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The Consumerist

FTC: You Cannot Lose Weight By Wearing Caffeinated Underpants

Mon, 2014-09-29 20:29

Infusing ladies’ undergarments with caffeine does not make them weight loss aids, as it turns out. This news may not come as a surprise to most of us, but two companies were trying to sell just such a product with the claim that it would indeed have a slimming effect. The not-so-magical underwear has made one thing significantly smaller, though: the bank accounts of the two companies in question, which have reached a $1.5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC announced the settlement with Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc. and Wacoal America, Inc. this afternoon. The companies are barred from making future “false and unsubstantiated claims” about their shapewear, and must pay more than $1.5 million in consumer refunds.

One company claimed that wearing their caffeine-infused unmentionables would “eliminate or substantially reduce cellulite; reduce the wearer’s hip measurements by up to two inches and their thigh measurements by one inch; and reduce thigh and hip measurements ‘without any effort’,” according to the FTC.

The other company made very similar claims, but also said that its iPants (yes, iPants) would also “destroy fat cells, resulting in substantial slimming.”

As we are all no doubt shocked to learn, these claims appear not to be true or backed up by any actual scientific evidence, which makes them a violation of the FTC Act.

In addition to paying up for refunds, the settlement agreement bans both companies from claiming that any drug-infused garment will cause a substantial drop in one’s weight, fat, or measurements.

“Caffeine-infused shapewear is the latest ‘weight-loss’ brew concocted by marketers,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If someone says you can lose weight by wearing the clothes they are selling, steer clear. The best approach is tried and true: diet and exercise.”

Today might be National Coffee Day, but there are some places caffeine just should not go.

Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America Settle FTC Charges Over Weight-Loss Claims for Caffeine-infused Shapewear []

Uber Wants To Hire German Taxi Drivers, Not Fight With Them

Mon, 2014-09-29 20:15

(So Cal Metro)

(So Cal Metro)

Uber is best known as an app that dispatches limos, black cars, or regular drivers in regular cars to wherever you and your smartphone are, but has a less-known feature called UberTaxi. In Germany, where the company and taxi drivers are in a legal fight over whether the company should be allowed to compete with licensed taxis, the company is trying something new: hiring taxi drivers.

Well, that’s not exactly right. UberTaxi already exists in other cities with lots of taxi drivers, like London and New York. The service lets taxi drivers receive mobile hails during time that they’d normally just be sitting around waiting for a fare. What users get out of it is the opportunity to hail a cab, slightly cheaper.

The company will try UberTaxi in Berlin and Hamburg, and expand it to other cities if the test works out.

When the country’s taxi drivers brought a lawsuit against Uber, the court ruled that the UberBlack car-ordering service didn’t fit current taxi or limo regulations, and the low-cost UberPop service, which lets ordinary citizens drive people around for extra cash, isn’t even close to meeting the safety requirements normally asked of taxi drivers.

Uber to use regular taxi drivers in Germany [Reuters]

Harley-Davidson Recalls All 2014 Touring Bikes, Including Trikes And Custom Designs

Mon, 2014-09-29 20:01

(Matt McGee)

(Matt McGee)

By now we’re used to vehicle recalls reaching into the hundred thousands, but this one is a bit different. Harley-Davidson is calling back nearly 126,000 motorcycles because a problem with the clutch could lead to crashes.

CNN Money reports the recall applies to all model year 2014 Touring bikes, including the three-wheeled trikes and customs builds.

The hydraulic clutch in the motorcycles may not disengage and the bike could crash.

An official with Harley-Davidson says the company is aware of 19 accidents related to the issue, but no serious injuries. Several of the accidents occurred during the company’s safety testing.

Owners of the affected bikes will be notified and the issue can be fixed by rebuilding the master clutch cylinder, which takes less than an hour, the company reports.

In a separate recall, the company is calling back about 1,400 model year 2015 XG500’s and XG750’s because of a possible fuel tank leak.

Harley-Davidson recalls all 2014 Touring motorcycles [CNN Money]

Diners At UK Cafe Must Sign Waiver Before Attempting 8,000-Calorie Breakfast Challenge

Mon, 2014-09-29 19:46

The time limit is now an hour to eat all of that. (Bear Grills Cafe)

The time limit is now an hour to eat all of that. (Bear Grills Cafe)

It’s a pretty clear warning sign that you could be in for some serious damage to your gut if a restaurant makes you sign a waiver clearing it of any liability for eating a dish on its menu. It makes sense, though, if that item contains 8,000 calories or so, and comes with the title of “The Hibernator” — because you’ll need a year to sleep that puppy off.

The Bear Grills cafe across the pond in ye olde England is offering a seven-pound plate of food that has four times the recommended daily caloric intake for an adult man, reports The Daily Mail.

