It’s one thing for a retailer to screw up an order because it changed the customer’s payment method, or because someone in customer service was misinformed. But when that retailer is given weeks of advance notice and still manages to leave that customer empty-handed, there’s no excuse.THE TL;DR VERSION
• Tracy pre-ordered the special $125 “Pip-Boy” edition Fallout 4 in June using her Target REDcard.
• After Target subsequently reissued all REDcards with new numbers, Tracy tried to update her payment info but was not allowed.
• A Target rep said her order “should” go through but couldn’t explain how.
• Weeks for the game’s release Consumerist asked Target to clarify. The retailer said it was “looking into it.”
• On Nov. 5, a Target rep told Tracy her order would be fine.
• Then she learned her order had been cancelled, supposedly at her request.
• Others complain of a similar ordeal involving the REDcard and Target pre-orders.
• Target assures Tracy once again that her order is not canceled and the other reports of cancellations are a “glitch.”
• Nov. 10 comes and goes, no Fallout, and Target stops responding to Tracy.
• A Target rep tells Consumerist this could all have been avoided if customers didn’t use cards that were going to expire, completely overlooking the fact that these cards didn’t expire — Target chose to replace them on its own.
Let’s flash back to June, when Consumerist reader Tracy jumped at pre-ordering a $125 special “Pip-Boy” edition of Fallout 4 from Target, using her Target REDcard to secure the transaction in advance of its Nov. 10 release date.
Yet, here it is, the morning of Nov. 20, and Tracy still hadn’t received the game she ordered, because Target issued her a new REDcard — but never let her update her payment information.A Matter Of Bad Timing
Target, in an effort to be compliant with new credit card security measures, recently replaced customers’ REDcards with ones using new chip-and-PIN technology. After Tracy received hers, she contacted the retailer to update the payment information for her Fallout pre-order.
Since her card would not actually be charged until the order shipped, it shouldn’t have been a problem to change it a month before the game’s ship date, she figured. In fact, Target had sent customers like Tracy a letter instructing them to change their card info for “any automatic or recurring transactions.” Tracy assumed that a pre-order fell into this category.
But when she contacted Target customer service, she says she was informed that payment methods can’t be changed at all, for security reasons.
The only solution offered? To cancel the order and place a new one, which would’ve been impossible, as the special edition of the game had been sold out for months.
Tracy spoke to another Target rep who assured her that so long as funds were available in her account, the pre-order “should” go through. The rep made no promises, and couldn’t explain how having the old card number associated with the order would allow the transaction to go through, beyond saying that, “Target knows you got a new card.”
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Not confident that she was getting a straight answer, Tracy contacted Consumerist, and we reached out to Target — still weeks ahead of the Nov. 10 release — to see if the retailer would clarify whether or not Tracy and others in her situation would receive their pre-ordered games.
At the time, the company wouldn’t say one way or the other, but told us they were “looking into it.”
Then, five days before Fallout began occupying every waking hour of millions of fans, Tracy spoke with a third Target rep. This one assured her that her order wouldn’t be canceled, and that she was working with the vendor to help her and others get their items in case that their orders were canceled, but couldn’t explain how that would happen.
Soon after, Tracy received an email that her order had been canceled… at her request.
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“Obviously, I did not request this,” Tracy says about the cancellation, so she called the customer service back directly, and says she was told they were aware the order had been canceled, and that again, the rep was “working with the vendor.”
“Strangely, she now claims that the other people whose orders were cancelled was due to a ‘glitch’ and that my particular situation is unique,” Tracy notes.
Tracy tells Consumerist she tried to call the customer service rep back again, but since Nov. 9, the number she was given has either been busy or rings endlessly.
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The release date has come and gone, and as of this morning, Tracy and others still didn’t have their orders. Nor did she have an e-mailed confirmation or tracking number for the item that was supposed to replace her canceled order, which she was promised by the rep who no longer answers her phone.
She did reach out to Bethesda Software, the game’s developer, and said that the company was trying to resolve her issue on that end.
“At this point, I have very little confidence that Target will make this right,” Tracy wrote. “I certainly hope that I’m wrong there, but it doesn’t seem like there will be any way to magic up copies of a game edition that is not even being manufactured any more.”What Now? Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
We got in touch with Target — again — asking for an update on the situation, and any advice for other customers experiencing the same issues as Tracy.
A spokeswoman told us that guest relations had been in touch with Tracy as of Thursday night with a tracking number for her order, and she should be receiving her item soon.
