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Trump Hotel Breach Likely The Result Of Malware, May Have Lasted More Than A Year

Thu, 2015-10-01 15:59
The Trump Hotel Collection operates luxury properties in a dozen cities around the world.

Three months after the Trump Organization confirmed that several of its hotels’ credit card systems had been breached, the company is releasing additional details on the hack that appears to have started with a computer virus and went undetected for more than a year.

Trump Hotel Collection, which previously confirmed the breach in July, announced on Wednesday that hackers apparently managed to hide inside the company’s website from May 19, 2014 to June 2, 2015, potentially gathering guests’ credit card data.

The company goes on to say that it appears there may have been unauthorized malware access to payment card information as it was entered.

Payment card data — including account numbers, expiration dates, and security codes — of guests at the following hotels: Trump SoHo New York, Trump National Doral in Miami, Trump International New York, Trump International Chicago, Trump International Waikiki, Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas, and Trump International Toronto, may have been affected.

Additionally, transactions on the point-of-sale terminals at the Las Vegas and Waikiki properties may have compromised cardholder names.

“THC takes the privacy of personal information seriously,” the company said. “Immediately upon learning of a possible incident, THC notified the FBI and financial institutions, and engaged an outside forensic expert to conduct an investigation of the incident.”

The company says it has removed the malware and is in the process of reconfiguring various components of its network and payment systems to further secure our payment card processing systems.

“THC is confident that customers can safely use payment cards at all of the properties managed by THC,” the notice states.

The organization recommends customers who stayed at the affected hotels carefully review their credit and debt card accounts to determine if their information has been compromised. One year of fraud resolution and identity protection services is being offered to all customers who used credit or debit at the properties between May 19, 2014 and June 2, 2015.

Microsoft And Google Decide To Kiss, Make Up And Drop All Those Pesky Patent Lawsuits

Thu, 2015-10-01 15:42

(Can of Corn)Giant technology companies — they’re just like us! Instead of continuing to duke it out over a slew of patent infringement claims in court, Microsoft and Google have decided that peace is the answer, and have announced they’re dropping all pending litigation against each other.

Microsoft and Google are burying the hatchet, settling all 18 cases in the United States and Germany, the two companies said on Wednesday, reports Reuters.

The move will put a bunch of court fights to bed, involving everything from a number of technologies, including mobile phones, WiFi and patents Microsoft uses for its Xbox game consoles and other Windows products.

It also ends all litigation over Motorola Mobility, a company Goole sold to Lenovo last year while holding on to its patents.

It’s not like these two are going to be best friends forever anytime soon, as they still make competing products — Bing and Google search engines, mobile devices, etc. — and it doesn’t mean they won’t ever sue each other over infringement in the future, a Microsoft spokeswoman noted.

“Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers,” the companies said in a joint statement, without adding information about what the financial terms of the deal may be.

Microsoft, Google stand down in patent battles [Reuters]

Ford Issues Six Recalls Covering 380,000 Vehicles Over Crash, Fire Risks

Thu, 2015-10-01 15:20
(Van Swearington)

Ford significantly increased the number of vehicles its recalled in 2015 on Wednesday when the car manufacturer announced six new recalls covering nearly 380,000 automobiles — some of which have already been called back, but may continue to have issues. 

The largest of the recalls includes 342,271 model year 1998 to 2003 Ford Windstar minivans that were originally recalled in 2010 for having a rear axle that could crack over time.

Ford said on Wednesday that the previous recall remedy of placing brackets on the axle may not have fixed the problem. The parts many continue to contain cracks, which can lead to complete failure and an increased risk of crashes.

The brackets used to remedy the initial recall may have been incorrectly installed, Ford claims, limiting the effectiveness of the repairs.

According to the 2010 recall notice [PDF] posted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, the affected vehicles – located in cold weather states were road salt is used – contain axles that can corrode overtime, making it more difficult to maintain control of the vehicle.

Prior to the initial recall, NHTSA opened an investigation into the issue after receiving 891 complaints alleging axle cracking in the subject vehicles. Of the complaints, 334 claim that the cracking progressed to a complete fracture of the rear axle, including eight allegations of crashes resulting in three injuries.

Ford said on Wednesday that it is aware of “a small number of accidents that might be connected to the issue, but no injuries.” Dealers will inspect the vehicles and determine if the brackets are correctly installed.

