Are we back in 2019?

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This is a podcast episode titled, Are we back in 2019?. The summary for this episode is: Hand sanitizer and Netflix are out. Gyms and concerts are in. Like, really, really in. Plus: TurboTax pays up, an update on Wordle, and more. Join our hosts Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah as they take you through our most interesting stories of the day. Thank You For Listening to The Hustle Daily Show. Don’t forget to hit Subscribe or Follow us on Apple Podcasts so that you never miss an episode! If you want this news delivered to your inbox, join millions of others and sign up for The Hustle Daily newsletter, here: Plus! Your engagement matters to us. If you are a fan of the show, be sure to leave us a 5-Star Review on Apple Podcasts (and share your favorite episodes with your friends, clients, and colleagues). The Hustle Daily Show is brought to you by The Hustle in partnership with HubSpot Podcasts.
TurboTax agrees to a settlement
01:54 MIN
Wordle updates
02:23 MIN
Are we back in 2019
03:00 MIN

Jacob Cohen: Howdy, folks. It's Thursday, May 5th. I'm Jacob Cohen, here with Hustle writer Juliet Bennett Rylah, and this is The Hustle Daily Show. Later in today's episode: Are we back in 2019? Because it sure feels like it, in a lot of ways. Look at the numbers and you'll see hand sanitizer and Netflix are kind of on the way out, and gyms and concerts are very much in. What's going on with consumer habits? We are going to discuss, but before we get into that, as always, here are a few things you should know. Let's get crack-a- lackin'. Juliet, what are you looking at?

Juliet Bennett Rylah: I'm looking at an update to something we talked about before. TurboTax has agreed to a 141- million- dollar settlement, to be paid out to about 4.4 million taxpayers who were unfairly charged for tax prep services in tax years 2016 to 2018. So we talked about this before, but many Americans are actually eligible for free tax prep, and that's thanks to the IRS Free File program.

Jacob Cohen: But they would never know it.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: They would never know it. The compromise dates back to 2002. IRS made this compromise, with software companies like TurboTax saying they would not develop their own software for online tax prep service if the companies would provide free prep to low and middle- income taxpayers. So I don't know about you, but I have paid for my taxes pretty much every year that I've had 1099s, which is all of them. I did not know this, that I could get them done for free for several of those years. So basically, back in March, the SCC accused TurboTax of running ads promising free prep and then funneling people into paid services. So in reality, TurboTax's free prep is only if you have a simple return. So if you have a 1099, that means if you are a gig worker of any kind, you work for Uber, you're a freelance journalist, as I was for many years, it's not free. But these ads would be like... I don't know if you've seen them. One was a aerobics instructor, and he was just saying," Free, free, free, free."

Jacob Cohen: Oh, I didn't see that one. I saw the one where it was a cattle auctioneer or something like that, and he was going,"And a free this and a free that, and a free, free, free."

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Right. So basically, TurboTax is like," Come here and get your taxes done for free," and then you'd start doing them, and then you'd have some situation where they'd be like," Oh, you actually have to pay." So basically, this settlement is the end of this whole saga. They've agreed to stop the ads but have admitted no wrongdoing. They maintain that people had filed for free, and it wasn't misleading. But basically, if you're one of those taxpayers, you could get a check for$ 30 per year you were charged.

Jacob Cohen: How lovely. A little bait-and-switch turns into a little cash.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Yeah, and I feel like I paid more than$ 30 for those services, but it's not nothing.

Jacob Cohen: Yeah, for sure.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: And what about you? What have you been reading today?

Jacob Cohen: So I was following some updates on Wordle. Remember Wordle? Do you still play Wordle? Did you play Wordle?

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Yeah, I play Wordle every day. It's the first thing I do to get my brain working.

Jacob Cohen: Wow. I mean, I understand it, but I was following Wordle this week, because the New York Times had their earnings call this week. And so just to recap a little bit, it did not take long for Wordle to blow up after it launched, back in October 2021. It attracted millions of players. It saw 23.5 million tweets of people just sharing their Wordle scores. That's insane. But in the three months since The New York Times bought it, which was back in January, for I believe a price in the low seven figures, you might be wondering what's happened since. What did they do to it? Has it actually been a good investment? So the answer is honestly, they haven't done anything crazy to it. For a moment, I think people were a little pissed off, because their win streaks didn't carry over on the technical side. Did you experience that?

Juliet Bennett Rylah: I don't have a win streak anyhow, because a lot of times, I'll play it on my phone, like I said, when I first get up, because I'm trying to get my brain working. Sometimes I'll forget, and then I'll be like," Oh, I'll just do it while I'm waiting for something," and I do it on my computer. And so I have two different streaks, and so I really don't pay attention.

