mercredi 31 décembre 2014

iPhone Users Sue Claiming False Advertising, Cloud Storage Hawking



Two iPhone owners who live in Florida have filed a class action suit against Apple, claiming that the company advertises devices as having more storage capacity than they really do, of loading creating an operating system download that requires excessive space when first downloaded, and pushing paid cloud-storage services on customers who fill up the smaller-than-advertised hard drives on their phones.

As most people with electronic devices realize by now (even if they aren’t sure exactly why) an iPhone advertised as having, for example, 16 GB of storage doesn’t necessarily have 16 GB of space available: the iPhone 6 advertised as having 16 GB of storage really has around 12 GB available.


This isn’t a new problem, and it’s certainly not the first time that consumers have filed a class action over the issue, but there are two very specific complaints being made here: that Apple’s mobile operating system takes up too much room, and that the company is taking advantage of its phones’ small and non-expandable storage capacity to upsell users on cloud storage.

In the complaint, the iPhone users’ attorneys claim that users aren’t told how much of their already meager storage capacity they will lose when upgrading their phone’s operating system. “Apple fails to disclose that upgrading from iOS 7 to iOS 8 will cost a Device user between 600 MB and 1.3 GB of storage space – a result that no consumer could reasonably anticipate,” they point out. What happens when those users run out of space? It’s time for an upsell! Once space runs out, the iDevice asks the user whether they’d like to rent some additional iCloud space. “For this service, Apple charges prices ranging from $0.99 to $29.99 per month,” the complaint notes.

The plaintiffs demand that Apple stop their false advertising of device capacity, and would like their suit certified as a class action so other affected consumers can join them in asking for damages.

Complaint [PDF]

Apple Customers Sue Over Shortage of Storage Space in iOS 8 [Bloomberg News]

Hotel Employs Adoptable Dogs As Greeters, Finds Them Homes

emberdawgA couple visiting Asheville, North Carolina were hanging out in the hotel bar when they approached a petite young lady and invited her to come home with them. No, this story isn’t quite what it sounds like: that young lady was a four-year-old homeless dog wearing an “Adopt Me” vest, and at this particular hotel, dogs available for adoption greet guests and even mingle with bar patrons.

The hotel already had special appeal for animal lovers, allowing customers to bring their pets for no additional fee. The doggie greeters are a new amenity, part of a partnership between the hotel and a local dog rescue. There’s one hound-in-residence at a time, and it can also visit other parts of the building on a leash. Guests cannot bring the dogs to their rooms, but they do like being able to borrow a friend to visit the rooftop terrace or the restaurant with.

Since the program started, fourteen of the rescue dogs in residence have been adopted by hotel guests and people who live in the community. Dog number 14 is in the photo above, and her name is Ember. She’s been adopted already.

North Carolina hotel welcomes you with open arms and dogs to adopt [AP]

Let’s See How Well You Can Predict What’s Going To Happen In 2015

In case you hadn’t checked the calendar, 2014 is over but there’s still a lot of unfinished business oodles of uncertainty in front of us. So let’s see what images your crystal ball is conjuring.

Just take the quick 10-question survey below to see where you come down on things like the pending telecom mergers, electric cars, streaming video, wireless providers, and more.

We’ll share the results of your prognostications when we return in the new year.

Banks Report Possible Data Breach At Chick-Fil-A Restaurants



2014 has been a year of point-of-sale data breaches, so why should the last day of the year be any different? Chick-Fil-A is the newest member of the Possible Breach Club, and is currently investigating reports of fraudulent transactions on customer credit cards. The reported breach would have started on December 2, 2013 and lasted until September 30, 2014.

One bank employee who contacted the ever-vigilant blog Krebs on Security reports that more than nine thousand of their employer’s cards were part of this breach. More than 9,000 of its customers’ cards are part of this particular batch when the card numbers went on the market. For this particular bank, that meant more compromised cards than were affected during last year’s holiday season payment breach at Target. That may be an indication that the bank has a lot of customers who enjoy delicious fried chicken, but also the result of this being a very, very long breach.

Chick-Fil-A representatives said that they have received reports of customer payment cards used at their stores that have been used in fraudulent transactions, and they are investigating those reports. The company hasn’t confirmed that there was a breach or provided a list of locations. Banking sources told Brian Krebs that breached cards were used at Chick-Fil-A locations nationwide, but seemed to be concentrated in only a few states. In case you want to start checking your card statements early, those states were Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Here’s part of the statement that the company issued addressing the breach:

Chick-fil-A recently received reports of potential unusual activity involving payment cards used at a few of our restaurants. We take our obligation to protect customer information seriously, and we are working with leading IT security firms, law enforcement and our payment industry contacts to determine all of the facts.

Banks: Card Breach at Some Chick-fil-A’s [Krebs on Security]

Video Of Confused Lady At Gas Station Leads To Useful Driving Tip

It’s not often that a viral video that gives you giggle fits leads to learning an actual useful piece of information, but it does happen sometimes. Today’s important lesson: how to determine which side of an unfamiliar car the gas tank is on before you park on the wrong side of the pump and make an idiot of yourself.

Not that I’ve ever done that while driving a rental or a friend’s car. You haven’t, either, I’m sure. This post is for all of those other people. Like this woman somewhere in the United Kingdom, who is having some trouble figuring out how to make her gas tank leap from one side of the car to the other.

We admire her determination, but there may have been an easier way. You see, in most cars, there’s a subtle indicator of which side the fuel tank is on. It’s so subtle, you may have been paying attention to it without realizing it every time that you get in a car. There’s an arrow next to the picture of a fuel pump on the gas gauge that points toward the side of the car where the fuel pump door is. Simple.

