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The Consumerist

The Changing Face Of Grocery Shopping: From Downsizing Supercenters To Brand Identity

42 min 1 sec ago



Completing your weekly shopping trip used to mean going to one store and purchasing the one brand of tomato sauce offered. Today, consumers are bombarded with a plethora of decisions before they even write up their grocery list, from hitting up the health food store or the supercenter to going with the tired and true name brand of the generic store brand products.

Consumer trends have always shaped grocery shopping. When we wanted more options we created supercenters, when we wanted healthy foods we created health-food stores. And the evolution of grocery shopping doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon, Business Insider reports.

“In the 1990s and the beginning years of this century, the greatest threat to supermarkets and grocery stores came from supersized ‘one-stop shopping’ venues like supercenters and warehouse clubs,” the market research firm Packaged Facts wrote about emerging grocery trends. “Today the threat is spread out among all retail channels, including drugstores, dollar stores, limited assortment chains, and — the elephant in the room — e-commerce.”

Traditional grocery stores such as Safeway or Kroger aren’t the only places consumers flock to for their weekly groceries. Packaged Facts found that consumers stop at, on average, five different types of stores, including supercenters, drug stores and speciality stores, during each shopping trip they make.

The extra stops are made because consumers can’t find everything they desire, instead, the stops are made to find the precise mix of value, quality and specific brands.

Brand identification is another emerging trend in the grocery shopping game. According to a Packaged Facts survey, store-branded grocery sales are projected to nearly double in the next two years.

The trend of purchasing house brands, which are typically cheaper, stems from the recent recession when consumer were looking for more wallet-friendly products. In addition to lower prices, consumers believe that the quality of the products are actually better.

At one point in time, shopping at supercenters that offered every product under the sun was popular and convenient. Now consumers say the experience can be overwhelming.

“When a customer walks into a store of 40,000 items and only wants to buy 30 of them, that’s a terrible customer experience,” Chad Arnold, president and CEO of the online grocery service Door to Door Organics tells Business Insider. “Companies are now scaling back stores and getting them more focused to specific customers, instead of a one-store-fits-all approach.”

Since 2006, the average square footage of a supermarket has shrunk to 46,000 square feet. Even stores that became popular as supercenters are scaling back. In the past several years, Walmart has downsized with their Neighborhood Markets.

So, with all the choices consumers face before hitting the store, what’s the number one reason they decide on a specific store?

Nearly 75% of consumers surveyed say the quality of products available in the produce department is the most important. The second most important aspect is the freshness of meat, poultry and seafood.

4 Ways American Grocery Shopping Is Changing Forever [Business Insider]

TSA Finds Large Knife Ruining A Batch Of Perfectly Good Enchiladas At California Airport

1 hour 32 min ago

Just enchilada sauce, don't worry. (TSA)

Just enchilada sauce, don’t worry. (TSA)

Just like my second cousin twice removed Hildy used to say — a sure way to ruin a tasty batch of enchiladas is by hiding a huge knife in it and then trying to get through airport security. At least, she would’ve said that if she existed and knew someone tried to do just that at a Sonoma airport recently.

A Transportation Security Administration officer at the Sonoma Airport said he found a knife with an over eight-inch long blade tucked inside an enchilada in a female passenger’s carry-on bag, reports

That made for quite a gory looking photo, but don’t worry — the red stuff is just sauce. In any case, it’s very much against TSA rules to bring blades that length on a plane.

The woman was on her way to catch an Alaska Airlines flight, and said she had no idea how the knife got in there.

“This item turned out to be an eight-and-a-half inch knife that was inside of a wrapped enchilada,” explained a TSA spokesman. “The woman said she had made the enchilada over the weekend and she really didn’t know how the knife got into the bag.”

She was eventually cleared for travel, but could be facing a fine if the TSA decides to issue one. Fines for concealed items can range up to $10,000, but the agency usually works it out with the passenger to avoid fees.

Lesson learned — next time that knife goes in a checked bag, or just eat the enchiladas at home beforehand to make sure you didn’t put any weapons in them. That’s what I would do. Eat all the enchiladas and save none for whoever I’m flying to see.

