website utilities

People before Profit

Follow alonovo.com on:

The Consumerist

Fake Airport Security Screener Tricks Women Into Pat-Downs

Thu, 2014-07-17 17:44

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

The world has enough problems with actual, inept TSA agents who have never heard of our nation’s capital. We don’t need jerks posing as airport security just to molest female travelers.

And yet that apparently didn’t stop a 53-year-old California man from allegedly getting drunk and pretending to be a screener at San Francisco International, where he took one woman — and tried to take a second — into a private booth for pat-downs on Tuesday afternoon.

According to SFgate.com, the man showed up at the airport security checkpoint wearing an outfit that fits in with the private security firm contracted to do the screening at the airport — khaki pants, a blue polo shirt… oh, and a pair of blue rubber gloves.

He then directed one female traveler into a private screening booth. She subsequently exited the booth and went on to catch her flight.

He escorted a second woman toward the booth a few minutes later, but not without being noticed by a legitimate screening agent, who knows that male screeners are not allowed to take women travelers to private booths without a female screener being present.

The actual agents then detained the faker while waiting for San Francisco police to arrive.

So far, he’s only been charged with public drunkenness. Additional charges, like false imprisonment, could follow once the TSA is able to track down the woman who went into the booth with the bogus screener.

DirecTV Now Making It Harder For Non-Satellite Customers To Get NFL Sunday Ticket

Thu, 2014-07-17 17:12

sundayticketnewThe headline that DirecTV wants people to read is that its much-coveted exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket package is finally available as an online-only offering to non-DirecTV customers, but the satellite provider has been selling it that way for years. What’s really new about NFLSundayTicket.TV is that it’s going to cost users a lot more and fewer customers will have access to it.

For years, all someone who wanted the online-only NFL Sunday Ticket had to do was pay for a subscription (usually about 1/3-1/2 the price of the full satellite package) and check off a box pinky-swearing that they lived in a building where they weren’t able to get DirecTV, either because the landlord wouldn’t allow it or because it didn’t have access to the needed sightline for the dish.

Heck, last year you could get the full online-only Sunday Ticket for about $90 if you bought a certain version of the Madden NFL video game — and that price included the cost of the $60 game, so if you were buying Madden anyway, you got Sunday Ticket for $30.

But now, the Internet-only version of Sunday Ticket will run you at least $200. That only gives you access to watching games on your phone, tablet, or computer; no using a gaming console to get the service on your TV.

For $240, there’s a console-only version, which doesn’t include the computer/tablet/phone access. So you can get Sunday Ticket on your TV, but you can’t take it with you on the road.

Oh, and neither of these packages have one of Sunday Ticket’s more desirable offerings — the Red Zone channel, i.e., the channel you watch when your team isn’t playing and you hate commercials.

No, if you want Andrew Siciliano to flip back and forth between the best parts of games for you, you’ll need to ante up for the full $330 package, which includes console and device access, and Sunday Ticket.

But wait — it gets worse.

Previously, anyone anywhere could buy the online-only package. But now, it’s limited to very specific conditions.

According to DirecTV, you must “live in an apartment building where DIRECTV service is not available, attend one of only 10 universities (don’t worry — Harvard is included), or live in the following metro areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.

But when GigaOm’s Jank Roettgers tested his eligibility with his SF-area address, the website told him he was ineligible. So who knows exactly where they are drawing the lines; whether one must be in the defined limits of these three cities or the metro area or the designated marketing area used to determine TV markets.

Either way, DirecTV is basically telling online-only customers that if they don’t want to pay for satellite service, they’re going to pay almost as much as satellite subscribers for Sunday Ticket.

Confessions Of A Comcast Video Repair Agent

Thu, 2014-07-17 16:31

(Steve Garfield)

(Steve Garfield)

In the wake of that embarrassingly desperate Comcast customer retention call, and statements from current and former Comcast workers who claim that such behavior is par for the course, one of the company’s video repair agents has sent us some inside information about what it’s like behind the scenes at Kabletown.

“M.” says that his purpose for sharing this information was to hopefully shake things up at the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider.

• According to M., Comcast doesn’t actually care if video repair agents — the people you eventually get passed to when you call to gripe about your service not working — actually fix your TV-related problem. He says there are only two metrics that matter to his bosses: “Did you sell the customer something? And how fast did you got the customer off the phone?”

• M. claims that video repair staffers are told the only way to get a higher wage is to successfully upsell more products and services to the customer.

• You know when you ask for a Comcast supervisor and get passed to someone who doesn’t seem to have any more authority than the first person you spoke to? M. says that’s because you’re likely just being passed to another agent who has been designated on that day to take “supervisor” calls that day and who will claim to be a supervisor on the phone call.

“Rarely will there be a supervisor available for anything,” says M.

• Your install or in-home repair tech is a no-show? M. says there’s not really anything that anyone in the Comcast call center can do about that.

“The gap between the call center and local dispatch is miles apart,” explains M. “Anything a representative says about getting another tech out for a no-show is a lie and you’re better off rescheduling. Technicians will tag doors and run back to their vehicle or just drive by and describe the house like they’ve been there.”