Obviously, not everyone does. Also, the system isn’t perfect: there’s no arrow in this 1997 Nissan Altima, or in this newer Honda Accord, or in this VW Golf. Where you don’t see an arrow, the car-maker may have taken a less subtle approach, like this one that actually says “FUEL DOOR.” My car, which has the fuel tank on the passenger side, does this.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re driving an unfamiliar car. Or try doing laps around the pump and checking the same side repeatedly. That might work.

I’m sure my petrol cap was on this side [YouTube] (via Gawker)

Test Your Memory (And Kill Some Time) With Our Year-End Quiz

Let’s be honest for a moment — even if you’re working today, chances are that you mentally checked out before you even stepped into the office. It’s okay; you can probably afford to daydream a bit today while you clockwatch and stare at your boss’s empty office wondering why they always get to take the day off but you have to take one for the team. So here’s a way to kill a few minutes by testing your recall of some of the stories we’ve covered in the last year.

So dig into the quiz below and see how much you remember from the consumer-related news of 2014. It’s fun for the whole family.

Morton Salt Avalanche Buries Three Vehicles At Car Dealership Next Door

Quick, someone grab all the deer and salt shakers you can find and start licking/scooping: After a storage facility wall partially collapsed at Morton Salt in Chicago, the Acura dealership next door became the victim of a salt avalanche that completely buried at least three cars and damaged up to 11.

The wall came down around 2 p.m. in the Goose Island neighborhood of Chicago (also known for the beer of that name from the area), reports ABC7, dumping enough white stuff to cover three cars and crush the tops of others.

A total of 11 vehicles were damaged, four of which were new to the dealership and others that belong to customers waiting for service to be completed on them.

Firefighters think the salt was piled too high near the wall by workers, putting a strain on the decades-old wall that it simply couldn’t bear. In the meantime, cleanup is underway, while the dealership works to replace damaged cars and get customers on the road without a fine dusting of powder.


What We Liked About 2014: The Editors’ Favorite Stories Of The Year

bestofpicks The clock hasn’t even struck midnight yet, and already we’re reminiscing about the year gone by. For us here at Consumerist, 2014 wasn’t only about how many times our stories were read, or who was clicking where, but about the process of bringing those stories to our readers and how we felt about working on them.

From eggs gadgets to the demise of for-profit schools, from Fitbit to Comcast, we’d like to present our editors’ favorite picks of 2014, along with a few honorable mentions.


Favorite post: Comcast Says Mobile Data Is Competitive, But It Costs $2k To Stream Breaking Bad Over LTE

Why it’s my favorite: We spent a lot of time in 2014 debunking big companies’ claims about broadband competition. This post was my favorite, because we got to look at and present plausible real-world data in a fun, accessible, and relevant way.

Honorable mentions:

Here’s What Lack Of Broadband Competition Looks Like In Map Form

Do You Ever Shop Anywhere? Congratulations: Your Data Will Be Hacked

How Corporations Got The Same Rights As People (But Don’t Ever Go To Jail)

Why Big Companies Spend So Much Money On Washington: It Works Even Better Than You Think


Favorite post: Student: Corinthian Colleges’ Demise Is Like “Watching A House Fall On A Witch”

Why it’s my favorite: This story puts faces to the devastation students often encounter as a result of attending a for-profit college. These students, who are understandably worried about their future, highlight how failing Corinthian College made millions of dollars by promising a better future to thousands of students even though the company and its employees often knew future employment prospects were dismal.

Honorable mentions:

Corinthian Colleges Employee: “We Work For The Biggest Scam Company In The World”

If A Boycott Works, It’s Not Just Because People Stopped Buying Stuff

Believe It Or Not, Outlawing Payday Loans Will Not Lead To Looting & Pillaging

Am I Completely Screwed If My Student Loan Co-Signer Dies?


Favorite post: Fitbit Force Is An Amazing Device, Except For My Contact Dermatitis

Why it’s my favorite: This was the post that began the Fitbit Force saga, which began with a few readers telling us about their rashes and ended with the removal of the Fitbit Force from the market. For me, this story showed what Consumerist does best: disparate people all over the world thought that they had an unusual reaction to their fitness bands. We helped to get the message out and bring them together to share stories, information, and gross rash photos.

Honorable mentions:

The Grocery Shrink Ray: Quietly Stealing Our Food For Decades

Best Buy Doesn’t Want You To Know They Take Returns Without A Receipt

Timberland Boots Have A Lifetime Warranty, Unless You’re In Prison

Reminder: If A Store Won’t Sell You A Laptop For $10, It’s Not Bait And Switch


Favorite post: Comcast Makes Money Off Everest University Ads, Even As Schools Are Being Sold Or Closed

Why it’s my favorite: This story exists at the confluence of two of the year’s through-line topics for Consumerist — Comcast and its unabashed greed, and the for-profit college industry. Here we have the nation’s largest cable company — and now one of its biggest broadcast, cable, and syndicated content providers — actively continuing to sell ads to a so-called college that is being sued by multiple state and federal agencies and is being sold off or shut down. Meanwhile, ads being shown during the same time slots on Comcast-owned cable channels are for big name car, cosmetics, and household cleaning brands.

