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The Consumerist

Caffeinated Peanut Butter Now Exists Because Time Is Precious

Wed, 2015-09-30 17:48

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Thanks to Consumerist reader Jenny for the tip!

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

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

Wed, 2015-09-30 16:42

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Expands Availability Of “Buy Now” Buttons

Wed, 2015-09-30 16:14
Twitter announced an expansion of its Buy Now button.

A year after Twitter began dipping its toes in the waters of e-commerce by testing “Buy Now” buttons,buttons, the company is expanding its foray into retail sales with new partnerships intended to give more businesses the ability to sell their wares directly through Twitter.

According to the official Twitter blog, it has made deals with e-commerce platforms Bigcommerce, Demandware, and Shopify. These partnerships will enable retailers and brands like Best Buy, Adidas, and PacSun to sell their products straight to customers without requiring them to take their eyes off their Twitter feed.

“Today, as we begin rolling out to a wider group of platforms and partners, people will have even more opportunities to discover and purchase products from the brands they love on Twitter,” Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce, writes in a blog post about the new expansion.

While the buttons are, for now, a U.S.-only option, Twitter believes the step will open a larger revenue stream beyond advertising.

“The goal for all our commerce initiatives on Twitter is simple: make it as easy as possible for businesses to connect directly with, and sell to, customers on Twitter,” Hubbard wrote. “With Buy Now, businesses can drive more conversions and remove much of the friction in the mobile purchasing process.”

Twitter first began utilizing Buy Now buttons in Sept. 2014, in tests that included just 26 handpicked musical artists and nonprofit organizations at the start, and just two brands.

The social network says it plans to continue growing its ecommerce business in coming months.

“As we continue to develop new products and expand the ecosystem of platforms and partners in the social commerce space, we can help even more brands and customers connect on social and mobile,” Hubbard said.

Wednesday’s announcement comes just two weeks after online payments company Stripe – one of the networks original ecommerce  partners – announced it would start letting  retailers sell their goods directly on the social media network through its new product Stripe Relay.

According to Stripe, Relay lets merchants compose one buy button that can be placed on Twitter and other apps in as little as 30 seconds, streamlining a process that previously required customers to click through to retailer’s own websites — a task that can be complicated on smartphones.


Virgin America To Offer Free In-Flight WiFi For Netflix Subscribers

Wed, 2015-09-30 15:53

(Netflix)Netflix customers who’ve wished they could download content to bring with them on their mobile devices when they fly still won’t be able to do that, but they will be able to stream video on some Virgin America planes by way of a new partnership that gives Netflix subscribers free WiFi.

The offer will last until March 2, 2016, the two companies said in a press release, and is only available on those planes equipped with Virgin America’s new ViaSat WiFi, which the airline says delivers internet speeds that are typically eight to 10 times faster than any other in-flight WiFi system.

“This advances our goal to bring Netflix to members wherever they are and whenever they want,” Bill Holmes, global head of business development at Netflix said. “For us, the future of streaming technology is about delivering an on-demand service that takes advantage of the expansion of Wi-Fi to public places, parks, and now airplanes.”

To access free WiFi on Virgin planes included in the partnership, passengers will open a browser and sign into the ViaSat network. They’ll then be prompted to either log in to their existing Netflix accounts or create a new, free 30-day trial account (which is great for Netflix’s goal of gaining new subscribers). This of course means you’ll have to bring your own device to watch Netflix, though Virgin will also offer seasons 1-3 of the Netflix series House of Cards on all seat-back screens.

The partnership is in line with Netflix’s anti-downloading stance — the company has said in the past that people shouldn’t have to download content if there’s quality WiFi service available.

It’s also similar to a somewhat recent initiative from JetBlue and Amazon: in May, the airline started offering free streaming to Amazon Prime subscribers. Though customers might need even need to take advantage of that deal if they plan ahead, as Amazon now offers downloads for its Prime members to watch video offline on iOS and Android devices as well.

