‘Tis the Season… for Allergies

Little girl is blowing her nose

Chances are your health (or that of your loved ones) has been affected by the springtime pollen surge. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans and costing the nation a whopping $18 billion each year! While warring your attack against itchy eyes, nasal drainage and disrupted breathing, consider these tips from the Mayo Clinic.

  • Stay inside on dry or windy days when pollen roams rampant. The best time to go outside is after a heavy rain, when much of the pollen has been washed away.
  • Avoid yard work if you can—opt for indoor chores instead.
  • When you come in from spending time outdoors, remove clothes and take a shower so you’re not carrying allergens around with you.
  • Despite the spring-fresh smell, don’t hang laundry outside to dry.
  • Consider wearing a dust mask if you absolutely must do outside chores.
  • Though the fresh breeze is refreshing, refrain from opening windows in your house and rely on air conditioning instead.
  • Use high-efficiency filters if you have forced air heating or air conditioning. Make sure you regularly change your filters.
  • Use an air dehumidifier.
  • Consider grabbing a portable high-efficiency particulate air filter for your bedroom.
  • Clean floors regularly to remove dirt and allergens and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • Rinse your sinuses with a prepackaged nasal wash (like a Neti pot) to clear out the excess mucus.
  • Visit your general practitioner and ask for advice on the proper over-the-counter or prescription remedy best suited to dealing with your symptoms. He or she may refer you to an allergist for allergy testing or for additional treatment options.
  • Consider rethinking pet ownership (dander may be part of your problem). Don’t feel like you can part with your pup? Make sure you at least ban them from the bedroom. Consult your allergist for allergy shot options.

View the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website for additional helpful tips. 

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Protect your Passport


Among the many questions highlighted by last month’s Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappearance was the prevalence of stolen passports (two passengers on board were flying with stolen identities). A recent article published in USA Today noted that Interpol’s database lists more than 40 million stolen travel documents (most of them passports) since 2002. Despite heavy security measures at airports in a post-911 world, passport security is still fairly lax (sometimes non-existent). Only a few countries systematically check them at the gate. So where do these stolen passports go? The black market, where they’re sold to everyone from illegal immigrants, prostitutes and criminals to terrorists.

Like stolen credit cards, having your passport stolen can be a traumatic experience. While practicing safety precautions is always advised—keep all of your bags close to your body, never leave items unattended, lock your suitcases—pick-pockets can still snatch your travel documents and catch you unaware. Before traveling overseas, it’s always best to make a couple of copies of your passport card so you’ll have all relevant information needed to replace the card in a worst-case scenario. If you are traveling abroad and your passport is stolen, you won’t be allowed back in the country until you have a new one. So, if you find yourself in this position, there are a few basic steps you will need to take to replace your passport:

  1. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
  2. Speak to the Consular Section to report your missing passport.
  3. You’ll be directed to where you’ll need to go to replace your passport, get a new photo, etc.
  4. To replace your passport, you’ll need a photo ID, a passport photo, evidence of U.S. citizenship (which is where a copy of your passport comes in handy), your plane ticket, a DS-11 Application for Passport and a DS-64 Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport.

Read more precautions and replacement steps here.

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Fraud-proof your Business

Fraud photo

As a small business owner, you’re not only the purveyor of goods and services, you’re a watchdog against credit card fraud. To protect your customers and your store, you and your cashiers must always stay on high alert.

For card-present transactions be sure to train your staff on the top warning signs of fraud:

  1. Always ask for customer ID and check to make sure the customer’s driver’s license and credit card signature and names match.
  2. Look for evidence that the card has been altered.
  3. Know your business, and what does and does not constitute a typical transaction.
  4. Look for warning signs from the customer. Is he or she sweaty, anxious and suspicious? Did he or she jump into your lane while you were changing out the register/in the middle of a closing-time rush?
  5. Pay attention to customers who buy things with a high resale value, or who re-enter the store after a large purchase and continue shopping.

If you or one of your employees suspects fraud, it’s imperative that you call Code 10 immediately. Here’s how.

Read additional tips for preventing card-present and card-not-present fraud by visiting CoCard.info. We are always available to answer any questions/concerns regarding fraud, your POS System, transactions and more. Call us! 1.800.317.1819.

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Welcome April


Happy April Fool’s Day!
Hopefully your co-workers haven’t taken advantage of your gullible side with too many practical jokes today. Beware of impromptu marriage proposals or outlandish news. And, if you’re made the fool, laugh it off. It’ll be April 2 before you know it.

Stylish in the Rain
With April comes those typical showers (more of the usual for those of us in Georgia). Keep dry and break out from the monotony of the standard black umbrella with a few of these rainy day looks for him and her.

