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3 Mistakes To Avoid When Making A Credit Card Balance Transfer

Fri, 2015-01-23 17:37

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

If, like a lot of people, you’re slowly chiseling away at the debt on a credit card with an interest rate of 15% or more, it’s so tempting to take advantage of a competing card’s offer for promotions like 0% APR balance transfers. And while that may be the way to go, there are common mistakes people make that end up negating the benefits of transferring their credit card balance.

Over at Credit.com, writer Jason Steele has a rundown of several of these mistakes. Here are the ones we think are the most relevant:

1. Not Picking The Best Offer
Sure, it would be so easy to take advantage of that promotional offer you just received offering 0% APR for 6 months on credit card balance transfers. But six months is now the absolute minimum for such offers. If you look around and do some comparison shopping, you’ll find cards offering that 0% APR deal for 12, 15, or maybe even 18 months, giving you a longer time to pay down the debt.

Just be careful and don’t use that extended 0% APR period as an excuse to rack up more debt. That’s exactly what the card company is hoping you’ll do.

You should find out what interest this account would charge for new purchases. Some will also offer promotional APR savings on new purchases for a few months, but still be aware of the eventual interest rate as it may be so high that you don’t want to risk using that card for anything other than saving money on the balance transfer.

2. Performing a Balance Transfer When You Can Pay Off Your Debt Quickly

The idea of switching all that 15% APR debt over to 0% APR may sound like a no-brainer, but most balance transfers charge a fee of 3% of the balance being transferred. So it may actually be less expensive to pay down that debt in a few months than it would be to transfer the balance.

Say you’ve got $1,000 on a credit card with 15% APR. Assuming you don’t rack up any more debt on that card, if you pay off your balance in full after three months, you’ll have paid around $26 in interest. But if you transfer that balance, you’ll pay $30 in fees.

That fee may be worth it if you need more time to pay down that debt or attend to other bills, but if you are just trying to spread out the cost of a hefty purchase over a few months you should do the math before assuming that a balance transfer is the right way to go.

3. Not Paying Off Your Debt Before the Offer Expires

In addition to racking up new debt on your new card, the bank is really hoping that you’ll make the mistake of failing to pay off that transferred balance in time.

When you make a balance transfer, it should be with the goal of getting rid of that debt, not as a way to just defer paying it off.

We suggest that you set up regular payments to that new account in an amount that will guarantee the transferred balance is paid off at least a few months before the actual APR kicks in. That way, in case you have a month where things are tight, you have some wiggle room and won’t end up paying interest on the transferred balance.

ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com Sells For $85,000 Now That Hype Is Over

Fri, 2015-01-23 17:32

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

The site ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com is an interesting case study in online marketing and being careful what you wish for. After accepting about $20,000 in very profitable orders, the site went up for auction, and has sold. The site’s owner is now free from the oppression of having to stick glitter in envelopes and mail it to people. [Flippa] [The Guardian]

TSA: 2,212 Firearms Found In Carry-Ons Last Year, And Most Were Loaded

Fri, 2015-01-23 17:07

TSA collage showing some of the guns discovered in 2014. (TSA.gov)

TSA collage showing some of the guns discovered in 2014. (TSA.gov)

Although the average traveler should know by now that flying with guns in your carry-on bag is not going to fly with the Transportation Security Administration, the number of people trying to bring firearms through airport security is going up every year, the agency says in a report today.

In 2014, a record 2,212 firearms were seized at the nation’s airports while screening screening more than 653 million passengers, the TSA’s reports says. Of those more than 2,000 firearms, 83% of those were loaded.

That’s a 22% increase over 2013, when 1,813 firearms were taken from travelers’ carry-ons. The TSA says the number of firearms seized at airport security has been going up almost every year since 2005.

Airports with the most gun activity include:

1.Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 120
2. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 109
3. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 78
4. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 77
5. Denver International Airport (DEN): 70

“In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items,” the TSA said in its blog reviewing the report’s results.

Beyond just small firearms, a grenade and an unloaded assault rifle with three loaded magazines were discovered last year, along with a long list of other prohibited items.