AT&T Touts “Lower Prices” For Gigabit Internet; Still Charges $40 More If Google Fiber Isn’t Around

Wed, 2015-09-30 15:31

gigapowerIf you have AT&T wireless service, your voice/data plan is going to cost you the same amount of money each month regardless of your home address. But AT&T’s broadband division isn’t taking this one-price-fits-all approach, and is continuing to sell broadband access that can range in price by $40/month, depending on where you live… and apparently whether Google Fiber is in the area.

Yesterday, the Death Star touted GigaPower availability in more than a half-dozen new GigaPower markets, including Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, and San Antonio.

We noticed that — rather than make a big splash about this news with one huge press release — AT&T broke down each market into its own statement. Why? One reason has to be that prices can vary so much from area to area.

In Atlanta and Nashville, GigaPower starts at $70/month for 1Gbps data speeds.

But in Chicago and Miami, where AT&T boasts of now offering “lower prices,” the monthly rate is $80, but for 300 Mbps data speeds.

That’s correct: $10/month more for slower access. If you want the full gigabit access available from AT&T in these markets, you’ll have to pay $110/month, more than a 50% price increase from the other areas.

The price difference can’t be attributed to AT&T’s questionable “Internet Preferences” program that offers a discount to users willing to let their online use be tracked and sold off by the company. The press releases make it clear that being part of this program is required for getting this advertised price.

The obvious link between the cities with the lower rates is that they are all currently being built out by Google Fiber, which charges, you guessed it, $70/month for gigabit broadband.

We pointed out this connection in the spring after noting that Austin, where Google had just begun to sell Fiber, was getting the $70 price while Cupertino, CA, an area that is merely under consideration by Google, was being charged the $110/month rate.

The fact that AT&T believes it can charge $40/month more just because no one else in a market is offering a comparable service only underscores the need for increased competition in high-speed broadband service. When more companies are selling comparable services, no single operator can dictate what consumers should pay.

Legislation Would Hold For-Profit College Leaders Accountable For Misrepresentations

Wed, 2015-09-30 15:24

Lawmakers on Tuesday continued their mission to protect consumers from unscrupulous players in the for-profit college industry by introducing legislation that would impose stiffer penalties and restrictions on the leaders of such institutions. 

The Students Before Profit Act – introduced by Senators Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Dick Durbin, of Illinois – aims to protect students from deceptive practices and bad actors in the for-profit college sector by better holding schools and their executives accountable for violations and poor performance.

“For-profit colleges and their executives shouldn’t be able to get away with cheating students and leaving them with huge debt loads while these schools rake in big profits off of federal loans,” Senator Warren said in a statement. “This bill creates better tools to strengthen accountability and to protect both students and taxpayers when colleges and their executives break the law.”

Under the Act, the Department of Education would receive broader discretion to require owners and executives of for-profit colleges to assume liability for financial losses associated with Title IV funds.

The Dept. of Education can also pursue claims against these owners and executives after discharging borrowers’ student loans.

Additionally, the Act would authorize enhanced civil penalties on institutions and their executive officers if it is determined that the college misrepresented its cost, admission requirements, completion rates, employment prospects or default rates.

Fines paid by the schools, or its executives, for these issues would be filtered into a Student Relief Fund to help potentially defrauded students.

The Students Before Profit Act also aims to improve oversight of any default rate manipulations. To do so, the Act requires the Secretary of Education to use corrected data to recalculate student loan cohort default rates for institutions of higher education that have engaged in default manipulation. The Secretary would then make determinations on whether an institution should be disqualified from participating in financial aid programs.

Finally, the law would prevent “repeat offenders” – those who have once served in an executive position or on a board at a for-profit college that the Dept. of Education has brought an enforcement action upon – from holding leadership positions at another higher education institution.