We’ve confirmed with Tracy that she not only got the tracking number, but she might as well forget any plans she had this weekend because her copy of Fallout arrived today. Though she notes that it shipped straight from Bethesda, rather than from Target.
When asked how a Target customer could avoid this sort of problem going forward, the rep somehow managed to put the burden and blame on the customer, saying that shoppers shouldn’t use a card that will expire before a product’s ship date. That’s all well and good, but it simply doesn’t apply in this case.
Remember, Tracy’s card wasn’t expiring. Target made a decision on its own to reissue these cards with new numbers. How could Tracy or other customers have possibly predicted that the retailer would choose to change up all of its payment cards in that particular five month window?
The spokeswoman apologized for the experience Tracy and others may have had with guest relations over payment issues, again calling the circumstances “unfortunate,” and said that anyone in the same boat should continue to reach out to via Target’s customer service — the same service that repeatedly provided Tracy with incorrect information and refused to reply to her after canceling her order.
“To the extent we’re able to, we’ve been attempting to work with them to provide resolution,” the rep tells Consumerist.
What Target needs to learn is that the best resolution is to not mess up in the first place.
Last September, a man in Oregon filed a $670,000 lawsuit against Costco claiming that a receipt-checking dispute left him with a broken leg. This week, a jury refused to award the man damages in the case.
The Oregonian reports that after a four-day trial, a Portland jury refused to award the 38-year-old man any part of the $110,000 for medical bills and lost wages and $500,000 for pain and suffering the complaint sought.
The lawsuit involved a January 2013 incident in which the Portland man refused to stop and show his receipt after making purchases worth $102.66 at the wholesaler.
It was previously reported that the man claimed he didn’t stop because he doesn’t believe the store’s employees had the right to detain him based on Costco’s receipt-checking policy, despite the fact that the company’s membership agreement – which he had signed – includes a provision on receipt-checks.
However, the Oregonian reported Friday that the man told the jury he had always previously shown his receipt, but on the day in question he didn’t because the employee’s back was turned to him.
When the man was approached just minutes later by the employee, he says he was ordered to go back inside the store. He told the jury that he repeatedly tried to show his receipt.
“I had my receipt in my hand and said, ‘Here it was, OK?’ And he didn’t care,'” the man recounted. “He’s still saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, we still have to go inside.’ … He’s acting like he’s going to haul me back inside. I didn’t understand. … I’m yelling ‘Somebody get a manager! Somebody call police!'”
The employee’s account of the situation mirrors that previously described in the lawsuit.
According to that account, the employee grabbed the man’s cart, preventing him from leaving when he refused to show the receipt.
When the employee wouldn’t let go of the cart the man allegedly grabbed him by the shirt collar and physically moved the employee away.
That’s when, according to the suit, another employee used a “martial arts type strike with his leg,” that led to the broken bones.
A lawyer representing the man told jurors that he made a “bad decision” to push the first employee, but that the second employee used too much force.
The manager for the store where the incident happened told the jury the company has always abided by a receipt-checking policy as a way to make sure customers aren’t overcharged or to stop shoplifting.
“It’s very important,” he said. “… Costco has one of the lowest shrinks in the industry, which is loss of product. And I think it’s in large part because of how we perform our checkout procedures.”
In the end, the jury deliberated for two hours before deciding 9-3 that the man was not unlawfully restrained by the employee. While the jury found 12-0 that the employee’s use of martial arts was considered battery, that the use of force was justified.
If you’re a small business that needs to process credit card payments on a smaller scale than say, a big box store, there are some popular options out there, one of which is Square: you might know it as that white plastic card reader that can plug into a smartphone or tablet. It’s easy to get an account — but unfortunately for some customers, it’s not so easy to find help when Square suddenly deactivates that account.
NPR’s All Tech Considered sets up the example of an auctioneer who decided to go out on his own, and signed up for a Square account. After a few transactions, he got an email informing him that his account was being deactivated.
“Our account services team has reviewed your account and found a pattern of transactions associated with high risk activity,” the email read.
At the time, Square was holding more than $10,000 of his money, but wouldn’t release it for 90 days.
“I thought that was such an exorbitant amount of time and it freaked me out being a new business,” he told NPR. “My initial thought was, ‘I’m done, this is going to be the end of me.'”
To add insult to injury, he said he couldn’t get anyone on the phone from Square to address the situation. He’s not alone, as others have reported the same chain of events: a few transactions go through, then an email appears informing them the account is deactivated, money is being held, but no one will pick up the phone. Though the company does have phone support for active accounts, once your account is closed, there’s nothing customers can do.
