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The Consumerist

Type “Happy Birthday” And Your Name Into YouTube And You Might Get A Special Surprise

Thu, 2014-10-09 19:44

Lucky you, Dorothy.

Lucky you, Dorothy.

You don’t know how badly I wanted to write a headline telling anyone and everyone to type their names into YouTube and end up with a (sort of) personalized birthday video and song, but the reality of the situation is that there are some names that are not as common as others (hangs head, sighs over lack of special birthday song). But for everyone else, you get a Happy Birthday video.

As recently noticed by a Redditor, when some people type “happy birthday” followed by their name into YouTube, you’re likely to get a delightfully weird birthday video involving sheep, surfing, dinosaurs and creepy babies by one user apparently devoted to making people feel special. SOME people.

For example — Kevin gets a song, Susannah has one, heck, even Xander is beloved on his birthday and celebrated in song. The channel has 606 videos, which ostensibly translates to 606 names.

As for how the Consumerist team fares, Kate, Chris and Laura are set. But Mary Beth does not get a song, Meg is bereft and Ashlee might as well just not have a birthday. Just kidding, happy birthday in advance Ashlee!

Meanwhile, there’s a Timothy, Tim and a Timmy version. An embarrassment of riches, Timothys of the world.

Whatever, I’m not bitter, Alvin. Enjoy.

Blaming TWC’s Poor Service, City May Deny Transfer Of Cable To Comcast

Thu, 2014-10-09 19:29

(Keith Reed)

(Keith Reed)

Two years ago, the people of Lexington, KY, became Time Warner Cable customers when the company acquired Insight Communications. Now TWC is being bought by Comcast, meaning Lexington residents would be switched again. But it gets more complicated, as Lexington is one of the markets that Comcast would then hand over to Charter. Four different cable companies in fewer than five years has members of the Lexington city council saying “no more.”

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, during a council work session earlier this week, the city leaders agreed to put two resolutions on tonight’s public meeting. Both resolutions deal with possibly refusing to hand over cable service to their new cable overlords.

TWC’s franchise agreement with Lexington, the agreement that gives the company exclusive rights to deliver pay-TV service in the area, actually expired in 2012. The city and TWC have been negotiating since then, all the while consumers have been complaining loudly about the quality of their new service.

Mayor Jim Gray says that TWC has refused to discuss the issues of poor customer service.

“We have worked aggressively and vigorously to negotiate these terms with Time Warner,” Gray explained. “They have just not been reasonable. We are looking for better customer service and they are not willing to offer it. That’s why the council took the action that it did today.”

A rep for TWC tells the Herald-Leader that “Time Warner Cable continues to work with the city of Lexington, and we hope to reach an agreement in the best interest of our customers.”

The mayor says the city “will not approve” the transfer of ownership without certain promises of improved service.

Of course, the issue there is that ultimately Comcast can’t really make those promises; Charter has to.

See, in order to make the Time Warner Cable acquisition more palatable to federal antitrust regulators, the combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable plans to divest itself of millions of customers by handing them off to Charter or spinning them of into a new cable provider called Greatland.

Lexington is one of the current TWC markets that would be given to Charter, but only after the Comcast merger is complete. So it looks like the city would need to reach sign off on handing over its franchise to both Comcast and then Charter.

And so the city council will consider two resolutions tonight. One would deny transfer of ownership from TWC to Comcast; a second could deny that transfer from Comcast to Charter.

The city has until Nov. 14 to approve or deny the transfer of ownership.

One option the city may explore is allowing other cable companies to bid on the franchise agreement. Problem is, the cable infrastructure in Lexington is largely owned by TWC, so any bid would need to include an offer to TWC to buy/lease that network, or the city could get involved in a legal battle.

