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The Consumerist

Your Car From 1999 Or After Doesn’t Need A Tune-Up

Tue, 2014-09-30 19:00



Most people who drive learn the essentials of driving, traffic, car maintenance, and road rage skills from their parents. That’s what parents are for: to pass on their wisdom as well as their bad habits. We also pick up bad or outdated information along the way, like the requirement to change our oil every 3,000 miles. Or the belief that cars need frequent tune-ups.

If your car is more than 15 years old or so, yes, you do need to tune it up. That includes adjustments of parts that newer cars don’t even have, like the carburetor, and replacing spark plugs and the condenser as they wear out. Spark plugs in newer cars, meanwhile, last for up to 100,000 miles.

If you want to keep your car running efficiently and prolong its life, consult the maintenance schedule in the manual and do what’s recommended unless you have a compelling reason not to. Don’t visit your mechanic and ask for a “tune-up” unless your car is of the proper age, unless you want to broadcast that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

You probably don’t need a tune-up [Consumer Reports]
Reality check on car-care myths [Consumer Reports]

Lay’s Confirms Those Bright Green Chips Are Meant To Look Like That

Tue, 2014-09-30 18:34

(via Reddit)

(via Reddit)

Imagine you open up a bag of Lay’s Barbecue potato chips and, among the expected rust-colored discs of fried tubers you find a pair of bright green chips that look like some sort of St. Patrick’s Day gimmick. Turns out these chips are supposed to look like that; they just shouldn’t have ended up in your bag.

A Reddit user posted the above photo yesterday, along with the comment that “these chips were dyed incorrectly.”

But then someone who claims to work at Lay’s and seems to know what they are talking about chimed in with this completely reasonable sounding explanation:

Actually, these chips were dyed with green food coloring so they’d be easy to find coming out of the fryer. Several times a day the amount of time the chips spend in the fryer is tested, and this makes them easy to find. Someone missed them obviously.

Sounds good — you don’t want to mix in the tester chips with the finished product, so you dye them green for easy detection later down the line.

But was it true? After all, you don’t need to provide your work credentials to post to Reddit, and anyone can claim to be a Lay’s employee if they want to. So just to make sure, we checked with parent company PepsiCo, where a Lay’s rep confirmed:

“The explanation provided by the self-identified employee is correct. We do use dyed chips to help test frying times of cooking oil in our manufacturing plants.”

So there you have it. Next time you get a bright green Lay’s chip, you’re (probably) not hallucinating, and (probably) won’t hallucinate if you eat it.

Failure To Read Hotspot Fine Print Could Lead To Signing Away Rights To Your Firstborn Child

Tue, 2014-09-30 18:23

(pedestrian photographer)

(pedestrian photographer)

How carefully do you read those terms and conditions that pop up when you use a WiFi hotspot you’re unfamiliar with? Not quite carefully enough, it seems, as one group doing an experiment on the security risks of public WiFi found at least six people who unwittingly gave away their firstborn children in the process of getting online.

The European law enforcement agency Europol teamed with security researchers to set up a WiFi hotspot in London this summer, reports The Guardian, and buried some interesting terms in the fine print to sign on to the free network.

Included in the terms was a “Herod clause,” which granted free WiFi access if “the recipient agreed to assign their first born child to us for the duration of eternity.”

Six people will now have to hand their firstborn kids over to Rumpelstiltskin.

Just kidding, no one is going to take any babies for Wifi.

“We have yet to enforce our rights under the terms and conditions but, as this is an experiment, we will be returning the children to their parents,” wrote the security company, F-Score, in its report, adding that its legal advisor “points out that – while terms and conditions are legally binding – it is contrary to public policy to sell children in return for free services, so the clause would not be enforceable in a court of law.”

The experiment was aimed at highlighting just how serious people should take their own security while using public WiFi not protected by a password.

When the Herod clause was removed during another part of the experiment, 33 devices connected to the portable hotspot of unknown origin — which could be an easy way to let hackers in to your network, researchers say.

“It‘s a particularly disturbing development as recent research has shown that individuals can be accurately identified by using just the last four access points where they have logged on,” F-Secure’s report read.

The group advised using VPN software to encrypt data coming in and out of your device, or to turn off WiFi when in public and near untrusted hotspots, and to practice spinning straw into gold.

Londoners give up eldest children in public Wi-Fi security horror show [The Guardian]

FCC Repeals Sports Blackout Rule, But Blackouts Will Continue

Tue, 2014-09-30 18:15



Calling the NFL on its bluff to move its broadcast games to cable, the FCC voted unanimously this morning to repeal the outdated sports blackout rule that prevented the airing of certain games that weren’t sold out. Though it doesn’t mean the end of blackouts.

The rule, established in 1975, was created to curb the leeching of ticket sales from the growing market for televised sporting events. Most sports leagues have moved almost entirely to pay-TV and have privately negotiated blackout arrangements among themselves.

The NFL remains the only league where the overwhelming majority of in-market games are aired on broadcast TV, but even then only a few games a season even come close to being blacked out.

