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The Consumerist

It’s Official: Burger King To Merge With Tim Hortons In $11B Deal

Tue, 2014-08-26 15:40
(Quadel)

(Quadel)

Young love! It happens so fast. It feels like only yesterday, after all, that we first noticed Burger King and Tim Hortons were holding hands. And now the new couple have made it official — they’ll be merging to create one of the largest fast food companies out there.

Burger King announced today that it’ll be getting together with the Canadian company in a deal worth about $11 billion, reports USA Today, resulting in the third largest quick service restaurant in the world.

The the newly formed entity will boast about $23 billion in sales and have a combined total of more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries.

As we heard yesterday, the new company will be based in Canada, where the taxes are slightly easier on big companies, but each brand will stay distinct. No Tim Horton The Burger King Of Coffee or anything weird like that. BK will also still keep U.S. offices in Miami, the two said in a joint statement.

“By bringing together our two iconic companies under common ownership, we are creating a global (quick service restaurant) powerhouse,” said Alex Behring, executive chairman of Burger King and managing partner of 3G Capital, the majority owner of Burger King.

He’ll be the new executive chairman and director of the new organization, with Burger King CEO Daniel Schwartz acting as group CEO and manager of day-to-day operations. Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira will serve as vice-chairman and a director.

“As an independent brand within the new company, this transaction will enable us to move more quickly and efficiently to bring Tim Hortons iconic Canadian brand to a new global customer base,” Caira said. “At the same time, our customers, employees, franchisees and fellow Canadians can all rest assured that Tim Hortons will still be Tim Hortons following this transaction, including our core values, employee and franchisee relationships, community support and fresh coffee.”

Burger King, Tim Hortons merge into whopper-sized firm
[USA Today]

United Flight Diverted After Passenger Uses Banned Seat Recline Jammer, Starts Scuffle

Tue, 2014-08-26 15:35

(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

I’ve always been of the thought that if a flight is less than two hours there’s no need to recline my seat, but anymore than that and it’s fair game. One man apparently doesn’t see it that way and his use of a seat recline jammer got him and the woman in front of him removed from the plane.

According to the Associated Press, a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver was diverted to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after two passengers, both sitting in the “economy plus” section of the flight – which comes with extra legroom – began arguing because the man prevented the woman sitting in front of him from reclining her seat.

The man was allegedly using a $22 device, known as the Knee Defender, that locks onto the tray table on the back of the seat, making it impossible for the person in front to recline. The device is banned on United Airlines flights, but the Federal Aviation Administration leaves it up to individual airlines to set rules for the device.

According to law enforcement officials, the man used the device to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was using his laptop. When a flight attendant asked him to remove the device, he refused. The woman directly in front of him then allegedly stood up and threw a cup of water at him.

The flight crew determined the situation had escalated to the point that the flight needed to make an unscheduled stop at O’Hare.

Upon arrival, Chicago police and Transportation Security Administration officers met the plane, spoke with the two passengers involved in the incident and “deemed it a customer service issue,” a TSA spokesperson tells the AP.

The two individuals were removed from the flight before it continued on to Denver.

A spokesperson for O’Hare said no arrest was made in the incident but the FAA can impose a civil fine of up to $25,000 for passengers who are unruly.

Reclining seats have been a point of spirited dispute for ages – resulting in previous rumbles in the aisles (especially during meal time) and even the intervention of F-16s after a reclining seat-induced slap fight. There’s even been discussion as to whether the whole reclining thing should be done away with, especially since some airlines have cut the amount of recline available to begin with.

Plane diverted as passengers fight over seat reclining [The Associated Press]

August Recall Roundup – Beware Of Toppling Bar Stools

Tue, 2014-08-26 15:30

LARGE_Black_VH110B_HeroIn the Recall Roundup for August, dangerous beanbag chairs and overheating heaters could lurk around every corner, and there could be a defective car in your garage right now. Don’t be scared, though. The CPSC is here to protect us all from toppling bar stools and overheating night lights.

