Since we broke the story of the Fitbit Force personal motion tracker causing contact dermatitis in some users, the company has begun its own recall of the devices and told authorized retailers to stop selling them. The problem is that hot gadgets are always available through unofficial channels as well. Like eBay, where you can still buy the Force, and it’s selling for a premium.
Maybe the people purchasing these wristbands are building collections of brilliant but recalled technology. Maybe they’re rash fetishists. Or maybe they’re people who want this gadget, yet have heard nothing about the recall yet.
Fitbit, for their part, says that they don’t want this to happen, and they’ve been flagging listings for the device that come up on eBay.
The trouble is that the Force may fall into a strange gray area of the eBay rules. The site bans items that have been officially recalled and can’t legally be sold in the country where you live. That isn’t the case for the Force yet. We’ve been told that an official Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved recall process is coming.
We contacted eBay about this to find out whether items under manufacturer recall only are allowed to be sold, and will update this post when we find out. The problem is that a manufacturer recall is very rare: companies usually work with the CPSC to get potentially dangerous items out of stores and consumers’ homes.
Even if the company does find and flag listings, very short-term auctions and Buy it Now listings mean that customers might nab the devices before anyone sees that they’re listed.
We aren’t recommending that you hop on eBay and buy one. What we do recommend is that you perform due diligence before buying any appliance or electronic gadget from someone other than an authorized seller. You might be buying gray market merchandise that has a warranty in a different country, but not in the country where you live. Buying certain items from sellers that are in your country but that aren’t manufacturer-authorized can void the warranty, leaving you bereft if the item breaks. And, like in this case, you might be buying an item that has harmed about 2% of wearers so far that we know of.
As long as there are fast food restaurants, there will be attempted burglaries. And because not all crimes happen when there are people around, we’re especially thankful to the Philadelphia Burger King that caught two bumbling buddies who forced their way inside in the wee hours of the morning and proceed to generally be incompetent.
Police are looking for the two suspects featured in the security footage (H/T to Deadspin) for breaking in and damaging a cash register monitor. They didn’t take anything else or cause much damage besides that, unless you count roughing up hamburger buns a crime.
The bad part about surveillance videos? There often isn’t any sound, which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a potential script for the conversation that may have ensued between these two clumsy pals. Feel free to follow along as you watch the video.
THE SCENE: Burger King, 2:50 a.m.
CAST: Hat Guy and Patch Jacket
Hat Guy: Open, Sesame! (throws doors open)
Patch Jacket: This place looks different at night.
HG: Weee, watch me slide gracefully over this counter (belly flops). This cash register monitor looked at me funny (pushes it off the counter). Ha, got ya.
PJ: Wait why did you — oh well, that sliding thing looked fun (slides over after his friend who has disappeared into the back)
HG: COME IN THE BACK I AM LOOKING FOR FRIES!!!
(Walking around, pointing at an ordinary restaurant kitchen) Look at all this restaurant stuff! I can count everything in here and point at it!
PJ: Wait for me, hang on –
HG: HAMBURGER BUNS! I LOVE HAMBURGER BUNS I WANT THEM! (starts grabbing at bag of hamburger buns like he’s been wandering a foodless dessert for days)
PJ: No no no, those aren’t your hamburger buns. Come here, shhh, let me hug you from behind and soothe you like you’re a startled newborn pony.
HG: But… I want the hamburger buns.
PJ: Okay you hang on to that one and we’re going to walk out together still entwined (bear hug walkout)
HG: (Resisting) But… buns.
PJ steers his pal back out to the front to once more cross the silver barrier.
HG: Stupid stuff under the counter, YOU ARE NOW OVER THE COUNTER! TAKE THAT! (throws stuff)
PJ: Haha, yeah you really showed that stuff, now let’s get you over this thing as gracefully as before, okay? You can do this.
HG: I can do this! (Slowly slides over on his belly) And I’m taking this thing from the counter, whatever it is.
