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The Consumerist

Dunkin’ Donuts Profits Hurt By Crappy Weather, Moves Up California Store Opening

Thu, 2014-04-24 16:28

(The Consumerist)

(The Consumerist)

When the Northeast experienced exceedingly nasty winter weather earlier this year, do you know what people didn’t do? They didn’t venture out of their houses for hot coffee, apparently. Dunkin’ Donuts announced its financial results for the first quarter of 2014, and they blame the crappy weather for profits that are $800,000 lower than last quarter.

Keeping that in mind, it’s exciting news that the chain’s first shop in California will open sometime before the end of this calendar year, and not sometime in 2015, as they originally announced more than a year ago.

You know what would really help sales when hot weather hits, Dunkin’ Donuts? Doughnut ice cream sundaes. Maybe consider it.

Dunkin’ says harsh winter cut hole in earnings [MarketWatch]

McDonald’s Is Sending Ronald McDonald To Work On Twitter In A New Outfit

Thu, 2014-04-24 15:57

ronnymcdonnynewLet there be no doubt about it — just because there’s some “taco shop” out there using guys named Ronald McDonald to talk breakfast smack, the true Ronny McDonny has only one master and that is McDonald’s. The chain is dusting off the 51-year-old Ronald McDonald character, giving him a new outfit and sending him out to spread the chain’s message on social media.

In a move that reminds me of taking your divorced uncle shopping and teaching him how to use the Twitter before he re-enters the dating world, McDonald’s had a designer redo Ronald’s entire outfit in an effort to make him more modern, and will employ #RonaldMcDonald across social media channels, the company said in a press release yesterday.

Clad in yellow cargo pants and a vest with a red-and-white striped rugby shirt, and on special occasions, a “whimsical new red blazer” and special bow tie, Ronald has come a long way from his yellow jumpsuit days, and he’ll be expected to work that new look all over new commercials and promotional materials for restaurants.

“Ronald brings to life the fun of our brand by connecting with customers around the world, whether he’s promoting literacy or spreading cheer at a Ronald McDonald House,” said Dean Barrett, Senior Vice President, Global Relationship Officer in the press release. “Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant.”

No word yet on whether Ronald will be trusted with his own Twitter account, but for now his no doubt profound utterances will be featured on the company’s @McDonaldsCorp account. I hope there’s at least one “What is this thing” tweet on his behalf. It’s only fitting.

FCC Makes Mockery Of Net Neutrality With Proposal To Allow Internet “Fast Lanes”

Thu, 2014-04-24 04:47



Recently installed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler apparently has no interest in actual net neutrality, as the new rules he’s proposing this week allow for Internet service providers to create so-called “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay extra to more reliably deliver their data to the end-user.

The original neutrality rules — which were gutted by a federal appeals court earlier this year, not because they were bad but because of a nitpicky classification oversight made by an FCC in the ages of dial-ip — prevented ISPs from either crippling or prioritizing users’ access to content. These companies were to simply be conduits that carried data back and forth as quickly and efficiently as they could without regard to its source.

That’s why it was called “net neutrality.”

But according to multiple news reports, Chairman Wheeler’s new proposal won’t simply correct the classification error that allowed Verizon to successfully challenge the old Open Internet rules. The draft he’ll be passing around the FCC office on Thursday reportedly keeps the “no crippling” aspect of the former guidelines, but does away with the “no prioritization” part, meaning Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Charter, AT&T, Charter, etc. can all decide that companies wanting quality access will have to pay for it.

[It's worth noting that Comcast will presumably not be able to partake in this money-minting new development, as it is legally bound to abide by the old neutrality rules through 2018 (though honestly, we wouldn't be surprised at this point if Wheeler gave Kabletown a pass).]

So why is this fast lane news such a bad deal?

Here are three reasons that quickly come to mind:

1. No Incentive To Improve Service
Right now, ISPs are racing to keep up with the growing popularity of bandwidth-heavy content, not just from Netflix, but from every pay-TV operator, Amazon, Google, Apple, countless smaller streaming services, online gaming, video teleconferencing, audio streaming, and more. But adding a fast lane takes away much of the incentive to make future innovations available to consumers at large.

The idea of net neutrality meant that ISPs are motivated to provide the best service for as many customers and content providers as possible. But if there is big money to be made off of deep-pocketed media companies trying to outperform each other online, that’s where the focus will go.

If fast lanes are approved, those content companies unwilling or unable to pay extra for improved delivery will be stuck with the status quo, while those who can part with the cash will see the benefits that everyone would have enjoyed had true neutrality been established.

2. The Fight Is Fixed
Compared to many other industries, the cost for entry into the various online markets is relatively affordable — and that level-ish playing field has resulted in numerous risky and visionary online ventures that have offered consumers choice and value.