Home
Ace Bayou Corporation bean bag chairs – can be unzipped, so children crawl inside
SolarWorld solar panels – may corrode and pose electric shock or fire risk
Vornado Air Electric Space Heaters – may overheat, melt, and catch fire
ESL and Interlogix brand 400/500 series smoke detectors – may fail to alert users to a fire, which is kind of the point
DD Brand Tin Candles – high flame may ignite container
Lea Industries Lighted Night Stands – may overheat and scorch carpet
Spencer Bar Stools (Costco) – footrest may break
Pottery Barn Donovan Bar Stools – footrest may break
Philips “Lightolier” Decorative Glass Lens – lens may shatter
Far East Brokers Glass Beverage Dispenser Set (Publix) – metal stand may break
Nantucket Distributing (Christmas Tree Shops) Wicker Outdoor Patio Set Chairs – rear legs may break

Pets
Top Fin aquarium heaters (Petsmart) – electric shock hazard

XF 2014_LARGE
Sports & Outdoors
Attwood Kayak and Watersports Storage Hanger – may “release unexpectedly,” or drop your kayak for no reason
Arctic Cat snowmobiles – risk of fuel leak
JPC Equestrian Stirrup Leathers – strap may crack and break
Avigo 20 Inch Turn N’ Burn Youth Bicycles (Toys ‘R’ Us) – front wheel may detach
Kawasaki Teryx4 Recreational Off-highway Vehicles – sticks may poke through floorboards
Trayl TRN Mountain Bikes (Sports Authority) – brakes may suddenly fail
GT Brand Mountain Bicycles – wheel hubs may break, causing brakes to fail

Electronics
Vizio E-series 39- and 42-inch Full-Array LED flat panel televisions – TV might fall
Popkiller USB car charger adapters, power adapters and 8-pin charger (Apple Lightning) cables – fire and electric shock hazard

britarecalls

Babies & Kids
Brita children’s water bottles with cartoon characters – bottles may shatter or crack
Franklin & Ben Mason 4-in-1 Convertible Cribs – child may become trapped between front panels
L.L. Bean Fisherman’s and Open Stitch Children’s Sweaters – choking hazard
Tommee Tippee Monitor with Movement Sensor Pad – baby may pull sensor pad cord into crib
Dream On Me Dinah High Chairs – baby may fall through leg opening and become trapped
Oeuf Sparrow cribs – top rail may detach from crib

Toys
Buckyballs and Buckycubes – magnets may stick together in the digestive tract

Vehicle Recallapalooza
2015 Honda Fit – recalled to improve crash resistance
2013 and 2014 Ford Focus ST and Escape – wiring problem could cut power to the engine
2012 to 2014 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX – cars may fail to stay parked
2013 to 2014 Ford Flex and Taurus; Lincoln MKT and MKS – cars may fail to stay parked
2010 to 2015 Land Rover LR2 and 2012 to 2013 Range Rover Evoque – front passenger airbag may fail to deploy
A whole bunch of Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Saturns, and Pontiacs – various electric, safety restraint, brake fluid problems
2006 to 2007 Buick Rainier, Chevy Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender, and Saab 9-7X – vehicles may catch fire, even while parked
2001 to 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe – rusted coil spring could shatter
2011 Hyundai Sonata – brake line could leak
2011 to 2014 Hyundai Sonata – car may not stay parked
2007 to 2012 Hyundai Veracruz – oil may leak
2002 to 2004 Infiniti and Nissan Maxima, Pathfinder and Sentra – may have defective airbags
Various Chevrolets, Cadillacs, and Buicks – at this point it may be more effective just to list the cars that aren’t recalled.

Cats Take Over Pizza Hut Japan, Serve Fur-Stuffed Crust And Cuteness

Tue, 2014-08-26 00:24

catwagonDo you enjoy Pizza Hut’s products, but wish they could be served up by someone with a surly, anti-customer attitude, no food service or management skills, and with a generous sprinkling of cat hair on everything? Perhaps you would enjoy the fantasy world in current Pizza Hut ads in Japan, where cats have been hired to run a Pizza Hut franchise because OH MY GOODNESS LOOK AT THE KITTY.

It is exactly as difficult as you might think for a cat to dress itself in a restaurant uniform.

You don’t have to speak Japanese, or even speak cat, to understand these videos.

How does a cat deliver a pizza? We’re glad you asked. Very slowly.

After thoroughly studying a map of the neighborhood.