Sonoma airport security find knife smuggled in enchilada []

Sriracha Makers Mull Factory Move Over Odor Ordeal

1 hour 42 min ago



Days after being declared a smelly “public nuisance” by the California town it calls home, Huy Fong Foods — makers of the spicy Sriracha sauce loved by many a person — may be packing up its peppers and moving.

The L.A. Times reports that Huy Fong owner David Tran has invited the various politicians and business leaders from around the country who have said they would welcome the factory to come check out the Irwindale, CA, facility to see first-hand if they believe the odors would present a problem.

Huy Fong has been locked in a battle with the Irwindale town council for months over claims that the factory releases fumes into the neighborhood that smell bad and cause some people to experience eye irritation.

The town has already filed a lawsuit over the issue, but that won’t come to trial until next fall at the earliest.

The plant was temporarily shut down last November, but resumed production in January. The recent public nuisance declaration by the town council will give the company a 90-day period in which to further mitigate the odor issue.

Tran says he is not dead set on moving, but that he has to consider it because he feels the council is unlikely to accept any proposal he makes and that some residents will continue to complain regardless of mitigation efforts.

“[City officials] tell you one thing, but think another,” Tran explained. “I don’t want to sit here and wait to die.”

While places as far away as Philadelphia have offered to give Huy Fong a new home, the biggest problem isn’t setting up a new factory; it’s the distance to the peppers that are the core of the product.

Huy Fong uses peppers from a single nearby source and puts them through the grinder on the same day they are harvested. Relocating would mean finding a new grower. It would also mean that anywhere between 60 to 200 employees would need to be replaced or relocated.

“I have had the bad luck to move into a city with a government that acts like a local king,” Tran said.

Free Chicken Big King Only An Illusory Dream

1 hour 45 min ago

big_king_mealThe Big King is Burger King’s version of a two-patty burger with vegetables, cheese, and “King Sauce,” and it is totally not a clone of the Big Mac. Nope. On Saturday, Burger King introduces a new member of this royal family: the Chicken Big King, with two breaded chicken patties. Reader Adam lives in a test market where he had early access to this burger. It was not, however, free.

The Big King might seem like a Big Mac clone, but in an interview with the fab site Burger Business, Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, says that they really don’t care if you accuse them of copying their bigger rival. “There’s no point in not offering your guests something they like and appreciate,” he points out. Besides, triple-bun double-decker burgers actually date back to the Great Depression, thirty years before the Big Mac was even a sesame seed in its inventor’s brain.

Anyway, back to Adam’s adventures with menu boards. He sneaked this photo of what he saw behind the counter:


“No,” writes Adam, “they did not honor their advertisement.” Maybe the price was zero because the sandwich wasn’t officially on the menu yet, even as a test item. Or maybe it was a silly typo, but he still found it disappointing.

We asked Burger King’s media relations people whether they know what the deal was here, and will post when we hear something back.

Newborn Kittens Survive Accidentally Getting Packed In A Box And Shipped 130 Miles

2 hours 33 min ago

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah so cute. (ABC 10)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah so cute. (ABC 10)

Warning: If you are prone to squees of delight and shrieks of adoration, the below story might not be safe for your coworkers’ ears. Because how could you not utter at least one “aww!” when faced with tiny newborn kittens named Mouse and Wifi that survived traveling 100 miles packed in a box shipped to a warehouse?

Two kittens so young they still had the umbilical cords attached were found in a box shipped to Cox Communications in Los Angeles from Chula Vista, which is about 130 miles away, reports ABC 10 News.

A worker who watched as his fellow employee unpacked that box says they’re lucky they’re surviving and now thriving.

“They were very, very lucky that they didn’t fall out of it in transport or when we were unloading the truck,” he said, adding that he’d thought he’d seen it all in his 34 years at the warehouse.

He called his nephew, who coincidentally is an investigator with the San Diego Humane Society, and the kittens were taken there to recover. And lest you be looking around for a bad human to blame, look instead to the kittens’ mom.

“What we think happened was the mom had the babies and she put them in a safe spot … and she left,” says one of the Humane Society workers who’s been taking care of the kittens, and helped with their telecom-inspired names. “Then they got boxed up and they got shipped.”

