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The Consumerist

What Should McDonald’s Do When Kids Aren’t Interested In Happy Meals?

Tue, 2014-09-09 23:52

(bluwmongoose)

(bluwmongoose)

McDonald’s has a problem: kids. For a few generations now, families have been a big part of the company’s business, and marketing to children an important part of their business strategy. Yet kids and families just aren’t streaming in the door like they used to, and it’s not because terrifying new mascot Happy has scared them off. No, it’s because eschewing fast food is now aspirational for middle-class consumers, and everyone else is broke.

Members of the Millennial generation, loosely defined as “anyone younger than the Consumerist staff,” tend to look down on processed foods. Younger adults with small kids are raising them with more sophisticated palates than they grew up with in turn. Today’s kids would prefer a Chipotle quesadilla to a cheeseburger. Apparently.

“[Kids in 2014 are] not just looking for the Golden Arches and the toy,” a market researcher explained to Crain’s Chicago. Burgers and fries are not cutting it. Even Go-Gurt and apple slices are not up to the standards of modern youngsters. Only 14% of McDonald’s customers are adults eating with kids, and the majority of people who walk in the door are dining (loosely defined) by themselves.

Maybe in twenty years, McDonald’s will have a fantastic resurgence after today’s small children grow up and discover that there is a world outside of buffalo burgers on artisanal pretzel buns. Or something.
(via Bloomberg Businessweek)

Restaurant Owner Won’t Apologize For Shaming LeSean McCoy Over $.20 Tip

Tue, 2014-09-09 23:51

The receipt for McCoy's meal was posted to the PYT Facebook page by the restaurant's owner.

The receipt for McCoy’s meal was posted to the PYT Facebook page by the restaurant’s owner.

Not to overwhelm the pages of Consumerist with stories about NFL running backs, but when the league’s best set of legs shows himself out to be one of the country’s worst tippers, we can’t not cover the story.

You may have already heard that Eagles RB LeSean McCoy stiffed a server at Philly eatery PYT — home of stunt foods like the Fried Chicken & Beer Burger, the Deep-Fried Twinkie Burger, and the Lasagna-Bun Burger — by leaving only $.20 on a $61.56 bill.

Everyone involved in this story has been the target of nasty, hateful comments and social media posts. People accuse McCoy of being rude and cheap. Some claimed the waiter doctored the receipt, or said he shouldn’t have gone public about the incident. Others say the owner is just publicity-hungry.

Well, in a letter posted this afternoon on the PYT Facebook page, that owner says he’d like to apologize to the record-breaking running back… but he just can’t.

First off, the owner clarifies that the waiter in this incident had nothing to do with posting the receipt on Facebook.

“I take total and complete responsibility for sharing this receipt,” he writes. “It was not our server’s decision, it was mine. I am to blame.

“I decided to take action after some serious thought,” continues the owner. “And while I’d like to apologize to Mr McCoy, I cannot in good conscience do so. I stand by my actions one hundred percent.”

He then recounts his side of the story, in which McCoy and three friends visited PYT on Monday and ended up sitting in a booth next to the owner and other managers.

“They were given excellent service. Impeccable service,” writes the owner. “If anything, our server was a little nervous as was our food runner, because they are big, big fans.”

However, he claims that McCoy and his friends quickly became “verbally abusive” to the staff, including derogatory comments about females.

The owner also says that after the group had left, he noticed the waiter was staring at the receipt left behind.

“I took the receipt out of his hand and I couldn’t believe that anyone could be so callous,” he writes. “Mr. McCoy had left a .03% tip for our staff… Twenty cents that our server has to split with the food runner and the bartender. Two dimes from an insulting multimillionaire.”

Giving McCoy the benefit of a doubt, the owner says he assumes that the football star is “usually an awesome dude” and maybe he was having a bad day. But he takes issues with claims from the player and his management that it was in response to bad service — a claim the owner labels as “a complete slanderous lie.”

“At the end of the day, I did what I felt my heart told me to do,” he explains. “And I don’t want anything from Mr McCoy, but…maybe an apology to his server who gave him excellent service would be cool.”

If Facebook Is Going To Label Satirical Stories, It Should Be Calling Out Ads Posing As News Links

Tue, 2014-09-09 22:45

I'm mostly doing this story so I can repeatedly share my Facebook profile photo of an 18-year-old me with a glorious head of 1993 hair.

I’m mostly doing this story so I can repeatedly share my Facebook profile photo of an 18-year-old me with a glorious head of 1993 hair.

