vendredi 31 janvier 2014

It’s Not A High-Speed Police Chase Until Deep Fryers Come Flying Out Of The Escape Vehicle

You might’ve think you’ve heard about an intense, high-speed police chase, but you’d be wrong. Or at least you thought you knew what intense was, before reading that one particular police showdown had deep fryers flying out the back of a suspect’s truck. Deep fryers! Flying!

It’s too much excitement to bear on a Friday, but let’s forge ahead, shall we? has the story out of Houston, where four men were allegedly part of a team that burgled a kitchen supply store late Wednesday night. Perhaps there was a dire need for cutlery or a lot of fried chicken, because witnesses say the men were loading equipment into a U-Haul truck at the front of the store.

By the time cops showed up on the scene, the getaway vehicle was already going about the business of getting away, and the suspects refused to pull over. Instead, the chase was on.

Things soon got of control, as high-speed chases often do, and the driver of the truck smashed into a traffic light, a bus stop and a fire hydrant. Somewhere along the way, the truck’s rear door came open, launching several deep fryers willy-nilly onto the street.

Police caught up with the suspects after the crash, sending all four suspects running. Two of the men were eventually arrested and charged with serious injury to an instrument that brings delight via deep-fried goodness. Only the first seven words in that sentence are true.

Stolen deep fryers fly from truck during HPD chase []

via Consumerist

FDA Announces Proposed Rule To Safeguard Food During Transportation

No on likes salmonella in their peanuts or listeria on their cantaloupe, or in any of their food for that matter. While contamination can occur in just about every step of the food production process, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking the final steps to make sure the transportation of food isn’t the problem by setting new criteria for the transport of food.

Domestic and international motor and rail vehicle shippers, receivers, and carriers would be required to take steps to prevent contamination of human and animal food during transportation by following criteria on properly refrigerating food and adequately cleaning vehicles between deliveries.

The Rule would not cover shippers, carriers, and receivers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales. Additionally, it does not apply to the transport of fully-packaged, shelf-stable food.

Discussion on the proposed rule will take place at three public meetings: Feb. 27 in Chicago; March 13 in Anaheim, Calif,; and March 20 in College Park, Md.

The proposed regulation is the final major rule in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s framework aimed at building preventative measures across the food system. The FSMA was established in 2011 to shift focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

FDA proposes rule to prevent food safety risks during transportation [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

via Consumerist

Hold Your Burger This Way To Keep Toppings From Squirting Out When You Bite Into It

The World Wide Web is a valuable thing, indeed. Without it, how would we know that all the rules we’ve learned about eating hamburgers have been wrong, so wrong? Now we know, and from this moment on, you can save those delicious burger fixings from squirting unceremoniously out the back when you take a bite.

Our former siblings over at Kotaku cast their eyes all the way over to Japan, where a TV show called Honma Dekkai!? looked very seriously into the squirty-burger-stuff conundrum.

Researchers in fluid mechanics, engineering and dentistry came together in a scientific mind meld to solve the problem and came up with what seems to be a pretty easy solution (after four months of what we can only imagine was constant burger scarfing): It’s all in how you hold the burger.

Using 3D scans of burgers that showed how particles interacted in the eating process, researchers said that the usual hold — having just your thumbs on the bottom of the sandwich while the rest of your digits rest on top — will result in topping spillage.

So all you need to do is send your pinky fingers downstairs to help the thumbs, and voilà! Intact eating experience. That placement divides the burger into equal parts, allowing it to hold itself together better.

A potential downside? Once you’ve got the hands in the right position, you might not want to take them off your burger to say, grab a fry. Because you just don’t mess with perfection, unless you want a mess of burger insides on your plate. No one wants that.

The Perfect Way to Hold a Hamburger, Proven by Science [Kotaku]

ホンマでっか!?TV [FujiTV]

via Consumerist

Old Spice Slips Phone Number Into Commercial…Where Callers Could Win Super Bowl Tickets

hairguyIn a current ad for Old Spice shampoos, a man’s hair charms a female co-worker, and she writes down her phone number. One viewer of the ad noticed something strange about that number: it was toll-free. More importantly, why didn’t it use 555 for the first three digits like most fictional phone numbers do? There was only one thing to do: call the number and find out.

What he found out was that it wasn’t just a real, connected phone number. It was part of an Old Spice promotion. A woman answered the phone, and he explained why he had called the number. The woman on the other end had a completely unexpected proposition for him.

“Well, I’m glad you [called],” she said, “because if you’re interested, I’d like to give you two Super Bowl tickets.”

He says that he didn’t believe her at first. She gave him the phone number of a colleague, who works at Old Spice’s advertising agency.

Out of about 12,000 people who called the number in the ad yesterday, there have been two ticket winners. In other news, 12,000 people called a random toll-free number that they saw in an online Old Spice ad.