(walks through the doors triumphantly in front of his friend) I showed those buns what for, didn’t I?
PJ: Sure, sure you did, lil buddy.
They walk off into the night, secure in their friendship and counter sliding skills.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter but know that she’s not accepting any playwriting commissions as of yet: @marybethquirk
Cerberus Capital Management, owner of No. 5 grocer Albertsons, has agreed to buy No. 2 grocer Safeway in a deal valued over $9 billion, Forbes reports.
Officials with Safeway say the potential union will allow the grocer to continue improving customers’ shopping experience.
“Safeway has been focused on better meeting shoppers’ diverse needs through local, relevant assortment, an improved price/value proposition and a great shopping experience that has driven improved sales trends,” Safeway CEO Robert Edwards said in a statement. “We are excited about continuing this momentum as a combined organization.”
For their part officials with Albertsons say the merger will create opportunities for the stores to offer a cutting-edge shopping experience for customers.
“This transaction offers us the opportunity to better serve customers by adapting more quickly to evolving shopping preferences in diverse regions across the country,” Bob Miller, CEO of Albertsons, tells Forbes. “Together, we will be able to respond to local needs more quickly and deliver outstanding products at the lowest possible price, more efficiently than ever before.”
But don’t pop that champagne just yet. There seems to be another suitor waiting in the wings.
Kroger, the country’s largest grocer, is reportedly considering making its own offer for Safeway. Last year, Kroger outbid Cerberus to buy the Harris Teeter chain of supermarkets for $2.4 billion.
While you probably have that one friend who insists, “No, it’s fine — I’m way more focused on the road when I’m stoned!”, Colorado disagrees: The state is spending $1 million on TV ads for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign that make fun of pot users who already space out under normal circumstances.
The point there being that driving a potentially deadly hunk of metal around other people could be a really bad time to space out. For example — one ad shoes a guy (with huuuuge hair, because obviously the more cartoonish of a character, the better comedic value!) trying to operate a grill while high and not realizing what the problem is, because he’s stoned. The idea being, you wouldn’t want him driving a car if he can’t turn a grill on.
It’s the first time since marijuana was legalized in 2012 that Colorado has pushed such a campaign to remind drivers to treat marijuana like alcohol, reports the Associated Press. The state has also recently started tallying impaired driving violations due to marijuana, while in previous years those just fell under the same category as drunk drivers.
And also? The ads are actually pretty funny:
You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you can find her oh wait, here: @marybethquirk
Colorado launches campaign to stop stoned driving [Associated Press]
Calling the proposed Comcast/TWC merger “an industry redefining deal,” AT&T CEO Randall “Darth Randy” Stephenson announced at a Morgan Stanley conference on Thursday that the threat of the combined megacompany has given him reason to hasten the expansion of both AT&T’s fiber offerings and its wireless LTE network.
“We are redirecting VIP investment to fiber-to-the-home deployment,” said Stephenson, “and in fact we are going to launch the service in Dallas this summer.”
AT&T recently began rolling out fiber service in Austin at the same time as Google begins deployment of its fiber network in the Texas capital (and Time Warner Cable fights to retain customers by boosting speeds).
Stephenson also said his company is going to be a “little more aggressive and assertive in deploying that technology around the country,” implying that AT&T fiber service will soon begin popping up in other cities, presumably metro areas where it is already the primary provider of landline phone service.
As for Stephenson’s prediction of whether or not regulators will approve the Comcast/TWC deal, the Sith lord declared that, “It probably gets done, and it’s probably going to have some hair on the transaction.”
Of course, this is the same guy who predicted his company’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA would sail through the regulatory gauntlet, only to see both the FCC and Justice Dept. shoot it down, costing AT&T $4 billion in cash and spectrum.