It’s worth noting that a 90-day hold on a potentially fraudulent account is pretty normal. Square is taking a risk in processing these transactions, and if there was bogus activity going on, it’d be on the hook.
In a statement to NPR, the company said it’s just trying to balance sellers’ needs with the need to protect itself, and that the number of dissatisfied customers is small. Because the company just went public, it can’t legally say much else.
There are many other mobile payment options out there for customers who find themselves locked out of Square — PayPal, traditional banks and smaller companies like Flint. That wasn’t the case when Square first became popular, so it would behoove the company to strive to serve its customers better, lest it see them jump ship for a competitor with better customer support.
Square Goes Public And Fields A Flood Of Customer Complaints [All Tech Considered]
You might expect people to be keen to purchase pie at this time of year, as our peak national pie-eating holiday approaches. Yet a pie fever is currently gripping the country: celebrity pie fever, as Walmart is suddenly unable to keep its new Patti LaBelle-branded sweet potato pie on the shelves.
Fortune magazine spoke to the Walmart executive responsible for the pie fever, Kinna Thomas, senior buyer for cakes and pies. Wanting to improve the chain’s desserts, she began the process of sending her family sweet potato pie recipe to its mass-baking suppliers to find the best pie.
It turns out that R&B star LaBelle is famous for her own sweet potato pie, and some of her flourishes were added to the Walmart version before it went into mass production.
The pie has been for sale nationwide since spring, but you probably haven’t noticed or heard about it. Then a combination of two things happened: fall began, Thanksgiving approached, and a much lesser-known singer than Patti LaBelle posted a video review on YouTube that became a viral sensation, turning the pie itself into a viral sensation.
Now the pies are mostly sold out, with people even flipping them on eBay.
The sweet potato pie project did exactly what it was supposed to for Walmart: got the word out that they have some high-quality bakery items. Maybe even high enough quality to draw middle- and upper-middle-class people who wouldn’t normally shop at Walmart into their stores.
A long-delayed four-year legal battle between Big Corn and Big Sugar has finally come to an end — not with a jury verdict, or with a judge throwing the case out, but with a confidential settlement that leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.
Way back in 2011, in the midst of the corn industry’s failed attempt to rename “high fructose corn syrup” as simply “corn sugar,” some actual sugar refiners sued, alleging that the corn folks were engaging in false advertising by telling consumers that HFCS and sugar were equivalent.
“This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple,” the President and CEO of one plaintiff, the Western Sugar Cooperative, said at the time, claiming that the Corn Refiners Association was trying to “deceive people” and “distort scientific facts” about HFCS.
For fun, let’s take short break to revisit the folksy, corny goodness of those ads, like this one featuring a then-unknown actress Carrie Coon, now starring in HBO’s The Leftovers:
Anyway, this legal battle lingered on — much like an afternoon spent slowly strolling through the corn rows, pondering your fictional family’s health — even after the FDA decided in 2012 that no, HFCS could not be called “corn sugar,” mostly because that alternative name is already taken by good ol’ fashioned dextrose.
After being bombarded with, quite literally, hundreds of press releases and statements from both sides of this battle, we find out today that all this nasty public name-calling and conspiracy-alleging has been quietly settled, like many business matters, in a closed-door session with details that can’t be shared.
In a joint statement to the L.A. Times, both sides effectively admit that this was a pointless endeavor that should never have occurred:
“The Parties continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.”
Ain’t that sweet…
The emission-scandal plot continues to thicken for Volkswagen and U.S. regulators. Nearly a month after the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board accused the carmaker of including “defeat devices” in an additional 10,000 previously unreported vehicles, investigators for the agency say the number of cars is significantly higher.
The EPA announced [PDF] Friday that during a meeting between the parties on Thursday, VW and Audi officials acknowledged that a November notice of violation extends to all 3.0-liter diesel engine vehicles from model years 2009 to 2016.
Regulators revealed on Nov. 2 that they had identified additional Clean Air Act violations in approximately 10,000 model year 2015-2016 VW Touareg, the 2014-2016 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2015-2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.
The “sophisticated software algorithm” in the vehicles is programmed to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and to only turn on full emissions control systems – the temperature conditioning mode – during that testing.
The EPA and CARB said on Friday that they will “continue to investigate and will take all appropriate action.”
