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Mom Sues Target Claiming Humiliating “Walk Of Shame” Upon Firing Led To Son’s Suicide

Mon, 2015-01-26 17:35



A California Target is facing a lawsuit from the family of a former employee who says he took his own life after being forced to participate in a humiliating “walk of shame” through the store in handcuffs.

The woman who filed the lawsuit claims that her late son, a 22-year-old former cashier at the store was shamed in front of his fellow employees when managers allegedly forced him to parade around in cuffs, reports NBC Los Angeles.

That morning, the lawsuit says he was met immediately upon arriving at work and, upon the direction of two of the store’s management staff, he was put in cuffs and led in front of other workers to an office. After allegedly being interrogated, the suit says he was walked back out to a patrol car in handcuffs and fired, but never charged for any crime.

He “was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers,” the suit states and he “had no idea why he was being arrested.”

The lawsuit alleges that this “walk of shame” event is a Target policy “to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target.”

Three days after, he jumped to his death from the roof of a hotel.

“I don’t want any other mother to have to go through what I’ve gone through,” his mother said. “This is my only child.”

Her lawsuit alleges false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Target Corp. headquarters issued a statement offering its condolences to the family, and denied to NBC4 that there is any “walk of shame” policy.

“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual,” a Target spokesman said. “As this is pending litigation, we don’t have further comment at this time.”

“My Only Child”: Mom Sues Target Over Son’s Suicide [NBC4]

Scammers Manipulate Lowe’s Receipt-Checking Policy To Steal $80,000 In Tools

Mon, 2015-01-26 17:24

( function() { var func = function() { var iframe_form = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-form-09bb0111b6472588bed2d6f3c9139866-54c6721077af3'); var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-09bb0111b6472588bed2d6f3c9139866-54c6721077af3'); if ( iframe_form && iframe ) { iframe_form.submit(); iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-09bb0111b6472588bed2d6f3c9139866-54c6721077af3' }, window.location.protocol + '//' ); } } // Autosize iframe var funcSizeResponse = function( e ) { var origin = document.createElement( 'a' ); origin.href = e.origin; // Verify message origin if ( '' !== ) return; // Verify message is in a format we expect if ( 'object' !== typeof || undefined === ) return; switch ( ) { case 'poll_size:response': var iframe = document.getElementById( ); if ( iframe && '' === iframe.width ) iframe.width = '100%'; if ( iframe && '' === iframe.height ) iframe.height = parseInt( ); return; default: return; } } if ( 'function' === typeof window.addEventListener ) { window.addEventListener( 'message', funcSizeResponse, false ); } else if ( 'function' === typeof window.attachEvent ) { window.attachEvent( 'onmessage', funcSizeResponse ); } } if (document.readyState === 'complete') { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ } else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( 'DOMContentLoaded', func, false ); } else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( 'onreadystatechange', func ); } } )(); Many consumers don’t like it when stores check their receipts on the way out of the building, claiming it treats all shoppers like shoplifting suspects. But a trio of scammers had no problem showing their receipt at Lowe’s, running a multi-state shoplifting/return scheme for several months.

According to WAVE3, the men would start out from their home base in the Danville, KY, area and then drive the 90-ish miles to Southern Indiana, swiping stuff from various Lowe’s stores along the way.

But this wasn’t a simple matter of walking out of the store with power tools and hoping no one would notice. No, it actually involved someone first making a legitimate purchase of some pricey equipment.

Once the first scammer had made the purchase, he’d then hand off the receipt to an accomplice, who would head back into that store using that receipt as a shopping list. This second person would then gather up the same items and walk out of the store, showing the receipt as evidence that they’d purchased these products.

Then they would go to another Lowe’s store and use that receipt to return the original, legitimately purchased items for cash before doing it all over again.

Steal, rinse, repeat.

“You’re talking every day, 3-5 stores a day,” explains a detective from Clarksville, IN, where the men were eventually arrested.

Police say that stores began to get wind of a problem in late December, but they believe the scheme had been going on for some time.

“These three individuals had been doing this on a daily basis since the beginning of November,” says the detective.

The suspects say the purpose of the scam was to fund their addictions.

“They admitted that they did have a drug issue and this is why they were doing it,” explains the detective, labeling one of the shoplifters “one of the most honest criminals I’ve ever spoken to in my life.”

Good News: iTunes Isn’t Ditching Free Music After All

Mon, 2015-01-26 17:15

freeonitunesA few weeks ago, iTunes users in different countries noticed that the free downloadable single of the week, a staple in the iTunes music store since it began, was missing from the front page of the store. Where did it go? It turns out that while the free single feature is gone, Apple has made it easier to find a whole page of free downloads.

Apple didn’t answer comment requests from publications (including Consumerist) about the change, so users were left to speculate wildly about where the free stuff had gone. The best explanation was that the company was phasing out downloads of free items altogether in favor of letting users stream new tunes to try them out. This makes sense in the context of Apple’s acquisition of Beats, the headphone and streaming-audio company, but it isn’t the case just yet.

You can reach the free downloads page from this direct link if you’re using a device with iTunes installed on it, and the section is also easy to find from within iTunes. It’s in the same spot where the free single of the week used to be.