“Too many students looking for a quality college education have found themselves at for-profit institutions that are more concerned with profit margins than career readiness,” Brown said in a statement. “These bad actors have misled students about graduation rates, job prospects, and cost – leaving them battling debt and unable to find work in their fields. This legislation would help protect students while also holding for-profit educational institutions accountable to taxpayers.”

Target Will Price-Match 29 Competitors’ Websites

Wed, 2015-09-30 14:30

(SA_Steve)Beginning tomorrow, October 1, Target will price-match the websites of 29 major retailers in stores and for purchases from their website. These include the usual big names that you might expect, like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy, but also some major specialty retailers like Sports Authority and cosmetics retailer Ulta.

Target has only price-matched the websites of a few retailers until now: those were Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Babies ‘R’ Us. The new list expands price-matching beyond the online outlets of local retailers with physical stores. If you don’t happen to have a Buy Buy Baby in your area, for example, but they have an excellent sale, Target will price-match the website.

Target’s existing price-matching policy doesn’t allow customers to match with items available from third-party sellers, who might post an item at an unrealistically low price for the sole purpose of price-matching.

They’re also matching online prices from two warehouse clubs, Costco and Sam’s Club. It’s not clear whether you need to be a member of one of those clubs to get the online price of an item from Target.

Price-matching has become much easier in an era where many shoppers carry smartphones, and Target even thoughtfully provides in-store wi-fi. Yet making it available is also a little bit deceptive: exclusive and store-brand items can’t be price-matched because they simply aren’t available from other retailers. Target will price-match Kohl’s, for example, but Kohl’s mostly carries its own brands.

For the curious, here’s the full list of Target’s new online price-matching buddies:

Amazon, Babies ‘R’ Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Buy Buy Baby, Costco, CVS,, Dick’s Sporting Goods,, GameStop, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Newegg, Office Depot, Petco, Petsmart, Sam’s Club, Sears, Sports Authority, Staples, Toys ‘R’ Us, Ulta, Walgreens, Walmart, and Wayfair.

Target expands price-matching policy to 29 rivals [Star-Tribune]

Ralph Lauren Steps Down As CEO Of Ralph Lauren

Tue, 2015-09-29 23:52

(MIKI Yoshihito)For the first time since the company’s founding, Ralph Lauren will not be running the Ralph Lauren Corporation. The 75-year-old plans to stay on as executive chairman and maybe design some ties or something, but the new chief executive officer will be Stefan Larsson, formerly head of Gap’s Old Navy brand and of H&M.

If that sounds like an odd match to you, it might be. H&M and Old Navy are mostly known for fashionable(ish) clothes at cheap prices and quick turnaround when a new trend comes up. Ralph Lauren is known for… well, that’s sort of the problem that the company has right now.

Ralph Lauren (the company) has a lot of labels. It’s a designer line that you can’t afford, and then some sort of affordable lines, and then some factory outlets that are even more affordable, furniture and paint, and some clothing items that license the name but come from other companies. The company has been heading toward developing its luxury brands and seeking higher prestige, yet hired their new CEO from the most mass-market retailer in the average mall.

Ralph Lauren (the person) says that he will stay with the company for now, serving as executive chairman and creative director. His company has been unusual in that one person was in charge of the business and creative sides of the company, as he generally has been. “When they start designing things I can’t understand, I’ll quit,” the 75-year-old said during an interview with the New York Times before the announcement.

Ralph Lauren, Creator of Fashion Empire, Is Stepping Down as C.E.O. [New York Times]

Amazon Flex Launches In Seattle, Allows Regular Joes To Earn Money Delivering Prime Now Packages

Tue, 2015-09-29 22:44
(Akira Ohgaki)

Amazon’s latest attempt to quickly and cheaply deliver packages got underway in Seattle on Tuesday with the launch of the company’s consumer-turned-courier program, Amazon Flex. 

The program, which was first speculated about in June, allows any regular ol’ Joe to earn $18-$25 per hour by delivering Amazon Prime Now packages out of their own cars while out-and-about.