In addition to re-recalling the Windstar minivans, Ford issued five smaller safety campaigns this week.

Approximately 36,857 model year 2015 Ford F-150s were recalled for a potential cruise control issue that could increase the risk of a crash.

According to the automaker’s announcement, when passing a large, highly reflective truck, the adaptive cruise control radar in some of these vehicles could incorrectly identify the truck as being in the F-150’s lane of travel when it is not.

As a result, the cruise control system might apply the brakes until the truck is no longer perceived to be in the lane of travel. Additionally, the collision warning system red warning light might also flash and a tone might be heard at the same time. If this occurs, the brake lights will illuminate, increasing the potential of a crash.

The recall will be remedied by a software upgrade, Ford says.

The company is also recalling 250 model year 2015 Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS, as well as model year 2016 Ford Explorers because the fuel tank attachment bolts may not be properly tightened.

If the bolts are not properly attached, the fuel tank straps could break over an extended amount of time, causing the fuel tank to separate from the vehicle and ultimately leading to a fuel leak, Ford said. This could lead to a fire.

The company is unaware of any accidents or injuries. The vehicles will be inspected by dealers to ensure bolts are tightened.

Another recall was issued for 1,477 model year 2016 Ford F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis vehicles for a potential issue with a shift control bracket. The bracket may have been improperly manufactured, and could allow the vehicle to be shifted in to reverse without the driver applying the brakes.

No accidents or injuries have been reported related to the issue. Dealers will replace the shift control bracket.

Nearly 70 model year 2001 to 2008 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs with re-manufactured transmissions are being recalled because a shift lever bolt may not have been tightened properly. This could lead the gear shift to disengage from the transmission without warning.

Ford said it knows of no injuries or accidents related to the issue. Dealers will inspect the bolt to ensure it is properly tightened.

Finally, the manufacturer announced it would initiate a compliance recall related to 708 model year 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ cars that contain fuel tanks that may not have been properly built. In the event of a crash, Ford believes the fuel tank could crake, increasing the risk of a fire.

So far, the automaker is unaware of any injuries or fires related to the issue. Dealers will replace the fuel tanks in affected cars for free.

Judge Approves Final Plan For RadioShack Bankruptcy

Thu, 2015-10-01 15:00

(Matthew Hunt)RadioShack’s bankruptcy filing back in February probably surprised no one, and it’s also not surprising that it has taken almost eight months to sort out the affairs of a company that was 95 years old and had 4,000 stores. While many of the chain’s stores were saved and continue under a new owner, and some creditors will be paid in full, the bankruptcy won’t end well for the Shack’s unsecured creditors.

The electronics retailer had $1 billion in debt, and there simply aren’t enough assets to pay everyone back. The bankruptcy can finally conclude because those unsecured or “junior” creditors agreed to end lawsuits against the senior creditors in exchange for having the senior creditors set aside about $9 million in a trust for them when the company finally liquidates.

The junior creditors, meanwhile, are still suing the executives of Radioshack for breach of fiduciary duty for their decisions of the last few years: any monetary awards from that will also help cover their losses.

The RadioShack stores that stayed open were purchased by Standard General, a hedge fund that had lent RadioShack hundreds of millions of dollars when it was in trouble. The company they formed to buy the stores, General Wireless, bid on stores in the bankruptcy auction mostly using RadioShack’s debt to the fund as currency: instead of cash, the former RadioShack will owe Standard General that much less once the retailer’s debts are settled.

However, that bid wasn’t the highest. While the court approved it because it preserved thousands of jobs, bids that would have shut down all of RadioShack’s stores and held liquidation sales of their inventory, a higher bid from fellow senior creditor Salus Capital would have brought in more cash for lenders.

Most important for consumers, who are like micro-creditors in corporate bankruptcies if they hold gift cards, the Texas state attorney general led the way in negotiating a settlement to redeem gift cards and setting up an escrow account so card holders won’t have to wait months or years to get their money back.

RadioShack Wins Final Approval of Chapter 11 Plan [Wall Street Journal]

9 Things We Learned About Why Better Business Bureau Ratings Don’t Mean Much

Thu, 2015-10-01 00:19

(amboo who?)In a lengthy nationwide investigation of Better Business Bureaus across the country, CNN interviewed businesses, consumers, and watchdogs, ultimately learning that how consumers see the organizations as something different, and a good grade from a local Bureau doesn’t guarantee that a business is trustworthy.