Some readers pointed out that the Google Play store also offers free downloads.

Deal With Hershey’s Puts An End To Import Of Cadbury Chocolates

Mon, 2015-01-26 16:52

(Alex Goodey)

(Alex Goodey)

It will soon be more difficult for consumers who prefer the taste of British-made chocolate to get their sweet-tooth fix. A new deal between Hershey’s and Let’s Buy British Imports essentially puts a stop to the import of many iconic British chocolate brands from overseas.

The New York Times reports the two parties agreed to stop the import of all British-produced Cadbury chocolate, as well as KitKat bars, Toffee Crisps and Yorkie chocolate bars after Hershey’s claimed the products infringed on its trademarks and trade dress licensing.

(Once again, don’t worry about not having a Cadbury Creme Egg this Easter. Hershey’s has a license agreement to manufacture Cadbury’s chocolate in the U.S., albeit with a different recipe.)

Officials with Hershey’s say that L.B.B. and other groups were importing the products that were never intended for sale in the United States.

The issue doesn’t come down to the chocolate itself, as chocolate made in Britain has a distinctly different recipe.

For example, the Times reports, British chocolate has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury’s bar, the first ingredient is sugar.

Instead the decision to stop importing the goods from overseas rests on the products’ packaging. Toffee Crisps comes in an orange packaging and yellow-lined brown script, which Hershey’s says too closely resembled that of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, while Yorkie bars could be considered an infringement on the York peppermint patty, the Times reports.

“It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress,” Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey’s tells the Times.

While you would often be hard-pressed to find a British-made chocolate bar in the aisle of your local supermarket, many small, independently owned speciality stores regularly stocked the items.

One British goods retailer tells the Times that the ban on importing the treats will likely put her out of business.

“Cadbury’s is about half of my business,” she says, “and more than that at Christmas. I don’t know how we’ll survive.”

After a Deal, British Chocolates Won’t Cross the Pond [The New York Times]

Burger King Customer Gets Bag Filled With $2,631 Instead Of Chicken Sandwich, Returns It

Mon, 2015-01-26 16:22



When you’re hungry for a chicken sandwich, you’re hungry for a chicken sandwich. But while most people might settle for taking a bag filled with a few thousand bucks in cash, one Burger King drive-thru customer was nice enough to return free money and just take the food instead.

A woman in Rochester, N.H. went through her local Burger King drive-thru and ordered a tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich, reports Foster’s Daily Democrat, and was on her way home when she realized she’d be hungry a little bit longer.

Opening the fast food bag revealed a stash of cash totaling $2,631, which she brought home to check out with her husband. Most of the cash was inside two bank deposit bags.

While the husband admitted, “We are not perfect human beings,” and said they’d considering keeping the surprise cash, they instead opted to return the moolah.

Burger King confirmed the incident but didn’t explain how the money ended up in a food bag instead of the bank. The couple said the workers were grateful to get the loot back.

“One person said ‘they were going to get fired’ so it felt good knowing we helped them keep their jobs,” the woman said, adding that she was offered five free meals in exchange for being so honest.

Couple returns Burger King’s $2,631 deposit [Foster’s Daily Democrat]

Cable Industry Asks FCC To Continue Using Outdated “Broadband” Definition

Mon, 2015-01-26 16:21

(Tim Knifton)

(Tim Knifton)

Currently, a 4Mbps broadband connection — barely enough to stream a single HD movie and insufficient for accessing higher-definition content or for homes with multiple simultaneous data-heavy uses — is considered “broadband” in the eyes of the Federal Communications Commission, though that should change with the FCC’s plan to redefine broadband as the significantly faster 25Mbps, which would acknowledge both the recent improvements in broadband delivery and consumers’ increased use of web-connected devices. And yet the cable industry is fighting to retain the already outdated 4Mbps standard for broadband.

In a letter letter [PDF] sent late last week to the FCC by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — a trade group headed by former FCC Chairman Michael “Yes I’m Colin’s Son But That’s Not How I Got The Job” Powell — the cable industry argues that the Commission is going too far in trying to use the 25Mbps benchmark for broadband.

First, the NCTA warns the FCC that if it’s going to redefine broadband, that new standard should only apply to the Commission’s reports on broadband deployment; that it shouldn’t be used to determine providers’ support levels for the Connect America Fund. Doing so “would present inevitable tensions given the divergent legal standards and regulatory objectives at play,” argues NCTA.

Beyond that, the cable industry contends that the proposed 25Mbps standard is not legally tenable as it believes the law mandating periodic FCC reports on the deployment of “advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans” is intended to be a look at whether or not consumers have access to services that can support current, regular uses of broadband.

According to NCTA, the average consumer’s current broadband needs are “well below the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps threshold currently under consideration.”

The industry brushes off statements made by supporters of the redefinition, who claim that the faster speeds are needed to support delivery of 4K video content.

“[O]nly a tiny fraction of consumers use their broadband connections in this manner,” writes the NCTA, not acknowledging that many of its members were recently at CES 2015 talking up plans to bring 4K video to their customers in the coming, or that the entire television industry — from content to manufacturing — believes that 4K is an inevitability.