AT&T To Bring 1 Gbps ‘GigaPower’ To Dallas [DSLreports.com]
Comcast Has AT&T Worrying About the US [Corporate Intelligence]
Chin up, Amazon! Turn that frown upside down, local brewery sending beer through the air! Delivery by commercial drone might still be possible, despite the Federal Aviation Administration going around putting the kibosh on the unmanned aerial vehicles. A federal judge has dismissed the FAA’s only fine against a commercial drone user.
The National Transportation Safety Board administration law judge found that a man shouldn’t have been fined $10,000 by the FAA, as his drone was no different than a model aircraft, reports the Associated Press.
He said in dismissing the fine that the FAA doesn’t have any regulations that govern model aircraft flights or any that classify model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft.
It’s not like we’ll be seeing swarms of Amazon drones filling the skies with their deliveries just yet, as the FAA said it’s reviewing the decision, which it could appeal to the safety board.
The FAA issued the fine against an aerial photographer who flew a small drone near the University of Virginia (the alma mater of 1/6 of Consumerist [not me]) while he was making a commercial video in October 2011. The man then appealed that fine.
The FAA says it has the power to regulate access to the national airspace, which means it should be able to ban drone flights because they go through that airspace.
“There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations,” the agency says on its website. “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft —manned or unmanned —in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.”
It’s not like the FAA doesn’t want drone deliveries, it’s just taking its own sweet time to work on regulations that would allow them without endangering manned aircraft or the general public. Congress passed a law in 2012 that told the FAA to get things ready for drones of all sizes by September 2015, but apparently it’s a little bit behind.
Regulations that would allow drones that weigh less than 55 pounds have been delayed and won’t be proposed until November, probably, starting a process that will take months or years to become final.
While companies like Amazon and UPS are churning with plans for small drones, the FAA had maintained that a model aircraft is different from a small drone because of the intent with which it’s used — model aircrafts are just for a fun day out in the park with your kids, while a small drone is a flying thing used for commercial purposes.
It’ll be interesting to see now how many “model aircrafts” begin turning toward commercial purposes in light of the judge’s ruling.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you like Fridays because she does, too: @marybethquirk
Judge dismisses FAA fine against small drone user [Associated Press]
As you probably know by now, Newsweek claims to have found the true identity of shrouded-in-mystery Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto… a 64-year-old California man who was born with the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. The story has outraged many for not only outing the man (who denies having anything to do with Bitcoin) but for publishing personal details about him and his family that are utterly irrelevant to the story of the creation of the digital currency. The bigger question is whether the story should have been published in the first place.
I’d contend that for all the research and reporting done by writer Leah McGrath Goodman, her story does nothing to shed a light on the actual creation of Bitcoin.
Goodman interviewed numerous people for her story, but every statement given about Nakamoto’s reasons for developing Bitcoin are mere supposition.
“I got the impression that Satoshi was really doing it for political reasons,” says Bitcoin Chief Scientist Gary Andresen, one of the few people in the article who has actually communicated with the actual creator of Bitcoin, none of whom confirm that the Satoshi Nakamoto tracked down by Goodman is that same person.
The other quotes intended to shed any light on why Nakamoto may have developed the currency come from family members of the California man.
“I could see my dad doing something brilliant and not accepting the greater effect of it,” says his daughter, whose full name, location and place of work are given in the story, but who fully admits that she doesn’t know if her dad created Bitcoin.
If someone told me my late father had invented the VCR [he didn't], I would tell you something like “That makes sense; he liked watching TV on his own schedule,” but that doesn’t make it so or provide any actual insight to the creation process.
SNOOPING FOR SNOOPING’S SAKE
If the point of the story wasn’t to shed a light on how or why Bitcoin came into being, then it seems to me that the goal was merely to solve a mystery that didn’t need solving.
Whether or not the man Goodman tracked down is the real Satoshi Nakamoto, the fact is that he’s not a criminal, not a public person. Hell, he’s not even exceedingly wealthy.
Forbes’ most recent roundup of the world’s billionaires lists 1,565 different people with at least $1 billion to their names. The lowest-ranked people in that group have more than double what Nakamoto has earned from Bitcoin.
