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The Consumerist

Cheapo Euro Airline Ryanair Denies Plans To Launch Transatlantic Flights To The U.S.

Thu, 2015-03-19 20:41
(Juan Rodriguez - PMI/LEPA)

(Juan Rodriguez – PMI/LEPA)

Maybe April Fool’s Day comes early in Ireland? Just four days after European budget airline Ryanair announced its board approved plans to launch transatlantic flights, the company backtracked, saying no such plans have ever been in the works.

In a short statement released Thursday afternoon, Ryanair denied that the airline had considered or approved an expansion into the U.S. market via transatlantic flights.

“In the light of recent press coverage, the Board of Ryanair Holdings Plc wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so,” the statement reads.

The abrupt about-face comes after it was widely publicized that within the next five years the company would begin offering flights to New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami from London, Dublin and Berlin, with one-way tickets that could start as low as $20.

At the time, representatives for the Ireland-based company reportedly told the Irish Times that a start date for the flights depended on the availability of aircraft, but that Ryanair was already in talks with manufacturers to buy more long-haul planes.

BBC News reports that Ryanair first announced plans for transatlantic flights back in 2008, but nothing had come to fruition until this week.

Ryanair abandons plans to operate transatlantic flights [BBC News]

Wegmans Recalls Walnut Halves & Pieces Over Possible Salmonella Contamination

Thu, 2015-03-19 20:33

walnutpieceswegsOn the heels of Trader Joe’s recalling walnuts over salmonella concerns, grocery store chain Wegmans is also pulling a product with walnut pieces and halves from the shelves due to possible contamination.

The company is yanking Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Organic Walnut Halves & Pieces, according to the Food and Drug Administration, after the supplier issued a voluntary recall.

The products come in a 6-ounce clear plastic tub with a best before” date of 1/27/16 on the bottom label. They were distributed to Wegmans’ 85 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts and sold between January 27, 2015 and March 17, 2015.

walnutlabel

Customers can return the product for a full refund at any Wegmans service desk, and the chain will also be notifying customers who bought it with their Shoppers Club card via automated telephone calls.

So far there have ben no reported illnesses tied to the recall. Customers with questions can call 1(855) 934-3663 Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Amsterdam Uber Driver: Mysterious Masked Men Threatened Me

Thu, 2015-03-19 20:25

(redsox223)

(redsox223)

From the point of view of Uber, a service that summons cars and drivers over the Internet, maybe the fines imposed on the company by governments are a relatively cheap marketing expense instead of a nuisance. Yesterday, we shared that Germany has banned the company yet again. Authorities in the Netherlands have imposed a fine of $107,000 on the company for violating the laws that regulate taxis.

Yet the company’s UberPop service, where ordinary citizens pay to drive each other around, still operates in the Netherlands while the company appeals that fine. One driver told a radio reporter that he was attacked by a mysterious group of masked anti-Uber vigilantes. Taxis and regular cars blocked his vehicle in and confronted him, and he even recalls feeling brass knuckles pressed into his neck.
Police say that another driver reported being blocked in while on the job as well, but neither driver was physically harmed. One can’t blame them for wanting to quit driving for the company, though, which is exactly the point.

It sounds outlandish, but this wouldn’t be the first incident of anti-Uber, pro-taxi driver violence in Europe since the company expanded there. Taxi drivers blocked off traffic to protest Uber last summer, and there were also slashed tires and broken windows in Paris last year that were blamed on drivers of traditional taxis.

Masked Men Ambushing Uber Driver Elevates Clash in Amsterdam [Bloomberg]

T-Mobile Illegally Restricted Employees’ Right To Discuss Workplace Issues, Join Unions

Thu, 2015-03-19 20:10
(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

A long-standing dispute between T-Mobile and an communication workers union came to an end Wednesday, with the wireless company on the losing side.

CNET reports that an administrative judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that T-Mobile violated federal labor laws by illegally restricting employees from discussing workplace issues and discouraging them from joining the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The ruling comes after CWA took issue with T-Mobile’s email policy and confidentiality agreement which prevents workers from talking with one another and the media.

NLRB administrative judge Christine Dibble found that those policies were illegal and ordered T-Mobile to post a notice to staff affirming their rights to form or join a union.

According to CNET, CWA has lobbied for T-Mobile employees to join the union, which already counts workers from Verizon and AT&T as members.