The best coincidence? The winner doesn’t have to travel very far. He moved to New York City from Philadelphia just last week.

Man Calls Number in Old Spice Ad, Gets Huge Surprise [ABC News]

via Consumerist

Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman: Helping Customers Through The Mega-Bureaucracy Of The Mail Since 1998

The post office might be one of the most incomprehensible bureaucracies in the country. It is, on the one hand, a massive network spanning every state, county, and city in the nation. It is also, on the other hand, hyper-local: for most of us, letter carriers literally come right up to the front door six days a week.

When it works, it works amazingly. Less than fifty cents to get something from Boston to Juneau in a few days without having to think about it? That’s some pretty sharp infrastructure. But when it doesn’t work well, consumers can find themselves in a circle of bureaucratic hell even deeper than the DMV.

Enter the Postal Regulatory Commission. The PRC’s mission, basically, is to keep the Postal Service in line. They approve mail rate increases and they make sure the USPS follows its own rules and regulations. They also can be a recourse for customers who can’t get what they need from the postal service.

Chairman Ruth Goldway, the head of the Commission, sat down with Consumerist this week to explain what the PRC’s role is, why some bad service keeps happening, what elements are working as intended, and how the United States Postal Service could evolve with tighter resources in an increasingly digitally-oriented world.

The system is working as intended…

The Post Office might be big and slow, but it’s still a remarkable system, chairman Goldway said. “The US has 40% of the world’s mail,” she explained, and the post office is “a robust and heavy-volume system that works, on the whole, pretty well. I think we should be proud of that.”

Although that system may not always reflect what individual consumers want to see, for the most part it does exactly what it’s designed to do. You may sometimes have a hard time trying to buy stamps or send a letter, but your individual business is, well, very individual.

Individual consumers aren’t the biggest movers of the mail. The USPS takes almost more of a business-to-business approach to their work. “Most of their focus is on the big mailers dropping hundreds of thousands or millions of pieces of mail into the system and getting those delivered to you very quickly,” Goldway said. When a year’s worth of tax forms start rolling in at the end of January, it’s easy to see what she means.

Along the edges, though, some of the deliberate choices the USPS has made in how they serve individual customers frustrate many. Does your mail come at 6, 7, or 8 p.m.? That’s not your letter carrier having trouble with their route. That’s just the reality of what they’re bringing to your house these days. “They want their delivery people to be at the office when the Amazon packages arrive,” Goldway said.

Cutbacks have also forced rearrangement. Mail now comes in to local stations later than it used to due to reduced capacity farther upstream in the network. That means letters and packages are in the hands of workers to deliver to the homes on their routes later in the day, too.

…Except when it’s not.

The PRC received about 2600 rate and service complaints last year, according to their 2013 annual report (PDF). The biggest issue consumers write or call in about? The mail not going where it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to. Missing, misdelivered, late, or undelivered mail complaints form just over half the bunch. Rudeness (from USPS employees) comes in 5th.

PRC 2013 Annual Report (PDF), p. 9

PRC 2013 Annual Report (PDF), p. 9

Chairman Goldway explained that the USPS has been putting in more measures to track where the mail is actually going, and when. Those bar codes printed on the front of envelopes by the time you get them in your hands? Those are part of a system that allows the postal service to track mail from drop-off to delivery, and helps them identify bottlenecks or where in the system items go astray.

As for the face-to-face customer service interactions at your local post office, those are a slower change. Formerly, USPS employees got promoted into customer-facing post office day shift jobs based on seniority and performance in sorting centers–a completely different kind of work, that may not always have trained them for a full day of essentially retail interaction.

Recently, Goldway said, the postal service “has been trying to improve the training for those people, and adjust the decisions that are made about who gets the jobs.” But, she added, “they’ve also severely cut back on the number of clerks–so the level of personal interaction is not that good. And they have not been very innovative in terms of developing better customer processes.”

So are things getting better with time and recent changes? Maybe. Because the metrics keep changing, it’s hard to tell. “With regard to customer service, it’s a little harder for me to say what the trends are, because the postal service has changed its measurement systems several times in the last four or five years. So you can’t compare apples to oranges,” the chairman explained. She added that this year will use the same measurement tools as last year, though, “so we might be able to see some trends that we hadn’t before.”

Those trends, however, are very high-level information: the data comes in at a national level. The PRC doesn’t get to see it broken down, even though complaints do differ significantly by region. So if all’s well in Chicago but terrible in San Diego, that’s something the PRC will have trouble tracking.

How can we fix it?

The PRC can only give as much guidance as the information it has. “What gets measured gets paid attention to,” Goldway said, and so the first step to fixing a system is having clear data about that system.

When individuals contact the PRC with a rate or service issue, a real person answers the phone. After the PRC has received the report, they forward it to the USPS. The USPS is supposed to respond, allowing the PRC to then respond back to the individual, within 45 days.