Jacob Cohen: All right, well, some people were annoyed about that, but I think it was fixed, as far as I am aware. The biggest differences really appear to be aesthetic ones. You see little prompts now to play other Times mini- games. But in terms of whether Wordle was a good investment for The New York Times, yes, I think it was a very good investment. In the company's earnings call Wednesday, the CEO said Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to The Times, and that undoubtedly helped spur what they said was a record quarter for its game division and the addition of almost 400, 000 new digital subscribers.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Wow, that's impressive. So my nighttime activity is The New York times crossword. I do that every night, that Sleepytime Puzzle.

Jacob Cohen: There you go.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: And it's good. It is a solid crossword puzzle every single day. A lot of the apps are not good, so if you do really like puzzles, I would say The New York Times has one of the best simple puzzle subscriptions.

Jacob Cohen: Yeah, and I think it shows in their numbers. People really like their games.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Right.

Jacob Cohen: Anyways, in other news, the Fed raised rates by half a percentage point, the biggest hike in two decades. Stocks jumped on the news when Fed chair Jerome Powell said the Central Bank was not considering an even more aggressive hike in future meetings. Also, Uber said quarterly revenue more than doubled, to 6. 85 billion dollars, beating analysts' expectations. But it notched a 5. 9- billion- dollar loss from its stakes in Chinese ride- hailing giant DiDi. Southeast Asia's grab in Aurora innovation, which was just a tad wider than the 494 million- dollar loss analysts expected. And with that, it's time for us to discuss some consumer trends. All right, so we think back to 2020. Pandemic hits. World goes to shit. Many said the way we live will change permanently, but if you look at some of the data, just what's going on... Not even the data. You just look outside and what's going on in life right now. We're not just getting back to so- called normal in many cases, but we're actually breaking records. Look at Live Nation Entertainment, for example. They own Ticketmaster. They said concert ticket sales were up 45% this past February, compared with February 2019, and they have 30% more concerts planned for 2022 than they did in 2019. That's pre- pandemic. You look at gyms. After a brutal couple years, in which almost 25% of America's gyms closed, Planet Fitness memberships in January surpassed pre- pandemic levels. So you got concerts. You got gyms. At the same time, you're seeing these companies who are hailed as being built to not just survive, but thrive during the pandemic and after, start to feel the pain a little bit. You have Netflix stock down something like 70% this year. Now, to be fair, there are some things that aren't quite back like that. Flights are actually doing pretty well. Over two million people traveled by plane each day, on average, between April 17th and April 23rd. But that's below an average of 2.4 million at the same time in 2019. So we're improving, but not back just yet. And then offices, obviously, are nowhere near. For example, office occupancy across Manhattan was at just 37% of pre- pandemic levels in mid- April.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Yeah, I don't think any of this is that surprising. I think people realized. When they were sort of stuck in their homes, people really took stock of what was important to them in life, and so it's not surprising that we see people who are going back outside for experiences like concerts and events. And then also seeing people who maybe don't necessarily want to go back to the things that they realized they were doing that didn't bring them joy before, like going into an office every day. So I don't think these numbers are super surprising. I do remember people saying life was never going to be normal again. I do feel like in many ways, it is normal, with some modifications.

Jacob Cohen: All right. Badda bing, badda boom. That is it, folks. For more on The Hustle's tech and business coverage and links to all kinds of cool stuff from around the web, check out our newsletter at thehustle. co. Thanks to our editor, Ezra Trupiano, and executive producer Darren Clark. I'm Jacob Cohen, here with Juliet Bennett Rylah. You've been listening to The Hustle Daily Show, brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. See you tomorrow.

Juliet Bennett Rylah: Hey, it's Juliet from The Hustle Daily Show, and I'd like to tell you about another podcast: Business Made Simple, hosted by Donald Miller and brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Business Made Simple takes the mystery out of growing your business, like is a weak brand identity holding your business back? In this episode, Donald talks to Caitlyn Wells, a physical therapist and owner of Beyond Repair in Missouri. She works with athletes who have been injured, helping them get back to their sport. She and Donald have a conversation about how to ramp up her business. Essentially, how does Caitlyn brand and skill Caitlyn in such a way that she can charge double what she does now? Listen to Business Made Simple wherever you get your podcasts. As a leader, you're probably always on the lookout for ways to arm yourself with more knowledge. Maybe you read books, attend seminars, watch YouTube videos, go to conferences, even listen to podcasts, anything that helps you make the best possible decisions for you and your customers. They say knowledge is power, and that's because when you know more, more good can grow. With HubSpot CRM Platform, you can store, track, manage, and report on all the tasks and activities that make up your relationships with customers. With a bird's- eye view over all your customer interactions, HubSpot empowers your decision- making like never before, so you can give your business and your customers all the good you've got. Learn how your business can grow better


Hand sanitizer and Netflix are out. Gyms and concerts are in. Like, really, really in. Plus: TurboTax pays up, an update on Wordle, and more.

Join our hosts Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah as they take you through our most interesting stories of the day.

Thank You For Listening to The Hustle Daily Show. Don’t forget to hit Subscribe or Follow us on Apple Podcasts so that you never miss an episode!