Shortly after the Nov. 2 violation order was announced, VW denied the allegations.
“It is a permissible software. What’s at issue here is clear: Does the U.S. want competition in the American market or not?” the spokesperson said at the time, noting the company would continue to sell the vehicles.
Days later, the company seemingly did a 180, issuing a stop-sale of new and certified pre-owned 3.0 liter, 6-cylinder models covered by the notice of violation.
The move marked the company’s second stop-sale since September when regulators accused VW of installing the so-called defeat devices on about 482,000 diesel vehicles since 2008.
Days later, the German carmaker admitted that nearly 11 million vehicles worldwide contained a “sophisticated software algorithm” programmed to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and to only turn on full emissions control systems – the temperature conditioning mode – during that testing.
Digiday, pointing to posts in the AdBlock Plus forums, reports that some Yahoo users have found they were unable to access their e-mail accounts because they were using ad-blocking plugins on their web browser.
This isn’t mere supposition or any sort of conspiracy theory. The on-screen message makes it clear in no uncertain terms that “We are unable to display Yahoo Mail. Please disable Ad Blocker to continue using Yahoo Mail.”
And the company confirmed to DSLreports.com that it is indeed barring some users from seeing their e-mails.
“At Yahoo, we are continually developing and testing new product experiences,” a Yahoo rep explains. “This is a test we’re running for a small number of Yahoo Mail users in the U.S.”
While we understand that billions of dollars are lost each year to blocked ads, we’re not sure if holding someone’s e-mails hostage is the best route to go for Yahoo, especially since the company can’t even get all of its own employees to use Yahoo Mail.
This sort of tactic also runs counter to the online ad industry’s recent admission that it had gotten overzealous during the last decade, resulting in an environment full of annoying, invasive ads that drive consumers to install ad blockers.
If you thought the airline losing your suitcase of souvenirs was rough, imagine if they lost a bag with your prosthetic leg. That’s apparently what happened for a professional dancer and Boston Marathon bombing victim traveling with American Airlines this week.
The woman shared her story late Thursday evening by Tweeting to the airline asking for help in locating the bag containing her $250,000 dance-specific prosthetic leg, CBS Boston reports.
— AdrianneHD (@AdrianneHaslet) November 20, 2015
The airline replied shortly after saying they were on the case.
@AdrianneHaslet We'll see what we can find out for you. Please follow us and DM the bag file reference number.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) November 20, 2015
While the woman – who lost the lower part of her left leg in the April 2013 bombing – didn’t specifically say where she had been traveling, an update on Twitter showed that the bag was on quite a trip.
1/2 Great news! @AmericanAir had its best people on it and found it! A little jealous it got to travel somewhere pretty. Also, I'm
— AdrianneHD (@AdrianneHaslet) November 20, 2015
2/2 working on something huge after a great brainstorming sesh w @AmericanAir Thank you for listening & seeing a great need for amputees! Xo
— AdrianneHD (@AdrianneHaslet) November 20, 2015
A rep. for the airline tells CBS Boston that the situation had been resolved.
“We’re terribly sorry we lost this bag and we’re working directly with the customer to get it back to her just as soon as possible,” a rep for the airline said. “We’re sorry this happened. Her bag has been located and we will reunite her with it as soon as possible.”
We’ve written before about the overuse of antibiotics in turkeys and how it contributes to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, and some companies have pledged to cut down on the amount of unnecessary antibiotics they feed to their birds. But was the turkey you’re planning to carve up next Thursday raised using these and other potentially harmful drugs?
That’s the subject of a new report [PDF] from non-profit group Food Animal Concerns Trust, which looked at the nation’s largest turkey producers and their policies for antibiotics use and the feed additive ractopamine, which is allowed in the U.S. but banned in dozens of other countries around the world.
The FACT survey asked companies to provide information regarding three key issues. First, do they use medically important antibiotics for “disease prevention”? This is a common reason given by farmers to employ antibiotics, but many scientists believe that continual, low-dose prophylactic use of antibiotics only has the end result of further encouraging the development of drug-resistant pathogens.
The second question involves the use of antibiotics for growth-promotion. In 2013, the FDA asked drug companies to remove growth-promotion as an allowable use for their animal antibiotics. Of course, that doesn’t stop these drugs from continuing to work as growth-promoters; it just means the farmers have to change their reason for using the antibiotics to “disease prevention.”