According to the Amazon Flex site, delivery drivers must own their own cars, have valid drivers’ licenses, be over the age of 21, pass a background check, and own an Android smartphone.

For now, the company is prohibiting deliveries from being made on bikes or on foot.

Once drivers are approved, they will be given access to Amazon’s proprietary delivery app, which can be used to choose delivery shifts any day of the week.

The shifts can be as short as two hours or as long as 12 hours, but must be in two-hour increments. A driver’s delivery roster and area of coverage is then determined by the length of their shift. Deliveries can be picked up at an Amazon location nearest to the driver.

Back in August, “Flex” signs were spotted at the company’s recently opened Kirkland, WA, facility. Signs inside the new location describe the Flex method as much like waiting in line at the deli counter: consumers take a numbered ticket, watch for their number to be displayed on the wall and pick up their packages once their number is shown.

While it was unclear at the time whether the service was for customers to pick up their own packages, it appears the lines are for the new delivery drivers.

[via Ars Technica]

Feds Recommend Overhaul Of Student Loan Servicing

Tue, 2015-09-29 22:42

(thisisbossi) Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a public probe into potentially anti-consumer practices of the student loan servicing industry. More than 30,000 people responded, leading the Bureau, along with the Departments of Education and Treasury, to release a framework they hope will curb these questionable practices, promote borrower success, and minimize defaults.

The report [PDF] highlights the key issues that concern many borrowers and includes recommendations on how those problems can be handled.

Borrower Benefits and Consumer Protections
Borrowers complained about their difficulties in obtaining accurate and comprehensible information on alternative repayment programs and other benefits, including income-driven repayment plans.

In some cases, commenters said their servicers, instead of providing information regarding payment plans, had suggested they postpone payments through forbearance or deferment, or instructed them that the only available option was to pay the full amount due.

“The availability of ANY student loan repayment system is poor at best,” reads one comment. “The online system only allows for minimal direct contact with a person and is completely inflexible. When you reach someone on the phone, after an eternal wait, they do not provide thorough information regarding all the options available to anyone in repayment.”

In other instances, borrowers say they were not given pertinent information about plans unless they took the step of inquiring directly about these options.

Servicing Transfers
Like other loans, student debt can often be sold from servicer to servicer without the borrower’s approval. But borrowers say they often aren’t being made aware of the change in servicer, resulting in confusion about new policies and practices, and sometimes leading to missed and late payments, and other problems.

Customer Service and Error Resolution
Many people who filed comments with the CFPB mentioned having difficulty in accessing accurate account information and then addressing errors that could dramatically impact their credit reports and scores.

“I submitted a payment for $75 and my service processor lost the payment,” one borrower tells the CFPB. “Somehow they were able to send me a letter stating they had received a check but did not know which account to apply it to. From there I was instructed to send a copy of the original check in reference to the letter. I received no confirmation and my account went into default. The people who handled my phone call transferred me from department to department and still after 4 years have not been able to remedy the situation because my loan has been transferred to 2 different loan services since my initial complaint.”

Payment Processing
When you send in more than you owe one month, do you know how your loan servicer will apply that overage? Servicers are not consistent on this, and many consumers are consequently in the dark. This is just one of the processing-related issues highlighted in the report.

Others included commenters who making monthly payments in the amount instructed by their servicer, but who continued to experience errors, leading to the payments being flagged as missed, which means unexpected late fees, and surprise interest charges.

A borrower says his servicer delayed applying his payment by up to 21 days, which meant his loan was accruing more interest than it should. In one case, he says the servicer simply never applied one payment he received.

The CFPB also found that consumers experienced issues in receiving notifications regarding their payments due and statements detailing previous action on their accounts.

Practices That Affect Specific Borrower Segments
According to the report, certain borrower groups — like servicemembers, veterans, and older Americans — experienced problems related to their particular circumstances.

For example, some servicemembers tell the CFPB that they were guided into military deferments or forbearance and were not told that their total loan debt would balloon at the end of their military service due to accrued interest.