Last season, only two NFL games were blacked out in their home markets during the entire season.

The NFL also adjusted its rules in recent years to lower the bar for what triggers a blackout. This allows teams in struggling markets to continue airing games while not selling out completely. It also doesn’t put a huge burden on teams with new, mega-stadiums to fill up every seat in the huge house.

Since there is nothing preventing the NFL from negotiating blackout guidelines with the networks and cable operators, the FCC didn’t really see any reason that the 39-year-old rule should continue to be in place.

“It is the leagues that control whether sports fans can watch the games they want to watch,” said FCC Chair Tom Wheeler at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “For 40 years, these teams have hidden behind a rule of the FCC. No more… It’s a simple fact, the federal government should not be party to sports teams keeping their fans from viewing the games, period.”

The NFL’s threat to move games to pay-TV is nothing but hot air.

1. Basic cable does not offer the ratings that broadcast TV does.
Not every game could be on ESPN or some other national, high-profile sports network. So the games would have to be aired on regional sports channels, resulting in a huge drop in ratings. No local cable sports channel is going to get $620K for a 30-second ad.

2. It’s counter to the league’s recent strategy.
The NFL Network, which is widely available to most pay-TV customers on a non-premium basis, had such horrible ratings that the league made a deal with CBS to start airing Thursday night games. Why would the NFL revert to basic cable?

3. It would be absolutely pointless.
Assume for a moment that Roger “What tape?” Goodell makes good on the threat to take his games and run to basic cable. What does he gain? Nothing. Those 1-3 games a year that are currently blacked out will continue to be under-attended. Meanwhile, ad revenues are slashed and viewership drops. All so the league can protest the repeal of a 39-year-old rule that it doesn’t need.

[via Reuters]

Media Companies Afraid To Show FCC Their Comcast Contracts Because Rivals Might Learn Their Secrets

Tue, 2014-09-30 18:15



It’s no secret that media companies are pretty worried about the repercussions of letting Comcast and Time Warner Cable merge. But what is a big secret are the agreements that those companies have with Comcast and TWC right now. They’re so secret, in fact, that networks are refusing to share any data with the FCC because they’re afraid their rivals might benefit from it. And that’s a problem, because without that data, the FCC is missing one of the key tools it should have in its toolbox as it evaluates the merger.

The FCC has been asking companies to share contract and negotiation information to help them make an informed decision about the merger, but the networks so far aren’t budging, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Comcast/TWC deal would give the combined company extraordinary reach around the nation, which in turn would give it both the ability and the incentive to behave in shady, perhaps even extortionate ways with suppliers.

In this case, the suppliers are cable content companies and broadcast networks, like CBS, Fox, Disney, Discovery, Viacom, and Time Warner (not TWC but the other, HBO-and-CNN-owning one). Those companies have expressed strong concerns about their ability to conduct business in good faith (and at reasonable rates) with the impending cable Voltron.

The discussion has essentially descended into name-calling. In an FCC filing, Comcast accused media companies of attempted extortion; several of those companies shot back that Comcast’s tactic of trying to intimidate opposition is “troubling.”

The FCC is tasked with trying to decouple reality from rhetoric, and theoretically acting on the former. In order to evaluate Comcast’s negotiating tactics, the FCC needs to be able to take a look at those negotiations. The Commission can’t determine if Comcast’s behavior is harmful and anticompetitive, or just aggressive and profit-driven, without any actual evidence. And the content companies are deeply unwilling to let the FCC have a look.

Carriage negotiations, and the contracts programming distributors sign with the networks, are as top-secret as anything in the media world gets. We have rough understandings of these deals — research firms, for example, are able to conclude with reasonable accuracy that ESPN costs cable companies about $6 per subscriber per month — but the actual details are kept firmly under wraps.

FCC filings frequently have “confidential” and “highly confidential” information redacted for public viewing, but under the Commission’s current proposal, any relevant third party that has signed the appropriate nondisclosure agreement can view the originals — with all that highly sensitive information intact.

Although to some small degree the content companies may be willing to roll with the mindset that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” as they stand against Comcast, the fact is that they are all deeply in competition with each other. The concern, therefore, is that if Network A submits their contract and negotiation documents, that rival networks B through Q can read them and learn all that top-secret information.

The WSJ reports that the media companies suggested an alternative strategy, used earlier in the Comcast/NBCU merger. In that case, the Justice Department, currently reviewing the merger for antitrust concerns, would have all of the information and the FCC could access it from there. However, because of the way the FCC merger review process works, it’s not clear whether the Commission would be permitted to take that non-public information into account.

In the end, the broadcasters may just be shooting themselves in the collective foot. They want concessions and guarantees of future good behavior from Comcast, but the FCC can’t help them without information and it’s up to them to give the FCC that information. If they can’t or won’t demonstrate the ways that Comcast throws its clout around, then the FCC may have to assume that all is well.

