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The Consumerist

Oscar Mayer Wants To Buy World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Because The Wienermobile Is Lonely

29 min 45 sec ago
(thewienermobile on Instagram)

(thewienermobile on Instagram)

One can only imagine how lonely it must be to live the life of a super-sized food item, one whose sole purpose is to advertise, not to be actually consumed: Long days filled with gawkers pointing out how big you are, with no one ever really getting you. But do you know who could understand what it’s like to be say, the World’s Largest Catsup bottle? The Wienermobile. And vice versa.

Which is why it makes sense that Oscar Mayer is looking into buying that big catsup, as a rep for the company tells Consumerist in what is definitely a PR stunt, but is kind of a match made at a backyard cookout nonetheless.

“Oscar Mayer heard that the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle was for sale, so we just had to send out the Wienermobile to check it out. With six large hot dogs on wheels traveling across the country all year, we could use a worthy condiment,” the rep says, echoing the Wienermobile’s recent Instagram post showing just that.

Think about it: One is designed to resemble a condiment, the other is a gigantic replica of a hot dog — they can understand exactly what the other is going through, even if one can roam the highways and byways of America while one is stuck just watching. At least they wouldn’t be lonely in spirit any longer.

But really? Is this a serious bid to buy the $500,000 bottle (and included property) or just adorable because they’re both large, inedible food items? It’s for real, Oscar Mayer’s rep confirms.

“The brand has been in touch with the bottle’s owner, and while they’re still in the early exploratory stage, both parties are very excited about the possibility,” she explains.

Best friends forever? Perhaps. Though we don’t think these two will be able to braid each other’s hair at sleepovers quite so easily.

Let’s Break Down Forbes’ Laughable “5 Reasons To Admire Comcast”

41 min 4 sec ago

(Knight725)

(Knight725)

In spite of its two Worst Company In America wins, we know that not everyone hates Comcast. But if you’re going to go out of your way on a popular website to tell America why it should think more kindly of the Kabletown folks, then you’ll need to come up with better reasons than the ones given in a risible Forbes.com column.

In the “5 Reasons to Admire Comcast” column, contributor Gene Marks even admits that criticism of the cable giant for its stance on net neutrality and its poor serviced is “deserved.” But then he goes on to come up with perhaps the lamest reasons ever given to provide Comcast a pat on the back.

First up:

“Comcast is a tech company that has improved the lives of its customers”

Marks, like many of us over a certain age, recalls the time when we had only a few channels to choose from and when most of those channels shut off after midnight. And then came cable…

“From nothing (and Comcast literally started from nothing) billions were invested to lay cable and build networks,” writes Marks. “Smaller companies who were unable to sustain this kind of investment were swallowed up by larger companies, like Comcast, who could.”

So we’re supposed to admire a cable company because it bought smaller cable companies?

Marks even states that a lot of the new channels that all this innovation has brought to us is “bad,” and that “you can complain that the bill is too high” or “that you have no choice” but this is okay because other companies, like Apple, Google and Microsoft have “been accused of the same thing.”

Last I checked, consumers weren’t really complaining about the cost of Google, and neither Apple or Microsoft have regional monopolies where consumers are told “you must have an iPhone if you live in this ZIP code” or “your only choice for video game consoles in this city is Xbox.”

But the big problem with Marks’ argument on this point is that nothing he’s said is specific to Comcast. It’s not like Comcast created cable or broadband Internet. It’s just one company that happens to provide these services to lots of people.

That’s like pointing to all the new variations in Oreo cookies and saying Safeway should be admired for it.

“Comcast technology is reliable”

Again, Marks opens up by trying to preempt criticism of Comcast.

“Sure, there are plenty of cases of customer complaints,” he admits. “And as I write this there are many people who are in pockets of the country that continually suffer with poor service from Comcast.”

Then Marks pulls out the hyperbole stick and beats his column to death with it, claiming that “Comcast blankets most of the continental U.S. and covers hundreds of millions of homes, individuals, families and devices using their services to access the internet, watch movies or make phone calls (let alone attend their amusement parks or take a tour of 30 Rock).”

Last we checked, Comcast had between 20-30 million customers, and its service does not (yet) blanket the U.S. There are, thankfully, entire swaths of the country that only know of Comcast through news headlines.

But because Marks “rarely” has a Comcast service outage and only “sometimes” has to deal with a “less-than-amazing” customer service rep, the company is apparently deserving of admiration.

Perhaps it’s just a reflection of the ill will held toward cable companies that doing a somewhat adequate job is now deemed and admirable asset for a company.

“Comcast stands behind its employees”

Marks uses the recent Comcast retention call debacle as evidence that the company has its employees’ backs.

After all, contends Marks, the company came to that employee’s defense saying he was only doing what he’d been trained to do.

But what Marks overlooks is the fact that this was not a public statement. It was only published on the company’s in-house website and then leaked to Consumerist. And those Comcast employees who shared the memo with us were doing so because they believe the company needs to be shaken up and needs to treat its employees better.

If your only evidence of Comcast “standing behind its employees” is a memo that was leaked by employees who don’t feel supported by the company, you’re standing on shaky ground.

“Comcast is a ruthless, competitive, take no prisoners tech company…and good for them”

Rather than make defensible points about Comcast’s stock price and how it’s a publicly traded company that makes good on its obligation to stockholders, Marks instead points to all the ways in which the company tries to manipulate the market and its image:

According to him, Comcast is “fighting the net neutralists, battling the press, and waging war on competitors like Time Warner (who they’re now trying to merge with) and Verizon.”