The responses aren’t always what a consumer wants to hear, but the PRC does follow up with a random sample. “We contact people who complain to us and ask them how satisfied they are with the service they’ve gotten from the postal service,” Goldway said, “and we use some of the information we get from these complaints to get an anecdotal sense of how service is developing.”

But again: the PRC can’t help consumers with issues that it doesn’t know they’re having. They aggregate reports to generate bigger pictures, and if they aren’t getting complaints about an issue, it may as well not exist.

Chairman Goldway urged customers to work with their local post offices as much as possible when they have an issue. Your local post office has a regional consumer affairs office, and that’s the first place you should head, Goldway said.

If you’re not satisfied with the outcome from dealing with the consumer affairs office, though, “then one alternative is to come to us,” said Goldway. “We will, with the consumer specialist who is in our office, try and underline those complaints, so they’re more likely to be heard.”

The PRC can’t guarantee anyone the resolution they want, because the postal service gets to make final calls, but, “we try to work as an additional voice for the consumer, over and above” the consumer affairs office.

Chairman Goldway admitted that her position can be a frustrating one. She advocated for the adoption of the Forever stamp, she said, and added, “I’d like to be the advocate for other solutions to problems. So if people have thoughts about that, I’m happy to hear them. We just can’t promise that we can solve the problems,” she said, because the regulatory law under which the PRC operates limits their powers. “Not the powers I’d like,” Goldway acknowledged, explaining that their job is to make sure the postal service follows its own rules and procedures, not to write new ones.

“It’s frustrating for us. But we do have some review, and to the extent we raise these issues in the public domain of Washington, DC and get the ear of people in Congress, we can make a difference as well.”

Where do we go from here?

To the generation who have now grown up so plugged in that even e-mail and IMs feel like dinosaur tech, the post office feels like an irrelevancy. And right now, it may mostly be. But Goldway has hopes for the postal service’s ability to continue adapting to the future.

The USPS isn’t just a mail service, Goldway said–it’s a giant network of under-used community agencies: “I’ve been a strong advocate of trying to use post offices for more than just the mail, for seeing them as community centers for use by other government agencies or other activities. I’d like to see the postal service use its network in more than one way.”

Goldway suggested putting technology in the hands of letter carriers to let them communicate back and forth with individuals on their routes as one possible way of better using those community connections. She also suggested animatedly that post offices would be an excellent resource for reaching the unbanked, lower-income Americans who need safe, secure access to basic financial services.

In the meantime, chairman Goldway encouraged the public to make their rate and service complaints, to contact the public advocates working on current cases, and to attend public meetings to make their voices heard. We may all complain about the mail, but it only stands a chance of getting better if you complain to the people who can fix it.

via Consumerist

California Company Settles FTC Charges Of Exposing Consumers’ Medical Transcripts Online

GMR Personal information doesn’t get much more personal than your medical history. Ensuring your medical records are secure remains a top priorty for the Federal Trade Commission as they settled their 50th data security case on Friday.

The FTC announced that GMR Transcription Services, Inc. has agreed to settle charges that its inadequate data security measures resulted in thousands of consumers’ medical transcripts being indexed by a major search engine and available publicly online.

Affected transcripts were prepared by hired contractors between March 2011 and October 2011. Some of the files contained notes from medical examination of children and information concerning psychiatric disorders, alcohol use, drug abuse and pregnancy loss.

GMR’s privacy statements and policies promised consumers that their personal information would be highly secured. However, the company did not require individual contracts to implement security measures and in one case files were stored in readable text on a server accessible online.

As part of the settlement, GMR must establish a comprehensive information security system program to protect consumers’ personal information. The program must be evaluated initially and every two years by a third-party for the next 20 years.

The charges against GMR marks the FTC’s 50th data security case since beginning the data security enforcement program 12 years ago.

Provider of Medical Transcript Services Settles FTC Charges That It Failed To Adequately Protect Consumers’ Personal Information [Federal Trade Commission]

via Consumerist

Hazmat Teams Investigating Suspicious White Powder Found At 3 Hotels Near Super Bowl

This stuff is bath salts, but you get the picture. (Nomadic Lass)

This stuff is bath salts, but you get the picture. (Nomadic Lass)

One thing you count on in a city hosting the Super Bowl is that there will be a whole bunch of people from out of town staying at nearby hotels. Which makes it that much easier for ne’er-do-wells of the world to cause trouble: Hazardous materials teams are on the ground at three New Jersey hotels near MetLife Stadium after reports of a mysterious white powder found on the premises.

Not only that, reports the New York Daily News, but a letter with white stuff was also delivered to a Midtown office, addressed to former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, authorities say.

The hazmat teams were joined by bomb squads late this morning to test the powders, but it’s unclear so far what the suspicious substances are. They’re suspicious, that much is sure.

