Southwest announced Monday that it’s entering the Mexican market by offering flights to Cancun and Los Cabos.
Beginning Aug. 10 the airline will operate daily, nonstop flights to Cancun from Atlanta and Baltimore/Washington. A Saturday-only nonstop flight will be available from Milwaukee to Cancun. Daily, nonstop flights to Los Cabos will also be available from Santa Ana/Orange County.
Beginning in October, Southwest will offer daily, nonstop service between Denver and Cancun and Saturday-only flights to Los Cabos.
In late January, Southwest announced their first foray into international flights would begin July 1 with daily trips to Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas. The inclusion of international travel was one of the most anticipated aspects of Southwest’s 2011 merger with AirTran.
The new routes will be eligible to be purchased using Rapid Reward points and travelers can begin booking flights now.
The integration of AirTran is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. At that time, all international flying will be converted to Southwest airlines.
Southwest’s first international routes won’t be its last. Officials said in January that they will look to expand international travel outside the scope of AirTran’s current routes as early as 2015.
Southwest Airlines Bringing New Service To Mexico! [Southwest Airlines]
When the Food and Drug Administration decided last year that the brand name version of the morning-after pill, Plan B, could be sold to anyone of any age without a prescription, it granted the drug’s manufacturer three years of protection from generic competition. The FDA has now reconsidered that concession.
The FDA announced its decision to increase access to generic versions of emergency contraception pills to anyone of any age, off the shelf without a prescription, in an 11-page letter (PDF) to manufacturers of the generic products(via NPR).
Originally when the FDA decided to open up Plan B to all ages last year, it said it would let Teva be the only one on the market because it’d completed a study on the product’s use by teenagers.
But in reversing that decision now, the FDA took into account arguments from women’s health groups who wanted the product to be widely available. Plan B is often more expensive than generics, making it more affordable for many women.
The FDA’s acting director of its Office of Generic Drugs, Kathleen Uhl, writes that Teva’s stance that competitors should be barred from selling their products over the counter without age restrictions “is too broad.”
Instead, the FDA says the generic versions will have to indicate on package labels that the products are intended for “women 17 years of age or older,” but there will be no requirement to produce proof of age at the register.
Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, the Mary and Matthew Crawley of the modestly-priced suit world, are one step closer to settling down with each other. After months of courtship that included buying another clothing retailer and competing bids to buy each other, the two companies have finally settled down for a frank chat about joining their retail operations in corporate matrimony.
Today, Men’s Wearhouse announced that they’ve received a merger proposal from Jos. A. Bank, and the two companies have a non-disclosure agreement about the negotiations, so maybe we in the media will stop following every move that the two make toward or away from each other in this soap opera. JB rejected the latest takeover offer from Men’s Wearhouse last week–one that required the company to abandon its plans to acquire Eddie Bauer.
Like an arranged marriage among the aristocracy, much of the pressure to merge is coming from outside but interested parties: specifically, Eminence Capital LLC, a shareholder in both companies.
There are a lot of things one would reasonably expect to happen in the course of a normal breakfast — bacon, toast, coffee, a sense of satiation after a night of growing hungry in your sleep. But a ginormous wave crashing through the window of a restaurant? Not so expected.
Diners at a seaside restaurant in Santa Barbara were enjoying the usual breakfast activities mentioned above on Saturday morning, pouring coffee, eating eggs and filming the scene, as one does, when stormy weather sent a huge wave slamming into the building, crashing through one of its windows.
An eyewitness who happened to have his camera on at the crucial moment posted a video of the incident to YouTube and sent it to the Santa Barbara Independent, explaining what it was like to be gnoshing one moment and covered in water the next.
He says he was filming the storm surf breaking on the pier outside, and mentioned to others that the pier would probably be closed soon as a result of the high surf. A minute later, as he spotted a set of waves approaching, he picked up his phone to film, catching the moment when one of those waves came through the window.
“The dining room was filled with the sound of glass shattering and people screaming as a wave of water rushed over the dining room carpet,” he writes in the video’s description. “Everyone froze, including the staff. So, I rushed over to make sure there were not any major injuries. I proceeded to warn everyone of the danger that could follow with the next wave and to evacuate the room.”
He says the room was evacuated without any more injuries.