The kittens are extra lucky in this case — if they’d ended up in another city, there might not have been the resources to care for such young animals.

“We’re actually one of the only around-the-clock kitten nurseries in the country,” explains
a San Diego Humane Society spokeswoman. “Most shelters don’t have the resources to provide around-the-clock care that kittens need.”

These two fortunate siblings are on the mend though, and will spend the next few weeks growing fat and happy in the nursery before heading to a foster home. Once they’re eight weeks old, they’ll be ready for adoption.

Now for that video that might prompt a few shrieks of delight:

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Kittens accidentally packed in box, shipped from Los Angeles to San Diego [ABC 10 News]

GM Test Drivers Knew Of Ignition Problem In 2006

3 hours 10 min ago

(Van Swearingen)

(Van Swearingen)

Another data point on the General Motors ignition recall timeline has been filled in with the latest revelation that test drivers for the car maker’s Cadillac division spotted the problem eight years ago, possibly leading to a hush-hush design tweak in the switch.

According to the Wall Street Journal, newly uncovered documents related to the defect that has led to at least 13 fatalities and the recall of 2.6 million vehicles show that test drivers of the pre-production 2007 Cadillac SRX noted that the vehicle’s ignition switch could turn off — disabling power steering, brake-assist, and air bags — if bumped by the driver’s knee.

This may explain why, in April 2006, a GM engineer quietly gave the go-ahead to the third-party manufacturer of the defective switch to update the design to prevent this problem; an issue the car company had been made aware of as far back as 2001.

The problem with that redesign is that GM did not change the part number. Thus, the new, more robust ignition switches have been stocked alongside the old defective ones.

The engineer in charge of this ignition switch is believed to be one of the two GM employees recently suspended by the company.

As we mentioned yesterday, GM is attempting to use its recent bankruptcy to shield itself from the new lawsuits related to this defect, as the problematic switch was a creation of the “old GM” from before the company was bailed out when the economy collapsed.

General Mills’ New Policy: If You Engage With Us Online, You Can Never Sue The Company

3 hours 26 min ago
(AJ Brujstein)

(AJ Brujstein)

Companies want customers to engage with them online as if they’re just another pal on Facebook or Twitter, one that can offer downloadable coupons and promote contests with attractive prizes. But in new language recently added to General Mills’ website, consumers who interact with the company online will be agreeing to give up the right to sue the company in the future.

The New York Times reports that the food company behind brands like Cheerios, Betty Crocker and Nature Valley recently updated the legal terms in its privacy policy online, effectively limiting customers who bring a dispute against General Mills to arbitration or other negotiation.

A gray bar at the top of the Privacy Policy page highlights the change:

We’ve updated our Privacy Policy. Please note we also have new Legal Terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration. For more information on these changes, please click here.

In the newly updated Legal Terms, General Mills doesn’t mince any words in outlining what kinds of actions will bind customers to arbitration. Basically, if you download coupons, enter a General Mills sweepstakes or interact with it at all, you can’t sue — not if you get a chunk of glass in your bowl of Wheaties and not if you think a product has misleading labeling. Specifically (bolding ours):

These terms are a binding legal agreement (“Agreement”) between you and General Mills. In exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our websites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest, redeeming a promotional offer, or otherwise participating in any other General Mills offering, you are agreeing to these terms.

While there’s no reason to guess why a major company would seek to protect itself from lawsuits, in this case the change in terms happened shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a suit against General Mills by consumers in California claiming that the “100% Natural” claim on Nature Valley granola bar packaging is false and deceptive. Those products contain processed and genetically engineered ingredients, the judge said in allowing the case to continue.

The NYT points out that while other companies have sought to impose what some call “forced arbitration” on consumers — AT&T’s legal win in 2011 forbidding class-action lawsuits paved the way for many others — this might be the first major food company to do so.

General Mills declined to be interviewed by the NYT about the changes, instead saying in a statement that’s it a great way to resolve things for consumers — they won’t have to pay for any silly legal battles as the company will foot the arbitration bill most of the time:

“While it rarely happens, arbitration is an efficient way to resolve disputes — and many companies take a similar approach. We even cover the cost of arbitration in most cases. So this is just a policy update, and we’ve tried to communicate it in a clear and visible way.”

