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The Consumerist

Oscar Mayer Recalls 2 Million Pounds Of Turkey Bacon That May Spoil Before Its Time

Wed, 2015-08-26 14:30

someonethinkofthebaconCustomers have been contacting Kraft Heinz Foods about something unfortunate: their packages of turkey bacon were going bad long before the posted expiration dates. The company investigated these complaints, and the investigation has culminated in more than 2 million pounds of bacon being recalled because it too might go bad.

The recall includes both cured and uncured bacon, and the regular Oscar Mayer brand as well as the “Selects” nitrate-free version. If you have a package of turkey bacon in your fridge, here’s what to look for:

Oscar Mayer Selects Turkey Bacon: 56-ounce boxes with four packages. The “best by” date will be August 24 through October 26, 2015.

Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon: 36-ounce boxes containing three packages. The “best by” date will be August 28 through October 20, 2015.

Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon: 48-ounce boxes containing four packages. The “best by” date will be between September 3 and October 30, 2015.

All of the products that are part of this recall will be marked with the plant number P-9070, and line number RS19.

If you have any questions about the recall or about your personal bacon, contact Kraft Heinz at (800) 278-3403. The company told the USDA that they received some reports that eating the spoiled bacon made some customers sick.

Kraft Heinz Foods Company Recalls Turkey Bacon Products Due To Possible Adulteration [USDA]

Starkist Tuna Class Action Settlement Means Customers Get $25 In Cash Or $50 In Tuna

Wed, 2015-08-26 00:07

(TheGiantVermin)

(TheGiantVermin)

Two and a half years ago, a man who eats tuna filed a class action lawsuit against Starkist, a tuna company. His allegation was that the company was deliberately under-filling each can by a few tenths of an ounce. That might not make a difference to one consumer making one tuna salad, but would add up over millions of cans. While Starkist doesn’t admit fault, the case has been settled.

If you’re a resident of the United States and bought at least one five-ounce can of any of these tunas from Starkist between February 19, 2009 and October 31, 2014, you’re eligible to file a claim:

Chunk Light Tuna in Water
Chunk Light Tuna in Oil
Solid White in Water
Solid White in Oil

As often happens with class actions for small items, they’re assuming that you haven’t saved your last five years’ worth of grocery receipts. They’re asking consumers to say on penalty of perjury when they file a claim that they have, indeed, purchased tuna during the period covered by the suit.

To file, go to the very descriptive TunaLawsuit.com and fill out a claim form or exclude yourself from the lawsuit by November 20, 2015.

StarKist Tuna Class Action Settlement [Top Class Actions]
Hendricks v Starkist Co. [Official Site]

Raiders Of The Lost Walmart Find Ancient And Mysterious My Little Ponies

Tue, 2015-08-25 23:00

Within the elite squad of retail archaeologists known as the Raiders of the Lost Walmart, some Raiders have subspecialties. Their deep subject knowledge gives us a better understanding of the antiquities that they find buried in the nation’s big-box stores. One of these specialists is Professor Jeffrey, subject expert on My Little Pony.

pinkieparty

This trove starts with some familiar territory for people who follow the Raiders’ exploits: a video game at Walmart. Specifically, a Nintendo DS game featuring the character Pinkie Pie that came out in 2008. The good news is that it’s on sale, but only marked down to $15.

The thing with that game, though, is that it’s from a previous generation of “My Little Pony” marketing, before the super-popular “Friendship is Magic” series came out in 2010 and the characters were redesigned. Jeffrey says that the game came out in 2008, which is probably about right. It’s probably fun and all if you have that game system, but expensive and outdated.

While visiting a Kmart store, though, he found something even more baffling: merchandise for that older generation of pony products that’s probably going to confuse young fans of the characters when they receive this activity book as a gift or a parent who doesn’t know the difference picks up these plates and cups for their party.

ponycups

pony_plates

pony_activitybook

They probably date to the same era as the game, which means that they’ve been sitting on the shelf for 7 years. Paper plates don’t go bad, exactly, and neither do kids’ activity books, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to buy these items, either.

CarMax Plays “Used Car Recall Roulette” By Selling Potentially Dangerous Vehicles

Tue, 2015-08-25 22:48

carmaxcertDuring the height of recallopalooza 2014, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups raised concerns about CarMax, alleging that the nation’s largest used vehicle seller was misleading customers with claims of “Quality Certified” cars and “125+ point” inspections while not revealing that some cars had been recalled for safety issues that had not yet been repaired.  More than a year later, a new report shows that CarMax is continuing this practice, which one legislator has dubbed “used car recall roulette.”

The report [PDF] from Connecticut Public Interest Research Group examined CarMax’s inventory and sales records at two dealerships in the state, and found that many of the vehicles listed for sale have unaddressed recalls.

In all, the report found that 74 of the 566 vehicles for sale at the two dealerships during the month of July were currently under recall campaigns.

The recalls ranged from seat belt defects, non-deployment of airbags, fire risks related to leaking fuel or faulty catalytic converters, loss of power steering while driving, faulty rear breaks, and axles prone to breaking.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, who has sponsored several bills that would ensure used vehicle recalls are addressed before being sold, tells NBC Connecticut that the ConnPIRG report is “chilling.”

“Bottom line: CarMax is playing a deadly game of ‘used car recall roulette’ with consumer lives,” he said.

During the investigation at an East Haven, CT, dealership, ConnPIRG found that of the 42 vehicles subject to recall, four were part of two or more recall campaigns.