“I then looked at the manager and asked, ‘Do you mind [if] I don’t pay for my breakfast and move on?”‘
Check out the two videos below, and see if you feel like requesting a window seat next time:
That’s the living nightmare that a man in New Jersey has been experiencing for several months, as he tried to get anyone to look at the state’s own records to see he never got the nearly $15,000 it was demanding he repay… And then had his entire income tax refund taken to pay down the debt he didn’t owe.
The man tells the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column (penned by Consumerist’s own Karin Price Mueller) that, during a very brief slowdown in construction work last year, he filed and collected a single unemployment payment of $642 for one week.
Then he went back to work and all was right with the world. Until a few months later when he attempted to file another one-week unemployment claim. But his claim was rejected. According to something in the state’s computers, he’d been collecting for all those months between the two claims.
Thing is, he hadn’t received an additional dime since that initial week, and he could prove it with the balance information on his benefits card.
And so he appealed, but as happens with most appeals to state bureaucracies, not only was it rejected, but the problem was made worse.
In December, the Appeal Tribunal (which couldn’t possibly sound more Orwellian) said that he had to repay all that money he’d never received because it was disqualifying the benefits “on the ground that the claimant was discharged for simple misconduct connected with the work.”
Except… he’d never been fired.
Oh, and once again. He’d only collected $642, not $15,000.
Without explanation, a subsequent letter said that some of the $15,000 had been repaid and he now only owed $6,864. Except he didn’t.
In spite of the fact that the state was demanding the repayment of those fictional disbursements, the 1099 form he received from the state for 2013 confirmed that he’d only received $642.
The final kick in the ribs came in February when he found out that his entire tax refund of $3,793 wouldn’t be going into his bank account because it had been applied to paying down the unemployment benefits debt… that he didn’t owe.
“It’s never-ending, and they tell me to keep doing something else or calling and appealing but they don’t answer, and then you stop trying,” the man recalls. “It’s insane that someone could screw this up so bad. This is my life that someone overlooked.”
When Bamboozled first looked at the man’s case, it seemed like maybe someone had illegally been filing unemployment claims under his name. But the answer was much simpler — pure idiocy.
Within a day of Bamboozled contacting the state, the Labor Dept. Commissioner was making a personal phone call to the man.
“He was very apologetic and he said my check from the tax refund is coming in the mail, and the other week of unemployment is going on my debit card,” says the man, who was probably happy just to talk to someone who didn’t yell at him. “He pretty much said it was a human error in the system. Someone screwed up and put it in the wrong way and it snowballed from there.”
A rep for the state confirmed to Bamboozled what appears to have happened: When the man applied for his second week of benefits in September, someone goofed and entered in the data as if he’d been unemployed since his first claim months earlier.
“The agent found that error but failed to properly correct it in the data system, so while one part of the error was fixed, not all aspects were caught,” he said. “The data still moved indicating this guy had been working all the time and he was paid the 15 grand that he never got.”
So one part of the state’s system said he owed the $15,000 while the part that kept track of the actual disbursals had the correct information.
“There’s no excuse,” says the rep. “This one was human error and it happens, but we really believe we should have caught it earlier — when he called us. We’re not happy it took him many weeks and a call to you, which is why the commissioner made a personal phone call.”
In the end, the man did get his tax refund and that second payment of $642 he should have received back in the fall. It’s just a shame he had to waste months appealing, making phone calls and then finally getting the media involved just to fix what was so obviously an error on the state’s part.
Yes, winter happens ever year. But goshdarnit if people aren’t completely fed up with Old Man Winter’s blustery temper this season, which has already seen thousands of flights canceled. Including those canceled over the weekend in preparation for this latest bit of blizzarding, at least 4,500 flights have been ditched and thousands others delayed.
Although it feels like “Enough already,” it’s not over yet: Today will be rough for fliers, as there were more than 2,000 flights canceled across the U.S. as of 4 a.m. ET, reports USA Today (citing FlightAware stats). Most of those were preemptively cut last night in anticipation of the poor weather.
Add another 2,000 cancellations from Sunday and 480 on Saturday to that and you’ve got quite a whopping punch in the gut of our nation’s collective travel plans.
The worst hit area thus far appears to be Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which has had more than 500 flights grounded this morning. About a foot of snow has been forecast for the area, which will only serve to snarl travel plans even more.
