samedi 31 octobre 2015

All Chipotle Restaurants In Oregon And Washington State Close Due To E. Coli Outbreak

(Josh Bassett)
There’s a promotion at Chipotle tonight where people who wear costumes that include something extra, or an “unnecessary additive,” get burritos for $3. Yet restaurants in two states have closed today “out of an abundance of caution” after numerous reports of illness from Shiga toxin E. coli in recent weeks after eating at six restaurants in Oregon and Washington.

Since not all patients may have sought medical attention, the actual number of people who are sick is likely much lower than the official figures. As of this writing, that’s three illnesses in Oregon and 19 in Washington.

E. coli illness is miserable and inconvenient for most people, featuring abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea. However, people who are sick should be monitored for signs of dehydration, and young children and elderly people are susceptible to kidney failure.

A total of 43 restaurants have closed––first only those in areas where infections were reported, and now all restaurants in both states are closed until further notice. If you’ve eaten at a Chipotle restaurant in either state and become ill, seek medical attention so your doctor can take samples for public health authorities and monitor your symptoms.

In a statement, Chipotle said that they closed restaurants where no illnesses had been reported voluntarily, and they’re working on finding the cause of the contamination:

The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority. After being notified by health department officials in the Seattle and Portland areas that they were investigating approximately 20 cases of E. coli, including people who ate at six of our restaurants in those areas, we immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems. We are working with health department officials to determine the cause of this issue. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation.

This has raised an interesting question: will customers in those states have to miss out on the Halloween promotion?


E. coli Cases Linked to Chipotle Restaurants [Oregon Health Authority]
Oregon and Washington Chipotles close after 22 sick from E. coli [KATU]

vendredi 30 octobre 2015

Café Mocha Is Apparently Now The Flavor Of Winter And Christmas, Thanks To M&Ms

If pumpkin spice, pumpkin spice latte, and caramel apple are the flavors of fall, red velvet is the flavor of Valentine’s Day, and key lime pie and s’mores are the flavor of summer, what is the flavor of winter? Is there one? M&Ms have traditionally sold bags of cherry or mint flavored candies near Christmas, but now they’ve moved on to hot beverages. The flavor for Christmas is… café mocha.

(The Impulsive Buy)

It’s good that we’ve straightened out this mystery. What seasonal and holiday flavors will marketers come up with next? We thought that the holiday flavor phenomenon had peaked after Peeps milk, but apparently not. Personally, I’m holding out for carrot-flavored Easter treats.

SPOTTED ON SHELVES: Milk Chocolate Cafe Mocha M&M’s [The Impulsive Buy]

JustFab Is Reviewing Just What Makes So Many Customers Angry

justfab_headerAny company with millions of customers will have some customer service problems and complaints: where a company succeeds or fails is in how they respond to and resolve those problems. JustFab is a controversial company with roots in sketchy diet supplement and wrinkle-cream businesses, and JustFab representatives claim that they’re working really hard to resolve consumer complaints that they blame on rapid growth. Can their way of making sales ever become consumer-friendly?

We’re not sure whether that’s the case. How the sites in the JustFab family work is that every month there’s an item of the month––an outfit or a pair of shoes––that their “VIP” members will be billed for if they don’t log in and opt out of receiving it during the first five days of the month.

A customer might be drawn in with a single item that looks interesting, and end up signing up for a VIP membership (note: there is no less important tier of membership) when the price and terms aren’t disclosed until well into the checkout process. Memberships are difficult to cancel, and some combination of these factors is what has led to most of the thousands of complaints filed against the company. JustFab paid $1.8 million to settle a consumer protection lawsuit over these issues a year ago.

“When you’re bringing in hundreds of thousands of new customers a month, you’re not going to get everything right,” one of the company’s co-CEOs explained to Bloomberg Business. He conceded that maybe they will consider making a way to cancel through the website possible, but the reason why they would force customers to call in is to talk them out of canceling.