Likewise, older borrowers who co-signed on private student loans, stated their payments are misapplied to all loans held by the primary borrower, instead of only the loans they have an obligation to.

The agency made a number of recommendations for improving the servicing industry, including:

Create consistent, industry-wide standards for the entire servicing market: The market currently lacks consistent standards that cover the servicing of all private and federal student loans. Consistent standards should help ensure that consumers know what to expect from their student loan servicer and that distressed borrowers can access available assistance.

Hold servicers accountable: Regulators must continue to act to protect borrowers if errors occur or if servicers break the law. Consumers should be able to access adequate customer service to answer questions and resolve errors.

Provide access to clear, timely information: The agencies call for information provided by servicers to be accurate and actionable, ensuring borrowers are empowered to make choices that encourage borrower success and mitigate defaults.

“The process for education loan servicing today is a mess,” explains Suzanne Martindale, our colleague and staff attorney for Consumers Union. “Your servicer is supposed to manage your account and help you avoid default. Too often, a servicer provides the student with information that isn’t accurate or consistent, and that can drive students deeper into debt. Students and families deserve better treatment from their loan servicers, and they truly need change now.”

Grocery Shrink Ray Strikes Aldi Bread, Gillette Anti-Perspirant

Tue, 2015-09-29 22:12

The Grocery Shrink Ray quietly removes almost imperceptible bits of our packaged goods, gradually shrinking some products over time so manufacturers can avoid raising prices. Once you’re aware of it, you begin to notice it every time you buy a slightly smaller replacement for a product that you use regularly. Two readers who bought bread and deodorant noticed exactly that.

Eric bought a new loaf of sourdough bread at discount grocer Aldi, and noticed that the new loaf was a tiny bit smaller than the previous one. 3/10 of an ounce doesn’t seem like a lot, but it would make a loaf of bread smaller. Even a less-fluffy bread like sourdough.



The interesting thing is that Aldi, based in Germany, apparently doesn’t think that Americans are too swift with our metric conversions: both versions of the loaf give the weight as 690 grams, while neither is true. 24 ounces is 680 grams.

Jason, meanwhile, may find himself a little sweatier in the future.


The deodorant on the right is a nice, even 4 ounces, while the item on the left has been shrunk to 3.8. The packages look to be the same size, so this is likely an example of nonfunctional slack fill: there’s just more empty space in the package.

Regulators Accuse Fiat Chrysler Of “Widely Under-Reported” Deaths Related To Vehicle Accidents

Tue, 2015-09-29 21:52
(Ralph Krawczyk Jr)

After being fined $105 million by federal regulators for their leisurely pace in fixing more than 11 million vehicles connected to 23 safety recalls, Fiat Chrysler’s recall woes haven’t magically disappeared. Instead, it appears they may be intensifying, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today accused the carmaker of widely under-reporting the number of deaths in accidents involving its vehicles.

USA Today reports that regulators first discovered what they called a “significant” discrepancy back in July.

Mark Rosekind, NHTSA chief, said that preliminary information suggests that this “under-reporting is the result of a number of problems with FCA’s systems for gathering and reporting data.”

In a statement, the agency said it notified Fiat Chrysler of the issue and the carmaker reportedly investigated, discovering “significant under-reported notices and claims of death, injuries and other information” that is legally required to be reported.

The manufacturer said in a statement to USA Today that it pledged “complete remediation” of the issue, noting that the company “takes this issue extremely seriously and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA to resolve this matter and ensure these issues do not re-occur.”

While it’s unclear if the under-reported deaths are related to the 23 recalls that resulted in the record $105 million fine in July, the agency previously said it would punish the carmaker if it discovered other problems in its recall processes.

Rosekind said the agency would take “appropriate action after gathering additional information and causes of this failure.”