“This decision exposes the deliberate campaign by T-Mobile US management to break the law systematically and on a nationwide scale, blocking workers from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively,” Larry Cohen, president of the CWA, tells CNET in a statement.

For its part, T-Mobile seemed rather unfazed by the decision, calling it a technical issue.

“This is simply a ruling about a technical issue in the law that relates to policies that are common to companies across the country,” a T-Mobile spokesperson tells CNET. “There are no allegations that any employee has been impacted by these policies.”

T-Mobile violated US labor laws, agency judge rules [CNET]

AT&T On The Hook For $40M Because It Didn’t Read Legal Documents Closely

Thu, 2015-03-19 19:36

(JeepersMedia)

(JeepersMedia)

One might think that a company making upwards of $134 billion in a year would pay its lawyers to read everything that comes their way very closely. And yet somehow, AT&T’s legal counsel missed information in legal documents that could put the company on the hook for $40 million in a patent-infringement case.

AT&T missed a deadline to appeal a jury verdict for $27.5 million plus interest that was won by a company called Two-Way Media LLC, that had said AT&T used its technology for tracking what users watch on streaming video services, reports Bloomberg.

Though AT&T has at least lawyers, somehow all of them missed a faulty court docket notice that had said the trial judge had granted AT&T’s request to seal some documents in the case. But when reading the actual order, it showed the judge had denied AT&T’s request to overturn the jury’s verdict. That meant AT&T had 30 days from that time to appeal the decision and its $40 million payment.

AT&T wasn’t notified that the docket entry was corrected, and by the time someone noticed, it had already been 51 days. The company argues that it was tardy to the party because of “excusable neglect,” citing the incorrect docket entry.

Too bad, so sad, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, siding with the trial judge who had noted that there were at least 18 lawyers and assistants who were given the information on when the deadline was, and refused to extend the deadline.

The appeals panel agreed in a 2-1 ruling, saying that District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio acted within his rights when saying it was “inexcusable for AT&T’s multiple counsel to fail to read all of the underlying orders they received, or — at minimum — to monitor the docket for any corrections or additional rulings.”

AT&T can now ask the panel to reconsider its decision or request it be heard before all active judges on the court. Failing that, the company can take the case to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS upheld a default judgment against a company that didn’t respond to a lawsuit that had been lost on legal assistant’s desk back in 1998.

AT&T Has to Pay $40 Million Because It Didn’t Read a Document [Bloomberg]

Revamped CFPB Complaint Database Allows Consumers To Publicly Air Financial Grievances

Thu, 2015-03-19 19:18
(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s quest to allow consumers the option to publicly air their grievances about consumer financial products and service became a reality today.

The CFPB announced that it has finalized a policy giving consumers the opportunity to share details about their issues with financial companies in the public-facing Consumer Complaint Database.

The CFPB accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection and payday loans.

While the CFPB’s current complaint process allows consumers to fill out a detailed description of their complaint, that information is kept private.

When consumers view the current CFPB complaint database they see very little information concerning the grievance.

When consumers view the current CFPB complaint database they see very little information concerning the grievance.

According to the CFPB, even in their pared down state the consumer complaints have served as a crucial tool in finding violations of federal consumer-protection laws. They have also assisted other consumers in getting their issues with finical companies resolved.

“Consumer narratives shed light on the full consumer perspective behind a complaint,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Narratives humanize the problems consumers face in the marketplace. Today’s policy will serve to empower consumers by helping them make informed decisions and helping track trends in the consumer financial market.”

The new policy would give consumers the option to share their account of what happened in the database. By furnishing these first-person narratives consumers could provide context to the issue and help the public detect specific trends in the market, while also aiding consumer decision-making and driving improved customer service.

The CFPB contends that by giving consumers an option to publicly share their stories, it would greatly enhance the utility of the database and provide consumers with valuable information needed to make better financial choices for themselves and their families.

One would understandably be concerned that making some personal information available to the public would increase the risk of that data being compromised or of identity theft, but the CFPB claims the proposed policy provides safeguards to protect consumers’ sensitive information.

Under the policy, the CFPB would not publish the complaint narrative unless the consumer provides informed consent. This means that when consumers submit a complaint through consumerfinance.gov, they would have to affirmatively check a consent box to give the Bureau permission to publish their narrative. Consumers would also be able to withdraw their consent to publish the narrative at any time.