Nakamoto has no control over Bitcoin or the funds of any Bitcoin users. He has not worked on the project (at least not openly) in years. The only reason this story exists is because he created something that became popular and dared to not give a damn about taking public credit for it.
You can’t even draw comparisons to publicity-shunners like Harper Lee, Terrence Mallick, or J.D. Salinger. These are all artists who, whether they ever intended to become famous or not, entered into fields that makes celebrities about of those who succeed.
Some defenders of the Newsweek piece point to media coverage of tech billionaires like Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as precedence for this kind of story on the Bitcoin creator. But Gates and Zuck are not only people who have made themselves the faces of their respective companies; they also remained involved with the operation of their creations. Meanwhile, Satoshi Nakamoto hasn’t had anything to do with Bitcoin in quite some time.
Why not a national magazine cover story on the creator of Photoshop? It has revolutionized multiple industries and changed the way humans view the world and communicate about it and has made Adobe a fortune much larger than the few hundred million stashed on Nakamoto’s hard drive.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION
Goodman defends her inclusion of details that have absolutely nothing to do with Bitcoin — Nakamoto’s location, the names and locations of his family members, his recent health issues — by saying they “offer a sense of his humanity.”
What does that have anything to do with reporting about the creation of Bitcoin?
An example: Because of where I live and the friends I have, I (and a lot of other people in Philadelphia) happen to know where Comcast CEO Brian Roberts eats breakfast every morning. I’ve also been told what he eats, though I honesty don’t care.
But do I include this in any of the numerous stories about Comcast? No, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the goings-on at the nation’s largest cable company. Similarly, while Roberts’ home address and license plate number may be available to those who know where to look, including that sort of data is is just showy, and serves no real informative purpose.
And remember that in this example, I’m talking about the billionaire head of a mammoth media and cable company, a man who is friendly with world leaders. If I wouldn’t include this information in a story about him, I certainly wouldn’t do so in a piece about the engineer who invented the first set-top receiver.
SO WHAT DO WE KNOW?
We know that a Newsweek reporter has a good deal of evidence that seems to point to this man in California as the likely creator of Bitcoin.
We know that he’s denying the claims made in that story.
We also know where this man — whether he is the Satoshi Nakamoto or not — went to school, where he worked, and what his siblings, spouse’s, and kids names are (and where some of them live and work).
But even if everything in the Newsweek story turns out to be true, when it comes to the actual origin story of Bitcoin, we know as much today as we did three days ago.
Further reading, including some differing opinions:
Redditors furious Newsweek ‘doxxed’ Bitcoin founder [Poynter]
According to the recall notice, a pharmacist recently reported finding a capsule of Tikosyn inside one container of Effexor XR capsules. Tikosyn, also produced by Pfizer, is an antiarrhythmic agent given to cardiac patients with abnormal heart rhythms.
Accidental use of Tikosyn could result in serious adverse health consequences that could be fatal, says the FDA.
Pfizer says it knows of no other instances of Tikosyn being found mixed in with Effexor or Venlafaxine capsules, and believes the odds of a consumer unintentionally receiving a Tikosyn in with their other meds is unlikely. However, it is recalling these lots out of caution.
The FDA is asking pharmacists to immediately quarantine and return all recalled lots, as well as notify any customers to whom they distributed the recalled products. Patients with affected product should notify their physicians and/or return product to their pharmacies.
Patients with questions regarding this recall can contact Pfizer Medical Information at 1-800-438-1985 (Monday to Thursday 9am to 8pm ET or Friday, 9am to 5pm ET). Those who have questions about returning recalled capsules should contact Stericycle at 1-888-345-0481 (Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm ET).
Patients should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have experienced any problems that may be related to taking this drug product.