Included on a four-foot turkey platter in this Man vs Bear challenge: eight rashers of bacon, eight sausages, four hash browns, four fried eggs, a four egg cheese omelette, four waffles, four pieces of toast, four pieces of fried bread, four black pudding, two ladles of beans, two ladles of tomatoes, mushrooms, a portion of large fries and a 2,000-calorie milkshake to top it all off.

Only 20 people have attempted The Hibernator since it hit the menu, and no one has been successful at eating the entire thing in under an hour… yet.

“I reckon with these ingredients you could feed a family for a week,” says the man who runs the joint, adding that he dreamed up this feast of calories to attract a younger set.

“Younger guys come in, and it is all men who have tried the challenge, and they look at the ingredients up on the board and say: ‘I am going to smash that,’ ” he explains. “But then they see it come out on the big platter all heaped high and start to cry on the phone to their friends. They give up after about twenty minutes.”

The instinct to weep does seem to fit the bill.

Is this Britain’s unhealthiest breakfast? The Man vs Food-inspired fry-up with FOUR TIMES the daily calorie allowanc
e [Daily Mail]

Phillies Fans Impression Of Atlanta Pitcher Is Highly Amusing

Mon, 2014-09-29 19:16

phillies2There are plenty of sports fans out there we’ve written about who do bad things during games, these Philadelphia Phillies fans are pulling off an impressive — and pretty darn funny — combination of a taunt and team spirit. No one is too dignified to mimic Atlanta Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel’s bird of prey moves, and to be honest, it looks like a blast.

Much like the wave, the wind-up moves of Kimbrel get people out of their seats and flapping their arms like so many winged creatures of mockery — but you’ve gotta think Kimbrel has seen it already before. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get that ball across the plate, after all, and he did end up with the save regardless.

Famous, Non-Hachette Authors Join Protest Over Amazon Feud, Seek Anti-Trust Investigation

Mon, 2014-09-29 18:45

(Danny Ngan)

(Danny Ngan)

The ongoing feud between Amazon and book publisher Hachette is drawing out the big names such as Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and other well-known, highly successful authors. So what sets these authors apart from those already pushing for Amazon to end its standoff with the publisher regarding e-book sales? Well, none of them are actually Hachette-published authors and they signal a new push for federal regulators to investigate Amazon for its allegedly shady e-book pricing tactics.

The New York Times reports that hundreds of writers, many of whom are not published by Hachette, have joined their literary brethren in highlighting the alleged disservice Amazon is doing to authors and consumers alike.

For those coming to this story late, Amazon and Hachette Book Group, one of the nation’s largest publishers, have been unable to agree on wholesale pricing terms, most notably on e-books.

Amazon is attempting to pressure Hachette into making a deal by refusing to take pre-orders on new Hachette titles. Shipping on the publisher’s in-stock titles is often delayed, and books from other publishers are receiving more attractive discounts.

Authors United, which sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in August asking him to resolve his company’s ongoing contract dispute with book publisher Hachette, is currently writing to the individual members of Amazon’s board and drafting a letter to the Justice Department asking it to examine Amazon for possible anti-trust issues.

At the center of the discussion is the debated issue: What are the rights and responsibilities of a company that sells half the books in America and controls the dominant e-book platform?

While the group first consisted of only Hachette-published authors, it now includes those from other publishing houses and the estates of many well-known authors.

Andrew Wylie, a literary agent, tell the Times that he’s asked all of his writers to join the group, Authors United.

“It’s very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors,” Wylie says. “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

Of the thousands of clients Wylie represents, about 300 have signed on to Authors United. In addition to Rushdie and Roth, those who have signed on include the estates of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson.

Recipient of the 2014 Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American LEtter, Ursula K. Le Guin – who isn’t a client of Wylie – also recently signed on to the writer’s group.

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Le Guin tells the Times. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

Still, according to the Times, any threat presented by the high-profile authors and the letter to the Justice Dept. doesn’t seem to have had much effect on Amazon. The company said that it was trying to make e-books more affordable for all consumers, and that publishers and writers would make up in volume what they were losing in margin if the prices were lower.

Despite efforts by the writer’s group, Amazon has continued its shady pricing tactics. As an example, the Times reports the retailer’s differing treatment of two new Hachette publications.

Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, which came out in May, was initially discounted. The book is no longer discounted and takes up to three weeks to ship.

By contrast “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan has no shipping constraints.

Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics [The New York Times]

Facebook’s New Ad Service Lets Advertisers Get Up Close And Personal Everywhere You Are

Mon, 2014-09-29 18:44

(Bob Avery)

(Bob Avery)

Facebook ads: we’ve all seen a million of them. While some are generic spam, many are very creepily on-target. Until now, Facebook has mostly used its massive hoard of detailed user data for itself, and to sell ads on its own site. But now the site you love to hate is finding a new way to bank on your favorite bands and brands, with a new advertising service that can let companies chase down and advertise to any specific group they want.