NCTA also claims that there is no evidence to support claims that many American households have multiple users streaming data-heavy content simultaneously — again in spite of the fact that many of its member cable providers advertise this ability to their broadband customers.

The letter points to a recent FCC report that not many people with the ability to choose a 25Mbps broadband package choose that tier of service, instead opting for less-expensive, slower packages.

“In light of these findings, the adoption of a 25 Mbps/3 Mbps benchmark would improperly substitute the speculative judgment of the Commission for the actual, demonstrated preferences of consumers in the marketplace,” writes NCTA, once more glossing over the part where some of its member companies charge prices for 25Mbps service that make it unaffordable to consumers; meaning it may not be so much a matter of people choosing slower speeds as it may be a case of consumers paying for what is in their budgets.

So why is NCTA putting up such a fuss? It’s the faint mirage of “competition” in the broadband market all but evaporates when you raise the standard for what constitutes broadband.

At the outdated 4Mbps standard, 86% of Americans have access to broadband, which would then include numerous DSL products available through landline phone providers. But when you crank up the broadband standard to 25Mbps, the number of us with the choice between multiple broadband providers drops all the way down to 37%.

With the nation’s two largest cable-TV providers trying to merge — while both claiming they don’t compete and that there is plenty of competition in the marketplace — the NCTA doesn’t want the FCC to put out a report showing how little competition there is among broadband providers providing speeds that will still be relevant in a couple of years.

[via National Journal]

Google & NFL Strike Deal To Bring NFL Content To YouTube

Mon, 2015-01-26 15:43

(Vox Efx)

(Vox Efx)

Just in time for the Super Bowl this weekend, the National Football League has decided to play nice and share with others, announcing a partnership with Google this week that will bring game highlights to a YouTube channel and search results.

In the past, the NFL kept its video content clutched tightly to its chest, making this somewhat of a sea change.

According to the Associated Press, the partnership will involve an official NFL channel on YouTube, with daily content from the league including news, analysis, game highlights, recaps and other clips.

And when Google users search for content, game highlights and other NFL videos, along with news and other content, will appear at the top of the results page.

It’s not the first time Google has hopped into bed with a sports organization, as it’s forged partnerships in the past with the MLB, NBA and NHL. In contrast to those other deals, until now the NFL had still been working hard to keep unlicensed videos from popping up on YouTube.

“We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans’ ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year,” Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement.

So does this mean the NFL is creeping closer to live streaming games on YouTube? Don’t hold your breath, said an NFL spokesman, saying the league’s focus is on non-live highlights.”

He added that “the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners.”

But YouTube is ready to go in that direction if the NFL is eventually willing, citing past live streaming of Olympic events as a precedent.

“We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league” wanted to show live games on the site, a YouTube spokesman said.

The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but we’re just gonna guess it involved bags of money marked with a dollar sign.

NFL, YouTube partner to post official clips to video site [Associated Press]

Kia Recalls 87,000 Sedans For Potential Fire Hazard

Mon, 2015-01-26 15:36
(Van Swearington)

(Van Swearington)

The purpose of a cooling fan in your vehicle is to cool the car’s components under the hood. For nearly 87,000 Kia sedans, that apparently isn’t the case, as a piece of the fan has been found to overheat, melt and start a fire. So should come as no surprise that Kia would then recall those vehicles – which it did over the weekend.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that Kia issued a recall of 86,880 model year 2014 Forte sedans in the U.S. for the potential fire risk.

According to the NHTSA notice [PDF], the recall is expected to begin in February with dealers replacing the cooling fan resistor and multi fuse unit in the affected vehicles.

Owners of vehicles with a 1.8 liter engine will also have the engine control unit software updated.

While Kia reported no accidents or injuries related to the recall, several consumer complaints filed with NHTSA detail instances of the vehicle smoking or catching fire.

In one report, the consumer claims their 2014 Forte becoming engulfed in flames as it was warming up.

A second consumer reports that the car began smoking while driving down the road.

“As soon as I pulled the car over to the shoulder, flames came out of the hood,” the consumer writes. “The local fire department extinguished the fire. The vehicle was a total loss.”

If You’re Flying Anywhere Near The Northeast Today Or Tomorrow, Call Your Airline Now

Mon, 2015-01-26 14:42


If you watch TV, read newspapers, or consume any news source at all on the internet up to and including Facebook and Twitter, you’ve probably heard that there’s a monster snowstorm bearing down on the northeast. And that means bad times at the airport: over 2000 flights for today have already been cancelled, along with nearly as many tomorrow.

The weather is already pure crap here in our nation’s capital, and it’s about to be far worse for our neighbors to the north. Boston and New York City are both forecast to be hit with a potentially record-smashing blizzard by this time Tuesday. Unfortunately, that includes New York’s trio of incredibly busy airports: Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK.

The FlightAware Misery Map already has things looking bad in the northeast, and the list of cancellations just keeps getting worse. At the time yours truly started writing this post, there were 2003 cancelled domestic flights for today. By the time I got to this sentence a minute later, there were 2016.