FCC Asks Media Firms for Details of Comcast Contracts [Wall Street Journal]

American Consumers Now Have The Most Debt Ever

Tue, 2014-09-30 17:26

(Jeff Gates)

(Jeff Gates)

Did the recent recession make consumers realize that carrying large amounts of debt for their credit card and car purchases is a bad thing? No, Americans have not adopted widespread frugality, a report from the Federal Reserve shows. We’re taking on more consumer debt than ever. Yes, even when you adjust it for inflation.

Of course, here’s the catch: when you hear the phrase “consumer debt,” you might think that includes commercial spending like purchases of appliances, cars, and anything that you can put on a credit card. That’s true. While the total doesn’t include home mortgage debt, which peaked in 2007, it does include one type of debt that you might not think of as “consumer spending.”

The Fed’s numbers also include student loans, though. As a nation, we’ve been taking out about $100 billion in student loan debt per year. While people are paying down and paying off their loans, the outstanding total increases every year. While college tuition and fee increases have outpaced inflation in recent years, that’s a huge debt increase.

Americans who put off buying new cars during the recession are apparently doing so, since outstanding auto loans have increased significantly since 2009. Back then, we were actually decreasing the amount of debt we had for cars, paying down a collective $60 billion or so in 2009.

Financial Accounts of the United States 2Q 2014 [Federal Reserve]
Consumer Debt Hits an All-Time High [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Tetris Is Being Made Into A Live-Action Movie For Some Reason

Tue, 2014-09-30 17:10

Dooo dooo dooo dooo do do do do do, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo do do.

Dooo dooo dooo dooo do do do do do, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo do do.

Perhaps in a quest to ensure that a new generation of people will go to sleep every night with shapes floating behind their eyelids, someone is making a full-length live-action movie of the popular 1980s video game, Tetris. Aaaaaaaand cue that song that never fails to get in your head.

Yes, a Tetris movie, and no, this is not a joke, at least not as reported by the Wall Street Journal: A company called Threshold Entertainment is working with the Tetris Company to create a movie based on the game.

There’s already a plot, and apparently it doesn’t involve people dodging giant blocks falling from the sky, which is really the only storyline that comes to mind.

“It’s a very big, epic sci-fi movie,” Threshold’s CEO Larry Kasanoff told the WSJ. “This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.”

He’s got some street cred in the game-to-movie realm, as he adapted Mortal Kombat games into two big screen flicks back in the 1990s.

Besides, it’s all about cashing in on the name Tetris made for itself by being the best distraction a graphing calculator could hold for bored high schoolers pretending to pay attention before there were mobile devices with more than one game on them.

“Brands are the new stars of Hollywood,” Kasanoff explains. “We have a story behind ‘Tetris’ which makes it a much more imaginative thing.”

Apparently aliens will also enjoy Tetris the movie, as he adds that the flick will be just “the teeny tip of an iceberg that has intergalactic significance.”

Not to mention, the soundtrack is probably going to be implanted in your brains forever.

A ‘Tetris’ Movie Is in the Works (Exclusive) [Wall Street Journal]

Home Depot Pepper Spray Spat Sends 4 To Hospital

Tue, 2014-09-30 17:03

homedepotpeppersprayThe good news: It’s a Home Depot story that doesn’t involve your credit or debit card information being stolen. The not-so-good news: More than a dozen people at a California Home Depot had to be treated after a customer decided that it would be a good idea to use pepper spray on another customer.

According to KTLA-TV, four people were hospitalized and another dozen were treated by emergency responders following an incident inside a Covina, CA, Depot on Monday.

It’s unclear exactly what happened, but two men inside the store — who apparently had some sort of previous business arrangement with each other — began arguing and one of them let loose with the pepper spray.

He claims he was defending himself, and maybe that’s the case. What’s known for sure is that people were having trouble breathing, the store was evacuated, 9-1-1 responders in hazmat suits showed up, and the pepper-sprayer was arrested on charges of suspicion of unlawful possession and use of a tear gas weapon.

The man was allegedly carrying an illegally large amount of pepper spray on him, which may explain why it was able to spread throughout the store and affect so many people.

The store was reopened about two hours after authorities were first called to the scene.

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Woman Pulled Over For Drunk Driving Admits She Was Trying To Find Pizza Online

Tue, 2014-09-30 16:28

(Studio d'Xavier)

(Studio d’Xavier)

We as a society are trying so hard to fight distracted driving by warning about the dangers of using your phone while you’re behind the wheel — but it seems we have to expand the message from “Don’t text/use social media/email” while driving to also include, “Don’t try to order pizza online while you maneuver a huge hunk of metal through the world.” And don’t drink and drive on top of that (or at all).

Police in Louisville say they pulled over a woman who was driving erratically at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, reports, swerving in and out of her lane.

So they pulled her over on suspicion of driving under the influence, whereupon they found she smelled like booze and had glossy eyes. She admitted to drinking half a bottle of wine and a beer. And pulled up on her phone’s web browser? The Domino’s Pizza site, as she’d apparently been trying to find a place to buy pizza.

She was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and a communications device violation.