The service is called Atlas, the New York Times reports, and its bid for world domination starts today.

For businesses, the allure of Atlas is just how much information the target audience — that’d be Facebook users — have voluntarily dumped into it. Companies that use Atlas can slice and dice audiences into remarkably narrow, specific niches as desired. “You can slice and dice markets, like women 25 to 35 who live in the Southeast and are fans of ‘Breaking Bad,’” as an analyst explained to the Times.

It’s also a cross-platform product. That’s a fancy way of saying that because your Facebook profile is still your Facebook profile no matter what computer or iPad or phone you’re using, Facebook can track your behavior across all devices and let advertisers reach you on all of them.

The NYT points to the example of Pepsi, which is one of the first companies to sign on. If they “wanted to reach college age men with ads for its Mountain Dew Baja Blast,” the Times explains, they could use the service to “identify several million of those potential customers and show each of them a dozen ads for the soft drink on game apps, sports and video sites.” Atlas also provides metrics to companies like Pepsi so they can figure out which ads are the most effective.

Facebook announced that it was collecting user data for resale purposes back in June. Technically there are ways to opt out, but they may or may not exactly work.

Facebook’s data is increasingly valuable as users switch away from traditional desktop and laptop computers and more toward mobile (and tablet) use. The web user tracking that works on your desk doesn’t work nearly as well for advertisers on your phone, and advertising companies have had a hard time figuring out how to make money off of us all in the mobile space. But Facebook is there, watching.

“The Facebook login is most useful on mobile devices, where traditional web tracking tools like cookies and pixel tags do not work,” the NYT explains. “If a person is logged into the Facebook app on a smartphone, the company has the ability to see what other apps he or she is using and could show ads within those apps.”

So yes, to clarify: Facebook knows what apps you’re using on a phone where you are also logged into Facebook, and can then insert ads into those apps that will target you based on your laptop history and Facebook “likes.”

While this may sound fairly terrifying to ordinary data points users like you and me, advertisers and analysts see a lot of potential in the service. Facebook is now competing directly with Google, which famously scans for key words in user e-mails, web searches, and more to place targeted ads in those products.

Facebook also insists that the data is aggregated and does not include individual identifying information, which they never disclose to marketing companies. However, that doesn’t mean that a company (like Pepsi) can’t take their own list of Facebook “likes” and match it against detailed advertising info they get from Facebook to do some matching of their own.

With New Ad Platform, Facebook Opens Gates to Its Vault of User Data [New York Times]

Teens Introduce Themselves On Camera, Try Bending iPhones At The Apple Store

Mon, 2014-09-29 18:12

bendphoneappleWhile bendgate continues to swirl around Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus, something else is being warped — the minds of today’s youth, who somehow believe committing criminal damage at a retail store is going to solve all bendy problems. It won’t — and showing your faces on camera and introducing yourselves before you do something like that is going to create an entirely different problem for you, kids.

Two teens in the United Kingdom posted a video of themselves going into an Apple store — after introducing themselves by name — and trying to bend the iPhone 6 Plus.

Covertly, of course, because as the kids admit while they were in the store: “The screen did pop out and we had to push it back in, as there were a lot of people there. If we would’ve gotten caught we would have had to pay for the phone.”

Yes, you should be paying for the property that doesn’t belong to you that you’re trying your best to break, kids.

The boys attempt to defend themselves, sort of, with one saying that while breaking things they don’t own is probably bad, “I don’t even care to be honest, because it’s Apple’s fault.”

Everyone together now — sigh.

The lesson may have been learned by now: The kids wised up and removed the initial YouTube video, but alas, the Internet saves all.

H/T to the Daily Dot

TGI Friday’s Is Selling Corporate-Owned Restaurants To Franchisees

Mon, 2014-09-29 17:38



Under its current ownership, Burger King started to do something kind of revolutionary for a company in the fast food restaurant business: it sold most of its corporate-owned restaurants. That move appears to have worked out well for the King, and now other restaurant chains are trying it as well. Will it work for TGI Friday’s?

The move is just one of many changes that the chain has been making over the last few years, which include the not-so-bold step of taking all of eclectic decorations off the walls and seeking a more modern look. Customers seem to like the change, with remodeled restaurants receiving a traffic boost.

Another innovation is the Endless Appetizers promotion. While the idea has been widely mocked, it has also attracted crowds of hungry youngsters, and the companies report that people in their teens to mid-thirties are now almost one third of customers, compared to just 20% before they started bringing people an endless parade of mozzarella sticks.

TGI Friday’s owns 247 restaurants in the United States and 63 in the United Kingdom, and plans to sell most of them to franchisees.