[via DSLreports.com]

Casino’s 123-Pound Potato Pocket Nabs The Title Of World’s Biggest Pierogi

Thu, 2014-10-09 18:52

(frankieleon)

Normal sized yet no less delicious pierogis. (frankieleon)

Is it just me, or is there an abundance of cooks out there angling to make really, really big food right now? We’ve had a very long bratwurst, a ginormous dish of Hawaiian cuisine and now comes the newest record holder for World’s Biggest Pierogi.

Not that I can complain about such a delicious trend, one that now includes a colossal dough pocket filled with mashed potatoes, otherwise known as the food of the gods, which is what the giant perogi whipped up by cooks at a Pittsburgh casino sounds like.

“We started with 60 pounds of mashed potatoes and 42 pounds of dough,” Rivers Casino Executive Chef Richard Marmion told CBS Pittsburgh, adding that the attempt at the world record started quite early in the morning.

“It was quite a challenge. The planning and the pre-planning and the testing were probably the biggest part. Assembling it and really getting it together today was really kind of easy. We ran through that a couple of times, so we were pretty confident,” Marmion said.

The final product weighs in at 123 pounds, making it an official, certified Guinness World Record.

“At Guinness World Records, we are always looking for people to try new records and break existing ones. I hope someone tries this again though because I would love to come out and try it again,” a Guinness World Records Adjudicator said.

It’s just too bad there was no adjudicator on hand when I swear I ate 123 pounds of frozen pierogis my college housemates and I consumed between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. senior year. It had to have been some kind of damn delicious record. Or just damn delicious.

Rivers Casino Cooks Up World’s Biggest Pierogi [CBS Pittsburgh]

iPhone 6 Demand Delaying Production On New iPads

Thu, 2014-10-09 18:44

(ken fager)

(ken fager)

The good news for Apple is that the success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is restoring some of the luster to the brand that had faded following the candy-colored disappointment that was the iPhone 5C. The bad news is that keeping up with demand for the new devices is delaying production on new iPads.

This is according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn, which builds devices for Apple and just about everyone else, won’t be able to start production on the next generation of iPads until early 2015 instead of the planned December start date.

Both Foxconn and the parts suppliers for Apple devices are apparently slammed with the more urgent matter of fulfilling orders on iPhones.

“The top priority for the supply chain is to meet the overwhelming demand for the larger screen iPhones. The output of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus remains unsatisfactory,” one Apple supplier tells the Journal. “It would be challenging for display makers to split resources and spend a few months to ramp up production for a new larger screen iPad now.”

Foxconn already has some 200,000 workers pumping out the iPhones at one plant in China. Even if the suppliers could provide components to Foxconn in time to start iPad assembly in December, the factory may have trouble bringing on any additional people to work on the new line of tablets.

“Everyone is busy with the new iPhones, Foxconn’s bread and butter,” one Foxconn rep tells the Journal, saying that the company’s Chairman, Terry Gou, has taken the step of going to the plant to watch over the iPhone production.

The question is whether or not Apple will still announce the newer iPads with larger displays at the planned Oct. 16 media event.

Given that a new iPad won’t face the immediate overwhelming demand of the recently launched iPhones, it’s possible that Apple could still manufacture enough of the new tablets in time for its originally planned launch date.

After two consecutive quarters of falling iPad sales, Apple needs something to breathe new life into its tablet business.

FTC: WordSmart’s Claims To Improve Students’ Test Scores Aren’t Exactly Truthful

Thu, 2014-10-09 18:32

WordSmart agreed to settle charges of making false and unsubstantiated claims related to the benefits of its educational products.

WordSmart agreed to settle charges of making false and unsubstantiated claims related to the benefits of its educational products.

Every parent wants their child to have the best possible chance of getting into a good college. Sometimes that includes enlisting the help of educational programs to boost their college admittance scores. But millions of consumers who tried to find that assistance from WordSmart Corporation only saw a decrease in their bank accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that educational services company WordSmart Corporation and its president agreed to a suspended judgement of $18.7 million to settle charges of misrepresenting the benefits of its educational programs and violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

According to the FTC complaint, WordSmart charged millions of consumers $15 to $300 for programs the company claimed would improve children’s performance in school or on standardized tests.