That’s funny… if you ask Comcast, it’s the biggest supporter of net neutrality, and it has never waged war against Time Warner Cable because the two companies have never overlapped. Even in the markets where there is some overlap with Verizon FiOS, Comcast doesn’t really care, as Verizon has made it clear that it has no plans to expand that fiber network anytime soon.

“They are employing teams of lobbyists, marketing experts and PR consultants whose job is to persuade us that the growth of their company is good for America and not anti-competitive,” writes Marks.

Again, why is this admirable? If the company was indeed putting out the adequate product that is making our lives so much better, it wouldn’t need all this spin control.

Mr. Marks, a fellow Philadelphian, also admires Comcast for doing all this ruthless stuff “from Market Street in downtown Philadelphia.”

Um… The Comcast HQ isn’t on Market St. It’s a block north on JFK Blvd.

If you’re going to try to prove your hometown cred, at least get the address right.

Wait — Isn’t there a fifth reason?

No, not really. Much like the company Marks claims to admire so much, the author doesn’t deliver on all of his promises. But instead of retitling his column to indicate that he could only come up with four threadbare reasons to give Comcast an attaboy, he simply shrugs and throws out the jokey “reason” of Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon.

“You may hate his employer, but who doesn’t love Jimmy Fallon?” he asks.

There you go America. Let Comcast run roughshod over the cable landscape, because Jimmy Fallon is hilarious.

Notice Shows GM Knew About Bolt Issue In Camaro, Other Vehicles A Year Before Announcing Recall

1 hour 8 min ago
(Chris Goldberg)

(Adam Goldberg)

The latest woe for General Motors may sound a bit familiar. It appears the car manufacturer knew of a potential safety problem — in which a loose bolt could cause loss of the driver’s seat function — before affected vehicles ever hit the market, but didn’t take action until issuing a recall earlier this month.

According to a report from The Detroit News, General Motors received at least 27 warranty claims and reports of problems in a number of vehicles produced in 2011, but failed to take action until recalling 414,000 vehicles for faulty bolts last week.

The bolt that secures the power front seat height adjuster can become loose or fall out. If that occurs, the seat will suddenly drop to the lowest position and the sudden movement could impair the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

In a notice [PDF] to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM says it first learned of the problem in April 2013 when the company’s engineering team identified a noise complaint on a Buick Regal pre-production durability test vehicle at the GM Milford Proving Grounds.

Officials with the company determined at the time that there was no loss of seat function and the issue was classified as a customer annoyance.

“The root cause of the noise issue was found to be a clamp condition on the height adjuster spindle bolt and seat cushion frame caused by poor extrusion on the height adjuster spindle bracket. The spindle bolt had become loose but did not fall out,” GM officials say in the notice.

But just two months later a customer filed a field complaint alleging that the power driver seat in his Camaro moved while driving, causing a rear-end collision with another vehicle.

In July 2013, GM inspected the vehicle and found that the bolt on the component of the seat height adjuster motor that raises and lowers the seat had fallen out.

GM then contacted the seat frame supplier to obtain design and manufacturing specifications regarding the Camaro claim. The documents provided found the build date of the vehicle involved in the field claim to be March 2011.

Warranty data provided on GM’s Camaro model indicated that, to date, 27 cases of loose or missing height adjuster bolts have been reported. However, GM says none of the other claims involved crashes or injuries, thus the manufacturer decided that “no effect on vehicle safety was determined.”

This May, in the wake of GM’s most recent issues, the manufacturer assigned an investigator to take another review of the initial performance information by Engineering Analysis.

Investigators determined that warranty data for height adjuster spindle bolt repairs had an elevated rate of claims for vehicles built beginning in July 2010 through July 2011. The issue was found to be in relation to a change in the supplier used by the company.

“It was discovered that a component supplier source change occurred in October 2010, and the tool move to the new supplier was completed in January 2011. Parts were banked prior to the move, and were depleted in
production in July of 2011. It was also learned that a tool refurbishment took place in January 2011.

During the Camaro claim investigation it was concluded that poor extrusion on the height adjuster spindle bracket was the cause of loss of the bolt in the Camaro and vehicles built during the same time frame. A review of warranty data also indicated that warranty rates for vehicles built after July 2011 were not elevated.”

These finding resulted in the July 23 recall of 414,333 vehicles including the Chevy Camaro (model year 2011-2012); Chevy Equinox (2010-2012); GMC Terrain (2010-2012); Buick Regal and LaCrosse (2011-2012 for both); Cadillac SRX (2010-2012).

Owners of the vehicles are urged to not use the power height adjustable feature until dealers can replace the height adjuster bolt.

This most recent issue appears to be another case of GM officials waiting to issue a recall even though a safety problem was documented in thousands of vehicles.

Earlier this year it was revealed that some GM officials knew about a possible ignition switch defect back in 2005, but failed to take action until early 2013 when it began to recall millions of vehicles. So far, that safety issue has resulted in at lease 13 deaths, but likely many more.

GM reviewed missing bolt cases in ’13 without issuing recall [The Detroit News]

Walmart Sends Me 4 Extra iPods, Doesn’t Want Them Back

1 hour 9 min ago

old_ipod_touchThere are so few honest people in the world that retailers are simply unable to deal with it. That’s the only conclusion we can reach from Jessica’s experience when Walmart accidentally sent her five iPods when she only ordered one. She was happy to send the extras back, but Walmart didn’t know how to deal with that transaction.