Facebook began labeling certain shared links as “satire,” as a bit of hand-holding for its less-savvy users who can’t tell the difference between an actual news headline and one written by the writers of The Onion. But what Facebook really needs to do is start labeling so-called “native” or sponsored stories on non-satire sites so that your idiot friends might think twice before sharing a story that is really just an ad for some juice company.

About a year ago, we showed you the many ways — from the blatantly obvious to the insidiously stealthy — that certain popular sites post these bought-and-paid-for “news” items.

But, as we pointed out in that story, once a post gets shared on social media, it doesn’t matter if it’s sponsored or not. It comes through on Facebook, Twitter, etc., as just another post.

And just to make sure that things hadn’t improved in the last year, we checked out some new sponsored stories and went through the embarrassing process of posting them on Facebook to see if their sponsored-ness would be evident.

(NOTE: The point of this particular story isn’t to call out any of the following sites — all of which have their merits — for taking sponsored stories; you have to pay the bills somehow. It’s about finding a way to maintain the transparency of those sponsored stories once they escape into the social media realm.)

The first two stories, one from Buzzfeed (sponsored by Naked Juice), and the other from QZ.com (sponsored by Porsche), gave no indication on Facebook that they were lengthy advertorials:
nakedjuice

porsche

A Converse-sponsored story on Gizmodo included a “for Converse” byline when published to Facebook, though most people would likely miss that:
converse

Interestingly, when we shared an American Express-sponsored story posted to Skift.com, it came through with [Sponsored] in the Facebook headline, and the short lede included in the Facebook share also called out American Express:
amex

We contacted the editors at Skift, who confirmed that this is something they do on their end before a sponsored post is published, in order to minimize the odds that readers could confuse it with actual Skift editorial content. The [Sponsored] addition to the headline is also automatically added when sharing a post on Twitter.

However, it is worth noting that this only occurs when you publish to social media from the story page on Skift. Copy/pasting the URL causes Facebook to simply bring in the headline as if it were just another news story.

While our search was certainly not exhaustive, the only site we came across today that had a foolproof way of alerting Facebook users to sponsored content was GigaOm, which actually puts the words “Sponsored Post” in the headline, so that even when copy/pasted into Facebook, readers would have to be awfully dull to not notice that this is an ad:
bridgeworks

Auto-adding a [Sponsored] tag to these posts obviously poses a logistical issue for Facebook. Tagging all things shared from The Onion as [Satire] is easy, because it’s not like that site vacillates between fake and real news. Meanwhile, the majority of the content on all the sites cited above is not sponsored, so Facebook couldn’t just use a blanket tagging system.

Additionally, Facebook faces the problem of confusing its own users, who might think that a post tagged [Sponsored] is something for which Facebook received money. Facebook has sponsored content that it gets paid for on its own, so there would need to be a way for differentiating between the two.

It would seem like it would be in Facebook’s best interest to flag these shared stories as ads. It’s essentially free advertising. The odds of a Facebook user clicking on one of these stories is much more likely than someone clicking on a blatant Facebook ad, which would seem to incentivize advertisers to create sponsored content that can be placed and shared for free on Facebook rather than pay Facebook for ads that won’t be shared.

We’ve contacted Facebook to see if it has any plans for handling this sort of content. We’ll let you know if we hear back.

Meanwhile, we recently heard about a Firefox and Chrome plugin that claims it can detect native ads and alert users to sponsored content. We have not yet had the chance to try it, so we have no idea if it works, but it’s not a bad idea.

Note from Laura: I’ve been testing the Chrome version and have been very pleased with it. Here’s what you see when you click on the article about fierce chia seeds.

addetector_actually_works

It gets your attention and makes native advertising more obvious than it normally would be.

DiGiorno Shows Why You Should Read Twitter Hashtags Before Using Them

Tue, 2014-09-09 22:29

pizzaWe’ve discussed before how brands should reconsider the use of Twitter as a promotional tool, since the combination of employees signed in to the wrong account, thoughtless jumping on bandwagons, and followers who know how to take screen shots has damaged a lot of brands. Today’s devastating example of why you should look before employing a hashtag comes from frozen pizza brand DiGiorno, which wandered into a serious Twitter conversation about domestic violence.

This conversation grew out of current events, namely the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after security camera footage surfaced of him punching his then-fiancée until she lost consciousness. The couple are now married, and people who aren’t familiar with the patterns of romantic partner violence may have wondered why she stayed with him, let alone going through with the planned marriage.