In order for a complaint to be published it would have to meet certain criteria, the CFPB says. Such requirements include that the complaint is submitted through the CFPB website, that the complaint is not a duplicate submission, and that the consumer has a confirmed relationship with the financial institution. Complaints will not be published if they do not meet all of the publication criteria.

Before the narrative is published, the Bureau will take steps to remove personal information from the complaint including names, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and other identifiers.

Companies will also be given the opportunity to post a written response to the consumer’s narrative. According to the CFPB, in most cases the response will appear at the same time as the consumer’s narrative so that a reviewer can see both sides concurrently.

CFPB Finalizes Policy to Give Consumers the Opportunity to Voice Publicly Complaints About Financial Companies [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

Bill Would Ban Marketing, Sale Of Electronic Cigarettes To Minors; Create Regulations On Packages & Labeling

Thu, 2015-03-19 18:47

ecigEarlier this month a new study found that it was increasingly easy for teens to purchase e-cigarettes despite a plethora of laws prohibiting the sale of such products to minors. Today, a group of Senators are taking action to make it more difficult for minors to purchase the products by creating restrictions on sales and marketing of e-cigarettes.

The legislation, known as the Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids (SMOKE) Act, would ban companies from selling and marketing e-cigarettes to children, as well as direct the Food and Drug Administration to create regulations regarding the safe packaging, doses, and labeling of the products.

“E-Cigarette makers think they can take us back to the days of Joe Camel,” bill co-sponsor and California Representative Jackie Speier says in a statement. “They are selling nicotine to children in flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, and chocolate cake. Something is gravely wrong with that picture. The SMOKE Act would establish that e-cigarettes are for adults, not minors, and it would ensure they are safely regulated and packaged so that they can’t harm children.”

As part of the FDA’s requirements under the SMOKE Act, the regulators must establish childproof packaging standards, dosage limits, maximum levels of nicotine concentration, and nicotine concentration labeling requirements.

The SMOKE Act would also direct the Federal Trade Commission to designate advertising that increases the usage of e-cigarette products among minors as an unfair or deceptive practice. The FTC and state attorneys general would then have the authority to prosecute violators and impose penalties.

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years, while the Food & Drug Administration has been slow to implement federal regulations.

The FDA’s proposed regulations include a ban on selling the products to minors, but those rules have yet to be finalized. Additionally, the proposed rules do not take internet sells into consideration.

According to the study published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this month, teens had little trouble purchasing e-cigarettes through online retailers across the country.

The study, which included 11 teens ages 14 to 17, found that participants were able to buy the products in 94% of attempts.

In all, only five of the 98 purchases were rejected based on consumer’s age. Those attempts were blocked because of parental control settings on the computer.

When the packages were delivered, none of the teens were asked to show proof of age. In 95% of the cases, the study reports, the packages were simply left on the doorstep.

According to the study, seven of the 98 online e-cigarette retailers claimed to use age verification techniques capable of complying with North Carolina law, which requires online retailers to verify e-cigarette customer’s ages with a government records database.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier Introduces Bill to Prevent Marketing and Sales of E-Cigarettes to Minors [Jackie Speier]

The Impossible Quest For A Low-Calorie Soda That Tastes Good, Seems Natural

Thu, 2015-03-19 18:41

(JY O'Reilly)

(JY O’Reilly)

Teams of scientists all over the world are working to harness compounds from a South American plant to solve one of the greatest challenges of the modern world. No, they’re not working to cure cancer or invent a car that runs on maple syrup. Scientists all over the world are trying to create a sweetener that’s calorie-free and considered “natural,” but is also palatable.

The closest thing that we have to this right now are the mid-calorie sodas with weird names and green cans, Pepsi True and Coca-Cola Life. The goal for soda-makers is to create a sweetener with a similar mouthfeel to sugar-sweetened beverages, but we’re not quite there yet.

Americans’ soda consumption has been decreasing for most of the last decade, which is a good thing overall unless you’re in the soda business. Consumers are drinking less sugared soda, but also less diet soda amid concerns about the health effects of artificial sweeteners. Beverage-makers are introducing other types of beverages, like fancy fortified milks.

