vendredi 28 février 2014

This Weekend, Think About That Most-Coveted Of Golden Awards: The Worst Company In America Trophy

oscarpoo This weekend, all of Hollywood — and really, all of the nation — will be thinking about who will take home the most sought-after trophy in the world: The Golden Poo. That’s right, it’s time to start sending in nominations for the annual Worst Company in America tournament!

Starting… now! and continuing through 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 13, write to us to let us know about those companies that most deserve to be honored with the Golden Poo.

As always, nominated companies must regularly provide goods and services to American consumers.


In order for a nomination to be considered, your e-mail must not simply name the company being nominated, but must include a sentence or two that contains actual information on why you’re nominating.

So a nomination that reads “Company X sucks!” would not be considered, but one that states, “Company X sucks because it [fill in the blanks with reasons for sucking]” would be considered a valid nomination.

You can still nominate multiple companies, but each nominee must have its own explanation.

Once you have your nominations ready, e-mail them to before 5 p.m. ET on March 13.

This year’s WCIA bracket will be revealed Monday, March 17 with voting kicking off the next day.

Best of luck, and may the worst company win!

True Confessions Of A Temporary UberX Driver

If you’re 23 or older, have a driver’s license and car insurance, and have a nice, clean late-model four-door car, you can sign up to drive strangers around for UberX. Should you? Well, it depends on your feelings about voyeurism, cash, and people eating in your car.

Writer Mickey Rapkin signed on to drive his 2013 Prius for UberX in Los Angeles, and you really should check out his “Uber Cab Confessions” in the March issue of GQ. He pondered the wide swath of humanity (who can afford car service and smartphones) who climbed in his backseat, he gained new insights into life. “As I merge into traffic,” he recollects about a trip driving four young partying young adults who are drinking out of a pimp cup in his immaculate backseat. “I begin to understand how my parents must have felt all those years ago chauffeuring around me and my idiot friends.” So it’s like driving your kids around, but with strangers who you can’t ground or guilt if they misbehave.

Driving for Uber does provide some quality eavesdropping and glimpses into others’ lives that you may not have expected. It becomes addictive after a while. “The job becomes akin to binge-watching a TV series late at night on Netflix,” he writes. “Okay, just one more.”

Uber Cab Confessions [GQ]

“I Just Won $50,000″ Is A Pretty Good Way To Talk Yourself Out Of A Speeding Ticket

The winning ticket/get out of speeding free card. (Massachusetts State Lottery)

The winning ticket/get out of speeding free card. (Massachusetts State Lottery)

“I’ve got to deliver this encryption key to super secret government operatives before aliens blow up the world” and “Seriously, I’m on my way to save puppies from a burning pet store” are pretty good excuses, but the truth worked great for one man caught speeding — he’d just won $50,000 in the lottery.

An unusual excuse, yes but it just so happened to be true, say police in Hingham, Mass. (via CBS Boston)

The 22-year-old man told cops he’d won the $50,000 on a $2 Massachusetts State Lottery scratch-off ticket and was racing to the lotto headquarters to collect his prize. The lottery confirmed he’d won.

The ticket provided just the proof he needed, and police decided to just issue him a verbal warning and sent him off to cash in on his newly rich future.

“Today was really his lucky day,” the department added on Twitter.

Così Franchisee Bets TV Reporter $10,000 Restaurant Will Stay Mouse-Free

redsignA franchise of the sandwichery Così in Washington, D.C. was closed down yesterday due to a failed health inspection. What were the restaurant’s violations? Meats stored at unacceptable temperatures, improperly labeled food, food preparation surfaces not clean or sanitized, and mice. So many mouse droppings.

It turns out that the same restaurant was temporarily closed after a health inspection for a rodent infestation last year. When a crew from TV station WUSA stopped by to report on the situation, as they do for all post-inspection restaurant closures, they were ordered out of the restaurant. In a follow-up e-mail, a district manager told the station that “asking questions aggressively” and looking under the furniture caused “a great deal of distress towards our customers and our Cosi team.” You know what else causes customers distress? Mouse crap.