Honorable mentions:

5 Reasons Why People Still Buy Stuff From Companies They Hate

Unhappy Customer: Comcast Told My Employer About Complaint, Got Me Fired

The Police Can’t Order You To Stop Filming Them In Public, Or Force You To Delete Pics From Phone

20 Years Ago, Only 1 Baseball Stadium Had A Corporate Sponsor; Now All But 9 Do


Favorite post of the year: We Tried It: The Weird Al Yankovic Namesake Sandwich He Never Knew He Asked For

Why it’s my favorite: Of the many facets of a consumer culture, perhaps none is dearer to my heart than the consumption of food. So when I had the opportunity to start a series called “We Tried It,” the logical category to turn to presented itself. And although yes, it was amusing to read the list of ingredients for a sandwich Weird Al dreamed up, it was even more fun to experience those foods in real life and relay the experience in a way that might encourage readers to experiment on their own. Plus, Weird Al! He’s just great.

Honorable mentions:

15 Product Trademarks That Have Become Victims Of Genericization

From Gadgets To Diners: How To Make (Or Order) The Perfect Egg Every Time

Don’t Put Your Bread In The Fridge & Other Important Food Storage Tips

A Brief History Of Car Colors — And Why Are We So Boring Now?

Tiny Walmarts Take Bodega Form, Invade Mexico

bodega_aurreraFor several years now, we’ve followed the proliferation of tinier and tinier Walmarts across the American retailscape. From the supermarket-sized Walmart Hometown stores to the gas station and convenience store called Walmart To Go, the retailer has experimented with store formats that are not enormous. Now the Tiny Walmart Menace has spread to Mexico, where its mini-grocery chain called Bodega Aurrera Express hopes to use low prices to draw customers.

People in Mexico have this pesky habit of buying their food from street vendors, non-yuppie farmer’s markets, and small family-owned grocers. These are all places that are not Walmart, so in 2008 the company began using Aurrera, the name of a grocery chain that it had acquired, as a brand for urban markets that imitate and compete with the corner stores.

The company is expanding into small-format stores for a very pragmatic reason: crowded cities and towns are where low-income people are in Mexico. The bodegas are successful, but shoppers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal appeared to be buying typical big-box store items like potato chips and shampoo inside the Bodega Aurrera Express, but shopping at the outdoor street market, a “tianguis,” for their food, especially meat and produce. People are accustomed to the tianguis. This is how it has always been in Mexico,” explained one vendor.

For Wal-Mart in Mexico, Bodega Format Trumps Big Box [Wall Street Journal]

LG, Samsung Want Curved, Ultra-Wide Monitors To Be The It Thing For 2015

LG Shoppers who got a shiny new ultra-HD 4K TV this year may feel like they’re on top of the tech trends, but that’s so 2014. There is, of course, something new on the horizon. 2015 looks primed to be the year of curves: not just for your home-theater TV, but for your PC.

That’s what LG and Samsung are betting, at least. Both companies are showing a bunch of big, wide, curved, super high-res monitors at CES in Las Vegas next week, and the internet is aflutter.

Basically, the new ultra-wide curved monitors are basically a scaled-down cinema. If a wide-aspect, 50-foot curved movie screen 50 feet in front of you makes things look good in the theater, then a wide-aspect, 34-inch curved monitor three feet in front of you should make things look good at home and in the office.

Both Samsung and LG are making the 34″ screens with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 3440 x 1440 resolution — that’s not quite up to 4K (3840 x 2160), but sharper than “regular” HD (1920 x 1080).

What we think of as the now-standard, ubiquitous 1080p HD aspect ratio is 16:9, or about 1.78:1. So an HD TV that’s 18 inches high will be 32 inches wide. Most TV is shot at that aspect ratio now, and movies are either somewhat cropped (“optimized”) to fit the screen or shown with letterboxing at the top and bottom.

The ultra-wide monitors being sold are all a 21:9 aspect ratio, or about 2.33:1. That’s much closer to the way big blockbusters are filmed and displayed — movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and all of the Marvel superhero films are 2.35:1, for example.

Samsung also has a smaller (27″) version as part of an all in one PC, while LG’s can be stacked together.

Of course, the major trend in personal computing as we march through the second decade of the 21st century isn’t big desktop rigs. It’s miniaturized personalization: everything you need and want on a 5-inch screen in your purse or pocket. So if most shoppers are out looking at phones and tablets, what customers are LG and Samsung targeting?

There are apparently two major groups who still buy monitors. PC gamers are predictably one, and the high-powered homebrew gaming market is definitely a target audience for bigger, better screens. The Verge even calls the LG screen “tailor-made for gamers,” because it includes adaptive display technology designed to eliminate stutters, screen tearing, and other unpleasant artifacts. The tech isn’t new, but LG is the first company to announce it in a 21:9 monitor.

The other audience? Stockbrokers. They’re the folks who like to be surrounded by as much flowing information as possible, Matrix-style, and LG thinks that piling up a whole wall of these would make the high-speed money-movers feel right at home.

That said, the stockbrokers might be able to pick one up before the gamers can. Neither company’s 34″ monitor has a price point or an availability date attached — they’re expected to mention those details at CES in Las Vegas next week — but an older version of the LG screen currently runs close to $1300.

Team Consumerist (or half of the team, at any rate) will be on hand in Las Vegas to look at these and other shiny new gadgets and report back if they (literally and metaphorically) stack up.

Play-Doh Will Replace Phallic Toy Frosting Extruders On Request

cake_mountainDoes your child have one of the Play-Doh Cake Mountain playsets, and you want the weirdly phallic frosting extruder gone because you can’t stop laughing every time your kid picks it up? Good news for you: Hasbro has offered to exchange the syringe for the more boring yellow version on request in case the part offends or amuses you too much.

Complaints about the part began back in November, which is when Hasbro said that it had redesigned the piece and would put a more boring version in future box sets of the toy. However, that didn’t mean that the redesigned part was ready for Christmas gifts, and a new uproar came after children unboxed their gifts and parents had a chance to give the part a second glance.