She ordered one iPod Touch. One. “When I opened the box, I found five. This has never happened before, and the packing slip says only one was shipped,” she wrote to Consumerist. “Should I contact them and tell them about the error or keep them since its within my legal right to?”

Good questions. While this may have never happened to Jessica before, it’s certainly not without precedent among Consumerist readers. Back during the 2012 holiday season, Best Buy sent out crates of iPads to customers who were only supposed to receive one. There may have been more, but we only know of three cases where this happened.

As far as we know, you are legally within your rights to keep duplicate items when a company sends them to you in error. Before you hand out iPods to everyone you know, make sure there is nothing in the company’s terms and conditions that explicitly addresses this topic. Otherwise, Federal Trade Commission rules on unordered merchandise apply.

The more important question is whether you’re morally within your rights to keep the extra items. That’s entirely up to you. What we do know is that you shouldn’t have to fight with the company if you decide to send the unordered merchandise back.

Consumerist contacted Walmart media relations to find out what they want customers to do in this situation, and that’s where things started to get confusing. Yes, even more confusing than four extra iPods on your doorstep. A spokesperson explained to us that among the options for returning an item on Walmart.com is “duplicate item,” and that Jessica could use that to generate a return label and send back the extra iPods. Fab!

We took that information back to Jessica, and she told us that it didn’t work. “The person online is telling me I have to print out a return receipt and send back 4 of the 5 iPods but [the website is] telling me I can’t mail the order back due to some regulations,” she explained. Fine, so she called up her local Walmart store: surely they have no regulations that would prevent a customer from bringing back an iPod.

The first woman she spoke to on the phone simply asked Jessica why she would want to give the four extra iPods back. Nice. The second person told her that the store would only be be able to accept one iPod back, since she officially ordered only one, and there’s only one iPod listed on the receipt and packing slip.

Ultimately, Jessica was able to sort it out with Walmart.com representatives, and they generated a UPS label to send the iPods back. It’s good that this is an unusual situation, but since it doesn’t happen every day, employees end up arguing with customers about whether it happened or not. That isn’t cool.

PREVIOUSLY:
My Mom Ordered One iPad And Best Buy Sent Five

Literal Lowdown Thief Crawled Through Store To Steal Wigs Meant For Cancer Victims

1 hour 21 min ago

(KHOU 11 News)

(KHOU 11 News)

Listen, we’re not the type to throw around the word “literally” like all those people who annoy the heck out of everyone else by claiming that they are “literally starving.” You’re not, but we can say that a man who crawled through a wig store pilfering hair meant for cancer victims is literally a lowdown thief. Because of the crawling, and because stealing from people in need is awful.

The owner of a high-end wig store in Houston needs help to find a burglar who was caught on surveillance video this week, slinking around on the ground to avoid setting off the motion sensors, reports KHOU 11 News.

He broke into a vacant space next door and then busted a hole through a wall at the wig store and crawled in, staying on his belly.

“He was laying on the ground, low crawl like they do in the military,” explained a store manager. “He’s a snake. That’s what they do.”

In the footage the man is seen sneaking behind the register and heading for the wigs, where he snags 11 pieces from the lowest shelf along with some other things.

The owner says those wigs — valued at more than $3,000 — were going to be donated to a cancer makeover event in two weeks, making his crime even more lowdown and mean.

“It’s just pathetic, a grown man stealing wigs that are designated for cancer patients. It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

She’s throwing in a $500 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest.

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Surveillance video exposes slithering wig thief in southwest Houston [KHOU 11]

Yelp’s Video Feature Is Now Live, So You Can Show Exactly What You Mean By “Ear-Splitting Music”

1 hour 48 min ago

yelpvideotodayIf a picture is worth a thousand words — which it is, I just cashed in a picture yesterday — then a video must be even more valuable, right? So thinketh Yelp, as it says that it’s previously announced video feature is now ready for users who want to add short clips to their reviews.

While we’re sure you’re practicing your best fist shakes and diatribes and all the best snarky comments you can squeeze into a 12-second video, Yelp says in a blog announcement that it sees the video feature as more of a way to showcase the ambiance of a place, as photos do, rather than a soapbox for your vitriol or a sure shot to Internet stardom.

“Worried your video skills are not up to par? We’re not looking for Ken Burns-level documentary filmmaking – it’s actually more helpful to see what a real-life consumer experience looks like without fancy editing or narration,” Yelp’s blog post reads. “These are not intended to be ‘video reviews,’ but rather an extension of the visual experience. “

Got that? You’re adding a video to your review, not reviewing a restaurant with your video. Or something. Not that that will prevent anyone from speaking their minds on camera, we’re sure.

But this way you can bring to life the true meaning of “ear-splitting” shrieks from the locals at the sports bar, or highlight the soft, tinkly piano and warm lighting at your favorite cubbyhole off the beaten path.

It also means we can all look forward to the glow of even more screens at the dinner table or the concert venue as your fellow consumers whip out their phone cameras to catalog any so-called ambiance that might be in effect.

Now You Can Tell The FCC What You Think About Bans On Municipal Broadband

2 hours 3 min ago

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

Last week, a pair of city-operated utility companies petitioned the FCC, daring Commission Chair Tom Wheeler to make good on his promises to overturn ridiculous, industry-backed state laws that ban or severely limit municipal broadband. The FCC has opened the issue up for public comment, so it’s time to make your opinion heard.