“One vehicle, a 2007 Toyota Yaris, had four unrepaired safety recalls, including air bags that may fail to inflate when needed, seat rails that can break and allow the seats to slide forward in a crash, and two defects that can cause it to catch on fire,” the report states.

At the Hartford CarMax location, investigators found 32 vehicles with unaddressed recalls, five of which were subject to two or more recall each.

“One vehicle, a 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid 4D Hatchback, had three unrepaired recalls, including faulty steering components that can cause a loss of steering, corroded coil wire that can cause stalling while the vehicle is being driven, and an accelerator pedal that can get stuck in wide open position, causing a crash, serious injury, or death,” the report found.

Although the group’s findings are certainly eye-opening, CarMax isn’t running afoul of any law by selling vehicles with safety recalls.

That’s because, while it’s illegal for consumers to sell recalled microwaves, blenders, or other products, the folks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lack the authority to actually force people to fix recalled vehicles before they are sold or rented.

Legislators and consumer groups have called for stricter regulations against such used car sales, but so far no federal law or requirement has been enacted, thanks in part to opposition from CarMax and other dealers.

While CarMax says it takes steps to ensure the safety of car buyers, it doesn’t seem to be considering actually fixing those cars before sending them back on the road, despite the fact that any repairs would be covered by the vehicle manufacturer, not the dealer.

Instead, the company will stick with its current process: going over such safety information with the car buyer prior to closing a sale. At that point, if the consumer buys the vehicle, it’s up them to get it fixed.

A spokesperson for CarMax tells NBC Connecticut that the company leads the industry in transparency, noting that ConnPIRG received its information from the company directly.

“Before any customer purchases a used vehicle in our stores, a CarMax associate and the customer review the vehicle’s NHTSA VIN-specific recall report and the customer signs a form acknowledging receipt of the recall report with their sales documents,” the spokesperson said.

ConnPIRG took issue with that process, noting the method of disclosure is designed as a way to protect the company from liability, rather than keep consumers out of harm’s way.

“It’s a bit late in the game to ‘disclose’ that a specific car is being recalled, after a car buyer has been lulled onto the lot with a promise of a car that is ‘the very best’ and ‘perfect,’ checked out multiple cars and taken them for test drives, negotiated over the price, and several house after arriving at CarMax’s store – made a decision to buy,” the report states.

Also at issue is CarMax’s continued marketing of vehicles that are “Quality Certified” and undergo a 125+ point inspection, saying the statements are misleading to potential customers.

ConnPIRG contends that because CarMax functions much like a franchised car dealership selling used cars, these statements can easily mislead consumers about the dangers of some recalled vehicles.

“CarMax’s advertising that all their vehicles are ‘certified’ may also mislead car buyers, particularly shoppers who have seen ads touting the ‘certified’ used car sales offered by competing franchised new car dealerships,” the report states. “Those ‘certified’ programs are designed to meet criteria established by auto manufacturers, who typically require their dealerships to ensure that any vehicle they offer for sale as a “certified” car has had any outstanding safety recall repairs performed.”

Last year, consumer groups claimed the statements by CarMax “tend to lull car buyers into a false sense of security.” The groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate CarMax’s practice of marketing quality-control while still selling vehicles that require repairs.

CEOs Of Chipotle, CVS, Discovery, Walmart Make The Most Compared To Employees’ Wages

Tue, 2015-08-25 22:25

(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

Earlier this month, the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized a long-delayed rule that will require many businesses to publicly disclose the ratio of their top executive’s pay to the earnings of the typical employee. If the data in a newly released report is accurate, then the CEOs of Chipotle, CVS, Walmart, and Discovery Communications are each making more than 1,000 times the average salary of the people they employ.

This is according to research from Glassdoor.com, which ranked companies according to Glassdoor’s calculated ratio of CEO earnings to average employee pay.

The company with the highest ratio was Discovery Communications, whose CEO David Zaslav brought in $156 million, nearly 2,000 times that of the $80,000 average pay for Discovery employees. Interestingly, Discovery also had the highest pay of the 10 companies with the highest CEO:Worker pay ratio.

In fact, most of the companies with the highest ratios have employees with average earnings below $30,000, which means the CEO’s compensation doesn’t need to be astronomical for the pay ratio to be large.

For example, Glassdoor says the Chipotle CEO Steve Ells earned $28.9 million last year. That’s less than 1/5 the size the pay of Discovery’s Zaslav, but since — according to the report — the average Chipotle worker earned $19,000 (the least among all the top companies in the study), the pay ratio of 1,522:1 is the second-largest in the report.

Filling out the top positions were CVS (#3; 1,192:1), Walmart (#4, 1,192:1) and Target (#5, 939:1). Aside from Discovery, Target had the highest average salary ($30,000) in the top five.

Likewise, both the Gap and Macy’s have average worker pay of $22,800 and the CEOs of both companies earned around $16 million last year. That’s not even in the top 25 for CEO pay, but because the average pay is so low, the resulting ratios are high enough to put Macy’s (724:1) and Gap (705:1) in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.

Some companies have high average pay but are also led by CEOs making big bucks. Like Microsoft, where Glassdoor says the average pay is $137,000, but where CEO Satya Nadella pulls down $84 million a year. Or Oracle, where CEO Larry Ellison makes $67.2 million, equal to 573 times the average pay of $117,000.

The recently finalized SEC rule, mandated by Section 953(b) of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, doesn’t prescribe a specific format for companies to calculate the CEO-worker pay ratio. Rather, the SEC has is giving employers the ability to use any “reasonable method” that “works best for their own facts and circumstances.”