  1. The Better Business Bureau isn’t a government entity that serves as a consumer watchdog: you’ll need to contact your state attorney general for that.
  2. There isn’t one single Better Business Bureau covering the whole country: there’s more than 100, which together form the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
  3. The Council does have standards: the former BBB in Los Angeles was shut down after a blogger managed to gain accreditation for the terrorist group Hamas, a prank that was aired on ABC News’ “20/20” in 2011.
  4. Your local Better Business Bureau doesn’t claim to be a consumer watchdog: if you ask (and CNN did) they will claim to be a mediator between consumers and businesses when problems come up.
  5. Companies maintain their good rating if they’re able to “resolve” their complaints, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer will be satisfied.
  6. Companies under investigation or actually charged with wrongdoing by government entities can maintain a pristine BBB rating: for example, settling with the federal government over allegedly filing illegal debt collection suits against members of the military didn’t affect the rating of Military Credit Services.
  7. Having active lawsuits from a customer doesn’t necessarily lower a business’s grade.
  8. Local BBBs earn most of their money from dues paid by members, and some former members report their ratings plummeting after they decided not to renew.
  9. Businesses claim that local BBBs put more effort in notifying members than non-members about complaints, when not responding to complaints tanks their rating.

Slammed by the government, A-rated by the Better Business Bureau [CNN]

Target Charges $1 Extra If You Want Your Applesauce In A Bigger Box

Wed, 2015-09-30 23:15

Perhaps Target’s goal is to simplify our lives, reducing the number of boxes that we have to carry out of their stores. Probably not, though. There is no logic behind Target math, but at least now they’ll price match to a store with more logical pricing.

Stuart sent along these examples from his local Target. A box containing four packets of applesauce costs $2…


Put four times as many in a single box, and that’ll cost you an extra dollar.


This may be because it’s harder to stock and move around the larger boxes, but it still makes no retail sense. The last time we checked, Target was in the retail business.

AdBlock Plus Will Use An Independent Board To Choose Ads To Unblock

Wed, 2015-09-30 22:43

(captplanetrocksmysocks)One way that ad-blocking programs make money is, paradoxically, by showing you some ads. The popular add-on AdBlock Plus shows users ads that it deems “acceptable” by default, and has been accused of charging some publishers a percentage of the ad income that otherwise would have been lost. Now the maker of AdBlock Plus, Eyeo, is changing how it decides which ads deserve unblocking.

The “acceptable ads” whitelist is optional for users, but is turned on by default. The idea isn’t to abolish ads altogether, but to make the ads that people do see tolerable ones while supporting publishers. Small to medium publishers don’t have to pay to be let through, but large ones do. Eyeo hasn’t quantified what “large” means in this context.

How it works now is that publishers and advertisers apply for a spot on the whitelist, and members of the company’s forum evaluate the ads in question. The company has made the final selections, but today they announced that an independent board will make the decisions. They haven’t announced board members yet, but they’re likely to be representatives of different groups of stakeholders: advertisers, publishers, and Internet users.

AdBlock Plus creator to set up independent board to oversee ‘whitelist’ [Guardian]

Federal Perkins Student Loan Program Set To Expire At Midnight

Wed, 2015-09-30 22:12

After 57 years of assisting nearly 20 million low-income students to finance their dreams of obtaining a higher education, the Federal Perkins Loan program could soon be grinding to a halt. 

The Perkins Loan program, which has offered more than $41 million in low-interest loans to students at nearly 1,500 schools since 1958, is set to expire tonight unless Congress takes action to extend the availability for one year as provided under a resolution [PDF] in The Higher Education Act.

According to U.S. News & World Report’s The Student Loan Ranger blog, barring the passage of the resolution – which currently seems unlikely – schools would be prohibited from issuing new Perkins loans to students who have not received them prior to Oct. 1, 2014.

The potential end of the program doesn’t mean that students currently receiving Perkins loans are out of luck.

Instead, as the Student Loan Ranger points out, students who already receive disbursements will continue to collect the loans until their program is completed at their existing school.

Perkins Loans – set at a fixed 5% interest rate – are available through a revolving fund maintained by institutions, who then divvy out the loans to students attending a graduate or undergraduate program on at least a half-time basis.