NHTSA: Fiat Chrysler under-reported number of deaths [USA Today]

Chromecast Audio Turns Any Speaker With An Audio Input Into WiFi Streamer

Tue, 2015-09-29 21:16

chromecastaudioIf you’ve got a nice, wired home audio setup and have been reluctant to spend money on adding streaming solutions like a $349 Sonos Connect or the $499 Connect Amp, Google is hoping you’ll be more tempted to try its $35 Chromecast Audio.

The new device appears to works pretty much the same as Chromecast does for TV. You plug it into the speaker or audio system, connect the Chromecast Audio wirelessly to your phone or tablet, then stream music.

Chromecast Audio will connect to three different kinds of audio input — RCA (the red and white plugs), the 3.5mm audio jack (usually labeled “aux.”), and optical.

The Audio supports the same music apps that currently work through Chromecast, including Spotify and Pandora. From inside those apps, users can just hit the “cast” button at the top of the screen to send their music to the connected speakers.

Google has also updated the Chromecast with a new design — it’s available in three colors and is no longer a “stick” but a disk with a more flexible HDMI connection coming out of it. The company believes this will make it easier to plug into TVs with already crowded backsides.

The new Chromecast, also $35, has three antennas inside and updated support for the latest WiFi standards. Google says this should cut down on playback disruptions.

McDonald’s Rebrands Fancy Burgers Created Via Kiosk

Tue, 2015-09-29 21:01

(Mike Mozart) What does the name “TasteCrafted” sound like to you? If you said “a mass-produced product that calls itself ‘artisan,'” you’d be close: that was one of the names tested for pricier, higher-quality, customized burgers at McDonald’s. The new name is “Chef Crafted,” since there’s nothing that the public associates more with McDonald’s than a trained chef carefully assembling burgers in the kitchen.

Maybe that’s not fair, though: McDonald’s does employ chefs to create new recipes and products in its test kitchen, and they created the original burgers. The kiosks are also being tested under the name Create Your Taste, and that test continues in thousands of restaurants.

Customers weren’t really into the original name, a McDonald’s spokesperson told Bloomberg Businessweek, and the new name at least implies that there are humans involved in the process somewhere. “We decided to celebrate our chefs who have created these recipes,” she explained, “and highlight the culinary expertise of our in-house and supplier chefs.”

The public is showing off its own culinary expertise, too: the unpopular chef-created burger flavors of “hot jalapeño” and “deluxe” will go off the menu, and both new items replacing them will include bacon.

McDonald’s Revamps Build-Your-Own Burger Program to Draw Diners [Bloomberg]

Report: Twitter Considering Allowing Tweets Longer Than 140 Characters

Tue, 2015-09-29 20:49

(Tom Raftery)
Since it launched in 2006, Twitter has been known for allowing users to express their every desire and thought using just 140 characters. That’s could be about to change, as the social media company is reportedly working on a new product that exceeds the current word limit.

Re/Code, citing sources familiar with the matter, reports that the company is building a product that would allow users to Tweet long-form content on the site.

According to the sources, the idea of expanding the character limit for Tweets was recently revisited under interim CEO Jack Dorsey as a way to increase the number of users on the service.

While Re/Code points out that third-party services already allow users to exceed the character limit, those products don’t post as actual text but as images.

The company is reportedly also looking at tweaking how Tweets are measured within the 140-character limit.

Under the scenarios being discussed, Re/Code reports that links and user handles may not be included in the character count.

The company previously deviated from its long-held message limits in July, when it began allowing users to send private messages in excess of the 140-character limit.

At the time, the company said the change would have no impact on the public side of Twitter, but it looks like that might not be the case.

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the product.

Twitter Plans to Go Beyond Its 140-Character Limit [Re/Code]

Need A Hug? Lululemon Has A Clothing Line For That

Tue, 2015-09-29 20:27

A girl and her best pal, the affectionate leotard.It isn’t the warm comfort of your best friend’s arms, or the soothing snuggle of a parent, but if you need to feel like someone is hugging you, Lululemon says it’s got the athleisure wear (a word that people use in real life) line for you: it’s called “Hugged Sensation” and according to the yoga pants peddlers, the clothing is engineered “to feel like a comfortable embrace from a close friend.”