While people who were once in such relationships don’t presume to speak for Mrs. Rice, thousands of people told their own stories on Twitter using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. When the tag began trending, Unfortunately, someone who represents DiGiorno on Twitter thought this would be a fun trend to join before they took thirty seconds to skim the tweets.

BxD4sM7IIAAvugF

This screengrab taken by ad executive Scott Lee shows the DiGiorno tweet alongside some non-opportunistic #WhyIStayed tweets.

The brand has since apologized, and says that the tweet was immediately taken down.

A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.—
DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) September 09, 2014

There’s really no possible excuse for this: the tweet went up twelve hours after the first #WhyIStayed post.

I tried to leave the house once after an abusive episode, and he blocked me. He slept in front of the door that entire night. #WhyIStayed
Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 08, 2014

NYC Building Selling 10 Parking Spots For $1 Million Each Because Obviously

Tue, 2014-09-09 22:28

This guy is ready. (frankieleon)

Get your pocket money ready. (frankieleon)

There you are, sitting in the midst of all those piles of cash, having bought all the things you’ve ever dreamed of buying (an end to student loan debt, a cheese cave for every home and a yacht named The Aaron Rodgers) and the garbage bin is entirely full. But how will you throw your money away now? Perhaps you’d be interested in owning one of 10 million-dollar parking spots in New York City.

Yes, in The City That Never Sleeps Because It’s Too Busy Spending Money On More Stuff, there are 10 underground bits of real estate in SoHo that cost more per square foot than the apartments upstairs, reports the New York Times.

The new development is offering the spots on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone who buys one of the units in the luxury apartment building.

As the NYT puts it — “instead of a 5,000-square-foot house with a wine cellar in Dallas or a 3,500-square-foot abode with a sauna in Seattle, you could choose 150 square feet in the basement” of the new condo.

The spots go for $5,000 and $6,000 each, as some will be about 150 square feet and others up to 200 square feet. That’s compared to the approximately $3,170 per square foot price of the three-bedroom units in the building.

And after all that, shelling out a cool million for a parking spot doesn’t mean the buyer actually owns it — it’s just a 99-year-long parking space license that allows whoever holds the spot to use it as long as they live there.

This isn’t the first time we’ve since exorbitant amounts of cash flashed at a parking spot — last year in Boston a woman paid $560,000 for two private spots. Those were outside, however. So.

Million Dollar Parking Spot [New York Times]

OKCupid Co-Founder: You’re Trading Privacy For Free Use Of Facebook & Other Sites

Tue, 2014-09-09 21:34

We’re no fan of invasive advertising that tracks you across the Web in order to deliver you “targeted” ads that are allegedly more in line with your personal interests, and we get a bit queasy knowing that Facebook and other free sites are then selling your interest data to marketers. At the same time, we realize that free websites still need to make a buck. But where do you draw the line?

In a new interview with BigThink, Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), co-founder of free dating website OKCupid (and, more importantly, guitarist for Bishop Allen) explains that he understands why people don’t want their information shared, but argues that consumers are getting something out of the exchange.

“There is the argument that my data is my own and when I do something on Facebook or on OkCupid or wherever that that is an asset that I’ve created that I deserve to control,” he explains. “And of course Facebook’s argument, and obviously OkCupid’s argument as well, is what we’re giving you in exchange for your data very clearly are these tools. Like on OkCupid you can find dates. On Facebook you can connect with long lost friends. You have an easy platform to collect pictures… There’s nobody that has to use Facebook or certainly OkCupid; there’s plenty of alternatives for that.”

As for people who claim they should receive some sort of compensation when their data is sold to marketers, Rudder contends that you are being compensated — in the form of a site that is free to use.

“It’s not like the phone service where you used to have like a $50 phone bill or $100 phone bill every month,” he explains.

But where Rudder does see a problem is when a free site claims eternal ownership over your content.

“[W]hen you’re tired of that exchange — I don’t want to use Facebook anymore — you should be able to exit that experience wholly rather than leaving whatever vestige of yourself you have to leave now,” says Rudder. “I know that they give you tools for that and the world I think generally is coming around to this idea, but it is scary even to me as an owner of one of these websites… that you’re still beholden to them even after you’ve made that decision.”

You can check out the whole interview above, or watch a Bishop Allen video below:

Police: So A Man Breaks Into A Bar… (And Takes A Nap On The Kitchen Table)

Tue, 2014-09-09 21:31
(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

I know, I know, I ruined the joke’s punchline. But that’s because it isn’t that great of a joke to begin with, it’s just ridiculous that someone would break into a business just to take a little snooze, as Pennsylvania State Police say one man did recently.