One employee in the Midtown office was exposed to the white stuff when he opened a letter addressed to Giuliani, and eight others in the mail room were also near the powder, a police source tells the NYDN. So far no one is showing any ill effects.

It’s unclear whether anyone came into contact with the stuff at the three New Jersey Hotels, or how it was delivered.

Which is good, because anthrax or ricin or whatever it might be is totally the worst way to start your Super Bowl party. Me, I prefer cheese dip.

White powder scares reported at three hotels near MetLife Stadium, site of Super Bowl [New York Daily News]

via Consumerist

More Than 2 Years Later, Court Finally Signs Off On $8.5 Billion Settlement… Sort Of

In June 2011, Bank of America reached an $8.5 billion settlement deal with 22 groups of investors who had been misled into sinking their money into securities that they didn’t know were backed by worthless home mortgages. Today, more than two-and-a-half years later, it appears that this matter may be nearing an end, but maybe not.

Immediately after the settlement was announced, some investors, including AIG, challenged the deal, alleging that $8.5 billion is only a “small fraction of the potential liability that [BofA] would have faced in litigation,” and that a number of the other investor groups involved in the settlement either do a significant amount of business with BofA or were part-owned by the bank. Thus, contended the rogue investors, these groups had an interest in keeping the damage to BofA to a minimum.

In total, the 22 investor groups held $105 billion worth of disputed securities.

The investors claimed that the trustee in charge of the securities involved in this dispute, Bank of New York Mellon, failed in its fiduciary duty to the investors, and that it was remiss in investigating $31 billion worth of loan modification claims brought by the investors.

On the first allegation, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled today that BoNY Mellon “did not abuse its discretion in entering into the settlement agreement and did not act in bad faith or outside the bounds of reasonable judgment.”

However, regarding BoNY Mellon’s investigation into the loan mods, the court found that the trustee “acted ‘unreasonably or beyond the bound of unreasonable judgment’ by failing to investigate claims over loan modifications.”

This unresolved issue leaves the settlement in a spot where discontent investor groups can continue to challenge the deal.

A rep for AIG tells the Wall Street Journal that “This case is very far from over because the settlement will not take effect until a variety of potential post-trial motions and appeals are resolved.”

Court approves Bank of America’s $8.5 bln mortgage settlement [Reuters]

Judge Approves $8.5 Billion Pact Between Bank of America, Investors []

via Consumerist

Pizza Perfume: For When You Want To Bring A Whiff Of Oregano Everywhere You Go

When Pizza Hut failed to brings its oft-discussed pizza perfume to full retail reality, it seems a space was created in the eau de food space-time continuum, waiting for some other product to waft in and fill the void. So of course, one company did, and thus we have $20 1-ounce bottle of pizza perfume on the market.

The company’s website admits that it’s a “departure” from its usual fare — despite the fact that Demeter also sells dirt, bourbon and earthworm as scents — and this one stretches “the boundary of the concept of wearable fragrance.”

“But we had to try – tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, a touch of oregano – perfectly balanced for the adventurous.”

Yeah, or for the hungry who just can’t be eating pizza all day, every day because some people in society frown on that. Stupid society.

Anyway, Gothamist checked out a bottle of it and it sounds like the reviews are a bit mixed. On the one hand, pizza! On the other, smelling like you rolled around in pizza!

“It’s like what living with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles must smell like,” one staffer notes.

And another: “Crust. Slightly burnt. Few days old. The job is getting you down but you persevere. You haven’t tasted anything but mozzarella and tomato sauce in months. You’ve forgotten what the ocean smells like. The line between thin crust and thick crust seems monumental. Life is what happens when you’re too busy smelling like pizza. Fin.”

I don’t know if I’m intrigued, scared or hungry. Or all three. Someone hold me. And bring pizza.

Pizza Perfume Is Here To Seduce That Mutant Turtle Jailbait You Long For [Gothamist]

via Consumerist

Walmart Is Serious About Keeping Its Customers Hydrated

The good news is that Walmart has set their prices to encourage customers to buy larger quantities of water. The bad news is that they’re also giving us price incentives to drink more Dr Pepper. Mmm, sugar water.

Adan spotted this soda display at his local Walmart. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the regular Dr Pepper bottle on the left is a 1.5 liter bottle, and the on on the right is a 2-liter bottle.

Soda makers keep trying to bring the 1.5 liter bottle back, and somehow it’s never caught on. Maybe pricing shenanigans like this are the reason why.


Homer noticed this odd Dasani pricing and sent it along. “I noticed that Walmart really wants us to drink more water,” he writes. “I’m comforted by Walmart’s concern for my hydration.”


via Consumerist

Travel Club Scammer Sentenced To 7 Years Behind Bars

We told you last summer about the New Jersey couple who pleaded guilty to charges they swindled millions of dollars from consumers through bogus “travel clubs” that promised discount travel deals but never delivered. Today, the husband was sentenced to seven years in prison while his wife got off with five years of probation.