Finally, there’s the issue of ractopamine, a lean-ness promoter used in the last stages of turkey farming that encourages muscle growth without additional fat. The drug can have possible ill effects on the wellness of the animals that receive it, and it has been banned in many other countries over concerns about the potential risk for heart problems in humans who eat meat from animals treated with ractopamine.
According to the report, only two of the large turkey companies — Tyson (Hillshire Farm), and Hain Pure Protein (Plainville Farms brand) — avoid the use of all antibiotics and ractopamine.
All of the others at least use antibiotics for disease prevention, though biggies like Cargill and Foster Farms claim to not use the drugs for growth-promotion.
When Cargill first announced its “no antibiotics for growth-promotion” policy in 2014 some industry watchers were skeptical that the company was merely paying lip service to the idea, as “disease prevention” use of antibiotics can be identical in terms of dose, duration, and prevalence to that of growth-promotion.
Similarly, Foster Farms — the poultry giant behind a massive outbreak of salmonella in 2013 — announced this past summer that it will eventually eliminate all medically important antibiotics from its birds, but was criticized for not providing a more specific timeline to reach that goal.
Probably the two most recognizable names in turkeys — Butterball and Perdue — use antibiotics for both preventing disease and to get bigger birds.
For the report, Perdue told FACT that around 1/5 of its turkeys are raised without any antibiotics at all and that the company is “committed to reducing antibiotic use in turkeys,” but that it’s “not as advanced in reducing antibiotic use in turkeys as we are in chickens.”
As for ractopamine, while only three producers are listed as using the drug to raise lean, large turkeys, that group includes the fourth-largest producer, Farbest, and household name Kraft.
McDonald’s has agreed to pay $355,000 in civil penalties as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, to resolve claims that the company discriminated against legal immigrants in the workplace.
Along with the cash payment, McDonald’s crop will undergo 20 months of monitoring and train its employees. The case only involves actions by McDonald’s, and not its franchises, the DOJ said.
“The settlement agreement also requires McDonald’s to compensate lawful permanent resident employees of McDonald’s-owned restaurants who lost work or lost their jobs due to these documentary practices,” the department noted.
The investigation into McDonald’s was spurred by information provided on the department’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices worker hotline. The department found that McDonald’s was requiring lawful permanent residents to show a new permanent resident card — a “Green Card” — when their original document expired.
Some of the permanent residents who couldn’t provide a new card when it was requested weren’t allowed to work, or lost their jobs, the DOJ said.
Showing such documentation again is not required by law, and investigators found that the Golden Arches didn’t enforce a similar police for its U.S. citizen employees.
“Employers cannot hold lawful permanent residents to a higher standard by placing additional documentary burdens upon them during the employment eligibility verification process,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Requiring unnecessary documentation of individuals based on their citizenship or immigration status is discriminatory, and the Department of Justice will not hesitate to enforce the law and protect the rights of work-authorized immigrants. We commend McDonald’s for its cooperation throughout this investigation and for committing to compensate its current and former employees who lost wages due to these practices.”
McDonald’s addressed the settlement in a statement, saying it values “diversity of thought, background and culture”: “We deny any wrongdoing in this matter, but in order to avoid further expense, and … to cooperate with the Office of Special Counsel, we reached a settlement.”
Just days after Starwood Hotels and Resorts made headlines for combining with Marriott to make the world’s largest hotelier, the company is back in the news for a decidedly less exciting issue: it’s the latest victim of a hack attack.
Starwood –the operator of brands like Sheraton, St. Regis, W and Westin – notified customers Friday that payment systems at 54 of its North American hotels were infected with malware designed to collect payment card data from restaurants, gift shops and other retail areas of the buildings.
A third-party investigation found that, while no customer data was compromised, the malware was put in place for varying periods of time between Nov. 2014 and Oct. 2015.
Starwood says that the malware “no longer presents a threat,” and the company has implemented additional security measures to prevent future hack attacks.
“Protecting our customers’ information is critically important to Starwood and we take this issue extremely seriously,” Sergio Rivera, Starwood President, said in a statement. “We have been working closely with law enforcement authorities and have been coordinating our efforts with the payment card organizations. We want to assure our customers that we have implemented additional security measures to help prevent this type of crime from reoccurring.”
The list [PDF] of affected hotels include the Sheraton New York Times Square hotel, the Westin New York Grand Central New York and The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Florida.
Reuters reports that the carmaker is recalling all its Model S sedans, from all years, over a potential issue with the seat belt assemblies in the front seat.