Undergraduate students can receive up to $5,500 in Perkins funds per year, up to a total maximum of $27,500 for the entire duration of their program. Graduate students are eligible for up to $8,000 per year, with a total maximum of $60,000 for the length of their program.

The program offers a variety of benefits for borrowers, including an interest-free period while the student is enrolled in school. Additionally, the Perkins loan will not accrue interest when a loan is in deferment or during the typical nine-month grace period after graduation.

The future of the program has been in question for several years, as other federal student loan programs like Stafford loans and Pell Grants have been more widely used.

The Perkins Loan program problem has recently come down to budgetary issues, the Student Loan Ranger reports. By stopping the distribution of new Perkins loans, the government can funnel funds to other programs.

Last week, a group of senators introduced a resolution expressing support for the continuation of the Perkins Loan program “in order to provide educational opportunities to future generations of students who need low-cost financing to make their dreams of higher education possible.”

The resolution passed the House on Monday, but has since received strong opposition in the Senate.

What Borrowers Should Know as Perkins Loan Program Set to Expire [U.S. News & World Report The Student Loan Ranger]

Facebook Is Testing 7-Second Video Profile Pictures

Wed, 2015-09-30 21:54

Because torturing yourself by gazing at your ex’s profile pic on Facebook might not be punishment enough, Facebook is now testing video profile photos (really, profile videos) that can be up to seven seconds and will be set to loop over and over while you keep staring/crying.

As part of a larger profile redesign for mobile that shows a bigger photo right smack in the middle of the user’s page, with a new bio section below it, Facebook is trying out looping profile videos. If you’re not a fan of the Harry Potteresque videos (a la the Daily Prophet, of course), you can of course keep a normal photo.


The new profiles allows users to set up a profile photo that expires after a certain amount of time: fore cample, someone on vacation who might want their friends to know they’re off somewhere having more fun that everyone else, by adding a note to their photo saying something like “vacation mode!”


Once you’re done being on vacation, the photo reverts to the old version so you won’t have to remember to take it down in your post-vacation funk. In this case, it’s a good idea to make sure your profile — or even just the photo — isn’t viewable by the public, so strangers don’t see you’re on vacation and decide to swing by.

Mashable reports that iPhone users in California and the U.K. will be among the first to have access to the new profile videos, starting Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. PT/2:00 p.m. ET. It’s expected to roll out to the larger user base in the near future, as Facebook says it wants to help people express themselves creatively on the site.

Bed Bath & Beyond Is Losing Money On Our Coupon Addiction

Wed, 2015-09-30 21:00

(Kimaroo)Do you refuse to buy anything at Bed Bath & Beyond without a coupon? So does everyone else, apparently. While the company is making plenty of sales, they aren’t as profitable as they used to be… something that experts attribute to the chain’s training its customers to always come in clutching a coupon.

bbbneverexpireA discount of 20% on the wall sconce of your dreams might not seem like a killer deal, but it adds up if you bring a coupon every time you visit, and use a 20% coupon on every item that you purchase. (Yes, if you collect enough coupons, you can use more than one in a single shopping trip.) “These are expected now by most shoppers,” one investment analyst observed to the Washington Post while pondering 20% off coupons.

Once shoppers are trained to not walk in the store unless they have a coupon, how do you bring them in without mailing them more coupons? That is the company’s marketing dilemma. Their sales are actually up, but profitability is down.

The big-box store has also adapted slowly to the “omnichannel” environment, since the items it sells are bulky and difficult to ship. Home goods competitors like Wayfair have popped up online instead, stealing business that once belonged to Bed Bath & Beyond.

Except for Abbi of “Broad City.” They’ll always have her business.

The trouble with those 20 percent off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond [Washington Post]

That Guy Holding A Sign On The Side Of The Road Could Be A Cop Looking For Drivers Breaking The Law

Wed, 2015-09-30 20:42

(frankieleon)So you’re stopped at a traffic light, when you see something interesting out the window. Of course, you pull out your phone and snap a photo to let all your friends on social media see whatever crazy thing you just saw — which is exactly what New Hampshire police think you’ll do, in violation of the state’s laws on cell phone use behind the wheel. And sometimes, that spectacle by the side of the road has been staged by law enforcement to catch you in the act.

In one recent example, a woman received a $124 ticket after she snapped a photo at a red light of a man with a sign around his neck reading, “Repent! The end is near!” reports the Associated Press.