WordSmart often marketed the programs with infomercials featuring quiz show host Alex Trebek.

In the ads, company allegedly promised that by using WordSmart for a total of 20 hours, students were guaranteed to improve letter grades by at least one GPA point, SAT scores by at least 200 points, ACT scores by at least four points, GRE and GMAT scores by at least 100 points, as well as improve IQ scores.

Additionally, the FTC claims the company repeatedly called consumers whose phone numbers were listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, refused to honor requests to stop calling, and failed to connect a consumer to a sales representative within two seconds after a consumer answered the phone.

The FTC order prohibits WordSmart and its associates from misrepresenting the benefits, performance, or efficacy of their educational goods or services.

Under the settlement, the $18.7 million judgement will be suspended upon the payment of $147,400. The full judgement will become due immediately if the company or associates are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

FTC Settlement Bars WordSmart from Deceiving Parents With Unsupported Claims About its Education Products [Federal Trade Commission]

Creepy Mall Billboard Watches You, Wants To Play Board Games

Thu, 2014-10-09 18:18

pictionaryI find life-size video screen ads with images of people really unnerving, and that was before I came to realize that they could be watching me back. Toy company Mattel, out to promote its board games before the holidays, created a cool event that brought random shoppers and an actor in a remote location together…to play board games.

Yes, appeared to be just a billboard with a photo of a dude holding a box was really a live video feed. Then things take a weird turn with life-size teddy bears and other manifestations of the items drawn on the Pictionary board. Of course, the winners all received piles of board games as well.

What I like about the footage in the video is that the first little boy shown who accepts the challenge to play Pictionary is not at all freaked out that there is someone on the other side of the billboard watching him, and that being wants to play. When you’re young enough and have an active enough imagination, this makes perfect sense. The rest of this child’s life will be a profound disappointment, as no ad will ever spring to life and play with him ever again. Or––here’s a scary thought––thanks to artificial intelligence, all of them will.

This Digital Mall Ad Plays Pictionary With You, and Gives Out Fabulous Prizes [AdWeek]

Comcast Eliminating One Annoying Fee By End Of Year

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:47

(Steven Depolo)

(Steven Depolo)

Cable companies are notorious for their fees — modems, set-top boxes, HD service, DVR service, repair visits, early termination fees; the list goes on. But Comcast tells Consumerist that it is ditching one annoying little fee over the next few months.

We found out about this after Consumerist reader Steve wrote in to say that Comcast tried to ding him for a few dollars when he called to get rid of a sports package on his service. The customer service rep he spoke to explained that the fee applies for any change to his existing plan.

Steve was able to get the fee waived after pointing out to a supervisor that it was silly for the company to risk losing a customer who pays Comcast hundreds of dollars a year just to squeeze two or three bucks out of him.

We asked Comcast about the fee and reps for the company explained that in some markets, there is a few-dollar fee (it varies by market) for subscribers who make TV package changes over the phone. Changes made through the Comcast website did not incur the fee.

This sort of fee isn’t unheard of; we’ve heard similar complaints about other pay-TV companies, and the airline industry is leading the way with surcharges for dealing with a human.

Much like those airlines who charge fees for booking tickets or changing reservations over the phone, it’s about trying to nudge customers toward using online tools that don’t drain a company’s limited human customer service reps.

Comcast, which everyone agrees could use some good PR, says that it has decided to respond to customer gripes about this charge and is phasing it out. Reps for Kabletown say the phase-out began in September and will be complete by the end of the year.

A Bad Idea Gets Even Worse When Lit Candle In Car Sparks Fire At Gas Station

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:40

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Riding around in a car with an open flame is a bad idea all on its own: Any unexpected movements or sharp turns and that candle you lit for ambiance or use when your interior lights are out is going to go flying. Flying fire is bad, but it’s perhaps an even worse idea to have a flickering flame when your car is sitting still at the gas station. And yes, someone has definitely done this.