It’s the same story for Tuesday. Currently, there are 1956 cancelled flights tomorrow, a number that likewise is going up almost by the second. (A normal day sees 200-400.) Wednesday is likely to be a mess as well, as airports and airlines dig out and recover and try to get planes back where they’re supposed to be.

Many airlines have already posted announcements that they are waiving cancellation or change fees for passengers flying to, from, or connecting through basically any airport between DC and Maine. JetBlue, US Airways, American, Southwest, Virgin America, Delta, Frontier, and Alaska Air, among others, have all posted notices about how to reschedule fee-free to their websites.

Even if you personally are not flying to or from the mid-Atlantic or Northeast, mass delays and cancellations tend to have a ripple effect through the entire air traffic system. If you’ve got flights basically anywhere in the country booked in the next 72 hours, make sure to double check with your airline before you head to the airport.

Changes To TurboTax Lead To Consumer Revolt, Opportunity For Competitors

Fri, 2015-01-23 23:27



It’s the opening weekend of tax season! If you work an hourly or salaried job, the W-2 form summarizing how much you earned and how much tax you’ve paid is already in your mailbox or will be soon, since the deadline to mail them out is February 2nd. If you plan use the Windows or Mac version of TurboTax, though, there’s something that you should know before you get started.

As soon as the 2014 version of TurboTax hit real-life and virtual shelves, customers noticed that something was different. There are different versions of the software for different audiences: Basic, Deluxe, Premier, and Home and Business. There are also versions for incorporated businesses and for tax preparers, but those the four consumer desktop software versions are the source of this conflict.

Customers who purchase directly from TurboTax see this polite note pointing out that they might need to check the features of what they're getting.

Customers who purchase directly from TurboTax see this polite note pointing out that they might need to check the features of what they’re getting.

What Intuit did for tax year 2014 is change which services come with each tier, shifting some of the forms to the more expensive versions. They made the same changes to the pricing tiers on their Web-based service for 2013, so the change is not entirely unexpected.

The first rumblings came as soon as the software was released last year, and some true early birds got a head start on their returns. They noticed that something was missing: some pretty common forms that had always been part of TurboTax Deluxe. These included:

  • Schedule C (self-employment expenses and income)
  • Schedule D (capital gains and losses––stock sales)
  • Schedule E (supplemental income like royalties or rental income)
  • Schedule F (farm income)
  • Those are forms that most people don’t file. For people who do file them, though, those forms are an essential part of their tax return. When TurboTax customers discovered that forms they expected to have as part of the TurboTax “interview” interface weren’t there, the 1099-MISC hit the fan.

    While some can be filled out in “forms mode,” that defeats the point of using a program like TurboTax. If people wanted to fill out forms, they would download PDFs from the IRS web site.

    Here’s a screen grab of the in-program upsell from Mouse Print’s Edwin Dworsky:


    We contacted Intuit about this situation, and in their explanations to the media of this change, they emphasize two points. First, they say, most customers don’t use the desktop version of the software anymore. That might have been the case in 1991, but most of their customers now fill out their taxes on the Web or use a mobile app. According to the company, only 20% of their customers now purchase and use the desktop versions.

    An Intuit representative told Consumerist that the basic versions of the software (the ones that mostly compete with the IRS’s free e-filing program) are cheaper than in previous years, and that customers who pay for the upgrade will find it super easy to file. “We recognize change isn’t always welcome,” she explained. But we think believe our customers will find that if they do need to use a different product this year, they’ll be truly delighted with the extra guidance, additional insights into deductions and credits for which they may qualify and the increased confidence from knowing they left nothing on the table.”

    It’s true that the upgraded versions offer access to TurboTax support staff, which you may or may not need, but encountering an upsell in the middle Angry customers are fighting back in the way people do in 2015: well, they’re also burning up the TurboTax brand Facebook page, but there’s a campaign of negative Amazon reviews meant to attract the attention of potential buyers before they spend $40 on the Deluxe version.

    Intuit is taking this campaign very seriously. TurboTax representatives, including the brand’s vice-president, have stepped in on Amazon to comment on some of the poor reviews.

    One reviewer who says that he has used TurboTax since 1995 explains why he thinks it’s time to move on:

    I have no interest at all in experimenting with the various “flavors” of TurboTax to make sure I’m buying the right one. I have a couple of shares of stock purchased from “” that were given to me as gag gifts that occasionally report dividend income. Will “Deluxe” handle this? I’m selling a home for which I may or may not need to report capital gains income. Will this require a $30 upgrade? I have no idea, and I’m not interested in taking a chance and finding out I was wrong the hard way.

    I’m off to a competitor, most likely H&R Block, because it’s cheaper, and quite clear what it will allow me to do. Farewell, old friend TurboTax. It was great while it lasted, but it’s time to move on.

    Another customer explained the options for people who need to file a full Schedule C or who put anything on Schedule D.

    I hate what Intuit has done with Turbotax. I especially hate the disingenuous comment added by the Turbotax VP. Sure, you can manually file the Schedule D, but what the heck did I pay for? The Deluxe version clearly says you can file your Fed return electronically–except the actual software says you can’t.

    So, the real answer is if you need to file Schedule D you’ll have to pay $30 more as stated in other comments. Alternatively, you can do what I did–which was uninstalled the software, submitted a request for a refund (6-8 weeks!), and started using other software….after using Turbotax for over 20 years. Good job Intuit–you just lost another loyal customer–for life.