The issue was discovered earlier this month when a customer in Europe reported the seatbelt assembly in the front passenger seat breaking when the passenger turned around to talk to others riding in the back seat.
A problem where your seatbelt can break suddenly is very bad, but here’s the good news: the fix is cheap, easy, and quick. A Tesla spokesman told Reuters that the fix takes about six minutes and that the cost to the company will be “immaterial.”
There have been no accidents or injuries related to the seat belt flaw reported so far, Tesla’s spokesman told Reuters.
What irritating problem do a fictional Labrador retriever, a pharmaceutical company, a spiritual bookstore in Denver, my old Honda Accord, and women and girls all over the world have in common? They’re all named Isis. After a terrorist group best known by that name claimed credit for the bombing of a Russian airliner and a shooting spree in the city of Paris, the group’s name has been in the news constantly. This isn’t working out so well for companies and people called Isis.
You might remember one early victim, the Isis Mobile Wallet, which changed its name last year to Softcard to avoid any confusion with the group.
Where it gets confusing is that not everyone refers to the group as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)––governments, media outlets, and law enforcement agencies writing for English speakers variously call them ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which the White House prefers) Daesh (the group’s acronym in Arabic) or just Islamic State. We’re going to guess that the group, with a strict interpretation of Islam, did not name themselves after a winged Egyptian goddess.
However, some poorly-informed people have decided to harass and vandalize a Denver bookstore named after the goddess. The store’s owner has spent much of this week making the case to the public that it is not a terrorist-owned establishment. A company called Isis Pharmaceuticals has been in business for almost 25 years under that name, but it has become enough of a burden that they’re considering changing it.
When You’re Named Isis for the Goddess, Not the Terror Group [New York Times]
If there’s one piece of advice we all turn to in the face of a malfunctioning piece of electronics, it’s “try turning it off, and then back on again.” That basic approach is proving to be the go-to for Apple right now, as it advises iPad Pro owners on how to revive their devices after the screen goes unexpectedly dark.
Apple is offering up the forced restart as a temporary solution for Pro owners who have been reporting on Apple’s support forum, MacRumors and Reddit (h/t Mashable), among other places, that their devices suddenly sport a black screen, often after the iPad has been charging.
Often, users have plugged their iPads in overnight, only to find them unresponsive in the morning.
“Learn what to do if your iPad Pro doesn’t respond when you press buttons or tap on the screen, and the screen is black,” a message on Apple’s support site reads. “To get back to using your iPad Pro, force restart it by pressing and holding both the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons for at least ten seconds, until you see the Apple logo.”
Apple adds that it’s aware of the issue and will continue investigating, so here’s to hoping the company comes up with a solution other than the one everyone else in the world will offer you as help for any issue with electronics.
Following someone who constantly “rides the brake,” as they say, can be a frustrating experience. But if that car ahead of you is a Hyundai, it might not be the driver’s fault: the carmaker recently recalled nearly 305,000 Sonatas because the brake lights might stay on, even when the driver isn’t pressing the pedal.
Hyundai announced this week that it would recall 304,900 model year 2011 and 2012 Sonata sedans because continuously running break lights can increase the risk of crash.
According to a notice [PDF] posted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an ongoing investigation by Hyundai found that brake pedal stopper pad material in the affected vehicles can deteriorate allowing the stop lamp switch plunger to remain extended when the brake pedal is released.
The company says the deteriorated pad can result in the stop lamps illuminating continuously and activation of the engine management system’s brake pedal override feature, among other things.
Hyundai says it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue.
Owners of affected vehicles will be notified by the carmaker in January and dealers will replace the brake pedal stopper pad with a new part.
FCC Chair: Video Streaming That Doesn’t Count Against Your Data Caps Is “Innovative” And “Highly Competitive”
The FCC’s Open Internet Rule — net neutrality — has been in effect for months now, but that doesn’t mean every question about the ins and outs of who can do what with their network is settled. Far from it, in fact. Some questions, like zero rating, have been hanging out there unresolved all this time. Except now they’re a bit more resolved, and it seems to be totally okay for the time being.
As data caps have proliferated in both the mobile and home broadband spaces, more and more providers exempt some set of services from those data caps. Those services then, of course, are more likely to become cost-conscious consumers’ go-to apps, perhaps to the exclusion of newer competitors that can’t yet afford or negotiate some kind of exemption contract. That’s zero-rating in a nutshell. And according to remarks by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, it’s a pretty good idea.