A Florida woman reportedly pulled up to a gas station yesterday afternoon around 2 p.m. with a lighted candle sitting in her cupholder, reports ActionNewsJax.

Workers realized something was amiss when another customer ran inside the station and said that the woman’s car was on fire, the county sheriff’s officer said.

Emergency responders from the fire department arrived on the scene and were able to extinguish the flames that had engulfed the woman’s car and also damaged a nearby gas pump.

“She had a candle in the cupholder,” a rep from the sheriff’s office explained. “She got out, pumped gas and went inside. When she was inside another customer came in and said, ‘Hey, your car is on fire.’ ”

The woman won’t face any charges as officials say it was an accident, but let’s be very, very clear: DO NOT LIGHT CANDLES IN YOUR CAR. Not at a gas station, not while you’re whipping down the freeway and probably texting at the same time, not ever. Nothing good can come of it, and your phone probably has a flashlight app you can use instead.

Car with lighted candle inside starts fire at Florida gas station [ActionNewsJax}

Airplane Cabin Cleaners Strike In New York Over Health And Safety Issues

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:20

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)


For many consumers the time between a plane landing and boarding for the next flight may seem like an eternity. But for the men and women tasked with cleaning the cabin of said plane, the short time you are left waiting might not actually be enough to adequately and safely get the job done. It’s health and safety concerns such as those that led to more than 200 cabin cleaners to go on a 24-hour strike at New York’s LaGuardia Airport Wednesday night.

The Associated Press reports that nearly 200 Air Serve employees have set up picket lines in an attempt to raise awareness about the health and safety issues they face on the job.

At the crux of the protest is the workers’ claims that they are often tasked with cleaning up blood and vomit while not equipped with appropriate protective gear.

Among their concerns is exposure to diseases, such as Ebola.

Additionally, the workers say the ability to thoroughly clean an airplane has been stunted. The group says the number of cabin cleaners per job has been reduced by up to half and that the time they are allotted to clean the cabin has shrunk significantly from about 45 minutes to as little as 5 minutes.

The Associated Press reports that it is unclear whether Air Serv was using replacement workers during the employees’ strike.

Plane cleaners strike at 1 NYC airport terminal [The Associated Press]

LEGO Dumps Deal Allowing Shell Gas Stations To Hand Out Toy Sets After Campaign Against Arctic Drilling

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:59

A shot from Greenpeace's anti-Shell campaign using LEGO blocks.

A shot from Greenpeace’s anti-Shell campaign using LEGO blocks. (YouTube)

Danish toy company LEGO has ditched a deal it had with Shell that allowed the company to hand out toy sets at its gas stations in about 30 countries around the world, after Greenpeace activists launched a campaign against Shell drilling in the Arctic.

Greenpeace’s July video showing an Arctic landscape with happy people and animals get swalloed up in oil ooozing up through a a Shell drilling platform constructed of LEGO bricks put LEGO in the middle of a situation it was surprised to be in, reports the Associated Press.

LEGO CEO Joergen Vig Knudstorp said the protest “may have created misunderstandings among our stakeholders,” saying that the company didn’t want to be tangled up in the environmental campaign, and that LEGO “should never have become part of Greenpeace’s dispute with Shell.”

He says his company urged Greenpeace to talk to Shell directly, but added that the 2011 deal with Shell that gave toy sets to customers who filled up with a minimum of 7.8 gallons of gas would not be renewed when the contract expires. It’s unclear when that will be or how much money is at stake, but said the deal was a long-term promotional contract.

In response, Shell says the partnership has been a success so far and it will continue with its plans to introduce it in more countries. Royal Dutch Shell PLC is planning on drilling in the Arctic coast of Alaska, a plan that was delayed in the last few years due to weather conditions.

Last August, the company filed a new offshore drilling plan for the area, but hasn’t decided whether it’ll start in 2015 or not.