    Intuit has offered $25 rebates to returning TurboTax customers who bought the wrong product. Competitor H&R Block has also joined the party. They sell tax preparation software in addition to preparation services, and are offering free copies of their program to disgruntled TurboTax customers.

    Intuit finally sent an e-mail to customers today along with that $25 rebate offer, apologizing for the confusion and explaining why the company thought that this was a good idea. That $25 doesn’t cover the entire upgrade fee, but at least the letter apologizes in plain language rather than corporatese.

    We messed up. We made a change this year to TurboTax desktop software and we didn’t do enough to communicate this change to you as proactively and broadly as we could or should have. I am very sorry for the anger and frustration we may have caused you.

    Intuit has a long history of doing right by our customers, and in this instance, we did not live up to the standards of excellence you have come to expect from us. We did not handle this change in a manner that respected our loyal customers and we owe you an explanation of what we are doing to make it right.

    The letter concludes:

    I deeply regret the anger and distress we have caused those of you affected by this change. Our customers are the heartbeat of every TurboTax employee. Our hope is that we can regain your trust and demonstrate that our commitment to you has never been stronger.

    It’s important to step back and look at the big picture, too. Intuit has spent millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to make sure that American taxpayers still have to file tax returns, even though for most people the IRS could simply pre-populate the form with the information they have and cut us a refund check or send us a bill. The state of California already does this for state income tax returns, and other countries do it. People would be welcome to do their own math and file a return, but they wouldn’t have to.

    In its ads and sales materials, TurboTax brands itself as an “interview,” like dealing with a tax preparer but without the human interaction. Intuit doesn’t want the federal government to make filing our tax returns easier, because they want us to buy TurboTax to make filing taxes easier for us.

    California DMV Says Uber & Lyft Cars Need Commercial License Plates

    Fri, 2015-01-23 22:53



    Ride-sharing services operating in California have several issues lately: Uber being sued by San Francisco and Los Angeles counties, and L.A. mulling its own ride-sharing-like app just to name a few. Well, things don’t look to be getting any more amicable between the state and car services, as the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued an advisory requiring all drivers for the services to have commercial license plates.

    SF Gate reports that the DMV’s guidance could be a major threat to the ride-share apps that allow drivers to use their own personal cars to pick up customers.

    “Any passenger vehicle used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation or profit is a commercial vehicle,” the DMV wrote in the advisory. “Even occasional use of a vehicle in this manner requires the vehicle to be registered commercially.”

    Officials with the DMV say the memo, which clarified existing state law, was prompted by an increasing number of questions from dealers and customers.

    Drivers in violation of the law could be ticketed, however, it’s unclear whether it would be up to the DMV, California Highway Patrol or local police to enforce the rules.

    Still, the ride-sharing companies were quick to denounce the DMV’s memo, saying that commercial registration costs more than personal registration and entails an array of paperwork and in-person DMV appointments.

    “Requiring Lyft drivers, including those who drive just a few hours a week, to get commercial plates would essentially treat peer-to-peer transportation the same as a taxi, undermining the thoughtful work done by the CPUC [California Public Utilities Commission] to craft new rules for ride-sharing in California,” Lyft said in a statement.

    Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and other services are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

    A spokesperson with Uber says the DMV’s memo goes against PUC and the Gov. Jerry Brown’s stance regarding insurance for companies.

    “The California Public Utilities Commission allows (ride-hailing) drivers to use personal vehicles with personal registration on the UberX platform,” Uber said in a statement.

    DMV says UberX, Lyft drivers need commercial plates [SF Gate]

    Egg Company Locally Laid Turns Complaint Letter Into Lesson About Sustainable Agriculture

    Fri, 2015-01-23 22:44

    localllaid2Having received our fair share of complaint letters over the years, we know how tempting it can be to fire back at critics with negativity — but because that doesn’t solve anything, we’ve learned it’s always better to catch those flies with honey when possible. And in that vein, egg company Locally Laid took a shopper’s complaint about its high prices and sexual innuendos and turned the whole thing into a positive lesson about sustainable agriculture, while offering up an apology for causing offense.

    We’ve written about the cheeky egg company in the past for its feat of pulling off sassy puns with style, so it’s no surprise that it’s now taking advantage of a disgruntled customer’s handwritten letter to explain not only its innuendos, but why its eggs cost more than others in the grocery aisle.

    “I find your name on your egg carton extremely offensive and your sexual innuendos in advertising them vulgar,” he writes. “Not only were they the highest price in the store but also worst in advertising.”

    He adds that he’s going to share his concerns with the grocery store and his friends, writing that there’s “enough crudeness in the world without egg advertising adding to it.”

    Locally Laid replied in an open letter this week that should serve as an example to every other company faced with a displeased customer, taking the time to explain first of all, why those eggs are so pricey.

    After acknowledging the customer’s right to complain and thanking him for taking the time to handwrite his letter, Locally Laid’s “marketing chick” Lucie Amundsen goes on to outline the company’s reasons for its name and prices.