As you can see from the images above, Effexor and Tykosin are very different in appearance and size. The Effexor pills are nearly twice as long as Tykosin and come in dark orange capsules. Tykosin’s capsules are peach in color. If your Effexor bottle has an odd-looking capsule inside that doesn’t match the others, you should not take it and you should contact the pharmacy that filled the prescription.
Here are ten of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.
Our Flickr Pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Want to see your pictures on our site? Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool.
In a new rules update, the video-sharing service set out explicit details of what will and won’t be tolerated on Vine.
The following are now considered no-no’s:
•Sex acts, whether alone or with another person
•Use of sex toys for sex acts
•Sexually provocative nudity, for example, posts that focus on exposed genitalia or depict nudity in a context or setting that is sexually provocative (like a strip club)
•Close-ups of aroused genitals underneath clothing
•Art or animation that is sexually graphic (such as hentai)
The company says it will still allow “suggestive” non-nude posts and nudity that is “primarily documentary, educational or artistic in nature.”
Vine gives the following examples of things that will be allowed:
•Nudity in a documentary context, e.g. videos of nude protestors
•Nudity in an artistic context, e.g. nude modeling in an art class
•Nudity that is not sexually provocative, e.g. a mother breastfeeding her child
•Clothed sexually suggestive dancing
“Users that violate this policy may be suspended and eligible for account restoration only after they have removed violating posts and certified that their account complies with the Vine Rules,” writes the company. “Severe or repeated violation of this policy may result in permanent suspension.”
It appears that Vine will be relying on users to report clips that violate this policy, which means some folks will continue uploading their bared bits until someone complains.
“[W]e don’t have a problem with explicit sexual content on the Internet,” explains Vine, “we just prefer not to be the source of it.”
When you’re shopping online, you probably perform a cursory search online to find out whether the e-retailer you’re about to buy from has any coupons available online. Sites for sharing coupon codes like RetailMeNot are great to check quickly. What should you do if your search comes up empty? Don’t despair. Like brick-and-mortar retailers, online stores might have your back when you don’t bring your own coupons.
Who can you ask before you hit “Check out” on your order? The store’s customer service chat representative, if there is one. Over at Rather-Be-Shopping.com, they tested this theory and found a lucky thirteen stores that were happy to provide coupons when a prospective customer just asked nicely.
Their list, with some notes:
- Bass Pro Shops: They provided a free shipping coupon.
- Birthday Express and Celebrate Express:: They gave out a 15% off coupon for a purchase of $75 and up. The same codes work for both sites.
- Dress Barn: 20% off one item, not bad.
- East Bay: A 20% off coupon was available to everyone on the checkout page, in theory.
- Foot Locker: Another free shipping coupon.
- Home Depot: No coupon code, but very helpful chat reps.
- J. Jill: Coupons for free shipping for orders $100 and above, and 30% off all items already on sale or clearance.
- L.L. Bean: 10% off all purchases coupon.
- Lands’ End: Free shipping and 30% off all merchandise.
- Office Depot: $10 off a $50 purchase.
- Shutterfly: $10 off (may depend on size of purchase – only open up chat once everything you plan to buy is in your cart)
- Sierra Trading Post: 30% off a $75 purchase
- Snapfish: 30% off entire purchase.
Business Insider spoke to the tween — who’s a member of that high IQ-having group at Mensa — about how she was able to launch a clothing line she describes as “hippie-grunge, yet feminine” at Nordstrom before she’s old enough to go to a PG-13 movie alone.
She explains that her love of painting at a young age lent itself well to fashion, which she’s “always been enamored” with. She started sewing at the age of 7 while “exploring mixed media” in her artwork, and began designing her own clothing.
“I immediately began sewing clothes for myself,” she says. “As some of my friends began liking what I was wearing, I got the idea to sell them and to start a business.”
Meanwhile, the only sewing kit I have in my apartment is one of those crappy ones you get for free in the toiletries basket, the kind with the threat that breaks as soon as you try to sew a button on.
And don’t worry — it’s not like this fashion line will get in the way of junior high — because she’s already pursuing a degree in Fine Art.