TGI Fridays to Sell Most of Its U.S. Company-Owned Outlets [TGI Friday's]

GM Ignition Recall Death Toll Increases Again, 23 Deaths Now Linked To Defective Switches

Mon, 2014-09-29 17:17


It may take months or even years before we realize the full scope of devastation caused by the defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. But each week the picture becomes a bit clearer. This week, the overseer of the independent compensation fund announced that two more deaths were the direct result of the defect that went ignored for more than a decade.

Those two additional deaths bring the total toll to 23 – 10 more than General Motors originally admitted were a result of the defect, Reuters reports.

Ken Feinberg, the lawyer appointed to the head up the fund, announced Monday that the fund has received 867 claims for compensation for serious injuries or deaths related to the switch issue since the fund began accepting claims on August 1.

While eligible death claims increased from last week’s tally of 21, no additional serious physical injury claims were approved.

Claims will continue to be accepted and investigated until December 31.

GM’s initial tally of 13 deaths only included drivers and front-seat passengers who were killed when their airbags failed to deploy because the ignition had inadvertently been turned off. That means that passengers in the backseat were excluded, as they would have died regardless of whether or not the airbags deployed.

But if the ignition defect itself was the cause of the accident — the engine turns off while driving, causing the driver to panic and taking away the vehicle’s power steering and brakes — then it is responsible for any injuries to the backseat passengers, right? That’s the approach being taken by the compensation fund.

Additionally, the fund is considering claims from pedestrians and people in other cars that were harmed by an out-of-control GM vehicle.

When the fund was launched over the summer, GM said there would be no cap to the claims, but that compensation would be tied to the level of injury and loss experienced. An approved death claim is expected to result in an offer of compensation for at least $1 million, plus payments of $300,000 to surviving family members.

According to the plan’s formula, families of those who died are entitled to at least $1 million, plus the calculation of lifetime earning lost, and $300,000 for a spouse and for each dependent.

Consumers who suffered life-altering injuries could receive even more when the cost of lifetime medical care, lost earnings power and other factors are considered.

The plan also addresses consumers who faced less-severe injuries. Those who were treated at a hospital or an outpatient medical facility within 48 hours of the accident are eligible for a claim.

The formula for that claim is $20,000 for one night in the hospital; $70,000 for two to seven overnights, $170,000 for eight to 15 overnights, with a maximum of $500,000 for 32 or more overnights. Those treated on an outpatient basis could receive a maximum of $20,000.

The claimants are not obligated to accept the compensation, but if they do take the money they give up their rights to pursue legal action against GM with regard to the ignition defect.

The compensation program covers approximately 1.6 million model-year 2003-2007 recalled vehicles manufactured with an ignition switch defect and approximately 1 million model year 2008-2011 recalled vehicles that may have been repaired with a recalled ignition switch.

Deaths linked to GM ignition-switch defect rise to 23 [Reuters]

Hundreds Of Flight Cancellations, Delays Expected For Days To Come After Fire At Illinois Radar Facility

Mon, 2014-09-29 17:01

Chicago is still pretty miserable right now. (

Chicago is still pretty miserable right now. (

If you thought those poor souls lined up for all eternity at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Friday were the only people who’d have to deal with the aftermath of a fire that torched an air traffic control center, I have some very bad news for you: Hundreds more flights are expected to be canceled in the coming weeks, and there will be plenty of delays as well, while officials scramble to fix the damage to the system.

At least 1,300 flights were canceled in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports on Friday, 900 were chucked on Sunday and more than 400 are already off the boards for today, reports Businessweek, meaning this is one very big mess that will take awhile to clean up.

The Federal Aviation Administration said things are proceeding along and that the radar center in Aurora, IL should be back online on Oct. 13. Officials suspect that a disgruntled employee set the fire.

“The issue now is you’ve got so many crews and planes out of place,” a transportation consultant tells Businessweek. “You’ve got the chess pieces spread all over the board now and you need to get them all where they are supposed to be before things can get moving.”

No matter how fast the radar system is fixed, there are still all of those stranded passengers affected by cancellations and delays who need to get where they’ve been trying to go. That kind of demand is going to put a lot of pressure on airlines, meaning it could be a few days before those who are stuck can rebook.

Canceled Flights in U.S. May Last for Days Because of Sabotage [Businessweek]

Guy With A Sweet Mustache Allegedly Went On California Costco Shoplifting Spree

Mon, 2014-09-29 16:32

(Michelle Reitman)

(Michelle Reitman)

I’ve always wanted an awesome nickname. Apparently I should just ask the Santa Cruz, CA, police department for their input. I am officially crowning them the unofficial nickname kings (and queens) for the name bestowed on an alleged serial Costco thief: El Mustachio the Magician.