And it’s probably only going to get worse today as the bad weather continues to pummel much of the country. Make sure you check with your airline if you’re scheduled to fly today, as most carriers have eased up rebooking policies for any passengers slated to fly in or out of airport’s in the storm’s path.
Storm: Flight cancellations soar past 4,500 [USA Today]
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (see full text below), Franken asks that the Commission “take into consideration Comcast’s past compliance with legal mandates,” including the conditions placed on Comcast’s 2010 acquisition of NBC Universal.
“To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion,” he writes.
Franken’s concerns with Comcast predate the NBC deal. He points to complaints from 2007 of Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent traffic. Comcast claimed at the time that it was slowing down the traffic in order to more efficiently manage its network. But the FCC disagreed, writing that Comcast’s “discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management.” The FCC also slapped Comcast on the wrist for not disclosing this practice transparently to its customers.
The Franken letter then moves on to Comcast’s requirement, as part of the NBC deal to, among other things, increase local news and public affairs programming produced and distributed by stations owned and operated by NBC and Telemundo.
But a May 2011 report from Free Press concluded that “the data reveal a dearth of local news and public affairs programming.”
The report also called out Comcast for allegedly inflating its stats for the amount of local news programming by including advertising time.
Another condition of the NBC merger was that Comcast provide and promote a reasonably priced standalone broadband service for consumers who don’t want TV service from Comcast.
But in June 2012 the FCC fined Comcast $800,000 after receiving numerous complaints that the affordable standalone service was not being promoted by the company and was not easy to find when looking for service packages.
With regard to TV content, Franken calls out Comcast for its potentially anticompetitive practice of “neighborhooding,” wherein a cable provider groups together similar channels. The Senator points out that Comcast-owned news stations like MSNBC and CNBC are frequently clustered together with other news channels, but some competitors are relegated to far ends of the channel guide. It took an FCC order — and more than two years — for Comcast to finally include Bloomberg in with the other news stations.
“Each of the incidents set forth above raises serious questions about Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable,” writes Franken. “Recent history, including Comcast’s adherence to the legal obligations it owes the public, should be taken into account when deciding whether to permit further consolidation in the cable and broadband markets.”
Below is the full text of the Franken letter to FCC Chair Wheeler:
The Honorable Tom Wheeler, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler,
On February 13, Comcast announced its plans to buy Time Warner Cable for approximately $45 billion, a proposal that would concentrate significant power in the hands of an already huge corporation. I am concerned that the proposed acquisition could result in higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse service for consumers.
In a previous letter, I urged you and your counterparts at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to scrutinize Comcast’s proposal and to take all appropriate actions necessary to protect consumers. As part of that inquiry, I respectfully request that you take into consideration Comcast’s past compliance with legal mandates, including the terms and conditions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) placed on Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal. To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion.
For example, your inquiry should include, though not be limited to, the following:
Net Neutrality. Around the summer of 2007, Comcast customers noticed problems sending and receiving content with BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer networking protocol that consumers used to watch videos, including content offered by CBS, Twentieth Century Fox, and Sports Illustrated. As the FCC later explained, peer-to-peer applications “have become a competitive threat to cable operators such as Comcast.” When customers’ complaints became widespread and public, Comcast “misleadingly disclaimed any responsibility for customers’ problems.”
However, when subsequent investigations revealed that Comcast was, in fact, selectively targeting and interfering with its prospective competitor, Comcast changed its argument, admitting that it degraded certain traffic but saying that such actions were necessary to manage the Comcast network. The FCC rejected Comcast’s argument and issued an Order against Comcast, stating: “[W]e conclude that the company’s discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management. Moreover, Comcast’s failure to disclose the company’s practice to its customers has compounded the harm.” Although the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently vacated the FCC’s Order on statutory interpretation grounds, the underlying merits of the dispute and the conduct at issue remain relevant to the FCC’s consideration of Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
Localism. As a condition to its acquisition of NBC Universal, Comcast was required to implement certain localism policies. For example, Comcast was required to increase local news and public affairs programming produced and distributed by stations owned and operated by NBC and Telemundo. In May 2011, Free Press issued a report in which it analyzed Comcast’s first-quarter compliance with the localism requirements. Free Press concluded that “the data reveal a dearth of local news and public affairs programming,” particularly on Spanish-language networks. Perhaps most troubling, Free Press found that Comcast had overstated the amount of local news programming on its networks by counting advertising time toward the total programming time Comcast was required to make available to consumers. In evaluating Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the FCC should scrutinize whether these allegations have merit, and, if so, whether Comcast has taken sufficient corrective action in response.