    She starts with the most basic reason it’s called Locally Laid — the pasture-raised eggs are indeed, “laid locally” — and goes on to explain why that matters in the grand scheme of things.

    “The average food product in this country travels some 1,500 -2,000 miles from farmer to processor to distributor to your plate,” Amundsen writes. “That’s a lot of diesel burned and C02 pumped in the air. Our cartons travel a fraction of those miles. We’ve turned down lucrative contracts that would have taken our eggs out of the area because of our environmental stance.”

    As for the price, which Locally Laid claims isn’t the highest priced brand out there, the eggs cost more because the company “practices sustainable agriculture, a sector that does not enjoy large government subsidizes like commodity products do,” the open letter explains.

    “We move fences all spring, summer and fall, and fill waterers and feeders; it’s incredibly demanding work to get birds out of doors. And it all costs more,” Amundsen explains.

    She then goes into great detail about the company’s efforts in “Middle Agriculture” and the state of farming in the U.S. today. Which, agree with all the information provided (and there’s a lot of it, in a long yet worthwhile read) or not, but explaining it all after a customer complaint is an admirable effort.

    And yes, there’s some cheekiness involved in Locally Laid’s punning, Amundsen admits.

    “And I truly am sorry, we offended you. (I’d offer you one of our American-made “Local Chicks are Better “ t-shirts, but I don’t think you’d wear it.),” she adds.

    But it’s worth it, Amundsen explains, if it gives the company a chance to explain itself to consumers who notice its products because of that same cheekiness.

    “With that second look from a consumer, we educate about animal welfare, eating local, Real Food and the economics of our broken food system,” Amundsen writes.

    Again, whether you buy your eggs from the farm next door or the factory farm miles away, that’s not the point. We just like when a company could ignore or pass off a consumer complaint and chalk it up to a loss, it instead takes the time to lay it all out there. Pun intended.

    *Thanks to Consumerist reader Amy for the tip!

    Open Letter to the Man offended by Locally Laid [Locally Laid]

    UPS: We Tried Too Hard To Deliver Your Holiday Packages On Time

    Fri, 2015-01-23 22:17

    (Misfit Photographer)

    (Misfit Photographer)

    Today we have to ask ourselves the important questions like, “is there such a thing as being too prepared?” If you happen to be the United Parcel Service and we’re talking about the 2014 holiday shipping season then you’d probably say yes.

    Bloomberg reports that UPS is blaming the costly extra measures it took to ensure on-time delivery leading up to the 2014 holiday season for its lower than anticipated earnings and for a possible increase to shipping costs.

    Coming off a disastrous 2013 holiday shipping season where many consumers’ gifts didn’t make it under the tree in time, UPS announced early last year that it would do things differently in 2014.

    In all, the company hired 95,000 extra workers and spent nearly $675 million on improvements to software, driver aids temporary sorting facilities and extra staff.

    Those added maneuvers – along with reasonably cooperative weather – paid off in a 98% on-time delivery rate for express packages, Consumerist reported earlier this month.

    However, the company’s total volume package for most days between Dec. 1 (Cyber Monday) and December 22 (the peak shipping day before Christmas Eve) fell far below projections. That means, as Bloomberg reports, that much of the company’s new workers and trucks were left idling.

    Officials with the company say the drop in productivity, coupled with the extra expenses for training and overtime resulted in UPS’s 2014 preliminary earnings falling far below expectations.

    “UPS invested heavily to ensure we would provide excellent service during peak when deliveries more than double,” said David Abney, UPS chief executive officer. “Though customers enjoyed high quality service, it came at a cost to UPS. Going forward, we will reduce operating costs and implement new pricing strategies during peak season.”

    Translation: We probably won’t hire as many seasonal workers and will likely charge more for holiday shipping next year.

    UPS Prepared Too Well for Holiday Rush and Paid the Price [Bloomberg]

    UPS slammed by a different holiday season mess-up [Fortune]

    Sprint Offers $350 For T-Mobile Customers To Switch. But There’s A Catch

    Fri, 2015-01-23 22:06

    Today, Sprint got tired of trying to win over customers from bigger wireless players like AT&T and Verizon, and decided to take a swing at T-Mobile, offering up to $350 for T-Mo subscribers willing to switch and trade in their phones. But there’s something off about the math Sprint is using to compare its plans to T-Mobile’s.

    In making the case for customers to jump ship from T-Mobile, Sprint uses the following comparison of monthly costs for having a Samsung Galaxy S5 on the two providers:

    Seems pretty straightforward, until you ask why the installment price for the phone is so different ($20/month for Sprint; $27/month for T-Mobile).

    Then you notice that the Sprint price is actually for leasing the phone for 24 months. That means at the end of that two years, you have to either trade-in your leased phone and start leasing another device or pay off the remaining balance for the original full price of the phone. That means you’d be on the hook for $170 if you want to keep your phone.

    So you either get stuck in a leasing carousel and can never enjoy the financial benefit of not having to make monthly payments on your phone — even if it’s only a few months — or you end up paying the same as you would via T-Mobile, except you’re slammed with paying a lump sum of $170 to hold on to a 2-year-old phone.