To bring newcomers up to speed, for several years the couple operated fake travel clubs under a variety of names, including Dreamworks Vacation Club, Bentley Travel, Modern Destinations Unlimited, Blue Water Gateway, Five Points Travel Company, La Bonne Vie Travel and Vacation Clubs LLC.

They would lure unwitting consumers into 90-minute sales presentations for these clubs with the promise of a free cruise or other perk for attending. At the sales pitch, people were given the bad news that the cruise wasn’t free but would actually cost hundreds of dollars in fees and taxes.

Even then, some people would continue on with the scam, figuring that these costs were still less than they’d otherwise pay for the same trip.

All was revealed when the victims eventually realized that every date they wished to travel on just happened to be blacked out.

The couple had been running this scam since at least 2009. In 2011, they settled with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and agreed to pay $2.2 million in restitution to victims and to stop operating these travel clubs.

Except they must have had their fingers crossed when they made that promise, because these bogus travel clubs kept popping up all over the Mid-Atlantic and into New England.

“After law enforcement shut down [defendant Daryl] Turner’s shady travel companies, he opened a new one and went back to his old tricks,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By sending Turner to prison, we have ended his fraud spree and warned the public that this is not a man you want to trust with your money.”

After the 2011 settlement, authorities in NJ put a lien on the couple’s $751,300 home and seized eight bank accounts, five luxury cars including a Ferrari and a Bentley, and the requisite speedboat that all big-time scammers must buy so that its seizure by law enforcement can later be mentioned.

As part of the 2013 plea deal, the couple will turn over the home and other assets to help pay their $2.6 million restitution tab.

Consumerist’s Karin Price Mueller, who has been following this story for years with the Newark Star-Ledger, talked to some of the couple’s victims about the sentencing.

“I’m proud of the state,” one travel club victim tells the Star-Ledger. “Seven years is good. He’s not going to get his cappuccinos and steak and martinis.”

Travel club con-artist books trip to prison after stealing millions; wife receives probation []

via Consumerist

Goodwill Worker Returns $43,000 In Cash Found Stuffed Into Pockets Of Donated Clothing

You know the feeling when you reach into the pocket of some jeans or a jacket you haven’t worn in a while and come up with a $5 bill? Multiply that feeling by a whole lot and imagine what it’d be like to find a suit stuffed with cash for a grand total of $43,000.

This wasn’t a long-lost winter coat pulled out of seasonal storage though, but a donated set of clothing at a Goodwill store in Michigan, reports the Monroe News.

The manager of the store was going through a suit and robe that had recently been donated when he found a wallet and several envelopes stuffed with cash. Before even counting it out and thus, creating the inevitable caviar wishes and Champagne dreams, he called the cops.

The manager handed over all of the cash and the wallet with the owner’s identification information, and cops discovered about $43,100 in total. Police were able to track down the person who was probably quite distraught over losing so many stacks of $100 bills.

“We might find a quarter in somebody’s jeans,” the manager explained. “But that blows my mind.”

He didn’t even think twice about turning the cash in instead of squirreling it way in his pockets, he said. There was no doubt about it — the money had to go back.

“My biggest concern was getting the money back to the rightful owner,” he said. “I certainly can’t imagine losing that kind of money. I was so nervous having so much of someone else’s money.”

It turns out the person who’d donated the clothing had been cleaning out an elderly relative’s closet and never checked the pockets — what’s more, he had no idea there could possibly be that much money in his relative’s belongings.

“I am really proud of those people at Goodwill,” the man said. “It makes me feel good there are people out there like that, especially in this day and age.”

Worker Returns $43,000 Discovered In Donated Clothing [Monroe News]

via Consumerist

87,000 People Petition McDonald’s To Put Veggie Burgers On Menu

In spite of the salads on the menu, most fast food eateries cater to omnivores. I remember working with a vegetarian who would (willingly, mind you) go with me and my fellow co-workers to local fast food joints and order cheeseburgers without the meat, content to eat just the bun and cheese slices. Perhaps, all these years later, she’s one of the nearly 90,000 people who have signed a petition asking McDonald’s to put veggie burgers on the menu.

Burger King already offers a veggie option at some locations, and McDonald’s sells them at its restaurants in India, but not stateside.

The creators of this petition, which currently has 87,800 signatures, are asking McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson to please give non-meat-eating consumers a reason to visit the Golden Arches.

“Adding plant-based protein options at McDonald’s will appeal to workers out for a quick lunch, families with health-conscious members out to dinner, children on field trips, and anyone looking for something different than the current menu at McDonald’s where even the french fries contain beef flavoring,” reads the petition.

