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The Consumerist

GameStop Wants You To Trade In All Those Dusty, “Retro” Consoles, Games & Accessories

Wed, 2015-04-15 20:06



Nostalgia is all well and good, but it won’t change that dust-coated Nintendo you’ve had sitting around into anything useful. GameStop, on the other hand, says it wants to do just that with the pilot of a new “retro” consoles, games and accessories trade-in program in two cities starting April 25.

About 250 stores in New York City and Birmingham, AL will be accepting “games, systems and select accessories for most ‘retro’ platforms,” reports IGN, reaching back to the Nintendo Entertainment System.

If people seem to like it during this initial run, the company may launch it nationally “later this year.”

Included in the list of systems and accessories: the NES, Super NES, SEGA Genesis, PlayStation, N64, and SEGA Dreamcast.

“We will bring all of the product back through the Refurbishment Operations Center for inspection, testing and repair,” before putting the items up for sale, GameStop told IGN, which will take about two months from trade-in to the time it goes up for purchase. This is to give the company “time to build up a good assortment for retro games fans to select from when shopping.”

A spokesperson said the retro consoles will likely have the same warranty as current used and refurbished consoles.

There will be no aisles teeming with digital blasts from the past, however, as items will only be for sale on either GameStop’s website or through its web-in-store system. So much for that actual walk down memory lane.

*Thanks for the link, Dessa!


McDonald’s Franchisees Say Company Has “Jumped The Shark”

Wed, 2015-04-15 19:23

(Ken Fager)

(Ken Fager)

For years, a number of McDonald’s franchisees have been griping with their corporate overlords about constant menu tweaks, limited-time offerings, and a push for bargain pricing. And the latest survey of franchisees seems to indicate that this tense relationship is only getting worse.

For more than a decade, analysts at Janney have queried McDonald’s franchisees and the results of the most recent survey “rate the relations between franchisees and corporate as the lowest they’ve been,” according to Janney’s Mark Kalinowski.

And the 32 franchisees, representing 215 stores — who took part in the survey didn’t hold back about their feelings.

“McDonald’s system is broken,” said one franchise owner. “They talk menu reduction to help our people, simplify our menu for customers, but add products to help sales and it does not work. We will continue to fall and fail.”

McDonald’s recently brought in a new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, and held a “Turnaround Summit” to discuss ways to improve the business.

“The Turnaround Summit was a farce,” writes one franchisee. “The ideas presented — such as Create Your Taste — DO NOT fit our business model. McDonald’s Corp. has panicked and jumped the shark. The problem is an unwieldy menu—too big—and trying to be all things to all people.”

Create Your Taste is the build-your-own burger program that McDonald’s recently expanded to around 2,000 restaurants. Some franchisees are not lovin’ it.

“Create Your Taste will cost approximately $125,000 per restaurant,” said one. “It sounds like, initially, sales with this new concept are very slow taking off.”

Another franchisee says he was left “confused” by the summit: “McDonald’s management does not know what want to be. Expensive—and slow—custom burgers in the same restaurant where we sell the Dollar Menu?”

For the survey, franchisees are asked to rate their six-month business outlook on a scale of 1 to 5. The record high for McDonald’s is 3.46, back in Feb. 2004, and the company’s historical average is 2.8. The latest survey came in at 1.81, placing the outlook between “poor” and “fair.”

McDonald’s Owners Doubt ‘Create Your Taste’ []

McDonald’s Relationship With Franchisees Seen Reaching New Low [Bloomberg]

Portland Airport Hires 40 Goats And One Llama To Do Some Landscaping Work

Wed, 2015-04-15 18:52



You know what’s not fun for a human? Pulling scratchy thistles other invasive plants. You know what’s totally awesome for a goat? Eating scratchy thistles and other invasive plants. The Portland Airport has caught on to the obvious solution to its airfield landscaping needs, hiring 40 goats and a lone llama to munch away at the plants encroaching on runway space.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport saw the light back in 2013, hiring 25 goats as part of its vegetation management program and now Portlandians are hopping on the animal-not-mechanical lawn-mowing wagon, reports the Associated Press.

The temporary herd moved in this week to chow down on blackberries, thistle and Scotch broom near the PDX airfield, with the llama on hand to protect the group from predators like coyotes.