Previously in notable TSA finds: TSA Finds Large Knife Ruining A Batch Of Perfectly Good Enchiladas At California Airport; Reminder: TSA Has Magic Machines That Will Find Gun Parts Hidden In A PlayStation 2

NHTSA To Suggest (But Not Require) Sensor-Enabled Brakes For All New Vehicles

Fri, 2015-01-23 16:53
(Chris Rief)

(Chris Rief)

Consumers could soon have a longer list of recommended safety features to look for when setting out to buy a new car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced plans Thursday to change its vehicle safety rating program to include two sensor-based automatic emergency braking systems, but the agency won’t go so far as to mandate automakers’ use of the systems.

The Detroit News reports that the changes to the New Car Assessment Program include the addition of crash imminent breaking and dynamic brake support.

Crash-imminent braking automatically stops a car if sensors detect a possible crash, while dynamic braking adds force to the brakes if the driver isn’t pressing hard enough to avoid a crash.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says the agency won’t require the safety devices in new cars just yet, but adding the technology to the list recommended safety features does put pressure on car manufactures to include the systems if they want higher safety ratings from NHTSA.

“Today marks an enormous leap in the evolution of auto safety by encouraging adoption of new technologies to keep drivers and their passengers safe on our roads,” Foxx said at a meeting with automotive engineers in Washington. “Making it very clear that the technology will be one of the criteria on which auto manufacturers are graded is a pretty big step. They all want to be a five-star company.”

The Detroit News reports that back in May 2013, NHTSA first said it would consider requiring the technology in all future vehicles. At the time, regulators were in the process of conducting research on the systems that dynamically engage brakes without driver input to avoid impending crashes.

Regulators say the sensor-based technology could help to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives each year by warning inattentive drivers or by intervening to prevent crashes. According to NHTSA data, nearly 60% of fatal highway accidents are caused by inattentive drivers.

NHTSA researchers found that one-third of police reported crashes in 2013 involved rear-end collisions; a large number of those crashes were a result of drivers not applying the brakes or not fully braking.

Foxx says that in the past regulators found it difficult to address driver errors while trying to reduce vehicle fatality rates, but that new technology can act as an agency tool to supplant a driver’s judgement.

The new recommendations won’t take effect until after a 60 day public commenting period. Then NHTSA will have to respond before the recommendations appear on the agency’s website.

If the proposal gets approval it will mark the first time since 2010 that NHTSA has made changes to its “Stars on Cars” program.

U.S. urges automatic braking systems, but won’t mandate [The Detroit News]

Expedia Buys Rival Travel Site Travelocity For $280M

Fri, 2015-01-23 16:45

travelExpedia Inc. and Travelocity, two of the most prominent online travel agencies, have decided to take their relationship to the next level by way of a $280 million acquisition that paves the way for continued battles with travel site behemoth Priceline.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Expedia has agreed to purchase Travelocity from Sabre Corp.

However, the deal doesn’t exactly come as a surprise as the two companies have been working together since 2013.

At that time, the sites entered into a long-term agreement in which Expedia handled a majority of Travelocity’s operations. The deal gave Travelocity access to Expeida’s hotel supply and customer service programs.

The WSJ reports the new acquisition will be relatively unnoticeable to users.

The latest acquisition by Expedia adds to the company’s already brimming portfolio which includes Hotels.com, Trivago, and Hotwire.

Expedia To Buy Travelocity For $280 Million [The Wall Street Journal]

SkyMall Files For Bankruptcy Because You’re Not Buying Enough Inflatable Movie Screens

Fri, 2015-01-23 16:33

(Paxton Holley)

(Paxton Holley)

The SkyMall catalog has always been good for a chuckle when you have absolutely nothing else to read during a flight and you just can’t sleep. Some people have presumably even bought stuff through the publication, as it’s difficult to sustain a business for 25 years if the only revenue is punchlines. But apparently not enough of us are doing our inflight shopping through SkyMall, as the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The petition [PDF] was filed on Thursday in a federal bankruptcy court in Arizona, with the company acknowledging that its assets are in the $1 million to $10 million range, while its liabilities are somewhere north of $10 million but below $50 million.

According to the company’s listing of its 20 largest unsecured creditors [PDF], those businesses alone are owed nearly $8 million.

While Delta Air Lines tops the list of creditors, with SkyMall owing the carrier $1.455 million, the second- and third-largest creditors are American Airlines and U.S. Airways, who recently merged. Together, SkyMall owes more than $1.6 million to the airlines. Then there are hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to UPS, product suppliers, paper companies, and the other major airlines.