Thus, a company with many thousands of employees spread around the nation can use sampling and estimates to calculate its ratio. However, businesses must describe and detail their methodologies for obtaining their final figures.

Additionally, rather than requiring companies to run the numbers every year, they will only be made to disclose the ratio every three years — except in cases where there have been significant changes to employee numbers or pay structure.

One area in which the final rule is not giving flexibility to companies is the definition of “employee.” Rather than simply calculating full-time workers, the ratio must also include part-time and seasonal staff, which will have a significant impact on foodservice and retail companies that employ large numbers of short-term workers during certain times of year.

“You Have Ruined Waffles”: Many Country Crock Customers Up In Arms Over Spread’s New Recipe

Tue, 2015-08-25 21:10

countrycrockThough we are living in a time when the hot trends in food all involve a push toward products that are free of preservatives, artificial coloring, trans fats and other ingredients we didn’t use to blink an eye at, not all consumers are happy when their favorite items hop on the healthy bandwagon. That’s because while yes, people might want healthier ingredients, they also want their food to actually taste good — which is not the case for many fans of Country Crock’s Original Spread who say, among other things, that its new “Simple Recipe” has resulted in a “crock of yuck.”

Country Crock customers have been blasting the brand on social media and in a flood of recent one-star reviews on the brand’s site in the last month or so. We were alerted to the outrage by Consumerist reader Terri, who writes that she’d been using original Country Crock spread for 20 years before encountering this new formulation.

“It is truly inedible, smells horrible, and ruins any food you put it in or on,” she says.

She’s not alone, as even a quick dip into Country Crock land on the product’s web page shows:

“At first I thought maybe my taste buds had gone hay-wire,” a one-star review read.

“Terrible taste, horrible after taste and we tried it in several recipes/items but it didn’t help with the taste any, in fact it even altered the taste of the recipes,” another says.

“It is not good, in any way. The taste is awful, then there is a thick filmy after taste that is so bad my gag reflex took over,” yet another writes, with many pages of one-star reviews following.

Over on the Country Crock Facebook page, the response is much the same:

“I hate the new recipe. I would like you to know that you have ruined waffles, english muffins, and toast for me,” one comment reads.

“Threw our food away because we thought it was spoiled. After a couple of meals, we realized you changed the recipe and that it was the Country Crock. Yes, I know, it’s a new simpler recipe. It’s awful! We will be searching for a new butter!” someone else chimed in.

“The new simple recipe has to go!! It is really bad and I am devastated! I threw it in the trash where it belongs and purchased Blue Bonnet,” a fellow customer adds.

Terri and other customers repeatedly point out that they’re loyal customers, and beg Country Crock to reconsider their recipe. But she and others are also disappointed with the response from the brand, which so far has been limited to a variation on a canned response, on both the brand’s product page as well as on Facebook, with replies like:

“[Customer], we’re very sad to hear you don’t enjoy our new simpler recipe frown emoticon [editor’s note: yes, this really reads “frown emoticon”]. Family is at the center of our hearts here in Crock Country. Knowing that family is important to you, too, we wanted our products to have everyday ingredients you can recognize and feel good about giving to your loved ones. Our new simple recipe does just this, while still delivering the country-fresh taste your family knows and loves. We do hope you’ll give us another chance and your feedback is highly valued, so please send us a note at consumer.services@unilever.com with more details.”

Other responses are a bit shorter, but they basically say the same thing: “Sorry you hate this, send us an email.”

As for customers giving Country Crock another chance, many are vowing never to buy the offending spread again.

“I, along with countless others, told them we will NEVER buy the new recipe again,” Terri tells Consumerist.

“This has been extremely disappointing as we have been loyal happy customers who buy your product every time we grocery shop. But no more,” one reviewer on the product’s site writes. “The change you made destroyed what was a staple in my kitchen. Bad decision! Clearly you have lost and disappointed many loyal customers.”

At least one customer notes that while it’s unlikely that Country Crock will go back to the old recipe, as that would would mean putting trans fats and artificial preservatives back in — the brand should still do something about the new recipe.

“However, they should have tested their new product before putting it on shelves! Consumers are not happy,” the customer writes on Facebook. “They can’t bring back the old recipe but they should certainly go back to the kitchen and try to get as close as they can. As a company you should be listening to all these complaints and try to make changes.”

We reached out to the Country Crock brand (which is made by Unilever) to see if there’s any further response beyond what customers have been given so far, or whether there are any plans to go back to the drawing board and come up with a product that customers don’t describe as tasting like spoiled food.

Investors Want McDonald’s To Spin $20 Billion In Property Off Into Real Estate Investment Trust

Tue, 2015-08-25 20:57

(yarnzombie)

(yarnzombie)

While McDonald’s doesn’t own the majority of its restaurants, it does own tens of billions of dollars’ worth of the real estate where those restaurants operate, leasing them to franchisees. That’s a valuable asset, and the company is facing pressure from some investors to spin off its land and buildings into a separate, publicly traded McDonaldland. I mean, real estate investment trust. Which they should name McDonaldland.

Investors in other companies are keen on the REIT idea, too. Darden plans to transfer a number of its own restaurants to an REIT, and investors want Macy’s to do the same. Selling property to a trust is the only reason why Sears posted a profit during the most recent quarter.