Sorry if you’re somewhere that you aren’t able to watch videos. Will it make you feel a little better if we made a GIF of one of the Pizza Cat working on a spreadsheet?

pizza cat

It Looks Like Pizza Hut in Japan Is Now Totally Being Run by Cats [AdWeek]

Your Facebook Newsfeed Was Flooded With Clickbait Garbage. Then This Happened

Mon, 2014-08-25 23:11

(Rennett Stowe)

(Rennett Stowe)

If you’ve used the Internet for more than a few minutes, you know what clickbait is: headlines written to entice you to click on a link, boosting its traffic and its visibility on Facebook. Now Facebook is fighting back…and you’ll never believe how they’re doing it!

In true clickbait fashion, that first paragraph was misleading. You will, in fact, believe how Facebook is trying to figure out which links are worth their users’ time, and which aren’t, by keeping track of how long a link that you’ve clicked on held your attention. Say you clicked on a post that promised “1 Amazing Trick To Paying Off Your Mortgage In 5 Years Or Less!” but when you clicked through, the only advice was to earn more money and spend less of it. Sure, that’s good advice, but it’s not very interesting. You close the window and go back to Facebook.

That doesn’t matter: the site has what it needed from you. First, it needed your click: the act of clicking on something on Facebook that looks interesting boosts its visibility to other users, giving crappy, clickbaiting posts visibility out of proportion to their quality. Until now, Facebook’s algorithms assume that if a certain percentage of people who see something on their feed click on it, more people will want to click on it too. Where you have to click through to the post to find out what it’s even about, this concept doesn’t work.

Facebook announced today that they’re changing how things work in order to stop rewarding sites that practice the dark art of clickbait. How they’ll do that is simple: Facebook will simply keep track of how long it takes you to return to Facebook after you check out a link. In their blog post about the change, the company explains:

If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Makes sense. Another thing that Facebook will keep track of is whether people comment on, share, or discuss stories with their friends. While this would seem to feed the plague of people commenting on stories after they only read the headline, it also keeps track of how engaged users are with the content they’re reading. “If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them,” Facebook explained in their blog post.

Meanwhile, the Consumerist staff had far too much fun coming up with even more godawful headlines for this post:

  • Facebook’s Latest News Feed Experiment Will Shock You
  • 1 Weird Trick That Facebook Is Going To Do To Your Newsfeed (Your Friends Hate Them!)
  • The 5 Times Facebook Changed Your Newsfeed
  • At 2 Minutes In, Facebook Changed Everything
  • Here’s The Article About Facebook’s Changes To Your Newsfeed That Everyone Is Talking About
  • The Super Bowl Starts At 8:30 ET February 1, 2015

News Feed FYI: Click-baiting [Facebook]

Millennials’ Inability To Commit To Monogamous Fast Food Relationships Is Hurting McDonald’s

Mon, 2014-08-25 23:10

(dsiniuga)

(dsiniuga)

While it would be great for companies if all consumers agreed to go steady with just one of its suitors, choosing say, one fast food restaurant above all the rest and devoting themselves entirely to that relationship, that’s just not how it works. We consumers like to play the field, especially millennials, and that’s bad news for companies like McDonald’s.

The fast food chain is in the middle of its worst slump in ten years, reports the Wall Street Journal in an in-depth look at McDonald’s recent sales losses.

To blame? Millenials, the young customers who are daring to disperse favors among the many food options, including new favorites Chipotle and and Five Guys, according to data the WSJ had restaurant consultancy Technomic Inc. compile.

These millennials don’t want to commit, and are often looking for healthier fare than what has been the mainstays of fast food.

“The millennial generation has a wider range of choices than any generation before them,” McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook said in an interview. “They’re promiscuous in their brand loyalty. It makes it harder work for all of us to earn the loyalty of the millennial generation.”

That’s why we’re seeing things like the McWrap, points out Gothamist, which isn’t exactly new, novel health food, but apparently works as millennial bait anyway. Because nothing says, “be mine alone” like a 600-calorie snack.

McDonald’s has been having a tough go of it in the media recently, along with its disappointing numbers. A growing effort to push fast food chains like McDonald’s to raise the minimum wage has kept the company in the news. Not to mention bad feedback over its tone deaf advice about how workers should tip the pool cleaner during the holidays and a sample budget provided to employees that seems wholly unrealistic.

