddressers.

SEE ALSO: Ikea is recalling millions of deadly dressers and offering full refunds

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NOW WATCH: Here's what candy corn is actually made of — it may surprise you

8 ways to make your next flight less stressful

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Passengers board their flight at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

I'm on record saying that air travel is an awful experience for the most part and has been for my entire life. I came to this conclusion long before United Airlines' had a dismaying experience with a passenger who was dragged off a plane by police.

As negative as I can be about the miseries of flight, over the years I've come up with some hacks that make it bearable. I put some of these to work on recent flights to Europe, Utah, and California, in fact.

Here are eight ways to make flying less stressful during the hectic holiday travel season:

SEE ALSO: I've been flying for 40 years — and it's always been a terrible experience

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1. Make a day of it.

Modern air travel is so much faster relative to what most people used to endure — long train, boat, or car rides — that we've come to believe that we'll be whisked from point A to point B with no deleterious effects.

This is foolish. Just because your flight is two hours doesn't mean that's all the time you'll be committing to the journey. You could get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. You could be delayed at check-in or security. The flight itself could leave late. You could get bumped! You could miss a connection. And on and on.

Add to that the stress you'll endure if you fly coach, with a cramped seat, and you're confronting an ordeal. 

My practice is to write off the travel day. Even if my flight is just a couple of hours, I plan to spend the day on the move and unless there's a business commitment mixed in, I devote myself to the journey.

I get to the airport with hours to spare, have a bite to eat and something to drink, do a bit of reading, board the plane, take my flight, and then I don't rush at the other end. In effect, I impose leisure on something that for most people isn't leisurely.

All bets are off, of course, if I'm flying with my family. But when I'm, solo, I make it all about me. 



2. Use the lounges.

Some travelers have airport lounge access thanks to their ticket or relationship with the airline or lounge through a credit card. But if you don't, I think it's worth it to pay for daily access. In fact, I routinely do this.

I usually spend around $50, and if you figure that I'm already saving a fair amount of money by flying coach and would have to feed myself in any case, I think it evens out and actually can be a money-saving expenditure.

Even if it isn't, it's much more relaxing to hang out in the lounge than it is in the terminal or by the gate. I'll often spend a few hours doing this, becoming a sort of temporary citizen of the airport.



3. Stay overnight at an airport hotel.

This often isn't as expensive as you might think. On a recent layover in Lisbon, I decided to spend the night at a nice boutique hotel across the street from the airport, and I spent around $100. 

Again, you're taking care of yourself with this move, reducing the stress of getting the airport on time. For early flights, I think this a total no-brainer. You wake up, maybe enjoy a free breakfast, and you either stroll over to the airport or jump on a shuttle.

This works out best if the hotel is in the airport itself. Or nearby. I stuck by this rule in Lisbon this year and in Paris last year and the results were great. I arrived for my flights with plenty of time to spare.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Queen is now officially the world's oldest head of state

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queen elizabeth

  • The Queen is officially the world's oldest head of state after Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe resigned from his Presidential role on Tuesday afternoon.
  • At 91 years old and with 65 years on the throne, she is also the UK's longest reigning monarch.


The Queen is now the world's oldest head of state after Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe resigned from his Presidential role on Tuesday afternoon.

Mugabe — who was the oldest head of state until his surprisee move — handed in his resignation after 37 years as president following last week's military coup.

At 91 years old, Queen Elizabeth II has outlasted countless world leaders and heads of state, including 19 Prime Ministers and 16 US Presidents.

She became the second longest-serving living British monarch in 2015, surpassing Queen Victoria's 63-year reign.

In 2007, she also became the oldest monarch in British history — a record also previously claimed by her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Earlier this week, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 70th wedding anniversary to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. She is the only British monarch to have celebrated her diamond and platinum wedding anniversaries.

Join the conversation about this story »

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A luxury fashion designer is selling his stunning LA mansion with 20 bathrooms for $45 million — take a look inside

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rudes mansion

  • Designer Jeffrey Rudes is selling his Los Angeles mansion for $45 million.
  • He paid $8.2 million for the property in 2011.
  • The amenities include a pool, spa, wine room, home theater, and tennis court.