After accusations that Hasbro was deleting all complaints about the part from their Facebook page, the company finally made a post of its own about the controversy, telling customers that they had heard the “feedback” and that replacements were available. “Should any consumer want a replacement extruder for this item, they can contact Hasbro’s Customer Service Department at 800-327-8264,” the company posted.

Here’s what that piece looked like with the purple syringe pusher in place:


Here’s the replacement version of the part: let’s all use our imaginations and try to figure out what it looks like.


Play-Doh to replace toy customers say looks like penis [USA Today]

Sprint’s “Framily,” NFL’s Family Of Disloyal Fans Lead List Of 2014’s Worst Ads

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about what exactly constitutes a “family” in a time when people can have deeply felt connections with those they’ve never met while simultaneously having no meaningful relationships with their kin in the next room. But regardless of how they define familial relations, Consumerist readers have resoundingly let it be known that there were two advertising families that they wanted nothing to do with in 2014.

We recently asked readers to nominate their most-hated ads from the past year, and the two ads that were most frequently cited in the nominations involved very different, but equally obnoxious, portrayals of family life.


The most-nominated ad this year — and one that found little love in the Consumerist Cave — was this treacly bit of nonsense from the NFL, which was presumably intended to show how families can stick together through the changes but which really highlights a group of people with no firm convictions (at least with regard to football):

Many readers were incredibly annoyed by the fickle fandom demonstrated by this family.

“You’re not a ‘Vikings family,’ or even a family of football fans, if EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR KIDS changes the team they root for,” wrote Sue in nominating this ad. “Especially if they suddenly change affiliations based on silly things like where you go to college and who you date. Have a backbone or just admit that you’re a fairweather fan.”

“I’m a Giants fan who married a Jets fan,” opines Sam, “I love my wife, but it would take an act of God to get me into a Jets jersey.”

By far the most hatred was reserved for the daughter who ditched her supposed love for the Vikes and became a Dallas Cowboys fan simply because Emmitt Smith took a photo with her.

“If that’s the criteria, then I guess I’m now a fan of the Montreal Alouettes because I got Chad Johnson’s autograph once,” rants reader Mark.

Many readers felt like the ad — which dropped the reference to controversial Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in later airings — embodies the NFL’s obsession with selling as much branded merchandise as possible to casual followers, perhaps to the detriment of the sport and hardcore fans.


Sprint began 2014 by launching “Framily” plans — a not terribly clever portmanteau of “friends” and “family” — which would have been fine if it hadn’t been for the deliberately outré ads used to promote them.

How could it not work? A talking hamster voiced by Andrew “Dice” Clay; a francophile daughter constantly surrounded by fluttering, chirping animated bluebirds; a younger man dressed like your grumpy old neighbor from 1976; pop-locking goth guy “Gore-Don”; and actual funny actor Judy Greer, who hopefully got paid a king’s ransom for being a part of this menagerie.

“Sprint was delusional, thinking they could sell people on a crappy service with ‘quirky’ commercials,” wrote reader Mary Anne in her nomination of the Framily ads. “But I don’t give a good goddamn about funny when I pick a cellphone plan. I just want something that works.”

Even after Sprint dropped the whole Framily idea, it continued to spoil the airwaves and do damage to Judy Greer’s career with this ear-splittingly shrieky commercial that was also among the most-mentioned by Consumerist readers:


Admit it — you really don’t like your dad’s sister. She dresses like she lives in Grey Gardens and thinks she has a good grasp on all things European. Every time this aunt can’t make it to Thanksgiving, your night is much more pleasant. Too bad she’s starring in an ad for American Signature.

The hatred for this ad, whose only hook is a woman who repeatedly mispronounces “chaise,” was so laser-focus that some readers simply wrote “chaiiiiisssssse” in their e-mails with the understanding that we’d know exactly what they were talking about.


GEICO — last year’s Badvertiser of the Year — continued to receive snorts of derision for its “Hump Day” camel ad that inspired countless boorish co-workers around the world to shout out “Guess what day it is!” every Wednesday:

It’s so bad that even GEICO acknowledged its part in creating an army of clueless types who repeat catchphrases from commercials:

Writes Sean, “The people in my office that do the ‘hump day!’ thing are the same ones that are still doing unsolicited Gollum and Butthead impressions.”


Do you have that uncle or family friend who talks too close to your face and always seems to be coming off a bender (or just beginning one)? That’s who German travel site Trivago decided should be the face of their U.S. launch, with his bedhead hair and two-days’ growth of facial, smooth-talking his way into your travel plans:

The grey-shirted, globetrotting ladies man has become the subject of numerous parodies, including this scarily accurate one:


The Trivago Guy uncle isn’t so bad that you don’t invite him to family functions, but some families have that one cousin who is always conveniently left off the list because he’s going to say or do something that will really frighten or upset everyone. That’s the way that many of you described the guy in this Hanes “kitten shirt” ad:

And the rest of our worst ad honors for 2014….


We’ve already seen how poorly “framily” was accepted, but that’s just one of many pun-tastic marketing ploys that failed to impress Consumerist readers in 2014.