That, and the fact that Consumer Reports subscribers rated McDonald’s burgers as the worst-tasting of 20 burger chains, and you’d better believe McDonald’s is really wishing its customers were ready to go steady right about now.

“Diners, especially younger adults in the millennial generation, may be more willing to go out of their way to get a tasty meal,” Consumer Reports pointed out.

McDonald’s Faces ‘Millennial’ Challenge [Wall Street Journal]

Amazon (Not Google!) Acquires Video Game Streaming Company Twitch For $970 Million

Mon, 2014-08-25 22:35

(Snow_000_Angel)

(Snow_000_Angel)


Rumors of video game live-streaming service Twitch.tv being acquired by Google for $1 billion have been slightly exaggerated. It turns out the price of the biggest gaming live-streaming site on the internet is only $970 million, about $30 million shy of that billion-with-a-B mark. But the rumor was wrong in one huge way: it’s Amazon, not Google, spending the scratch on a streaming future.

Amazon and Twitch announced the acquisition this afternoon.

Live-streaming play and eSports are a nascent but booming business. Twitch, which has only been in operation for three years, has had extremely rapid growth.

In 2012 they boasted 20 million unique viewers per month; in 2013, that had more than doubled to 45 million unique viewers per month. As of July this year, they were up to 55 million per month.

For comparison, Netflix just hit the 50 million subscriber mark.

Those 55 million viewers watched 15 billion minutes of content just last month, according to the press releases — that’s 250 million hours, or about 28,500 years. And over one million broadcasters were streaming those 25k years of content to those 55 million viewers.

The buyout makes sense for Twitch: Amazon has a huge, robust, and highly scalable web hosting and cloud streaming operation that Twitch can definitely benefit from as they grow. And as for Amazon, they’ve been branching out into original content for years, both with video and also with a game development studio. Put streaming video and video games together, and Twitch is what you get.

And Amazon probably doesn’t mind keeping competitor Google’s hands off of this potential money factory, either.

CFPB: Company Should Pay $7M For Processing Illegal Fees For Debt-Relief Services

Mon, 2014-08-25 21:50

(Daquella manera)

(Daquella manera)

Charging up front for debt-relief services without any actual results for the customer is illegal. But despite that, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a payment processing company processed millions of dollars worth of illegal fees from consumers.

As a result, the CFPB says in its complaint today that it wants a federal district court to give the okay to force Global Client Solutions to stop processing those fees, and pay $6 million to consumers, along with a $1 million civil penalty.

The CFPB accuses Global Client Solutions of helping debt-settlement companies collect fees from consumers, before actually settling their debs with creditors. In some cases, the CFPB says, consumers paid hundreds and even thousands of illegal fees for services that didn’t ultimately pay off, or even worse, made things worse for them.

“Global Client Solutions made it possible for debt-settlement companies across the country to charge consumers illegal fees,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers struggling to pay off a debt are among the most at risk and deserve better. We will continue to crack down on illegal debt-settlement firms and the companies that help these operations collect illegal fees from consumers.”

If the consent order goes into effect, Global Client Solutions would be banned from helping other companies collect such fees, and would be subject to monitoring by the CFPB, as well as submitting status reports on its compliance.

The defendants would also pay over $6 million in consumer relief in addition to paying a civil money penalty of $1 million.

CFPB Takes Action Against Global Client Solutions for Processing Illegal Debt-Settlement Fees [CFPB.gov]

Apple Will Replace Your Defective iPhone 5 Battery

Mon, 2014-08-25 21:16
(Rayce Sugitan)

(Rayce Sugitan)

Is your iPhone battery failing, but your device is now out of warranty? We have good news for some owners of that model of iPhone: Apple has announced a repair program for certain iPhones that have a reputation for bad battery life.

If you bought your iPhone 5 between September 2012 and January 2013, it may be one of the recalled models. On Apple’s site, you can type in your serial number and find out whether you’re eligible for a repair. Repairs can take place at an Apple authorized repair shop, by mail, or of course at an Apple Store.

If you’ve already paid to have your battery replaced, Apple says that “you can contact [them] about a refund.” Note that they don’t say that they will or even that they might give you a refund, just that it is possible to ask about a refund. Make of that what you will.