The author of the petition tells the Wall Street Journal that she believes McDonald’s is being short-sighted by not having a proper veggie option.

“They’re not only not getting the new customers who are health-minded, they’re losing customers to competitors,” she claims.

Of course, McDonald’s may be reluctant to release a veggie burger after another quarter of flat sales. The company recently blamed its overly complicated menu — which included too many limited-time and test offerings — for consumers becoming alienated with the brand.


via Consumerist

Walmart Testing Online Grocery Ordering And Pickup In Denver

Ordering stuff online for in-store pickup is convenient and saves on delivery fees, but would you do it with groceries? Would you do it with groceries at Walmart? That’s what the mega-retailer hopes to find out by testing “Walmart To Go” service in Colorado. They’ve combined their grocery delivery and in-store pickup business models, which just might be the logical coc

The system is pretty much what it sounds like, and similar to the Site-to-Store service that the company has provided since 2007. Customers place their orders online, then stop by the store to pick them up. Simple.

What about impulse buying? Interestingly, more than half of customers that Walmart surveyed said that in-store pickup appeals to them because it gives them the option to run in the store and pick up things that they forgot to add to the original order.

Walmart has been testing grocery delivery services in different regions since 2011, but the in-store pickup concept is new for grocery items. Customers pull up to a dedicated pickup area, or to the drive-thru pharmacy window in stores that already have them.

At $5 to $7 per order, Walmart’s delivery service is more accessible than the Amazon Fresh pricing model, which charges $299 per year for access to delivery in limited markets. They don’t plan to ditch delivery, and are continuing the service even in greater Denver.

Wal-Mart picks Denver for online/pickup test [Denver Business Journal]

Walmart Begins Testing Online Grocery Shopping With Local Store Pickup Option In Denver [Techcrunch]

via Consumerist

More Bad News For Babies: 216,000 Britax Strollers Recalled Over Finger Amputation Risk

(The Britax BOB Motion, B-Agile and B-Agile Double)

(The Britax BOB Motion, B-Agile and B-Agile Double)

It’s been quite a bad news week for babies and their parents — on the heels of yesterday’s recall of 200,000 baby pacifiers by Fred & Friends, Britax has announced it’s recalling 216,000 strollers over the risk of amputation.

Little fingers have a habit of going wherever they want, but that could be the very wrong place if it’s a Britax B-Agile, B-Agile Double or BOB Motion stroller, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says in announcing the recall.

“The hinge on the stroller’s folding mechanism can partially amputate consumers’ fingertips, break their fingers or cause severe lacerations, among other injuries, when they press the release button while pulling on the release strap,” the CPSC says.

The three types of strollers were sold in many color schemes including black, red, kiwi, sandstone, navy and orange. Major retailers nationwide sold the strollers, along with,,,, and other online retailers from May 2011 through June 2013 for between $250 and $450.

Check for the following model numbers on the label inside the stroller’s metal frame near the right rear wheel to see if your stroller is included in the recall:

B-Agile strollers: U341763, U341764, U341782 and U341783

B-Agile Double strollers: U361818 or U361819

BOB Motion strollers: U391820, U391821 and U391822

So far there have been eight reported incidents, including one partial fingertip amputation, one broken finger and severe finger lacerations.

Stop using the recalled strollers immediately and contact Britax for a free repair kit: toll-free at (866) 204-1665 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday or online at or and click on “Safety Notice” at the top right corner or on “Learn More” at the bottom center of the page, or e-mail for more information.

Strollers Recalled by Britax Due to Partial Fingertip Amputation Hazard []

via Consumerist

Is Chipotle’s Anti-GMO Stance Resulting In Profits?

Chipotle is about to launch "Farmed & Dangerous," a 4-part satirical look at industrial farming, on Hulu.

Chipotle is about to launch “Farmed & Dangerous,” a 4-part satirical look at industrial farming, on Hulu.

Last year, gut-busting burrito chain Chipotle quietly became the first restaurant of its type to begin identifying which of its ingredients may contain genetically modified ingredients, while also publicly stating that its long-term goal is to eliminate GMO ingredients from its menu. This can be a costly move in a business with relatively thin margins, but it may be working in Chipotle’s favor.

BusinessWeek takes a look at the Colorado-based chain’s sales since it made its anti-GMO stance known to the public.

Chipotle recently reported a 30% increase in quarterly profits and sales at stores open more than a year were up 9.3%. In the last quarter of 2013, stores were averaging an additional $622/day over the same time period in 2012.

“The most obvious difference in the company’s approach was its vow in March to eliminate genetically engineered ingredients,” writes BusinessWeek’s Kyle Stock.

The eatery chain also has a position against the unnecessary non-medical use of antibiotics in farm animals, though last August it did leave open the door to buying some beef from antibiotic-treated cows, claiming there may not be enough drug-free beef to go around.