    This is why Sprint doesn’t use it’s own Easy Pay installment numbers for the comparison in this chart, as those monthly payments come out to — you guessed it — $27/month for the Galaxy S5.

    Which is odd, because you’d think the $20/month difference between the two providers’ unlimited data plans would be sufficient reason for customers to consider switching.

    However, recent tests have shown that Sprint’s current LTE speeds are woefully behind the competition, while T-Mobile’s are now competitive — and in some cases faster — than AT&T and Verizon. So while you might, in theory, have access to unlimited Sprint data, you might not be able to actually enjoy all those gigabytes of data.

    Meanwhile, for the same $60/month as the Sprint unlimited plan, T-Mobile offers 3GB of data. Since many people don’t use that much per month, 3GB may suffice. Additionally, T-Mo recently began rolling over unused data in “Data Stashes” that remain available for use for 12 months.

    We’re not saying that you shouldn’t consider switching to Sprint, but that Sprint should be more transparent about exactly what customers should expect.

    Brewers Of Gandhi-Bot Beer Agree To Change Its Name After Complaints From Indian-American Community

    Fri, 2015-01-23 21:51

    (New England Brewing Company)

    (New England Brewing Company)

    A few weeks after New England Brewing Company apologized for slapping a Gandhi robot on its Gandhi-Bot India Pale Ale beer, the company says now it’s going to do more than just apologize and will instead rename the brew altogether.

    After meeting with Indian-American business owners in its home state of Connecticut as well as state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, the brewery issued a statement today saying it will start the process of picking a new name, which could take up to three months.

    “We learned of their support for our small business as well as some of their concerns regarding our Gandhi-Bot beer name and label. After careful consideration we feel that renaming Gandhi-Bot is the right move (the beer will remain the same),” the company says.

    The company says doing this will allow it express support for the Indian-American community while limiting any economic losses it might have in changing the beer’s labels.

    “We are grateful to have State Representative Srinivasan’s support in the continued success of our small CT business. We thank our supporters for standing by us through this transition,” the statement reads.

    Srinivasan posted the statement on his website, adding that he’s glad New England Brewing Co. listened to the community’s concerns.

    “Our sensitivity on this important issue has been addressed and I am looking forward to the early release of their renamed and re-branded product,” he writes.

    Dear Verizon Customers: Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting For Rollover Data Plans

    Fri, 2015-01-23 21:04

    (Mike Mozart)

    (Mike Mozart)

    While T-Mobile and AT&T have each recently started allowing smartphone users to carry over unused data from one month to the next, customers of the nation’s largest wireless provider shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for Verizon to announce something similar.

    Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran “ShamWow” Shammo tells CNET that rollover data isn’t in the cards for Big V.

    “We’re a leader, not a follower,” said Shammo in apparent disregard of every hubris-filled industry leader who dismissed market trends to their own peril.

    “We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer,” continued Shammo, whose name is really fun to say. “And there’s going to be certain customers who leave us for price, and we are just not going to compete with that because it doesn’t make financial sense for us to do that.”

    As CNET points out, while Verizon has seen subscriber growth, it’s also seeing increased turnover due to what little competition remains in the wireless market. Turnover cuts into profit as you spend more to acquire customers who don’t stick around as long.

    Verizon has thus far been able to hang on to its leadership position through a reliable and vast LTE network, though some tests have found that Verizon LTE service is the same or slower than the competition from AT&T and T-Mobile.

    While there are some questions about T-Mo’s ability to continue disrupting the status quo of the U.S. wireless market, AT&T’s deeper coffers may allow that company to launch an all-out effort to siphon off Verizon customers. And if Sprint can ever get its LTE network up to par with the rest of the field, its overseas owners at Softbank may be poised for a prolonged pricing war.

    Senators Introduce Bill To Block States From Blocking Public Broadband

    Fri, 2015-01-23 20:49
    (Glyn Lowe)

    (Glyn Lowe)

    Congress is just all up in the FCC’s business lately, it seems. Earlier this week, lawmakers in both houses proposed their own version of net neutrality, one that would also strip the FCC of its own authority to regulate broadband in the future. Today, there’s a bill looking to jump into one of the FCC’s other big issues right now: state laws that prohibit communities from developing municipal broadband.

    Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Ed Markey (MA), and Claire McCaskill (MO) today introduced the Community Broadband Act, which would make it illegal for states to forbid municipalities from building out their own networks if they want to.

    The core text of the bill reads: “No statute, regulation or other legal requirement of a State or local government may prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting or substantially inhibiting, any public provider from providing telecommunications service or advanced telecommunications capability or services to any person or any public or private entity.”

    The bill also seems to anticipate rebuttals about uses of taxpayer money, and specifically limits the availability of federal funds. If any public broadband project “fails due to bankruptcy or is terminated by a public provider,” it says, “no Federal funds may be provided to the public provider specifically to assist the public provider in reviving or renewing that project.”

    In other words, the Community Broadband Act makes it legal for a town to start a network and illegal for the state to stop them, but doesn’t provide any assistance for towns who want to build networks. It simply gives them the opportunity to pursue their own funding. To that end, the bill specifically encourages public-private partnerships.