But fast lanes will now allow ISPs to determine the price startups must pay if they want to reach consumers. It turns ISPs from the providers of neutral pipelines to the arbiters who which companies succeed and which go under.

“The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online,” writes Michael Weinberg of Public Knowledge. “This is not net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.”

3. You’ll Pay The Price
The most commonly heard refrain from supporters of fast lanes is that bandwidth-heavy content companies should be the ones who foot the bill. That’s like a supermarket telling the maker of a popular brand of potato chips that it needs to help pay the store’s employees because they’re always having to re-stock the shelves.

The fast lanes attempt to put lipstick on this pig by saying “We’re not forcing anyone to do this… These companies are voluntarily paying for the improved content delivery.”

Sadly, there are numerous analogs to this notion in supermarkets and almost every other retail operation. A food company will pay for prime placement on the shelves, or for an end-cap placement to stand out from the rest of the stuff in the crowded aisles. That’s one of the reasons these products cost more, because that additional cost just gets added to the price you pay at the cash register.

But while consumers have options if they want potato chips but don’t want to pay for the expensive brands, that’s not the case with online services.

Most consumers have little to no say in who the get their wired broadband service from, so that’s one choice that’s out the window. And though there are a growing number of streaming video services, only those willing to pay for fast lane service will be able to survive, meaning even fewer choices.

And even if your ISP doesn’t charge for fast lane service, if a large ISP begins demanding more money from content providers, those companies will then pass on that extra cost to all cost.

So say Amazon begins paying Verizon more money to get in the fast lane, but doesn’t make a deal with Comcast. If Amazon has to raise its prices (or cut its selection) to afford this additional cost, Comcast customers would be negatively impacted even though their ISP didn’t charge fast lane rates.

It’s important to note that Wheeler’s proposal is just the beginning of the process. Even if the full FCC gives if the thumbs-up, there will still be a public comment period, during which you can be sure we’ll remind you to make your voices heard.

FCC to Propose New ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules [WSJ]
In Policy Shift, F.C.C. Will Allow A Web Fast Lane [NY Times]

Pour Out A Bottle Of Ketchup For 40,000 Pounds Of Fries Destroyed In Fire

Wed, 2014-04-23 23:59

(Waterville Fire Department)

(Waterville Fire Department)

These fries are a little overcooked. In a Walmart parking lot in Maine on Tuesday evening, a tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of frozen Burger King French fries caught fire. destroying the cargo, the truck, and the dreams of the fast food-loving people of New Jersey.

The spuds were on their way from New Brunswick, Canada to New Jersey, where they would ultimately be served up in Burger King restaurants. The local fire chief told reporters that the vehicle’s brakes appear to have overheated, causing the fire.

No one was injured in the tater blaze, but the driver was too embarrassed to identify himself to the media.

Truck carrying 40,000 pounds of french fries catches fire in Maine [WMUR] (Thanks, Peg!)

Gillette Wants To Sell You A Fancy New Razor That Works With Older Blades

Wed, 2014-04-23 23:47

flexballThe Gillette business model is now a legend selling an item inexpensively or giving it away for free, then selling customers a more profitable item that they need to keep that item going. Think of razors and disposable blades, inkjet printers and cartridges, or free mobile phones tied to long service contracts. Now Gillette is changing its time-honored business model a little, and selling the FlexBall razor, which accepts a variety of blade cartridges.

Maybe it says a lot about how silly the blade arms race has been that critics consider it an innovation when a major razor brand introduces a product that’s backwards-compatible to an older type of razor sold by that same company.

Anyway, the razor hits stores next Wednesday. Nobody will be lining up at midnight to buy it. The design is innovative: it pivots on a roller ball, sort of like a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Maybe people will like that. Will they pay a premium price to give it a try? By focusing on the razor itself instead of more or less giving away the razor and focusing on the blades, Gillette is gambling here.

Maybe this is a first step toward unlocked, platform-agnostic razors that accept plastic blades from any other brand. Or maybe the big brands feel like they need something more advanced in order to compete with the Dollar Shave Clubs of the world: indeed, Gillette does have its own blade subscription service. Gillette’s personal-grooming brands aren’t doing well for the first time in years, and it isn’t just because beards have come back in style.

Why Gillette’s New Razor Is Good for Procter & Gamble [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Gillette’s New Weapon in Razor Arms Race [Wall Street Journal]

This DIY Mustard Caddy Won’t Change Your Life, But It Will Keep The Mustard Flowing

Wed, 2014-04-23 23:00

Look at that awful mess that needs organizing! (Alton Brown on YouTube)

Look at that awful mess that needs organizing! (Alton Brown on YouTube)

I’m going to play it to you straight — this is not one of those cases where it’s like, Read This Post And Your Life Will Forever Be Changed By What Happens because I don’t think easily squirted mustard falls under that kind of description. But still, getting sauces flowing when you need them? Super handy.