He might’ve been walking into a few other bars that night, as police say he appeared to be drunk, reports The Bradford Era, when they found him inside the closed bar.

At around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, the owner of the bar called police to report someone loitering around the business. When police arrived, they found a man asleep on a table in the kitchen, peacefully dozing after allegedly having broken the bar’s front window to get in.

The 35-year-old sleepyhead was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing for breaking into a structure and public drunkenness.

How many times must we stress that the all the world isn’t your home, where you’re free to grab a snack in your skivvies, or get down in your bedroom or heck, take a No. 2 on the floor if you want. Some things are meant for the privacy of your own home. Get it together, people.

Drunken nap leads to criminal charges [The Bradford Era]

Store Owner Giving Away Hundreds Of Pairs Of New Shoes To Any And All School Kids In Town

Tue, 2014-09-09 20:45

(State Farm)

(State Farm)

On the one hand, hundreds of pairs of brand new shoes could fetch a pretty penny for the seller. But on the other hand, as one New Jersey store owner figured, there are kids out there who could use some free footwear.

The owner of the a shoe store in Red Bank, NJ just moved his store to the area, and realized he didn’t have enough room for hundreds of pairs of children’s shoes in the new store, reports redbankgreen. Instead of selling them off to a broker, he decided to give back to the community where he grew up, after seeing kids with holes in their shoes.

“I’m part of the community,” he said. “I want to contribute.”

There’s no catch, and no strings attached — the only requirement to get a free pair of the never worn shoes is that each kid gets only one pair, and that they be from Red Bank.

Parents can bring a piece of mail with a local home address or a utility bill during the giveaways on Sept. 21 and 28 at the store to prove residency.

Other than that, the kicks are free.

“No one will be disappointed,” he said.

*Thanks for the tip, Tom!

RED BANK: FREE SHOES. NO STRINGS. [redbankgreen]

Apple To Launch Photon Death Ray (Or Maybe Just More iPhones & A Watch)

Tue, 2014-09-09 20:23

iphone6sIt’s been a few weeks since an Apple CEO summoned the news media to gather before him to be told about the latest incarnation of the iPhone. Sometimes the CEO’s proclamations are worth the attention. Sometimes they are barely worth a press release (yes, we’re looking you, iPhone 5C). Where would today’s announcement fall on that spectrum?

We attempted to watch the live stream on Apple.com, but all we got were loops of the same repeating videos and a few seconds of Apple execs talking that was drowned out by a translation (we believe in Mandarin, but we’re not sure), so we have to go on what others are writing in their live blogs about the announcement.

The first piece of news was the introduction of two new iPhones — the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6 Plus. Following the trend of giving consumers more screen space, both devices have bigger displays, with the the iPhone 6 at 4.7″ and the 6 Plus at 5.5″.

In spite of the bigger screens, both phones are thinner than the iPhone 5S, which measures 7.6mm. The iPhone 6 will be 6.9mm while the 6 Plus comes in at 7.1mm.

One advantage the iPhone 6 Plus has over its slightly smaller counterpart is that the home screen can now be presented horizontally on the device, much like you would on the larger iPad.

The new Apple A8 chip used in both of these phones is improves graphics performance by 50% over the previous generation, says the company. Apple is betting on this making the device more attractive to use as portable gaming device.

Both devices have improved batteries, with the 6 Plus benefitting from the larger real estate. According to Apple, you can 50 hours of audio play out of an iPhone 6 and 80 out of the 6 Plus, compared to 40 for the 5S.

Video play time maxes out at 14 hours on the 6 Plus while the iPhone 6’s 11 hour max is slightly better than the 10 for the 5S.

The new M8 motion processor can now detect things like distance and elevation and has a barometric sensor.

Cameras on the new devices will allegedly focus twice as fast as the existing iPhone cameras. The 6 Plus has optical image stabilization while the iPhone 6 has only digital stabilization.

For fans of super slo-mo footage, the new video cameras on these devices will shoot at up to 240 frames per second. That’s twice as fast as the current GoPro. The cameras will also shoot at full 1080p up to 60fps.

The iPhone 6 will start at $199 with a two-year contract for the 16GB model; $299 for 64GB; $399 for 128GB. The 6 Plus models are each $100 more, so $299, $399, $499, respectively.

They will start shipping Sept. 19 in the U.S.

Speaking of money, Apple announced Apple Pay, a new payment system that uses the phones’ fingerprint sensors and their new NFC chips that allow the device to communicate with certain devices within a very limited range.