The Port of Portland owns the property and says that hiring the goats cuts down on the need to spray herbicides or pull the weeds by hand, a chore that no one has ever enjoyed ever in the history of time because it’s the worst.

It’ll be a three-week gig for the goats, which are contained by a portable, solar-powered electric fence (natch, this is Portland we’re talking about).

“It should take the goats just over three weeks (about 25 days) to clear the area in which they are currently fenced,” said spokeswoman for the airport.

Portland airport uses goats, llama to clear invasive plants [Associated Press]

Man Burned While Trying To Rid Rental Car Of Bed Bugs

Wed, 2015-04-15 17:53



The list of things we didn’t think needed to be explicitly stated has just grown, after a man trying to kill bedbugs with alcohol in his rental car ended up burning himself instead of delousing the vehicle.

Following what would appear to be step-by-step instructions on How To Create A Risky Situation, the man doused the car inside with alcohol, climbed inside it and lit a cigarette, according to police in Long Island, NY, setting the car ablaze.

Newsday reports that the 44-year-old man was airlifted from the shopping center where he was parked and taken to the hospital with first- and second-degree burns.

“He said he had bedbugs in the car, and someone told him if he saturated them with alcohol, it would kill them,” arson Det. Sgt. Edward Fitzgerald told Newsday. “So he went and bought some alcohol, he poured it all in there and he sat in his car and lit a cigarette..”

Two other cars were damaged as well from the fire’s heat, police said, while the man was able to escape his burning car by himself. He claims the vehicle is a rental car from Florida, something the policy couldn’t immediately verify when facing melted license plates.

“Everything’s burned up,” Fitzgerald said, “so we’re going to wait until the vehicle theft section gets us a confidential VIN number. Then we’ll know for sure.”

Man burned while trying to kill bedbugs in car, cops say [Newsday]

HBO Complains To Twitter About Periscope Users Who Streamed Game Of Thrones

Wed, 2015-04-15 17:09

Though we can't imagine why anyone would want to watch Game of Thrones through someone else's smartphone, a number of Periscope users chose to share Sunday's season premiere with their Twitter friends. (image via Mumbrella)

Though we can’t imagine why anyone would want to watch Game of Thrones through someone else’s smartphone, a number of Periscope users chose to share Sunday’s season premiere with their Twitter friends. (image via Mumbrella)

While plenty of people were legally watching the Game of Thrones season premiere on Sunday, some of those viewers were also using their accounts on Periscope, the Twitter-owned live-streaming service, to illegally re-broadcast the show to their online pals. In response, HBO has sent takedown notices and these Periscope users may have their accounts suspended.

“We are aware of Periscope and have sent takedown notices,” an HBO rep told the Hollywood Reporter.

Periscope’s Terms of Service make it clear that copyright infringement is not allowed.

“Twitter, Inc. respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects users of Periscope Services to do the same,” reads the TOS, which explain that authorized takedown requests will be honored and that “In appropriate circumstances, Periscope will also terminate a user’s account if the user is determined to be a repeat infringer.”

However — and this appears to be the big sticking point for HBO and others — there is no proactive method for identifying infringing behavior. Just like many social media platforms, Periscope relies on users and copyright holders reporting accounts that are using the service to stream out movies, TV shows, concerts, and sporting events without permission.

In its statement to HR, HBO indicates that Periscope should be doing more to preempt this sort of behavior rather than waiting for users to rat out other users.

“In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications,” explained the HBO rep.

Beech-Nut Nutrition Recalls Baby Food That May Contain Pieces Of Glass

Wed, 2015-04-15 17:00
Beech-Nut Nutrition recalled nearly 2,000 pounds of baby food that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass.

Beech-Nut Nutrition recalled nearly 2,000 pounds of baby food that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass.

That last thing a parent wants to imagine is inadvertently feeding their child a small piece of glass. Unfortunately, that issue was all too real for one baby food manufacturer recalling nearly 2,000 pounds of baby food.

New York-based Beech-Nut voluntarily recalled 1,920 pounds of baby food after a consumer reported finding a small piece of glass in one of the jars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The recall covers 4-ounce glass jars of “Stage 2 Beech-Nut Classics sweet potato & chicken” baby food with the expiration date of December 12, 2014. The product was shipped to retail stores nationwide.