Of course, if you’re having trouble with your phone battery or any other part and it isn’t covered by a repair program, you have other options as well.

This Is What An Arby’s “Meat Mountain” Sandwich Looks Like In The Wild

Mon, 2014-08-25 20:35

So that's a meat mountain, huh?

So that’s a meat mountain, huh?

We asked, and we received: After putting out the call for evidence of Arby’s new off-menu “Meat Mountain” sandwich, featuring an array of meats stacked like a towering, $10 homage to carnivores everywhere, one of our obliging readers has provided a snap of the sandwich in the wild.

Consumerist reader Joe from San Antonio sent in proof of his recently spent $10, and says he feels more like a patriot now than he did before.

“The trickiest part was trying to keep the chicken fingers on there while eating it,” he explains. “That being said, it could be done if you just compressed it a little bit. With the amount of meat you’re getting, it seemed easily worth the $10.”

No need for fireworks and flag-waving, Joe adds.

“As far as taste goes, it was like a big mouthful of ‘Murica/Freedom. Getting a bit of a headache, but 10/10 would order again.”

I’ve gotta say that while it is indeed, a large pile of meat, it also appears a bit sad and haphazard, like it knows it’s supposed to be this big mountain and everything? But it just feels exhausted trying to hold up all that meat.

Again, if anyone out there decides to take on the Meat Mountain, please feel free to send pics to tips@consumerist.com, post them on our Facebook page or tweet them to us at @consumerist on Twitter.

TiVo’s New Cable-Free Over-The-Air DVR Tries To Fill Streaming Vacancy Left By Aereo Demise

Mon, 2014-08-25 20:10

tivoad
Aereo might have been shut down by the Supreme Court, but the reason they were open in the first place is because consumers want a way to record and stream broadcast TV without subscribing to cable. There are some homebrew workarounds, but none of them are seamless. Now TiVo, one of the first companies to make the whole home-DVR idea actually work, is trying to fill the vacancy.

TiVo’s entering the broadcast-recording fray with their new TiVo Roamio OTA, which basically works like a standard TiVo Roamio with a couple of differences: one, it plugs into an HD antenna instead of a cableCARD and two, the set-top box costs less. And there’s one other big catch: The Roamio OTA is, at least at launch, only available at Best Buy.

So what’s the price of not getting put out of business by the Supreme Court? It seems to be $50 for equipment and $15 per month in subscription fees. (The standard TiVo Roamio runs $200 plus the monthly fee.)

TiVo should be legally clear where Aereo wasn’t because there’s not really new tech involved. The Roamio OTA is basically just a really fancy digital VCR. It can show you a channel guide, connect to your home network, record up to four programs simultaneously, and all that jazz. But they don’t provide any antenna: the consumer does. You have to buy your own and plug it into the Roamio box, just as you would have to plug your own cable connection into a standard TiVo box.

The advantage for legality, then, goes to TiVo. The late Aereo’s advantages to consumers, on the other hand, were twofold. First, it was cheap. And second, the remote rent-an-antenna setup let consumers whose home reception was terrible still receive and record over-the-air broadcasts. TiVo’s bring-your-own-antenna solution will still only work for subscribers who can get a nice clear signal to their homes.

TiVo Roamio OTA [TiVo via Engadget]

Taco Bell Bosses Accused Of Forcing Worker To Give Customers Fake Money As Change

Mon, 2014-08-25 20:05
(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

We would all be a lot richer if we could each invent our own money but alas, that’s just not how it works (I’d be a millionaire if only I could buy stuff with high fives, sigh). Which is why officials are none too pleased with the operators of two Taco Bell locations in New York, after a worker claimed she was forced to pass fake cash to customers as change.

The mother of a 17-year-old who worked at both restaurants has filed a class-action lawsuit in Manhattan federal court on behalf of her daughter against the operators of the two Taco Bell locations, reports the New York Post.

The teen claims that her bosses “manipulated” her into handing out scammy money while worked at the counter, and is demanding $5 million in real money damages in the lawsuit.

“The girl has been quite distraught since this happened,” said the family’s lawyer, calling the fake bills “terrible” copies that were smaller than real $20 bills, something that appeared to have been printed at home and dried to wear them out.