Users can store their credit card info in the phone’s Passbook app. Cards on file with iTunes can be easily loaded into the system, and others can be scanned into the phone with the camera.

Apple claims the information is securely stored on the phone. Users who lose their devices can remotely wipe this data from their devices using the Find My iPhone app. Additionally, it appears that the account numbers stored on your device are unique to the phone and not identical to what is on your card.

The company says it receives no transaction data, so it is not tracking where you shop or what you buy.

Apple Pay will be available at some 220,000 payment terminals in the U.S., including McDonald’s, Macy’s, Staples and Walgreens.

Retailers with iOS apps will be able to integrate Apple Pay into their systems so that you can make purchases online this way. Apple says that Target is already working on this, as is Groupon and Major League Baseball.

True to Apple’s history of hyperbole, CEO Tim Cook said Apple Pay, which launches in October in the U.S., will “forever change the way we pay for things.”

Finally, Cook got around to showing off the Apple Watch, which you’d be surprised to learn is not a tennis racket, but a wearable smart watch, or to quote Cook again, a “comprehensive health and fitness device.”

applewatch

“What we didn’t do was take the iPhone interface and strap it on your wrist,” explained Cook, pointing out that things like pinch-to-zoom simply wouldn’t work on such a small screen.

Instead, the “digital crown” dial on the side of the Apple Watch is the key to navigating the screen. You use it to scroll, zoom, return to Home screen, etc., without having to block the screen.

Next to the crown is a button that immediately brings up contacts for you to browse and text, e-mail, or call.

The watch uses a flexible retina display that senses both touch and force, so the watch can tell the difference between a light tap and a more forceful push.

“We thought not only of the function, but of the way it looks,” said Cook, perhaps making a dig at existing smart watches that don’t exactly appeal to fans of fashion.

The Watch will be available in two different sizes, along with a variety of straps to choose from, ranging from sweat-resistant plastic to leather. The straps are easily interchangeable, says Apple.

The three versions of the device are each cased in a different metal. The basic Apple Watch version is made out of a stainless steel alloy, the Sport edition is aluminum, the Apple Watch Edition is 18 karat gold.

Android users need not apply. You need an iPhone to use an Apple Watch.

No word yet on price or availability, but the presentation is still going on, so check back in a bit and we’ll update with that info.

Poopsy Pets Now Poop Undigested Food Instead Of Jewels

Tue, 2014-09-09 20:00

Last year, we brought you the exciting news that there was a new line of fashion dolls with fashion pets available for kids who like that kind of thing. We were concerned and amused that the toy portrays pet ownership in a very inaccurate way: namely, that rabbits eat and poop glitter, and unicorns not only exist but also poop rainbows. Exciting news: there are more Poopsy Pets.

With this round, the animals’ defecation habits are simultaneously more realistic and more horrifying. Maybe because instead of glitter eggs and rainbows, these critters eat foods that are real foods. Kind of.

poopsy_group

The current crop of Poopsy Pets consist of an elephant, a tiger, and a panda. Those are all very large animals which are somehow the size of a large house cat, but we can accept that.

poop_bamboo

poop_peanuts

Where things get weird are with the tiger. It would be very educational for the critters to both eat and poop shredded pieces of gazelle flesh, but maybe that wouldn’t look so cute in toy form.

It’s also kind of weird that now the box portrays the actual toy instead of a pooping cartoon.

poop_eggs

Waiter Earns Eternal Bragging Rights By Carrying 27 Full Beer Mugs At Once

Tue, 2014-09-09 19:41

(The Daily Mirror)

(The Daily Mirror)

Everyone has their “party story” — you know, the one you tell to a group in a social setting to make the whole gathering less awkward and relate to those around you, priming everyone to bond and grow closer. But one German man has earned himself maybe one of the most unique cocktail tale by carrying 27 mugs brimming with beer at one time, setting the world record for beer-carrying in the process.

And lest you think you could possibly pull off the same feat, let’s be clear about the size of those 27 brewskis: Each 1-liter mug is the equal of about two pints, not to mention the glass those mugs are made of, reports The Daily Mirror.

Then after hoisting all those drink, the waiter carried them 40 meters, about 43 yards.

He’s not just your average waiter, however — he’s been training for months to figure out his strategy of stacking the glasses in two tiers, not to mention the practice he gets at his job serving brews at a beer festival in Bavaria.

A world record AND he never has to think of another icebreaker story for the rest of his life. Lucky. All I’ve got is the story about the wheel of cheese, the fire extinguisher and Bill Murray.