Generally awesome food guy Alton Brown has a dramatic reimagining (I can only hope, because otherwise it’s crazy how prepared his camera crew was) of how he came to conquer unsquirtable mustards.

If you don’t want to watch the entire two minutes of intensely acted refrigerator revelations, it’s simple: Take an egg carton (remove eggs first, obviously) and cut off the top, leaving only the scooped out egg cradles.

Set that in your fridge door’s shelf and stand various mustards or other condiments upright in it and voila — the next time you need a squirt it won’t be such a chore. My mind isn’t blown and my life has remained fairly the same since this knowledge was first revealed to me, but I am jonesing for a hot dog.

Sun Chips Bags Shrink From 10.5 Ounces To 7 Ounces, Price Stays The Same

Wed, 2014-04-23 22:24


7 ounces of Sunchips. (Photo: Coyoty)

Usually, we try to stay at the forefront of Grocery Shrink Ray news, letting you know when we learn that a company has reduced the size of a product while keeping the price the same. Frito-Lay has been rolling out a massive shrinkage of Sun Chips, zapping bags from 10.5 ounces to only 7 ounces. Removing a third of the chips by weight? Noooo!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were bemoaning the shrink-rayage of Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips from 11.5 ounces to 10.5 ounces. Turns out it was six years ago. This time, the change is dramatic, and the brand has a Facebook page where customers can rant about the change.

It’s not like Americans need large quantities of corn chips laden with salt and flavoring powder. We’d probably be better off not eating them at all. While such a dramatic decrease is probably better for our health, but any Shrink Rayage makes us sad.

We contacted Frito-Lay to confirm this shrinkage, but they didn’t get back to us. They have been asking customers who complain about the difference to call their customer service line, where they will presumably receive coupons that don’t make up for losing a quarter of the chips in each bag.

Postal Workers Preparing To Protest Against Staples’ New In-Store Mailing Services

Wed, 2014-04-23 22:00

(Ron Dauphin)

(Ron Dauphin)

What’s a postal worker to do when a company that isn’t the United States Postal Service starts offering USPS products and using its own employees to sell those services? Prepare to protest, which is what the American Postal Workers Union is going to do on Thursday at 50 Staples stores.

Staples has been selling traditional mail services and products at 82 of its stores since November in a “pilot project” scheduled through September. But the union says the USPS is going to expand that project to 1,500 nationwide, reports CNNMoney.

And because those mini post offices are manned by lower-wage Staples staff instead of USPS workers, well that’s taking away work from the union, a move that could be a step toward privatization of the USPS and lead to more standalone post offices getting closed down.

“The protest is very important because the Staples deal is a direct attack on not just our members, but the American public,” said Jonathan Smith, president of the the local New York City chapter of the union.

The unions involved in the planned protests note an internal USPS memo citing the the purpose of the pilot program as evidence: “to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor” means cutting staff at traditional post office windows.

“This isn’t just about postal jobs,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “Many people are outraged that a tremendous public asset is being turned over to a struggling private company.”

The USPS says the mini post offices aren’t meant to replace traditional offices, just that it’s trying to “grow the business” and that retail partners have “never been an earmark to pave a way to privatization,” a spokeswoman said.

Anything to make a buck is likely going to be on the table for the USPS, which lost $5 billion in the last fiscal year, just one of its recent money-leaking years.

Postal workers to protest at Staples [CNNMoney]

FCC Chair Almost Ready To Share His New Take On Net Neutrality

Wed, 2014-04-23 21:47



Earlier this year, a federal appeals court eviscerated the FCC’s Open Internet (aka net neutrality) rule following a legal challenge by Verizon, effectively allowing ISPs to give priority access to their own content (or content from sites and services that pay for the privilege) while also blocking or throttling access to competing services and content. Net neutrality has been recuperating from that back-breaking defeat in a virtual underground prison, but is now preparing to scale the wall and return to the real world.

Reuters reports that FCC Chair Tom “Hot Wheels” Wheeler plans to begin circulating his proposal for the new neutrality rules to his colleagues tomorrow, and the five FCC commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to move forward with the proposal on May 15.

That would be followed by a public comment period and any revisions that come out of those suggestions, so it’s still quite some time before any neutrality rules can be resurrected.

The largest ISPs, including Verizon, have all pinky-sweared that they will continue to abide by the old neutrality rules pending the finalizing of (and possible legal challenge to) the new rules, which makes one wonder why Verizon spent untold millions fighting the rules. Maybe Big V is just a free spirit who won’t be held down by the man… or something.