At the heart of the scheme was a move by the restaurants to accept bigger bills like $50s and $100s, something many businesses have explicit policies against. Then, the lawsuit alleges, cashiers could pass back fake $20s.

The girl claims she was taken to task by her bosses and accused of accidentally accepting two fake bills. She claims she was told she’d have to either pay it back out of her own money or give the fake cash to customers.

She refused to continue the alleged charade after two weeks, the lawsuit claims, and was subsequently called into a meeting with four supervisors who told her undercover police officers were there to arrest her.

What they didn’t know is that she was taping the meeting, as well as another conversation allegedly capturing her bosses ordering her to hand out fake money, the Post reports.

“Fearing for her freedom and safety,” she took the tapes and a fake bill to the police as evidence.

Both the NYPD and the franchisees are staying mum so far.

Taco Bell forced workers to give out bogus money: suit [New York Post]

Back-To-School Halloween Candy Keeps Kids Healthy And Happy

Mon, 2014-08-25 19:45

happyOkay, we get that it’s difficult to swap out seasonal sections in retail stores, and that items sell out when we think it might be too “early” for the next holiday to come along. However, Michael spotted an odd combination of one retail “holiday,” back to school season, and the following holiday, Halloween.

“I was at Walgreens in Chicago last week and came upon a ‘Go Back Happy and Healthy’ shelf setup filled to the brim with Halloween candy!” he wrote. “I guess candy is more important than happy and healthy snacks.”

Well, candy can be a small part of a healthy diet, and it certainly makes some kids happy. The problem with this display is that it’s never quite clear where candy meant for packed school lunches ends, and where candy meant for trick-or treaters begins. However, if you’re buying your Halloween candy now, you have admirable planning skills and even more admirable willpower.

Arby’s Is Now Selling A “Meat Mountain” For $10

Mon, 2014-08-25 18:37
The Meat Mountain. (Arby's)

The Meat Mountain. (Arby’s)

Like my Uncle Kevin used to say, “if you build it, they will come.” And if you build a mountain out of meat and show people pictures of it, some people are probably going to want to eat it. Hence, the birth of Arby’s new off-menu Meat Mountain offering.

Arby’s wanted to make sure everyone knew it didn’t only sell those roast beef sandwiches slathered in cheese, so it made a poster showcasing a stacked tower of all the other meats on the menu, reports the Washington Pots.

Once they built it, the calls started to come.

“People started coming in and asking, ‘Can I have that?’” Christopher Fuller, the company’s vice president of brand and corporate communications told the Post.

The answer is now yes; yes, you can have a $10 pile of meat between two buns, but you’ll have to know to ask for it as it won’t be on the menu.

That mound includes: 2 chicken tenders; 1.5 oz. of roast turkey; 1.5 oz. of ham; 1 slice of Swiss cheese; 1.5 oz. of corned beef; 1.5 oz. brisket; 1.5 oz. of Angus steak; 1 slice of cheddar cheese; 1.5 oz. roast beef and 3 half-strips of bacon.

If any of you strong-hearted readers decides to take on the Meat Mountain, please feel free to send pics to tips@consumerist.com, post them on our Facebook page or tweet them to us at @consumerist on Twitter.

The $10 “Meat Mountain” from Arby’s: It’s exactly what it sounds like. [Washington Post]

Comcast Locks Customers Out Of Accounts, Has Been “Working On It” Since 2012

Mon, 2014-08-25 18:10

(Steve Rhodes)

(Steve Rhodes)

Last month, we shared with you the sad story of Karen, who somehow got locked out of her Comcast account. This would have been easier to deal with if Comcast believed Karen when she described the problem, but they didn’t. Now more customers are reporting the same problem: they’re locked out of their accounts, and Comcast’s solutions range from “delete your browser cookies” to “clear your browser cache.”

Karen followed the company’s instructions, but it was clear that she didn’t just need to erase her browser cookies. Consumerist had to step in and restore her access to her account management and e-mail accounts.

Complaints about this issue date back to 2012 on Comcast’s support message boards, so it’s nothing new. Worse, customers who called in to complain about their account issues would wait on hold for almost ten minutes, then get disconnected.