• One problem that M. claims to constantly come across is customers who have inactive cable boxes on their accounts that they are continuing to pay for.

“Comcast does very little to get rid of these devices and it is a long, drawn-out process if a customer catches it,” he reveals. “Experienced repair agents will never proactively bring up how many boxes you have on an account for fear of starting an argument about it.”

• “The majority of our tech scripts require that customer wait 30 minutes and call back,” claims M. “Some scripts even tell a customer to call back, then when they do, the next step is to do one small change and ask them to call back in 30 minutes again.”

• The folks in Retention are a real pain to video repair agents like M., he says. First, the Retention agents frequently try to pass unhappy customers to repair agents so that the Retention agent’s stats aren’t dinged by a lost customer.

Then, according to M., Retention agents — in an effort to cut down customers’ bills — will remove codes from the customers’ accounts, even if these codes are needed for set-top boxes to function.

M. gives the example of removing the code for HD/DVR service, which will cut a chunk off the monthly bill, but which will eventually render the set-top box inoperable.

“Then you call back, we add it back on, and you’re back where you started, except we don’t tell you that,” he explains. “We don’t give out what we’re doing to fix your box because we have been told long ago that we are to fix your equipment, not talk about your billing.”

• Because of this pro-sales, anti-customer environment at Comcast, M. claims that “Everyone in the call center is always looking for a new job at all times.”

M. also provided us with the following “Customer Interaction Policy Reminder” e-mail that was sent to employees:

Comcast is committed to delivering outstanding service to each and every customer. It is our goal to ensure that each customer with whom we interact has a quality experience.

Each encounter we have with the customer defines Comcast in that particular customer’s eyes. Favorable interactions yield favorable impressions and unfavorable interactions yield unfavorable, or negative impressions of the Company.

Therefore, we require that all employees refrain from any form of rude, inappropriate or unprofessional behavior. Please remember to treat all customers with the utmost respect.

Recently, an unfavorable phone call into Comcast has been circulating on the Internet.

Our Senior Vice President of Customer Experience for Comcast Cable posted the following apology on our company’s website – Comcast Voices blog and spoke directly to the customers.

Action Required:

Please read the statement below to customers for this particular call.

“We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

Action Required:

If you receive a call from the media regarding this incident, please refer to the Media Inquiry Policy to transfer them to your local media contact.
For more information about the Customer Interaction/Interface Policy, please view your Employee Handbook in the HR/Benefits section on TeamComcast. Note, this policy may be visible to internal employees only. All others should review their local policies or speak to their training teams for more information on acceptable customer interactions.

Subway Worker Claims She Was Forced To Make Sandwiches While Throwing Up

Thu, 2014-07-17 15:35

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo playerWhile people, especially those who get paid by the hour, might be tempted to play down an illness in order to make it through a shift, anyone in food service who is throwing up because of a stomach virus should be kept far away from the kitchen. But one former Subway worker in Texas claims her boss forced her to work through her illness.

“I was going back and forth to the bathroom, puking my guts out,” the woman tells Click2Houston. “I was sweating, I was drenched in sweat. I felt weak.”

She says she told her manager at the sandwich shop about being ill, but that the manager put her right back to work.

“Hey, I’m throwing up,” she recalls telling her boss, who she claims responded with “I don’t care. Get back on the line.”

“So until about one o’clock, I was on the line making sandwiches and she knew I was sick,” claims the former sandwich artist.

Her condition apparently deteriorated to the point where an employee at the restaurant next door ended up calling an ambulance for the sick worker, who says she didn’t want to leave work out of fear of losing her job.

That worker at the neighboring eatery then posted photos of the incident to Facebook warning people to avoid that Subway, because “I witnessed an employee vomiting and her manager telling her to just switch shirts.”

The ill employee was subsequently fired. Subway claims that her dismissal was due to “poor performance and insubordination.”

Unsanitary food handling can result in the quick spread of food-borne illnesses. For example, back in 2010 a single Subway in Illinois was tied to at least 78 cases of bacterial infection Shigellosis, whose lovely symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps.

[via Eater]

Free Starbucks Drink Record Was Set July 4th With 77-Shot $71 Drink

Thu, 2014-07-17 15:30

Hey, remember how we reported earlier this week that a new record had been set for the most expensive single Starbucks drink to be paid for with a free drink coupon? Well, we were wrong. Record-seeker Sameera didn’t know it either at the time, but the record had actually been set on July 4th, with a $71 concoction costing $71.35. America!

Caffeine Informer has more comprehensive records on this competitive sport than we do, and they maintain a ranking of the biggest drinks.

71-dollar-starbucks-drink

Yes, this is a literal vat of coffee, since it was made inside a cooler. Well, at least it will stay cold.

This drink left the other flavorings behind and just went for more espresso. The result is a drink that would kill you if you tried to consume it all in one sitting. Don’t do that.