The company is blaming the rapidly increasing use of electronic devices on airplanes for the precipitous drop in sales. More people watching movies on iPads means fewer people biding their time perusing SkyMall.

In 2013, the company brought in nearly $34 million, but will likely fall far short of that when 2014 numbers are tallied, as it only made $15.8 million during the first nine months of the year.

SkyMall’s parent company, Xhibit Corp., is seeking a court-supervised sale of assets. However, it believes that a new owner could keep the SkyMall operation going with a scaled-down business.

[via WSJ.com]

Guy Who Bought Lottery Tickets To Break $100 Bill Wins $10M

Fri, 2015-01-23 16:10

(Lisa Brewster)

(Lisa Brewster)

When’s the last time you went out to grab lunch and ended up a millionaire? It’s been at least a few years for me, but only a few days for a Massachusetts man who bought a couple lottery tickets to break a $100 bill so he could get some sandwiches.

Lottery officials announced Thursday that a man who bought two $20 “Platinum Millions” instant tickets at a grocery in East Boston wound up snagging a $10 million haul, reports the Associated Press.

He only stopped in the store so he could break a $100 bill, he says, as he was on the way to get lunch at a sandwich shop.

He and his wife opted to claim a one-time payment of $6.5 million after taxes, which will buy plenty of sandwiches, among other things. He says he also wants to buy a house, invest some money and takes hi granddaughter to Disney World.

Man who bought lottery tickets to break $100 bill wins $10M [Associated Press]

Washington Could Become First State To Raise Smoking Age To 21

Fri, 2015-01-23 15:32

(NoNo Joe)

(NoNo Joe)

The era of walking into a store and buying that first nudie magazine and pack of cigarettes upon turning 18 might soon be a thing of the past for presidents of Washington State, as legislators there are proposing a new age threshold for those who want to light up.

Teens would be legally shut out of the tobacco industry until they aged up to 21 under a proposal put forward this week by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, reports The Spokesman-Review.

It’d make the state the first in the country to raise the age to 21, after both Utah and Colorado tried and failed in 2014. There are a few cities and counties scattered across the nation where it’s 21 — including New York City — and in Alabama, Alaska, Utah and New Jersey it’s 19.

“We must do more to protect our youth from tobacco’s grip, and this bill is an important step toward keeping nicotine out of the hands of kids and young adults,” Ferguson says.

His bill says more than 90% of smokers start as teenagers, calling the years between ages 18 and 21 a “critical period” where casual tobacco users move into daily use.

The law would include cigarettes and all tobacco products, as well as vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Possession of such items under 21 would also be illegal, which means no getting older friends to nab you a pack on the sly.

Ferguson says the state would be partially compensated for a potential $20 million loss in tax revenue through 2017 if the legislature passes the governor’s proposed tobacco tax hikes.

Washington smoking age could jump from 18 to 21 [The Spokesman-Review]

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Fri, 2015-01-23 15:00

Here are nine 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.

(吉姆 Jim Hofman)

(吉姆 Jim Hofman)

(Karen Chappell)

(Karen Chappell)

(Freaktography)

(Freaktography)

(photographynatalia)

(photographynatalia)

(Jason Cook)

(Jason Cook)

(Eric BEAUME)

(Eric BEAUME)

(Carbon Arc)

(Carbon Arc)

(Trish P.)

(Trish P.)

(Audrey Brevet)

(Audrey Brevet)

Want to see your pictures on our site? Our Flickr Pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. 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.

8 Things We Learned About The End Of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Jeffries Era

Fri, 2015-01-23 00:46

(Molly)

(Molly)

This week, Bloomberg Businessweek asks the question: can Abercrombie & Fitch be saved? Now that the retailer is losing sales, it has removed logos from its clothing, introduced the color black, and started selling some clothes above women’s size 10. (Mostly online, of course.) Is that enough to save the company, which for years was controlled by a CEO who saw himself, at age 70, as exactly like his 25-year-old ideal customers?

The artwork for the story imagines the company’s famous black-and-white photos of shirtless dudes with elderly dudes instead of ripped models. The company that was a century-old outdoor equipment company (think L.L. Bean, but stuffier) when Limited Brands purchased it in 1992 tapped into exactly what teens wanted…and then stayed the same while American teens’ interests and tastes changed.