The franchise owner followed up with the station and promised to improve conditions in the restaurant and improve staff training. The $10,000 bet entered the picture when they reminded him of this promise a year ago.

If the restaurant gets cited for rodents in 2015, the franchise owner will make a $10,000 charity donation to the reporter’s choice of organizations. “Tell me the charity and we’ll make the donation on your behalf,” he said. Mark your calendars.

Restaurant Alert: Metro Center infestation closes Cosi [WUSA] (WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO)

Secret Service Reportedly Investigating Possible Data Breach At Sears

The retail world is still feeling the aftershocks that rumbled through the industry after Target revealed it was hit in a hack attack that exposed credit card info and personal data of up to 110 million customers. As such, inside sources are whispering that Sears is the focus of a new probe from the U.S. Secret Service to see whether it was the victim of a possible security breach.

Bloomberg News cites a person familiar with the investigation who says the Secret Service is looking into things at Sears, but didn’t explain any other details like how big the breach might be, if it exists, or when it might’ve happened.

Sears is staying relatively mum as well, admitting that it’s got the same concerns everyone else does after the Target attack, but stopping short of confirming a particular incident at the company.

“There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers, and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach,” said Howard Riefs, a Sears spokesman. “We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach.”

So basically, they’re not sure anything has happened, but they’re also not sure something hasn’t happened.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service is continuing to investigate the hack attacks on Target and Neiman Marcus, which put the credit card data of millions of consumers at risk at the end of 2013.

Sears, Secret Service Said to Probe Possible Data Breach [Bloomberg News]

USDA Report: We’re Wasting 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Every Year

The next meal where you fail to join The Clean Plate Club, just remember this number: 141 trillion calories. That’s how much food the United States Department of Agriculture says Americans are wasting every year — about 1,249 calories per person, per day.

And a lot of wasted food could be going to feed people who need it, points out NPR’s The Salt blog in its coverage of the repot.

Researchers at the USDA’s Economic Research Service reached that hefty number by crunching the numbers from 2010, the most recent year with data available. Any edible food that’s available for consumption was included, stuff that’s spoiled, thrown out by retailers for blemishes or deemed unworthy, and whatever food you leave on the plate (or forget in your doggy bag left in the back of a cab, sigh).

A total of 133 billion pounds of food was lost in 2010, or to put it another way, 31% of the total food supply, worth about $161.6 billion.

What are we wasting the most? Surely there aren’t large number of Kobe beef steaks sitting in Dumpsters. We’re most likely to waste dairy products, vegetables and grain products, say USDA researchers.

“So what if I don’t finish my burrito? Why should I care?” a hypothetical version of an uncaring person might say. But you should care, say researchers — not only are we losing food, there’s money going into the trash along with nonrenewable resources like fuel and water.

And when you dump food at a landfill or let it decompose, it emits greenhouse gases which are harmful to the planet. Not to mention all the empty stomachs at home and around the world that would welcome a good meal.

These reasons could give us a collective kick in the pants to cut down on food waste, and it’s up to us, say researchers: “Economic incentives and consumer behavior will be paramount in reducing food loss.”

Even better? Your grocery bills could get smaller, maybe.

“If food loss is prevented or reduced to the extent that less food is needed to feed people (i.e., the demand for food decreases), then this would likely reduce food prices in the United States and the rest of the world.”

The Clean Plate Club, everybody. Remember: Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach.

U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year [The Salt]

Truck Carrying 6,000 Gallons Of Milk Crashes Into House, Homeowner Probably Cries

A couple near Pittsburgh were just minding their own business and getting ready for dinner when they heard a sound like an earthquake. There was not an earthquake in Pittsburgh: there was a tanker truck full of milk on a collision course with their house.