CBS San Francisco Bay Area reports local police officers arrested a 45-year-old man in connection with a number of burglaries at the same Santa Cruz Costco store.

The man is suspected of stealing electronics from the store on July 7, July 17 and August 21. After three successful shoplifting trips the man tried again on August 26, but walked away empty-handed.

Police officers gave the man the unique nickname after watching surveillance footage of the July 7 theft.

In the video, the man allegedly grabbed Bose SoundLink speakers from a shelf then stepped away from the warehouse video camera in order to slip the speakers under his shirt and jacket before leaving the store.

Police say the nickname seemed fitting because of the man’s facial hair and his ability to hide speakers under his clothing.

Both of the late July and early August incidents involved the theft of laptops.

During the August 26 attempted theft, the man allegedly tried to get away with an Xbox video game console. When warehouse employees made contact with the man, he dropped some of the device’s cables from his pockets and fled.

Officials were able to connect the three thefts and one attempted theft to the same man through the security footage. Although he wore different clothing for each trip, he continued to rock a well-groomed fu manchu and the same Ugg-style boots.

When police were unable to identify the man, they got creative. In exchange for information that would lead for to an arrest they offered a commemorative pint glass with the mustache painted on it signed by the police chief.

An anonymous tipster identified the man as the assailant. However, the man had already been arrested in an unrelated case.

Shoplifter Nicknamed ‘El Mustachio The Magician’ Arrested At Santa Cruz Costco [CBS SF Bay Area]

Here’s Where To Get Free Drinks For National Coffee Day

Mon, 2014-09-29 16:25



It’s National Coffee Day, because in this country, everything we ingest must be celebrated nationwide on a single, special day. And instead of giving coffee presents, coffee is giving us presents, by way of free beverage offers at chains around the country.

Always make sure you check that your location is participating — some franchise locations might not be down with the free java campaign offered by the corporate overlords. And there’s nothing more disappointing than not getting the free coffee you’ve been hankering for all day.

Dunkin’ Donuts: Customers can get a free medium Hot Dark Roast Coffee today.

Krispy Kreme: Free 12-ounce cup of coffee, or $1 12-ounce mochas, lattes and iced coffee.

Caribou Coffee: Offering samples of a new Amy’s blend roast, with 10% of all sales going to CancerAwares to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Tim Horton’s: Customers who like their Facebook page can get a coupon for a free coffee with purchase of a second cup.

Starbucks: Free samples of Anniversary Blend if you come in before noon.

McDonald’s: Today was the last day of free small McCafe coffees during breakfast, but hey, there was a celebration.

There Are No Names On The Cups At The CIA’s Starbucks Because It’s The CIA’s Starbucks

Mon, 2014-09-29 15:55

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

When someone mentions that fact that there’s a Starbucks inside the CIA’s Langley, VA compound, visions of sneaky, super secret latte operations dance through your head, right? Put on your best dark sunglasses and pop the collar on that trench coat because the place does seem to be exactly like the stuff of our spy dreams.

For example — putting customers’ names on their cups so baristas can call out when drinks are ready? Not gonna happen at the CIA Starbucks, explains the Washington Post. Because it’s the CIA.

“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” said a food services supervisor at the CIA. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

They call it the “Stealthy Starbucks,” where receipts read “Store Number 1″ and the baristas have to be escorted out of the work area by CIA “minders.”

Customer rewards cards? Nope — that data could get into the wrong hands and bring down a secret agent’s cover. It’s kind of too bad, considering the gallons of coffee all those CIA employees go through.

“Obviously,” one officer told the WP, “we are caffeine-addicted personality types. ”

And yes, super secret spy things apparently go down among the cozy armchairs and poster prints on the wall — one officer said the chief of the team that helped find Osama Bin Laden recruiting an important member of his team while at the Starbucks.

But don’t try to get any more information out of the baristas who work there — this job comes with serious background checks and a mandate to keep those lips zipped.

“The most I can say to friends is that I work in a federal building,” one worker says, adding that she’s come to recognize customers by their orders, and that’s all she knows.

“But I have no idea what they do,” she explains. “I just know they need coffee, a lot of it.”

At CIA Starbucks, even the baristas are covert [Washington Post]

Chipotle Lacks Diaper Changing Table, Mom Changes Toddler On The Dining Table Instead

Mon, 2014-09-29 14:30

(Josh Bassett)

(Josh Bassett)

Chipotle has a kids’ menu with tiny quesadillas and organic milk, and offers high chairs in its dining rooms. They seemed to Chad like an establishment that welcomes and accommodates families with small children. When his wife took their 16-month-old daughter for a diaper change, though, she found no changing table. So she did the sensible thing and changed the tot’s dirty diaper on a table in the dining area. Wait, what?