Greenpeace called LEGO’s decision “fantastic news,” saying an oil spill in the Arctic would be a catastrophe for the marine life there.

Lego to Scrap Shell Deal After Protests [Associated Press]

The Troy-Bilt FLEX Is The Cuisinart Of Lawn Care

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:54

Troy_Bilt_FLEX_Lawn_Mower_100714What if you could buy one piece of equipment that would take care of many of your home and lawn care needs? Kind of like a food processor with different blades, but for the outside of your house. And huge. It would be a snow blower, lawn mower, leaf blower, and pressure washer all in one. This is a real thing, but should it be?

The Troy-Bilt Flex base unit costs $400, and then the attachments that actually make it work cost anywhere from $280 and $500. That means you don’t have to get, say, the leaf blower if that’s not what you’re into.

Our snow-chomping colleagues at Consumer Reports point out that a modular setup means sacrificing some features and control, like good chute control for the snow blower.

It’s a snow blower, it’s a lawn mower, it’s both! [Consumer Reports]

Newspapers Warning About “Readers Payment Service” Subscription Scam

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:35

The scammy notices sent out to consumers look like bills and give you multiple ways to pay, but the small print indicates that it is "not a bill."

The scammy notices sent out to consumers look like bills and give you multiple ways to pay, but the small print indicates that it is “not a bill.”

All around the country, people are receiving subscription renewal notices from a company called Readers Payment Services (or various other names) for any one of dozens of newspapers. The invoices, which ask for your credit card and personal information, may look legitimate, but the newspapers are warning their subscribers to not fall for this scam.

According to the Arizona Republic, it has received at least 60 complaints from readers who received these bogus Readers Payment Services, which not only want to steal victims’ info, but are also overstating the actual renewal cost by about 20%.

“I want to be clear that this scam has nothing to do with anyone accessing our databases. These are random mailings going out into the market,” said Republic publisher John Zidich. “We are taking the precaution to contact our subscribers, of which more than 70 percent do not pay by mail, to make them aware that this scam exists.”

Dozens of other papers’ have been targeted by the scam as well.

This morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted this PDF with more information about the scammers:

• The company may operate under many different names. You could see names including Associated Publishers Network, Readers Payment Service, publisherpayment.com, unitedpubex.com

• The unauthorized company may operate under other names including: Associated Publishers Subscription Services, Magazine Billing Network, Orbital Publishing Group, Publishers Billing Exchange and United Publishers Service

• Notices may reference a Renewal Notice, Notice of Renewal, or New Order and include a request to make checks payable to a company other than The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

• The unauthorized renewal offer directs payments to a PO Box on Lemmon Drive in Reno, Nevada, a PO Box in White City, Oregon or 850 S Boulder Hwy in Henderson, Nevada.

These bogus invoices may constitute mail fraud, and the U.S. Postal Service has confirmed that it is investigating.

Reporters for the Republic contacted Publisher’s Payment Processing, the company in New York that ultimately processes all of these scammy charges, but couldn’t get anyone there to provide any useful information.

One employee denied that the invoices are actually invoices. She claimed they were merely “renewal notices.” Asked for the names of her bosses or the company’s ownership, she claimed it was “proprietary information.”

Report: Fidelity Investments Likely Victim Of Same Hackers Responsible For JPMorgan Breach

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:12

(Michael Daddino)

(Michael Daddino)

Just a week after JPMorgan Chase said that 76 million households and 7 million businesses were affected by a late August data breach, another large mutual fund company admits it was likely targeted by the same hackers. But unlike JPMorgan, Fidelity Investments says there’s no indication any customer data was stolen.

The Financial Times reports that Fidelity was one of 13 financial institutions attacked by hackers recently; an act officials say was likely perpetrated by the same group responsible for stealing data from millions of consumers and businesses banking with JPMorgan.

“We have no indication that any Fidelity customer sites, accounts, information, services or systems were affected by this matter,” said a Fidelity spokesman tells Financial Times Thursday.