The reason this is so noteworthy when compared with forced arbitration in the mobile industry or in credit card disputes lies in the fact that these are products we eat, products that could include health risks if there’s mislabeled packaging,for example.

So a person who’s allergic to peanuts and eats a cereal that failed to list peanuts as an ingredient? If he gets sick or dies, his family might not be able to sue if General Mills shows he “Liked” the company on Facebook.

“When you’re talking about food, you’re also talking about things that can kill people,” a lawyer at Public Citizen explains to the NYT. “There is a huge difference in the stakes, between the benefit you’re getting from this supposed contract you’re entering into by, say, using the company’s website to download a coupon, and the rights they’re saying you’re giving up. That makes this agreement a lot broader than others out there.”

General Mills has a track record of just the kind of class-action lawsuits consumers can bring,including a lawsuit it settled for $8.5 million over positive health claims made on the packaging of its Yoplait Yoplus yogurt last year. Then there was a suit in 2012 it settled by taking the word “strawberry” off its packages of Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, because they didn’t contain any actual strawberries.

It won’t be a total cakewalk for General Mills to prevent lawsuits, however, as arbitration experts say courts will likely make the company prove that a customer knew of the policy before bringing a case against it. The policy is so broadly written that there are likely many legal issues that will be raised the next time someone tries to sue.

For now, if you want to protect your right to sue General Mills at any point in the future, you can opt out of the arbitration agreement by informing General Mills with written notice by emailing it at Include your first and last name and the year you were born in the email.

But again, you’ll also have to not use any of its sites or communities, unsubscribe to any emails, avoid participating in any contests and don’t download coupons. Basically, pretend General Mills doesn’t exist online.

When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue [New York Times]

United Flight From NYC To D.C. Grounded After Security Finds Bomb Threat On Twitter

3 hours 28 min ago

(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

Earlier this week a Dutch teenager landed in hot water after sending a threatening tweet to American Airlines. While the teen says she was joking, the airline took the threat seriously, as it should have. After a number of copycat tweets, nearly all airlines have been keeping a close eye on social media. That vigilance resulted in a temporarily grounded United Airlines flight Wednesday evening.

A United flight slated to travel from JFK International in NYC to Dulles International outside of D.C. was evacuated after the airline received a threatening tweet, reports the New York Daily News.

According to Port Authority Police Department officials, United Airline’s corporate security saw a tweet posted at 7:05 p.m. that read: “There is a bomb on a United Airlines Flight from JFK to Dulles.”

The flight, which was scheduled for a 7:40 p.m. takeoff, was already boarded when the tweet was spotted. All 49 passengers on board were evaluated and the FBI searched the plane for explosives.

Authorities were unable to locate any explosives and the flight eventually took off about two hours late.

United Airlines flight temporarily grounded at JFK Airport by bomb threat made on Twitter [New York Daily News]

After Being Called Out Publicly, Joe’s Crab Shack Says It Should Be 100% Trans Fat-Free This Summer

4 hours 9 min ago

The Joe's Crab Shack menu states that no trans fats are used, but the CSPI claims that some locations are using margarine that contains high amounts of the controversial ingredient.

The Joe’s Crab Shack menu states that no trans fats are used, but the CSPI claims that some locations are using margarine that contains high amounts of the controversial ingredient.

Yesterday, restaurant chain Joe’s Crab Shack was called out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for continuing to use margarine with a high level of trans fat, in spite of claims made on the eatery’s menu that Joe’s doesn’t use the controversial oils. In response, the company says it plans to get rid of this last bit of trans fat in the coming months.

“Prior to the CSPI’s report, we had made consistent progress in our goal to remove all trans fats from our menu,” reads a statement from Jim Mazany, president of Joe’s Crab Shack, sent to Consumerist. “This means that, to date, there are zero trans fats in our frying oil system-wide; some of our restaurants are already fully trans fat-free; and within 90 days, we intend to be completely trans fat-free in all restaurants.”

The CSPI report did find that in areas where restaurants’ use of trans fat-containing ingredients is restricted, Crab Shacks were indeed using real butter instead of the margarine that sometimes provides customers more than a week’s worth of the maximum recommended amount of trans fat.