Beech-Nut tells the USDA that it has received one report of an oral injury associated with the consumption of the baby food. However, FSIS has received no additional reports of injury or illness.

The recalled product contains the establishment number “P-68A” inside the USDA mark of inspection and includes product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821”.

According to a statement on its website, Beech-Nut advises consumers that they can return the recalled products to the store where they were purchased for a full refund or exchange.

Beech-Nut Nutrition Recalls Baby Food Product Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination [USDA]

Segway Bought By Company It Accused Of Copying Its Two-Wheeled People Movers

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:56



They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when that doesn’t work, another way to go about it is just to buy the company you’re trying to copy. While just seven months ago Segway was accusing a Chinese company of copying its two-wheeled vehicles, what was once a tense relationship has bloomed into something more harmonious after that company turned around and bought Segway.

In an announcement today, Beijing’s Xiaomi Corp. and investment firm Sequoia Capital said they’d plunked $80 million into a scooter company called Ninebot Inc. in order to acquire Segway for an undisclosed sum, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Ninebot has been around since 2012, making people movers that are so similar to Segways that in September 2014, Segway accused Ninebot and several other companies of infringing on its patents, according to a filing with the U.S. International Trade Commission [PDF].

This acquisition points to a shift in China, away from just churning out imitation products on the cheap, Ninebot’s backers say.

“Today it’s not just copycat China,” said Neil Shen, founding partner of Sequoia Capital China at Ninebot’s presentation on Wednesday. “China will expand, through its own innovations and through acquisitions.”

Segway Transitions to Chinese Ownership [Wall Street Journal]

Some Freebies And Discounts To Help You Get Through Tax Day

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:46

pizzareturnDepending on your tax situation, the approach of Tax Day is either a paperwork-filled nightmare or a day to kick back and enjoy having filed and received your refund back in January. It doesn’t matter when you filed for the growing number of Tax Day discounts and freebies at stores and restaurants, though: here are a few that might keep you fed and relaxed today.

Hard Rock Cafe: In a promotion that could be fun or terrifying, get a free burger if you sing on stage at the restaurant this evening.
Great American Cookie: Free sugar cookie today; no coupon needed.
Kona Shaved Ice: Free shaved ice.
Pizza Hut: This year’s best gimmick by far is their Pizza Return, which asks customers to report on their pizza consumption for the year so they can possibly win a gift card.

Staples: you’ll need a coupon, but until May 2 you can shred up to five pounds of documents for free in Staples stores. Remove any staples before shredding.
HydroMassage: All this week, you can get a free soothing massage from one of these contraptions if a local business has one. You may need to call ahead and make an appointment.

The Walking Company: No sales tax on regular-priced shoes. Except for Uggs.
Marriott Hotels: If you book your stay at a hotel in Washington, DC or Alexandria, VA that happens between May 2 and September 8 of this year this week, you get 25% off. Presumably the Tax Day tie-in is that you can go visit your money.
Royal Caribbean: No taxes on cruises to the Caribbean and Europe.
Boston Market: they’re having a buy one, get one free meal deal.
BLT Steak and other ESquared Hospitality restaurants: They’re holding a Tax Day happy hour with 50% off cocktails, beer, and glasses or bottles of wine.
Schlotsky’s: You get a free sandwich…if you buy a drink and chips, which is why this isn’t in the “free” column.
Lone Star Steakhouse: “Endless” ribs for $19.99.
Orange Leaf frozen yogurt: Fill a cup to the top for $4.15 today.

Orvis is ending its drawing for a pricey but well-regarded fly fishing rod today.

(Thanks to The Coupon Project and Bloomberg for alerting us to some of these.)

Discover To Let You ‘Freeze’ Credit Card When You’re Not Sure If It Needs To Be Canceled

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:42

(Karen Blaha)

(Karen Blaha)

If you’ve ever found yourself without your credit but unsure whether you left it another coat, dropped it on the sidewalk, or had it stolen from your wallet, you’ve really only had one safe option: cancel the card ASAP to prevent anyone else from using it. But Discover is reportedly going to offer its Discover It card customers the option of temporarily shutting the card off without cancellation. reports that Discover cardholders who aren’t sure about the fate of their missing card can “freeze” the account through, the company’s mobile app, or by calling Discover.