She said her daughter begged her to take the photo with her phone, and now she’s regretting fulfilling that request: shortly after she took the photo she was pulled over and told the man with the sign was an undercover officer — and he’d just seen her breaking the state’s new law against using phones or other electronic devices while driving.

She says she doesn’t usually use her phone behind the wheel, but was unaware that the new law applies to vehicles that are stopped at stop signs or traffic lights. Her plan is to appeal the ticket.

“I just think it’s a stinky way to do it,” she told the AP of her experience, which was first reported by Foster’s Daily Democrat. “Granted, should I have said no to my daughter? Probably, yes. But I wasn’t even thinking of the law at the time.”

New Hampshire isn’t the only state where police departments are coming up with new ways to take down drivers using their phones behind the wheel: state police in New York use unmarked SUVs to help officers get a peek at drivers’ hands from a higher vantage point, while in California, San Bernardino police officers have posed as panhandlers… but with signs that say they’re not homeless, they’re just looking for seatbelt and cell phone violations.

One police chief in New Hampshire said when the law first took effect in July, he didn’t see as many drivers using their phones. The problem has returned, however, prompting the department to think creatively.

“About two weeks ago, I was sitting in an unmarked car watching traffic, and everyone and their brother was on their phone,” he said. “So we were looking at innovative ways to maybe come down on people.”

Repent! Undercover New Hampshire cops nab cell ban violators [Associated Press]

Federal Appeals Court Nixes Plan To Pay College Football, Basketball Stars

Wed, 2015-09-30 20:35

(Ryan)A federal appeals court has ruled that colleges are violating antitrust laws by profiting from student-athletes’ names and likenesses while these same students are forbidden from receiving any money. However, the same appeals panel struck down the lower court’s plan that would have allowed NCAA member schools to pay certain athletes up to $5,000 a year in deferred compensation.

Last year, in a 2009 lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, a U.S. District Court determined that the NCAA’s prohibition against student-athletes being paid for anything related to their sport is an unlawful restraint of trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

At the time, the judge said the NCAA could not stop schools from compensating students who played FBS football and Division I men’s basketball for the use of their likenesses through scholarships that cover the full cost of attending that college and through deferred payments of up to $5,000 per year that would be held in trust for student-athletes for after they leave college.

The NCAA appealed this ruling and this morning won a partial victory from the 9th Circuit, which agreed with the lower court that the NCAA’s rules forbidding compensation “have an anticompetitive effect on the college education market. Were it not for those rules… schools would compete with each other by offering recruits compensation exceeding the cost of attendance, which would ‘effectively lower the price that the recruits must pay for the combination of educational and athletic opportunities that the schools provide.'”

According to the court, student-athletes pay for college and its associated services through their labor and by allowing the schools to use their names, images, and likeness. However, by barring students from earning anything from these same very personal assets, the colleges have collectively agreed to put a price of “zero” on them.

Viewed through this lens, writes the court, “colleges and universities behave as a cartel — a group of sellers who have colluded to fix the price of their product.”

In appealing its case, the NCAA argued that the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in NCAA v Board of Regents declared the organization’s amateurism rules “valid as a matter of law.”

But the appeals panel says the the Supreme Court ruling in the Board of Regents case, which involved television rights for NCAA made no such determination.

“The Board of Regents Court certainly discussed the NCAA’s amateurism rules at great length, but it did not do so in order to pass upon the rules’ merits, given that they were not before the Court,” reads today’s opinion.

The Supreme Court’s intention in even bringing up the amateurism rules, notes the appeals court, was to show ‘why NCAA rules should be analyzed under the Rule of Reason, rather than held to be illegal per se.”

In other words, SCOTUS “did not approve the NCAA’s amateurism rules as categorically consistent with the Sherman Act. Rather, it held that, because many NCAA rules (among them, the amateurism rules) are part of the ‘character and quality of the [NCAA’s] ‘product,’’ no NCAA rule should be invalidated without a Rule of Reason analysis.”

The NCAA’s second bone of contention in its appeal was that the Sherman Act doesn’t apply to the NCAA rules because the rules don’t regulate commercial activity.

Again, the appeals panel disagreed, saying that “This argument is not credible” and point out that the modern legal understanding of “commerce” is broad, “including almost every activity from which the actor anticipates economic gain.”