One customer posted last Thursday:

My husband has a comcast account email but I am the one paying the bills. I informed 2 customer service reps one reg and one supervisor of this. I DON’T want to create a comcast.net domain email in order to pay my bill AND I DONT want to affect my husband’s email in any way just because I want to pay a bill.

The supervisor kept say over and over “I understand Mamm” and he didnt understand anything. I have always used my email and my own log in to pay a bill. Crazy stupid that I am trying to give them money and they dont want it unless I create a comcast.net domain.

She wasn’t alone in having this problem on Thursday:

Having the same problem since [Thursday]. I just want to pay my bill. I have tried 3 different browsers on 2 different computers so the problem is with the Comcast sight. This happened to me once before and customer service just wanted to do checks on my computer. Has anyone found an answer or solution?

Apparently not, since a Comcast employee assured forum-goers that the company was working on a solution to the problem on August 21. Of 2012.

If Karen’s experience is any indication, even if they are able to obtain any help, these customers have weeks of solicitous phone calls from Comcast to look forward to when the company fails to close out their case.

Slot Machine’s 20-Year Reign Of Stinginess Ends After Player Hits $2.4M Jackpot

Mon, 2014-08-25 18:03
(MGM Grand on Twitter)

(MGM Grand on Twitter)

For the last two decades, one slot machine in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has been the darling of players, with someone reportedly giving it a whirl every five seconds. But it’s never coughed up the big jackpot in all its years… until now.

Gamblers from around the world would do things like kiss the machine, caress it, wait in line for 30 minutes to play it, and generally fawn over the thing, reports the Las Vegas Sun, all in an effort to coax it to cough up the jackpot.

And now a couple from New Hampshire can claim to have conquered the stingy machine, walking out this weekend with a $2.4 million jackpot, after playing it for just five minutes on $100 with a maximum bet of $3.

The signs aligned, and bang, instant millionaires.

“MGM Grand is delighted to award this historic jackpot to the lucky winner of the ‘Lion’s Share,’ and we couldn’t be happier for the winners and their family and friends,” said Scott Sibella, president and COO of MGM Grand.

The couple is planning on using the money for their children and grandchildren’s college educations.

“It was surreal when it happened. I just sat there thinking it hadn’t actually happened,” he told The Sun.

After 20 years, ‘Lion’s Share’ slot machine at MGM Grand pays out $2.4 million jackpot [The Las Vegas Sun]

Cheaters’ Dating Site Would Sure Like It If You Pay To Delete Your Profile (But You Don’t Have To)

Mon, 2014-08-25 17:16

(VoterPrime)

(VoterPrime)

The time has come, and you’re done being a member of Ashley Madison, a dating website with the mission of pairing up married people who want to cheat on their spouses. But do you have to pay $19 just to delete your profile, as some users thought was the case? Not really, but also yes, you can pay $19.

It all depends on how much of your dating/affair-having history you want to scrub from the site, explains Ars Technica. One member was confused when he went to delete his profile, and found an option to “hide” it, removing his profile info and photos from the site, or “delete” it for a fee, drubbing even messages he’d sent to other users as well.

The difference is that users who opt to hide their profiles are in essence, just deactivating those profiles. You can always return and resurrect the profile when you’re ready to use it again. In those cases, messages and photos you’ve sent to others act like email, and can’t be taken back.

But if you pay the $19 for a full delete, all those messages can be wiped and your information totally dumped from Ashley Madison’s servers.

“We’ve developed a product where we’ll go back in time and remove photos and conversations that you’ve had,” CEO Noel Biderman told Ars. “We feel it’s more than fair to charge a nominal fee to take that away.”

“I can’t tell you how many people delete their profile and come back and say ‘oh that was a mistake,’” Biderman adds, noting that “almost 30 percent of the people that delete their accounts come back and ask us ‘oh can we reinstate our account?’”

It just goes to show it’s always good to check out all your options — even if there’s one very prominently displayed, red-flagged, pushy message telling you to pay money for something that should be free.

Do you really need to pay $20 to delete your Ashley Madison profile? [Ars Technica]

Walmart Doesn’t Advertise Their Roll-Forward Pricing

Mon, 2014-08-25 16:38

clearanceWalmart is famous for lowering prices and calling them “rollbacks,” but sometimes the opposite happens, too. Reader Ben spotted this example of roll-forward pricing at his local Walmart on a clearance sign.