A massive milk spill is bad enough when it takes place on the highway, but things get pretty scary when you combine huge amounts of milk, sub-freezing temperatures, and what’s supposed to be the property where someone lives.

Fortunately, no one was injured: not the occupants of the house, and not even the driver. The truck ended up upside down, crushing part of the house and filling both the yard and the house with milk. A fully-loaded tanker truck weighs more than 75,000 pounds.

In an interview with TV station KDKA, the couple’s adult son “Everything’s soggy, every step you take is just milk.” He noted that even the carpets were soaked with milk, concluding, “I don’t know that they’ll ever live in this house again if you ask me.”

That is definitely something to feel sad about. The state Department of Environmental Conservation may have to weigh in on the possible environmental impact of that much milk soaking into the ground, since it didn’t all go into the house’s carpets and furniture.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Milk Truck Overturns, Crashes Into Hempfield Twp. Home [CBS Pittsburgh]

Mattel Strikes Mega $460 Million Deal To Buy Mega Bloks Manufacturer

mega bloks Could construction be underway for a new Barbie dream house? Mattel certainly has the building Bloks on hand after announcing plans to takeover a Canadian toy maker.

On Friday, Mattel, the company behind Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels, announced it would buy Mega Brands, Inc., the manufacturer of Mega Bloks, in a deal valued at $460 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The building sets were the largest category that Mattel was missing from their toy arsenal and puts the company in position to compete with LEGO. Currently LEGO is the world’s number one line of construction sets, while Mega Bloks sits at the number two spot.

Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton says the purchase of Mega Brands is a growth driver for the company has been looking for.

“The acquisition will allow us to enter the construction category quickly and gives us a solid foundation to strengthen our business in the category,” he tells the Times.

Mattel has seen demand for its core products diminish in recent years. Although, Barbie was recently featured on Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit cover and one creative consumer is snatching up Hot Wheels to avoid ATM fees. Meanwhile, Mega has enjoyed more than $300 million in revenue from the construction set sector.

Officials with Mattel say they have no plans to shut down Mega’s Montreal headquarters.

Mattel to compete with Lego with $460 million Mega acquisition [Los Angeles Times]

Woman Temporarily Becomes Glasgow’s 87th Best Tourist Attraction On TripAdvisor

Mary seems pretty cool.

Mary seems pretty cool.

You might be the coolest person you know, but are you listed among your city’s top tourist attractions? Didn’t think so. But one woman in Scotland had at least temporary bragging rights as the 87th best attraction in Glasgow after a mix-up on TripAdvisor yesterday.

Mary isn’t on the list as of today, however: TripAdvisor now only lists 162 top attractions, whereas yesterday she was No. 87 out of 163, as you can see on the screengrabs provided by the Daily Mail.

Accompanied by a sideways photo that appears to be a profile picture, the entry for Mary had reviews like “Best Mary in Glasgow” and other tongue-in-cheek raves after the post caught the Internet’s attention.

She says she has no idea how she ended up on the list of attractions, as she’s been a user of the site for some time and didn’t do anything different lately.

‘I didn’t set it up. It must be a bug in the system or it is malicious,” she explained yesterday. “I’m already a user and I went on recently to review somewhere in Amsterdam so it may have happened then.”

She sounds a bit proud of her accidental status as an attraction, adding that she’s accomplished something unwittingly that can be a tricky process for actual attractions.

“I have been reading forums and apparently you have to bend over backwards to set up an account as an attraction. At least it is a good picture of me.”

TripAdvisor hasn’t explained how, exactly, Mary ended up on the list, only that this isn’t normal. Well, no duh: “It is rare that a listing that does not meet our guidelines makes it onto the site,” a spokesman said in a statement. “Thankfully, the very nature of our site allows for any inaccuracies to be quickly rectified, as is the case in this instance.”