Michael Kors Trench w/Detachable Hood, Nordstrom, $129.90
Chooka Classy Classic Rain Boot, DSW, $49.95
Felix Rey CityScape Bubble Umbrella, Bloomingdale’s, $65
Marmot Storm Shield Rain Jacket – Men’s, REI, $65.73
Sorel Cheyanne Lace Full Grain Boots – Men’s, REI, $28.93
Brooks Bros. Windowpane-Check Umbrella, Mr. Porter, $65

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Shape Up


We were inspired by the Retail Contrarian, Doug Fleener’s, blog post early last month about spring training fundamentals as they relate to business. As he considered baseball’s annual spring training (where a heavy focused is placed on perfecting the fundamentals), Fleener begged the question, “how often are you and your team practicing the fundamentals?” It’s a good point, and one that should be considered. Fleener keeps his team in top condition by utilizing the following:

Adhering to his hiring acid test.
Since it’s likely you won’t hire grade-A employees every single time, Fleener likes to place a hiring rule on himself anytime he’s looking to bring on anyone new. He only hires a person if he is so genuinely excited about this person that he’ll want to call a friend or colleague and give them three reasons why he’s hiring this new employee.

Focusing on the sales experience.
Satisfied customers are what keep you in business. Don’t be pushy, but don’t relegate yourself to being a detached sales clerk either. Strive to be a sales person. Your goal is to add value and enjoyment into the customer’s shopping experience.

Fleener also encourages readers to revisit their daily sales strategies and to review the phone greeting customers receive when they call in (does it sound genuine or rushed?).

Read more of Fleener’s helpful tips or sign up for one of his coaching programs by clicking here.

What is your standard in-office spring training protocol? Share @cocardatlanta

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Next Big Thing?


At this point, you’ve likely heard the buzz surrounding the social media app, WhatsApp, possibly the next big thing in social media interactions. Just purchased by the Facebook crew for a whopping $19 billion, it’s still largely under the radar in the U.S. But, if Mark Zuckerberg’s giddiness over the purchase can be any indicator, it may become as much a part of our social mediascape as Twitter.

So what is it, exactly? Essentially, smartphone users can download this app and access texting capabilities for free, sending voice, text and picture messages without the cost of a typical SMS—the app pulls into your pre-existing data plan instead.

The brilliant difference between this and already existing services is that it can be used across multiple user platforms—so for instance, an iPhone user could send a group chat to a Blackberry user and an Android user for free.

Though spending $19 billion for a service that users download for free raised a lot of eyebrows, this could potentially expand Facebook’s reach exponentially—the service currently has 470 million users.

Click here to read about WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum’s journey from food stamps to billionaire status.

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That’s Rich


Drumroll, please. The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List is out, and it’s grown to a record 1,645 people, pulling in an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion. Bill Gates is at No. 1 again with his network of $76 billion; mining and telecom giant Carlo Slim comes in second with $72 billion; and Inditex’s Amancio Ortega ranks third with $64 billion. New to the list are a mixture of self-starters, like WhatsApp’s Jan Koum and Brian Acton, as well as 42 new female billionaires (bumping the global female billionaire pool to 172 billion). And, in terms of the globe’s wealthiest countries, the United States still pulls in at the top again (with 492 billionaires), trailed by China and Russia.

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Start-up Spotlight: Atlanta Tech Village


Look out Silicon Valley. Big innovations have been taking place in plain sight at Atlanta’s newly constructed Atlanta Tech Village. This sprawling modern complex, located in the heart of Buckhead on Piedmont Road, is the brainchild of entrepreneurial whiz David Cummings and is home to 106 start-ups and growing.

By the time renovations are complete on the 103,000-square-foot building this June, a projected 150-to-175 start-ups (and about 600 people) will claim the building as their work address. Since opening in 2013, it has become one of the 10 largest entrepreneurial centers in America.

“The goal is to make Atlanta one of the top 10 most successful start-up centers in the country,” says Cummings. “In the next 10 years, we’d like to create 10,000 net jobs by way of the start-ups that come through our doors.” Serving as an incubator for good ideas, the open-floor office plan and daily meetings with company leaders lend to a sense of camaraderie among companies.

Click here to learn more about the Village, and the wide range of companies that make a home there—everything from a Nicaragua travel company to a video game creator.

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And the Oscar Goes to…

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

Movie buffs and fashion devotees, your event of the year has returned yet again with the 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. As you place your bets on the winners and get your house prepped for your famous Oscar-viewing party (impress your friends and whip up one of these tasty appetizers), take the opportunity to squeeze in a few last-minute trips to the movies to see the major contenders on the big screen.

Here, a run-down of the nominees for a few of the top categories:

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Actor in a Leading Role:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Actress in a Leading Role:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, Osage County

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Feeling inspired by the grandeur of the Oscars? Host an award ceremony of your own (albeit on a much smaller scale) for stand-out employees at your office. You can make it as fun or as genuine as you like. Tweet us your winners @cocardatl.

Share your predictions and must-see flicks of the year @cocardatl #oscarpicks. View Oscar-nominated and winning films from years long passed on TCM during its 31 Days of Oscar showcase (through March 3). The 86th Academy Awards will air March 2 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC. 

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