The Wall Street Journal points out that REITs have benefits for investors, since their tax structure is different from a regular business. Almost half of McDonald’s value is in its worldwide real estate, which would leave the remaining company to be valued based on its earnings from franchise fees.

This trust would own only McDonald’s property in the United States, and that’s a substantial amount of real estate. Experts don’t even know exactly how much there is, but they know that there’s between $20 billion and $35 billion that the company could raise, which they could go on to use to buy shares of the company back, pay debt, or invest in more pantry spices.

The higher-ups at McDonald’s haven’t ruled out the idea, but they also haven’t confirmed that they’re going for it. The company’s chief financial officer will update shareholders in November.

McDonald’s Lands in a Real-Estate Dilemma [Wall Street Journal]

Subway Says It Is Now Taking Android Pay, Even Though It’s Not Live Yet

Tue, 2015-08-25 20:52

The Subway FreshBuzz newsletter declares that Android Pay is live at the fast food chain, but it looks like Google is not yet ready to announce this news.

The Subway FreshBuzz newsletter declares that Android Pay is live at the fast food chain, but it looks like Google is not yet ready to announce this news.

After leaked McDonald’s memos indicated that Android Pay — Google’s answer to Apple Pay — would launch this week, we have another sign from the fast food industry that the debut of the mobile payment platform is imminent.

A Consumerist reader forwarded us a Subway FreshBuzz newsletter he received in his inbox today that — in addition to promoting whatever sandwich the company is hoping will get everyone’s mind off this Jared debacle — proclaims “Android Pay Is Now At Subway!”

The newsletter has a link enticing readers to learn more about Android Pay, but it just links to the official Android Pay site, which currently states that it’s “coming soon,” with no launch date:
androidpaycomingsoon

Subway — along with McDonald’s, Best Buy, GameStop, Staples, Macy’s, Petco, and others — has already been confirmed as a launch partner for Android Pay. It would just be nice if Android users had some more precise idea of when they’d be able to try this payment option.

We’ve written to Subway for clarification on the Android Pay launch and will update if we get anything in response.

Credit Bureaus, Bank Of America, Wells Fargo Top List Of Most Complained-About Financial Companies

Tue, 2015-08-25 20:21

complainedaboutgraphThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released its latest report on the various complaints the agency has received about banks, lenders, debt collectors, and other financial services. Amid a sudden increase in the number of complaints involving credit report errors, the country’s largest credit bureaus now dominate the top of the CFPB’s list of most complained-about companies.

According to the CFPB report [PDF], it received nearly 6,700 complaints about credit reporting in July 2015 alone, that’s a 56% increase over the previous month and more than double the monthly average of around 3,200 for this category.

And since 97% of credit reporting complaints involved the three largest credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — it’s no surprise that these companies occupied three of the top five spots on the complained-about list.

Equifax topped the list, with 991 complaints in July alone, followed by 926 complaints about Experian. TransUnion managed to avoid the bronze medal in this field by coming in fourth with 732 complaints.

Beating out TransUnion was Bank of America, with 858 complaints, while Wells Fargo rounded out the top five with 720 gripes filed against it.

Most complaints (77%) filed against the credit bureau involve people trying to dispute incorrect information on their reports.

“Consumers frequently complain of debts already paid or debts not yet due showing up on their report, negatively affecting their credit scores,” reads the report.

creditreportingcomplaints

There is also the issue of access to credit reports. In order to minimize fraudulent access, the bureaus use identity authentication questions that even the person they’re about might not have the answer to. Do you know every street address your mother has lived on? Do you remember every phone number you’ve had at every place you’ve lived? If not, you might not be able to prove you are the person you claim to be.

“Consumers consistently report issues related to accessing their credit reports as a result of rigorous online identity authentication questions,” reads the report. “If unable to access the reports over the Internet, consumers have to send copies of sensitive, identifying documents through the mail, which consumers feel is time-consuming and potentially unsecure.”

In terms of the two banks in the CFPB’s top five, consumers are frequently complaining about mortgage-related issues with both BofA and Wells Fargo. The two banks also saw quite a lot of complaints about their regular bank accounts and related services. Bank of America was also the subject of a not-insignificant number of credit card complaints.

While BofA might have been pushed to third place for this report, it still has the highest monthly average of complaints (1,034); no other company is even comes close to that average:

complainedaboutchart

Since the CFPB first began accepting complaints through its online portals, more than 48,600 have been filed against BofA. Wells Fargo is a distant second with nearly 34,000, followed by JPMorgan Chase at around 27,500.

But for all this talk of most complained-about companies, none of them are in the most complained-about category: debt collection.

In July, the CFPB received a whopping 8,224 complaints about debt collectors, representing nearly one-third of all complaints filed with the bureau. But since this industry is so varied, no one company receives enough to penetrate the ranks of the credit bureaus or big banks.

Toyota Officially Testing Airbag Inflators From Takata Rivals

Tue, 2015-08-25 20:17
(I Am Rob)

(I Am Rob)

A week after it was reported that Toyota planned to buy 13 million airbag inflators from a rival of Takata in an attempt to reduce the risk associated with millions of recalled safety devices from the Japanese auto parts maker, the car manufacturer announced it will indeed be testing alternative replacement components. 

Reuters reports that Toyota is currently testing airbag inflators from Autoliv and Nippon Kayaku as replacements for the millions of volatile Takata-produced airbags that have so far been linked to eight deaths and more than 100 injuries. The auto maker has already approved the continued use of parts from Daicel Corp.