Pants and leotards that will hug you are part of the activewear company’s Sensation Innovation collection, which includes other kinds of sensations aimed at how customers like their clothing to fit — there’s Tight, Held-In, Relaxed and Naked as well, which, The Cut points out, shouldn’t be confused with pants that become sheer when you bend over.

A company spokesperson told The Cut that the company used sports psychology and science to come up with the new design and “pant wall experience,” in an effort to give women options on a range of sensations, “so that she can choose the right pants for her particular workout, grounded in how she wants to feel.”

What kind of pants are there for people who want to feel like their clothing is someone who will actually listen to them for once or hey, take the garbage out once in a while? Or maybe a leotard that makes you feel like you’re eating pizza when really you’re trying not to fall over in front of an entire class of perfectly-balanced yoganistas? Free ideas, Lululemon. Free ideas.

Awesome Or Annoying?: IT Help Desk Human Answering The Phone Like A Robot

Tue, 2015-09-29 19:23

(alexkerhead)It can be hard work manning a help desk and fielding questions from people all day, so we can’t really blame a New York City Health Department employee who’s taken to answering the phone in a robot voice for trying to jazz up his day a little bit. Unfortunately for Mr. Roboto, a judge has suggested he be suspended from work — for the second time — for his monotonous style.

A city administrative judge ruled this month that a worker who’d been disciplined in the past for answering the IT help-desk phone in a robot voice should be suspended again for 30 days, after he disregarded his supervisors’ orders to greet callers like a normal human, reports DNAInfo (h/t Jezebel).

To be fair, he only does the android impression in the beginning of the call, before transitioning to a normal human speaking voice for the remainder of the call.

The Health Department still has to approve the disciplinary recommendation from Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings Judge Ingrid Addison.

But we want to know — is this just one man’s way of dealing with the daily rigors of life answering help desk phone calls, and therefore somewhat awesome? Or is it just really annoying? Vote in our poll below.

Take Our Poll (function(d,c,j){if(!d.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;;pd.src='';s=d.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);} else if(typeof jQuery !=='undefined')jQuery(d.body).trigger('pd-script-load');}(document,'script','pd-polldaddy-loader'));

City Worker Fined for Talking in Robot Voice Does it Again [DNAInfo]

Goat Kicked Out Of Tim Hortons For Loitering Without Buying Anything

Tue, 2015-09-29 18:40

ctv_goatIn defense of a loiterer who sought shelter in the vestibule of a Tim Hortons outlet in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, there is no sign that says, “No Goats Allowed.” They ban skateboarding and biking, but not seeking shelter in that area while being a goat. Yet store employees called the Mounties anyway, probably because the goat was loitering without even buying a coffee.

The animal first entered the store through the automatic doors, since those don’t have any kind of species lock on them. Employees tried to encourage it to go back outside, but it wouldn’t stay. Police suspect that the animal was looking for a warm place to sleep.

The officers finally brought the goat to their vehicle, but it resisted “arrest” and was unhappy to lose its donut-scented sleeping spot. The officers brought it to a local vet, where it stayed overnight until the officers finally located the farm where it belonged.

The goat has returned home, probably to regale its barnyard friends with thrilling stories of automatic glass doors, double-doubles (that’s a coffee with two creams and two sugars) and frosted pastries.

Stubborn goat ‘arrested’ after refusing to leave Saskatchewan Tim Hortons [CTV]

American Airlines Launches Real-Time Baggage Tracking Service For Travelers

Tue, 2015-09-29 18:20

After a long day of traveling the last thing you want to deal with is lost baggage, but, unfortunately, that’s a very real situation for millions of consumers: over the last five years, the Transportation Security Administration paid out $3 million for lost, stolen and damaged baggage. American Airlines is trying to give travelers piece of mind that their bags are well within reach by launching a new bag tracking service.