The Fidelity spokesman went on to say that the company has a “range of safeguards and multiple layers of security in place to protect customer accounts and information, our sites and systems.”

The U.S. Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation have begun to investigate the attacks, considering whether the attacks were aimed at trying to reap financial reward or gather intelligence.

As for the Chase breach, officials with the company say the only information obtained by the hackers were names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of megabank’s websites and its ChaseMobile and JPMorgan smartphone apps.

Officials claim that no account information was accessed, nor was particularly sensitive data like Social Security numbers, passwords, or dates of birth.

Fidelity hack points to JPMorgan link [Financial Times]

Wells Fargo Employee E-mails CEO & 200K Co-Workers Asking For Raises For All

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:08

(Colin)

(Colin)

How many times has someone asked for a raise only to have their boss say, “If I give you a raise, then everybody is going to ask for one”? One Wells Fargo worker pre-empted that part of the conversation when he e-mailed just about everyone in the company asking for raises for all.

The Oregon-based 30-year-old, who makes about $15/hour processing customer requests in the debt collections department, tells the Charlotte Observer that his message was sent to Wells CEO John Stumpf and around 200,000 other employees.

He contends in the message that the bank could “show the rest of the United States, if not the world, that, yes, big corporations can have a heart other than philanthropic endeavors,” by sharing the wealth with its workers through across-the-board $10,000 raises.

“I’m not worried about losing my job over this,” admits the e-mailer, who says that in the seven years he’s worked for the bank his pay has gone from around $13/hour to around $15/hour. “Just knowing the unease of my fellow team members as far as pay goes and how horrible our pay increases have been over the seven years … I just decided to send a letter to John Stumpf.”

Stumpf, who raked in $19.3 in total compensation last year, hasn’t replied to the e-mail, but a rep for the bank tells the Observer that the bank provides “market competitive” compensation to its employees.

Washington Stores Pull Exploding Marijuana Soda Bottles From Shelves

Thu, 2014-10-09 16:03

(KOMO News)

(KOMO News)

Now that marijuana is legal for recreational use in Washington, stores have probably not been surprised to see pot-infused products flying off the shelves. But when there’s soda literally exploding on the shelves, well, that’s not the best way to clear out the inventory. At least three marijuana product purveyors in the state have had to pull a sparkling pomegranate soda made with pot after bottles started exploding mysteriously.

Employees at one store say the day after they first stocked the stuff, they came in that morning to find a bunch of broken bottles, dripping soda and shards of glass around the store, reports KOMO News.

Was it a vandal? A vengeful ghost? A thirsty raccoon? No one knew — until the workers witnessed the abrupt explosions themselves.

“It sounded like a shotgun going off,” said the store’s manager. “You can actually feel it, it was that explosive”.

Decked out in protective clothing, he treated the unexploded soda like a bomb and put it in a steel box outside the store while the staff cleaned up the mess. The pot pop continued to pop itself inside the box for the next 10 days.

No one has been hurt, but the store’s customers could have unopened bottles at home that might explode. Two other stores reported soda issues as well, the founder of company behind the soda says.

“It was simply the fact that his batch had a higher yeast concentration, and one of the by-products of yeast is excess carbon dioxide,” he explains, adding that the bottles had been pressure tested, but that there was just too much yeast building up in the bottles.

He says he’ll give a full refund to the shops, though it seems there’s a bone of contention over who will pick up and dispose of the volatile bottles.

The thing is, stores are supposed to quarantine marijuana products for 72 hours to allow state Liquor Control Board officers to inspect them for compliance… But what if the products refuse to cooperate and blow themselves up instead?

And although the soda company sent a driver to pick up the soda nine days after it started going boom, the shop’s manager says the driver only took a few bottles before they started exploding, and he abandoned the rest.

The company said it’ll pick up the rest of the bottles later this week, though by yesterday, most had already exploded inside the steel box.

“Sometimes when your creating new products in new marketplace there’s a little bit of a learning curve and that’s what we’ve experienced,” the soda company owner adds.