Despite sounding more mature than you or I could ever hope to be at age [insert your age], she’s still in awe of what she’s accomplished as a youngster.
“I feel like I have to pinch myself! It is a dream come true. I am beyond excited and feel so very grateful for this opportunity,” she says, sounding like the kind of gal my grandmothers would heartily approve of (she probably keeps her hair out of her eyes, too). “It is such a huge honor.
Her next step? Expanding into accessories, handbags and shoes. My next step? Changing out of my house pants, eventually, after I finally go buy more toilet paper and taking a good, long look at my current accomplishments and future life goals.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you have any advice to give about sewing buttons on shirts with crappy sewing kits: @marybethquirk
A 12-Year-Old Certified Genius Just Got A Clothing Line At Nordstrom [Business Insider]
Cedar chests are a common heirloom furniture item – maybe you inherited one from a relative, received one as a gift, or picked up one at a thrift store or estate sale. They might be the perfect place to store your winter clothes during the off-season, but chests from Lane or Virginia Maid before 1987 have a flaw: they latch automatically when the lid is closed.
That’s not a problem when you’re putting away your sweaters, but it is a problem if you’re a kid playing at home who climbs in the chest and closes the lid. Yes, that does really happen.
Earlier this year, a brother and sister, 7 and 8 years old, locked themselves in a cedar chest in their home in Massachusetts. Their father was the only adult at home, and he was watching TV in another room while his children suffocated to death.
According to the CPSC, there have been 36 known deaths resulting from people locked in auto-latching cedar chests. Lane and the CPSC estimate that while twelve million cedar chests subject to the recall were sold, there are still six million out there in need of a new latch.
The repair is simple: for chests made since 1940, it just changes the chest latch so that someone has to press a button on the outside to latch the lid closed. For chests made before 1940, the new hardware doesn’t latch closed at all.
If you have a Lane or Virginia Maid chest in your home, get a replacement lock by filling out this website form or call the company at (800) 327-6944. Have your chest’s style and serial numbers handy–the website shows you where to find them.
CPSC, Lane Home Furniture Urge Renewed Search for Cedar Chests: Two Recent Deaths Reported [CPSC]
Hand-me-down hope chests pose a danger to kids [Consumer Reports]
Two Franklin children die in hope chest [Boston Globe]
Are you craving a meatloaf sandwich? Be sad that you don’t live in Japan, where Subway has introduced a meatloaf submarine sandwich. We don’t understand how this is a thing in a fast-food environment where there’s no leftover meatloaf to use up.
Putting a meatloaf sandwich on menus in the United States is at least plausible. Maybe not this particular version, which includes way more vegetables than most Americans could cope with: peppers, soybeans, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms. Any plant-based foods beyond onions and ketchup and it wouldn’t register as meatloaf to most people here.
Another limited-time offering at Subway in Japan has layers of prosciutto and potato anchovy salad. Depending on your food preferences, that will either sound like an unspeakable horror or amazing.
Around the World: Subway Japan Offering Meatloaf Sub [Brand Eating]
Universities use test scores, transcripts, financial profiles and detailed data to make a decision on how much aid a student should receive. But families are left largely in the dark when trying to estimate how much aid their child could receive from a particular school, ProPublica reports.
Most colleges only offer vague disclosures about how they allocate their financial aid dollars and they don’t reveal the formulas used to make decisions, Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert with Edvisiors a publisher of websites about paying for college, tells ProPublica.
While we don’t know the full criteria schools use when deciding who gets financial aid and who doesn’t, it’s becoming clear that some schools are strategic in their giving.
ProPublic reports that some schools use aid as a way to attract student to meet the institution’s own goals. Often financial aid leveraging is used to entice students who will help raise a school’s ranking, who will help bridge gender gaps, or who will fill out a program. Many times the goals are different from helping the students that need it most.