JustFab Is Reviewing Customer Service Practices as Complaints Pile Up [Bloomberg]

EPA May Finally Ban Toxic Pesticide For Food Use

(Patrick Herlihey)
A federal agency entrusted with protecting the health of Americans has finally gotten around to doing the job it’s paid to do by taxpayers. And once again, the only reason this agency is doing anything is because a court has ordered it to.

Back in 2000, and not without some pressure from outside organizations, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the in-home use of chlorpyrifos (also known by the brand name Dursban), one the most widely used pesticides, because it has been shown to have neurotoxic effects in humans, especially children.

Even though the EPA acknowledged at the time that the prohibition was necessary for the protection of America’s youth, the ban not only allowed Dow — the maker of Dursban and Lorsban — and others to continue selling home-use products containing chlorpyrifos for two additional years, it permitted the continued use of chlorpyrifos in crops for food production.

Then in 2007, concerned groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America — petitioned the EPA to consider a larger ban on all uses of chlorpyrifos, but to no avail; not because the EPA did the research and firmly concluded that the pesticide was indeed safe, but because the agency never made a decision.

Last summer, under pressure from a lawsuit by the NRDC to finally do something about chlorpyrifos, the EPA told the court that it would get around to proposing a rule by spring 2016.

This didn’t impress the court, which accused the EPA of deliberately dragging its feet on the matter.

“Although filibustering may be a venerable tradition in the United States Senate, it is frowned upon in administrative agencies tasked with protecting human health,” reads the order [PDF] from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court said that, rather than respond to the 2007 petition, the EPA had only provided “a litany of partial status reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action.”

While acknowledging that science isn’t easy, especially when you’ve got public health advocates and industry tugging at you from both ends, the court still declared that the EPA’s “ambiguous plan to possibly issue a proposed rule nearly nine years after receiving the administrative petition is too little, too late.”

The court gave the agency until Oct. 31 to fully respond to the 2007 petition, but since that’s a tomorrow and good luck finding a bureaucrat on a Saturday, the EPA released a passive-aggressive announcement today saying that it is now considering a wider ban on chlorpyrifos.

“EPA is not denying the petition because we are unable to make a safety finding based on the science as it stands currently,” reads the announcement, which disregards the fact that the agency has had nearly a decade to respond. “EPA is not issuing a final revocation rule because we have not proposed it and have not completed our refined drinking water assessment, leaving certain science issues unresolved.”

So instead, the EPA is proposing to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances based on the science as it stands.

That science, claims the EPA, shows that there is no apparent danger from chlorpyrifos with regard to food, but people who get drinking water from watersheds where chlorpyrifos is used heavily may be getting too much of the chemical.

Today’s announcement does not definitely mean the end of the road for chlorpyrifos. Instead, it means that the EPA is throwing open the door to comments on the subject, with the goal of releasing a final rule by… Dec. 2016.

But if the EPA does move forward with revoking all tolerances of chlorpyrifos, that would have the effect of canceling all associated food uses of the pesticide.

The NRDC is, not surprisingly, okay with today’s announcement.

“If this dangerous, World War II-era chemical does make its final exit from our fields, farmworkers would be safer on the job and children would have the chance to grow up healthier, free from its toxic effects,” writes NRDC Staff Scientist Veema Singla. “We look forward to working with EPA to swiftly implement the ban.”

Lawyer Accused Of Submitting 40K False Claims Against BP After Oil Spill (Including One For A Dog Named Lucy)


Now that there’s a finalized settlement between the Department of Justice and BP that puts an end to the legal debacle related to the 2010 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico — which left eleven dead and released millions of gallons of oil into the water — officials are taking a close look at the claims made against BP… including one filed by a dog named Lucy for $36,000.

In a recently unsealed indictment against one particularly noteworthy alleged fraudster, U.S. Prosecutors say a lawyer for plaintiffs has filed around 40,000 bogus claims, reports Bloomberg.