Given that the company said back in 2007 that it would rid its menu of trans fats, and the “zero trans fat oils” statement printed in the menu, CSPI pointed out that the restaurant was putting itself in a precarious legal position by still using the trans fat-containing margarine at some locations.

Will Easter Egg Nog And Jellybean Milk Ever Catch On?

4 hours 18 min ago

Here at Consumerist, we love and hate holiday mashups. Here’s one that has been around for a while, but was new to us: easter egg nog. Makes sense, doesn’t it? A holiday for which the decorations include brightly-colored eggs, and a festive, occasionally boozy, holiday beverage. Yet it seems so very wrong.

easter_milksThis product came to our attention through one of our favorite blogs, and we just had to check into it. These new products are from Hiland Dairy Foods and Prairie Farms, but it turns out that Easter egg nog is nothing new: Turkey Hill also markets a springtime nog, and dairy giant Dean Foods has apparently been selling it since at least the ’90s. Promised Land also sells Easter nog, along with other baffling milk flavors like “cookies ‘n’ cream” milk and chocolate nog.

Even if we begrudgingly accept this expansion of nog into other seasons, much as we have come to accept Reese’s peanut butter eggs and marshmallow Peeps being available more or less year-round, the other seasonal milks raise many questions. Isn’t jellybean milk just milk with a bunch of sugar and fruit flavoring in it? Doesn’t that make it simply what milk tastes like after all of your Froot Loops are gone? Someone has already covered that concept, except without the holiday spin.

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Walmart Continues Its Foray Into The Financial Industry With New Money Transfer Service

4 hours 20 min ago

(Ron Dauphin)

(Ron Dauphin)

Walmart’s one-stop-shop just gained new ground. Instead of traipsing to Western Union or another money transfer storefront, you can just send dear old grandma a few bucks once you’ve finished grocery shopping at the superstore.

Walmart-2-Walmart allows shoppers to transfer money to and from 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide for up to 50% less than competitors, Forbes reports.

The service, which will be operated by electronic payment company Euronet, comes with two pricing tiers, officials with Walmart say. Customers can transfer up to $50 for $4.50 and up to $900 for $9.50.

Walmart has been dipping its feet in the financial game for quite a few years, with a number of products.

The new service will compete with MoneyGram, who operates Walmart’s current money transfer service. It’s unclear what’s in store for the future of the contract between Walmart and MoneyGram.

Walmart also operates Walmart MoneyCenters where customers can cash checks for $3 at local stores and manage reloadable Walmart MoneyCards online.

Additionally, the company partnered with American Express to offer alternative debit and checking accounts called Bluebird. The accounts come with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly maintenance, activation or annual fees, and target customers who are fed up with increasing fees at traditional banks.

Walmart Unveils ‘Walmart-2-Walmart’ Money Transfer Service Between Stores With Euronet [Forbes]

City Officials Flushing 38 Million Gallons Of Water After Teen Pees In Portland Reservoir

4 hours 52 min ago

There he goes. (YouTube)

There he goes. (YouTube)

The reason cranky adults yell things like “Get off my lawn!” at teenagers isn’t just to protect that lawn. No, we’ve learned in our wise old age that it’s just easier than yelling “Please think about your decisions and how they will affect those around you before you do something just because you think it’s funny!” Case in point: A 19-year-old who’s wasted 38 million gallons of drinking water just because he apparently thought it’d be hilarious to pee in it.

Water bureau officials in Portland, OR are beyond peeved at the teen who they say was caught urinating through an iron fence at a water reservoir in the wee hours of Wednesday, reports NBC News. Two others are seen on camera trying to scale a fence.

And rather than cross their fingers and hope that those millions of gallons of treated drinking water are just fine — usually a little bit of pee in so much water wouldn’t pose a risk to the public — officials decided it’s better to drain than be sorry. Just imagine dumping out 57 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“Our customers have an expectation that their water is not deliberately contaminated. We have the ability to meet that expectation while minimizing public health concerns,” David Shaff, Portland Water Bureau administrator, said in a statement.

There will still be plenty of water to drink, he added, and that particular reservoir has been taken offline during testing.