The company says that tests of the new inflators are the first step in making sure the safety devices are compatible with its vehicles.

“(Inflators) are not like stationary, which can be simply swapped. We need to test them first and make sure they’re safe,” a Toyota spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Back in May, Takata recalled 33 million vehicles equipped with its airbags; 12 million of those belonged to Toyota.

Last week, sources close to the company said it had already asked Nippon to increase production of inflators to 13 million, to be used in the company’s cars until 2020.

At the time, the source said that having the parts on hand would give Toyota the ability to quickly replace any potentially defective inflators in the future.

In addition to asking Nippon to increase its production, Toyota asked the company to expand its facilities to meet the new demand. It was unclear whether or not Toyota would help foot the bill for the requested expansion.

Autoliv, Reuters reports, already supplies parts for Honda – which was once Takata’s biggest customer.

Toyota says testing potential alternatives to Takata air-bag inflators [Reuters]

We Are Unsure How To Feel Knowing That Pig’s Milk Cheese Exists

Tue, 2015-08-25 20:15

(Adam Fagen)

(afagen)

While we consumers have grown accustomed to milk from animals besides cows being used to make cheese — like sheep’s milk cheese and goat cheese — there’s something a bit… different about pig’s milk cheese. Which is in fact, a thing.

It’s unlikely find pig cheese at your local grocery store, but one pig farmer in the Netherlands is at the forefront of the sow’s milk product, reports Vice’s Munchies channel.

Erik Stegink of Piggy’s Palace is making cheese in collaboration with a cheese store, and says the process isn’t so easy as it is when using cow’s milk or other dairy-producing animals, noting that the first batch was made with cow’s milk added as well.

“Pigs produce less milk in comparison to cows: every two hours they release the milk for about 30 seconds so you have to be quick,” he told Munchies. “Four of us were at it with coffee cups, and per time you only get about 100 milliliters. If you want to collect 10 liters—which is needed for about two pounds of cheese—you’re busy for at least 40 hours.”

He admits that he doesn’t think pig’s milk cheese is going to take off, making him a wealthy innovator in the process, but hey, if you can do it, why not?

“I consider it to be nothing more than a whimsical product,” he explains, adding that he and his fellow cheesemakers made it just because they enjoy it, and they were curious.

As for the taste, he says there are distinct differences — it’s saltier and creamier, yet grainier.

“It’s a completely different process and requires a lot of attention,” he says. “Several of the wheels were unsuccessful and this is the first one we dared to eat.”

Perhaps by the time pig’s milk cheese makes its way across the pond we here at Consumerist will have opened up a bit to the idea. Heck, we might even try it. Because if there’s one thing we know about cheese, it’s that it’s good.

Pig’s Milk Cheese Is Tasty, But It Won’t Make You Rich [Munchies]

Amazon Quietly Launches Same-Day Beer, Wine Delivery In Seattle

Tue, 2015-08-25 19:16
(Alan Rappa)

(Alan Rappa)

When you’re hosting a party and notice that the alcoholic beverages are running a little low, you might momentarily panic: who in their right mind wants to leave such a great shindig to go on a beer run? No one, that’s who. And now, with the long-awaited addition of alcohol delivery to Amazon’s one- or two-hour Prime Now service, no one has to… unless you live outside of Seattle, in which case you still have to go to the store.

When Amazon announced the launch of its expedited delivery program in Seattle today, the company quietly revealed the newly expanded service would offer something new: alcohol delivery.

Instead of making a big to-do about adding beer and wine delivery to Prime Now for the first time in the U.S., Amazon stealthily snuck a few mentions of the beverages into a statement about the expanded services.

“Residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland can now get one-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items like paper towels, wine, beer, chilled and frozen items like milk and ice cream, televisions and Kindle devices,” the company said in its announcement.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that the e-commerce giant would rollout beer, wine and liquor delivery in Seattle after it was reported that the company had applied for liquor licenses for three warehouse sites in the area.

A spokesperson for Amazon tells Re/Code that it will evaluate customers use of the alcohol delivery service, but plan to “continue to expand it.” However, the company did not specify what cities might expect boozy deliveries in the future.

Including alcohol delivery is a first for the company’s Prime Now operations in the U.S. Amazon’s Prime Now service in the U.K. already offers such deliveries.

As with all previous Prime Now rollouts, customers in Seattle must be members of Amazon’s $99/year Prime service to receive deliveries in either two hours for free or one hour for $7.99.

Huggies Tells Parents There Isn’t Any Glass In Its Baby Wipes After Video Controversy

Tue, 2015-08-25 19:11

(First Coast News)

(First Coast News)

After one mom’s video of small, hard, shiny particles on a Huggies baby wipe hit the Internet’s you-know-what fan, prompting parents to seek a recall, parent company Kimberly-Clark is clarifying that it doesn’t use glass to make its wipes.

A Florida mom posted a video online showing odd bits on Huggies brand baby wipes she’d been using, after she and her husband said their two kids were complaining about irritated skin, reports First Coast News.

“I was really upset at first,” the mom said. “There was a really big hard piece on it. It honestly kind of looked like glue.”

Others made videos as well, with some people saying the particles looked like glass shards.

But Kimberly-Clark maintains that those bits aren’t glass.

“It is important to note that no glass is used during the manufacture of our wipes,” the company said in a statement addressing the controversy, noting that the specks were most likely melted fiber particles of the wipe material used in the manufacturing process.

After testing the material, the company confirmed that no glass was found in the wipes, sharing the outcome of an analysis done by an independent testing firm of the wipes that customers returned.