Microsoft Cutting 18,000 Jobs In Coming Months

Thu, 2014-07-17 14:56

(Paxton Holley)

(Paxton Holley)

Now that Microsoft is taking over Nokia’s device business, there are apparently a lot of people doing similar jobs. And so the company announced this morning that it plans to shed 18,000 jobs — about 14% of its total workforce — in the next 12 months.

The majority (12,500) of the axed positions will come from jobs that are Microsoft are no longer needed because of the synergies resulting from the Nokia acquisition. The company says most of the layoffs will be finished before the end of the calendar year, but it will not complete the process until summer of 2015.

“My promise to you is that we will go through this process in the most thoughtful and transparent way possible,” wrote CEO Satya Nadella, who took over the gig from Steve Ballmer earlier this year, in a memo to employees. “We will offer severance to all employees impacted by these changes, as well as job transition help in many locations, and everyone can expect to be treated with the respect they deserve for their contributions to this company.”

The job cuts seemed inevitable in the wake of the Nokia purchase, which adds more than 20,000 jobs to Microsoft’s employee total. However, the software giant does not have a history of big-number layoffs. Before today’s announcement, Microsoft’s last big staff cuts came in 2009, when it made 5,800 workers redundant.

Microsoft Cuts 18,000 Jobs as Nadella Streamlines for Cloud Era [Bloomberg]

Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs [WSJ]

Did Someone At The DMV Steal This Woman’s Identity? Maybe

Thu, 2014-07-17 00:43

We don't know where this happened. Don't blame California. (So Cal Metro)

We don’t know where this happened. Don’t blame California. So Cal Metro

Over on Reddit, one poster in the the /r/personalfinance subreddit shared the terrible thing that happened to his fiancée when she visited her local Department of Motor Vehicles to change the address on her driver’s license. It’s not clear what happened or exactly how, but what they know is that someone issued a new license with her name and information and a different ID number. This person also has her Social Security number.

As you might know, that information can lead to untold mischief, and the identity thief has had a lot of fun. They opened credit card accounts at major retailers like Lowe’s, Macy’s, and Kohl’s. Well, they tried to, but by then her account had been frozen. More on that in a bit.

Not that his fiancée is alone in being a victim of identity theft: it’s one of the top crimes that people complain to the Federal Trade Commission about. What should you do when you’re a victim of identity theft? So far, the couple has done everything that one should after identity theft takes place:

File a police report, even if the theft or breach occurred outside of your local area. You’ll need to start a documentation trail for the future as you swat down bogus accounts, maybe far into the future.

Get it on tape. If cards are opened in your name and/or used at a brick-and-mortar store, contact that store right away to find out whether they have surveillance cameras. Stores sometimes don’t save that footage for long.

Don’t pay for identity theft protection. You can do much of this yourself for free, by having a free service like CreditKarma alert you when you take out a new line of credit (or someone else does under your name.) Pull your credit report from one of the three bureaus every four months from AnnualCreditReport.com to check for anomalies. Another inexpensive option is to freeze your credit report, which prevents anyone, including you, from opening new lines of credit.

My fiancee had her identity stolen by the people at the DMV… [Reddit]

Here’s How Fulfillment Centers Try To Make Shipping Less Stupid

Wed, 2014-07-16 23:18

underfilledboxWe received a letter from J., who designs order fulfillment systems for a living. We would call him a “Stupid Shipping Gang Kingpin,” but that’s not really fair: he says that he does his best to make the system less stupid. The problem, J. explains, is that “sometimes the smart way to do things and the common sense way to do things seem at odds with each other.”

Now, my mother always taught me that common sense was the only kind of sense you need, but that’s not so in shipping fulfillment. What seems like comical, wasteful overpackaging to you or me is how things are supposed to work on J’s end. Why’s that?

Many warehouses aren’t designed to send you just one of something. Look at yesterday’s post about Sears shipping a mini wrench in a box that could have fit dozens more. There’s a very good reason for that enormous box: rollers.

For a box to roll on a conveyor, it has to be over at least 3 rollers at all times or it will get stuck. So if you take the spacing between two rollers and double it, you get something very important in warehouse language, minimum conveyable box size, usually 2″ or 3″ centers depending on the industry. If you’ve ever noticed that all of the tiny things shipped in boxes way too big seem to have boxes that are about 6″ by 8″ on the bottom, now you know why. If you sent that wrench from the article around the warehouse in a padded envelope or smaller box, it never would have made it

If you can’t picture what he’s talking about, here are some images.

The brains behind the Stupid Shipping Gang are computers. Even if the person packing a box knows better, the computer doesn’t. In this case of a cat toy in a massive box, J. notes that the feather on a stick is so long that it would be difficult to find any box in the proper size.

img3of4

“That cat toy looks like it is probably 28″ long, which is pretty long. You need something with at least one dimension that length to fit it,” he notes.

The computers can be really stupid. Well, okay, but what about the unfathomably stupid case where a vendor shipped a cardboard box that contained only a paper coupon?

Inside the Box

This makes perfect sense, J. says, as long as you are a shipping fulfillment computer.