“That definition surely encompasses the transaction in which an athletic recruit exchanges his labor and [naming, image, likeness] rights for a scholarship at a Division I school because it is undeniable that both parties to that exchange anticipate economic gain from it,” concludes the opinion.

The NCAA had tried to characterize the amateurism requirement as mere “eligibility rules” that don’t restrain any sort of commerce, but just because they are presented as eligibility guidelines doesn’t mean the rules aren’t subject to antitrust consideration, says the court.

“True enough, the compensation rules are written in the form of eligibility rules,” acknowledges the opinion. “The mere fact that a rule can be characterized as an ‘eligibility rule,’ however, does not mean the rule is not a restraint of trade; were the law otherwise, the NCAA could insulate its member schools’ relationships with student-athletes from antitrust scrutiny by renaming every rule governing student-athletes an ‘eligibility rule.’ The antitrust laws are not to be avoided by such ‘clever manipulation of words.'”

It’s the substance of the rules that matters to the court, explains the panel.

“And in substance, the rules clearly regulate the terms of commercial transactions between athletic recruits and their chosen schools: a school may not give a recruit compensation beyond a grant-in-aid, and the recruit may not accept compensation beyond that limit, lest the recruit be disqualified and the transaction vitiated,” reads the opinion, which says the NCAA is trying to perform some “sleight of hand” by cloaking the rules as eligibility requirements. “There is real money at issue here.”

The one important area in which the appeals panel differed from the lower court was the plan to allow for deferred cash payments to student-athletes.

The lower court identified that there were at least two pro-competitive justifications for the amateurism rule — preserving the NCAA’s popularity, and integrating athletics and academics — and ruled that deferred cash payments would have zero net effect on these positive aspects.

The appeals court determined that this ruling was made in error.

“[I]n finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs,” reads the opinion. “Having found that amateurism is integral to the NCAA’s market, the district court cannot plausibly conclude that being a poorly-paid professional collegiate athlete is ‘virtually as effective’ for that market as being as amateur.”

Instead of the cash payments, the appeals court determined that scholarships covering the full cost of an education would suffice as compensation for the use of players’ names and likenesses.

Thief Commandeers Forklift In Failed ATM Heist

Wed, 2015-09-30 20:24
(Ludovic Bertron)

ATMs tend to weigh quite a bit, that may be why would-be thieves often rely on the help of big machinery when attempting to make off with one of the money dispensing apparatuses — or its contents. Once such case occurred early this morning in North Dakota where ne’er-do-well(s) commandeered a forklift and tried to pilfer the contents of a Wells Fargo cash machine. 

The Dickinson Press reports that while no money was stolen from the ATM, the forklift used in the attempted robbery sustained about $2,000 in damages.

Police, who say they have no suspects, were alerted to the destruction of the ATM and the attempted theft of its contents after an alarm was triggered at around 12:14 a.m.

Upon arriving at the scene, officers found the forklift – with keys inside – rammed into the ATM.

A local business manager tells the Dickinson Press that the forklift used in the attempted robbery was taken from a nearby apartment location. The company says it will hand over any available surveillance video to authorities.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo says the company is “thankful no one was harmed during the incident.”

UPDATE: Wells Fargo ATM destroyed by forklift in attempted robbery [The Dickinson Press]

Kohl’s Testing Cafe Concept At Two Wisconsin Locations

Wed, 2015-09-30 19:47
(Nicholas Eckhart)

Kohl’s is joining the ranks of retailers like Target, Sam’s Club, IKEA, Costco, and countless others in bringing weary shoppers what they really want: something to snack on while traipsing down the aisles checking off items from their list.

On Tuesday, Kohl’s began testing small in-store cafes at two of its locations in Wisconsin in an attempt to keep customers caffeinated and engaged while shopping, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The new “Kohl’s Cafe” stores will serve select drinks from Caribou Coffee, as well as snacks, such as granola bars, breakfast bars, chips, cookies, and other quick-grab items.

The idea behind the pilot cafes is to keep consumers in stores longer, increasing the chance they’ll buy more stuff.

“You want the customer to dwell more,” Jon Grosso, executive vice president and director of stores for Kohl’s said. “You want them to spend time in the building.”

The test is the latest venture in the company’s “Greatness Agenda,” an initiative to increase the chain’s sluggish sales by around $2 billion by 2017, the Journal Sentinel reports.