The suspects have been cited for trespassing, with the alleged peer getting an additional citation for public urination. The county district attorney’s office is mulling whether to press criminal charges as well.

You can see the kid pretty clearly cozying up to the fence to do his business, it would seem, around the 2:00 mark in the surveillance video below.

Portland Reservoir to be Drained After Teen Pees in Water [NBC News]

So Your Mother Accidentally Stole Someone’s Car — Now What?

Wed, 2014-04-16 23:00

(Instagram @jodyrosen)

(Instagram @jodyrosen)

Because the Consumerist team is strong in the ways of the Force, I know you’re probably thinking something like, “How can someone accidentally steal a car?” Maybe if that person thinks they’re actually just moving the car they were told to move, because hey, these keys work so it must be the right one. Except that it wasn’t.

A Brooklyn woman flew her mother up to the city using her airline miles one weekend while she was away, so that her mom could help out by taking care of her dog. There were also three cars she was tasked with moving while the group of friends was away, reports New York — the woman’s Fiat, a CRV and a green Honda, she told her mother.

Mom dutifully attended to the vehicles and texted her daughter, “I’m so proud of myself,” to which I’m hoping her daughter drowned her in gratitude for being nice enough to perform such a task.

As it turns out, there is more than one green Honda in Brooklyn, and apparently any old Honda key will work, something long rumored and true at least in this case. When the woman and her pals returned, the green Honda’s owner couldn’t find her vehicle. Instead, a green Honda that was not hers was in its spot.

The mother explained that she used the keys she was given on the car, and that because it had a bunch of necklaces — she “wears a lot of necklaces,” mom said of the true car’s owner — she figured it was the right one. Luckily enough, the real car was in its same spot and had escaped a ticket.

Her daughter then started posting signs around the neighborhood to find the car’s owner after the police weren’t very helpful at first.

“I called the cops,” she says. “They were like, ‘I’m sorry, this sounds suspicious, and I don’t really believe you.’”

She wrote:

“Is this your car or do you know whose it is? Looking for the owner who potentially wears a lot of necklaces and enjoys San Pellegrino sodas. I didn’t steal your car but I think my mom may have. It’s a long story. I’ll explain, but your car is safe and sound.”

Police have now confirmed that the car was in fact, reported stolen on the day the mother moved it, and an officer was sent to recover it and try to get in touch with its owner.

How This Brooklyn Woman’s Hapless Mom Managed to Accidentally Steal a Green Honda [New York Magazine]

Would You Pay $45 Per Month For Unlimited Coffee?

Wed, 2014-04-16 22:59



How much would you pay per month for an unlimited coffee pass? If you drink coffee daily and don’t brew it at home, that could become a pricey addiction. Yet CUPS, an app out of Israel, recently expanded to this country. Its premise is simple: subscribe and get discounted or even unlimited coffee from independent coffee shops for a discounted price.

Whether this is appealing or not depends on a few things: first, a participating shop needs to be convenient to your home, work, or some point in between. Yet one of the program’s selling points for coffee shop owners is that they can stop participating whenever they feel like it if the program isn’t working for them.

Also, the base price doesn’t include espresso drinks: an unlimited plan for those costs $85 per month. (That’s still a bargain if you have multi-latte workdays.)

In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the company has been a few hundred shops signed up. They find that customers claim they drink about 20% more coffee than they did before, and save about 30% off the sticker price. Are they really saving money if they wouldn’t have bought those extra drinks in the first place? Who knows? Wheeee! Caffeine!

It’s only in New York for now, but could expand to other dense cities later.

CUPS [Official Site]
For $45 Per Month, All the Coffee You Can Drink [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Just What Tourists At The Empire State Building Needed: A Ford Mustang Blocking The View

Wed, 2014-04-16 22:35

(CBS This Morning)

(CBS This Morning)

In a publicity stunt that rivals its original stunt from 50 years ago, Ford perched a shiny yellow Mustang on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

To celebrate 50 years of the iconic Mustang, Ford once again assembled the car atop the Empire State Building for revelers to gawk at while taking in the views of New York City, CNet reports.