There are some instances of the stupid shipping gang that are unexcused, and I’ll bet you thought this was one. However, it actually makes perfect sense. I’ll bet those whiteboards are shippable [in their original packaging]. So when the computer gets the order, it goes, I need whiteboards that can ship by themselves and one box to hold the rest of the stuff on the order, which in this case is only the [coupon].

It’s only obnoxious because he didn’t buy anything that would go in a “packed” box. If he had it would have just been thrown in with everything else and never would have made it to [Consumerist].

Worse, maybe the person packing the boxes couldn’t spare the time to ask a supervisor whether this was such a great idea because it would affect their quotas.

Yes, the Stupid Shipping Gang is still stupid, but it does help us to understand why comical overpackaging happens.

New Hampshire Clarifies: Yes, You Can Use A D.C. License To Buy Booze

Wed, 2014-07-16 23:00

If someone has this, they can have booze.

Good news for you, Tracy Samplecard!

What is it with all the Washington, D.C. confusion lately? There was that Transportation Security Administration agent who reportedly had no clue the District of Columbia was part of the United States, and now New Hampshire has had to clarify that yes, a D.C. license is a valid and acceptable form of identification one can use to provide proof of age when buying booze. Sigh.

Apparently some liquor stores in the state were sticking very closely to New Hampshire state law, reports the Concord Monitor, which says that there are four types of legal proof of age businesses selling alcohol can accept: a passport, a military card, or a driver’s license or photo identification from any of the 50 states, as well as provinces of Canada.

No mention of D.C. nor any U.S territories. Which means some customers are stymied at the checkout, a customer service rep at a New Hampshire co-op explains to the Monitor.

“It’s just one of those quirks,” he said, using an awesome word that makes a great last name. “We get three to four people each year who we can’t sell to because they don’t have proper identification. We apologize profusely and ask them for a passport… and then say, ‘You can probably go to another store where they will allow it.’ ”

The New Hampshire Liquor Control Commission updated that rule this week [PDF], reports WAMU.org, saying it knows very well that D.C is part of the country.

“Recently there has been confusion as to the acceptability of Washington D.C. driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards for the purchase of alcoholic beverages within the state,” the clarification notes. “Although the language of RSA 179:8 does not specifically reference Washington D.C. it is understood that the District of Columbia is the capitol [sic] of the United States.”

Hear that, D.C.’ers in New Hampshire? You are real citizens, real citizens who can buy booze. So go forth, and guzzle, like only Americans can.

After Incident, Granite State Liquor Regulators Say D.C. License Is Valid [WAMU.org]

Apple May Refund $400 Million To E-Book Customers (Or Maybe Nothing At All)

Wed, 2014-07-16 22:57

(John Abella)

(John Abella)

A year after a federal court ruled against Apple in the e-book price-fixing lawsuit brought by the Justice Dept., court documents reveal the terms of a second settlement that would close the books on state and civil claims tied to the price-fixing issue. But since the deal is contingent on Apple’s pending appeal of the DOJ case, the company could pay out as much as $400 million in refunds or as little as zilch.

Reuters reports that Apple has tentatively agreed to pay a total of $450 million to the various parties involved in the settlement, with $400 million tagged for consumers. But if a federal appeals court rules in favor of the company and reverses the lower court’s decision, the total penalty could be reduced to $70 million, with only $50 million going toward refunds. There is also the chance that an Apple victory with the appeals court could eliminate payments altogether.

The settlement was agreed to back in June, but the details are only coming to light now. It prevents the case, involving attorneys general from 33 states and other private citizen plaintiffs, from heading to trial. The plaintiffs were expected to seek around $840 million in damages.

For those coming to this story late, here’s a quick refresher: In the lead-up to Apple’s launch of the iPad, it got into the e-book business, then dominated by Amazon. In order to gain a foothold in the growing market, Apple colluded with several of the nation’s largest book publishers to establish what’s known as “agency pricing,” in which the publisher sets the price for all retailers who want to sell its e-books with the retailer getting a fixed percentage of that price.

This setup meant that Amazon and others had no control over the sticker price of the e-books it sold. All e-books were the same price from all vendors. It might have worked had publishers not gotten greedy and set e-book prices that were often higher than the cost of a paperback.

According to the judge in the Apple decision, this new model “created a mechanism and environment that enabled [the publishers] to act together in a matter of weeks to eliminate all retail price competition for their e-books.”

Additionally, e-mails between execs at Apple (including Steve Jobs) and the publishing companies showed that Apple enticed publishers into switching to agency pricing by promising an end to Amazon’s standard $9.99 price on e-books.

“Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99,” wrote Jobs in one message to News Corp, the parent company of HarperCollins (a former employer of yours truly).

In trial testimony that effectively sealed the deal for the DOJ, Apple executive Eddy Cue — the architect of the company’s iTunes and e-book business — admitted that agency pricing resulted in increased prices to consumers for e-books.

In spite of all this, and the district court’s decision, Apple still maintains that it did nothing wrong and is hoping the appeals court will overturn the July 2013 verdict.

All this to get out of facing $450 million, which Reuters estimates as about 1% of Apple’s revenue from the last fiscal year.