Exploding ‘pot pop’ removed from three marijuana shops [KOMO News]

Would You Buy A Johnny Rockets CD Or Toaster?

Wed, 2014-10-08 23:44

(Noel)

(Noel)

Would you go see a drive-in movie where carhops bring you food from chain diner Johnny Rockets? That’s in the works, as the brand plans to extend itself beyond its 330 existing restaurants. How about a fast-casual “express” model serving the same food more quickly and without waiters? How about Johnny Rockets branded small appliances and frozen food? This is all coming soon, starting in 2015.

Yes, the chain is joining other chain restaurants in cashing in on its brand recognition even when consumers are at home, shopping for appliances, or want to go see a movie. Well, the movie and appliances things are kind of unusual: what’s with that?

The company’s chief development officer, James Walker, told BurgerBusiness that the idea behind going into home electronics is to recreate the experience of the shiny, idealized 1950s experience from the restaurant’s tables and counters in customers’ homes. They’re not just going to grab any old chrome milkshake blenders and straw holders and slap a Johnny Rockets logo on it, though.

Another idea, inspired by Starbucks, is to create and market CDs of old and new music that might be playing over the sound system in a Johnny Rockets restaurant. “[W]e’re a lifestyle: We’re fun, we’re entertainment, we’re music,” Walker explained. Burger grills? Maybe! Toasters? Sure! Anything that fits in the company’s “retro-tech” aesthetic could end up on store shelves sometime in 2015. We’ll have to find out whether these products will be worth anyone’s money or time.

Johnny Rockets Eyes Retail as ‘Lifestyle Brand’ [BurgerBusiness]

Outlet Stores May Not Be What You Think They Are

Wed, 2014-10-08 23:31

(Michael Daddino)

(Michael Daddino)

Old-school outlet shopping involved visiting clothing factory towns and digging through bins of slightly irregular underpants in a rough store space that was sometimes just off the factory floor. Today, outlet stores are nicely designed stores in special malls and in regular malls alike, thousands of miles away from where the clothes are made.

That’s what “outlet store” originally meant: an outlet for stuff that clothing companies wanted to get rid of: items from previous seasons that didn’t sell, overruns, and so on. In most outlet stores, that’s no longer the case.

Okay, but what about the department store-branded outlets both online and in malls, like Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio or Nordstrom Rack? Yeah, a Neiman Marcus representative explained to Racked that the merchandise in the Last Call Studio stores is made by the same designers as items in a regular Neiman Marcus store, but they cost less. They’re for “aspirational shoppers” who value the cachet of a big brand name. Nordstrom, meanwhile, explained that about 80% of the items sold at Nordstrom Rack stores are designed and made especially for the outlet market.

How can you find out? Check the tags: items from previous seasons or overstock from retail stores will have their tags marked, removed, or cut. (This also applies to closeout stores like Marshalls: most items there are made only for the closeout market as well.)

When a manufacturer is being honest about it, items made for the outlet market only will have some kind of differentiating mark: for Banana Republic, for example, outlet items have three diamonds on the label under the store name. The Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic brand ladder has plenty of outlets scattered across the country, but they claim that they no longer sell overstock or previous-season items in their outlets.

Buyer Beware: What You’re Actually Getting at Outlet Stores [Racked]

PREVIOUSLY:
8 Tips To Get The Best Bargains On Your Next Outlet Shopping Trip
How To Avoid The Nefarious Tricks Of Outlet Malls

San Francisco Officials Vote To Legalize Airbnb Rentals

Wed, 2014-10-08 23:00

(jayRaz)

(jayRaz)

San Francisco is kissing and making nice with Airbnb, after city officials voted to legalize short-term rentals under 30 days — with some restrictions.

Although it was technically illegal to rent out a home for any time period shorter than 30 days, San Francisco rarely enforced that ban, reports the San Francisco Gate, but the vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has officially sanctioned the practice.