Only Comcast is legally obliged to follow the now-gutted guidelines; a stipulation the company agreed to while seeking approval of its merger with NBC Universal. However, Comcast’s obligation only lasts through 2018 (though we expect it will “volunteer” to continue that obligation if it helps grease the approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable.

No one knows if Wheeler’s proposal will be any different at its core than the former rules, as the appeals court didn’t take issue with the idea of enforced net neutrality; it just believed that, under the FCC’s outdated classification of ISPs, the commission didn’t have the proper authority to issue these rules.

Some believe that the FCC could simply reclassifying ISP as telecommunications infrastructure (as opposed to their current classification as content), effectively giving itself the authority to reinstate those the old rules.

In February, Wheeler issued a very vague outline of his plan, but even that didn’t say whether or not he intended to reclassify broadband.

One issue that will almost definitely not be dealt with in the new rules is the currently controversial topics of interconnectivity and paid peering. This issue has been brought to the fore by Netflix’s ongoing staring contests with various ISPs and its recent agreement to pay Comcast for more direct access to end-users.

The former net neutrality rules only dealt with an ISPs interactions with delivering content to the user. They prevented ISPs from actively slowing down or prioritizing content at whim. What they didn’t do was tell ISPs that they had to do everything possible to make sure that content providers’ data was getting to users without any speed bumps.

So when large numbers of users are simultaneously streaming Netflix — the biggest single source of downstream data in the U.S. — and connections begin to back up, ISPs have two choices: Open up more connections to ease the bottleneck or continue to let it build up and hope that Netflix pays them for a better connection.

To some, allowing these logjams to occur is a net neutrality issue — especially with regard to Netflix, as it provides a competing service to the pay-TV and on-demand content available from the cable companies that control most of the wired broadband in the country.

But earlier this month, Wheeler’s office made it clear that while the Chair believes interconnectivity is indeed an FCC issue, it is not a neutrality issue, and thus will not be part of his proposed rules.

Could Consumers’ Frustration With Mortgage Closings Be Solved By eClosing System?

Wed, 2014-04-23 21:09

(Adam Gerard)

(Adam Gerard)

After months of searching for a home, going through the process of applying for a mortgage, providing support for every speck of dust in your piggy bank (often multiple times), you finally get to closing day, where you’re often rushed through hundreds of papers of documents you’ve never seen before, hoping that you’re not inadvertently signing away your firstborn. Isn’t there something that can be done to make the closing process less daunting and more transparent?

A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlines problems in the current process and suggests an alternative in the form of a new Electronic Closing pilot project.
The report [PDF], “Mortgage Closings Today”, highlights the frustrations consumers have encountered when completing the mortgage portion of their new purchase and just how technology could ease some of those burdens.

“Mortgage closings are often fraught with anxiety,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray says in a news release. “We have taken action to address some of the problems consumers face, but more needs to be done.”

The key challenges that consumers and industry stakeholders reported there was not enough time to review closing paperwork, the paperwork often proves overwhelming and the documents often contain jargon not easily understood by consumers.

In many instances, consumers reported they were unable to see the closing package until they arrived at the closing table. This proved too late to digest the information, ask questions about changes in fees, or correct errors, without delaying the closing. Additionally, consumers felt there was a disconnect between themselves and key participants in the process.

The CFPB report points to two root causes behind consumer’s feelings of stress and confusion in the closing process: large, complex packages and inconsistent closing practices across transactions.

Of the responses received by the Bureau in their research regarding closing practices, nearly 33% of all stakeholders stated that documents were too large. Consumers described the process as tedious and stressful when trying to figure out where to sign, while others had to slow down the settlement agents in order to have them explain the paperwork sufficiently.

In an attempt to lessen the frustrations that consumers encounter when going through the mortgage closing process, CFPB has identified “a more streamlined, efficient, and educational closing process that would be beneficial to consumers” in the in the form of a Electronic Closing system.

eClosings are already happening in the market today, but adoption is low, CFPB reports. A pilot program is set to launch later this year and is designed to enable the Bureau to better understand the role eClosing can play in the mortgage process.


The implementation of an eClosing system could address challenges by shifting the experience toward a paperless process. The CFPB believes that eClosing solutions could provide increased flexibility to provide documents prior to the closing and could include embedded educational tools that would highlight key information or link to additional resources. Additionally, consumers could utilize eClosing to access an eVault that would house their previous documents.

While some consumers reported encountering errors in their information during the closing process, CFPB contends that eClosing could help such errors be spotted before closing takes place.

The new report and pilot program have been designed to promote best partitives in the marketplace ahead of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” mortgage initiative. The initiative was designed to improve the home-buying experience for consumers by requiring new, raiser-to-read disclosure forms that lay out the terms of a mortgage to a homebuyer. The new rule is expected to be implemented in August 2015.