Chad sent us a copy of his letter to Chipotle’s headquarters, which is too long to reproduce here. This all went down at a restaurant in the Midwest, and Chad tells us that the location is pretty new, having opened in the last year or so. In the letter, he admits that his wife’s decision to change the kid in the dining area was “unsavory,” and apologizes for any health code violations that she may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the employees who had to sanitize the table.

Yet he defends her decision in his letter, and defended it to the (horrified) Chipotle employees as well. He concluded that they must not have children of their own based on their horror at his wife’s actions, and their apparently unacceptable suggestions for alternative diaper-changing spots. For example: the family’s car. In his letter, he complained to Chipotle that the employees showed an

inability/unwillingness to empathize with parents who find [the car] a less convenient alternative even on a beautiful day like yesterday, much less a subfreezing day as we undoubtedly will have in [this region] this winter.

Consumerist consulted with the ultimate experts in this area: a number of parents of toddlers and recovering toddlers, who didn’t buy Chad’s arguments and pointed out the many alternatives. One could, for example, change the diaper while the child is standing up, or lay a changing pad on the bathroom floor. (This option does depend on your ability to get up from kneeling on the floor, and isn’t for everyone.) If the diaper isn’t a poop-laden catastrophe, it could wait until the family can get to another public restroom that does have a changing table. If it is a poop-laden catastrophe, exposing the entire dining room to that is unwise.

The incident ended with the manager on duty telling Chad’s family that if they tried another dining room diaper change, they would immediately be asked to leave. That’s fine, Chad noted, because he wouldn’t be coming back until a changing table was in place. He pointed out in his letter that competitor Qdoba does have changing tables.

In a similar incident in Texas just last month, a family was kicked out of a pizza restaurant on their first diaper-changing offense. “I don’t want to lose all these other customers because they see a dirty diaper,” one employee there told a local TV station.

The real question that this incident raises is whether Chipotle restaurants normally have a changing table. The official answer: they do not.

Chipotle responded to Chad’s original letter with the following:

Thank you for reaching out to us. I’m sorry to hear that you and your family don’t feel as comfortable in our restaurants having a little one that might need changing. I can completely understand that it’s a hassle to find a way to change your daughter, and agree, that there are simply no alternatives as convenient as an actual changing table. We are currently in the process of retrofitting locations with changing tables, but I understand that this is not a very timely solution. I will forward your email to our [city] restaurant team, so they can understand where you come from, to maybe ease some of the tension. As you can understand it might be disconcerting for other customers to see a child getting changed directly on the tables, and we want to provide all of our customers with an exceptional experience.

We hope that we get to see you again soon, and that we find a good resolution that makes everyone happy.

When Chad wrote back and pressed for a precise date, they couldn’t give him one.

Separately, we contacted Chipotle’s communications department about the changing table question, and they confirmed that most restaurants in the chain don’t have changing tables, but they are considering it.

We are testing them in a handful of restaurants and our design team is looking to incorporate them into new restaurants that are in locations where we are likely to see a high concentration of families as customers.

It’s interesting that the bathrooms weren’t designed with changing tables from the outset, but maybe the program will leave the test phase and they’ll roll out more across the country.

Please, though, nobody hold diaper-in protests to pressure Chipotle to do it. People eat there.

Consumer Reports Test Shows It Takes A Lot To Bend New iPhones

Sat, 2014-09-27 02:07

While there have been anecdotal claims of the new iPhone 6 Plus bending just from spending too much time in a user’s pocket and multiple videos of people showing that you can bend one of these phones with your bare hands, there hasn’t been much science done to determine exactly how much force is needed to get that undesired curve in your oversized phone (or is it an undersized tablet?). Thankfully, our colleagues at Consumer Reports have cool machines to figure this kind of thing out.

For the last couple of days, the scientists at CR have been stress-testing the iPhone 6 Plus and a handful of other devices with an Instron compression test machine, which does pretty much what it sounds like.

In fact, as this Verge behind-the-scenes report on Apple’s durability testing shows, Apple is also using an Instron machine to do its own stress tests.

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Testers started by applying 10 pounds of force for 30 seconds before releasing, then increasing the force in 10-pound increments (each for 30 seconds) while taking notes on exactly when the phones began to deform.

Since many believe the large screen and thin profile of the 6 Plus is what makes it more susceptible to bending, CR also tested the similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and LG G3.

And what’s a test of the 6 Plus without a test of the not-as-big iPhone 6? For comparison, CR also put the iPhone 5 and the HTC One M8 into the Instron.

“Turns out, it takes a lot of force to permanently bend one of these new iPhones,” says Consumer Reports, “and all the other phones we tested for that matter.”

Perhaps surprisingly, it actually took less force (70 pounds) to get the smaller iPhone 6 to bend than it did the 6 Plus, which didn’t bend until 90 pounds of force were applied.