We hope she was given another reminder: That drinking half a bottle of wine and trying to get some pizza in your belly isn’t bad at all — if you’re safely ensconced on your couch binge-watching online TV into the wee hours of the morning, without the power to kill every other person on the road near you while you seek drunk food.

Louisville woman accused of surfing the Web on phone while driving drunk []

AT&T, Where “Congestion” & Data Caps Only Apply To Existing Users

Tue, 2014-09-30 16:14

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

Ever since AT&T and Verizon got rid of unlimited wireless plans, both companies have used the questionable excuse of “congestion,” claiming that throttling data after remaining unlimited users pass an arbitrary threshold was necessary to keep data flowing. But in plans announced over the weekend, AT&T is effectively once again offering unlimited data (for a limited time) to new customers, which makes one wonder — what happened to all that congestion?

The Death Star announced over the weekend that it was doubling the data allotments of its mobile share value plans through Oct. 31. So an account that currently gives users 15GB of shared data will get you 30GB; this goes up through the current 50GB plan, which doubles to 100GB during the promotion.

The offer only lasts through Halloween, but AT&T claims that users will get access to the doubled data for the life of the plan.

So again, if AT&T claims it needed to stop offering new unlimited plans because data hogs were causing too much congestion, how can the company now justify giving away all this extra data for free to new customers?

Easy: An overwhelming majority of the people that buy into these double-data plans will never even come close to using up the data allotments of the same plans before they were doubled. Most wireless customers still don’t use more than 2-3GB/month in wireless data.

AT&T, much like Sprint did recently with its new “here’s a bunch of data you’ll never use” plans, is selling the illusion of getting more value out of your plan.

Here’s an analogy. I’m not a big carrot fan, but I occasionally buy them to use in certain recipes. I’m often left with a carrot or two that goes unused because I simply don’t have that much carrot time in my life. Would I get any more value if the grocer said to me, “For the same price, I’ll double the amount of carrots you get!”? No, it would just mean more carrots going in the compost heap when they ultimately go unused.

Okay, so if wireless companies can give away all this data because they know that customers will never use it, why is AT&T still using the “congestion” argument to throttle the few remaining unlimited users? Does it seem right that an unlimited customer should have access to less data than a customer with a finite data allotment?

Of course it doesn’t. But what’s right or sensible isn’t always what makes the most money for AT&T. The company doesn’t want those legacy unlimited subscribers anymore. It wants them on tiered data plans, where it knows exactly how much each customer can use each month and how much it can charge these customers for going over those limits.

“AT&T’s ability to give far more unthrottled data to new subscribers than it provides to its longest-standing customers, the ones who specifically pay for unlimited data, illustrates how arbitrary the limits are,” writes Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin.

In August, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler said he was “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s decision to start throttling its remaining unlimited subscribers during periods of alleged congestion on its LTE network.

Verizon argues that the throttling is permitted under the FCC’s allowances for “reasonable network management,” but Wheeler contends, “I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as ‘reasonable network management’ a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for ‘unlimited’ service.”

Group Claims World Record For Hawaiian Dish Made With 1,126 Pounds Of Rice, Hamburger, Eggs & Gravy

Tue, 2014-09-30 15:56

A much smaller version of the dish. (Kimubert)

A much smaller version of the dish. (Kimubert)

We are all about reaching for the stars and daring to dream your biggest dreams, folks, especially if it includes many, many feet of bratwurst or working together to create a 1,126-pound world record attempt for a dish containing rice, hamburger, eggs and gravy.

You might not be familiar with loco moco, a dish popular in Hawaii, but there’s no getting around how crazy the idea of more than a thousand pounds of ingredients sounds.

That’s what it took to get the world record, which a restaurant chef and volunteers say they did with their massive moco loco dish over the weekend, reports the Associated Press.

Guinness World Records says the dish would’ve had to be at least 1,100 pounds for consideration, and it certainly sounds like the moco loco gang have delivered: They used 600 pounds of rice, 200 pounds of ground beef, 300 scrambled eggs and 200 pounds of gravy.

Though some critics said the egg should be fried over easy instead of scrambled, the idea of frying 300 eggs was likely a bit daunting. And in the end it did take a while — the crew worked for 3.5 hours to make the moco loco, which was then donated to charity to feed the homeless.

Crew makes 1,126-pound bowl of Hawaii rice dish [Associated Press]

Toyota Recalls 690,000 Tacoma Pickups For Rear Suspension Issue That Could Lead To Fire

Tue, 2014-09-30 15:53



For the third time this year Toyota issued a recall for one of its most popular models. The manufacturer is calling back 690,000 Tacoma pickup trucks for an issue with the rear suspension.

USA Today reports the recall applies to model year 2005 to 2011 Tacoma 4×4 and Pre-Runner trucks.

Officials with Toyota report the vehicles have rear leaf springs that could be subject to corrosion, leading to a fracture. If a fracture occurs one of the plates could slide out of position and puncture the gas tank. That could then lead to a fuel lead and increased risk of fire.

Toyota is not aware of any fires, crashes,injuries or fatalities related to the issue.

Owners of affected vehicles will be notified by mail and Toyota dealers will fix the issue at no cost.