If I ever go to Glasgow I feel like I’ll really want to hang out with Mary. She seems very pleasant.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you want to find out if she ever gets to chill with Mary in Glasgow: @marybethquirk

Woman becomes Glasgow’s 87th most popular tourist attraction on TripAdvisor [Daily Mail]

Taco Bell Continues Tradition Of Wrapping Food In Other Food With “Quesarito”

quesarito-taco-bell In its quest to make sure that every food item is encased not just within a wrap of some sort, but in a wrap made from another food item, Taco Bell says it is currently testing an unholy hybrid of burrito and quesadilla, which is of course called a Quesarito.

The Quesarito — quite literally a quesadilla wrapped around a burrito — has been a secret menu item for quite some time, but customers who tried to order one were just as likely to get a blank stare from a Bell employee as they were to end up with the calorific snack.

But the L.A. Times has confirmed with Bell HQ that the company is indeed testing the Quesarito, but only at one store in Oklahoma City.

For those in the OKC area, they have the option of beef, chicken or steak varieties, ranging in price from $2-3. For the rest of the world, you can just buy the two items and shove them into your mouth at the same time, as we imagine that replicates the final result.

Given the company’s success with putting taco filling in Doritos, and putting breakfast sausage in a waffle, we’re a bit surprised that Taco Bell isn’t doing a wider test of this item, since it presumably doesn’t involve any new equipment or ingredients and is just a matter of taking one item and wrapping it around the others.

Man Suing McDonald’s For $1.5 Million Because He Only Got One Napkin With His Food

Anyone who’s ever used a fast food napkin knows that if you’ve got a real mess on your hands, often just one won’t do. But one man reportedly suing McDonald’s claims that when he asked for more napkins after only getting one with his meal, he was treated poorly. He’s suing for $1.5 million. In American dollars.

That money would buy a lot of napkins for the California customer who says he got short shrift on Jan. 29 after ordering a Quarter Pounder Deluxe, reports TMZ.

He claims that when he asked for more, a manager said no, insisting that he’d already gotten some.

According to his lawsuit, the man replied: “I should have went to eat at the Jack-in-the-Box because I didn’t come here to argue over napkins. I came here to eat.”

The customer — who is African American — claims that things took a racist turn at that point, saying that the manager replied something about “you people.”

TMZ has an email from the plaintiff where he emailed the general manager to complain, claiming he can’t work because of the “undue mental anguish” caused by the manager’s “intentional infliction of emotional distress” during the napkin incident.

We’ve reached out to McDonald’s to see if the company has any comment on the lawsuit, and will update this post accordingly.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter but she only eats McDonald’s on road trips or the day after her birthday, so don’t expect any napkin stories: @marybethquirk

Man Sues for $1.5 Million: THEY ONLY GAVE ME ONE NAPKIN!!! [TMZ]

Under-Packaging Items For Shipping Just As Stupid As Over-Packaging Them

John needed a lot of blank DVDs to start a project, so he ordered some up from OfficeMax. He regrets that decision now. While his package came addressed to the correct name, the DVDs arrived smashed up after bouncing around loose in the box. John actually longs for the comical overpackaging that Amazon’s Stupid Shipping Gang is known for.

“Oh, how I wish I had used Amazon and been subjected to their incessant need to ship your packages so they arrive undamaged,” he wrote to Consumerist wistfully.


He was able to get the order exchanged, but couldn’t specifically request that OfficeMax maybe throw in some air pillows this time.


All we consumers ask for is a little balance, shippers. Is that too much to ask?

Pilot Shortage To Cut Flight Options? Maybe, Maybe Not, Says Govt. Report

Once upon a time many youngsters dreamed of careers as pilots. The thrill of taking flight and the glamorous depictions on television and the big screen created fantasies of a career in the sky. Over the years the industry has changed. Recently regional airlines have reported new regulations, higher costs of school and lower salaries are causing a pilot shortage that could result in fewer flights for consumers. But a new report by the Government Accountability Office shows that the issue may be more complicated than it seems.

The GAO report [PDF] found there is an adequate supply of pilots, but there may be a number of other factors that are creating a shortage for smaller airlines.