CFPB Report Highlights Pain Points for Consumers in Mortgage Closing Process [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

There’s A Potentially Itchy Black Market For The Recalled Fitbit Force

Wed, 2014-04-23 21:06

fitbit forceAfter Consumerist played a large role in getting the Fitbit Force recalled, I set up a Google alert to let me know when news about the product hits the Interweb. Since the official recall almost six weeks ago, I sort of expected to see a decrease in mentions of the product. I didn’t expect to see sales listings from a small, disingenuous Fitbit Force black market.

In the United States, it’s illegal to sell or resell an item that has been recalled. That isn’t stopping vendors all over the country. Not all of them are profiteering or ignoring the law on purpose.

We had thought that this recall was widely publicized, but apparently not widely publicized enough. I was disturbed (but not surprised) to see listings well above the product’s original $130 list price, just like there was during Fitbit’s voluntary recall period before the CPSC was involved.

Some of the listings did mention that the product was no longer available in stores, but didn’t mention why. I was horrified at the idea that an unknowing customer might drop $200 on something that has at least a 2% chance of giving them a nasty rash. It was time to take consumer protection to the streets. Well, Craigslist, and my Gmail account.

One sale listing that crossed my inbox from somewhere in the southern United States was a person who said that he no longer wanted the device, and was selling it for $100. He asked potential buyers to text him, so I did. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our conversation (thanks, Google Voice!)

Consumerist: Are you aware that it’s illegal to sell items that were recalled for safety reasons, like the Fitbit Force?
Seller: I didn’t know there was a recall
Seller: Can I get my money back?
Seller: What was the recall?
Consumerist: They were recalled because they caused really bad contact dermatitis in some users. You can return it to the company for a full refund.
Seller: I haven’t received any notice from fitbit and it is registered with them.
Seller: Wow, thanks
Seller: I’ll get right on it
Consumerist: They sent out an e-mail that a lot of people may have overlooked and mistook as spam.
Seller: Must [have gone] to spam
Seller: It hasn’t bothered me any

I passed along the phone number to call Fitbit, and ten minutes later received a text back. The seller (who later mentioned being an occasional Consumerist reader) would be getting a $140 refund. He had already taken down the Craigslist post.

Seller: Well, thanks. I’ll get more than I was asking for it.

One person in the Northeast listed theirs for $170, and also seemed surprised to hear about the recall. He explained that he had noticed others for sale on Craigslist above the original retail price, but didn’t question why: he just thought he would sell his, too. This person thanked me for the note, and took their listing down.

Another seller in the Northeast also claimed not to know about the recall either, and had the device listed for $200. (Remember, the original price was $130 plus tax.) The person claimed to have bought it around the time that the product was recalled, and it had been used for only a few weeks. The seller thanked me for letting them know, then didn’t take the post down.

There are Fitbit flippers out there as well, who offer to ship them anywhere and boast that they have more in stock. These people surely must know why the wristband is off the market. Does the now-recalled product have some cachet or badass cred now? Is that it?

The Cost Of Attending Weddings Is Going Up So I’m Going To Need A Slice Of The Best Cake Ever

Wed, 2014-04-23 21:04



Listen, I don’t need a news alert to tell me that the cost of attending weddings these days is pretty freaking high, but it’s good to know that I haven’t just been hallucinating the money dribbling out of my wallet. A new report says the cost of just going to a wedding — along with various and sundry related activities — is up 10% in the last year and 75% in the last two. I can feel the money slipping away, I tell you.

This year wedding guests will spend about $592 on average on each wedding, which again is a huge jump from just two years ago, according to a new American Express survey of 1,500 Americans, reports MarketWatch.

Of course, if you can cut corners between any pre-wedding parties, transportation, hotels or personal grooming, you’ll save a bunch. But that cost per wedding doesn’t even factor in the price of the gift, so there’s that.

“Americans are getting more comfortable with having an expensive wedding, which does put the onus on guests to spend more too,” says David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending at American Express.

Because this story is clearly all about me and how I deal with the fact that everyone I know plans awesome weddings and invites me to them, instead of the anecdotal evidence given by my fellow weddinger cited by MarketWatch, I will just say I’ve got invitations to nuptials in New York, New Jersey, Montana, Ohio, Napa Valley and Austin this year alone.

There comes a time when you’ve just got to say no, but if you do check “yes” and start shaking that piggy bank, know that couples spent $220 per guest on food and entertainment last year, an 8% increase forom the $204 they spent in 2012, according to’s national survey of 13,000 brides.