HEADLIE [The Daily Mirror]

Indiana Brewhouse Offers Microwaved Hot Dogs, Canned Soup To Comply With State Liquor Laws

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:36

In Indiana, also known to Midwesterners (or just me) as The Really Long State That Takes Forever To Drive Through On Road Trips, if an establishment wants to serve booze by the drink, it also has to offer a certain amount of food at all times, ostensibly to soak up all that alcohol. In compliance with that law, one brewhouse has taken a different tack with its ah, cuisine.

The Bank Street Brewhouse is all about the letter of the law, yes siree — wherein “food” is defined as hot sandwiches, soups, milk and coffee, among other things — but if you’re thinking of some fine dining to go along with a selection of beers, well, this might not be the place for that.

However! If you are a fan of the hot dog sandwich (guilty as charged), this is the perfect place for you. As seen on Reddit, “Bank Street Brewhouse’s Indiana Statuatory Compliance Restaurant Menu” makes liberal use of the microwave and canned products to comply with Indiana’s laws:

(reddit/imgur)

(reddit/imgur)

Fingers crossed for chicken and stars, am I right?

SF Giants Fans Can Now Pay $179/Year To Speed Through Security Line

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:32

(Byron Chin)

(Byron Chin)

If you’ve been to a Major League Baseball game this season, you may have noticed that one or more of the gates at the stadium now has TSA-like security checkpoints, as the league has required that all teams scan all attendees with metal detectors starting next season. And just like the airport, the lines can back up and cause annoyance. So of course some company is looking to make a buck off impatient baseball fans.

TravelSkills.com reports that starting today, San Francisco Giants fans will be able to pay for fast-lane security access through CLEAR, a trusted-traveler program that currently operates at a handful of airports around the country.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something where you can show up to the game and decide to spend a few extra bucks to get into a faster lane. Instead, the CLEAR pilot program requires that you are already a CLEAR member, which starts at $179/year for the first person in your family.

Since we can’t imagine someone paying $179/year just to save a few minutes of time entering AT&T Park (of course, we’re not Silicon Valley billionaires… yet), we don’t see all that many people being able to take advantage of this benefit, especially since the fast-lane access is only granted to the holder of the CLEARcard while his or her friends and family have to stand in line with everyone else.

Pumpkin Watch: Trident Also Has Pumpkin Spice Gum

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:05

pumpkin spice gum
Need something inedible and fall-flavored to chew on while you mourn the non-existence of pumpkin spice flavored condoms? There’s more than one pumpkin spice gum on the market. This Trident variety was spotted at Target, which is America’s Pumpkin Spice Central. A reader of The Impulsive Buy spotted it in the wild, One of their readers declares it to be acceptable: the flavor lasts 15-20 minutes if he chews two pieces. Assuming that what you want is for the flavor to last. Some people are into that kind of thing. [The Impulsive Buy]

Baltimore Ravens Offer To Let Fans Exchange Ray Rice Jerseys

Tue, 2014-09-09 17:59

(Keith Allison)

(Keith Allison)

You’ve probably already seen the recently released security camera footage of NFL running back Ray Rice punching out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. The footage resulted in Rice’s indefinite suspension from the league and his release from the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, and now the team is saying it will allow fans with Ray Rice jerseys to exchange them.

The team announced the plan on Twitter early Tuesday morning, saying they will be offering exchanges at the team store at M&T Stadium. The Ravens say they will provide more details about the exchange on the team website.

This is not without precedent. Shortly before the 2013 season, the New England Patriots announced a jersey exchange for fans who no longer felt right sporting Aaron Hernandez jerseys after the former player was arrested on murder charges.

Of course, this also led to some collectors paying wads of cash for Hernandez jerseys on eBay, including the one guy who spent $285 for one but didn’t want his wife to know.

Report: 40 Million Consumers Have At Least One Student Loan

Tue, 2014-09-09 17:45

(Larry Troy)

(Larry Troy)

Increases in college tuition might have made sense during the brief boom years of the real estate bubble. But when the economy tanked and Americans struggled to recover, college costs continued to soar, resulting in even more students taking on loans to pay for their education.

A new analysis of student loan trends from credit bureau Experian [PDF] found that student loan debt increased by 84% from 2008 to 2014, surpassing the debt related to home equity loans and lines of credit, credit cards and automobiles.

That increase resulted in nearly 40 million consumers with at least one student loan open. However, the report found that a majority of consumers actually average 3.7 open student loans creating the an average balance of $29,000.