There are currently 109,465 active pilots with a first class medical certificate that are licensed to fly passengers and more than 100,000 other pilots with commercial licenses that could pursue an airline career in the future. With only about 66,000 pilots working for U.S. airlines, the report found that many may be working abroad, in the military, or in another occupation.

Failure by 11 out of 12 regional airlines to meet hiring targets for entry-level pilots last year may have more to do with the salary offered than with the number of pilots available. The average starting salary for regional airlines is $22,400, well below what major airlines offer.

A lower starting salary isn’t the only reason airline stakeholders are wary of future hiring prospects. Smaller airlines have reported that new FAA regulations have taken a toll on their pilot roster.

In January, regional airlines reported that a new FAA regulation, which requires 10 additional hours of rest for pilots, could mean fewer flight options. In fact, JetBlue grounded hundreds of flights during a winter storm in order to meet the regulation requirements.

Last year, new regulations went into effect that require both captains and co-pilots to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying before being hired by airlines. Prior to the regulation, only captains were required to have 1,500 hours.

While the report found there is currently a sufficient number of pilots available, that could change in the future.

A Bureau of Labor and Statistics employment projection suggests there will be a need to hire between 1,900 to 4,500 pilots each year in the next decade as current pilots retire, the report notes.

Pilot schools interviewed for the report said they have fewer students entering their programs resulting from concerns over the high costs of education and low entry-level pay at regional airlines. The average cost to obtain a commercial pilot certificate and meet flying hour requirements is in excess of $100,000.

Regional airlines are now taking additional steps to attract and retain qualified pilots, the report found. To attract more pilots airlines are increasing recruiting effort and developing partnerships with pilot schools to provide incentives.

Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots [Government Accountability Office]

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 5: Spending Your Wedding Cash

(photo: afagen)

(photo: afagen)

Wedding Week on How To Not Suck reaches its fairy-tale ending. After looking at all the big expenses, the things that cost a lot but shouldn’t, the oodles of extras, and booking your honeymoon, we deal with the happy problem of what to do with any money you receive from guests.

There’s a good chance you’ll be showered with gifts on your wedding day. Perhaps you’ll get a crystal vase. Or a pasta maker. Or his-and-hers (or his-and-his, or hers-and-hers) monogrammed bathrobes. Or maybe you’ll get a whole lotta cash.

Don’t blow it all in one place — at least not without some serious planning. Here’s how to put that money to good use and not suck at spending your wedding cash.


Your married life is a new start for you — together. So together you should come up with a plan to eliminate as much of your high-interest credit card balances and other debt as you can.

Start by reading this post about how to not suck when you merge your money after marriage.

Take its advice to sit down and have a very frank discussion with your honey about any and all debt you both have.

Next, talk about what resources you have — including your wedding cash — to pay it off, and decide if you want to pay it off as a team, or if the one who chalked up the debt will be responsible for the bills.

Before you say the person who spent the money should pay it down, consider this: If you want to buy a house together, both of your finances will be examined for a mortgage (unless you plan to do it solo). Also, having the debt linger will mean there’s less available cash for other things.

And importantly, if you decide to pay it off over time, it will slow down your ability to save for other goals and you’ll pay more interest, making the cost of keeping that balance very costly indeed.

For example, a $2,000 credit card bill at 16% will cost $2,659 in interest and take 16 years to pay off if you only make minimum payments. Taking $2,000 in wedding cash (on which you’d probably earn minimal interest in the bank) and paying off the debt gives you a near-instant return of the $2,659 you would have paid in interest. Not a bad deal at all.


We hope your marriage is all wine and roses and stuff like that, but chances are, there will come a time when you have a financial emergency.

So if you’ve paid off all your collective debt and there’s money left over, consider stashing it in an emergency fund.

This would be an account in both your names that you don’t touch unless there’s a real money emergency, such as a job loss, a leaky roof or other major must-do repair. Use a money market of savings account for this. While they don’t pay much interest, your cash will be safe and liquid should you need to tap some funds.