Because goodness knows if I’ve spent money on a dress, a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, a gift, a flight and a hotel room, well, I’m going to want a nice cut of steak, the best piece of cake money can buy and an open bar with very generous hours. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Cost of attending weddings soars 75% [MarketWatch]

New Website Seeks To Put Job-Seeking Veterans And Employers Together

Wed, 2014-04-23 20:44

(Hammerin Man)

(Hammerin Man)

In an effort to ease the transition from military service to the private sector — and help former servicemembers find jobs that match their skills — the Dept. of Veterans Affairs has launched a new service on its website that it hopes will allow employers to connect directly with veterans looking for work.

The new section of the VA’s eBenefits site was announced today by First Lady Michelle Obama at a veterans jobs summit at Fort Campbell on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The VA’s Employment Center aims to help out the anywhere from 700,000 to 800,000 armed forces veterans who are looking for a job at any given time, by not only allowing them to post their resumes and sort through job listings. It also provides functionalities like a resume-builder and a Military Skills Translator that can show the job-seekers how their particular skill sets can be used in non-military employment.

This was a point the First Lady mentioned in her talk with soldiers at the Fort Campbell job summit — don’t minimize the things you learned while in service to your country.

“If you want a job, you can’t be modest about your qualifications,” she explained. “Anyone out there would be lucky to have you on their team.”

Likewise, employers who use the database to find job candidates have access to a translator that works in the opposite direction, telling them what types of military training would be applicable to their business.


Man To Pay $489K After Triggering A Massive Search Effort For Fictional Stranded Boaters

Wed, 2014-04-23 20:01

(Alan Rappa)

(Alan Rappa)

It’s one thing to call 9-1-1 over a messed up fast food order or perhaps accidentally when you didn’t realize you hit “emergency call” until hello, the police are on the phone and you’re very embarrassed. But it’s an entirely other, more expensive, boneheaded thing to pretend there are people in need of lifesaving help when the reality is, you’re just Peter crying wolf.

That fake wolf of a phone call will cost an Ohio man $489,000 after officials near Cleveland unleashed a massive U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue mission on Lake Erie, a U.S. appeals court ruled, according to Reuters.

Two years ago, the now 21-year-old licensed pilot told authorities he saw what he thought was a distress flare coming up from a boat as he flew over the lake.

And then when Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport asked him to get a closer look, he said he didn’t see boat but did see more flares and fishing boat with four people on it wearingn life jackets and flashing lights.

When a 21-hour search with a 140-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter, three smaller rescue boats, a rescue helicopter and a Canadian CC130 Hercules airplane came up empty, the man finally confessed a month later to making it all up.

He pleaded guilty to making a false distress call and was sentenced to serve three months in jail and pay restitution of $277,000 to the U.S. Coast Guard and $212,000 to the Canadian Armed Forces. His lawyers claimed he wasn’t liable for the Canadian costs and only the coast guard’s direct costs of $118,000, but the appeals court upheld the previous ruling.

So remember folks, when you’re bored and flying your plane, it might seem like a fun(?) idea to pretend someone is in danger, but resist the temptation. It’s expensive and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Ohio man must pay $489,000 for fake distress report: court [Reuters]

Please Stop Adding Inedible Things To Novelty Menu Items Just To Make Them Super Expensive

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:00

Bagatelle's $470 sundae and $530 ring.

Bagatelle’s $470 sundae and $530 ring.

We get it — your sandwich/burger/dessert isn’t exciting enough, so what do you do, as a restaurant owner who wants to create a buzz? You add precious metals that you otherwise wouldn’t eat to a grilled cheese or a piece of jewelry to a sundae, crank the price up, call it a Super Expensive Food Item and get everyone talking about it. But listen, if I can’t eat it and/or it doesn’t taste good on its own, don’t include it with my food.

While sure, I can eat cheddar infused with flakes of 24K gold (that’s not even a challenge, show me a piece of cheese and I will likely eat it regardless), I’d rather have $100 worth of delicious ingredients that are wholly edible all on their own if I’m going to diverge from a homemade $2 basic sandwich.

So the fact that there’s now a $1,000 ice cream sundae on the menu of a trendy Meatpacking District restaurant in New York City made me immediately skeptical. What kind of cows produce such pricy milk? is this sundae filling a swimming pool and if so can I swim in it while a bearded Ryan Gosling fans me with a palm leaf and sings sweet songs about my Wisconsin homeland?

But no, explains Eater NY, Bagatelle’s pricy dessert is really only half as expensive as it purports to be when you take away the part of the menu item YOU CAN’T EAT.

The “Mauboussin Mega Sundae” has scoops of vanilla ice cream and Dom Perignon Rose sorbet, with a topping of chocolate truffles, macarons, whipped cream, chocolate vodka sauce, and “gilded brownies,” and of course, more gold leaf because that’s how you jack the price on anything.