Senator Challenges Comcast, AT&T Execs On Opposition To Municipal Broadband

Wed, 2014-07-16 22:48

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey at today's Senate Commerce Committee Hearing.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey at today’s Senate Commerce Committee Hearing.


The Senate Commerce Committee held hearing today on broadband competition, media consolidation, and the future of online video transmission. Among the witnesses were Comcast exec David L. Cohen and AT&T bigwig John T. Stankey. During the hearing, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey directly asked the two about competition from municipal broadband providers.

Referring to Cohen’s repeated assertions that 99% of all American communities have at least two broadband providers to choose from, Markey asked, “Do either of your companies oppose municipalities being able to deploy their own broadband as a third wire?”

Cohen went to great lengths to tie himself in knots to oppose municipal broadband without opposing it. He replied:

Generally speaking, as a company, we have serious questions about whether municipalities should get into the broadband business … I was in city government for six-and-a-half years, I know what city government can do. I think it’s a mistake to do to it, and so we will advocate at the municipal government level that we think this is a mistake. The answer is we don’t oppose it — we don’t have the right to oppose it — we have the right to advocate against it.

Sen. Markey, however, was not satisfied with Cohen’s response. “More competition is the answer to all of these problems,” he said. He continued:
We talk about two, we could talk about three if municipalities deployed broadband … My basic philosophy, this is very simple, is that Darwinian, eye-watering, bone-chilling competition is the answer to all regulation. The smaller the number of competitors, the more regulation you need.

Cohen shot back, “All I’m going to say is that taxpayer subsidy of poorly-run and ultimately bankrupt municipal broadband networks don’t benefit anyone.”

“But if a community wants to do it, should they be allowed to do it?” Markey asked.

“They should be allowed to do it,” Cohen reluctantly answered.

Markey then turned to Stankey to answer the same question. Stankey tried an alternate approach, beginning, “If it’s an underserved community where there’s been no private solution…”

Markey, however, cut him off, saying, “No no no no no,” and specifically framing the question as competition from municipal broadband networks, to make the likes of AT&T and Comcast step up their game.

Stankey and Markey argued, overlapping, with Stankey saying, “we don’t believe that private companies should actually compete against public-subsidized, taxpayer cost to capital in that market.”

Markey found exactly this to be the problem. “Prices go down dramatically” wherever municipalities get involved, he pointed out. “All of a sudden, the two private sector incumbents find a way to lower prices” when suddenly there is real competition in the field.

Neither Cohen nor Stankey had time to reply, as Markey’s question time expired and the hearing moved on to the next Senator.

The FCC has been considering overruling state laws forbidding the expansion of municipal broadband, most of which are put forth by the cable lobby — those “advocates” Cohen referred to.

Video of the hearing is available on the Senate Commerce Committee website; the exchange between Sen. Markey and the two cable executives begins at about the 1h 47m mark, and continues until about 1:53.

Even 3-Year-Olds Know No One Should Be Stuck In A Hot Car

Wed, 2014-07-16 22:25

(ABC News)

(ABC News)

It’s discouraging to know that there are plenty of people out there who still think it’s perfectly fine to leave a child or an animal inside a closed car on a hot day. But then again, it’s refreshing when even three-year-olds understand it’s an emergency when someone’s stuck in a vehicle, like one very sharp Tennessee toddler.

A man who was waiting for his wife to return from an event at a church ended up trapped when the car’s doors automatically locked, and he couldn’t open it. His wife says he was in “very bad shape,” after numerous cancer treatments and suffering two strokes in the last six months.

That, and the car is tricky, the 68-year-old told ABC News.

“We’ve been having trouble with the door on this car since we bought it,” he explained.

He tried to grab the door, but was too weak to push it open. And without a car key, he couldn’t turn on the air conditions to mitigate the rapidly climbing temperature inside.

That’s when he saw a three-year-old boy walking by — he caught his attention by knocking on the car window until the little one stopped.

“I hollered at him and he just looked at me kind of funny and I said ‘Get help, get help,’” the man explained.

The boy’s mother had apparently educated him about car safety recently (high five, mom) so it was fresh in his mind. Though he was too small to open the door by himself, he ran and got help from the pastor.

The pastor says he was talking to someone when the boy came up to him, repeating, “Locked, locked, locked,” while grabbing his hand and saying, “hot, hot.”

The pastor excused himself and went with the boy to the parking lot, where he saw the man trapped in the car. It took a few tries, but he was able to open the door. The man fell out and almost hit his head on the pavement in the process, the pastor said.

“His whole body was raining sweat. His face was red like a pickled beet,” the pastor said.

After some cool air and water in the church, the man started to feel better. He now says he’s grateful for his little rescuer, who proclaimed afterward, “I saved life.”

“I am very impressed and I’m proud that he would know what to do,” his mom said.

Toddler Saves Elderly Man Locked Inside Hot Car [ABC News]

Cargill Says It Will Stop Using Antibiotics To Fatten Up Turkeys, But Do They Mean It?