Both petitions deal with bizarre state laws that rein in muni broadband in favor of regional monopolies operated by the cable and telecom industries.

In Tennessee, the laws prevent Chattanooga’s EPB utility company from offering its broadband service to communities outside of its electric-delivery area, even to communities that are requesting it because they currently have little-to-no broadband access.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, the city of Wilson is allowed to provide power service to six counties but a 2011 state law says it can only offer its gigabit fiber broadband service in its home county.

Comments are now open for the North Carolina petition and the Tennessee petition. Comments can be made by clicking the “Submit a Filing in…” link at the top of each page. This PDF has information on other ways to file comments.

These sorts of laws — ranging from outright bans to regulations that effectively make muni broadband impossible — exist in 20 states, and various state legislatures are always cooking up another way to cater to the cable industry.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has said he believes the Commission could use its authority to promote competition to overturn or preempt overly restrictive state laws, but has not indicated a desire to craft a single rule that would invalidate the local laws.

Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn — who has received around $40,000 from cable and telecom campaign donors — introduced legislation that would make it illegal for the FCC to overturn these local laws. And, because Congress hates consumers, it passed.

[via ArsTechnica]

Lyft Is Too Successful In New York City, No Cars Available

17 hours 46 min ago

(Ben Schumin)

(Ben Schumin)

In New York City, early adopters of the car-summoning smartphone app Lyft got a special gift: fifty free rides with a fare of up to $25 each in the first fifteen days that the service is open for business. It’s an impressive promotion…or it would be if there were any drivers available.

In most cities where car-sharing services like Lyft and UberX operate, they recruit ordinary citizens with reliable cars and clean driving records. That’s why it’s called “ride-sharing” – the idea is that you’re not summoning a car service, but the app is finding someone available to give you a lift, and you compensate them for their fuel, any tolls, and for their time. New York’s Attorney General wasn’t buying this argument, and Lyft was finally allowed to launch using only commercial drivers. The problem: there aren’t enough of ‘em.

A company spokesperson told DNAinfo that the there is “overwhelming demand” for the service in New York, and that the service plans to add more drivers after the launch weekend.

Maybe it’s all those free rides, or it’s just that drivers haven’t been interested in signing up for the first week. Whatever the case, Lyft customers in NYC whip out their phones and look longingly at all of those cars available on the other side of the Hudson, in northern New Jersey.

Ah, well: at least riders still have options if they don’t want to take a taxi.

@lyft did you get the date wrong for the manhattan launch? Seems 20% discount on @Uber is better than free lyft ride http://t.co/IL0NNsj4h1
Bruce Quaid (@BruceQuaid) July 27, 2014

New York City Is Loving Lyft Into Uselessness [New York]
Lack of Drivers Snags Lyft’s NYC Launch [DNAinfo]

Calling 9-1-1 To Report A Fake Murder Won’t Get You Out Of A Speeding Ticket

Mon, 2014-07-28 23:13

(Alan Rappa)

(Alan Rappa)

Getting pulled over for speeding is no fun, of course — but when those sirens come on, most responsible drivers accept that they’ll just have to face the music and take a ticket. One Florida man had bigger ideas than getting a ticket — and by “bigger” I by no means “better,” because reporting a murder that didn’t happen is just not going to work out.

Police say a man called 9-1-1 to report a murder in progress (but can it actually be a murder if it isn’t over yet?) while he was being pulled over for speeding, reports MyFox8.com.

“There is a murder that’s going to happen, I swear,” he reportedly told dispatchers frantically, saying someone was “definitelY” going to get shot, and begging for a police response.

The line went dead, prompting every officer who could to respond to the intersection he named, while the caller called back again.

“I swear, there’s going to be a murder any second. There’s a man and a gun. Please,” the caller said, hanging up again.

Police say that what was really happening at that moment was the man was getting a speeding ticket very close to that intersection, and had called 9-1-1 ostensibly to distract the officer who’d pulled him over.

“It almost worked,” a police rep said. “The officer was trying to wrap up quickly to respond.”

But when the caller’s name came over the police radio, the officer writing his ticket realized they were one and the same person and arrested him.

“When you take a phony incident, and you take those dispatches away from the ability to answer those calls that could put somebody that has a real emergency in danger,” the police rep explained.

he’s now facing a felony charge with a maximum five-year prison sentence if he’s found guilty, instead of a $200 ticket. Again, not a great plan.

Man accused of reporting ‘murder’ to 911 to get out of speeding ticket [MyFox8.com]

Tweet A Coke To Your Friends, If They Were Going To The Movies Anyway

Mon, 2014-07-28 22:59

(Sh4rp_i)

(Sh4rp_i)

Do you want to give your movie-loving friend a gift, but not a really good gift? Thanks to a partnership between Coke, Twitter, and Regal Cinemas, you can tweet a Coke-branded beverage to a friend… or to a random stranger, if that’s what you’re into. Why? So someone would write an article about it, I guess.

You may remember that Pepsi did something like this with a few vending machines a few years ago, only without Twitter. Starbucks tried letting people tweet drinks at each other last year. Mashable reports that people actually bought $180,000 worth of Starbucks gift tweets, which isn’t bad. However, while most Americans pass within a few miles of a Starbucks regularly, Regal isn’t in every city. Not all Regal locations accept the vouchers, anyway.

You don’t have to pay $12 for admission to a Starbucks. Sure, you could pick up your gift Coke at the concession stand without seeing a movie, but that would be weird.