Affordable Standalone Broadband. As a condition of its acquisition of NBC Universal, the FCC ordered Comcast to provide and promote a reasonably priced standalone broadband product for consumers who did not receive cable television service through Comcast. The condition was imposed to protect consumers who wished to decouple their cable television and broadband internet services – customers sometimes referred to as “cord cutters.” The condition also was intended to protect competition between online content providers, such as Netflix and YouTube, and cable-based content providers, such as Comcast.
Before long, consumers and competitors began to complain that Comcast was hiding its standalone broadband product, making it difficult for consumers to break away from their cable service. In June 2012, after an investigation into the matter, the FCC fined Comcast $800,000 for its allegedly anticompetitive and deceptive behavior, and it extended Comcast’s obligations under the Comcast-NBC Universal conditions.
Data Caps. In August 2012, Public Knowledge formally petitioned the FCC to take action in response to Comcast’s use of data caps, which allegedly violated net neutrality rules that Comcast was bound to follow, both under the FCC’s then-operative Open Internet Order and under the still-operative terms and conditions of the Comcast-NBC Universal deal. The Public Knowledge petition explained that Comcast had imposed limits on the amount of data its broadband customers could use each month, not unlike cellular telephone plans that limit the number of minutes a customer could use each month.
Comcast allegedly used the caps to stifle competition: data used to download or stream videos from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and other rival content providers were counted against the cap, but videos from Comcast’s own video product were excluded from the cap. The effect of this arrangement allegedly was to increase the costs to consumers who used video products that competed with Comcast’s offerings. My understanding is that the FCC has not ruled on Public Knowledge’s petition. The FCC should examine this issue in connection with Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
Network Neighborhoods. When Comcast initiated its acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011, I sent the FCC a letter explaining that “this is a vertical merger that gives one company the ability to control both programming and the pipes that carry this programming.” In other words, Comcast, which already owned cable distribution channels, sought to acquire a significant share of the content that passed through those channels. I predicted that “Comcast would have strong incentives to favor its own programming and raise prices, thereby harming both consumers and competitors” and that Comcast would acquire the market power necessary to do just that.
Sure enough, Comcast subsequently undertook efforts to favor its own programming and harm its competitors. For example, Comcast kept MSNBC and CNBC – its newly acquired channels – in a neighborhood of news networks while relegating Bloomberg News to a distant and undesirable location in the Comcast lineup. As a result, customers flipping through the news channels likely would not come across Bloomberg News, but they would come across MSNBC and CNBC.
In June 2011, Bloomberg complained to the FCC. Comcast waged a protracted legal battle in response. Finally, in September 2013, the FCC issued an order compelling Comcast to stop its unfavorable treatment of Bloomberg News and comply with the conditions imposed on the Comcast-NBC Universal deal.
Each of the incidents set forth above raises serious questions about Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Simply put, the FCC does not write on a clean slate in this matter. Recent history, including Comcast’s adherence to the legal obligations it owes the public, should be taken into account when deciding whether to permit further consolidation in the cable and broadband markets.
I remain eager to work with you on this important issue.
You know how we keep saying that “sriracha is the new bacon?” Well, over at Pringles, bacon is also the new bacon, as Pringles has introduced bacon-flavored chips to go along with the sriracha ones we told you about last week. Like those, they’re a Walmart exclusive. No, this is not a post from 2012 that accidentally got republished today.
Pringles started its run of especially wacky flavors a few years ago under new owners Kellogg. They bought the brand from the apparently less creative Procter & Gamble in 2012, and that’s when the flavor abominations started. Like dessert Pringles.
When we polled readers on the subject last fall, you were almost evenly divided on the question of whether dessert Pringles should even be a thing.
It doesn’t matter all that much what we think, though. Pringles is still the winner in all this: we’re talking about the brand, aren’t we?