  1. The day before the company announced that CEO Mike Jeffries was leaving, he just stopped showing up for work.
  2. Jeffries tried to dress and act like a typical Abercrombie customer, wearing intentionally ripped jeans and dyeing his hair blond. He would wear flip-flops to work.
  3. Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters has a dog. A&F HQ consists of twelve buildings in a wooded area; it’s something like a college campus.
  4. Jeffries wrote the original employee handbook dictating the chain’s appearance standards himself; the one that describes in detail acceptable hair colors and shades of highlights.
  5. The kids’ store is officially named “abercrombie.” In lower-case letters. That is not how you should teach small children about proper nouns!
  6. When Abercrombie began a lingerie brand, Gilly Hicks, Jeffries decreed that bras had to be put in drawers. He didn’t like how they looked hanging up.
  7. Jeffries’ partner had no official job at the company, yet made site visits to evaluate stores as if he did. Some actual employees didn’t appreciate him acting like an executive when he held no official position.
  8. The board member who is now in charge, former Sears CEO Arthur Martinez, says that while Abercrombie grew and thrived in the ’90s based on precise staging in every store, they need to spend more time focusing on customer service and less time deciding what story a shelf of cargo pants tells.

The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Cheetos Will Sell Cinnamon-Sugar Puffs This Spring

Fri, 2015-01-23 00:02

Have you ever looked at a bag of Cheetos and wondered how delicious they would be if, instead of a mysterious orange “cheez” substance, the snacks were covered with cinnamon and sugar? No, we never thought of that, either, but the nice people at Frito-Lay have. They’re making dessert Cheetos into a real thing, which will be a limited-time product available around Easter.

sweetos-bagWhat makes them Eastery? The connection to the Easter holiday isn’t clear, other than a generous coating of sugar, but the puffs are egg-shaped and the bag features Cheetos mascot Chester taking part in an Easter egg hunt, so maybe that’s close enough.

While Frito-Lay has tried sweet snacks like Mountain Dew and Pepsi-flavored Cheetos, but those are other brands from within the PepsiCo family. Cinnamon and sugar is new, and meant to appeal to people who don’t want a super-sugary snack, but aren’t so health-conscious that they refuse to eat Cheetos.

“We are looking for growth outside of the cheese puff segment,” Frito-Lay’s vice president of brand marketing for North America told USA Today.

Of course, considering the Doritos Locos Tacos partnership between Taco Bell and Frito-Lay, it’s worth pointing out that these crisps do resemble a cold version of Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists.

Cheetos to roll out Sweetos snacks [USA Today] (via Brand Eating)

Hallmark Will Open Mini-Stores Inside JCPenney Locations

Thu, 2015-01-22 22:49

(Scorpions and Centaurs)

(Scorpions and Centaurs)

After a year of discussions and a pilot program in 15 stores, JCPenney and Hallmark are pleased to announced that they’ll be moving in together. Well, sort of. Hallmark mini-stores will join Sephora and Disney mini-stores inside hundreds of JCPenney locations across the country.

If you’ve seen the existing Sephora stores in JCPenney locations, you know how this will work: mini-stores have their own staff and are stocked with a smaller selection of the same merchandise as a full-size store. At the same time, they use the same payment system as the rest of the store, so you don’t need to buy your corduroys and your cards at separate registers.

“Hallmark was so perfect for the Penney customer. Hallmark has a great legacy, similar to J.C. Penney,” JCPenney’s senior vice president for the home section told the Dallas Morning News. We’re not sure whether that’s meant as an optimistic statement about the chains’ futures together, or a passive-aggressive burn calling the customers of both chains old. If we had to guess, it’s probably the former.

A Hallmark executive pointed out that greeting cards in department stores are nothing new: Hallmark once sold large amounts of cards at JCPenney, and now has large shelves inside other retailers in addition to its own card and gift stores. The greeting card business really only has one competitor: not sending a card at all.

J.C. Penney to move ahead with Hallmark shops [Dallas Morning News]

4 Ways Copyright Law Actually Controls Your Whole Digital Life

Thu, 2015-01-22 22:37

We all know that copyright law means you shouldn’t download copies of movies from shady torrent sites, and that you should pay for the music you listen to. We know it means people and companies have rights to stuff they make, like photos and music and books, and that there are legal and illegal ways of sharing those things.