“We can confirm NO glass or fiberglass was present. We found only microfibers used to manufacture our baby wipes. A shimmer can be caused by the microfibers reflecting light,” Kimberly-Clark says in a new statement, noting that in “extremely rare occasions,” the manufacturing process can cause “tiny particles of microfiber to form on the wipe that can be felt, but do not present a safety risk.”

“Based on the findings of the independent testing, we are confident that our product is safe,” the company says.

Palm Coast mom finds what some believe to be glass in Huggies baby wipes [First Coast News]

People Trust Optometrists More Than Costco Or 1800CONTACTS, At Least According To Optometrist Group

Tue, 2015-08-25 19:08

(Angry JulieMonday)

(Angry JulieMonday)

As we’ve previously reported, there’s a legal war going on — with optometrists and manufacturers on one side, and discount and online retailers on the other — over how much you should have to pay for your contact lenses. Both sides of this battle have recently released surveys they hope will help win over public opinion.

Just a quick catch-up on this whole situation for latecomers.

Unlike most healthcare professionals, optometrists are allowed to sell products directly to their patients. And until online discounters and big box stores got into the market, many consumers were buying their lenses through their eye doctors.

In 2013, the largest contact lens manufacturers (Bausch & Lomb, Alcon, and Johnson & Johnson), accounting for some 80% of the market in the U.S., began establishing price floors for their products to help protect the optometrists they depend on to prescribe their lenses.

With a price floor in place, consumers end up paying the same for lenses at their doctor as they would from Costco or 1-800-CONTACTS, and that price is whatever the manufacturers say it is.

Utah — which also happens to be the state that 1-800-CONTACTS calls home — recently passed a law [PDF] intended to prohibit contact lens companies setting price floors in the state, though the manufacturers are fighting it.

And so the two sides have take the fight to the court of public opinion.

The first salvo was fired late last week in the form of survey results released by a group called “See Clearly, America.”

Questions asked in the survey included “Who would you say it is RISKIEST to purchase prescription contact lenses from?” To which only 1% responded that their “Family eye doctor” was the riskiest. More than half picked “An online retailer like 1-800 CONTACTS, Vision Direct, Coastal Contacts, or Lens.com,” while 21% said “A store like Walmart or Costco” was the riskiest.

Note that the question doesn’t point out that the lenses you buy at these online and retail stores are the same as the ones you get from your family doctor; so really the only risk is from damage during shipping.

Another question asked “Who would you say is most likely to offer the most personalized eye care for you?” And not surprisingly, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents picked the family eye doctor — because that’s the eye doctor’s job. Only 4% picked either the online sellers or big box stores — because it’s just their job to sell you the lenses the doctor prescribed; not offer “personalized eye care.”

Similarly 89% of survey respondents said the family eye doctor cares most about your eye health. Here’s a hint: if your eye doctor cares less about your eye health than a retailer, then you should be looking for another eye doctor.

But just because your eye doctor cares a lot about your eyes doesn’t mean that price floors should be used to make sure you can’t buy the exact same lenses from someone else for less.

So who is “See Clearly, America,” aside from the rare group that inserts a comma into its name?

The press release for the survey doesn’t mention it, but See Clearly is actually a campaign, started in 2013 (the same year that the price floors began), sponsored by the American Optometric Association, a trade group representing nearly 40,000 optometrists in the U.S..

When we asked a rep for the AOA why the survey results announcement wasn’t transparent about SCA’s affiliation with the optometrists’ group, he explained that “See Clearly is a just a differently branded project designed to educate the public about important eye health issues.”

We also asked 1-800-CONTACTS for a statement regarding the See Clearly survey, but rather than provide a comment on the data, the online retailer released survey results of its own.

The 1-800-CONTACTS survey doesn’t directly counter any of the See Clearly findings. Instead, it seems intent on talking up the benefits to buying your lenses online.

According to their survey, 70% of people who buy lenses from online sellers replace their contacts as recommended most of the time, compared to only 61% of those getting lenses from their eye doctors.

Online buyers are, at least according to these results, more fastidious about replacing their contact lens cases on a regular basis (every 9 months or less), with 60% of online contacts customers swapping out their cases this frequently, compared to 51% for customers who go the traditional route.

Of course, 1-800-CONTACTS’ questions and results aren’t without ulterior motive, as the company uses them to point out that when customers don’t have to pay full-price for contacts, they can afford to get new lenses as recommended.

Price floors were effectively outlawed for nearly 100 years until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2007 case of Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., that manufacturers could set minimum retail prices in some situations.

The court determined that retailers facing price floors could take the money they would have lost through discounts and invest it in “greater customer service” so as to gain a competitive edge. But opponents of price floors for contact lenses contend that these pricing arrangements put all the burden on retailers.

In its argument against contact lens price floors, Costco claims that eye doctors already have the patient, the prescription, and the product in one place ready to make the transaction. And since there is no incentive for the patient to shop around for a lower price, the doctors would have an edge over retailers.

Best Buy Figures Out Key To Retail Success: Competitive Prices, Good Service, Apple Watches

Tue, 2015-08-25 18:37

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

We don’t cheer on the demise of companies here at Consumerist: when a company appears on this site repeatedly, it’s because we want them to be better. Best Buy used to be a frequent subject of posts here, but now they aren’t. Americans haven’t all abandoned the retailer: it’s actually doing well, with its mini-store concept paying off. What’s coming up soon for the company? More Apple mini-stores.