Data from a small liberal-arts college in Kansas shows the school charged students in the lowest income bracket several thousand dollars more than students in the two income brackets directly above them. Officials for the school said the outcome was not intentional, but its students meeting other criteria that are getting assistance. They declined to disclose the criteria used to make such decisions, saying it was proprietary information and used to keep the school competitive.
In recent years, the government has unveiled two consumer tools to provide students with individual cost estimates. The model financial aid award letter and college’s net-price calculators can help student understand the cost of college, but don’t add any transparency to how schools are doling out the dollars, ProPublica reports.
A former congressional liaison in the Department of Education’s Office of Legislation tell ProPublica that with a little tweaking a current regulation could be the best bet for true transparency.
Schools participating in federal student-aid programs are required to disclose the criteria for selecting recipients of financial aid from the group of eligible applicants and the criteria for determining the amount of a student’s award for federal and state aid, as well as, the financial aid the school gives out themselves, ProPublic reports.
However, the law and regulation does not specify what details colleges must disclose, meaning many disclose very little. The former liaison says spelling out what criteria universities have to reveal could make the regulation more sound.
The U.S. Department of Education press secretary did not answer ProPublica’s questions on what the regulation actually requires or if the department has ever enforced the transparency regulation.
The press secretary did say the DOE was working with institutions and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop a way for students to be best served in receiving clear, easy-to-understand information on aid packages from their college.
You probably remember last week’s “Comcast Doesn’t Give a F##k” video. And though it might seem like those who work for Comcast exist inside an impermeable sphere through which no criticism shall pass, that is far from the truth.
A Consumerist reader with a not-uncommon name and a generic, simple e-mail address says he often gets messages intended for other people with his name.
Then this morning he notices a message from someone with a Comcast corporate e-mail account and a Comcast company signature has landed in his inbox. The only text: A YouTube link to the “Comcast Doesn’t Give a F##k” clip that he assumes (and we agree) was not intended for him to see.
It’s either that or the Comcast employee thought that random customers should be made aware of the company’s reputation.
“I’m happy to know that Comcast REALLY doesn’t give a f##k about us,” writes the accidental e-mail recipient, “and they find it amusing enough to pass along to their friends and family.”
Just as a reminder, here’s the video again:
While I’m not sure if I’m creeped out or preemptively relieved not to have to make yet another choice, these smart, connected vending machines from software company SAP won’t just sell food, but electronics and anything else you could punch up on a giant touch screen and have delivered to your greedy paws, reports Tom’s Guide.
On the ginormous, vending machine-sized color touch screen that replaces the traditional display window there’ll be a rotating list of snack items or whatever it is you’re buying, with a camera facing out toward the purchaser.
“For example, you have a group of people like us, three men and a woman,” SAP’s senior director said during a demo. “This would be recognized by the machine and it can now drive a personalized campaign to the audience that stands in front of it.”
This means the machine will be able to determine things like how old you are and your gender and then suggest something you might want. Oh and you could also be shown an ad at the same time, so that’s fun. Or the opposite of fun, but there are ads everywhere you look these days (except on Consumerist, natch) so, whatever.
Out of quarters? The vending machines will accept mobile wallet payments, credit cards and of course, cash. And then the next time you use that credit card on a vending machine, it might market other snacks or products to you based on past purchases.
I don’t really need anyone tell me I desire a full arsenal of sugary and salty foods at any given moment, so pardon me if I avoid you, futuristic vending machines. You know too much already.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter as she chronicles what snack she feels like eating but currently doesn’t have access to: @marybethquirk
Scans Your Face to Serve Up Snacks [Tom's Guide]
Nearly 20 years ago, basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal lent his name and digitized likeness to Shaq Fu, a poorly slapped-together cash-in video game in which even contrarian hipsters have trouble finding any redeeming qualities. Now, with two decades to mull it over, Shaq has not only decided that it’s time for the sequel no one asked for, but that a sizable chunk of the funding should come from consumers.