But what most of us don’t really think about is how broad the net of copyright law really is.

Nominally, copyright protects content creators. If you write a book, or sing a song, or take a photograph, you have the right to control distribution of — to make money from — your original work. And, for a period of time, you are the only one with that right. If you take a picture, I can’t then print a copy and sell it for money without your explicit permission, because you have the right to the income from your own hard work. That much makes sense: legally and ethically, it’s yours.

That’s how it works in theory, anyway. Realistically, here in 2015, copyright law is a far cry from the original question of who has the right to copy a work. Now, copyright law is so much bigger.

The tendrils of copyright law reach worldwide into almost everything we consume, do, and are in the digital era. The rules and regulations about how the internet works, what privacy rights you have, and how the entire digital economy functions all spring from copyright. It’s everything from why a bar can’t buy a really big-screen TV to why you don’t actually own any of the media you pay for.

If you ever use a computer, or read, watch, look at, use, or listen to any piece of media or software created since printing or recording were invented, copyright law affects you.

Writer Cory Doctorow, probably best known for his work with tech and culture site Boing Boing, is a copyright expert. He’s joined a special project with the EFF to advocate for easing the burdens of DRM on consumers and content creators. And late last year he published a book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, explaining the impact of copyright law on pretty much everyone in clear, plain English.

Doctorow’s book is a readable, concise look at the breadth and scope of copyright law in the modern age. Here are four key takeaways we should all keep in mind.

1. Copyright is all about locks.Image courtesy of Great Beyond Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
At this point, DRM and software go hand in hand. Everything comes with some kind of anti-sharing, anti-piracy, anti-copying, anti-any-unauthorized-use key built in.

The first digital battleground was music. After the Napster era dawned and crashed at the turn of the century, Apple’s iTunes and iPod launched an era of device-locked music. Now, the music industry has largely backed away from DRM (both iTunes and Amazon sell DRM-free tracks and albums), in favor of streaming services — but everything else is locked by platform.

But, Doctorow points out: all digital locks break. Every one can be broken, and is, usually quickly. From DRM on Kindle books to tech that supposedly locks down features on a blu-ray disc — any piece of code ends up with a cracked version all over the internet within, usually, minutes.

And that leads to…

2. Copyright law is privacy law.Image courtesy of Tee_Bird Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
The companies that make and sell digital locks want to know if you’re breaking theirs. They really want to know.

In one chapter of his book, Doctorow discusses the attempt of content-rights-owning companies to scrape YouTube to find, and have removed, any instance of their work. Any publicly listed video shows up, but videos flagged “private” do not.

Viacom sued Google over this, claiming that YouTube was complicit in every one of its users acts of copyright violation because it allowed videos to be marked as private. Viacom argued that they should have access to everything everyone puts on YouTube just in case any of it should be copyrighted material.

“Under Viacom’s legal theory — which was supported in amicus briefs filed by organizations representing all the major studios, broadcasters, publishers, and record labels — companies should allow the giant entertainment corporations to access all of our private files to make sure we’re not storing something copyrighted under cover,” Doctorow explains, then continues:

This is beyond dumb. It’s felony stupidity. It’s like requiring everyone to open up their kids’ birthday parties to enforcers from Warner Music, to ensure that no royalty-free performances of “Happy Birthday” are taking place. It’s like putting mandatory webcams into every big screen TV, to ensure they’re not being used to run a bootleg cinema. It’s like a law giving the big five publishers keys to every office in the land, to ensure that no one is photocopying books on the sly.

And the flip side of privacy is…

3. Copyright law weakens security.Image courtesy of Neff Conner Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Everything is (or is becoming) a computer. Your phone, your tablet, your actual computer. Your car. Your television. Your printer. Your refrigerator, your lightbulbs, your washing machine. Your pacemaker. Your insulin pump. Traffic signs. Traffic lights. Airplanes.

The “smarter” and more network-connected everything gets, the more vital security is. It’s one thing if someone messes with a network-connected printer; it’s entirely another if they can remotely cut your brakes.

But privacy locks can weaken security, because “security” means different things to media companies and to consumers.

When digital locks get broken, the companies that install them want to be able to patch them, and keep them up to date, and make them temporarily not-broken again. But that means that companies want — and get — access to your stuff any time it connects to the internet, whether you want it to or not.