There was Lysol’s attempt to cram “Healthing” into the lexicon:

And Robitussin’s “Coughequences” ads didn’t really catch fire:

Let’s not forget Verizon’s “half-fast” commercials, which belong in the Juvenile Wordplay Hall of Fame with “Sofa King” —


The folks at Charter merited two entries in this category for an almost avant garde attempt at hip-hop with these jingles for its Double Play and Triple Play packages:

Weight Watchers won over few fans with this depressing rewrite of a classic kids song:

And then there was the bizarrely uptempo and undoubtedly overlong jingle from Wayfair:

We spent hours trying to figure out what the Wayfair ad reminded us of, and then we realized it sounds too much like the theme from long-forgotten ’90s sitcom Grand:


We received a lot of nominations for ads featuring celebrities… and also several for this blu e-cig ad featuring Stephen Dorff:

More perplexing are the ads starring celebrities who are still considered A-listers. Many readers, even some who claim to be Amy Poehler fans, were perplexed and annoyed by her appearance in a series of commercials for Old Navy. Most haters singled out this particular ad as their least favorite:


It wasn’t all that long ago that a not-yet-famous John Hodgman and that guy from the fourth Die Hard movie who sort of looks like Zach Braff were doing the “I’m a Mac…I’m a PC” shtick in a seemingly endless series of commercials for Apple.

So it seemed odd and a bit self-defeating to many readers when they saw that Microsoft was trying a similar approach to sell its Surface tablets. The side-by-side comparisons on a white screen, products talking to each other.

Initially the ads were merely boring, rehashing the same points Microsoft has been making about the Surface since it launched.

But then Microsoft unleashed this dissonant beast of a Surface ad, just in time to irk enough people into nominating it for this year’s worst-of list:

That’s not to say that Apple didn’t also indulge in an obnoxiously loud, white-backgrounded campaign for its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The following spot was the only one of the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake iPhone commercials to result in a handful of nominations:

That’s it. There were many more nominations that we just didn’t have room for this year. Not to worry — there are no signs that 2015 will be any improvement over 2014. If anything, TV commercials will probably just get even louder and creepier in the hopes of getting any attention from viewers skimming past them on their DVRs.

mardi 30 décembre 2014

Comcast Rings Out 2014 With Yet Another Tape-Recorded Customer Service Disaster

It’s been a bad year for Comcast’s customer service image — probably not what the company wants to hear when it’s trying to convince federal regulators to let it swallow up millions of Time Warner Cable customers — and while many consumers are taking this week off from work, the folks at Kabletown know that bad service doesn’t take a holiday.

The latest customer service debacle comes to us via the above YouTube clip, in which a Comcast customer tries to figure out why he’s not getting the broadband package he was promised only months earlier.

See, after a few months of getting Comcast’s high-speed “Blast” service for the promotional price of around $50, the customer’s bill began to rise. When he called Comcast the other day, a rep told him that the $50 price was only good for three months and she doesn’t know where the “miscommunication” was that led him to believe that this price was intended to last a full year.

But the customer wasn’t imagining things and didn’t mishear the offer. How do we know? Because he has a recording of the call he made in August where the rep clearly and repeatedly states the $50 price is good for 12 months and does not require him to re-up his contract.

When he offers to play this recording to the rep trying to give him the bad news, he’s told that the only thing that the recording is only useful as something she could pass on to her supervisor “for coaching” purposes.

“So you’re telling me your company doesn’t stand by what they tell their customers when they’re trying to get them to sign up again?” he asks while the rep tries to say “no.”

“You said ‘I understand that she told you 12 months’ and ‘I understand that you’re saying you have a recording…’ but you’re not going to honor it because you don’t stand by your word?” the customer implores.

“I would honor if that was something that I had in front of me,” responds the rep, who claims that she is the highest-level person he can speak to and that she has access to all available promotional offers, but laments that, “Unfortunately, I do not have that promotion right now.”

After the rep explains that she can go back and tweak the dates so as to remove the most recent month’s over-charge, the customer suggests that they just go the full year and then he’ll call back at the end of that time and have the over-charges reversed then for the remaining months.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that,” says the rep.

That’s when things get really sore, as the rep tries to sell the customer on the value of paying full-price for Blast service.

Then she offers him a promotion that would be for half the speed of what he was getting at the same price as he was paying.

But of course, Comcast has charged the customer a different price each month since he first began the service, so it’s impossible to pin down exactly what he’s being offered.

“You’re doing the exact same thing as the last person,” he points out to the rep when she tries to negotiate a year of different promotional pricing. “I’ve never gotten a contract in the mail saying that I had this new price. What the hell are you going to send me? It’s just your word, and you obviously don’t honor what other people say.”

She then says that they send customers the contract “via e-mail, usually.”

“So I should have a contract from the last one?” he challenges.

A hesitant rep replies, “This one I can send to you. I wasn’t the last person you talked to, so I don’t know who the last person you talked to was.”

On Reddit, the customer provides an update, saying that he spoke to someone from Comcast Executive Customer Relations who refused to allow him to record the call.

However, this rep did send him an e-mail saying the call couldn’t be recorded “due to the nature of the reasons or possible intent that you may have for the recording,” like, for example, wanting a concrete record of what someone from Comcast tells you.

This rep says that, after listening to the “original and unedited version of your initial call,” (funny how the previous rep said she had no record of who he’d talked to back in August), that the customer had been given the “correct information on the service plan and promotional services at the time.”

The rep explains that the promotional pricing was for the entire pay-TV and broadband package, but that the upgrade to Blast Internet was only good through October.

“We have extended this promotional offer as a gesture of good will for an additional 12 months as long as you understand that at the end of that term if you wish to keep it, it will be billed at its standard rate,” reads the message from the rep.

The customer maintains that he was promised a year of the high-speed Blast service for a full 12 months and believes that while Comcast isn’t “accepting responsibility for anything, but they are offering me something.”

He’s asked Comcast to clarify that he will receive “100mbps down, 25mbps up” service at a monthly total of $53.85 and is currently waiting for a response.