Where do new sweeteners come from? Bloomberg Business visited the scientists at Evolva in Copenhagen, where they’re finding the best-tasting molecule available on the stevia plant to duplicate for mass consumption. Instead of covering entire continents in stevia plants, their plan is to engineer yeast that can duplicate the sweet molecule in theoretically infinite quantities. Early tests deem the new sweetener…not perfect, but better tasting than the super-sweet licorice aftertaste of the stevia that we’re using now.

Scientists Are Racing to Build a Better Diet Soda [Bloomberg]

Texas Rangers Upping Calorie Ante With Bacon-Flavored Cotton Candy, Chicken-Fried Corn On The Cob

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:56

delchickenPeanuts and Cracker Jack? Please, that is so 20th century. The new cool thing to do at baseball stadiums is apparently to concoct menu items so calorie-laden that people can’t help but notice them, if not eat them: The Texas Rangers are joining the artery-clogging pool with new creations like bacon-flavored cotton candy and chicken-fried corn on the cob.

There’s also chicken fried bacon on a stick and something called the Fried S’mOreo, which is a fried marshmallow breaded with graham crackers and fried Oreos, and drizzled with chocolate sauce and Cool Whip, reports ESPN.com.

The general manger of the Rangers’ food and beverage operations for concessionaire Delaware North says it’s all part of a new fried food stand called State Fare, as a tribute to menu items fried at the State Fair of Texas. Fried pickles, funnel cake fries and brisket macaroni-and-cheese balls will also be on the stand’s menu.

“Fried items in the past haven’t done as well as we’ve hoped, and we think that’s because there hasn’t been one location to find it,” the general manager explained. “We’ve now solved that problem.”

But wait — there’s more: Getting its own stand all to itself is that beloved ingredient bacon, aptly named Just Bacon. Candied bacon, bacon cotton candy and bacon beer are up for sale at that stand.

Strap on the feedbags, folks. Looks like you’ve got your work out cut out for you. Or fried up for you, in this case.

Rangers offer fried food stand [ESPN.com]

Honda Expands Takata Airbag Recall… Again

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:50
(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

While five major car manufactures have recalled millions of vehicles with Takata-produced airbags in the last year, Honda has by far been the most affected. And today, the car company continued to distance itself from other automakers by recalling more than 100,000 additional vehicles that may contain the airbags known to spew pieces of shrapnel at drivers and passengers upon deployment.

Reuters reports that Honda will expand its Takata-related recall to include 104,871 model year 2008 Pilot SUVs, and model year 2004 Civic and Accord sedans.

Honda says the additional recall was initiated after the company took another look at which models were equipped with the potentially defective airbag inflators.

Previously, Honda had recalled more than 6 million vehicles with Takata airbags worldwide. The defect has been linked to at least six deaths, all of which occurred in Honda vehicles.

Last week, the car company announced it would begin a multi-million dollar campaign urging consumers to take their recalled Honda vehicles to a dealer for much-needed repairs.

Honda said it planned to focus the campaign –– which will feature a website, as well as newspaper, radio and Facebook ads –– in 11 states and U.S. territories with high humidity. During the initial recall of vehicles with Takata-produced airbags, Honda and other manufacturers attributed the likelihood of an airbag rupture to an area’s humidity.

While Takata faces several inquiries by regulators and federal departments regarding the slow output of replacement airbags, Honda believes it will have enough new parts to meet repair demands by the spring.

Honda’s additional recall and increased effort to have affected vehicles fixed comes after the manufacturer faced months of scrutiny related to the recalls.

Back in January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined the company $70 million after it determined that Honda failed to report over 1,700 injuries and deaths over a period of 11 years.

Shortly after that the company announced it would replace its president and chief officer, Takanobu Ito, with Takahiro Hachigo, who most recently oversaw Honda’s European and Chinese operations. The change is expected to take effect in June.

Honda expands recall for Takata air bags by over 100,000 vehicles [Reuters]

Streaming Music Sales Outdo Revenue From CDs For The First Time

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:28

(emilybean)

(emilybean)

The inevitable slide toward outdated technology is continuing for CDs, with the revenue generated from streaming music topping CD sales for the first time ever.

A lot has changed in the American music market since the heyday of CDs in 1999, a year that saw recorded music rake in $14.6 billion, notes the New York Times.

