Planet Business: Chinese take invasion of privacy to whole new level

Also: ‘Pre-loading’, a woman for USA Today, newbie billionaires and flat champagne


Image of the week: Crime wipeout

Public toilets are now officially the hideous new frontier of technological innovation. This automatic toilet paper dispenser at a public toilet at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven (aka Tiantan Park) uses facial recognition technology. Yes, it does. The method in the madness is that one of Beijing’s busiest public toilets is the site of the most appalling toilet paper theft.

Park officials have now installed the facial recognition software to, ahem, flush out the most organised of paper thieves who help themselves to rolls and take them home for their daily use, as if they are students or something. Now you go in and hold your bladder while the dispenser conducts a facial scan. Out comes a 60cm serving of paper, and that’s it – the dispenser will deny you a second serving for a long nine minutes.

The lexicon: Pre-loading

The bad news for pubs is that “pre-loading” – the phenomenon of knocking back a couple of drinks before you go out – is very popular with Irish people. And with the price of a vodka and Diet Coke, who can blame them? A worldwide study of pre-loading, or pre-drinking, by the Drug and Alcohol Review found that the Irish topped the table of 25 countries for oiling themselves with alcohol at home before braving the bar queue and/or the social anxiety of being surrounded by their closest friends in a public setting. Some 85 per cent of Irish drinkers engaged in pre-drinking before a night out, compared with an average of 63 per cent in the 25 countries.

Incidentally, pre-loading is also known as “pre-gaming”, “pre-funking”, “prinking” and “trying to save money”. Adjust your marketing messages accordingly.

Getting to know: Joanne Lipman

Joanne Lipman belongs to a select group of people: a woman who edits a national newspaper. With George Osborne sadly unavailable for the role, publishing group Gannett decided to turn to Lipman, its chief content officer, to add the title of editor-in-chief of USA Today to her LinkedIn. No surprises that in such a male-dominated industry, Lipman (55) is the first woman to hold this title in a permanent capacity (she succeeds a female interim editor-in-chief), while she was once also the first female deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Lipman is currently writing a book called Women at Work: A Guide for Men, based on a viral article she wrote for the Journal, which expands on the premise that even clued-in, well-intentioned men do not understand the women they work with. It could be the ideal man-gift next Christmas.

The list: Newbie billionaires

There were 195 debut names on Forbes’ exhaustive global search of people with 10-figure wealth. Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison of Stripe fame were among them, but who else made the grade?

1. Juan Francisco Beckmann Vidal: His family fortune is derived from tequila (José Cuervo, to be precise), which is one of the best kinds of family fortunes possible.

2. Manny Stul: The Australian, who is the reigning EY World Entrepreneur of the Year, made his money on toys, which is also a fun source of wealth.

3. Lucy Peng: The former economics professor cofounded the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and has a 2 per cent stake in its finance arm.

4. Yoshiko Shinohara: Japan’s first self-made woman billionaire (82) began a temping agency from her one-bedroom Tokyo apartment in 1973.

5. Kevin Systrom: The Instagram cofounder is fond of filters, especially ones that add a warm, rich glow.

In numbers: Champagne black holes

Percentage global decline in the volume of sales of champagne in 2016, according to French industry association CIVC.

Percentage decline in sales volumes of champagne to the UK, the biggest export market, last year, as demand fizzled out. Anyone for a prosecco?

Percentage decline in the value of champagne exports to the UK, as the industry was hit by the Brexit-related plummet in sterling.