Wed, 2014-07-16 21:51

(Steve)

(Steve)

Three years ago, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of Salmonella-tainted ground turkey (followed by a later recall of another 185,000 pounds of the stuff). The particular strain of Salmonella involved in these recalls and the subsequent outbreak that sickened at least 134 people in 36 states, is resistant to antibiotics, likely because of all the drugs put into the turkeys’ feed solely because it has th side-effect of encouraging tissue growth. Yet only now is the agribusiness giant thinking maybe it shouldn’t carelessly shove antibiotics down the throats of the birds it sells to consumers.

Cargill announced yesterday that it is removing antibiotics from its signature Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkey brands.

Wait — I misspoke.

Cargill says it will no longer use antibiotics for growth promotion in these turkeys. That’s a big difference, as the company is still keeping the door open for use of the drugs for “treatment of illness and disease prevention.”

Ahhh… the beloved disease prevention loophole.

See, any doctor worth her wall full of degrees will tell you that it’s a bad idea for humans to constantly be given antibiotics for “disease prevention” because it will reduce the drug’s effectiveness and encourage the development of drug-resistant microbes; instead of preventing a disease, you’re opening yourself up to worse ailments.

But when it comes to farm animals, the big meat and big pharma industries are of the mind that feeding livestock a steady stream of antibiotics will somehow keep them from getting sick. Of course, this drug-filled “prevention” diet — which accounts for around 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. — will still result in bigger poultry, pigs, and cattle.

Cargill’s president of its Turkey & Cooked Meats business, says that “ending the use of antibiotics to promote growth in turkeys is an important step that provides consumers with nutritious and affordable options,” but it’s all just smoke and mirrors if the company continues to allow large-volume preventative use of the drugs.

The folks at Keep Antibiotics Working, a group seeking to curb the unnecessary over-use of antimicrobials in farm animals says it’s good that Cargill is at least acknowledging that its customers may not want drug-filled meat, but is concerned that the new policy isn’t strong enough.

“By failing to extend its pledge to antibiotics used for routine disease prevention — which can be identical to growth promotion in terms of dose, duration, and prevalence — the company is leaving open a giant loophole in its policy,” writes KAW in statement. “Unless Cargill addresses this important oversight, its policy will do little to curb the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their turkeys, or protect their consumers.”

Police: Funeral Home Got Evicted, Left 8 Bodies Behind

Wed, 2014-07-16 21:49

(CBS DFW)

(CBS DFW)

Two weeks ago, a funeral home in Fort Worth, Texas received a “notice to vacate” letter from their landlord, and they moved their business from the premises. The problem is, some customers were allegedly left behind. By “customers,” we mean eight people who are deceased were found in the building. Now the mortuary is being treated as a crime scene.

The brothers who own the business insist that they haven’t done anything wrong. The confusion, they told CBS Dallas, is the fault of their landlord, and all of the bodies were embalmed and waiting for their final disposition. “I have some embalmed bodies back there, which ya’ll had seen them bring out,” one of the owners told a reporter. “They were already in the casket; already had a funeral [and] one was ready to go to Nairobi.”

Police continue to investigate the situation, whether it’s a misunderstanding or not. The unattended deceased are now in the care of the county medical examiner’s office, which is trying to identify them. Families who believe their loved ones may have still been in the funeral home when it closed have been asked to contact the medical examiner.

Fort Worth Police Find Dead Bodies Inside Vacant Funeral Home [CBS Dallas]

Lowe’s Workers Fix Veteran’s Wheelchair After It Breaks In N.Y. Store

Wed, 2014-07-16 21:23

(WABC-7 News)

(WABC-7 News)

If you’ve got equipment that’s in the midst of breaking down, there’s perhaps nowhere more convenient to be than a huge warehouse filled with tools. So when a veteran’s wheelchair gave way during a shopping trip with his wife at Lowe’s, he didn’t panic. And neither did workers nearby, who put their fix-it expertise to use right there in the store.

Michael, a Staten Island veteran, lost his legs above the knee after stepping on a land mine in Vietnam, reports WABC-7 News. He’s waiting on a new chair from the Veterans Administration office, but says that despite repeated inquiries, he’s still stuck relying on his old wheelchair to get around.

Last week, he felt it give way while shopping at Lowe’s.

“I said, ‘Oh no Michael, what are we going to do? We don’t have any tools,’ ” his wife explained. “And he said, ‘Hello are you crazy? We’re in Lowes. We’re in the tool capital of the world!’”

The couple planned to pick up the right stuff to fix the chair themselves at home, but three Lowe’s associates took over right then and there instead.

“They tore the wheelchair apart. They tried all different types of bolts,” Michael said. “I was thanking them and they said, ‘you’re not leaving here until the wheelchair is like new.’ “

He adds that while he’s looking forward to finally getting a new wheelchair, he’s got a great backup in place now. He thanked the employees, who told him, “It was our honor.”

“Our associates go above and beyond to take care of the community. They think of them as family,” said a Lowe’s manager.