    The bill also specifically does not exempt any public carrier from existing and future federal laws and regulations pertaining to networks, nor does it in any way seek to define the FCC’s scope and authority over broadband networks.

    This comes as the FCC is currently considering its own attempt to step in and give municipal broadband networks a chance. Nineteen states currently have industry-backed laws strongly limiting public networks on the books already. But communities in two of those states, North Carolina and Tennessee, filed petitions with the FCC last summer asking for the commission to pre-empt those laws so they can go on building out their networks for their residents.

    FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated in the past that he would be in favor of preempting those laws. The White House jumped into the fray in recent days, with President Obama releasing a statement — and reiterating in his State of the Union address — saying that the FCC should absolutely act to make community broadband available to more Americans.

    The sponsors of the bill appear to view their proposal as supplemental to, rather than a replacement of, the FCC’s rulemaking procedure. In a statement, Sen. Markey said, “This legislation will support the ability of cities to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to build their own broadband networks and provide community members with high speed Internet service. … I also continue to urge the FCC to act now to use its authority to end any restrictions placed upon local communities to make these decisions for themselves.”

    The FCC is expected to vote on the matter in its February 26 open meeting.

    Burst In Brisket’s Popularity During Nationwide Beef Shortage Means Higher Prices At The Table

    Fri, 2015-01-23 20:36



    While brisket lovers may be rejoicing to see Texas-style barbecue restaurants popping up around the nation and fast food chains like Arby’s sticking the tender meat on the menu, its newfound popularity is coming with a higher price.

    Because of draughts in states like Texas and California, ranchers have had to thin their herds to the lowest levels in 60 years, reports CBS News, prompting a 60% uptick in brisket prices in the last year.

    With a pound of brisket going for $3.52, up from $2.21 per pound, restaurants have been forced to pass those increased costs on to customers.

    “The choices we have to make — because to maintain the quality, you are going to have to raise your price or you go out of business,” one barbecue restaurant owner told CBS.

    It’s the worst time too, as brisket is suddenly the darling of meat lovers around the country. Arby’s alone eats up 300,000 pounds of brisket a week, which amounts to about 5% of the country’s stock and further limits supply.

    “Today in the brisket market, it is the perfect storm going the wrong way,” Texas A&M University meat science professor Jeff Savell said. “There are fewer briskets today than in the past. But there is a greater demand for briskets.”

    Brisket shortage has Texas​ barbecue lovers facing rising costs [CBS News]

    Starbucks’ Delivery Service Might Bring Green-Aproned Baristas To Your House

    Fri, 2015-01-23 20:31



    Starting later this year you might not have to traipse into your local Starbucks to chat up your favorite barista. Instead, the coffee slinger might be coming to you as part of Starbucks’ upcoming delivery service.

    Business Insider reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced Thursday that the company was marking items off its list of things to do before launching the delivery service later this year.

    Chief among that list is determining just who will be in charge of delivering the hot (or cold) java to customers.

    Schultz says the company is in the process of finalizing “two distinct delivery models.”

    In one model the company will utilize their own employees for deliveries, while the other will use a third-party service.

    “We will have more to share with you on our plans for delivery in the months ahead, but rest assure that delivery like Mobile Order and Pay will drive incrementality and increase customer loyalty,” Shultz tells analysts.

    Starbucks first announced that it would launch a food and delivery service in select areas of the U.S. back in October.

    The service will only be available to Starbucks loyalty program members as part of its mobile order and pay app.

    “Imagine the ability to create a standing order that Starbucks delivered hot or iced to your desk daily,” Schultz said at the time.

    Starbucks Baristas Will Soon Deliver Coffee To Your Door [Business Insider]

    IRS Says Thousands Have Been Scammed Into Paying Bogus Back Taxes

    Fri, 2015-01-23 19:55



    Let’s be honest for a moment and acknowledge that not everyone is 100% honest or accurate when filing their tax returns. There are lots of people out there who wouldn’t be shocked to hear from the IRS that they owe more or didn’t pay enough, which is why thousands of Americans have been scammed out of millions of dollars by con artists pretending to represent the IRS.

    According to the IRS, in only the last 15 months, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (or, if you prefer, TIGTA) has received an astounding 290,000 reports of scammy phone calls from people falsely claiming they were IRS employees.

    The scammers would do things like spoof their phone numbers to appear like they were calling from the IRS. They would even provide fake names and IRS badge numbers, leaving urgent callback requests. Some callers claimed to be agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit to add extra urgency.

    “These criminals try to scare and shock you into providing personal financial information on the spot while you are off guard,” explains IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be taken in and don’t engage these people over the phone.”

    And it works, especially for those unfamiliar with how to deal with the IRS. According to TIGTA, nearly 3,000 people have fallen victim to these sorts of calls, resulting in scammers profiting to the tune of more than $14 million.

    Koskinen says that the IRS will usually first contact a consumer through the mail about any issues with their taxes.

    “If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” he explains.

    The IRS is also reminding people to be on the lookout for tax-related e-mail scams.

    “The IRS won’t send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS that takes you by surprise,” says Koskinen. “I urge taxpayers to be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites. They may be scams to steal your personal information.”

    The IRS says that recipients of unsolicited e-mails that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to