Until the freeze is lifted, the card can not be used to make purchases, get a cash advance, or transfer balances. However, any automatically scheduled payments you have tied to that card will continue. That way you won’t have to go scrambling to switch over those payments to another card.

If your card is stolen, the law limits your liability on fraudulent transactions to a total of $50, and most credit card issuers will not hold customers liable for any of these bogus purchases. But losing a card can be a real hassle as you have to contact the card issuer, review transactions to identify any fraudulent ones, and wait — often several days — for a new card.

As’s Jason Steele points out, a freeze could also be used by a cardholder who wants to take away their ability to make new purchases for a while without actually canceling the card. It could also be used by the primary account holder to temporarily stop an authorized cardholder from making any new purchases.

DOE Fines Corinthian Colleges $30M For Use Of Falsified Placement Rates At Heald College Campuses

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:21

healdheaderThe Department of Education continued its crackdown on deceptive for-profit college practices Tuesday by levying a $30 million fine against embattled Corinthian Colleges Inc. – operator of Everest University, Heald College and WyoTech – over the use of misstated and inaccurate job placement rates to recruit students.

The Dept. imposed the fine and an order to no longer enroll students at CCI’s Heald campuses after an investigation found 947 cases of misstated placement rates in the Heald College system, which currently operates 12 campuses in California, Hawaii and Oregon.

The DOE investigation determined that Heald participated in a number of deceptive practices in order to supply students with inaccurate or incomplete disclosures about job placement prospects when they were deciding whether or not to attend the campus. The same misleading information was also given to the Department and CCI accreditors.

“Instead of providing clear and accurate information to help students choose which college to attend, Corinthian violated students’ and taxpayers’ trust,” Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, who led the investigation, said in a statement. “Their substantial misrepresentations evidence a blatant disregard not just for professional standards, but for students’ futures. This is unacceptable, and we are holding them accountable.”

According to the investigation, Heald paid temporary agencies to hire its graduates for as few as two days, in order to count those graduates as placed in their chosen career field.

The campus system also attempted to boost rates by counting placements that were clearly out of the student’s field of study as in-field placements.

In one instance, the Department says a Heald campus in Honolulu classified a 2011 graduate of an accounting program as employed in the field based on a food service job she started at Taco Bell in June 2006.

Another Heald campus counted a 2011 business administration graduate as working in their field of study based on a seasonal clerk position she obtained in Macy’s Shipping and Receiving Department during November 2010, despite the fact the position had nothing to do with her program and ended prior to her graduation.

Similarly, the Department found that Heald failed to disclose that its placements often included graduates whose employment began prior to graduation, and in some cases prior to even enrolling at the school.

According to Corinthian’s own data for 2012 graduates, over one-third of the graduates reported to have been “placed in field” started their jobs prior to January 1, 2012, and over one-quarter started their jobs prior to January 1, 2011.

However, in follow-up interviews with some of those students, they told the Department that their jobs were not related to their field of study, nor had they received promotions or increased responsibilities or otherwise progressed in those jobs because of their Heald education.

Finally, the investigation found that in some of Heald’s disclosures the school failed to state that it excluded students from placement rate calculations who the college said had deferred employment for one reason or another.

In one case, a criminal justice program claimed a placement rate of 100%, but Heald had classified almost 60% of the graduates as unavailable for employment.

Likewise, a medical assisting program claimed a placement rate of 100% based on 51 graduates having been placed. However, Heald had classified almost 43%, or 38 of the 89 total graduates of the program, as unavailable for employment.

In addition to fining CCI $30 million, the DOE has notified the company that it intends to deny pending applications to continue participation in the Title IV federal student aid programs at Heald campus locations in Salinas and Stockton, CA.

While the fine marks another step in the downfall of CCI, it provides little relief to the 70,000 of students left with nearly $1.4 billion in federal student loans after they were duped into attended CCI’s schools.

Despite calls for action from senators, states attorney general, consumer advocates and indebted students, the Department of Education has yet to provided significant monetary relief to federal student loan borrowers who enrolled at the crumbling for-profit education chain.