This is the second time the manufacturer has been in the news this week. Yesterday the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would examine nearly 160 consumer complaints about unattended acceleration in Toyota Corolla vehicles.

Toyota recalls 690,000 Tacoma pickups [USA Today]

Know Your Crowdfunding Platforms: Missions, Fees, And Rules

Tue, 2014-09-30 15:30

(Eric Spiegel)

(Eric Spiegel)

You have an idea, or you have an urgent financial need, and you want to turn to the Internet to make funding happen. Or let’s say some acquaintance is asking for money on Facebook for what seems like a cool project or worthy cause, but you wonder: what the heck is an “indie go go?” Why is the site itself asking me for a donation, too?

These are the major sites you’re likely to see in the categories of fundraising for business and creative projects, and in personal fundraising for a need. Crowdfunding is a growing category, and there are entire sites dedicated to the topic of keeping track of what’s going on at different crowdfunding platforms. You can even pay a crowdfunding consultant to help you sort through it all.


What it’s for: Kickstarter projects need a defined scope and have to result in some kind of tangible project. That can be a book, a new website, a beloved public television show, or some potato salad. Backers are supposed to receive some kind of reward in return, even if it’s just a Twitter shout-out or “good karma.”

What it isn’t for: Charity fundraising, political fundraising, or funding the development of a new invention when you don’t already have a prototype.

Forbidden rewards: Among other things, you can’t promise backers financial rewards (like stock in your company or cash once the project sells), energy drinks or food, alcohol, porn, genetically modified organisms, contest entries, tobacco, drugs, weapons, or any product condoning hate speech or violence.

Who can pay? Anyone on Earth who has a major credit or debit card.

What if a project doesn’t reach its goal? The project isn’t funded, and backers don’t have to pay.

What’s their cut? Kickstarter takes a 5% fee off the total, and Amazon Payments takes about 3% if you live in the United States, and up to 5% if you don’t.

What if the rewards never show up, or are terrible? That’s an ongoing controversy. Kickstarter says that it’s officially out of their hands once the person behind a project receives the money, but that people who run campaigns have an obligation to their backers.

Where you’ve heard of it: Here on Consumerist, for starters, when project backers are left empty-handed or during that whole potato salad thing. Lots of big-name projects that could have used traditional funding models have also used Kickstarter, like the reboot of the public television program “Reading Rainbow,” or Zach Braff’s latest incredibly self-indulgent movie.

Can you fundraise for a nonprofit? Anyone can set up a campaign for a creative project, but charity fundraisers aren’t allowed, and tax receipts for backers aren’t available.


What it’s for: Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo is intended for a defined project, but the definition of “project” is looser than Kickstarter. It’s hard to mistake a campaign for a store when you get, for example, a keychain for sending $50 to support a school in Chile, or a drawing of a dog if you donate $50 toward his surgery. “Perks” for backers are not required.

What it isn’t for: You can’t raise money to scam people, to do anything illegal, to make something impossible, or to harm other people.

Forbidden perks: Alcohol’s out, but vouchers that can be exchanged for it are allowed. No drugs, weapons, or hate speech. Equity, capital, money, and lottery entries aren’t allowed. The ban on air travel as a reward must have an interesting story behind it. GMOs are apparently okay, though.

Who can pay? Anyone with a major credit or debit card or a PayPal account.

What if a project doesn’t reach its goal? There are two funding models. With fixed funding, the goal must be raised before the deadline. With flexible funding, the campaign owners get whatever is money is raised by the deadline. There’s a catch to flexible funding, though…

What’s their cut? For a fixed or flexible funding campaign that reaches its goal, IndieGoGo takes 4%. If the campaign raises less than the goal, they take 9% of what you did raise. On top of this, credit card or PayPal fees will take 3-5% depending on method and where you live. There’s a $25 wire fee if you want money wired to you instead.

What if the rewards never show up, or are terrible? IndieGoGo will provide backers with a campaign owner’s contact information, but there are no refunds.

Where you’ve heard of it: Cartoonist Matthew “The Oatmeal” Inman of used Indiegogo to raise $1.37 million to build a Nikola Tesla museum, and over the summer one controversial campaign raised $2.2 million to pave some roads in Idaho with solar arrays.

Can you fundraise for a nonprofit? Yes, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits can verify themselves on the site and run their own campaigns. Verified charities get a fee discount to 3%.


What it’s for: They bill themselves as a fundraising site rather than a crowdfunding site. It’s simple: you set a goal, share the URL, and people send you money. You can withdraw the money whenever you want.

Who can pay? Anyone with a major credit or debit card or WePay account. You can withdraw into a PayPal account, but the site doesn’t accept PayPal for donations.

What’s their cut? GoFundMe takes 5% of all donations, and there’s also a processing fee that varies by country, from 1.75% to 2.9%. There’s also a 30 cent fee for each donation. Verified not-for-profit donations go through FirstGiving, which charges 4.75% on top of GoFundMe’s fees.