LOWE’S EMPLOYEES REPAIR AMPUTEE VETERAN’S WHEELCHAIR [WABC-7 News]

CFPB Wants To Let Consumers Air Financial Grievances In Publicly Viewable Forum

Wed, 2014-07-16 20:56
(Jim Chambers)

Don’t mind the sign, the CFPB wants to share your complaint stories. (Jim Chambers)

Sometimes consumers want to voice their complaints knowing it will remain a private matter; other times they just want to shout it for all to hear. A new proposal from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would give consumers that option when voicing their grievances about consumer financial products and services.

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.

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.

Currently when consumers submit a complaint to CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database, they fill in basic information such as who they are, who the complaint is against, and when it occurred. There is also an opportunity to describe what happened and attach any related documents.The complaint is then forwarded to the company for a response and the consumer is given a tracking number to keep updated on the complaint status.

When viewing the database consumers can see only a fraction of the information provided. The data fields includes the name of the company, the company’s response and a vague issue description.

The proposed 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.

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.

“Hearing directly from consumers in their own words about their problems with financial products and services is fundamental to our mission,” CFPB director Richard Cordray says in prepared remarks about the new policy. “It gives us a true compass, in real time, about the issues and problems that individual consumers find themselves facing in their financial lives…Today, by proposing to share people’s stories, we are giving consumers an opportunity to be heard by the entire world and not simply by a government agency and its officials.”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Proposal Would Give Consumers The Opportunity To Publicly Voice Complaints About Financial Companies [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

Answer Cycle: Solutions To 4 Common Laundry Problems

Wed, 2014-07-16 20:53

(CrzysChick)

(CrzysChick)

Everyone wears clothes and everyone has to clean them somehow, but changes in laundry technology mean that you might encounter problems that your parents never taught you to solve. Don’t worry: the heroic appliance testers and textile experts down the hall from us at Consumer Reports have you covered.

Soap residue on clothes: Make sure you’re using a detergent designed for high efficiency machines if you have that type of machine. If that isn’t the issue, make sure that you’re putting your detergent in at the bottom of the tub, especially if you use detergent pods. If all else fails, add an extra rinse cycle.

Fabric pills: These are little balls of evil. The best way to banish them is to limit which fabric types you wash together. It’s all about fiber length: keep your fleece blankets away from your bed sheets, for example.

Bleeding colors: It might seem okay to wash everything at once, especially if you’re using a ginormous-capacity laundromat machine, but be careful. Separate items by color and use the appropriate temperature.

Mildewy and moldy washers: Consumer Reports cites this as an issue with front-loading machines, mainly because we tend to close the front door so things look nice and curious children and pets don’t climb inside. That’s not such a good idea, though: leave the door open when possible to let the tub wear out. If you have mold issues, periodically run the machine empty on a hot-water setting, or an empty load with some bleach.

4 common laundry problems and how to solve them [Consumer Reports]

Comcast Employees Say Needy Retention Call Is Totally Normal

Wed, 2014-07-16 20:51

(Consumerist's own Chris Morran)

(Consumerist’s own Chris Morran)

While we all spent yesterday shaking heads and commiserating with Comcast customer Ryan Block in his exhausting effort to get a customer service representative to disconnect his service, it’s always good to stop and remember that there are actual humans on the other end of that line, people who are hired to do a job. And in the case of call center workers, we’ve heard from many past and current Comcast employees who say that type of effort might’ve been a bit much, but it all comes down to meeting quotas.

Comcast apologized yesterday for how things went down with Block, saying “the way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives.”

Meanwhile, Consumerist has heard from Comcast call center workers both past and present who agree that maybe while this guy went a bit far, it’s only because that’s the culture at the company, and that customer service reps are actually trained to do just what he did.

As multiple tipsters are telling us, CSRs can only have a certain amount of “discos” — or disconnects — on their personal tallies each day, and must meet a certain quota of “saves,” for which they can earn bonuses and/or commission.

That “save” might just mean hanging up on a customer so the disco goes on another CSR’s list, or in Block’s case, a relentless attempt to keep the customer. Many employees said that with a low hourly pay rate, these saves are the only way to boost their paychecks.

“That rep, (may God have mercy on his soul) was doing exactly as he was told to do,” writes former Comcast call center employee and Consumerist reader M. “Comcast reps make about $12/hour, but they get bonuses for every account that they save.”

That forced reps to either tell customers to go to a Comcast store — which can be a whole other inconvenience in itself — or to keep pushing until customers give up. This is probably what the CSR dealing with Block was told by his supervisors, he surmises.

“Frustrate the customer so that they hang up, and call back to another rep and get them to do the disconnection,” M. explains. “It wouldn’t affect you, and someone else would be at the door. Plus, the longer you stay on a call, the less likely you are to disconnect more customers.”

He adds that if reps disconnected more customers than they were supposed — he was allowed three disconnects per 8-hour shift — after three days in a row, they “were shown the door.”

M. says he walked out after disconnecting five accounts in one day, as he was told he didn’t “gather enough information regarding their decision to leave.”

He adds that even the lengths this CSR went to might’ve even fallen short of expectations.

“I will say this rep did a great job of what was expected of him, but he more than likely received a whipping from his supervisor for not getting enough info,” M. says.