Back in 1965, Ford came up with the clever idea to showcase its newest vehicle by assembling a white convertible on the observation deck. Today, a brand-spanking new 2015 yellow Mustang convertible sits waiting for car enthusiasts and tourists. Unfortunately, the visitors will only be able to look at the vehicle from afar.

Following six weeks’ worth of planning, which included trial runs getting the vehicle’s pieces through 3-foot door opening and up 86 floors, crew were able to assemble the Mustang in six hours during the middle of the night.

The car will be on display until the observation deck closes in the early morning of April 18.

Ford builds Mustang 1,000 feet up on the Empire State Building [CNet]

GM Asks Courts To Stop Ignitition-Switch Lawsuits Because It Hasn’t Been GM Since 2009

Wed, 2014-04-16 22:12

(Kino Praxis)

(Kino Praxis)

The investigation into GM’s massive manufacturing defect, cover-up, and long-delayed recall is still ramping up, but the lawsuits are already well under way. Or at least, they’re trying to be — but those lawsuits might be over before they start. GM is now relying on their bankruptcy, bailout, and restructuring to claim protection for any errors, small and large, that the company made prior to 2009. Including an error that’s killed at least thirteen peopler.

GM is asking the courts in which they are being sued to stay the lawsuits, Reuters reports. So far GM has filed two motions asking for stays: one in a U.S. District Court in Texas, and the other in a U.S. District Court in California. The motions were filed in response to lawsuits GM is currently facing in those courts.

GM will also be filing a motion in bankruptcy court in New York asking to have an injunction protecting the “new” GM from any of the “old” GM’s liabilities enforced.

The enormous cluster that is the GM ignition switch recall began, as we now know, as early as 2001. Over the next 13 years, the company would ignore customer complaints, botch the repairs, and generally pretend nothing was wrong.

Between the time when the design flaw first worked its way into model year 2002 cars and the recall in 2014, the world economy crashed hard. GM faced bankruptcy, but in an effort to save the American car industry, the federal government stepped in.

Under the terms of that 2009 restructuring, GM is technically a different company and legal entity than it was before. Things were shifted around such that “new GM” had the assets — the parts of the company that could be rescued and made profitable again — and that “old GM” maintains the liabilities. Those liabilities not only include debts, but also responsibility for company actions that took place prior to 2009.

Because of the way bankruptcy works, most of those debts will of course never be repaid, or were settled for a smaller percentage of their original value. GM therefore has two big reasons to want to avoid these lawsuits. First, the obvious: most companies don’t want to face massive, expensive lawsuits that cost them millions of dollars and generate endless bad publicity. Second, because if anyone successfully holds GM liable for any action they took prior to 2009, that potentially opens the door for everyone with a stake to hold GM liable for actions they took prior to 2009. And if those liabilities were enough to sink the company once, they could possibly be enough to do it again.

Lawmakers have asked the Justice Department to step in and “oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility.” Now that GM has officially filed motions, the DoJ could file something in response. Meanwhile, they have opened a criminal investigation.

GM is still exploring the option of whether to create a victim compensation fund.

GM to seek court protection against ignition lawsuits [Reuters]

Starbucks: Our Ads With Men Named Duncan Came Before Taco Bell’s Ronald McDonald Spots

Wed, 2014-04-16 22:00



Perhaps you had a good chuckle over those Taco Bell ads starring men named Ronald McDonald where the gag is — can you believe this? — they actually prefer the Bell’s new breakfast over McDonald’s. It’s funny because of their names. And while some are calling Starbucks a copycat for its Seattle’s Best Coffee spots with testimonials from men named Duncan pledging their love (because Dunkin’ Donuts!), the company is stressing that its ads came first.

In what resembles a schoolyard spat over who was the first to hit the rim on the basketball hoop, Starbucks has pointed out on its site that despite the similarities of using conveniently named guys, it took that tack first. So there.

“The ad, which appeared before a fast-food chain launched a similar campaign, is part of a national taste test that found people preferred the new House Blend from Seattle’s Best Coffee over a competitor’s original blend coffee,” Starbucks explains on its site (H/T to Business Insider).

To that end, the date on Starbucks’ ad and its 33,000 views is March 24, two days before Taco Bell’s, which is up to 2.5 million views.