As Doctorow puts it: “Digital locks can’t work without renewability. You can’t ‘protect’ devices from their owners unless you can update them without their owners’ knowledge or consent.”

But then that makes the legal software as good as malware. “Renewability for digital locks means that you can’t be allowed to know what’s running on your computers,” he continues. “And that means you can’t decide what’s running on them. … The endgame for renewability must be that all computers are built with this facility in mind.”

“Imagine what it will mean when the person operating a car, or carrying around an implanted device, can’t know or control what’s running on that computer — but third parties can.”

Which means…

4. Copyright law is surveillance and censorship law.Image courtesy of Rosalyn Davis Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Doctorow draws two bright lines connecting copyright law to other major issues: government surveillance, as shared by Edward Snowden; censorship by private companies; and the necessity of free expression to civil and human rights.

Copyright claims are often used as a silencing tactic, where a party with power issues a takedown claim to get content from a party with less power removed from the internet.

For example, Doctorow cites copyright takedown notices issued by police departments demanding to have videos of their officers committing illegal acts taken down on the grounds that the police, not the person with an iPhone who recorded them, have copyright on the videos. Or takedown notices issued by the Church of Scientology to have removed articles from opponents who used leaked internal documents to criticize the organization.

“There are almost never penalties for abusing the takedown process,” Doctorow notes. “It’s the measure of first resort for rich and powerful people and companies who are threatened by online disclosures of corruption and misdeeds.”

Likewise, intermediary companies become gatekeepers of what end users may and may not consume — because they don’t want to get sued. So they fall into the “notice and takedown” scheme, and pass it all along to you. And that includes possibly having your entire broadband connection throttled or hijacked if a copyright holder doesn’t like what a user of that connection has been doing.

Because they have the right, and the ability, to keep an eye on you if you’re anywhere in the ecosystem: using a computer, phone, or internet connection that you didn’t build out of string yourself.

Some NFL Fans Will Have To Wake Up At 6:30 A.M. To Watch Games Next Season

Thu, 2015-01-22 22:04

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

One reason I could never live on the West Coast — aside from the warrants out for my arrest in every county from Multnomah to Imperial — is that I’d have to wake up before noon on a Sunday to watch football. But today the NFL decided that the entire continental U.S. must wake up early to catch games — or at least the four bouts taking place in London in 2015.

The league has announced the schedule for the three games that will all take place at Wembley Stadium in London next season, and all of which will kick off at the too-early hour of 9:30 a.m. ET, meaning a 6:30 a.m. start for the millions of football fans in PT.

If you live in Hawaii, it’s going to be the middle of the night when these games start, but you live in Hawaii so you have very little to complain about.

Most of the match-ups involve teams based in the Eastern time zone, so hometown fans at least won’t have to get up before dawn to see their team play. The farthest west team representing the NFL in London will be the Kansas City Chiefs, whose home base in the Central time zone will have to be awake by 8:30 a.m. to see them play the Detroit Lions.

The London games have usually been played later in the day, but doing so puts them in the mix with the rest of the daytime Sunday games — thus making them less “event”-like. Moving them earlier in the day highlights their specialness.

We can’t help but agree with NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal’s prediction that early Sunday morning games might become a more regular thing, unless these are all a ratings disaster.

The league has made no attempt to hide the fact that it wants to create as many spotlight games as possible, and if it can successfully bookend the Sunday afternoon games with both Sunday Night Football and these god-awful early games, then you know it will do it.

Anyway, here is the full slate of Sunday morning games that you’ll probably miss because you have other things to do.

October 4: New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
October 25: Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
November 1: Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Signing Up For The Consumerist Newsletter Is Like A High Five For Your Inbox

Thu, 2015-01-22 21:57

(Jeremy Brooks)

(Jeremy Brooks)

The best thing about a high five? It’s immediately energizing — an affirmation that you are ALIVE, that this world is real, and you are an integral part of the way the whole thing moves. That’s the kind of feeling you’ll get every week (we hope) when you sign up for Consumerist’s weekly newsletter. Invigorating!

All you have to do is sign up and you’ll get our free newsletter in your inbox each and every Friday morning, and a tingle down your spine knowing you’ve just high-fived the world.

The best thing is, once you’ve signed up we won’t sell, rent or otherwise share any of your personal information. It’s pretty great.

Fill out the form below or OR CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.