However, in its announcement of the latest fine, the DOE says it is working on a process to help CCI’s federal student loan borrowers submit a defense of repayment of their federal student loans. Defense of repayment is a little used system in which borrowers can seek debt relief if their school breaks the law.

The last significant relief CCI students saw came when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Dept. of Education reached a deal with Education Credit Management Corporation – the eventual buyer of more than 50 CCI campuses – to provide $480 million in forgiveness for current and former students who took out CCI’s high-cost private student loans.

U.S. Department of Education Fines Corinthian Colleges $30 million for Misrepresentation [Dept. of Education]

Google Wants To Use Your E-Mail Address To Provide Targeted Advertising

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:07

(Bill Binns)

(Bill Binns)

If you’re a Gmail user, or one of the millions of workers whose employer now uses Gmail as their email platform, you could soon be seeing new ads targeted directly at you in your Google search results.

This is according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Google is developing an ad service that would match up advertisers’ databases of customers’ e-mail addresses with e-mail address info for Google users.

The Journal gives the example of a retailer who provides Google e-mail info for customers who recently purchased printers at the store. The store could then pay to advertise printer ink refills directly to these customers when they search for the product on Google. The advertiser could can also use other info available about these users — age, gender, prior purchases — to carve out specific niches.

Facebook already has a service, dubbed “custom audiences,” like this for advertisers. It matches up customer info from retailers and others with data that Facebook has on its users to put targeted ads in their newsfeeds.

Netflix Will Release Audio Description Tracks For ‘Daredevil’ So Blind Fans Can Enjoy The Show Too

Wed, 2015-04-15 15:39

marvelddUnless you’ve had your head buried in the sand or this is your first time using the Internet, you probably know enough about Marvel’s Daredevil series to know that the hero is blind. The thing is, if Matt Murdock existed in real life without any of the comic book powers he possesses on the new Netflix show, until yesterday he wouldn’t have been able to fully enjoy his own kick-punching romps through the bad guys of Hell’s Kitchen.

Daredevil, like all Netflix shows, didn’t come with an audio description track for blind and visually impaired fans until the company announced yesterday that it would provide one.

This, after blind and visually impaired fans pointed out what blogger Andrew Pulrang of Disability Thinking (via MarketWatch) calls “laughably terrible PR for them to leave it out of this show in particular…”

Audio description tracks are exactly what they sound like — explanations of what is appearing on screen, from physical actions to facial expressions, whether someone is wearing a chicken suit or a pin-striped suit, changes in the setting or scene and anything else that needs describing.

The director of content operations at Netflix, Tracy Wright, wrote in a blog post Tuesday that the company is adding audio descriptions on “select titles,” starting with Daredevil, before rolling it out in other Netflix original content like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.

Wright says Netflix is also looking into adding description tracks in other languages, and eventually, other shows besides its own.

“Over time, we expect audio description to be available for major Netflix original series, as well as select other shows and movies,” the blog post reads. “We are working with studios and other content owners to increase the amount of audio description across a range of devices including smart TVs, tablets and smartphones.”

Such moves are to be applauded, but it’s not like Netflix suddenly woke up one day with this great idea to enhance access for everyone. As Pulrang points out, the folks at the accessible Netflix project have been pushing the company to add audio description tracks for some time now.

Netflix Begins Audio Description for Visually Impaired [Netlfix blog]
Daredevil: Live Tweet, First Impressions, and an Epic Accessibility Fail [Disability Thinking]

Bagel Bites Come Full Circle, Put Breakfast Pizzas On Tiny Bagels

Wed, 2015-04-15 00:18
breakfast bagel

(The Impulsive Buy)

If bagels are a breakfast food, and pizza bagels are a food that can be eaten at any time of day, when do you eat a breakfast pizza bagel? Does making it a mini breakfast pizza bagel change the equation? Is a bagel topped with eggs, bacon, and cheese even a pizza at all, or is it simply an open-faced breakfast sandwich?

First, let’s get this over with:

For a tiny frozen food item, these new breakfast Bagel Bites are crammed with a lot of confusion. Following current food trends, though, what they brag about is how they’re actually crammed with protein. The official website promotes them as the “ultimate well-rounded breakfast,” by the way, so no eating these as an after-school snack.

breakfast bites

(The Impulsive Buy)


Over at The Impulsive Buy, where we learned about this new and exciting product, Marvo points out while there’s eight to ten grams of protein per serving of mini-bagel, the serving size is four pieces. A box includes nine pieces. Why aren’t they packaged in boxes of eight or twelve? That would probably make too much sense. While Bagel Bites are available in bulk boxes of 40, the breakfast bagels aren’t sold in that size package yet.