The iPhone 6 began to bend when 70 pounds of force were applied. The 6 Plus lasted until 90 pounds, after which point the screens on both devices began to separate from their frames.

The iPhone 6 began to bend when 70 pounds of force were applied. The 6 Plus lasted until 90 pounds, after which point the screens on both devices began to separate from their frames.

Also bending at 70 pounds was the HTC device, meaning two of the non-phablet phones required less force than the larger devices.

The HTC One M8 also began to bend after 70 pounds of force were applied.

The HTC One M8 also began to bend after 70 pounds of force were applied.

(In terms of a real-life comparison, it takes about 80 pounds of pressure for the Instron to break four wood pencils.)

It looks like there is definitely a different in rigidity between the new iPhones and the iPhone 5, which didn’t begin to bend until 130 pounds of force were applied, nearly double what it took to bend the iPhone 6.

CRO_Electronics_Bent_Phones_Side-by-Side_09-14CR tested the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One M8, and the LG G3.

The LG G3 and the Galaxy Note 3 sprang back to form until testers applied 130 pounds and 150 pounds, respectively. That’s when the devices’ screens separated from the bodies and the devices stopped working.

It took at least 90 pounds of force to get the new iPhone screens to come off their frames, but the iPhone 5 made it all the way to 150 pounds before that screen detached.

Consumer Reports’ conclusion?

“While not the strongest phones on the market, fears of a serious structural design flaw in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus seem overblown.”

Apple, after being made aware of the CR test results, maintains that, with normal use, seeing a bend in an iPhone is “extremely rare.” The company also restated its previous claim that only nine 6 Plus users contacted the company about bent devices during the first six days of release.

CVS Collects Erroneous Birth Control Copays, Will Issue Refunds

Fri, 2014-09-26 23:57

(Nate Grigg)

(Nate Grigg)

Pharmacy chain CVS charged about 11,000 customers who have health insurance small copays when they picked up some recent prescriptions. What’s wrong with that? Those prescriptions were for generic contraceptive pills, which should be dispensed with no copay at all under the federal Affordable Care Act. Now those customers are due a refund.

CVS says that the erroneous copays were due to a glitch in the system that involved customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, an insurer in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The issue first came to public attention because of a letter from California Congresswoman Jackie Speier. One of her staff members in Washington had to fork over an erroneous $20 copay, and she sent a letter about the matter to the CEO of CVS.

“I am concerned that most women who are likely not familiar with their rights under the ACA may go without this essential family planning service that is supposed to be guaranteed to them under law,” she wrote. Not everyone is a Congressional staffer, after all.

For now, the problem appears to be limited to one insurance company and one pharmacy chain, but Rep. Speier’s office has received some complaints from her California district about similar problems, and CVS is investigating any complaints that it receives.

CVS says that they will issue checks to affected customers in early October, and customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield are no longer being charged copays they don’t owe.

After Glitch, CVS Gives 11,000 Birth Control Refunds [Kaiser Health News]
CVS illegally charging women for generic birth control [UPI]

Restaurant Kicks Out Blind Man And Service Dog, Gets Schooled On ADA

Fri, 2014-09-26 22:45

service_dogService dogs are able to help people with a wide variety of problems, from diabetes to seizure disorders to blindness. Whenever there’s a controversy over whether a service dog dog should be allowed inside a business, we frequently hear that an employee told the disabled person, “you’re not blind!” Recently in California, though, a blind man, his family, and his service dog visited a restaurant and were told that Dogs Are Not Allowed.

Normally, service dogs are allowed to go anywhere that their owners are, including taxis, stores, and restaurants. Technically, a business owner can ask an animal to leave, but only if the dog isn’t housebroken or is being disruptive in some other kind of doggy way.

When the family visited this Indian restaurant in South Sacramento, they were asked to leave. Well, the dog was. “No dog. Get out. Just get out,” he recounted to the TV station. They decided to investigate for themselves. Instead of attaching a camera to the same customer, they sent in their own blind guy/service dog team. They were asked to leave, but pushed back by quoting the relevant parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It turns out that the restaurant’s owner and staff simply weren’t familiar with the laws surrounding service dogs, and didn’t know that there are circumstances under which dogs have to be allowed inside. That could be an expensive lesson: the kicked-out customer could have sued them for not allowing him to bring the dog inside.

Call Kurtis Investigates: Sacramento Restaurant Denies Blind Man’s Service Dog [CBS Sacramento]

PODS Awarded $62M In Trademark Infringement Suit Against U-Haul

Fri, 2014-09-26 22:07

podsWhat’s in a name? Well, if that name happens to be PODS about $62 million. That’s how much the storage and moving company was awarded in damages from a trademark infringement lawsuit against U-Haul.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the award was made after a jury ruled U-Haul infringed on PODS’ trademarks, causing confusion and hurting business for the company.