Whether or not zero-rating is kosher under the open internet rule has been a big fat question mark during the entire net neutrality process, but that hasn’t stopped companies from increasing the offerings. T-Mobile, for example, just launched its Binge On plan, offering subscribers “optimized” versions of more than 20 streaming services that won’t count against their data plans. And Comcast just confirmed that their pilot streaming-only program, Stream, will also be exempt from their data caps.
The commission has opened its process to consider whether they should consider data caps when they report on Americans’ broadband access in the future, but that decision and any future reports that result from it are months if not years away. However, when Wheeler was asked directly about it in a press conference after this month’s regular FCC open meeting, he said he saw a lot of good in it.
“It is clear in the Open Internet order that we are pro-competition and pro-innovation,” said Wheeler, “and clearly, this meets both of those criteria. It is highly innovative and highly competitive.”
Wheeler also added that although he sees no conflict between Binge On and the rule against paid prioritization, that the commission will still be keeping an eye on the situation. Providers “should not unreasonably interfere with the access to someone who is trying to get to an edge provider and an edge provider who is trying to get to a consumer,” Wheeler said. “So, what we are going to be doing is watching Binge On, keeping and eye on it, and measure it against the general conduct rule.”
Opponents of net neutrality — including FCC commissioner Ajit Pai — pointed to Wheeler’s statement as one reason the rule is too vague and unsettled to be good for business… despite the fact that businesses like T-Mobile, at least, seem to be doing just fine with offering products and services they believe consumers want.
The fight over net neutrality will get louder again after Thanksgiving, as the legal fight between ISPs and the FCC will have its day in court on December 4.
Wheeler: Binge On Is Pro-Competitive, Pro-Innovation [Multichannel News]
It’s been nearly a year since we first told you about the possible demolition of a somewhat anonymous little building in Downey, CA, that nonetheless was the fountainhead from which an empire of gorditas, chalupas, and Dorito-shelled tacos burst forth. As we reported earlier this week, the original home of Taco Bell was to be relocated to the company’s headquarters in the middle of the night. Thankfully, folks came out to capture the move for posterity.
The Orange County Register reports that the 45-mile trip from Downey to Taco Bell HQ was supposed to last around five hours — a truck can only move so fast with an entire bricks and mortar restaurant on its back, even with an escort from six police cars — but the trip was completed in a little more than three hours.
Chris Nichols from Los Angeles Magazine was one of several people on hand to capture the move in short, social media-friendly video:
— Chris Nichols (@ChrisNicholsLA) November 20, 2015
So were the folks from We Are The Next, the non-profit that helped to spur interest in saving the 53-year-old building where Glenn “Taco” Bell opened his first Taco Bell, but his second taco restaurant. He’d already had a minor hit in the area with his four-location Taco Tia stores.
We Are The Next were also on hand at Taco Bell’s headquarters/lair when the truck arrived around 1:30 a.m. PT last night:
I didn’t really take the idea of car emergency kits seriously until I bought a neighbor’s old car, and discovered the wealth of supplies for various emergencies that he had left in the trunk and console. Gloves for changing the tire? Check. Can of Fix-A-Flat for Urgent tire emergencies? Check. Disposable camera in case of an accident? Check. (This was before camera phones were popular.) What else should emergency kits for the discerning and slightly paranoid motorist contain?
Our safety-minded colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports have some ideas about what you should keep on your car. Even if you only drive in well-populated areas, some of these items could still be very handy.
A first-aid kit: Carry treatments for a few basic injuries and illnesses, and make sure you know how to use everything inside.
A fire extinguisher: Also make sure you know how this works before an actual emergency happens.
Tire-changing or fixing equipment: If your car doesn’t have a spare tire, as many newer vehicles don’t, learn how to use the equipment you have.
What about winter-specific items if you live in an area that’s cold or snowy? Consumer Reports suggests stashing extra warm-weather gear like a blanket and extra hat in your trunk, as well as a hardcore ice scraper, bag of kitty litter for extra traction, and tire chains if you know how to use them.
What to Pack in a Car Emergency Kit for Your Holiday Road Trips [Consumer Reports]
Woman Who Hasn’t Visited Bay Area In 15 Years Forced To Fight 55 Toll Tickets For Bridges She Didn’t Drive Over
It’s annoying when you receive a ticket for something you never did, but you know what’s even more annoying? Getting 55 tickets in a year for that thing you never did. A California woman who says she hasn’t driven the five hours to the Bay Area in more than 15 years had quite the headache trying to deal with an avalanche of tickets she received from the local authority for not paying bridge tolls on bridges she never drove over.