So how much should you have set aside? Financial advisors suggest you keep between three and six months worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If your job isn’t very stable, consider upping the amount you keep on the side — just in case.


Sit with your spouse and decide what your goals are. Do you want to buy a first home? Start a fund for annual vacations? Save for retirement?

These are all terrific ways to use, or save, some of your wedding cash.

But remember, the type of account in which you keep the money should depend on what the money will eventually be used for. If it’s retirement, then invest away in an IRA or other long-term and tax-advantaged plan, but if the money is for a home down-payment or other shorter-term expense, stay away from the stock market and choose a money market fund or other liquid account instead.


When you’re starting out and financially merging two households, you’re going to have to deal with new expenses, new income and two potentially very different money minds.

Consider having a financial advisor give your situation the once-over, and help you set up a plan for long-term financial success. I’m partial to fee-based certified financial planners (CFP) who won’t charge you for advice rather than sell you products. (Those who charge commissions instead of fees may be tempted to push products that are profitable for the advisor and not so much for you, the investor.)

You can find a CFP in your area industry organizations such as the Financial Planning Association and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

You should also consider meeting with an estate planning attorney. This kind of pro can help you create a will, health care proxies and other essential documents.

Search for a qualified pro though organizations such as The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or your local bar association.


When your guests wrote a check or added cash to your wedding card, it’s pretty safe to say they wanted to use the money for something more exciting than paying the interest charges on your credit card debt.

So don’t go hog wild, but everyone should be able to enjoy spending a little money here and there. We all work too hard to earn what we have, and we should get to splurge a little, especially for an occasion as special as your nuptials.

Plus, as we all know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.


How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 1: The Most Expensive Steps

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 2: The Stuff People Pay Too Much For

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 3: The Costly Little Extras

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 4: The Honeymoon

Have a topic you’d like to see covered in How To Not Suck? Or maybe you’re an expert who would like to share your insight with Consumerist readers? Send us a note at

You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.


How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 4: The Honeymoon

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 3: The Costly Little Extras

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 2: The Stuff People Pay Too Much For

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 1: The Most Expensive Steps

How To Not Suck… At Teaching Your Kids About Money

How To Not Suck… At Valentine’s Day Gifts

How To Not Suck… At Merging Your Money When You Marry

How To Not Suck… At Borrowing For College

How To Not Suck… At Saving For College

How To Not Suck… At Pre-Paying For Your Funeral

How To Not Suck… At Making Financial New Year’s Resolutions

How To Not Suck… At Last-Minute Christmas Gifting

How To Not Suck… At Saving For The Holidays

How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving

How To Not Suck… At Disputing Credit Report Errors

How To Not Suck… At Lowering Your Utility Bills

How To Not Suck… At Home Inspections

How To Not Suck… At Understanding Credit Card Rewards

How To Not Suck… At Getting Ready For Tax Season

How To Not Suck… At Picking A Retirement Plan

How To Not Suck… At Deciding When To DIY

How To Not Suck… At Getting Out Of Debt

How To Not Suck… At First Year College Budgets

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Report: Quiznos Is Preparing To File For Bankruptcy

Is it time you start saying goodbye to your [insert favorite toasted Quiznos sandwich here]? Not quite, but the sandwich chain is reportedly readying itself to file for bankruptcy-court protection in the next few weeks, under the strain of complaining franchisees and a $570 million debt load.

The Wall Street Journal cites insiders who say Quiznos has been wheeling and dealing with creditors for weeks to work on a restructuring plan to ensure a smooth cruise through bankruptcy court, but negotiations haven’t resulted in a deal just yet.

Even with a Chapter 11 filing to help Quiznos, the company will have to also work on its apparently testy relationship with many franchisees who say they just can’t compete with other businesses because it’s so expensive to run a Quiznos. And if your franchise locations aren’t thriving, that means the entire brand suffers.