SPOTTED ON SHELVES – Bacon Pringles (Walmart Exclusive) [The Impulsive Buy]
At Least White Chocolate Pringles Are Only A Seasonal Offering
Pecan Pie Pringles Appear In Stores, We’re Not Sure Why
Just What We Needed: Pumpkin Pie And Peppermint Chocolate-Flavored Pringles
Yes, Pringles Are Potato Chips
Arby’s had that thought too, tweeting at the “Happy” recording artist, “Hey Pharrell, can we have our hat back?”
The fast-food chain and its beloved, floppy tan hat (by designer Vivienne Westwood, which means it’s fancy) have been reunited in social media bliss, as Pharrell — wearing a similar black, tall, oddly-shaped hat to perform at the Academy Awards last night, tweeted during the show that he was glad someone had bought the hat for charity.
It kind of sounds like he had no idea Arby’s was behind it as he thanked “whoever” bought it — but he’s sure as heck aware of it now:
“Thank you to whoever bought my Grammy hat on @eBay for $44,100. Your donation benefits From One Hand To AnOTHER.”
Arby’s replied, “.@Pharrell You’re welcome. We’re HAPPY to support a great cause & get our hat back. Good luck at the #Oscars tonight!
The $44,100 winning bid will benefit the charity From One Hand to Another, a group that helps kids learn through technology and the arts.
Money going to a good cause and Arby’s can claim it knows what the kids are talking about today — it’s a win-win. Except for anyone who actually wears that shamockery of a chapeau because come on, it’s just so silly.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter but don’t expect any hat pics: @marybethquirk
Though BSA very recently decided to reverse the ban on gay youth members, gay adults can still not volunteer as troop leaders.
While Disney has not made a public statement about its decision to withhold Ears to You funds to BSA, an organization called Scouts for Equality has posted a copy of a message sent from the BSA Central Florida Council Board President to local scout leaders and parents, stating that Walt Disney World employees are no longer receiving Ears to You funds for volunteer work with BSA.
“It has recently come to our attention that the grant program titled ‘Ears to You’ provided by Walt Disney World, to their employees, will be discontinued for Scouting volunteers,” reads the message. “[Walt Disney World] will no longer recognize volunteer hours with the Scout Council, District or Unit to receive grant funding.”
The letter says that BSA national leadership contacted Disney to see if a resolution could be reached, but “their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support.”
A handful of other large companies, including UPS, Merck, Caterpillar, and Intel, have previously called for a policy change at BSA.
When you have a mortgage but your insurance lapses, your mortgage servicer will go out and get insurance for you. This forced-place insurance generally comes at a much higher rate and with less coverage than what a homeowner would get on her own.
The class-action lawsuit had alleged that the high rates on forced-place policies purchased by Chase weren’t just a matter of the insurance company, Assurant, charging more, but also of the bank receiving kickbacks and commissions. Thus, the plaintiffs claimed that Chase had a financial stake in seeing that homeowners were charged a higher premium.
According to the settlement, Chase can not earn commissions on forced-place insurance for six years. The bank says that it “stopped accepting commissions several years ago.”
Payments to affected mortgage borrowers will be equivalent to 12.5% of the net premium.
Similar lawsuits are pending against Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and HSBC.
Assurant has already settled a class-action for $14 million. Neither it nor Chase has admitted any wrongdoing.
Fees on forced-place insurance has come under fire in recent years, with some advocates and regulators concerned that charging homeowners a premium on something they are having trouble affording at a lower price is just pushing some further toward foreclosure.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency is reportedly considering a rule change that would prohibit lenders who earn commissions and fees from forced-place insurance from doing business with mortgage-backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Just ask the Florida man who reached an $80,000 settlement in 2011 with the school where he’d previously been the headmaster, only to have his daughter ruin that victory with a bragging Facebook post.
Soon after hearing about her dad’s settlement, the daughter went online and shared with her 1,200 friends that her parents had won their case, and that the school “is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.”
And just for good measure, she added, “SUCK IT.”
Of course, a number of those 1,200 friends still attended the very school she had told to “suck it,” so it didn’t take long for the school’s lawyers to hear about this semi-public boasting.
None of this sat well with the school, which immediately told the former headmaster that it wasn’t going to pay because he’d violated the nondisclosure agreement in the settlement.
A court later said the dad should get the money, but the school appealed that decision. Last week an appeals court sided with the school, ruling that the dad “violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do,” and that “His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.”
This is why I’m never having children.