In a new report released this week by the Recording Industry Association of America, the association says recorded music brought in about $6.97 billion, which is only a little bit less than the year before.

But how the different categories of music is changing within those relatively flat overall sales, with CDs finally getting surpassed by streaming music.

Last year, 144 million CDs were sold, generating $1.85 billion, a 12% drop from the year before. Paid subscription services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Rhapsody brought in $1.87 billion, which is a 29% increase from 2013.

While CD sales are flagging, it’s been quite the comeback story for vinyl LPs, which brought in $321 million — a whopping 50% uptick from the previous year. Not so portable, but so cool.

Sales of Streaming Music Top CDs in Flat Year for Industry [New York Times]

Cheesesteak Pizza Briefly Available At Papa John’s Again

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:26

IMG_0007Last year, chain pizzeria Papa John’s introduced a cheesesteak-themed pizza for some reason. If you missed the cheesesteak pizza party at the end of 2014 and this seems like a good idea to you, Papa John’s is offering the pizza again until April 26. You can get a large pizza for for $12. A review in the blog Brand Eating described the pizza as “good but not great.” [Brand Eating]

Legislators Once Again Introduce Bill That Would Allow Student Loan Refinancing

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:15
(Larry Troy)

(Larry Troy)

If at first you don’t succeed try again…  and again, and again. That appears to be the approach members of Congress are taking when it comes to a bill that would allow student loan borrowers to refinance their private and federal student loans.

Yesterday, a number of senators banded together to once again introduce the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act that would allow consumers with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates currently being issued on new federal and private student loans.

Currently, students taking out loans pay a rate of 3.86% under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act passed by Congress in 2013. However, students who are currently repaying loans taken out several years ago are stuck with interest rates of nearly 7%.

Allowing for these loans to be refinanced would put student debt on a more level playing field with other consumer debts, such as mortgages.

“For too many of America’s young people, pursuing a college education has become a one-way ticket to a lifetime of student loan debt,” Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement. “Giving student loan borrowers the option to opt into a lower interest rate by allowing them to refinance their loans will be a financial relief to millions of families in Illinois and America.”

If the proposed bill sounds familiar, it should. Last year, the Senate voted to block the bill by only a few votes.

The previous version of the bill was introduced by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in May 2014 and co-sponsored by more than a dozen legislators.

While full details of the new bill are not yet available, the previous version would have allowed federal and private student loan borrowers to refinance to rates set for first-time borrowers; 3.86% for Undergraduate Direct Loans, 5.41% for Graduate Loans, and 6.41% for PLUS Loans taken out by a student’s parents.

Borrowers looking to refinance their student loans would have to be current on their payments and meet debt-to-income ratios that would have been set by the Department of Education.

In addition to refinancing student loans, the bill set forth a number of tax reforms intended to enact what is called the “Buffett Rule,” a reference to billionaire Warren Buffett’s statement that he shouldn’t pay lower taxes than his secretary.

Durbin, Bustos Introduce Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act To Tackle Student Debt [Dick Durbin]

Meijer Offering $10 Coupon To Customers After Two Credit & Debit System Failures

Thu, 2015-03-19 15:59

(Nicholas Eckhart)

(Nicholas Eckhart)

Meijer is trying to win back customers with an apology and a $10 coupon, after customers were forced to either pay cash or abandon their shopping carts two days in a row last month. The retailer suffered two credit card system failures, two days in a row, that kept shoppers from paying for their goods with credit or debit cards.

The $10 coupon doesn’t come without a few strings attached, however, reports The Grand Rapids Press: The coupon must be used on Friday, March 19 or Saturday, March 20, and shoppers must spend at least $50.

“You deserve better. We’re committed to offering our customers a great experience, and that didn’t happen during a network outage in late February,” Meijer wrote in sharing the coupon with customers.

The two point-of-sale outages lasted about 30 minutes each, and rippled throughout the chain’s 213 stores in five states, a Meijer spokesman said.

“Our IT team determined the issue and fixed it quickly, but it was still an inconvenience for our customers,” he said. “In the words of Fred Meijer, ‘customers don’t need us, we need them.’

“And so we hope they accept our special savings coupon as a token of our sincerest apologies.”