But $530 of that sundae can be chalked up to a ring made of black steel and white gold which isn’t even the cherry on top or placed in the food (choking hazards probably, you know how it goes) but instead is served alongside.

Which makes it much like the $70 grilled cheese with its $30 side of mac and cheese.

I can chuckle over your priciness, expensive foods that are really masquerading as joint food + inedible offerings, but that doesn’t mean I respect you. Next time show me $1,000 worth of ice cream and toppings and leave that crunchy ring where it belongs, in a jewelry store.

Bagatelle’s $1K Sundae Includes Dom Sorbet and Jewelry [Eater NY]

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you also eschew eating precious metals with your dairy: @marybethquirk

Sprint: We’ll Totally Unlock Any Phone You Buy After February 11, 2015

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:41



In a perfect world, once a customer has completed a mobile phone contract or paid the full unsubsidized cost of their device, they should be able to take that device to any carrier of their choice. While carriers will adopt voluntary standards next year, that’s next year. Sprint wants consumers to know that you won’t be able to unlock any devices you get from them for use on any domestic networks until the standards go into effect on February 11, 2015.

While the industry’s voluntary standards bring us a little closer to that perfect world, we aren’t quite there yet.

Carriers had to adopt at least three (any three) out of the six standards this spring. One of those standards is that carriers have to make their unlocking policy clear to consumers. Even if that policy is, for now, “nope.” That’s why Sprint has published a clear new policy on their site. That policy: you’ll be able to unlock your device and flee Sprint sometime in 2017, because they don’t sell any phones that will work with other domestic carriers yet.

Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier’s SIM for use on another domestic carrier’s network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this.

We were going to bold the more ridiculous passages for emphasis, but that would have been the entire excerpt. No, there is no technological process for unlocking phones, because Sprint didn’t design one into phones to be used on their network.

Newer dual-band phones can be unlocked for use on foreign GSM carriers, though. We have multiple GSM carriers in the United States: AT&T, T-Mobile, and virtual network operators including Straight Talk that lease capacity from other carriers. There’s no reason why Sprint doesn’t have a “technological process” to allow customers who are no longer under contract to use their phones on other carriers except that Sprint didn’t want that “technological process” to be available.

Sprint to Make All Devices Launched After 2/11/15 Unlockable [DSLReports]

Let’s Play “Guess Why This Person Broke Into Restaurant While Wearing A Box On Their Head”

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:39

While it’s not exactly a case for Adrian Monk (or even Encyclopedia Brown), police in Bismarck, ND, do have a puzzler of a crime on their hands after someone broke into a restaurant after hours and appears to have done nothing but walked around the place with a cardboard box covering his/her head.

As you can see from the above video [via Eater], while this is definitely a case of breaking and entering — the owner says the damage to the shattered front door is around $1,000 — the B&E artist seems to just make a circuit of the restaurant (again, while sporting a box over their head) without doing any further damage. The owner also says that nothing appears to have been stolen by the Box-Headed Bandit.

Using our detective skills honed by watching the occasional episode of NCIS (or is CSI?) while doing the dishes, we came up with the following theories:

1. It’s a restaurant employee who accidentally left behind his/her lucky rabbit’s foot and couldn’t get to sleep without it. The criminal had obvious inside knowledge of where to score an empty cardboard box and seems to move effortlessly through the building (as effortlessly as one can with a box on their head), indicating foreknowledge of the layout.

2. The restaurant could be a secret front for an international crime ring that involves drug cartels and multinational manufacturing/fast food conglomerates. The person under the box is a quick-thinking (but hot-tempered) high school chemistry teacher with nothing to lose (and a son who really, really loves breakfast). He obviously entered the restaurant to make off with incriminating evidence against the restaurant’s owner, who hides his involvement in the crime syndicate by donating to the local DEA Fun Run.

3. It was all an accident. In a hilarious confluence of events, a person with nothing better to do was filling a cardboard box with rubber cement while sitting on their fire escape while an unwitting pedestrian was walking down the street minding their own business. Something distracts the box-gluer and his “art project” falls four stories onto the pedestrian’s head. The pedestrian, blinded by the combination of box and rubber cement, stumbles into the restaurant and wanders around aimlessly until finding his way back out to the street.

4. Stupid drunk guy who thought there might be money in the cash register.

Dish Network’s Internet TV Service Could Be Available This Summer

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:04

(Michael Cote)

(Michael Cote)

While a number of companies have been contemplating the launch of an Internet-only pay-TV service, it looks like Dish may be the first U.S. provider to do so, as reports say the satellite company is looking to start offering this stand-alone service as soon as this coming summer.

According to Bloomberg, Dish has been telling the networks that it is targeting a late summer start for the online TV option, which would be separate from its current satellite TV service.