SPOTTED ON SHELVES: Bagel Bites Breakfast [The Impulsive Buy]

Neiman Marcus Accused Of Continuing To Sell “Faux Fur” Products Containing Real Fur

Tue, 2015-04-14 23:17

One of three products sold recently on the Neiman Marcus website that were labeled as "faux fur" but which contained real fur. In this case, the boot's inner label explicitly states "Real fur."

One of three products sold recently on the Neiman Marcus website that were labeled as “faux fur” but which contained real fur. In this case, the boot’s inner label explicitly states “Real fur.”

Two years ago, Neiman Marcus and two other retailers settled a Federal Trade Commission complaint that they had sold “faux fur” products on their websites that contained actual animal fur. As part of that agreement, the upscale department store was permanently enjoined from “falsely or deceptively advertising any fur product by misrepresenting or failing to disclose that the fur in any fur product is faux or fake.” However, a new petition filed with the FTC alleges the Neiman Marcus has continued to sell products that appear to violate this agreement.

The Humane Society of the U.S. has filed the petition [PDF] with the FTC, asking the agency to investigate and “take prompt action” against Neiman Marcus. This could include the imposition of monetary penalties for alleged violations of the Fur Products Labeling Act and the 2013 FTC order.

According to the petition, the HSUS says it was able to identify three products for sale on the Neiman website that were advertised as containing “faux fur,” but which testing later revealed to contain actual animal fur.

One boot was sold as “faux fur” on the website and its label stated “Contains Faux Fur, 55% Polyester 45% Acrylic.” HSUS testing of the product turned up real fur, a fact that Neiman later confirmed to HSUS.

A second boot design from the same maker was described on as a “weatherproof stretch microfiber boot with faux-fur (polyester/acrylic) trim,” however the actual label for the product reads “Real Fur, Dyed Rabbit.” Testing by HSUS confirmed the presence of animal fur. See above for image.

The third product mentioned in the petition is another supposedly “faux fur”-lined boot whose label disagrees with this claim. This time, the label inside the boot read, “Real Fur from rabbit, Fur Origin China.”

As of right now (April 13, 2015), this particular boot is still listed on the Neiman Marcus site as a “faux fur product”:

“Many Americans are opposed to buying or wearing animal fur because they object to rabbits, foxes, coyotes and other animals suffering and dying for frivolous trimmings on jackets and shoes,” reads a statement from HSUS. “American consumers deserve to have the facts, and should be able to make socially-conscious decisions while shopping.”

We’ve reached out to Neiman Marcus regarding the allegations made in the petition and will update if we hear anything back.

JCPenney Executive Accidentally E-Mails Sales Figures To Stock Analyst

Tue, 2015-04-14 22:58

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

Here’s a bit of cheery news about a venerable American retailer: JCPenney’s comparable store sales as calculated so far for the first quarter were up 6% over last year. Unfortunately, the reason why we know this is somewhat less cheery. Someone described as a “senior official” at the company accidentally e-mailed early figures that weren’t yet public for the first quarter of 2015 to a securities analyst.

Everyone who uses e-mail regularly has done something like this at some point. My favorite story is about how I once sent a photo of a flower instead of an invoice to Consumer Reports. However, when most of us send the wrong document to the wrong person, it results in some confusion or embarrassment. In this case, the Securities and Exchange Commission was involved, since the company had to notify the government about the non-public information that escaped and was made public.

The company’s stock price fell slightly, since what investors want are increasing sales figures, and JCP’s growth is slowing down as it tries to recover from its slump of the last decade or so.

The company isn’t identifying the executive who made the e-mail slip. The worst result could be the fall in stock price, as mentioned before, and a fine if the SEC discovers that the company didn’t let them know about the escaped information in a timely manner.