Late Friday night, the police in Salisbury, MA, shared this Tweet showing a clipped short rib recipe that a driver had put in his window, presumably in the hope that no one would take a closer look:
According to Massachusetts state law, it’s a crime to “falsely make, steal, alter, forge or counterfeit” an inspection sticker. It’s a punishable offense that could earn a driver a fine of up to $500 and a maximum of five years in a state prison.
But a lawsuit recently filed by the folks at Dick’s Sporting Goods accuses Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods of posing as a Dick’s Vice President to gain access to the company’s secrets.
Modell, who had previously done the in-disguise thing at his own company for an episode of CBS’s Undercover Boss, allegedly presented himself a Sr. VP to employees at a Dick’s store in Princeton, NJ, on Feb. 8.
According to the suit, filed in a New Jersey state court in Mercer County, Modell told the store manager he had an appointment to meet Dick’s CEO Edward Stack at the store, then talked employees into giving him a tour of the employees-only portion of the store while chatting about things they should not have discussed with anyone outside the store, let alone the CEO of a competitor.
The complaint claims that during his visit, Modell asked store employees about Dick’s “ship from store” program that fulfills online orders using inventory from local stores.
Dick’s accuses Modell of civil conspiracy and trespass and is seeking unspecified damages and attorney fees. It also seeks an injunction barring Modell and his employees from entering the non-public areas of any Dick’s store, or posing as a Dick’s employee.
There’s nothing illegal about Modell visiting a Dick’s store. It’s good for a CEO to be on the ground to get a first-hand view of the competition. But it’s one thing to put on a pair of sunglasses and pretend you’re just another customer; it’s another to lie about your identity.
“I’ve been on tens of thousands of store visits by CEOs. This I’ve never seen,” one head of a national retail consulting firm told NorthJersey.com.
For those unfamiliar with Modell’s, it is one of the oldest sporting goods stores in the country, having been founded in 1889 in Manhattan. It runs about 150 stores, primarily in the New York City-Philadelphia corridor.
Dick’s has more than three times the number of locations as Modell’s and has been increasing its presence in areas that have long been dominated by Modell’s.
Modell’s CEO accused of undercover spying by rival sporting goods chain [NorthJersey.com]
This weekend, all of Hollywood — and really, all of the nation — will be thinking about who will take home the most sought-after trophy in the world: The Golden Poo. That’s right, it’s time to start sending in nominations for the annual Worst Company in America tournament!
Starting… now! and continuing through 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 13, write to us to let us know about those companies that most deserve to be honored with the Golden Poo.
As always, nominated companies must regularly provide goods and services to American consumers.
!!! NOTE: VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE TO THE NOMINATIONS PROCESS !!!
In order for a nomination to be considered, your e-mail must not simply name the company being nominated, but must include a sentence or two that contains actual information on why you’re nominating.
So a nomination that reads “Company X sucks!” would not be considered, but one that states, “Company X sucks because it [fill in the blanks with reasons for sucking]” would be considered a valid nomination.
You can still nominate multiple companies, but each nominee must have its own explanation.
Once you have your nominations ready, e-mail them to WCIA@consumerist.com before 5 p.m. ET on March 13.
This year’s WCIA bracket will be revealed Monday, March 17 with voting kicking off the next day.
Best of luck, and may the worst company win!
If you’re 23 or older, have a driver’s license and car insurance, and have a nice, clean late-model four-door car, you can sign up to drive strangers around for UberX. Should you? Well, it depends on your feelings about voyeurism, cash, and people eating in your car.
Writer Mickey Rapkin signed on to drive his 2013 Prius for UberX in Los Angeles, and you really should check out his “Uber Cab Confessions” in the March issue of GQ. He pondered the wide swath of humanity (who can afford car service and smartphones) who climbed in his backseat, he gained new insights into life. “As I merge into traffic,” he recollects about a trip driving four young partying young adults who are drinking out of a pimp cup in his immaculate backseat. “I begin to understand how my parents must have felt all those years ago chauffeuring around me and my idiot friends.” So it’s like driving your kids around, but with strangers who you can’t ground or guilt if they misbehave.
Driving for Uber does provide some quality eavesdropping and glimpses into others’ lives that you may not have expected. It becomes addictive after a while. “The job becomes akin to binge-watching a TV series late at night on Netflix,” he writes. “Okay, just one more.”