Meijer offers $10 coupon to all customers after credit card system failures [The Grand Rapids Press]

Bed Bath & Beyond Will Change Return Policy For Items Without Receipt

Thu, 2015-03-19 15:41

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

If you’ve been bringing used items back to Bed Bath & Beyond long after purchase and without a receipt, the home goods superstore is on to you. The news slipped out a little early that the chain plans to tighten up its relatively lax return policy on April 20th of this year, ending a long run with a policy that most customers enjoyed and a few abused.

We can, of course, blame those policy-abusers for the change, just like when REI and Costco decided to tighten up their policies. Right now, the policy states that items purchased at BB&B can be returned for a direct exchange or store credit indefinitely. That’s a very generous policy, that has been good for customer loyalty.

According to a report from Racked this week, the rest of the return policy isn’t changing: just what happens when you item back without a receipt. Customers will still be able to bring items back, but the store will deduct 20% from the amount that the customer gets back as a store credit.

“We are expanding nationwide a modification to our return policy that will only affect customers whose purchase cannot be located to process a return, either because the receipt was not provided or because we could not identify the purchase through a query of our transaction records,” a company spokesperson clarified to Racked. A shopper spotted a flyer warning of the change at a New Jersey store, and Bed Bath & Beyond explains that’s what they’re up to: that prompted the story in Racked, and the company confirmed that they are indeed changing the policy on April 20th.

Exclusive: Say Goodbye to Bed Bath & Beyond’s Generous Return Policy [Racked]

Report: Target Raising Minimum Wage For All Workers To $9 Per Hour

Thu, 2015-03-19 15:20

(JeepersMedia)

(JeepersMedia)

In a move that matches rivals like Walmart and TJX Cos stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, Target announced that it will be raising the minimum wage for all workers to $9 in April, according to a new report.

Though the company has not commented on the new minimum wage saying it doesn’t disclose wage levels, Reuters says a source familiar with the matter says the increase will happen next month.

Now that retailers like Walmart and Target are responding to pressure from labor groups and others calling for a “living wage,” the next group likely to be targeted could be drug store chains like Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS.

Target executives had said recently that it would make adjustments based on the circumstances of each local market, because things are different in New York City or North Dakota, which is experience a big oil boost in the economy right now. Paying $9 wouldn’t attract workers in those areas, Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan noted earlier this month.

“It’s about being competitive locally at a store level within a marketplace,” he said.

However, it seems Target isn’t immune to pressure from advocacy groups that have been pushing for higher minimum wage rates.

“As retail workers, we’re glad to see that the pressure we are putting on Walmart is translating to real raises for our co-workers throughout the industry,” Barbara Gertz, a member of the labor group OUR Walmart, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by Target’s actions today and will continue to fight for $15 an hour.”

Target to lift minimum wage to $9 an hour, matching rivals [Reuters]

Amazon Expands One-Hour Delivery Service To Baltimore, Miami

Thu, 2015-03-19 14:53

(protohiro)

(protohiro)

It seems that so far, Amazon likes its new one-hour delivery service, which first debuted in New York City in late 2014. So much so that it’s expanding Prime Now service for household products to Baltimore and Miami.

Shoppers can get paper towels, shampoo, books, toys, batteries and other everyday items through the app starting Thursday in certain zip codes within Baltimore and Miami, reports the Associated Press, with the company hoping to roll the service out to other zip codes in each city eventually.

Customers must be enrolled in Amazon Prime, which costs $99 a year and comes with free two-day shipping.

In the two new cities, Prime Now will be available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, in select zip codes for one-hour delivery at $7.99, and free for two-hour delivery.

Prime Now will roll out to more cities this year, Amazon says.

“Since launching, we’ve seen high demand on everything from essentials like water and paper towels to more surprising deliveries like getting a customer a hard-to-find, top-selling toy in 23 minutes,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, in a statement.

Amazon.com introduces one-hour delivery to Baltimore, Miami [The Associated Press]

Target Poised To Settle Class-Action Suit Related To Massive 2013 Hack For $10M

Thu, 2015-03-19 14:10
(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

More than a year after Target announced that it had been victim to a massive data breach during the 2013 holiday season, the company is poised to pay $10 million to settle a class-action suit stemming from the incident.

CBS News reports that the proposed settlement could eventually pay individual victims up to $10,000 in damages.

“We are pleased to see the process moving forward and look forward to its resolution,” a Target spokesperson tells CBS News.