J.C. Penney says executive inadvertently disclosed same-store sales [Reuters]

Tobacco Companies Sue FDA Over Cigarette Packaging Guidelines

Tue, 2015-04-14 22:40



For more than 5 years, the FDA has had authority to regulate tobacco products, and last month, the agency issued guidance to the tobacco industry about when cigarette makers must seek FDA approval on changes to packaging. The country’s largest tobacco businesses now believe the FDA is overstepping its authority and violates their rights to free expression.

Subsidiaries of tobacco giants Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard (which is being bought by Reynolds) filed suit against the FDA on Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

At issue is the March 4 guidance document [PDF] issued by the FDA to clarify when and how cigarette makers would need to seek approval on new products and product changes.

For new products, tobacco companies have to either go through the premarket approval process with the FDA or demonstrate that the new product is “substantially equivalent” to one already on the market. There are also expedited review processes available for products with minor modifications to their contents.

The guidance that the tobacco companies have an issue with is under the heading of “Label Changes,” in which the FDA explains that “if a product’s label is modified in any way that renders the product distinct from the predicate, even if its characteristics remain the same, the modified product is a new product.”

This could mean something as minor — in general marketing terms — as a change in color or logo, according to this chart from the guidance document:

The plaintiff tobacco companies contend that, even though the guidelines are not legally binding, following them has the effect of locking manufacturers into all existing packaging designs or opens them up to financial and legal costs if they make changes.

They contend that the law does not grant the FDA the authority to prevent cigarette companies from making changes to their packaging. Their understanding of the law is that the FDA is limited to reviewing label changes to products that claim to present a lower risk to the smoker. To the plaintiffs, the conditions spelled out in the guidance document are a violation of their First Amendment rights.

“We disagree that FDA’s new requirements that manufacturers must obtain agency authorization before changing certain product labels when the actual physical tobacco product remains exactly the same,” an Altria rep tells the Wall Street Journal. “We’re asking the court to resolve these issues so that we and other manufacturers know how to proceed.”

Tobacco companies sue FDA to block guidelines [AP]

Tobacco companies sue U.S. FDA over label approvals [Reuters]

Americans Are Spending More To Dine Out Than On Groceries For The First Time

Tue, 2015-04-14 21:56

(Cpt. Brick)

(Cpt. Brick)

In a first for Americans, a new study says we’re spending more as a country eating away from home than we are on groceries. Why slave away over a hot stove creating something that may or may not end up tasting good when you can pay someone else to do it for you?

That’s how many consumers have been feeling over the past several months, reports Bloomberg News, according to Commerce Department data released today that shows restaurants and bars raked in more in sales in March than grocery stores, which is a first.

Millennials, those darlings of the consumer world, have been pegged in the past as more willing to spend money on “food away from home,” according to a report from Morgan Stanley in November, while older people prefer to eat at home. But boy, is the industry paying attention to those lucrative millennials:

“Millennials view dining out as a social event (i.e. a chance to connect),” the National Restaurant Association says on its website. “They tend to favor fast food, deli food and pizza restaurants over coffee shops, high-end dining and casual dining. Their diversity and interest in new things draw them to more ethnic restaurants too.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for grocery stores, however — retailers like Walmart, Target and Costco also sell grocery items but aren’t included in the Commerce Department’s grocery-store category, and instead are classified as “general merchandise retailers.”

Americans’ Spending on Dining Out Just Overtook Grocery Sales for the First Time Ever [Bloomberg]

FDA To Health Food Companies: The Word ‘Healthy’ Has An Actual Meaning

Tue, 2015-04-14 21:52

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

Kind bars are quite tasty, but are they healthy? Sure, they’re made from ostensibly healthy ingredients like nuts and dried fruit, but some bars also have ingredients like chocolate and peanut butter. The Food and Drug Administration sent the company a warning letter about their use of the word “healthy” to describe their snacks on the label.

Of course the FDA has rules about who can plaster the word “healthy” on their packaging: they also have rules about which products are allowed to call themselves peanut butter and ice cream. Unlike “natural,” which seems to be a meaningless marketing buzzword when it comes to food, the FDA will catch up with companies that label their products as “healthy.” Eventually.

In the case of Kind’s products, it was their saturated fat content that caught the FDA’s attention.