“The status quo isn’t working; we have seen an explosion in short-term rentals,” Board President David Chiu said in introducing the law.

The law only allows rentals by permanent residents, sets up a city registry for hosts, mandates the collection of hotel tax, and only allows for entire homes to be rented a total of 90 days of the year. Every listing will also now carry $500,000 in liability insurance in case something goes wrong, and there are new guidelines for enforcement.

The measure passed by a vote of 7-4 and will take effect in February.

Proponents of the law said the goal was to ensure that there was still affordable housing available to people who want to live in homes on a permanent basis, but also wanted to let residents earn a little extra income with rentals.

“We can protect our city’s housing units from being converted to hotels, while also allowing short-term rentals on a limited basis to help residents afford to stay in their homes,” Chiu said in a statement after the vote.

Airbnb says the move “will give regular people the right to share the home in which they live.

Supes back ‘Airbnb law’ to allow short-term rentals, with limits [San Francisco Gate]

Would You Eat A Veggie Burger That Bleeds?

Wed, 2014-10-08 22:28

A veggie burger, but not one with plant blood. (ChrisGoldNY)

Your garden variety veggie burger that does not bleed like meat. (ChrisGoldNY)

If your first reaction to the above headline is “Oh my god oh oh my god why is a burger made from vegetables bleeding,” you’re not alone. Rest easy, my meat eschewing friends, these vegetarian burgers are only juicing “blood” made from plants.

Scientists at a company called Impossible Foods say they’ve managed to mimic the particular mouthfeel of meat by using bioengineered plant “blood,” reports the Wall Street Journal. It reportedly even tastes slightly metallic like real blood.

The three-year-old company has so far created a hamburger that’s supposed to look, feel, taste and cook just like the real thing, or something close to it. Scientists in the company’s labs sniff cooking meat smells and make notes, testing the real thing in different ways to gain insight into how to replicate it.

The head of the company doesn’t just want to provide another alternative for vegetarians, however, he’s after you carnivores.

“We want the hard-core beef lovers, the guy who’s basically saying, ‘You know, I’m literally on the opposite pole from a vegetarian, in no conceivable universe would I accept any substitute for meat,’” he told the WSJ.

The question is for all of us, however:

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The Secret of These New Veggie Burgers: Plant Blood [Wall Street Journal]

Man Sues Burger King Because Hiring An Alleged Taser And Switchblade Holding Manager Just Isn’t Cool

Wed, 2014-10-08 22:10

(Morton Fox)

(Morton Fox)

Although there are few things worse than receiving a cold batch of onion rings, getting attacked by a Taser and switchblade wielding fast food manager probably ranks right up there. These events all led to a lawsuit filed against Burger King last week.

According to the Courthouse News Service, a New Mexico man filed a lawsuit against the fast food chain after a June 2013 incident in which he claims the manager of a local Burger King attacked him when he asked for his onion rings to be heated up.

The complaint, filed against the chain, the manager and several Burger King associates, seeks punitive damages for assault and negligent hiring and training.

According to the lawsuit, the manager took the onion rings to be reheated and spoke to a co-worker in Spanish.

The customer claims the manager told the co-worker: “This white boy is mad about his food, and he doesn’t even know that I’m going to return it and do whatever I want to it, and he’ll still eat it and never have any idea of what I did to his food,” the lawsuit states the manager said.

After the exchange the customer asked for a refund, which was refused.

The customer says that’s when the manager began taking pictures of him and his vehicle.

Shortly after being confronted about the pictures, the lawsuit states that the manager “came around the counter and began lunging at [the customer] with a Taser in one hand and a switchblade knife in the other hand.”

The man says he dodged the weapons until police arrived to arrest the manager.

According to the lawsuit, the customer claims the manager “had prior incidents of uncontrolled anger and violent conduct toward patrons and co-workers, or which the defendants knew, or should have known.”

Courthouse News Service reports the manager pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon.

OK, Then, Have It His Way [Courthouse News Service]

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