That shouldn’t be a shocking figure considering tuition continues to increase and financial aid and scholarships have become increasingly competitive.

While previous reports have found as many as one-in-three student loans may be delinquent, Experian found that consumers ages 18 to 34 with student loans actually see an increase in their credit rating.

The group averages a credit score 20 points higher than others in their generation. However, that could also be a result of the number of consumers (39%) that are currently having their loans deferred – a period of time during which the consumer isn’t obligated to pay their loans.

For consumers who are currently in the repayment stage of their loan, Experian found that location matters.

Borrowers in Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, North Dakota and New Hampshire are the most likely to repay their loans on time, while those in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas are more likely to have incidents of late payments.

The level of student loan debt has been a hot topic for consumers, advocates and legislators in recent years.

Legislators have been seeking to provide relief to consumers through a variety of proposed laws that would allow consumers to refinance loans at lower rates, provide straight-forward details about loans and protect borrowers who have had a co-signer die or file for bankruptcy – an incident that could lead to devastating credit issues.

Experian analysis finds student loans increased by 84 percent since the recession; 40 million consumers now have at least one student loan [Experian]

Some Jerk Stole Entire Crop Of 100 Onions Grown By Fifth-Graders

Tue, 2014-09-09 17:39

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

By now, we’re unfortunately used to the idea that grown adults who should definitely know better will steal from children — the Girl Scouts have been dealing with cookie-related thefts every season and it’s always a bummer. But come on, swiping an entire crop of onions grown by elementary school kids? That is just low, jerk. Whoever you are.

Fifth-grade students at a school in Maine have reported feeling “sad” that some mean, horrible, no good very bad person stole the entire 100-onion crop they planted in June as seedlings, says CentralMaine.com.

The yellow onions were meant to be harvested and split between a local homeless shelter and to the school kitchen for cafeteria meals. But when they arrived at the onion patch outside the school, every last onion was gone.

“We looked at the onions and the tops were all dried,” one of the teachers explained. “We said, ‘Tuesday after Labor Day we’ll harvest them,’ and we went out Tuesday and they were all gone — the whole bed.”

Not only were the onions going to good use, the kids had spent all year learning about gardening, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and pumpkins as well. Local farmers brought in produce for the kids to taste test as well, and choose their favorites.

As one student said, she and her classmates were sad to find the onions gone, because that means the homeless shelter won’t have them.

“I hope that the person that did it actually tells us because if they just came and told us, then they wouldn’t be in trouble,” she said.

Hear that, jerkface? Listen to the children, they are our future and you are a jerk.

“We embrace mistakes, but if it’s a mistake that hurts someone’s feelings, we work to get the kids to own it,” their teacher adds. “So if someone were to show up with some onions and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ that would be a huge lesson for these kids. That’s hard to do. That’s brave.”

Reporting Aside: Waterville students ‘very sad’ their onions were stolen [CentralMaine.com]

ID Thieves Don’t Need PINs To Withdraw Cash From Debit Cards Stolen From Home Depot

Tue, 2014-09-09 17:35

(William Grootonk)

(William Grootonk)

When Home Depot confirmed the potentially massive data breach of its in-store payment systems in the U.S. and Canada, it tried to quell some concerns by saying there was no evidence that PIN info for debit cards had been compromised in the attack. But it looks like enough other information was stolen in the hack that a clever ID thief wouldn’t need that PIN to drain the cash from a victim’s bank account.

According to KrebsOnSecurity.com, which has been a few steps ahead of Home Depot on this entire story, the stolen Home Depot info currently on sale on the black market includes the information you’d expect — the card number, cardholder’s name — and it also contains the ZIP code for the store from which the information was stolen.

With some 2,200 stores in the U.S. alone, most people don’t have to travel far to find a Home Depot. That means there is a good chance that many Home Depot shoppers live in the same ZIP code as their store. Having that information, an ID thief versed in black market information can illegally purchase additional info like Social Security numbers and dates of birth.

So with all that information at their fingertips, an ID thief can try changing a card’s PIN using the automated customer service phone lines that many banks operate.

If a customer calls up and can provide almost all of the requested data about the account, he or she can change the PIN rather easily.

Automated systems generally check for four things:
1. The card’s expiration date;
2. The customer’s date of birth;
3. The last four digits of the customer’s Social Security number
4. The 3-digit code (known as a card verification value or CVV/CV2) printed on the back of the debit card.

This last item is the only piece of information not readily available to data thieves willing to spend a little money to potentially reap a lot of money from victims.

And Krebs says he’s been hearing about spikes in PIN-related ID theft since the Home Depot hack.