Chipotle sees its position on these matters as good for marketing and will soon launch a four-part satirical look at industrial farming called “Farmed & Dangerous” on Hulu. The trailer for the series is below.

“That’s why we create marketing designed to make people more curious about these issues,” Co-CEO Steve Ells explained in a conference call about earnings on Thursday. “We believe the more curious they become and the more they learn, the more likely they’ll come to Chipotle.”

via Consumerist

After 23 Years, Eastern Air Lines Hopes To Rises From The Ashes To Fly Again

eastern Consumers could have another option when looking for their next flight. After more than 20 years away from the tarmac, Eastern Air Lines Group filed paperwork this week to begin service.

The airline, which last flew in 1991, has begun the long process of gaining approval to begin service by filing applications with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Association, CNN Money reports.

Although the approval process can take up to 18 months, officials with the airline hope to begin flights as early as December.

The Miami-based airline would begin as a provider of charter services and work up to scheduled service when more investors come on-board, Ed Wegel, Eastern Airline CEO tells CNN Money.

Eastern Air Lines was founded in 1928 and earned a reputation as the major carrier along the East Coast. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in 1989 and stopped service as a result of labor unrest and a drop in air travel following the Gulf War.

The group of former airline personnel purchased rights to the Eastern name and logo from bankruptcy court in 2009, but couldn’t begin the process to restart service until receiving several millions of dollar from investors.

Even with strong name recognition and a rich history, Eastern Air Lines faces an uphill battle in today’s airline industry. Four major carriers – American Airlines, United Continental, Delta Air Lines and Southwest – control 80% of the air traffic in the United States.

Additionally, the FAA has revised a number of air travel rules that make things tougher on smaller airlines. A new requirement for longer rest periods for pilots has already wreaked havoc on small airlines; JetBlue had to ground more than 300 flights during a snowstorm earlier this year to abide by the new rule.

Still, smaller airlines have been making up ground recently. In order for American Airlines and US Airways to complete their merger last year, the Department of Justice required they give up several gates and slots at busy airports. JetBlue and Southwest came out the big winners in that deal nabbing most of those slots.

Group files to bring back Easter Air Lines [CNN Money]

via Consumerist

You Can Now Drive A Tesla Model S Cross-Country — If You Don’t Mind An 800-Mile Detour

Power up.

Power up.

After earlier test drives up and down the East Coast last winter, the next obstacle for the Tesla Model S in its quest for acceptance was the task of setting up superchargers across the country, to enable the kind of American road trip everyone says they’re planning to take someday. Anyway, you can now drive cross-country in a Tesla, but you’ll just have to take a bit of a detour.

Two teams of Tesla employees are in the midst of a publicity stunt to showcase the network of charging stations, reports CNNMoney. The teams left L.A. on Wednesday and hope to be in New York in three days.

“Easy! I did 2,800 or so miles in less than two days and with only one case of energy drinks and 18 packs of Slim Jims!” you might be saying.

But it’ll take these Teslas a bit longer, as the cars aren’t driving the most direct route due to the twisty, windy ways of the supercharger network. It spreads across 3,600 miles (according to Google maps) and more than 600 of those are on small highways instead of faster interstate freeways.

Tesla claims the route is more like 3,400 miles, which is still miles and miles longer than the usual route. This path meanders north a bit, skirting Mt. Rushmore, before it joins up with the more direct northern route. Then it swoops down to Maryland and Delaware before hitting the New Jersey Turnpike (a route that is never fun for anyone, believe me).

Each station’s chargers are supposed to juice up the cars for about 170 miles of driving, and there are 32 stations on the route Tesla will be taking.

At the rate it’s going, Tesla says there will be a new supercharging station every day, so that by the time we’re ringing in 2015, drivers can opt for a more direct route.

Tesla’s 800-mile cross-country detour [CNNMoney]

via Consumerist

Amazon May Raise Price On Prime By $20 To $40

For years, Amazon has been charging an annual fee of $79 for Amazon Prime membership, which includes free two-day shipping on many items and access to a library of streaming movies and TV shows at no extra cost. For people who take advantage of both aspects of the service, it’s a pretty good deal at under $7/month, but is that all about to change?

In a conference call to discuss its fourth quarter earnings report on Thursday, Amazon admitted that it’s considering — not definitely doing it, but considering — raising the annual fee for Prime by twenty to forty dollars.

Amazon says there are “tens of millions” of Prime members around the world, growth that has likely been encouraged by increased use of tablets and other wireless devices that can stream Amazon Prime videos.

In its earnings report, the e-tailer says it increased the size of its Prime video library from 33,000 titles to 40,000 in December. It’s also recently begun getting into original programming with the launch of two shows, Alpha House and Betas.

It’s possible the additional costs of content acquisition and creation may be causing Amazon to look at that $79 and dream of a bigger number. Maybe the company will have different tiers of Prime service for people who want the video plan and those who just want the free shipping benefits? We don’t know as Amazon isn’t saying.