The 1,166-store retailer previously revamped its beauty sections and launched online order pickup at some stores.

Grosso tells the Journal Sentinel that the company doesn’t have immediate plans to expand the cafe concept, but never say never.

“We want to test and learn and see what we can do in 2016,” he said. “…And then, wherever we expand it, if and when we do, we want to apply those (lessons).”

Kohl’s testing small cafes as part of moves to re-energize sales [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Police: Man Got A Manicure, Then Robbed The Nail Salon

Wed, 2015-09-30 18:51

(Yellow Sky Photography)It’s one thing to walk into a business and demand cash, but police say a man suspected of robbing a Philadelphia nail salon sat through a manicure first, getting his nails nicely trimmed and buffed before grabbing cash from the register.

According to police, the man came in near closing time and asked for a manicure, reports CBS Philly. When it was time to pay for the service, however, he demanded the cashier hand him money instead, allegedly pointing a gun at her.

“It’s pretty nervy to sit into a nail salon and actually get a manicure and then produce a gun and announce a robbery you know. And he was very serious about what he was doing,” said a Philadelphia police captain.

Surveillance video shows the suspect trying to snatch money from the worker’s hand and then grabbing for more in the register (if he did get any nail polish, he surely messed it up at that point). Police say he also stole a cell phone and money from a worker’s purse. Once he had what he wanted, he left.

Police are investigating whether he could possibly be responsible for other robberies in the area, and are hoping the video from the salon will help identify him.

Police: Man Gets Manicure, Allegedly Robs Nail Salon [CBS Philadelphia]

New TiVo Bolt Will Let You Skip Some Ad Breaks With Push Of A Button (For $150/Year)

Wed, 2015-09-30 18:13

tivoboltTiVo’s new Bolt DVR has some neat-sounding functions — the ability to skip ad breaks at the press of a button [big asterisk] or speed up what you’re watching by 30% without screwing with the audio — and it’s also 4K compatible and provides an all-in-one portal for access to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. But it does so, not just at a hefty retail price, but with a subscription requirement that might turn potential customers away.

The TiVo Bolt comes with two hard drive sizes: 500 GB and 1,000 GB, for $300 and $400, respectively. Given that TiVo boxes can often be used to replace your cable company’s set-top receiver/DVR, that price isn’t really so bad when you spread the cost out over a few years.

But after those first twelve months, you’ll need to start factoring in the TiVo subscription fee. This currently runs $150/year.

So say you buy the 500GB one and keep it for four years before upgrading to something new. By that point, between the device cost and the subscription, you’ll have spent $750 (assuming the yearly subscription fee doesn’t increase), coming out to $15.65/month on average. After five years ($900 total), that average is still at $15/month. That’s still more than you’re likely paying each month for your cable company’s leased DVR.

That’s not to say people should or will write off the Bolt. Some may see these new features as worth it, while others would be happy to simply not be paying that money to their cable company.

Regarding the “big asterisk” referenced at the beginning? The Bolt’s “SkipMode,” which lets you jump over a commercial break with a single button press, doesn’t work on all recordings. In fact, it will only work on about 20 channels.

The device is already on sale through the TiVo site and It will hit retail store shelves starting Oct. 4.

Thirteen Manufacturers Recall 1.3 Million Bikes Over Quick-Release Lever Crash Hazard

Wed, 2015-09-30 18:05
Opened quick-release levers on nearly 1.3 million bikes can come into contact with brake rotors, leading to an increased risk of crashes and injuries to riders.

Thirteen companies are recalling nearly 1.3 million bicycles equipped with front disc brakes and quick-release levers that can cause the front tire to lock up or completely separate from the bike, posing an increased risk of injury to riders. 

The voluntary recall, which involves 17 different bike brands produced between 1998 and 2015, was initiated because of the risk that an open quick-release lever can come in contact with the brake rotor and cause the front wheel to stop suddenly or separate from the bicycle.

According to a notice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the issue occurs when the quick-release lever is fully opened – meaning there is less than six millimeters of space between the lever and the disc brake rotor on the bike wheel.

Bicycles that do not have disc brakes are not included in the recall. The CPSC released a video to assist owners in identifying if their bike is involved in the recall.

There have been three incidents reported in which an open quick-release lever on a bicycle’s front wheel hub came into contact with the bike’s front disc brake assembly and caused the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle.