In accordance with 21 CFR 101.65(d)(2), you may use the term “healthy” as an implied nutrient content claim on the label or in the labeling of a food provided that the food, among other things, is “low saturated fat” as defined in 21 CFR 101.62(c)(2)

That would mean that the item has one gram or less of saturated fat per serving, or that 15% of its calories or fewer come from saturated fat. That isn’t the case with Kind bars. A company representative explained to Bloomberg News that this is because the bars are made from nuts, which contain “healthy fats.” That may be true, and the FDA’s regulations may need updating with more current information about health and nutrition, but food on the market now has to follow current regulations.

Bragg, a venerable brand in the natural foods world, also received its own warning letter about its use of the term “healthy” on the label. The FDA also objected to the product being labeled “no additives.” Why? You can see them turn on the bureaucratic snark:

Your product bears the claim “No Additives[.]” To the extent that this claim means that your Bragg Healthy Vinaigrette product contains no added substances, we note that the list of ingredients on your product label indicates that the product is composed of more than one ingredient, and therefore that the product contains added substances.

Can’t argue with that.

Kind has responded to the FDA, and will need to change the packaging of its products or risk having them pulled from store shelves.

KIND, LLC 3/17/15 [FDA Compliance Letters]

Connecticut Tribes Join State Leaders In Fighting Unlicensed Payday Lending By Oklahoma Tribe

Tue, 2015-04-14 21:33

(C x 2)

(C x 2)

The fight against payday lenders operating through affiliation with Native American tribes to skirt Connecticut law escalated this week as leaders of the state’s federally recognized Indian tribes joined forces with state officials to denounce the often financially devastating credit practice.

WTNH-News8 reports that Mohegan Tribal chairman Kevin Brown and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal chairman Rodney Butler shared their support on Monday with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Rep. Matthew Lesser’s effort to end one tribe’s practice of offering high-interest payday loan to residents though direct mail and websites.

The Connecticut Department of Banking previously took the Otoe-Missouria tribe of Oklahoma – the owner of two online lenders – to court and fined it $1.5 million for violating Connecticut’s loan regulations capping interest rates at 12%.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, another group began purchasing billboards and sending post cards to consumers saying the state’s actions were an attack on Native American tribes.

Brown said during a press conference that rejecting unlicensed payday lending practices “has nothing to do with denying Native American business, sovereignty or welfare, and everything to do with protecting the consumers of the state of Connecticut.”

Butler further raised concerns about the industry, saying that “tribes and the entire industry should also ensure they are being responsible and that their customers can repay those loans without getting charged unreasonable fees and paying extremely high interest rates.”

Both tribal leaders said they have previously been approached by the Oklahoma tribe to do business, but both denied the offer.

By showing support for the state’s fight, both leaders said they wanted to ensure there was no confusion over where the attacks against Malloy are coming from.

“To ensure that Connecticut residents don’t mistake the flyers that they’re seeing, the billboards that they’re seeing with these two tribes in the state of Connecticut,” Brown said.

In addition to rallying support behind the state’s fight against payday lending, Rep. Lesser said Monday that the legislature’s Banks Committee is working on a bill that would declare the most egregious loans “null and void,” meaning consumers wouldn’t be liable for any amount in excess of the maximum 12% interest rate.

Banking Committee Chair: ‘Payday loan sharks preying on most vulnerable’ [WTNH-News8]

Olive Garden Adding Tablets For Ordering And Paying At All U.S. Restaurants

Tue, 2015-04-14 20:55



Because we’re all constantly staring at one screen or another, Olive Garden is giving customers the chance to skip talking to a real person when ordering and paying by adding new tablets added to all its restaurants’ tables.

The Darden Restaurants chain announced today that it’ll be installing Ziosk tablets at all of its roughly 800 U.S. restaurants by year’s end, reports the Associated Press, allowing patrons to order and pay by touch screen.

The chain started using the devices at some restaurants already last year, and says that those locations have had faster dining times and upped tip percentages for wait staff (just wait until the computers start bringing out the food…).

“We’ve been focused on improving the dining experience at every touch point, and we’re excited to give our guests the ability to customize their visit by leveraging the technology of Ziosk’s tabletop tablets,” Dave George, Olive Garden president, said in a statement.

Let’s hope people are wiping off the Alfredo sauce first, am I right?

Olive Garden adds tablets to tables at all U.S. restaurants [Associated Press]