Then there’s Tipster A., another former employee of Comcast, who admits that the CSR in question did go “way too far,” but that it’s “no doubt for his ‘save’ quota.” And now that A. is no longer with the company, it’s not like the experience is any better.

“I thought I would never want to leave Comcast services but when I worked there, I prided myself on great customer service, and I just get angry every time I call them because I’m not shown the same respect,” A. writes.

And while this scenario is “absolutely the normal day-to-day expectation” that is put on retention workers, writes former call center agent N., that doesn’t mean workers are happy about it.

“It is very competitive and can drive the wrong habits,” N. tells Consumerist. “I resigned from Comcast because it was a hopeless situation.”

There are good people out there, however, who will try their best.

“If you got lucky you got a good supervisor that coached you to retain business and probe effectively with empathy for what the customer was experiencing,” N. says. “I was an interim retention supervisor and I always pushed my agents to handle every call with empathy – NEVER cut the customer off and never talk over them (everything this guy did).”

That sense of desperation listeners might get from the Block call is very real, according to N., because of the “sad hourly rate” that CSRs are paid and the increasing pressure every month to retain customers. All while there are less promotions available to offer those customers, she says.

“So the opportunity to make any commission only becomes more and more difficult, increasing the employees desperation to not disconnect the services for the caller.”

Or heck, maybe he’s just new on the job, adds a current worker for Comcast.

“We are asked to try to retain them with specials offers. We have to hit certain speaking points in our conversation,” writes tipster R. “But this guy was way over the top and pushy. Quite frankly, I thought it was amusing. It sounds like he is new.”

We’ve reached out to Comcast for comment on these save quotas and disconnect limits for each call center, as well as the training our tipsters say they received to push customers to the hang-up point, and will let you know if we hear back.

Elon Musk Reveals Details On Upcoming $35,000 Tesla

Wed, 2014-07-16 20:07

(Auto Express)

(Auto Express)

Dealerships and automakers around the country have been fighting electric car maker Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model, but many have wondered why they care so much about a car that costs more than most people earn in a year. Now you can expect that fight to get even nastier after Tesla founder Elon Musk announced plans for a high-end electric car that only costs around $35,000.

Musk revealed details of the Tesla Model 3 in an interview with UK website Auto Express.

The former eBay exec confirmed reports that the third generation of Tesla vehicles, set to go on sale by 2017, was supposed to be called Model E, but Ford had to ruin that plan.

“We had the model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car,” Musk told us. “So I said we had the model S and X, we might as well have the E… We were going to call it model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted to use the Model E – I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex!”

Instead, it will be the Model 3, with three bars in the logo so, according to Musk, “it’ll be S III X!”

The images provided to Auto Express apparently aren’t definitive representations of the Model 3, as the site says they show “how it could look.” Regardless of the final appearance, it’s believed that the Model 3 should be about 20% smaller than the S.

E-vehicle battery technology has gotten significantly cheaper in recent years, which Musk says is one way Tesla plans to keep the Model 3′s cost down. Tesla’s planned Gigafactory battery operation will also provide batteries for other car manufacturers.

Range is often the biggest roadblock for customers thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle; if your battery dies far from a charging station, you could be out of luck. Musk claims the Model 3 will have a range of over 200 miles.

123 People Stranded Overnight When Casino Boat On Its Maiden Voyage Runs Aground On Sandbar

Wed, 2014-07-16 18:44

(WTOC News)

(WTOC News)

It’s not the Titanic, but a new casino boat that set out from the Georgia coast yesterday isn’t having the best luck with its maiden voyage. The pleasure craft ran aground yesterday, stranding 123 passengers and crew members overnight. And it sounds like it’s there for at least a little while longer.

While we’re sending our most fervent prayers to the transportation gods that all bathrooms are in working order, officials are trying to figure out how to rescue the boat and its passengers.

A tugboat that tried to pull the boat off the rocks snapped a towline in the process, WTOC reports. The Coast Guard says that as of this morning, the boat is still sitting where it got stuck off the coast of Tybee Island.

“The Escapade” reportedly ran aground on a sandbar a bit before midnight last night, but no reports of distress have been reported on board so far.

Passengers have been contacting news outlets, saying that they’re “sideways, stuck on something, everyone has life jackets on.”

And it goes without being said, the witness adds, that it’s not so fun. Even if people are apparently playing casino games while wearing orange life jackets.

“The Coast Guard has been notified we think,” the passenger notes. “I’m so unhappy with this cruise!”

Things should get moving this afternoon at high tide, at which time Coast Guard boats will finally be able to move closer to the boat. It’s currently about 100 yards away from rescue vessels.

( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-form-4b260bd9d43abf86724989dc16bc0869-53c6b2da12faf'); if ( iframe ) { iframe.submit(); } } if (document.readyState === 'complete') { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ } else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( 'DOMContentLoaded', func, false ); } else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( 'onreadystatechange', func ); } } )();

Tow line snapped as tugboat pulled stranded casino boat [WTOC]

Pages