Tweet-A-Coke [Official Site]
Now You Can Tweet a Coke to a Friend for $5 [Mashable]

Congress Hates You, Votes To Bring Back Glory Days Of Opaque Airfare Pricing

Mon, 2014-07-28 22:28

(Triborough)

(Triborough)

Remember the good ol’ days of 2011, when you would see an airline advertising $99 tickets to somewhere nice, only to later find out that the actual airfare was much higher? For some reason that has absolutely nothing to do with huge amounts of donation money from the travel industry, the House of Representatives has decided that consumers should no longer have access to transparent airfares.

The ridiculously named Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 was introduced in the House earlier this year by Pennsylvania professional airline puppet Congressman Bill Shuster, and was passed by the House earlier today by voice vote.

The legislation was rushed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this year with no hearings, no public debate, and no calls for comments. It has support from both Democrat and Republican members of Congress, demonstrating that their hatred of consumers knows no party affiliation.

In spite of its name, the bill seeks to overturn the 2012 FAA rules that required airlines to include taxes and fees into their advertised fares. In 2013, the airline industry tried to fight it in court, but failed miserably. And so they turned to Shuster, whose top campaign contributors include United Airlines, Atlas Air, Airlines for America, and Delta.

In fact, Shuster was the candidate who received the most money from all but one of those donors with a vested interest in hiding the truth from air travelers. And he was second only to Cory Booker on United’s donation list — which isn’t surprising since Booker is the former Mayor of Newark, one of United’s main hubs.

But again, this wasn’t about huge amounts of money being poured into his campaign by the airline industry.

No, he maintains that his legislation isn’t intended to make fares more opaque, it’s to point out how much the government tacks on to airfares.

Thing is, there’s nothing preventing an airline from making it incredibly easy for consumers to see just how much of that total cost belongs to the airline and how much is going to the feds.

When Airline X lists a fare to Chicago, it could show right there on the poster ($XXX for the base airfare + $YYY for taxes and fees).

But airlines don’t want that. They want to be able to say “$XXX* to Chicago” and then have that asterisk explained on its website or in the fine print of the ad.

And so rather than a bill that would require airlines to provide more information to consumers, Shuster and his jet-fueled pals are happy to plunge us back into the dark ages of opaque airfare pricing.

“This is an industry-backed bill that should never have been cleared for takeoff in the first place,” says William J. McGee, aviation and transportation consultant to Consumers Union. “Despite its title, the Transparent Airfares Act would only serve to make the bottom line airfare price more opaque and harder for consumers to shop. Proponents of the legislation claim that consumers are being harmed because taxes and fees imposed are being ‘hidden’, which is simply untrue. The real harm to consumers would come from making it even more difficult to pinpoint the total cost of a ticket when travelers are already dealing with an influx of new airline fees for anything from carrying on bags, selecting seats, or calling reservation centers. Consumers Union strongly opposes this legislation and urges the Senate to block any similar legislative effort.”

Popeyes Customer Claims Drive-Thru Worker Spiked His Drink With Antimicrobial Wipes

Mon, 2014-07-28 22:04

(NYCviaRachel)

(NYCviaRachel)

While one might think that the only substances that could be used to spike a drink would be perhaps liquid or powder, you learn something new every day. Because it’s possible to spike a soda with not one antimicrobial wipe, but two, as one unhappy Popeyes customer claims.

A Washington Army veteran is calling a recent incident at his local Popeyes “assault,” claiming that sipping on the wet wipes made him sick, reports KATU.com.

He says he went through the drive-thru one day for lunch, and had pulled up to the window to pay when he asked the cashier if he could add a jalapeno pepper to his order.

“The lady says you already ordered, and I say, well I’m still here, right? And I could tell she’s irritated,” he recalls.

He didn’t get the pepper, but he did get something he didn’t order, he claims, after he went back to the army base nearby to chow down.

“Within moments of eating, I just started retching,” he said, saying he popped the lid on the drink cup and saw what looked like a napkin in his soda.

“And when I pull the napkin out, I realize it’s not a napkin. It’s an anti-microbial wet wipe, and there’s two of them in there,” he said.

He went to the hospital that night, and says he wants an apology and for the worker to be fired.

“If she did it to me, it could be happening to other soldiers,” he said, adding that a lot of their business will be soldiers from his base. “I’m just angry because I believe I was assaulted.”

Popeyes didn’t comment to KATU.com, but police are investigating and using his receipt as evidence, though it’ll be hard to prove who, if anyone, put the wipes in his cup.

Now let’s all take a moment to think about what it would be like to drink an antimicrobial flavored soda. Okay done, that was awful.

Lewis-McChord soldier claims fast food worker spiked soda [KATU.com]

Southwest Airlines Could Face $12M FAA Fine Over Improper Repairs

Mon, 2014-07-28 21:53
(David Transier)

(David Transier)

Even the smallest mistake – or three of them – can translate into huge fines for airline companies. Southwest Airlines could be paying a $12 million fine to the Federal Aviation Administration because of allegedly improper repairs to its aircraft going back as far as 2006.

The Chicago Tribune reports that FAA investigators found three separate incidents in which Southwest and its hired contractor improperly repaired aircraft.

The incidents began in 2006 when Southwest carried out “extreme makeover” alterations to eliminate possible cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 Boeing 737 jetliners.

According to the FAA’s investigation, the contractor hired by Southwest – Aviation Technical Services –failed to follow required procedures regarding the placement of the airplanes on jacks and stabilizing them while replacing the fuselage skins on the aircraft. By not following the proper protocol, the airframe could shift and lead to problems with the new skin.