While he was never able to live there himself, designer Jeffrey Rudes is selling a Los Angeles mansion he owned for $45 million. He and his ex-wife, Terre Jacobs, planned to move their family into the home at some point, but after their divorce, those plans were scrapped, according to the Wall Street Journal. Rudes created the luxury denim brand J Brand in 2004 and currently runs the Jeffrey Rudes menswear label.

Take a look at his luxurious L.A. mansion, which has the amenities of a four-star hotel.

SEE ALSO: A hedge fund manager who invested in Whole Foods just put his $70 million Hamptons beach house on the market — take a look inside

Rudes bought the property for $8.2 million in 2011.

Source: The Wall Street Journal



The property's main house is around 13,400 square feet.



It has seven bedrooms that wouldn't look out of place in a luxury hotel.



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12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible

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The week of Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times to travel all year. Traveling during holidays can be overwhelming, thanks to all of the extra crowds, flight delays, and cancellations. 

Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take to save yourself time and stay as relaxed as possible. 

We've put together 12 time-saving travel tips, from signing up for perks to using a simple trick to spot shorter lines.

Talia Avakian contributed reporting on a previous version of this article.

SEE ALSO: I flew over New York City in a doorless helicopter like a daredevil Instagrammer, and it was terrifying

Apply for TSA PreCheck status.

Signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can help save you valuable time, as you can keep your shoes, belts, and light jackets on as you go through security. You also don't have to remove your laptop or any liquids from your bag. 

It will help get you through an expedited line over Thanksgiving weekend as well as each time you travel afterward, making it a valuable investment.



Check in ahead of time.

Give yourself as few tasks to do at the airport as possible. Instead of waiting to pick up your boarding pass, check in ahead of time, either online or on your phone.

You can go paperless at most airport and use an electronic pass on your phone to board.



Download your airline's app.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and British Airways are just a few of the airlines that have developed mobile apps to give travelers real-time information on flight delays and gate changes.

That way, if your gate has changed and you're short on time, you’ll know before you even get to the airport.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Trump just 'pardoned' 2 turkeys named Drumstick and Wishbone — here's how the strange tradition got started

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U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the 70th National Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony as son Barron and first lady Melania Trump look on in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2017

  • The White House tradition of pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving began under John F. Kennedy.
  • No one really knows why American presidents do this.
  • This year, President Trump continued the tradition.

 

Every year, before the President of the United States can sit down and fully enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with his family, he must first go through the odd tradition of "pardoning" the turkey that won't be eaten.

While the reason why the tradition started is still a bit of a mystery, the White House traces it all the way back to President Lincoln in 1863.

As the story goes, Lincoln's son, Tad, may or may not have persuaded his father not to eat the turkey they purchased for Christmas dinner. They instead adopted it as a pet, naming the turkey Jack.

However, it would be more than 100 years until a President — John F. Kennedy —formally "pardoned" a turkey on the White House grounds.

This year, on November 21, President Donald Trump continued the tradition by pardoning Drumstick (and Wishbone) in the Rose Garden. "That’s a big bird. Wow. I feel so good about myself," said Trump right before the pardoning.

Below, a look at the strange tradition.

SEE ALSO: The chef who's opening a restaurant in the controversial Trump SoHo hotel thinks he can succeed where others have failed — here's why

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy received his Thanksgiving turkey from the Poultry and Egg National Board. He officially pardoned the bird by saying, "Let's keep him going."



In 1967, the pardoning ceremony took place inside. Senator Everett Dirksen and representatives from the poultry industry and farm organizations presented a turkey to President Lyndon B. Johnson.



An incredibly creepy legend about President Richard Nixon's bird was recently confirmed by the Washington Post. As the story goes, the turkey was especially rambunctious, and its feet had to be nailed down to the table.

Source: Washington Post



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

How a startup behind the 'iPhone of vaporizers' reinvented the e-cigarette and generated $224 million in sales in a year

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juul e-cigarette

  • Juul is the best-selling e-cigarette on the market, with 32% of the market share of the total e-cigarette category, according to Nielsen data.
  • The device was created by Stanford graduate students as part of their thesis.
  • The Juul system uses a proprietary blend of ingredients that the company says makes it taste more like a cigarette.

 

When two graduate students at Stanford set out to turn cigarette smokers on to alternatives in 2007, the solution seemed obvious: Make an e-cigarette that tastes like a cigarette.