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While Target Canada Winds Down, Walmart Builds More Supercentres

Thu, 2015-01-22 21:32

(Nicholas Eckhart)

(Nicholas Eckhart)

A week ago, Target made the surprising announcement that it is closing its Canadian division. Meanwhile, things aren’t bad in the Canadian retail sector for all discounters from across the border: competing American invader Walmart announced that it’s opening eleven new Supercenters Supercentres in eight different provinces by the end of January 2015.

Some of the new Supercentres are entirely new stores. Others are existing Walmart stores that have been expanded to fit a grocery section, or moved down the street to a bigger building That gives Walmart Canada a total of 280 Supercentres and 114 regular Walmarts.

Maybe we need to redefine “regular Walmart,” since the majority of the chain’s stores are now Here in the US, if you’re curious, the company says that they have 3,401 Supercenters and 471 stores that are only discount stores. In fact, Walmart now has more Neighborhood Markets than traditional discount stores now, with 487 of those. (Neighborhood Markets are the company’s brand that is just a supermarket.)

Walmart Confirms Opening of 11 Supercentres across Canada in January 2015 [CNW]

Wells Fargo, Chase To Pay $35.7M For Allowing Illegal Mortgage Kickbacks

Thu, 2015-01-22 21:24

(Taber Andrew Bain)

(Taber Andrew Bain)

Federal law prohibits giving or receiving kickbacks in exchange for a referral of business related to a real-estate-settlement service, but for four years a now-defunct title company in Maryland provide cash, marketing materials and consumer information in exchange for referrals. And now the banks have agreed to pay more than $35 million — including $11.1 million in redress to affected consumers — for their sins.

Before going out of business in 2014, Genuine Title offered real-estate-closing services. To win over more business, Genuine crossed the legal line by exchanging cash and services with loan officers at various bank locations.

In some cases, Genuine would do grunt work for the banks, creating and printing letters with the banks’ logos then actually stuffing them into envelopes and mailing them for the bank. The banks would then refer homebuyers to Genuine for their closing service needs.

“Homeowners were steered toward this title company, not because they were the best or most affordable, but because they were providing kickbacks to loan officers who referred consumers to them,” explains Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. “This type of quid pro quo arrangement is illegal, and it’s unfair to other businesses that play by the rules.”

According to the complaint [PDF] filed in federal court by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Frosh’s office, a CFPB investigation turned up more than 100 Wells Fargo loan officers in at least 18 branches who were allegedly involved in illegal tit-for-tatting with Genuine Title, resulting in thousands of customers being referred to the title company.

One particular now-former Wells Fargo employee was named as a defendant alongside the bank, as he not only received free marketing materials in exchange for referrals, he also allegedly took cash from Genuine, who funneled the money through his then-girlfriend, who is now his wife and co-defendant.

The CFPB also claims that Wells Fargo ignored multiple warnings about the Genuine Title kickbacks and allowed them to continue.

Under a proposed consent order filed today, Wells Fargo would pay $10.8 million in redress to consumers whose loans were involved in this scheme, along with another $24 million in civil penalties.

Meanwhile, loan officers at multiple JPMorgan chase locations were also illegally referring business to Genuine Title, alleges the complaint. At least six Chase loan officers in three different branches have been tied to the scheme, resulting in around 200 loans being referred to the Maryland company.

Given its lesser apparent involvement in the kickbacks, Chase faces significantly smaller penalties. The current proposed consent order would require the bank to pay back approximately $300,000 to affected consumers and $600,000 in civil penalties.

The Wells Fargo loan officer and his wife who took the cash kickbacks from Genuine face a civil penalty of $30,000 he would be banned from participation in the mortgage industry for two years.

“These banks allowed their loan officers to focus on their own illegal financial gain rather than on treating consumers fairly,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “Our action today to address these practices should serve as a warning for all those in the mortgage market.”

Ralph Lauren Agrees To Destroy All Its Converse Copycats In Settlement

Thu, 2015-01-22 20:47

(AaronBBrown)

(AaronBBrown)

After Converse sued 31 companies it accused of ripping off its classic Chuck Taylor sneaker designs, at least one competitor named in the suit has agreed to destroy all similar designs as part of a reported legal settlement.