Uber Cab Confessions [GQ]
An unusual excuse, yes but it just so happened to be true, say police in Hingham, Mass. (via CBS Boston)
Officer just stopped driver for speeding & driver was shaking. Said he just won $50K & was going to Lottery HQ. Showed him scratch ticket.—
Hingham Police (@HinghamPolice) February 27, 2014
The 22-year-old man told cops he’d won the $50,000 on a $2 Massachusetts State Lottery scratch-off ticket and was racing to the lotto headquarters to collect his prize. The lottery confirmed he’d won.
The ticket provided just the proof he needed, and police decided to just issue him a verbal warning and sent him off to cash in on his newly rich future.
“Today was really his lucky day,” the department added on Twitter.
A franchise of the sandwichery Così in Washington, D.C. was closed down yesterday due to a failed health inspection. What were the restaurant’s violations? Meats stored at unacceptable temperatures, improperly labeled food, food preparation surfaces not clean or sanitized, and mice. So many mouse droppings.
It turns out that the same restaurant was temporarily closed after a health inspection for a rodent infestation last year. When a crew from TV station WUSA stopped by to report on the situation, as they do for all post-inspection restaurant closures, they were ordered out of the restaurant. In a follow-up e-mail, a district manager told the station that “asking questions aggressively” and looking under the furniture caused “a great deal of distress towards our customers and our Cosi team.” You know what else causes customers distress? Mouse crap.
The franchise owner followed up with the station and promised to improve conditions in the restaurant and improve staff training. The $10,000 bet entered the picture when they reminded him of this promise a year ago.
If the restaurant gets cited for rodents in 2015, the franchise owner will make a $10,000 charity donation to the reporter’s choice of organizations. “Tell me the charity and we’ll make the donation on your behalf,” he said. Mark your calendars.
Restaurant Alert: Metro Center infestation closes Cosi [WUSA] (WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO)
The retail world is still feeling the aftershocks that rumbled through the industry after Target revealed it was hit in a hack attack that exposed credit card info and personal data of up to 110 million customers. As such, inside sources are whispering that Sears is the focus of a new probe from the U.S. Secret Service to see whether it was the victim of a possible security breach.
Bloomberg News cites a person familiar with the investigation who says the Secret Service is looking into things at Sears, but didn’t explain any other details like how big the breach might be, if it exists, or when it might’ve happened.
Sears is staying relatively mum as well, admitting that it’s got the same concerns everyone else does after the Target attack, but stopping short of confirming a particular incident at the company.
“There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers, and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach,” said Howard Riefs, a Sears spokesman. “We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach.”
So basically, they’re not sure anything has happened, but they’re also not sure something hasn’t happened.
Meanwhile, the Secret Service is continuing to investigate the hack attacks on Target and Neiman Marcus, which put the credit card data of millions of consumers at risk at the end of 2013.
Sears, Secret Service Said to Probe Possible Data Breach [Bloomberg News]
Come sit in a circle, cable customers! Time Warner Cable has something that they want to teach us all. Will they do this bit of customer education by including a shiny brochure in our cable bills, or airing ad spots for subscribers only during our favorite shows? No, no, they have other ways. They’re going to teach us all about how pricey retransmission fees are by imposing extra fees on us.
Time Warner is just following other providers, most recently its new fiancé, Comcast, in adding these fees. Comcast began charging a $1.50 broadcast TV fee last fall. They allow cable providers to advertise a certain price point and continue to do so without official rate hikes, but still collect the extra money and spin the rate hike as “educating” their customers about retransmission fees.
Retransmission fees are what cable companies have to pay broadcasters and cable channel operators for the privilege of beaming advertising and occasional entertainment programming at their customers. If you didn’t see this coming after Time Warner folded in its public duel with CBS last year, well, you must not have been reading Consumerist at the time.
Unfortunately (for Time Warner) the response of many consumers to these ridiculous retransmission fee spats is to ditch their cable provider, maybe checking out Aereo if they want to keep watching broadcast networks.
Time Warner Cable says that most customers won’t see this fee: it only applies to customers who don’t currently have a promotional deal. Presumably, this means that future promotional deals will include the fee.
Everyone At The FCC & DOJ Should Be Forced To Watch This “Comcast Doesn’t Give A F#!k” Video