Despite begin notified of the issue, Southwest returned the jetliners to service and operated them when they were not in compliance with federal aviation regulations, the FAA says in a news release.

However, the agency later approved the repairs after the airline provided proper documentation that the repairs met safety standards.

The second incident occurred when the contractor applied sealant beneath the new skin panels but failed to install fasteners to all the rivet holes while the sealant was effective. The omission could have resulted in gaps between the skin and the plane’s surface which could let moisture inside leading to corrosion.

In the final case, the FAA alleges that Southwest failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its aircraft as required by the FAA Airworthiness Directive regarding lightning strikes. The airplanes were each operated on more than 20 passenger flights after Southwest Airlines became aware of the discrepancies but before the airline corrected the problem.

“The FAA views maintenance very seriously, and it will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to follow regulations,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says in a news release.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines tells the Tribune that the incidents concern repair issues addressed several years ago, and that none of the allegations affect aircraft currently in operation.

“Southwest is committed to continuously making enhancements to our internal procedures, as well as improvements related to oversight of our repair vendors,” she says.

The airline has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s penalty letter.

FAA suggests $12 million fine for Southwest Airlines over repairs [The Chicago Tribune]

USA Discounters: Where A $650 Laptop Ends Up Costing Army Private $8,626

Mon, 2014-07-28 21:49

The USA Discounters website advertises its financing for military servicemembers and government employees.

The USA Discounters website advertises its financing for military servicemembers and government employees.

A discount retailer that sells itself as being friendly to military borrowers has been pushed into the spotlight, thanks to a report highlighting questionable lending and marketing tactics that lead some borrowers into lawsuits where they can’t reasonably defend themselves.

A story published jointly by ProPublica and the Washington Post looks at the practices of a company called USA Discounters, a company that markets its financing plans to servicemembers and has locations near 11 of the nation’s largest military bases.

The retailer advertises its always-approved credit offers to members of the military with bad credit or no credit history.

And yet, the prices on things at the store are not very good. For example, the US Discounters website currently lists a Samsung UN60FH6003F 60″ TV as a “special” that “starts” at twice-monthly payments of $47 for 24 months. So $94/month for two years equals $2,256. Meanwhile, you can get that same TV on Amazon for $960.

ProPublica found an iPad Mini, which Apple sells for $329, going for more than double that amount, $699, at the retailer.

“You’re not selling the furniture. You’re not selling the appliances,” explains one former sales employee to ProPublica. “You’re selling our financing program.”

What he really means is that the store is apparently taking advantage of the fact that some people with little to no credit aren’t experienced or knowledgeable about interest rates.

$94/month for two years might seem like a good deal for the TV, but if you put the purchase on a high-interest credit card (20% APR) and made those same monthly payments, you’d be done with payments in only 12 months.

The USA Discounters deal is like making the Amazon purchase with a credit card that charges around 98% interest.

And this is without add-on fees that USA Discounters employees tell ProPublica they are encouraged to include in contracts.

For example, there is the Army Private who thought he would finance a Toshiba laptop through the retailer.

The laptop he bought could have been purchased elsewhere for around $650, reports ProPublica. But according to his contract, the price charged by USA Discounters was $1,799.

Then there was a $191.56 warranty fee… and $17.57 in “credit life insurance”… and $248.22 in “credit property insurance.” Throw in taxes and another $16 for filing and “specialist fees” — and let’s not forget the finance charge of $561.47 — the total comes out to $2993.22, to be paid out over the course of 23 payments of $130.14.

Again, had he been able to pay for this with a 20% APR credit card and made those same payments, he’d have paid for the $650 laptop in six months. Better yet, if he’d just saved the $130/month for five months, he could have purchased it outright without any credit.

But the private fell behind on the payments, and USA Discounters filed suit — in Virginia, more than 1,500 miles away from where the private now lives.

Unable to make the trip to Virginia for the court date, the company won a judgement of $8,626 against him.

And he’s not unique. ProPublica reports that USA Discounters has filed more than 13,470 lawsuits since 2006 and that the company almost always wins in court.

Some accuse the company of taking advantage of a loophole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which gives active duty servicemembers the right to defend themselves but does not specify where lawsuits must be filed.

That could explain why, with so many servicemembers strewn about the globe, USA Discounters has a tendency to file its complaints in the same two courts in Virginia.

“This looks like somebody who has really, really researched the best way to get around the entire intent of the SCRA,” one retired Air Force judge advocate and expert on the SCRA tells ProPublica.

Additionally, while the SCRA says that there must be a court-appointed attorney to represent servicemembers who aren’t there to represent themselves, Virginia courts allow the creditor to suggest which attorney should be appointed.

ProPublica looked at 11 different cases and found that USA Discounters requested the same lawyer in each case involving servicemembers.

That lawyer says he represents “in the range of 300-400″ servicemembers each year, but as he explains in his all-caps letters to those clients, “I have not been appointed by the court to defend you on the merits of this case in any way. Mu only obligation is to review your response and request an additional stay or continuance if I feel it is appropriate given your answers.”

USA Discounters denies any business relationship with this attorney and says it’s just trying to save its customers money by filing in a state that doesn’t require it to use lawyers to file. The retailer say it’s passing on that savings to its customers (though anyone who read the earlier part of this story might wonder how much the retailer would charge if it had to pay lawyers).