Specifically, the company has become an Apple authorized reseller. They’ve sold Apple products for years, but weren’t an official location for service for Apple products. Now they will be, though whether you want freshly-trained Best Buy employees cracking open your Apple Watch is a whole other question.

Yes, your Apple Watch: the chain started with a pilot program, but announced today that they’ll first spread the wrist computers out to a few hundred stores, then roll it out to every full-sized Best Buy store.

Overall, Best Buy is succeeding by…getting back to the basics of what retail is supposed to be. “our strategy of offering advice, service and convenience at competitive prices is paying off,” Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said in a statement accompanying the quarterly results.

We thought that these were basic rules of retail, but Best Buy lost its way for a while, instead making up its own rules about not letting any computer out the door without being “optimized” by Geek Squad. Now they’ve learned their lesson, and offering something as simple as price-matching is helpful in de

Best Buy Posts Surprise Sales Rise; Shares Jump [Reuters]

Possible Food-Borne Illness Sickens 77 At California Chipotle

Tue, 2015-08-25 18:16
(Kerry Lannert)

(Kerry Lannert)

Health officials in Ventura County, California, are investigating a possible outbreak of a food-borne illness after dozens of people who either ate or work at one local Chipotle fell ill.

The Ventura County Star reports that a Chipotle in Simi Valley closed for a short time last week after nearly 60 customers and 17 employees complained about feeling ill following a visits to the restaurant on August 18 and 19.

For now the cause of the outbreak, which sent some people to the hospital, remains unknown.

Mike Byrne, Ventura County Environmental Health Division food safety supervisor, says that inspectors and specialists are following up with those who became sick to try to determine if the illnesses stemmed from a specific food problem or if changes are needed make sure food is safe.

Customers and employees reported various symptoms following their visits, including fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

One customer tells NBC Los Angeles that she and her sister became ill after eating at the restaurant on August. 18.

“We were throwing up, going to the bathroom. We had really bad chills,” she says. “I just want to get the answer.”

The eatery closed for one day while inspector disinfected the area and brought in all new food, Byrne says.

While the location reopened on Saturday, employees who became ill have not returned to work in an attempt to avoid reintroducing any possible pathogen, the Star reports.

Dozens report feeling sick after eating at Chipotle in Simi Valley [Ventura County Star]
Dozens of Customers Report Feeling Sick After Eating at SoCal Chipotle [NBC Los Angeles]

FDA Warns Company Behind “Just Mayo” That Its Product Isn’t Actually Mayonnaise

Tue, 2015-08-25 17:41

justmayoWhat difference does a food label make? A whole heck of a lot, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Which means if your product doesn’t abide by federal guidelines, it can’t masquerade as something it’s not. As such, the FDA is warning the makers of “Just Mayo,” a vegan-friendly spread, that it can’t call itself mayo because mayonnaise contains eggs, which its product does not.

Back at the end of last year, Hellmann’s maker Unilever backed off on a lawsuit it’d filed against Hampton Creek over the mayo/not mayo issue, noting that it yanked the suit “so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities.”

Eight months later, the appropriate regulatory authorities have come a’knocking, by way of a warning letter from the FDA to Hampton Creek, dated Aug. 12 and posted online on Tuesday. The letter addresses “Just Mayo” and “Just Mayo Sriracha” products.

“The use of the term ‘mayo’ in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food, mayonnaise,” the FDA said, which must contain eggs by definition.

“Additionally, the use of the term ‘Just’ together with ‘Mayo’ reinforces the impression that the products are real mayonnaise by suggesting that they are ‘all mayonnaise’ or ‘nothing but’ mayonnaise,” the FDA adds, though again, the products aren’t technically mayonnaise. They also include “contain additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard of identity for mayonnaise, such as modified food starch,” the agency notes.

The FDA also takes issue with Hampton Creek’s claim that Just Mayo is cholesterol-free, and points to statements the company makes on its site about heart health, including, “When your heart is healthy, well, we’re happy. You’ll never find cholesterol in our products.”

“Adjacent to this statement is a heart-shaped symbol with a smiling face,” notes the FDA. “Together these statements and heart symbol are an implied health claim that these products can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the absence of cholesterol.”

However, the FDA says, Just Mayo contains too much fat to make such health claims.

The agency instructs Hampton Creek to ensure its products comply with regulations and gave the company 15 days to respond to the letter.

When reached for comment, a Hampton Creek Foods representative told Consumerist there was no statement to share at this time.

Federal Court Rules: Chicken Sandwich Not Protected By Copyright

Tue, 2015-08-25 17:34

pechuchickenYou may recall that we recently tested various burger recipes sent in by readers. What if I took one of those recipes, slapped the name “Morranwich” on it and made it the basis of a billion-dollar burger empire? While the reader whose recipe I used for the sandwich might be really upset, they couldn’t make a copyright claim against Morranwich Worldwide (a division of Cyber Dynamics Systems Corporation) because, as precious as a sandwich recipe might be, it’s not copyrightable.

Yesterday, a federal appeals reminded everyone of this in a ruling involving a copyright and trademark claim against a fast food chicken chain.

The seeds of this case were planted back in 1987, when a man named Norberto started working for South American Restaurant Corporation [SARCO], a franchisee and operator of Church’s Chicken locations in Puerto Rico.

At some point, Norberto suggested an addition to the Church’s menu. After some testing, the new chicken sandwich, dubbed the “Pechu Sandwich” by Norberto, eventually went on sale locally in Dec. 1991.