So, you win, Starbucks. At least, you win the title of Did It First.

Below, both ads so you can watch and compare. And if your name is Wendy’s and you prefer Burger King, well, you’re about to be famous.

For Only $400, Frost Your Beer Glasses Without Pesky Freezers

Wed, 2014-04-16 21:57

frosty_glassIt’s really too easy to make fun of idiotic and overpriced items available for sale in places like Hammacher Schlemmer, Skymall, Brookstone, infomercials and even the more distant and strange corners of Amazon. Yet sometimes there’s a product so baffling that we have to feature it anyway. The Beer Glass Froster for home use is one of those products.

It costs $400. For that, it uses you get the unit, which attaches to your counter and waits until you’re ready for a nice drink from your shelf of rare microbrews. The froster “emits a frosty cloud that converts a typical, room temperature beer glass into an ice-cold mug in seconds.” Sounds impressive. It can also chill a margarita glass or even an entire beer stein.

What that $400 does not get you are the carbon dioxide cartridges that you need to make the blasts of cold air, or the AA batteries that power the whole operation.

Back in the early ’80s, things weren’t this way. You could get something similar for a much more reasonable price: only $8.88. The downside: well, it was an infomercial product from Ronco, and it used a chlorofluorocarbon instead of carbon dioxide. You know, those substances that were later demonized for causing the hole in Earth’s ozone layer.

Frosty beer mugs, or ozone? Hmm.

The Beer Glass Froster. [Hammacher Schlemmer] (via Foodbeast)

Tennessee Becomes First State To Offer Free Tuition To All Graduating High School Students

Wed, 2014-04-16 21:15

(Ninja IX)

(Ninja IX)

Earlier today, Consumerist reported on a town in Michigan that is footing the bill for recent high school graduates to attend public universities and community colleges. Little did we know that was small potatoes compared to a program brewing in Tennessee.

The Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate gave their stamp of approval on a plan that gives all Tennessee high school graduates the opportunity to receive two years of free tuition to community colleges or technical schools in the state, The Tennessean reports.

The Tennessee Promise, which will be funded by $300 million from the state’s lottery fund, will take effect in fall 2015. The state expects more than 25,000 students to apply for the estimated $34 million earmarked for the first year of the program.

Tuition funds would be considered “last-dollar scholarships” and only available after all sources of aid have been received.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed the initiative in February as a way to boost an ill-prepared workforce by increasing the number of college graduates in the state.

“I honestly feel like we need something that’s a game-changer in terms of expectations around education in Tennessee,” Haslam told The Tennessean’s editorial board when he first proposed the program.

The approval of Tennessee Promise comes eight years after a similar program was introduced and failed to gain support in the state legislature.

Lawmakers back Tennessee Promise plan for free tuition [The Tennessean]

Of Course There Are Dance Parties For Kids At NYC Nightclubs

Wed, 2014-04-16 21:00



When I was a little girl, I dreamed about standing in really long lines to get into a place filled with blaring music and people packed so tightly your ribs felt like they’d never be whole again. That’s not true (my dreams involved drinking legally at the annual summer music festival) but then again, I didn’t grow up in New York City, where kids these days can fulfill all (or most) of their clubbing dreams at a young age.

And while there’s no alcohol allowed for the underage set because duh, these monthly dance parties take place at real NYC nightclubs, with a real (kid) DJ, hopefully complete with tiny bouncers manning mini sets of velvet ropes. They’d be in charge of boosting self-esteem instead of the other way around, if I had my way.

Anyway, a company called Fuzipop puts on these events for kids under 12 during clubs’ off-hours, reports CNNMoney. The husband and wife team behind it started the company after throwing a birthday party for their son at a club where the husband worked, and the idea caught on with other parents.

“This is what we used to do all the time but don’t get to do anymore,” he explains.”Plus, everyone is always looking for family entertainment and we know the kids will have a blast.”

As for the adults hanging out these kid soirees, there’s a full bar available to pass the time while 200 children scream along with whatever Kylie Cyrato song is on. You know, the ditty about coming in like a forklift or a construction site? That one.

New York’s hottest nightclub… for kids [CNNMoney]