When reached for comment by Consumerist, a Comcast rep said, “This certainly isn’t the type of experience we want our customers to have. We have reached out to the customer and are continuing to look into this.”

Thief’s Attempt To Blast ATM Open Literally Backfires

atmexplosionRecently here at Consumerist, we’ve reviewed some very unsuccessful ways to open up ATMs and get at the money inside. Smashing the machine with a forklift, for example, is not a useful method. Neither is pouring acid on it. Now we have a new addition to the list: you also cannot gain access to money inside a cash machine with an explosive.

The culprit in a recent attempted cash removal in Australia didn’t manage to steal any money, but he did knock himself backwards out of his sandals. This serves as yet another argument why flip-flops should never be worn outside of public showers and beaches.

Fortunately, the suspect wasn’t seriously injured, but the ATM was heavily damaged. Police believe that the man captured on film is also a suspect in a similar attempted ATM explosion in a nearby city on December 24th.

“In relation to sophistication it wasn’t something that was done by somebody who had expertise,” a police officer told media. Police believe that the suspect used some kind of gas to detonate the ATM, but only succeeded in destroying the electronics.

ATM explosion attempt backfires in Darwin [Sydney Morning Herald] (Warning: auto-play video)

Darwin ATM theft attempt backfires as masked man is knocked backwards by explosion [ABC]

Freaks And Misfits: Dispatches From Santa’s Amazon Warehouse

Santa is not real, and neither are his elves. If you’re old enough to be on the Internet unsupervised, you probably already knew that. However, there are real-life people who fill in for the toy-manufacturing elves, the North Pole, and the flying reindeer. One part of that supply chain is at the Amazon warehouses where our stuff resides. Working there is not fun or easy.

Our semi-estranged ex-sibling site Gawker regularly puts out calls for people to talk about their jobs, and one reader who spent the holidays temping in an Amazon warehouse answered the call. You can read his surprisingly cheerful dispatches that began on December 3rd and ended yesterday over at Gawker. Here are a few quick takes on what is allegedly Amazon’s second-largest warehouse.

On scheduling: “Mandatory 60 hour weeks for the next two weeks. I forget, I think you have to work a minimum number of shifts before you can even THINK about asking for a day off.”

On the carrot of Amazon employment: “This man hints at saying that some people may have a chance at becoming an Amazon hire. He doesn’t really even say that. It’s well worded. But ultimately if we want to become a ‘success story,’ we have to really get out there and ‘give it our all!’ It’s like I’m in some elimination reality show all of sudden.”

On family: “I hate that I’m leaving my dog for 12-14 hours a day.”

On co-workers: “[T]hey do hire just about anyone…It’s all freaks and misfits, again, myself included.”

In all, the warehouse worker declares, it’s “a damn hard-earned $2,000.”

Christmas at Amazon: One Man’s Story [Gawker]

Dunkin’ Donuts Selling A Pizza Bagel, Refuses To Call It A Pizza Bagel

ddpizza What do you get when you take a bagel, slather it in tomato sauce, pile mozzarella cheese atop it with a dash of Italian seasonings and bake the whole thing in an oven? Easy, it’s a pizza bagel. A quick look around the Internet shows that’s the consensus elsewhere too, however hard Dunkin’ Donuts might be trying to act like the aforementioned combo is not, in fact, a pizza bagel.

It’s a Tomato Mozzarella Supreme Bagel, obviously, and that is all there is to it, according to Dunkin’ Donuts.

The breakfast chain is offering the not-a-pizza-bagel-pizza-bagel for a limited time through early 2015 at select locations reports the Huffington Post , which also calls the menu item out for its true self (as do Thrillist, the Boston Globe and probably others because, come on).

Also new to the menu are chocolate croissants, which DD seems fine with calling chocolate croissants, though a doughnut croissant is most definitely not a cronut. Fancy that.

FDA Inspection Reveals Chinese Restaurant Supplier Was Rat-Infested Nightmare

There are fascinating horrors hiding in letters from the Food and Drug Administration to the food, drug, and cosmetic companies that it regulates. One letter that we wish we could un-read is directed to New Yung Wah Trading Company, a Brooklyn-based company that supplies Chinese restaurants all over the East Coast. The results of multiple inspections of their warehouse near Pittsburgh were frightening to potential diners…at least, those of us who prefer our food to have as little rat urine as possible.

The letter describes inspections performed in October, but wasn’t sent until December 9 and was made public this week. Here are a few items out of the letter’s catalog of horror:

  • A box of “rib meat” (animal unnamed) that was set on top of a box of melons to thaw. The box of meat contained an “apparent active rodent nest containing multiple rodents,” which sounds very cozy for the rodents but maybe not so much for people who were planning to eat the meat. Or the melons.

  • Rodent carcasses throughout the building, during the October 15th inspection and a repeat inspection on October 20th.

  • Birds flapping around the warehouse and defecating on food items, which rarely ends well. Specifically, it ends in salmonella contamination.

  • Nesting material and rodent poop in a case of pineapples.

  • More rodent “excreta” in a walk-in cooler, and rodent gnaw holes and even more leavings contaminating bags of flour and of monosodium glutamate.

  • Insufficient plumbing in different parts of the facility created pools of standing water and even “marshy soil” indoors, which creates a fine hiding place for some pests.

  • Workers were spotted smoking while preparing food products for distribution.

When AOL’s DailyFinance site contacted the company, they didn’t respond. The distributor’s website has also mysteriously disappeared.