Like the New England bank that has seen $25,000 in PIN debit fraud at ATMs in Canada. Krebs’s source claims that the ID thieves were able to change the PINs on the cards using the bank’s automated system, which only required that they provide three of the four requested data points.

Then there is the bank on the West Coast that Krebs reports was hit with $300,000 in PIN fraud in just two hours, all from multiple debit card accounts that had been used recently at Home Depot.

Like the New England banks, having the customer’s SSN, DOB, and the card’s expiration date was enough to change the PIN.

Additionally, the callers told bank customer service reps that they were traveling abroad, which allowed them to take out more money from the ATMs than they would have been able to stateside. It presumably also turned off any red flags when those withdrawals were made from ATMs in Italy.

Home Depot has reassured customers that any fraudulent charges to credit or debit card users will be absorbed by either the customer’s bank or by the retailer. However, PIN-related fraud is always the hardest to prove, as it requires information that only the customer is supposed to have. Hopefully, banks will be looking with a wary eye at people who wish to change their PIN without all of the requested information about the account.

General Mills Acquires Annie’s Homegrown Foods, Bunny Mascots

Tue, 2014-09-09 16:57

MacCheese_PeacePasta_FR___Annie’s is a 25-year-old company based in Berkeley, California that has its organic products everywhere from the shelves of health food stores to the checkout of Target. General Mills is 158-year-old company based in the Minneapolis area that owns familiar American brands like Cheerios cereal and Green Giant frozen vegetables. These companies are getting hitched, thanks to their shared love of the growing organic food market and money.

General Mills owns quite a few organic food brands already. They don’t make the ownership super-obvious on these products’ packaging because they’re not stupid, but Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar are familiar brands to health-food shoppers. Now the conglomerate can add Annie’s to its portfolio, and paid about 33% over the current share price of the publicly-traded Annie’s (stock ticker symbol: BNNY)

The acquisition adds more than $200 million in annual sales to an organic foods division that already takes in $330 million per year. Though all of those customers may not make the transition to General Mills. While the company says that it has no opposition to a unified nationwide GMO-free label, it opposes requiring companies to label products that do contain genetically modified ingredients, and also opposes state initiatives that could lead to a labeling headache for a large company that does business nationwide.

As anyone who has ever discussed food on the Internet knows, the potential presence of genetically modified organisms in their food (or in their food’s food, in the case of meat, dairy, and eggs) is a very important issue to a vocal minority of consumers, who are storming the Annie’s Facebook page as we speak.

The company is responding to all messages, which is nice. Here’s a sample reply to a person concerned about GMOs?

Hi all – We totally understand your concerns. There is no change in our stance on GMOs. We are committed to transparency around the topic of GMOs. Millions of consumers agree with Annie’s position around GMOs. We know that General Mills understands our commitment and the importance of our position on this issue to the authenticity of our brand. Hope you’ll stay a fan.

General Mills will pay $820M for Annie’s Homegrown organic foods [Twin Cities Business News]
General Mills Adds Organic Foods With Purchase of Annie’s [Bloomberg News]

Netflix Speeds Finally Rebound For FiOS, U-Verse Customers

Tue, 2014-09-09 16:47

NETFLIXseptFor years, Verizon has bragged about the fast data speeds available to subscribers of its FiOS broadband service. Meanwhile, the company was allowing Netflix streams to bottleneck, resulting in real downstream speeds that were slower than some DSL providers. And even months after Netflix agreed to pay Verizon for better access to its network, the speeds didn’t improve — until now.

Netflix has released its monthly Speed Index report, and it finally shows improvement from both Verizon FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse after about a year of declines that saw FiOS bottoming out at 1.58Mbps and U-Verse at 1.44Mbps — about half of what you’d need to stream a proper HD video on Netflix.

Both Verizon and AT&T reached deals earlier this year with Netflix that would give the streaming video service more direct access to the companies’ networks (for a price).

Netflix has also made similar deals with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, though those agreements resulted in improved speeds almost immediately after the deals were made. The Verizon and AT&T pay-for-access deals dragged on for several months; and the spat between Netflix and Verizon resulted in some public finger-pointing, with Netflix trying to place the blame on the ISP for continued slow connections.

In June, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler requested information on these paid-peering deals from both Netflix and the ISPs.

“Consumers pay their ISP and they pay content providers like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. Then when they don’t get good service they wonder what is going on,” wrote Wheeler at the time. “Consumers must get what they pay for. As the consumer’s representative we need to know what is going on.”

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