Amazon has made changes to Prime that some say make it less worthwhile. First, it began labeling some items as “add-on” items that did not count toward the minimum purchase total to qualify for free shipping. Then it raised that minimum from $25 to $35. For customers who had used Prime for many, smaller-dollar purchases and didn’t watch any of the streaming video selections, these changes took away a lot of the value for the program.

Amazon considering $20 to $40 price hike for Prime service in US [TheVerge]

via Consumerist

FAA Puts The Kibosh On Thirsty Ice Fishermen’s Dreams By Banning Beer Delivery Drones

Have you ever been ice fishing? There you are, out on the frozen expanse, huddled in a shack and focuses all your attention on a hole in the ice. Well, half your attention. The other half is all about talking to your friends and throwing back a beer. But one local brewery got in a spot of trouble for trying to make the beer part easier with a drone that delivered frosty cold drinks right to your ice fishing shack.

The Federal Aviation Administration frowns on people sending out their own drones into the skies, but the owners of Lakemaid Beer figured they were just doing thirsty fishermen a favor by ferrying drinks through the air so they wouldn’t have to leave their toasty shacks.

The company — which calls itself the fishermen’s lager — had just started the local deliveries near Stevens Point, Wis., but the Minnesota-based company had its eye on a bigger slice of the ice fishing pie, reports NPR’s The Two Way. It’d hoped to use the drones to shuttle beer to ice shacks from bait and beer shops all over the wintry north.

Though it had only recently arrived in the skies, the FAA told the company its drones had to be grounded afer this first test.

“We were a little surprised at the FAA interest in this since we thought we were operating under the 400-foot limit,” one of Lakemaid’s managing partners said. Everyone at the company “figured a vast frozen lake was a lot safer place than [what] Amazon was showing on 60 Minutes.”

Drones aren’t allowed for commercial delivery, however, and as such the brewery can’t go on with its plans to use American airspace to bring thirsty fishermen (and woman, don’t you doubt it) a cold one.

The FAA told Lakemaid in an email that it “recognizes that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding” that their actions are legal. But those rules only apply to people flying model airplanes.

The partner says he can see where the FAA is coming from (until someone from the FAA goes ice fishing and runs out of beer).

“I understand their concern,” he says. “Drones whizzing around piloted by any knucklehead is probably not the Jetsons future we all imagined.”

Watch the test video below:

Beer Drone Can Buzz The Skies No More, FAA Says [The Two Way]

via Consumerist

Another Cruise Returns To Port Early With More Than 170 Ill Passengers

caribprincess Days after Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas had to return to port early after hundreds of passengers fell ill, Carnival’s Caribbean Princess returned home to Houston last night, a day ahead of schedule, with at least 170 sick people on board.

Much like the Explorer of the Seas situation, it’s believed that the norovirus, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, may be to blame for the sick passengers on board the Caribbean Princess.

The Centers for Disease Control is investigating the matter. In its preliminary report, it found that 162 of the ship’s 3,102 passengers had reported feeling ill during the cruise, while 11 of the Caribbean Princess’s 1,148 crew members admitted to feeling sick.

“We have already been working with the crew in getting some stool samples so we can send that back to our labs for testing,” a rep for the CDC tells the Houston Chronicle.

Early test results turned up positive results for the norovirus.

“We were confined to our room for three days,” one passenger recalled after finally being allowed to disembark the ship. “They threatened us saying if we left they would call the coast guard. The cruise sucked.”

The official reason given to passengers for the early return to port was that fog would be cutting their trip short.

“We are upset they told us it was fog,” says another passenger after exiting the ship. “If they had said in the first place it was sickness it would have been better. We knew it was a lie when they were predicting the fog as early as Tuesday. It was a shame to miss Belize.”

The Caribbean Princess is owned by Carnival and operated under Carnival’s Princess Cruise subsidiary. The ship will undergo a “thorough sanitization” before it heads out on its next trip, which is scheduled to depart tomorrow afternoon.

A rep for the cruise line tells the Chronicle that because of the early return to port, some passengers will be put up in local hotels for the final evening of the scheduled itinerary. Passengers will also be offered a 20% discount on future cruise travel with the company.

According to the CDC’s round-up of outbreaks on international cruise ships, this is the third known outbreak already in 2014. In addition to the 700 or so people who fell ill on the Explorer of the Seas, another 142 people on board the Norwegian Star complained of vomiting and diarrhea during a cruise earlier in January.

via Consumerist

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Here are ten of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.


(1- Scoboco)


(4 – pjpink)

(5 – Joel Zimmer)


(6 – Fujoshi)


(7 – cookedphotos)


(8 – C_Dubyaa)

Our Flickr Pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Want to see your pictures on our site? Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool.

via Consumerist