Juul, an e-cigarette system consisting of a pocket-size vaporizer and nicotine juice cartridges that can be swapped in and out, is now the best-selling e-cigarette in America.

While most e-cigarettes use a type of nicotine called "free-base," which passes quickly into the bloodstream when inhaled, the cartridges that Juul Labs sells — Juulpods — contain a concentrated juice cocktail of salts and organic acids found in tobacco leaves. This blend more closely resembles the ingredients found in a cigarette, and therefore satisfies like one, according to Tyler Goldman, CEO of Juul Labs (which spun out of parent company, Pax Labs, earlier this year). Pax Labs received a patent for its nicotine-salt formulation in 2015.

Over the past year, Juul Labs has generated $224 million in retail sales, according to Nielsen data provided by Juul Labs. The brand saw sales explode 621% year-over-year and captured 32% market share of the total e-cigarette category in the four weeks that ended November 4.

One million Juul systems have sold to date. It's available at 12,000 convenience stores across the US, as well as online. The vaporizer retails for $35, and a four-pack of pods costs $16.

JUUL In Hand Female Black Tank Small

Pax Labs, formerly known as Ploom, started with a mission to make cigarettes obsolete. Both founders were smokers. The pair dedicated their senior design program thesis to the development of what would become the Juul e-cigarette system. In 2012, Ploom came to market with its first product: a nicotine vaporizer that was sold to Japan Tobacco Company.

The Juul, which launched in 2015, looks like no other e-cigarette on the market. The device is shaped like a USB drive with a metallic finish. Users can inhale to activate the heat source, unlike other devices that require users to unscrew a cap and fill a chamber with liquid.

Goldman, who took over as CEO in 2016, credits the Juul's nicotine-salt formulation, as well as its engineering and sleek form factor, with the device's popularity. The company produces some 20 million pods per month, but it has struggled to keep up with demand.

According to Goldman, the startup has actually "stopped trying to create new users" by leaving some stores purposefully out of stock of the vaporizers. It sells only refill cartridges to those stores, so people who use Juul and "switched off cigarettes can stay switched," Goldman said.

There is no long-term evidence that the vapor from e-cigarettes is less harmful than conventional smoke. Some research suggests e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes because they don't require igniting a material and inhaling the carcinogens and toxins that go along with it. But nicotine is still dangerous, and the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are unknown.

The e-cigarette market gained a victory in July, when the Food and Drug Administration delayed regulations that would have banned many e-cigarettes from the market. It also encouraged e-cigarette makers to talk to the agency about getting approval of their products.

"We feel this is a game-changing opportunity," Goldman said.

SEE ALSO: The best marijuana vaporizer for every type of person

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is what your lungs look like after just 20 cigarettes

Starbucks quietly killed a drink with a cult following — and people are threatening to boycott (SBUX)

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starbucks tea

  • Starbucks has discontinued its mango and peach syrups, killing its peach green tea lemonade. 
  • Fans of the beverage are furious. 
  • The syrup was discontinued as Starbucks revamps it tea menu. 

 

Starbucks has cut its peach green tea lemonade from the menu — and people are furious. 

This week, people began posting on social media saying that Starbucks had discontinued its mango and peach syrups. The peach syrup is a key component in the chain's peach green tea lemonade, a beverage with a cult following. 

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At least one person is even calling for a boycott. 

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Starbucks confirmed with Business Insider that the peach syrup was no longer on the menu. According to spokesperson Sanja Gould, the peach and mango syrups were discontinued in July with the debut of the new Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions. 

"As a result of the new approach to flavoring iced tea, peach and mango syrups were discontinued at that time and available only while supply lasted," Gould said. 

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Gould suggested fans of the peach green tea lemonade try the Peach Citrus White Tea Infusion Lemonade or the Pineapple Black Tea Infusion Lemonade.

Starbucks is in the midst of revamping its strategy as it attempts to grow tea sales to $3 billion in the next five years, nearly triple its current figures. In July, Starbucks announced plans to close all 379 Teavana stores in the coming year. Earlier in November, the chain announced it had reached an agreement to sell the Tazo tea brand to Unilever for $384 million.

SEE ALSO: People are threatening to boycott Starbucks over its holiday cup's 'gay agenda' — but the controversy was invented by the media

Join the conversation about this story »

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