Birds Slur When They Sing After Too Much Booze, Just Like Us

Anyone who’s ever had a Drunk Uncle Hal knows that a natural result of imbibing a bit too much fire water is the propensity to slur, when talking, or when singing at the top of one’s lungs about all the joys of life. We are not alone in our slippery-tongued warbling, however, as one study says birds get a bit loose beaked after a stiff drink, too.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University say in a study published this month in PLOS ONE that a kind of songbird called the zebra finch slurs its songs when drunk.

While one might imagine scientists setting up a tiny bar (and high expectations in life) for the birds and letting’em slam shots, in reality they were served a mixture of grape juice and ethanol.

The result sounds much like a scene out of any late night bar where the feelings are warm and the mood is right — birds ended up singing songs with “altered” acoustics. Most likely to the tune of “Danny Boy.”

“The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy, the latter likely reflecting a disruption in the birds’ ability to maintain the spectral structure of song under alcohol,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, specific syllables, which have distinct acoustic structures, were differentially influenced by alcohol, likely reflecting a diversity in the neural mechanisms required for their production.”

So what’s this got to do with us? It could help researchers understand why we act how we act when we’re boozing, researchers explain. Because we’re all just a bunch of drunk birds with a song to sing.

Drinking Songs: Alcohol Effects on Learned Song of Zebra Finches [PLOS ONE]

It Was Once Dubbed The World’s Largest Mall, And Now It’s About To Be Dust

Oh, how the mighty have fallen: The former ruler of wide swaths of parking lot as the world’s largest mall when it was built in 1976, Randall Park Mall near Cleveland, has been dead for years. But the final nail in the coffin comes this week as the building undergoes the final demolition from which no mall can return.

Tumbling from its throne as the ruler of all the pavement it could see, Randall Park will soon be reduced to dust after demolition started yesterday, reports CNNMoney.

The mall was touted as the largest of its kind way back when, but has gone the way of many formerly busy malls, slipping into disrepair and decline until finally shutting its doors for good in 2009.

“I remember walking through it and feeling overwhelmed by the memories, most of which were good ones,” said Seph Lawless, a photographer who included the mall in his book of fallen malls, Black Friday, told CNN.

“I mean, this wasn’t just a place to shop, it was a place people went to talk and meet other people. We didn’t have social media or smartphones. We had malls and it was what we did.”

The land the mall sat on will be turned into an industrial park, reports, to be haunted by the ghosts of tweens seeking an Orange Julius forevermore.

Is In-Store Pickup Any Faster Than Just Shopping At The Store?

For years, an increasing number of retailers have been pushing their “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS, for all you acronym lovers) option as a expedient option that offers the convenience of online shopping without the hassle of having to search the aisles. But is it really any faster than traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping?

The folks at StellaService recently put this idea to the test at 11 of the country’s biggest retailers offering BOPIS — Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Sears, Staples, Target, Toys ‘R Us, and Walmart.

At each location, shoppers made a BOPIS purchase and bought the same item in the traditional manner.

In terms of the amount of time spent in the store, BOPIS did seem to speed things up a bit, with the average BOPIS shopper only needing 5.4 minutes to reach the cashier, compared to 7 minutes for standard shopping.

Office Depot was the most expedient BOPIS retailer, with shoppers only needing 2 minutes. The fastest traditional shopping was at Target, where shoppers were in and out in 3.5 minutes.

On the other end of the spectrum is Home Depot and Macy’s. Each clocked in at 8.5 minutes for a BOPIS purchase. At these retailers and at Nordstrom, traditional shoppers were actually out the door faster.

The slowest time in the entire survey was Sears, where it took more than 16 minutes for the traditional shoppers to check out.

But the in-store pickup aspect is only part of the process. When you factor in the wait time for BOPIS customers to receive confirmations that their order was ready, a more complicated picture arises.

The average wait time for a confirmation was just over an hour, reports StellaStervice, with Macy’s and Sears each taking at least 140 minutes to let BOPIS shoppers know they could do the PIS part of their transaction. In such cases, most people could easily have driven to the store and done their shopping faster.

But then there were stores like Best Buy and Lowe’s that only needed 10 minutes to confirm a purchase was ready to be picked up. That’s fast enough for customers to place an order, hop in their car and have it be ready when they arrive at the store. Others like Home Depot (25 mins.), Staples (28 mins.), and Toys ‘R Us (30 mins.) might be okay for those with longer drive-times to the store.

Of all the stores in the survey, only Home Depot allowed customers to schedule their pickup time.

Okay, so you have an idea how far ahead in advance you need to order, and how long it will take you to get through the store. But what about actually finding the in-store pickup counter?

Several retailers — Best Buy, Target, Lowe’s among them — had specific counters visible from the entrance for in-store pickup.

And while it might take longer than traditional shoppers for a Nordstrom BOPIS customer to get in and out, that’s probably because the department store lets customers do in-store pickup at any counter. That’s convenient — not having to search a massive, multi-floor store for customer service — but it also means you’ll have to wait for the item to be delivered to wherever you are.

Finally, things can get complicated when you’re finalizing that BOPIS purchase. Shoppers who placed their orders online ended up spending the majority of their time (3.1 minutes) at the store at the cashier. However, it only took about 1 minute for standard shoppers to pay.

What isn’t in doubt about BOPIS is that it offers the one thing that traditional shopping doesn’t — some assurance that the item you ordered will be there when you get to the store. Granted, we’ve heard numerous stories of retailers botching in-store pickups and customers finding out too late than an item is out of stock, but in general the process works as planned.

Parents Are Upset About This Play-Doh Extruder For Some Reason

Do you know who I feel sorry for this week? The people running social media for Hasbro’s Play-Doh brand of perpetual play clay. People keep posting to point out the resemblance of an accessory in one of their current play sets to a human phallus, and Hasbro keeps taking

Here’s the whole set, which lists for $20, is currently available from Amazon for $13, and looks pretty fun.