Of course, prices go up all the time, but Walmart doesn’t brag about it. Usually, tiny clearance price changes that aren’t really a sale are due to a retailer making the price conform to a price code, where the last two digits of a price denote whether it’s on clearance or not. In this case, though, the sign doesn’t even make that much sense. “Nothing directly under the sign was priced exactly at $50 – it was all priced between 25 and 50,” observes Ben. That is supposed to make us feel better, but somehow doesn’t.

Hotels Taking Cue From Airlines, Making Mountains Of Money From Add-On Fees

Mon, 2014-08-25 16:25

(Kevin Dooley)

(Kevin Dooley)

Airlines have long since discovered that they can make billions by charging consumers for everything, from daring to have luggage to calling customer service. Now, it seems, their travel partners up the line are joining them in the bold new future, as hotels find ever more creative ways of adding to your bill.

Hotels have found a way to bounce back from the recession, Mashable reports, and that way is through fees, fees, and more fees. And while we all know that you’ll pay way more than you need to for taking a can of Coke or a candy bar out of the mini-fridge, the current era of surprise surcharges goes way beyond sugar fixes and tiny liquor bottles.

Need to leave your bag in the bell closet for a couple hours since you’ve got a late flight? There’s a fee. Some hotels now tack on a fee for the safe in your room, despite the fact that you might well never use it. And then of course there are the hotels that charge for internet access… despite the fact that the Starbucks or McDonald’s across the street will have wi-fi you can use for free.

$1 or $2 here and there add up. According to Mashable, in 2014 hotels will take in $2.25 billion — yes, with a B — from add-ons and fees. That’s about double what they were getting a decade ago, and it’s a 6% increase over last year.

Las Vegas is the place to be for every possible add-on fee, it seems. The major resorts on the strip have been figuring out every possible way to get even more cash out of their hopefully-newly-flush customers. For example, several put water and snacks on trays that are loaded with weight sensors. If you move an item — even just to gawk at its ridiculous price tag for ten seconds and put it back down — you get a charge automatically added to your room bill. (Yours truly can confirm this was happening as long ago as 2008, when we declined to buy the $8 bottle of water sitting on the dresser.)

There are $30 fees for checking in early or checking out late, or another $30 for guaranteeing a room-type preference (like two queen beds or one king). Want to use the mini-fridge for your own stuff? Add $25 to the bill for a “personal use fee.”

And when you’ve had enough of Vegas bleeding you dry and want to get the heck out of town with what’s left of your wallet and your dignity, there’s a kiosk in the hotel lobby where you can print your boarding pass. That’ll be a mere $7.95, please.

Hotels Are Making Record Profits From Extra Fees on Stuff You Don’t Use [Mashable]

PlayStation Network Crashes, Hackers Make Bomb Threat Against Plane Carrying Sony Exec

Mon, 2014-08-25 16:20
(Alan Rappa)

(Alan Rappa)

After claiming responsibility for a denial-of-service attack that took down the Sony PlayStation network, a group of hackers tweeted that there was a bomb onboard an American Airlines flight carrying the president of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley. That plane was diverted, and all passengers on it safely removed.

The flight took off from Dallas Fort-Worth to San Diego yesterday, and was diverted to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, reports UPI.

The FBI confirmed the flight was diverted:

“Today AA Flight 362 traveling from Dallas to San Diego was diverted to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The flight landed without incident,” the FBI said in a statement Sunday night. “Passengers were safely removed from the plane. The investigation is still ongoing.”

Although FBI agents didn’t identify a specific threat, the diversion appears to be in response to a tweet from a hacker group that named Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley.

“.@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley’s plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this,” a message on the group’s Twitter feed read.

The tweet appeared right after the PlayStation Network crashed, after suffering a distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDOS. The network was overwhelmed with sudden traffic and went down, Sony confirmed, but says  it has been restored without any customer data stolen.

The same hacker group is claiming credit for that attack, saying they “planted the ISIS flag on @Sony’s servers” on Twitter.

Smedley confirmed he was onboard the flight via Twitter, writing that “all is well.”

“Yes. My plane was diverted,” he tweeted. “Not going to discuss more than that. Justice will find these guys.”

American Airlines flight diverted after hackers make bomb threat [UPI]

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