The carrier rolled out a free real-time online luggage tracking system for checked bags last month, allowing customers to see just where their bag is — from the time it’s handed off at the check-in counter to its arrival on the carousel at the destination airport — the Chicago Tribune reports.

The airline quietly began the new customer-facing service in late August, but chose not to publicize it until employees were used to the new scanning procedures.

“It’s something our customers have been asking for [for] a really long time, and we’re excited to make this available to them,” American Airlines spokeswoman Laura Nedbal tells the Tribune.

The service was created as part of the merger between American and US Airways. American previously only scanned bags as they were loaded onto the aircraft, while US Airways, on the other hand, scanned bags as they were loaded and taken off planes.

Baggage tracking data was previously used only internally, Nedbal said.

Tracking is only available via American’s website for now, where users can click on the “track your bags” button and input their last name and record locator or bag-tag number.

The site will then produce information on six bag-scan touch points, such as ticket counter check-in and loading on and off the aircraft.

Using the service not only lets passengers keep an eye on their bags, it can also save them time. Instead of waiting for your bag to appear on a carousel, users can see right away when their luggage is in the wrong place and head straight to customer service.

The new service won’t change American’s current tracing system where customers can track a lost bag after it’s been reported.

American isn’t the only airline to offer a real-time tracking system for checked bags: Delta Air Lines currently employes a similar service.

American Airlines secretly adds free real-time bag tracking [The Chicago Tribune]

USPS Says It Tried To Deliver My Package, But Home Security Video Shows Otherwise

Tue, 2015-09-29 18:01
Is the USPS carrier a ghost?!? (baconocalypse on YouTube)

Anyone who’s ever been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a promised package might know the sheer frustration of waiting around at home all day, only to check the tracking later and find that a carrier attempted delivery when you finally left the house. That’s what happened to Consumerist reader Tony — only he had video to prove that no one from USPS ever showed up, despite what the tracking information said online.

Tony put together a video chronicling his recent frustrating experience waiting for a package to get delivered, but here’s what happened if you don’t feel like watching: He waited at home all day for a package last Friday, finally leaving his home at 6:25 to get dinner. By the time he returned at 7:40 that night, still no package, and no notice left on the door… but the online tracking information said USPS had attempted delivery at 6:59 p.m.

Someone who doesn’t have evidence to the contrary might believe they’d missed a delivery attempt, but Tony has a new home security camera on his front door, so he checked the footage of that time period — and no one turned up at 6:59, or ever. Not only that, but without a pink notice slip, he couldn’t reschedule delivery and would have to go the post office to pick his package up.

The next day around 1 p.m., he checked the tracking info one more time before heading to the post office and was surprised to see a note that his package had been delivered… 15 minutes before. And yet, a quick search outside showed that the package had still not arrived. Just as he was about to finally leave for the post office at around 2:30, the mail carrier showed up and handed over his package — two hours after the tracking info says it was left on his front porch.

“So now not only are they claiming they attempted delivery and left a notice they didn’t leave, but the next day they are also logging that they came back and specifically left it on my front porch when they haven’t, before finally hand delivering it,” Tony writes.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened to Tony, and there are many others like him out there — including members of the Consumerist staff — but he says that when he calls the the main number for USPS (1-800-ASK-USPS) to find out what happened, the people on the other end are nice and seem to believe him, but tell him there’s nothing they can do.

When he’s tried to sort it out with USPS staff at the post office, he’s been told to speak to a manager who he says is never there, or submit a complaint online. He’s tried that, too — he filed an official complaint with the postal service as well as with the USPS inspector general, but neither resulted in a response.

We’ve reached out to USPS to find out how and why this happens, and what consumers should do in a similar situation when all complaints have apparently reached deaf ears, but we have yet to hear back as of this posting. If and when we do, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, there doesn’t seem to be much Tony can do, other than continuing to remain vigilant for invisible mail carriers attempting to deliver invisible packages.