Yet what caught the eye of some parents is that frosting extruder over to the side. It looks like a fanciful turret on a castle decorated by Dr. Seuss. Or… like a human penis with particularly artful veins.


Of course, not all customers are complaining.


We somehow doubt this, since this poster would need to buy two of the entire cake set. Sets including the controversial accessory could become a collectible in the future, so buying entire sets and keeping them sealed could be an investment opportunity, but it’s also possible that no one will care in the future when it’s no longer the slow news week between the end-of-the-year holidays.

Anyway, Hasbro told a TV station in Tulsa back in November that they’ve replaced the controversial piece in future sets. Apparently, Santa delivered enough of the sets nationwide last week that the issue became freshly controversial.

Here’s the replacement version of the extruder, which is much less interesting but sure to be much less controversial.


Play-Doh’s Facebook Appears To Be Deleting Comments From Parents About Their New Penis-Shaped Toy [Buzzfeed]

Controversial Toy Part Changed After Consumer Feedback [KTUL]

White Castle Changes Everything You Think You Know About White Castle, Puts Veggie Sliders On The Menu

veggieslide What do you think of when you think of White Castle? If it’s “steamed meat,” you’re not alone. Thus, friends, we can get through this together: In a direct challenge to those who thought they knew a little something about White Castle, the home of the steamed meat slider has gone ahead and added veggie burgers to the menu.

Not that there isn’t enough room on the menu to share — in fact, I’d like to be the first to welcome my vegetarian brethren into the warm, slightly damp embrace of a White Castle slider. Because why should meat heads have all the Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle inside jokes and Crave Case case races (you’ll have to ask my college self and her reckless friends about that one)?

The sliders are made from Dr. Praeger’s brand of veggie patties, which are “chock full of lots of vegetables like carrots, zucchini, peas, spinach, broccoli, and more,” according to White Castle, reports Grub Street. They’ll be available at all White Castle locations, the company says.

Veggie sliders come with a choice of honey mustard, ranch or sweet Thai sauce, and presumably, the same day-after sense of regret upon realizing you’ve eaten way, waaaaay too many sliders the night before. They’re just so little, ya know?

White Castle Unveils Veggie Burgers [Grub Street]

Early Lawsuits Regarding GM Ignition Switch Defect Often Fell Through Cracks In The Court System

Since General Motors began recalling millions of vehicles for defective ignition switches earlier this year, several reports have surfaced that show the car maker and federal regulators knew of the deadly issue but failed to address it. While they almost certainly dropped the ball, a new report shows that the country’s legal system also failed to protect consumers by creating an environment in which legitimate lawsuits involving deadly crashes of affected GM vehicles fell through the cracks for nearly a decade.

The New York Times reports that families who attempted to take General Motors to court after their children died in a crashes involving the company’s vehicles with defective ignition switches were either coldly rebuffed because the lives of their children weren’t worth the cost of litigation or settled their cases, barring them from discussing the issue in the future.

Brush-offs by law firms and settlements with strict restrictions to not discuss the defect highlight additional lost opportunities to sound the alarms regarding the deadly GM defect years before it would ever take the national spotlight.

These missed opportunities are a result of state laws that have capped awards for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, limited punitive damage awards or changed how liability is assessed.

These changes, critics tell the Times, often work against consumers and suppress vital information about product dangers.

The Times reports that factors such as tort reform and the rising costs of lawsuits have long diminished the legal system’s ability to bring risks like those of the GM defect to light.

Back in 2007, the family of a teenager killed in a 2006 crash involving a Cobalt was told by a local Wisconsin law firm that the value of their child’s life was too small to justify the expense and risk of taking on GM in court.

The value of the teen’s life was assessed at just $350,000, the maximum recovery of loss allowed under Wisconsin law. Because of this, the family was unable to proceed with their lawsuit, leaving the ignition issue uncovered.

Additionally, critics tell the Times that the ability of defendants to force plaintiffs to keep quiet about settlements regarding defective products also highlights the legal system’s failures when it comes to GM’s defect.

At the time the Wisconsin family attempted to bring forward their lawsuit, lawyers said they knew of six ignition-related lawsuits that GM had settled out of court. But reach of those settlements barred public disclosures about the issue.

By barring plaintiff discussion of the defect, GM made it increasingly difficult for lawyers handling new claims against the company to learn about previous incidents of defect crashes and fatalities.

Several families who had previously settled with GM confirmed to the Times that they were unable to speak about the defect publicly or they would risk losing their settlements.

“This is so frustrating to me,” the Wisconsin teen’s father tells the Times. “If we had gone to litigation, this would have gone to the forefront. We could have saved lives.”

The GM defect issues finally saw the light of day when a lawyer in Georgia – a state without strict caps on damages in product liability suits – filed a lawsuit against the the car maker in 2011.

The suit was successful in large part because GM lawyers did not move to settle the case since it involved a side impact collision, in which the car’s airbags were not expected to deploy.

The Times reports that this gave the plaintiff’s lawyer the opportunity to recruit an engineering expert who discovered the Cobalt’s ignition switch defect.

In 2013, following that engineer’s testimony and the testimony of a GM employee, the car company offered to settle the case for $5 million, as long as the family and lawyers never mentioned the defect.

Several months later – and years after the first ignition-defect related lawsuits against the company – GM publicly disclosed the defect for the first time and began recalling vehicles.

To date, at least 42 deaths have been linked to the GM ignition defect.

Victims of G.M. Deadly Defect Fall Through Legal Cracks [The New York Times]