Clearwater-based PODS delivers containers to homes and businesses to be filled and transported to storage centers.

PODS sued U-Haul International in U.S. District Court in Tampa back in 2012 alleging that U-Haul “improperly and unlawfully” used the PODS trademark on its website as a way to divert sales. The company sought an estimated $170 million in damages.

At the time the suit was filed officials with U-Haul said the company used the word pod to describe its U-Box product.

However, the jury found that U-Haul unjustly gained from mentioning the term in its marketing and advertising materials and started using the word only after PODS became a prominent business.

The ruling in PODS’ favor was a significant win over “genericide,” the term used to describe what happens when a trademarked product morphs from a single product identified under a name to an entire product category, such as happened with aspirin, trampoline and cellophane.

In all, the jury awarded PODS about $46 million in damages and another $16 million in profits attributable to U-Haul using the word pods.

An attorney for PODS tells the Times that based on the verdict the company plans to seek an injunction to get U-Haul to stop using pod and pods.

It was unclear if U-Haul plans to appeal the ruling.

PODS wins $62 million award in trademark infringement lawsuit against U-Haul [Tampa Bay Times]

Comcast Promises This Guy Is Coming To Fix Your Cable

Fri, 2014-09-26 22:00

"Meine dispatcher says there is something wrong with deine kable?"

Meine dispatcher says there is something wrong with deine kable?

Comcast has an image problem… mostly because its customer service is consistently ranked among the worst — not just of cable companies, but of all customer-facing businesses in the U.S. So maybe that’s not so much an image problem as it is a systemic rot that has been allowed to fester because the company has virtually no competition. So how to deal with this problem? Promote someone and claim that he’s going the answer to all your problems.

Kabletown announced today that it has promoted Charlie Herrin (who looks kind of like a laboratory hybrid of Wings’ Tim Daly and Thirtysomething’s Peter Horton) to be the company’s Senior VP of Customer Experience.

“Our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us,” writes Comcast Cable president Neil “no, it’s not Smith” Smit. “While we’ve made progress, we need to do a better job to make sure those interactions are excellent… from the moment a customer orders a new service, to the installation, to the way we communicate with them, to how we respond to any issues.”

That all sounds great Neil. Why didn’t you think of doing any of that for the last few decades while you gobbled up smaller cable companies without raising alarm bells at the FCC?

“The way we interact with our customers – on the phone, online, in their homes – is as important to our success as the technology we provide,” continues Smit, ignoring the fact that Comcast does everything it can to get you off the phone, uses scripted online chat that is hard to distinguish from a machine, and rarely shows up to your house when it’s supposed to. “Put simply, customer service should be our best product.”

Again, no duh.

The manure-spreading continues.

“Our customers deserve the best and we need to work harder to earn their trust and their business every day by exceeding their expectations,” writes Smit, again glossing over the fact that Comcast customers may indeed deserve the best, but they probably aren’t going to get it, at least in markets where there is no competing service for pay-TV and broadband.

Without competition, Comcast has no reason to actually back up this “we love our customers” sentiment. What are you going to do, switch to slow DSL service from your local phone company that hasn’t maintained its copper wire network in years? Or maybe you can get wireless broadband and pay the same amount as Xfinity for 1/70th the amount of data each month.

In spite of what Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have you believe, those are not alternatives.

“Transformation isn’t going to happen overnight,” admits Smit, in the post’s first real sign of anything resembling humility or honesty. “In fact, it may take a few years before we can honestly say that a great customer experience is something we’re known for. But that is our goal and our number one priority … and that’s what we are going to do.”

And that’s apparently where Herrin comes in.

In addition to being a “partner” with the heads of other groups, like customer service, technical operations, sales, marketing, training and development, and product innovation, Herrin is tasked with the unenviable task of listening to “feedback from customers as well as our employees to make sure we are putting our customers at the center of every decision we make.”

Herrin’s even got a pair of Emmy awards (who doesn’t?) gathering dust next to Comcast’s two Golden Poo statues for Worst Company In America. We had no idea they gave Emmys for this sort of thing, but Herrin got his back in 2011 for the Xfinity TV iPad app and another in 2013 for the X1 user interface.

The only way that Comcast will truly begin to treat customers better is when they stand to lose those customers. But rather than fight proactively to keep those subscribers by providing better service, Comcast would rather lobby against municipal broadband and exploit loopholes in net neutrality rules to squeeze tolls out of high-bandwidth content companies like Netflix that directly compete with Comcast’s pay-TV service but rely on its Xfinity broadband to reach consumers.

If Comcast truly believed that customers were the most important thing, it would welcome competition and show that its product would still be bought even after people were given a choice.