Much like college students are targets of predatory for-profit colleges that talk them into taking out huge student loans without regard to their ability to repay that money, some say that “military-friendly” stores like USA Discounters go after servicemembers because they can easily seize a defendant’s wages.

According to ProPublica, USA Discounters seizes the pay of more active-duty military members than any company in the country.

Over the weekend, USA Discounters issued a statement defending its business practices, saying that it is “transparent about its policies. Prices and terms are clearly marked and described so customers can make informed decisions about whether a purchase is right for them. The company also performs an exhaustive analysis of every credit application and only extends credit in amounts customers can handle.”

The only factual issue with which the store’s statement takes issue is the claim that it always sues customers in Virginia.

“If the consumer wishes instead to have the matter heard outside of Virginia, USA Discounters honors that request,” reads the statement.

In his response to this claim, ProPublica’s Paul Kiel writes, “The contract language does not state this option. I specifically asked if the company advised borrowers of this option and to provide an example of such a case. Both questions were not answered.”

Pumpkin Spice Creep Spotted In Peanut Butter Aisle

Mon, 2014-07-28 21:43

14577934458_3f858a982f_oAs if it weren’t bad enough that there are pumpkin toaster strudels in the freezer cases and Halloween costumes available for sale at Costco, July pumpkin spice creep strikes again, in the form of Pumpkin Pie Spice flavor Jif Whips. If you want to inflict this on someone, they are available at Target. Apparently. [The Impulsive Buy]

N.Y. Bar Changes “No Irish Drunks” Sign To “No Sensitive Drunks”

Mon, 2014-07-28 21:20

(Facebook)

(Facebook)

It’s time for us to make peace with our Irish brethren, America. A veritable war of words between our country and the Emerald Isle sprung up when a cafe in Ireland posted a sign telling “loud Americans” to stay away, a controversy that pulled in a New York establishment warning “NO IRISH DRUNKS” were allowed. The good news is we seem to have settled things and can all agree that anyone can be loud and drunk, we’re all humans, after all.

It was Ireland’s turn to be offended this time when a bar and grill on Long Island included the prohibition against drunk Hibernians, reported IrishCentral.com, among a list of other unwanteds painted in the establishment’s window — “yapping mutts,” “crying babies” and “strollers” are also unwelcome.

An Irish woman living in New York snapped the pic, saying it wasn’t a nice thing ot see.

“I was taken aback by the way that kind of stereotype was so blatantly displayed,” she said. “’No Irish Drunks,’ that’s very pointed.”

But the owner, who himself is an Irish-American who says he is “sometimes drunk,” says he only included that joke because the Irish can take it.

“There’s a large Irish contingent out here and once they attacked me – verbally – so we added ‘No Irish Drunks’ to the list,” he said, adding, “If you spoke about any other religion or race they would probably take offense to it, but the Irish have a sense of humor.”

Despite that, he taped over the “IRISH” part of the sign with “SENSITIVE,” reports Gothamist. Got that, girl who always ends up wailing on a stool with beer tears streaming down your face after too many margvezas? And you, sensitive guy who can’t help but weep at the beauty of the whiskey? Stop it. Not allowed.

It’s time to heal, everyone. Americans, Irish and Irish-Americans — we can all be loud, and we can all be drunk. Let’s just be courteous, shall we?

We also can’t help but laugh at the new chalk sign the owner added:

(Facebook)

(Facebook)

Is this Long Island bar’s “No Irish Drunks” sign offensive? [IrishCentral.com]
Montauk Bar Changes “No Irish Drunks” Allowed Sign To “No Sensitive Drunks” [Gothamist]

How One Appliance Store Unleashed The Streisand Effect On Itself

Mon, 2014-07-28 20:54

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

The New York Times’ “Haggler” column is a standard consumer problem-solving column like many newspapers have, but backed with the brand recognition and vast readership of the NYT. A recent column about a financing dispute between a Texas woman and an appliance store could have just been a mundane account of a dispute over interest payments on a refrigerator, but the company refused to talk to the Times. At all.

The basic dispute here is pretty simple: a customer bought a computer and a fridge on a no-interest credit plan, but withheld her payment when the company wouldn’t help her get the refrigerator fixed.

The company insists that its policy not to talk to the media about customer issues applies even when that customer has given the company and the media outlet written permission to discuss their problems. Instead, the company maintained a level of customer confidentiality that would be more appropriate for a health care provider, say, a doctor’s office. Which is governed by explicit laws about this kind of thing.

“Maintaining the confidentiality of the customer information is more important to us than responding to what is going on in the media,” the company’s chief operating officer told Bloomberg Businessweek. Okay. Unfortunately, this policy brought the Streisand Effect down on the company. That’s when a person or company brings more attention upon themselves by trying to deflect attention. Maybe if the company had provided its side of the story, a Twitter swarm using the hashtag #talktothehaggler wouldn’t have happened. Maybe Haggler reporter David Segal wouldn’t have resorted to calling members of the Conn’s board of directors.

The company eventually emerged and released a statement arguing that they had tried to contact their customer, and she wouldn’t respond. While Segal remains “agnostic” regarding which party is correct in this dispute, he pointed out to Businessweek that the customer turned to the Times to get someone at the company to respond to her.

If you value your privacy, even when you explicitly ask the company to provide details to the media, apparently you should shop at Conn’s. Good to know.