Franchisees not only have to pay fees to the company to use the name Quiznos, but operators also have to buy most of their supplies and ingredients from Quiznos’ distribution business. Many franchisees complained that that business is overcharging them for what they could get cheaper elsewhere.

One franchisee said he spent about $350,000 to open a Quiznos franchise in 2005, but quickly realized that the business wouldn’t make enough money to cover expenses, and ended up selling the franchise for half what he paid for it. That was less than a year from when he bought it.

He says his annual sales would’ve come in around $600,000, but when he was losing $3,000 to $5,000 a month, it wasn’t worth it.

“It sounds like we were doing a lot [of business] but there was actually no profit because of food costs and labor,” he said.

Quiznos Moves Toward Bankruptcy Filing [Wall Street Journal]

Consumerist Friday Flickr Pool Finds

Here are eight 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.

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.

Feds Investigating One Of The Nation’s Largest Assisted Living Companies

From the 2013 Frontline story on Emeritus and the assisted living industry. You can watch the whole thing here.

From the 2013 Frontline story on Emeritus and the assisted living industry. You can watch the whole thing here.

Last summer, a ProPublica/Frontline report put a spotlight on Emeritus Senior Living, one of the country’s largest private operators of assisted living facilities (and soon to be the largest, if a proposed merger goes through), raising questions about the company’s business practices and the general lack of regulation in the industry. Now comes news that Emeritus is under investigation by the federal government.

According to ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson, Emeritus has been the subject of a joint investigation by the Justice Department and the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services for more than a year. Investigators are reportedly looking into allegations of improper Medicaid billing and other issues.

Sources tell Thompson that company lawyers have instructed employees to “not feel compelled to provide answers, documents, or information to any government investigator or agent,” telling them they “may politely decline to answer,” or refer agents to the Emeritus legal department.

That said, the e-mail to employees did ask them to be truthful with any answers they did provide to investigators.

A rep for the company confirmed the existence of the investigation but deemed it a routine civil probe and said Emeritus has been cooperating fully.

Emeritus has previously paid $1.86 million to settle allegations of Medicaid billing fraud in Texas, where authorities claimed the company “routinely submitted false claims to the Texas Medicaid program” for 11 facilities in the state. Emeritus did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

Medicaid/Medicare also only accounts for about 14% of total revenue for Emeritus, though that still adds up to more than $250 million a year.

Consumer advocates tell ProPublica that, as in the Texas case, it is usually state authorities that investigate Medicaid billing concerns, which raises the question of why federal investigators are involved.

Only last week, Emeritus announced a proposed $2.8 billion merger with Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living. If the merger is approved, the combined company would operate some 1,100 facilities in the U.S., housing more than 100,000 seniors. The merged business would also take the Brookdale name, which did not receive the high-profile spanking given to Emeritus in the wake of the Frontline episode.

This Outfield Wall Ad Inadvertently Reveals Hidden Potential

The original photo of Corey Moncrief catching a fly ball inside of a catalog. (

The original photo of Corey Moncrief catching a fly ball inside of a catalog. (

Advertisers have been slapping their logos on outfield walls at baseball parks for longer than any of us have been alive, but have any of those advertisers taken advantage of the opportunities available for visual trickery?

As’s Dakota Gardner points out, this photo of Cleveland Indians outfielder catching a fly ball looks like his image has been poorly photoshopped into an image of a kitchen from a home furnishings catalog. But it’s really just large photo ad for a luxury homebuilder.

We think advertisers could take some lessons from this and start plastering outfield walls with ads that would make it look like an outfielder is shagging flies in a Walmart:

Or while waiting in line to pay his bill at Comcast:

Or getting a final workout in before receiving a pat-down from airport security:

We expect this will be the next big thing in baseball-wall advertising. Of course, I might regret suggesting this the first time that Marlon Byrd tries to run straight through the outfield wall of Citizens Bank Park thinking someone built a Burger King below section 105.