The 74-year-old woman lives in northeast California, and says she started getting notices from the Bay Area Toll Authority — which is in charge of seven state bridges — accusing her of driving across those bridges without paying the toll.
She’s now received 55 violations, each one for a separate illegal bridge crossing, demanding she pay $30 on each in fees and evasion penalties, reports the Sacramento Bee. Only thing is, she hasn’t crossed those bridges in 15 years.
She noticed when she looked at the notices that the photo of the license plate on the car is similar to hers, but it has the letter “U” where her car has a “1”. Plus, she drives a pickup and the photo is of a white sedan.
It took her more than 10 conversations with the BATA over the last year, she says, with several FasTrak customer service reps agreeing that the vehicle in the photos didn’t belong to her. Though those reps promised to annul the citation and flag her license in their system, the tickets kept coming. As of two weeks ago, she’d received yet another.
She even procured a letter from toll officials to take to the Department of Motor Vehicles so she could get a lien removed from her pickup, in order to re-register it.
The flood of tickets may be stemmed now, after she called the office of state Sen. Ted Gaines for help. His office fired off a letter to the toll authority.
“I am deeply concerned that FasTrak continues to incorrectly issue tickets to my constituent, who happens to be a senior citizen, and a cancer survivor, and someone who does not need to be harried by an automated system,” Gaines wrote.
Since then, BATA and a FasTrak spokesman have apologized. The spokesman said that that sometimes the automated system makes a mistake, but that this long-running debacle may have been the dispute that stretched out the longest. According to FasTrak, the system failed her twice: its optical license plate recognition system misread two license plates as hers, and customer service workers just failed to flag her license plate.
He offered an apology, adding, “There is no excuse. This went on far, far too long. We simply did not follow our own procedures.”
The driver received a “toll dismissal” letter from FasTrak this week, saying that the “inefficient handling of your toll dispute” is not typical.
Still, she’s a bit disgruntled: the letter didn’t explain what happened, or state that all tickets had been dismissed, and it didn’t outline what steps the agency will take to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“There isn’t even a (signature) on the letter,” she noted. In any case, it’s not like she’ll be heading back to the Bay Area any time soon.
“I love San Francisco. But if I never go back, I don’t care anymore,” she told the Bee. “Nuh uh. It’s not worth the hassle.”
Last year, Walmart finally acknowledged what dozens of Walmart workers had already told us — that maybe the retailer had a slight problem with keeping shelves stocked at some stores. But a new look at store growth and hiring data over the last decade shows that this is not merely a matter of not having a few extra people to work the overnight shift.
According to a Reuters analysis of Walmart data, the retailer has spent the last decade growing its number of stores — resulting in increased sales — but has barely increased its total workforce to deal with that growth.
The approximately 1,500 new stores opened during this time equate to a 45% bump in Walmart’s overall retail footprint. Yet the company’s U.S. workforce only grew by around 8%. Reuters calculates that the amount of retail space per employee thus increased by 34%. However, it’s difficult to get an exact figure on Walmart workers since the company only provides approximate headcount info to the public.
By the company’s own metrics, a vast majority of its stores (83%) were failing at being able to provide quality service to customers by Feb. 2015.
Speaking to Reuters, Walmart’s head of U.S. operations Greg Foran admits that the company could probably have hired more people, and that the retailer has been overly concerned about quick-fix placating of shareholders.
“The reality is over the last probably four years it hasn’t been enough,” he explains. “The customer lost because the price gap narrowed…And the shareholder won short-term.”
A rep for Walmart downplays the disparity between rapid store growth and relatively flat headcount, explaining that advances in automation and technology — self-checkout, shelf-ready packaging — are the reason the retailer hasn’t had to hire so many new people.
And yet, the company has been on a bit of a hiring spree, hiring 8,000 new department managers this year. While that might seem like a lot of people, it’s fewer than two per store.
Walmart, which has been accused of slashing hours in recent years, claims to have begun adding more labor hours. Foran says it’s a matter of getting “the right labor in the right area at the right time doing the right jobs.”
The retailer says that these tweaks are having a positive effect, with around 70% of stores now receiving a passing grade on internal metrics.
Of course, shoppers only care what internal survey scores say if those improvements reflect the reality of their Walmart experience. This holiday season will be the first since the retailer admitted that it might have a headcount problem; we’ll know shortly if the retailer is really ready to keep shelves stocked.