The Wrath of Conn’s: The Appliance Store That Ignored the Times [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Many Are Knocking, but the Door Stays Closed [New York Times]

Man Charged With Conning Apple Stores Out Of $310,000

Mon, 2014-07-28 20:49
(SimonQ)

(SimonQ)

It’s not entirely uncommon for a quick trip to the Apple store to ring up a considerable bill. But it was the other way around for a Florida man who allegedly scammed the company out more than $310,000.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the 24-year-old is accused of conning Apple retail outlets 42 different times for a total of $309,768. The Secret Service, along with investigators for Apple and Chase, accuse the suspect of pulling his scam at stores in 16 different states.

So, how did he do it? Apparently through a practice known as a “forced sale,” “forced post” or “forced code.”

When a credit or debit card gets declined, the customer can protest and ask the merchant to contact the bank to confirm. If the bank agrees, it provides the merchant with an override code that will allow the transaction to go through.

The suspect in this case took advantage of a huge loophole in the system — the override codes mean nothing. As long the code includes the correct number of digits, the denial will be overridden.

And instead of allowing the cashier to call and check with the bank, the alleged scammer used his own phone to pretend to call his bank. He would then give the cashier a code he knew would work.

Merchants who enter bad override codes can be on the hook for the fraudulent purchases.

“Because Apple employees overrode the initial declination against the instructions of Chase Bank, Apple — not the financial institution — suffered the loss as a result of this fraudulent transaction,” the complaint states.

An official with the Secret Service says retailers can avoid such scams by not permitting hand-keyed overrides, even if it comes at the convenience of customers.

Karisse Hendrick, program manager for the Americas at the Seattle-based Merchant Risk Council, tells the Times that businesses have to weigh their options when it comes to pleasing a customer and liability.

“There are very creative bad guys who are always going to be looking for the easy way out and can be very convincing even in person,” Hendrick says.

Tampa man accused of scamming Apple out of $309,768 [The Tampa Bay Times]

Red Lobster Ditching Low-Priced Specials, Introducing Fancier Plating Because It Wants To Be Classy

Mon, 2014-07-28 20:32

Red Lobster's new vertical plating.

Red Lobster’s new vertical plating.

Love a good deal on 30 shrimp for $11.99, or lobster dishes on the cheap? You won’t be able to get those kinds of steep discount dishes at Red Lobster anymore, now that the former Darden restaurant is with a new company and trying to class its act up. Instead, you’ll get fish plated in a fancier way than before and some higher priced offerings.

Red Lobster’s new CEO Kim Lopdrup says the company is axing the promotional discounts — though Crabfest and Endless Shrimp will live on — in an attempt to recapture its spot in the casual dining category, reports the Associated Press.

In this effort to look more like a fancy restaurant and less like fast food restaurants, Lopdrup says Red Lobster can win back customers who see it as “fine-dining for the middle class.”

“At the end of the day, people are not going to go a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday,” he said.

But when they get there, those familiar specials won’t be there to greet them.

“You’re not going to see any of these low-priced specials that we’re not proud of,” he said.

And food will look different, too — instead of serving fish dishes on rectangular plates with fish, rice and veggies occupying separate sections of the plate, the fish will now be stacked vertically atop other items on a circular plate, like it is in fancier eateries.

“The food arranged in a way that’s more like you’d see at a fine-dining restaurant,” Lopdrup said. “The seafood is the star.”

Essentially, it’s just about presentation — the plates will be different, but the actual food on the dish will stay the same for now.

In the future, Lopdrup says the company is using a “barbell strategy,” which means it’ll still offer more affordable menu items as well as dishes that cost more than $30. Which means Lopdrup is right — there’s nothing for $30 at Chipotle — but will anyone pay that much at Red Lobster?

Red Lobster tries acting like a fancier restaurant [Associated press]

Walmart Says Dad Can’t Buy Beer Because He’s Shopping With Teen Daughter

Mon, 2014-07-28 20:16

 Alex Nobunaga)

Dear Walmart: Your price may not be beatable, but some would rather shop at a store that doesn’t treat them like criminals. (photo: Alex Nobunaga)

Back in college, I’d to the grocery store with friends and we always had to separate the beer from the other items being purchased because anyone chipping in money (yes, this was a time when most people paid by cash or check) had to be of legal drinking age. But if anyone under 21 just happened to be standing in line near the beer, no one cared. This is apparently not the case at Walmart, where a dad was told he couldn’t purchase beer and booze because he was shopping with his teen daughter.

The man tells the Des Moines Register that, along with some groceries, he took a couple of Bud six-packs and some vodka up to the register at a Walmart in Ames, IA, earlier this month.

But rather than ask the 57-year-old for ID, the cashier carded the teen girl.

Being 15, she had no form of ID to share with the cashier, who then refused to sell the alcohol to the man who was trying to buy it.

A rep for the store said requesting ID from everyone who appears to be under the age of 40 is a policy that has been around for a decade.

“In order to ensure that alcoholic beverages and tobacco are not sold to minors, Walmart is testing point-of-sale age checks in some locations across the country,” reads a customer service statement given to the dad. “By testing this, we hope to discover the best methods for ensuring that products are not sold illegally to minors. In addition, to comply with federal laws, stores may ask for the ID from individuals within a group other than the person making the purchase.”

The dad, who estimates that his family has spent about $3,000 at this particular Walmart in just the first half of 2014 was confounded and embarrassed by the situation.

“If Walmart is so worried about underage drinking and smoking, why do they sell alcohol and tobacco to begin with?” he asks. “Are they going to do this with other potentially dangerous things they sell, like ammo?”

The Register’s Lee Rood says he gave Walmart HQ two weeks to comment on this story, but did not receive any response.

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