In 1999, Puerto Rican trademark officials granted a registration for that name. By 2005, that registration had been conferred on SARCO, who filed and received a federal trademark registration for “Pechusandwich” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Norberto sued SARCO for a percentage of the profits it has earned from the sandwich he claims to have created. He alleges that the company violated Section 38 of the Lanham Act by committing fraud upon the USPTO in the procurement of the Pechu Sandwich trademark.

He subsequently argued in appeal that SARCO had violated his copyright by allegedly stealing the recipe and name for the sandwich.

But as a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals For the First Circuit notes in its opinion [PDF] that you can’t really claim copyright on a sandwich.

First, recipes and food products are not among the eight copyrightable categories enumerated by Congress (literary works; musical works, including lyrics; dramatic works, including musical score; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works).

Additionally, previous courts have held that a recipe is a “mere listing of ingredients” that don’t merit copyright protection, and that they “are functional directions to achieve a result” and therefore not copyrightable.

“A recipe — or any instructions — listing the combination of chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise on a bun to create a sandwich is quite plainly not a copyrightable work,” reads the court’s opinion.

And while you can trademark a name like “Pechu Sandwich,” the court explains that copyright protection does not extend to “words and short phrases, such as names, titles, and slogans.”

As for Norberto’s claim that SARCO committed fraud in obtaining the Pechu trademark, the court says that the plaintiff “simply fails to sufficiently allege that any false statement exists,” that Norberto “merely offers conjecture about SARCO’s actions and intentions,” without providing any facts to back up his contention that SARCO “intentionally, willfully, fraudulently and maliciously procured” the trademark in question.

[h/t: @markjkings]

Sallie Mae Spinoff Navient Could Face CFPB Lawsuit Over Student Loans

Tue, 2015-08-25 17:06

imagesIn the short time since Navient – the nation’s largest student loan servicing company – spun off from the nation’s largest student loan originator Sallie Mae, the company has come under scrutiny for it allegedly unfair practices of overcharging and imposing excessive fees on consumers’ loans. While those practices resulted in a $97 million settlement with the Depts. of Education and Justice, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, they could soon lead to a lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Navient revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing [PDF] on Monday that the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary Navient Solutions Inc. (NSI) could soon be party to a lawsuit regarding its servicing practices.

According to the filing, Navient received a letter from the CFPB on August 19 serving as notification that the regulator’s enforcement office is considering recommending legal action against the loan servicing company.

The letter relates to the agency’s ongoing investigation into Navient’s “disclosures and assessment of late fees and other matters,” and stated that “in connection with any action, the CFPB may seek restitution, civil monetary penalties and corrective action against NSI.”

Known as a Notice and Opportunity to Respond and Advise (NORA), the CFPB letter is intended to give Navient the opportunity to present its positions to the CFPB before an enforcement action is recommended or commenced, something the servicing company plans to do.

“NSI continues to believe that its acts and practices relating to student loans are lawful and meet industry standards and, where applicable, the statutory or contractual requirements of NSI’s other regulators,” Navient said in the SEC filing. “The company is committed to resolving any potential concerns.”

Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014, has faced several probes by federal and state agencies, including increased scrutiny over its contract with the government.

Earlier this month, a group of senators sent a letter to Inspector General Kathleen Tighe raising concerns that the Dept. of Education’s probe into its student loans servicer’s compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was riddled with problems.

The Dept. of Education’s review, which was released in May, found that less than 1% of servicemember files serviced by Navient, Great Lakes, Nelnet and American Education Services contained violations of SCRA, including a provision that limits the amount of interest on military personnel student loans to no more than 6%.

Those findings were in contrast with a May 2014 investigation by the Depts. of Education and Justice, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.. Those agencies jointly announced a sizable settlement against both Sallie Mae and Navient for overcharging and imposing excessive fees to nearly 78,000 military members.

The two companies agreed to pay a combined $97 million to settle charges that they violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act which caps loan interest rates at 6% for active duty military members.

The Huffington Post points out that the New York Department of Financial Services, along with the attorney general’s offices in both Washington and Illinois have launched investigations into the company’s debt collection practices.

[via The Huffington Post]

Priest Sentenced To 6 Months In Prison For Groping Woman On US Airways Flight

Tue, 2015-08-25 16:43

(zonaphoto)

(zonaphoto)

Almost exactly a year after he was caught groping a female passenger on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, a Catholic priest has been sentenced to six months behind bars in a federal prison, followed by six months of house arrest.

According to a grand jury indictment [PDF], on Aug. 17, 2014, the priest touched the woman’s breast, buttocks, and inner thigh for his own sexual gratification, and without her permission.

Reuters reports that when the priest boarded the flight, he asked if he could be moved to a seat in the rear of the plane to “sit next to his wife.”

At some point, the woman sitting next to the convicted groper woke up to find him touching the top of her leg and wrapping his arm around her body to grab her breast.

She got up from her seat, went to the plane’s lavatory and called a flight attendant to report the assault.

The priest was relocated to the front of the plane for the remainder of the flight. At Los Angeles, he was greeted by the police.

The priest’s explanation for touching the woman was that he believed it to be consensual because — being asleep — she did not reject his probing hands. He also chalked up her unconsciousness to “coyness.”

In May, a federal district court jury in California found the priest guilty of abusive sexual conduct. At sentencing, the woman testified that she still experienced “fear, frustration and anxiety,” especially since her work requires frequent air travel.

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