According to a report in Women’s Wear Daily [via Fast Company] Ralph Lauren Corp. and Converse Inc. have worked up a settlement agreement and filed a joint motion to end the case pending before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

As part of that agreement, Ralph Lauren will trash all copycat products named in the complaint after an investigation by ITC, which includes a list of 36 different styles from washed canvas to Western leather.

It’ll have 30 days to destroy these products as well as all the parts, tools and molds used to make them, and all marketing and promotional materials and the packaging the shoes were sold in.

Ralph Lauren will also shell out an undisclosed amount of money to Converse, but as Converse said when filing the lawsuit, it’s not really about the money.

“The goal really is to stop this action,” Jim Calhoun, the Converse chief executive told the New York Times in October. “I think we’re quite fortunate here to be in the possession of what we would consider to be an American icon.”

Converse, Ralph Lauren Enter Trademark Settlement Agreement [WWD]
Ralph Lauren Forced To Destroy Its Converse Ripoffs [Fast Company]

GM Stops Sales Of Some 2015 SUVs After Goodyear Announces Tire Recall

Thu, 2015-01-22 20:44
(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

If you were planning to purchase a General Motors SUV this weekend you might be out of luck. The automaker instructed dealers to halt sales on thousands of model year 2015 SUVs after Goodyear announced the recall of nearly 49,000 tires.

The Detroit News reports that GM has stopped the sale of nearly 6,000 model year 2015 Chevrolet Traverses, GMC Acadias and Buick Enclaves that may contain the recalled tires.

A spokesperson for GM says the company will work with Goodyear to reach customers of the aftermarket tires that have been found to crack.

GM’s action follows Goodyear’s announcement of a noncompliance recall that includes 48,500 Fortera HL tires made from November 20, 2014 through January 10, 2015.

The recall was initiated after a tire endurance test found “some of these tires could experience very small cracks in the thread,” the Detroit News reports.

In all, about 32,100 of the recalled tires were made for the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave SUVs, while the rest were sold in the aftermarket.

Goodyear says customers who have purchased the tires should have them replaced for free at a Goodyear retail store or authorized dealer.

GM stops sale of SUVs due to tire recall [The Detroit News]

T-Mobile’s “Smartphone Equality” Targets Loyal Users With Bad Credit

Thu, 2015-01-22 20:34

T-Mobile's "Zero Down For All" slogan should probably have an asterisk indicating that "For All" means "For everyone who has paid their T-Mobile bill for at least a year."

T-Mobile’s “Zero Down For All” slogan should probably have an asterisk indicating that “For All” means “For everyone who has paid their T-Mobile bill for at least a year.”

If you have bad credit or no credit history, it can be tough to take advantage of the best pricing plans available from wireless companies — even if that stain on your credit report is years old. Today, T-Mobile said that subscribers with imperfect credit may now be able to enjoy the company’s $0 down-payment perk — if they’ve been loyal and responsible customers.

Dubbed “Smartphone Equality,” T-Mobile will allow users with 12 consecutive months of on-time payments to get their next device with $0 down instead of being forced to make a down-payment because of bad or inadequate credit.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere is positioning this as a seismic shift in dealing with consumers with subprime credit, saying it “will lower the barrier for millions more Americans to get a smartphone.”

But that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as the offer requires that you must be a T-Mobile customer for a year before you can take advantage of the $0 down payment.

So an AT&T or Verizon customer with subprime credit couldn’t print out a year’s worth of statements showing on-time payments and enjoy the $0 down offer. Instead, they would have to switch to T-Mobile, where they would presumably have to make some sort of down-payment as they have bad credit and no history with the company.

We’ve contacted T-Mobile to confirm that this offer is restricted only to customers with a 12-month history at T-Mobile. If we hear anything back, we’ll let you know.

All of this is not to say that Smartphone Equality is a bad idea or should be avoided. It will indeed allow people with dinged credit to prove themselves while their credit report gradually improves. And if they stay with T-Mobile and continue making payments, they would likely continue to enjoy this $0 down perk.

The real question is whether what T-Mobile is offering is any different than what the competition is already doing with regard to loyal customers? It’s not unheard of for wireless companies to ignore credit reports and scores after a subscriber has shown they are not a risk. So it’s possible your current provider might already be weighing your payment history more than your credit score.

And it can never hurt to politely point out that you’ve never missed a bill and shouldn’t continue to be penalized for a credit card debt you screwed up five years earlier.

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