The ground was laid for the service earlier this year when Dish and Disney announced a deal that would limit Dish subscribers’ ability to auto-skip ads on Disney-owned ABC programming in exchange for online streaming rights to Disney properties. In addition to ABC and the Disney-branded networks, the company owns several other cable channels, most notably the ESPN slate of sports programming.

Getting Disney on board was key, as it provides at least the impression of stability. Other, smaller content providers are reportedly demanding that Dish make deals with at least two of the big four broadcast networks before they will sign on.

CBS, which has sued Dish over its ad-skipping DVR, may not be an easy sell, but Comcast-owned NBC could be the next network to sign on. When Comcast purchased NBC, it promised regulators to provide comparable programming “on terms that are economically equivalent” to those of its competition. So what needs to be hammered out is what would be an equivalent amount for to Dish to pay Comcast for a slate of channels comparable to what it’s getting from Disney.

Comcast may also be pushed to make a deal as it would help to give the impression to regulators that the company welcomes competition in the pay-TV market.

We’re a bit skeptical of the late-summer start date, but look forward to eventually seeing what channels Dish will offer and what price it will charge. Additionally, with net neutrality still being rebuilt like the Bionic Man in a secret FCC lab under the Potomac River, will cable-owned ISPs flex their muscle to throttle a service that goes head to head with their service?

Man Claims He Rang Up $135K Strip Club Bill Because He Was Drugged — 4 Different Nights

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:00



It’s one thing to have a wild and crazy night where you wake up and think, “Hmm, maybe some things happened last night that I don’t remember,” but to ring up over $100,000 at the same strip club and then claim you were drugged — four nights out of 10? That might be a tougher tale to tell convincingly.

Here’s how it went down: A New York City cardiologist shared a corporate credit card with his father, who one day noticed about $135,000 in charges at a strip club, spread over four nights in a 10-day period, reports the New York Daily News.

That’s when Cardiologist Jr. said he had never stepped inside the strip club, but if he did, well then, he must have been drugged, court papers say. Yes, drugged four different times.

“He was coherent until he saw the bill,” joked the club’s manager.

The club is now suing the repeat customer for stiffing the joint, saying he “voluntarily came to plaintiff’s place of business and requested that plaintiff provide him with food, beverages and services.”

But when Cardiologist Jr. saw the bills, he “contested the charges alleging that he was drugged by plaintiff’s employees and thus did not authorize the charges and/or he was not at plaintiff’s place of business on the aforesaid dates.”

The club says it has him on video on all four dates in question, so it must just be the mysterious, villainous repeat drugger at work.

“We get a lot of very wealthy people here. You can run up a bill,” the club’s owner said, adding that it’s very rare for someone to not pay, however.

New Jersey cardiologist racks up $135K bill during four trips to Scores strip club — but he claims he was drugged during each visit: suit [New York Daily News]

Mailman Sentenced To Six Months In Prison For Failing To Deliver 44,900 Pieces Of Mail

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:00



You know that feeling you get when you see the day’s mail is just a collection of junk — circulars, promotional postcards and credit card offers? One mailman felt that same frustration, only it just made him want to not have to deliver all that stuff and just hide it in his dead mother’s home and a storage facility — about 44,900 pieces of it, all told.

“He wanted to speed up his route,” the city police captain who arrested him last year in a western Kentucky town tells The Courier-Journal. “I think he was lazy.”

The mail carrier had been working for five years when he was arrested on a tip from the owner of the storage facility where he was stashing much of the mail. The owner saw crates inside labeled “U.S. Posal Service” and called both the cops and the postmaster.

Police first found mail in his mother’s house and said that the man insisted that was the only mail he stashed, when that wasn’t true. Officials also said he destroyed about 1,000 additional pieces — most of which were advertising circulars.

But his lawyer said the man was going through a divorce, had kids to take care of and would simply “store” his mail if he couldn’t finish delivering it.

“It’s not that he was stealing anything from it,” his lawyer said, pointing out that that’s just a small part of the 1.2 million pieces he was responsible for. So… the odds are supposed to be in his favor?

For his two years of dumping and destroying mail, he was sentenced by the chief U.S. district judge to six months in jail as well as six months on home incarceration.

He would’ve likely gotten a two-year sentence under federal sentencing guidelines, but the judge said he didn’t steal from the mail and only a few of his 250 recipients on his route lost money. He’s also ordered to pay $14,808 in restitution to local residents, a bank and two other businesses for their losses.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said, “We take the sanctity of the U.S. mail very seriously and the Postal Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who violates that trust.”

And yes, everyone is calling this guy Newman, because:

Kentucky mailman hid mail in dead mom’s house [The Courier-Journal]