In one case, a man suffered a broken finger, a wrist injury, a shoulder injury and abrasions. The other two incidents did not result in injuries.

Consumers are advised to immediately stop using the affected bikes – which sold from between $200 and $10,000 at bike shops nationwide – and contact the recalling company for the free installation of a new quick-release on the front wheel.

In addition to the roughly 1.3 million bikes covered by the recall in the U.S., nearly 245,000 of the bikes were sold in Canada, and 9,000 in Mexico.

Here’s a full list of recalled bikes and manufacturers:
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Moms Try To Snag Taylor Swift Tickets, Get Scammed Twice

Wed, 2015-09-30 18:00

(tjean314)Two moms wanted to take their daughters to see Taylor Swift when she played in St. Louis recently, but didn’t have tickets. That’s fine: that’s what the underground ticket economy is for, right? In theory, but they managed to get scammed twice in one night by two different ticket sellers, and missed the concert.

The night of the concert, they found a listing for tickets through Craigslist. Nothing raised any warning flags for them, until they sent off an online payment and waited for the e-mail notification that their tickets had been transferred. They kept waiting, but no tickets came.

Fine: there should be plenty of people hawking tickets outside the stadium doors, right? They found a friendly neighborhood scalper outside venue and got to business. “They went back and forth with each other, made us feel like we were getting really a bargain,” the mom who didn’t negotiate said.

Counterfeit tickets aren’t a bargain at any price, though, and that’s what they bought. (Negotiating on the price makes you feel more confident that the deal is real.)

On the third try, they successfully bought real tickets and got to attend the concert, but not without losing money to scammers twice.

Sometimes we all have to turn to the secondary market for tickets, but you can protect yourself while doing so. Deal with verified sellers when dealing in tickets. If you’re buying them right outside the door, and that’s legal in your area, have the seller walk you to the turnstile and take a picture of them: if they’re trying to sell you bogus tickets, they won’t do either of those things.

Mothers scammed twice over Taylor Swift concert tickets [KTVI]

Caffeinated Peanut Butter Now Exists Because Time Is Precious

Wed, 2015-09-30 17:48

(Steem)If you have a tough time making it through lunch because your morning cup of coffee just isn’t enough, one Massachusetts company says it has the perfect product — caffeinated peanut butter that packs a punch equal to a cup of coffee in just one tablespoon. No more sleeping through that PB&J.

Steem touts its product as all-natural, with its only ingredients peanuts, salt, peanut oil and agave nectar, reports the Boston Herald. The caffeine comes from green-coffee extract that’s mixed into the spread.

“It’s a time-saver; your two favorite products in one jar,” Steem co-founder Chris Pettazzoni told the Herald.

This is also great news for people known to live off caffeine and peanut butter for long stretches of time due to sheer laziness (yes, I am that person, and I have no regrets).

Unsurprisingly, the idea came from a conversation between Steem’s business partners, who were trying to drum up new hangover cures. Because who hasn’t dug into a tub of peanut butter with a spoon after a particularly boozy Saturday night?

“The unsaturated fats actually create bonds with the caffeine so the digestion process is slower and results in a steady release of energy,” Pettazzoni said.

*Thanks to Consumerist reader Jenny for the tip!

Caffeinated peanut butter is now being made in Massachusetts [Boston Herald]

Whole Foods Says It Will Stop Selling Prisoner-Made Products Made By April 2016

Wed, 2015-09-30 16:42

(Glyn Lowe Photoworks) After a protest at one of its Texas stores, Whole Foods says it will no longer sell products made using a prison labor program. The company has sold tilapia and goat cheese produced through a Colorado inmate program at some stores since 2011, and now plans to have the products out of stores by April 2016 or sooner.

A prison reform advocate who organized a protest at a Whole Foods store in Houston this past weekend said the company told him it’d be changing its policy. Though other companies sell products produced through inmate programs, he said it was hypocritical of Whole Foods to do so, due to how the company presents itself.

“They say they care about the community, but they’re enhancing their profit off of poor people,” he told the Associated Press, adding that prisoners usually don’t make much money for their work.

A Whole Foods spokesman said that the company had sourced prisoner-made products as a way to “help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society,” but that it chose to stop doing so because some customers were uncomfortable with it.

Whole Foods to stop selling products made by prisoners [Associated Press]