Where you’ve heard of it: GoFundMe campaigns tend to be personal, aimed at people who know the recipient. Your cousin or neighbor or friend has probably set up a campaign and posted it on Facebook. You may have heard of a young girl who raised money there to make a prototype intravenous infusion backpack for children with cancer.

Can you fundraise for a nonprofit? Yes, but you have to pay 4.75% in processing fees to FirstGiving to make your campaign tax-deductible.


What it’s for: They’re a site for personal and nonprofit fundraisers. Donations go straight into recipients’ PayPal or WePay accounts.

Who can pay? Anyone with a major credit or debit card or WePay account.

What’s their cut? YouCaring has a unique business model: it doesn’t charge recipients any fees, but instead asks donors for a “suggested donation” of about 5% of the total they’re giving ($1 minimum) to run the site. These are optional, but the site adds them automatically.

Where you’ve heard of it: Campaigns asking for money tend to be personal and aimed at people who know the recipient. One large campaign with thousands of donors raised money for a trust fund for the children of an Army officer killed in Afghanistan.

Can you fundraise for a nonprofit? Charities can set up campaigns, but there’s no process for verified or registered nonprofits.

eBay To Spin Off PayPal So They Can Compete Against Each Other For Worst Company Title

Tue, 2014-09-30 15:10

paypal-logo-transparent1For years, we’ve had to lump eBay and PayPal into a single listing in the Worst Company In America brackets. But next year, these two big brands might have the chance to square off against each other for the title, as eBay announced this morning that it is spinning off PayPal into its own publicly traded business.

“Creating two standalone businesses best positions eBay and PayPal to capitalize on their respective growth opportunities in the rapidly changing global commerce and payments landscape, and is the best path for creating sustainable shareholder value,” reads a statement from eBay about the conscious uncoupling.

eBay acquired PayPal in 2002. The payment processing service now represents about 41% of eBay’s net revenue last year.

The company had until very recently been fighting the idea of spinning off PayPal, saying that the synergy of processing eBay transactions through a business owned by eBay had worked like gangbusters for more than a decade so why stop now?

But activist shareholders, led by billionaire Carl Icahn, have pushed for the split, arguing that the two businesses would operate more efficiently as separate entities. They feared that major online retailers and others would be reluctant to work with PayPal as a processing option because of its corporate link to eBay.

Those in favor of the spin-off pointed out that only about 1/3 of the $203 billion in transactions that PayPal processed last year came through eBay. They contend that a standalone PayPal could continue to do that same level of business with eBay while also expanding its options to make even more money with retailers that compete with eBay.

“[A] thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively,” explains eBay CEO John Donahoe, who will step down when the split is finalized during the second half of 2015. “As independent companies, eBay and PayPal will enjoy added flexibility to pursue new market and partnership opportunities. And we are confident following a thorough assessment of the relationships between eBay and PayPal that operating agreements can maintain synergies going forward. Our board and management team believe that putting eBay and PayPal on independent paths in 2015 is best for each business and will create additional value for our shareholders.”

[via DealBook]

This Supermarket Poster Was Not Meant To Be Seen By The Public

Tue, 2014-09-30 14:38

(Twitter user @mynameischrisd)

(Twitter user @mynameischrisd)

We all know that businesses have motivational signs and slogans that managers use out of sight of the public. But someone at this supermarket is probably going to get the boot after posting a sign on the front window encouraging employees to wring more cash out of customers.

Twitter user Chris Dodd noticed the above poster in the front window of a Sainsbury’s store in London.

Titled “Fifty pence challenge,” the poster asks workers at the store to “encourage every customer to spend an additional 50p ($.81) during each shopping trip between now and the year-end.”

Now it’s nothing new for a retailer to urge its employees to push upsells and impulse-buys and it’s understood that most of us will politely decline these attempts to squeeze a little more cash from our wallets. But this is one of those social constructs that is not meant to be blatantly spelled out in a poster on the front window of a major supermarket chain.

It also raises the question of how daft an employee and/or manager must be to post that sign without realizing what it was advertising. Unless of course this was a deliberate bird-flip to Sainsbury’s management by a disgruntled worker. In which case, well done.

Interestingly, the poster doesn’t really indicate how employees are supposed to succeed in this “challenge.” It’s not like supermarkets sell extended warranties. Perhaps it’s like those drugstore cashiers who are forced to ask if you want candy with your bottle of Pepto-Bismol?

Sainsbury’s isn’t saying. It’s responses to Dodd’s Tweets have been more about making sure the sign gets taken down than answering questions about the challenge it promotes.

This Sounds Familiar: Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, ACME, Shaw’s Hit By Second Credit Card Data Breach

Tue, 2014-09-30 04:03

(Ryan Keene)

(Ryan Keene)

When someone wrote me to say there was a data breach at the company behind several major supermarket chains — including Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, ACME, Star Markets, and Shaw’s — I thought, “That happened about six weeks ago, didn’t it?” Alas, the company has announced it is the victim of a new, separate attack.

AB Acquisition LLC is the name of the company, which probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but its various supermarket brands are well known around the country.