Yup, Shaq and the rest of the team behind Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn have started an indiegogo campaign looking to make $450,000 between now and April 20, with the promise that the new product won’t be anywhere near the unmitigated disaster of the original.
But between the money from his playing days and his current gig as a paid shill for whatever company throws enough cash at him, Shaq must be exceedingly wealthy, right? And a decent video game is going to cost a lot more than $450,000 to develop. So what in the world do they need $450,000 from the common folk?
“The purpose of bringing the game to the public is to see how much interest there is in becoming Shaq’s partner and in seeing the game happen,” explain the developers. “In exchange for your help, Shaq is offering unprecedented access to his life.”
Except, as AVclub.com’s Matt Gerardi points out, the lowest level of donation that brings you any closer to the basketball giant is $500. For that, Shaq will… follow you on Instagram.
Excuse me while I look for my checkbook.
For $600, Shaq will record a voicemail message for you. Of course, since no one actually calls anyone anymore, most of your friends and colleagues won’t be impressed because they’ll never hear it. And more than a few people will probably hang up, thinking they got a wrong number. But hey, $600 well spent.
$25,000 will get you and six friends a two-hour dinner with Shaq in Orlando or Atlanta.
“Lunch is on us – travel is on you,” reads the description, completely overlooking the fact that no, lunch isn’t on them, as you FORKED OVER TWENTY-FIVE LARGE FOR IT.
Amazingly, this project has already earned more than $17,000.
Reminder to those thinking of donating on a lark: This is an indiegogo campaign, so there is no requirement that the Shaq Fu team must raise all $450,000 before taking your donation.
Yes, traveling with a gun you have a license for is just fine — if you check it, unloaded, in your luggage and declare it beforehand.
But Transportation Security Administration officials say a man arrested at Baltimore Washington International Airport had the handgun in his carry-on, reports CBS Baltimore.
“TSA officer who was staffing the x-ray monitor noticed what appeared to be a firearm — a handgun and two clips with 36 rounds of bullets as well,” a TSA spokeswoman said.
The passenger reportedly told officials he didn’t realize you can’t bring guns through airport security checkpoints. He was arrested and his gun was confiscated.
He’s not alone — the TSA rep said there were about 1,100 firearms detected on passengers nationwide.
So let’s be clear on this one more time, via the TSA spokeswoman: “You can never have a firearm with you in the plane cabin.”
Not loaded, not unloaded, not ever.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter if that’s the kind of thing you’re inspired to do on a Thursday afternoon in early March: @marybethquirk
Man Arrested At BWI After Gun Found In Carry-On Bag [CBS Baltimore]
The deal, which currently does not specify a total dollar amount, would have Wells and insurance providers Assurant and QBE repaying affected homeowners up to 11% of the total premiums paid on certain forced-place insurance policies.
Forced-place insurance policies are purchased by lenders when a homeowner with a mortgage allows their insurance policy to lapse. Since the bank requires that the property be covered, it obtains a policy on its own for the property.
However, these policies are often more expensive than coverage homeowners would get on their own. In many cases, forced-place insurance also only provides enough coverage so that the bank can recoup the remaining value of the loan in case of destruction of the property.
Plaintiffs in this case and others have alleged that the higher rates charged for these policies were not a matter of the cost of doing business. They claimed that banks were getting commissions and kickbacks that were tied to the dollar value of the policy premiums. Thus, according to the plaintiffs, the premiums were set at a high level so as to maximize the lenders’ share of the premiums.
Some contended that charging high insurance premiums on homeowners — many of whom could already not afford the less-expensive policies they’d allowed to lapse — was only working to push borrowers further toward foreclosure.
As with almost all major settlements, Wells Fargo appears to be admitting no wrongdoing, saying agreed to the settlement in order to avoid a protracted legal battle.
A $110 million settlement involving Citi’s forced-place insurance practices is awaiting court approval, while cases against Bank of America and HSBC are still pending.