The class-action case is just one of dozens facing the retailer after the data breach, which occurred between November 24 and December 15, 2013.

When Target finally uncovered the breach it was thought that as many as 40 million credit and debit cards were stolen from nearly all of retailer’s 1,797 stores.

Investigators looking into the matter believe that thieves captured customer information through the use of software on payment terminals, harvesting the information when shoppers swiped their cards at checkout.

The breach kicked off a string of similar hacks at retailers across the country including Home Depot, Hobby Lobby and other national chains.

Target agrees to pay $10 million to data breach victims [CBS News]

Kiosk That Copies And Stores Keys Expands To Lowe’s Stores, Your Smartphone

Wed, 2015-03-18 23:03

(Atwater Village Newbie)

(Atwater Village Newbie)

A few years ago, we shared the news that a company had placed do-it-yourself key duplication kiosks in some 7-Eleven stores in New York City. Since then, key kiosks (keyosks?) have expanded across the country, and the company that we wrote about back in 2013 has announced a deal with home-improvement megastore Lowe’s.

There are other key-duplication kiosks available, including MinuteKey, found in Walmart stores, and FastKey. They’re proliferating, and there’s probably one at a store near you. They can all duplicate a variety of keys, sometimes printed with decorative designs or cartoon characters. However, KeyMe is interesting because it has a feature that’s a boon for absent-minded people but a possible security nightmare: users can store keys either using their nearest kiosk, or by taking a picture of their key with the mobile app and ordering up a replacement through the mail. (This is less helpful when you’re locked out of your house, but still potentially useful.) Your ability to print saved keys from a store kiosk is locked down with your thumbprint.

This first batch of kiosks puts the machines in Lowe’s stores in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio. There are also kiosks in 7-Eleven stores and some other locations in and near New York City.

KeyMe [Official Site]

Why Is LEGO Offering Beauty Tips To Little Girls?

Wed, 2015-03-18 21:56

legosalonTwo years ago, a LEGO Friends salon playset took one of the top dishonors in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s annual “worst products” list. The organization called the set “so jam-packed with condescending stereotypes it would even make Barbie blush.” That spirit lives on in a LEGO Friends magazine spread that made parents angry and–if we’re to believe company representatives–is making LEGO rethink their marketing of the Friends sets. Sort of.

While that specific playset is no longer sold, there’s a new salon playset that has a cream-colored floor instead of a pink one, but is still a hair salon for plastic figurines that have plastic molded hair that can’t be styled. That set is part of a storyline featured in a recent insert in LEGO Club magazine (not every club member receives that insert: more on this later) where a character offers advice to full-size human girls about the best hairstyles for their faces. Some parents were offended at the idea of beauty tips in magazines aimed at girls as young as 5.

“My little girl, the shape of her face, and whether her haircut is flattering are none of Lego’s concern,” Sharon Holbrook wrote in the New York Times’ parenting blog. “It wasn’t even her concern until a toy magazine told her to start worrying about it.” Here are the offending beauty tips:

tips

Maybe this page wouldn’t bother anyone if the mere existence of the LEGO Friends hadn’t been so controversial among some parents and observers since it launched. Most people were under the impression that LEGO was for everyone, and the company also used to emphasize this in its marketing materials. Why do girls need pre-written storylines and figurines shaped more like dolls for them to be interested in building things out of plastic bricks?

LEGO plans to take customer complaints into consideration when putting together future Friends inserts. In a statement sent to Mashable, a company representative said:

We appreciate the reader comments on the latest LEGO Club Magazine. Our Club team is always striving for new ways to engage with LEGO fans based on insights we gather from our Club audience. One particular thing that readers asked us to include was an ‘Advice Column.’ In the most recent magazine, we attempted to deliver against this request by elaborating on a current LEGO Friends story line. We sincerely regret any disappointment it may have caused. We value this feedback and have already shared with the LEGO Club team in order to positively impact future stories.

Maybe they could try an advice column about building stuff with LEGO bricks.

The company’s marketing when it comes to Friends content has actually improved in recent years: they used to offer standard and “for girls” versions of the club magazine, which later changed to occasional inserts with LEGO Friends content based on whether the child was identified as a boy or girl when they subscribed. After one parent with a son who likes pink bricks complained, parents can now choose whether to receive the Friends inserts or not, instead of lying about their kid’s gender to receive the insert.

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