It announced late on Monday afternoon that its IT services provider SUPERVALU had notified it of a more recent “attempted criminal intrusion” from hackers trying to obtain credit/debit card information from these stores.

According to AB Acquisition, this is a different strain of malware than the one that compromised the stores’ payment systems from late June through mid-July of this year. So this is like getting over the norovirus only to find out you’ve got enterovirus.

No specific dates were given for this latest lapse in security, though AB puts the timeframe of “late August or early September” on it. Authority and credit card networks have been notified and an investigation is ongoing.

So what was stolen?

Again, no one knows for sure, but AB says hackers may have been able to steal card numbers, expiration dates, other numerical information and the cardholders’ names.

“At this time there has not been a determination that any payment card data was in fact stolen as a result of either incident,” reads a statement from AB Acquisitions. “Measures have been taken to prevent further use of this new and different malware in the affected store locations. We are also implementing additional measures to enhance the protection of customer payment card data.”

Fool us once, shame on someone. Fool us twice, we shop elsewhere.

Which stores were hit?

Albertsons: Stores in Southern California, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Southern Utah were impacted.

AB Acquisitions says that Albertsons in the following states were NOT hit: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas; and two Super Saver Foods Stores in Northern Utah.

ACME: Stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey were affected.

Jewel-Osco: Stores in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana were compromised.

Shaw’s and Star Markets: Stores in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island were affected by this new incident.

“We take our responsibility to protect our customers’ payment card data seriously,” said AB Acquisition CEO Bob Miller, who is probably not planning any big purchases in his future. “We sincerely regret that our customers’ data was targeted.”

I’m sure your customers really thank you for your regret.

The company has posted an FAQ on each of its various stores’ websites.

Mysterious Salmonella Outbreak Had Innocent Victims: Tomatoes

Mon, 2014-09-29 23:53



We like to share news of product, food, and vehicle recalls, because keeping our readers free from fire, illness, and injury is very important to us. However, every recall and warning of potentially contaminated food has hidden victims. Sometimes those victims are vegetables left to rot in the fields, and the farmers who were supposed to sell them.

Back in 2008, there was an outbreak of salmonellosis across the country. More than a 1,200 people were proven to be infected with this particular strain of Salmonella. That means that many more may have also been infected but showed no symptoms, or they weren’t sick enough to visit a doctor or a hospital to have samples taken. At least 286 people were hospitalized with this strain, and two people may have died from it.

At the time, the outbreak was confusing for investigators and frightening to the public because authorities couldn’t figure out which food was the culprit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eventually concluded that the outbreak may have been caused by jalapeño and serrano peppers grown in Mexico, but the first suspects were tomatoes.

The federal Food and Drug Administration put out a warning to Americans in certain states to avoid eating some kinds of tomatoes raw. Not surprisingly, tomato sales nationwide fell. Farmers whose tomatoes were set to ripen just as that warning was issued suddenly had nowhere to sell them. Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed one farmer who let 80% of his crop rot, and was part of a lawsuit against the federal government that a judge recently dismissed. Yes, this outbreak happened six years ago, and the dismissal came just a few weeks ago.

“I couldn’t even give [the tomatoes] away,” the farmer in Florida told Businessweek. Meanwhile, inspectors from the FDA visited his farm and took samples, but found no signs of contamination. Eventually, the FDA lifted the tomato warning, but that came well after many farmers’ entire crop rotted on the vine.

The culprit was peppers from Mexico. Maybe. They think. All the authorities know is that people stopped coming down with salmonellosis from this strain, and they declared the outbreak to be over.

It’s not over for the tomato farmers, though: they plan to appeal their lawsuit.

Rotten Tomatoes: Farmers Pay the Price for a False Food-Safety Warning [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul Infections Linked to Raw Produce (Final Update) [CDC]

Tourists Rent Car, Get Free Snake In The Trunk

Mon, 2014-09-29 23:14

carpython“Free ball python with every car rental” might appeal to some customers as a promotion, but it would be an expensive one, and most customers probably wouldn’t be interested. Two tourists found a free surprise python in the trunk of the car they had rented at Logan airport in Boston and drove to their motel in Maine. The good news? The snake was alive and unharmed, and its owner has already been found.

Still, the women were clearly alarmed to find a snake in the car’s trunk, and they had motel staff call 911. (They didn’t talk to reporters about the incident.) Local police used a pillowcase to remove the snake from the car, and brought it to a nearby pet store equipped to care for a snake of that size.

It turns out that the snake had been hanging out in the vehicle for a few weeks: it escaped from its tank during a previous rental. “We spent about three hours trying to find it and never found it,” the owner told TV station WBZ.

Going on vacation in Maine, hanging out at the Burger King drive-thru: escaped snakes are leading very exciting lives this year. The boa constrictor in the United Kingdom that lurked in the trunk of a used car to surprise the new owner last month didn’t seem to have any fun plans, though.

Women Find Python In Trunk Of Car Rented From Logan Airport [WBZ]

GM: This Is Awkward, But Those Corvette Valet Cams Might Be Illegal

Mon, 2014-09-29 23:11



Having an extra pair of eyes and ears to keep watch over your expensive ride might sound like a wonderful idea, but GM is now warning owners of its new Corvette that those valet nanny cams might be illegal, depending on where you live.

“Valet Mode” allowed owners of the 2015 Corvette to monitor their cars via a camera, which includes cabin audio, as well as turn off the entertainment system and lock storage compartments.

But if you live in one of 11 states where you can only record someone if both parties consent — meaning anyone in the car besides the owner — turning that feature on means breaking the law.

GM sent drivers and dealers a letter telling them to turn off the feature or to ask permission from anyone else in the car before using it, reports CNNMoney.

“U.S. customers have been sent a letter advising that they should not use the ‘Valet Mode,’ or that if they do they should obtain consent from the vehicle’s occupants before they record them in the vehicle,” GM said.

The company said Chevrolet would soon “be making a software update available to remedy this issue.”

As for how that’s done, it’s unclear — maybe disabling it depending on your car’s location or simply not recording people who haven’t given permission?

A poster says the below letter is from GM, and was sent to dealers:

General Manager, Service Advisor, Service Manager, Parts and

Service Director, Parts Manager, New Vehicle Sales Manager,

and Warranty Administrator

This notice is being sent to you regarding 2015 model year Corvettes equipped with the Performance Data Recorder (UQT).

The Performance Data Recorder (UQT) in these vehicles, when used in Valet Mode, allows a customer to record the driving of their Corvette when the vehicle is not in their control. In Valet Mode, the PDR will also record activity and conversations that take place in the vehicle.

To help our customers use the Performance Data Recorder (UQT) consistent with legal requirements that pertain to audio recording devices, we will be requiring a very important update to the system of each affected vehicle in the near future. We expect that the update will be available early next month. At that time, we will provide details about the update and let you know what steps you need to take, if any, to complete the update for vehicles in your inventory.

In the meantime, you must advise any customers who take delivery of an impacted vehicle that they should refrain from using the Valet Mode until the update takes place. If they do use the Valet Mode, they should (i) notify any occupants of the vehicle that they will be recorded while in the vehicle, and (ii) obtain their consent to this recording. It is very important that you explain this to each customer at the time of delivery.

Attached is a copy of a written communication for you to provide to customers to accomplish this notice. We are sending the same communication to customers who have already taken delivery of a Corvette vehicle equipped with PDR.

We greatly appreciate your cooperation in conveying this important information to your customers.

GM fixing problems with Corvette’s ‘nanny cam’ [CNNMoney]

And The Survey Says: ATM, Checking Account Overdraft Fees Aren’t Getting Any Cheaper

Mon, 2014-09-29 22:51

(Todd Kravos)

(Todd Kravos)

While the amount of money banks make in revenue from customer-account fees may be on the decline, a new survey shows that consumers’ overdrafts and out-of-network fees are at an all-time high.

The Associated Press reports that a new checking survey found the average fee for using out-of-network ATMs climbed 5% in the last year to a high of $4.35 per transaction, while average overdraft fees now sit at more than $32.

The average cost of ATM fees increased for the eighth consecutive year.

The average cost of ATM fees increased for the eighth consecutive year.

Generally, using an out-of-network ATM results in consumers being charged two fees: one from the customer’s bank and one from the owner of the ATM.

According to, the average fee banks charge their own customers for going to an outside ATM rose to a new high of $1.58, while the average surcharge that banks charge non-customers at the ATM climbed to $2.77.

In all the average fee for using out-of-network ATMs increased by 23% in the past five years; marking 2014 the eighth year in a row with a new high.

Consumers paid an average of $32.74  in fees for non-sufficient funds this year.

Consumers paid an average of $32.74 in fees for non-sufficient funds this year.

As for overdrafts, found fees increasing by 1.7% to an average of $32.74. The rate marks the 16th consecutive record high.

The increased fees are just one way the banking world has responded to tougher federal banking laws that included limits on when overdraft fees on ATM and debit transactions can be charged.

Bankrate surveyed 10 of the largest banks in 25 large U.S. markets to determine fee increases.

Phoenix recorded the highest average ATM fee, charging $4.96 on average per transaction. On the flip side, Cincinnati had the lowest average fee at $3.75.

Philadelphia had the highest average overdraft fee of $35.80, while San Francisco had the lowest fee with $26.74.

In addition to having a difficult time avoiding rising fees for overdrafts and out-of-network ATM visits, consumers have fewer options when it comes to no-strings checking accounts.

Only 38% of banks in the survey offer free checking. However, many of those banks often waive monthly fees if account holders have their paychecks deposited directly into the account.

Additionally, Bankrate found that the average monthly service fee for a non-interest checking account feel 5% to $5.26 over the last 12 months.

To avoid costly fees, Bankrate suggests consumers use their bank’s websites to find fee-free ATMs or get cash back while using a debit card at the register.

Survey: ATM, Checking Account Overdraft Fees Surge [The Associated Press]