BP has maintained that many of those claims have no connection to the 2010 catastrophe, and sued the San Antonio lawyer in December 2013. The company accused him of falsely claiming tens of thousands of “phantom” victims of the spill. The case was put on hold while federal criminal investigators poked around a bit more, and it seems they’ve come up with some fodder: officials in Mississippi unsealed an indictment of the lawyer, his brother and five others on 95 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, and identity theft for allegedly submitting more than 40,000 false claims against BP.

The gem among all the others, of course, is a bit from the indictment involving a canine client, alleging that the defendant “submitted or caused to be submitted a ‘Presentment Form’ to BP claiming ‘costs and damages’ in the amount of $45,930.00 in the name of ‘Lucy Lu’ and claiming ‘Lucy Lu’ was a deckhand on a commercial seafood vessel. ‘Lucy Lu’ was a dog.”

All told, only four of the defendants clients were found eligible for payments, the indictment said, and we assume Lucy was not one of them.


The lawyer has denied wrongdoing, and his attorney says the indictment merely “recycles” BP’s civil fraud claims. Prosecutors say, however, that they began investigation in 2011, before BP took legal action.

That Time a Dog Claimed $46,000 in Damages From the BP Oil Spill [Bloomberg]

Former Starz VP Says Network Manipulated Comcast Merger, Asked Him To Inflate Subscriber Numbers

When reached for comment, a one-handed rep for Starz replied, "Groovy."
As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a former senior vice president of sales and affiliate marketing at a premium cable TV network. A recently dismissed Starz exec is now alleging that his former employer had been up to no good, manipulating the (since-failed) swap of markets between Comcast and Charter, and asking executives to inflate the network’s subscriber numbers.

This is all found in a lawsuit [PDF, via] filed yesterday in a California court by former Starz SVP Keno Thomas against the network, its top brass. Liberty Media — the former parent company of Starz, and part-owner of Charter Communications — is also named.

The lawsuit accuses the network of, among other things, firing Thomas after he repeatedly brought up concerns about allegedly questionable business practices at Starz.

First, after a former DirecTV executive was added to the Starz board of directors in 2013, Thomas says he raised questions about potential conflicts of interests and access to confidential information from the satellite company. Thomas claims that his direct supervisor, Chief Revenue Officer Michael Thornton (a named defendant in the complaint), told Thomas he’d be fired if he brought up the topic one more time.

Then, on April 28, 2014 — the same day that Comcast and Time Warner Cable (then attempting to merge) announced a deal with Charter to swap a few million customers and spin off others into a new company (partially owned by Charter) — Thomas says he attended a dinner in Los Angeles where his boss Thornton bragged that he and Gregory Maffei (Chairman of the Board at Starz and CEO of Liberty Media) had, according to Thomas “successfully and illegally manipulated a pending merger” in order to benefit Starz.

At the time, Comcast’s contract with Starz was set to expire, meaning the network was likely in for a protracted renewal negotiation.

But at that dinner, Starz announced that it had reached a new agreement with Comcast — without having to go through the typical rigmarole.

That’s when, per the complaint, Thornton explained that Maffei had called Comcast and talked them into extending their agreement with Starz — at a loss to Comcast.

Since Starz executives were not supposed to have any advance knowledge about this market-swap deal between Comcast and Charter, the suit implies that Maffei, whose Liberty Media controls 27% of Charter, was able to use the Comcast/Time Warner Cable/Charter ménage à trois, which would have added some 10 million customers to Comcast’s roster, to the benefit of Starz.

Thomas claims he then brought up the issue of the legality of this sort of maneuver, but was told by Thornton to never repeat those concerns or he’d risk losing his job.

The lawsuit also points out that Starz was one of the few content providers to openly support the Comcast/TWC merger.

Shortly after this dinner, Thomas says that even though it was largely his role to negotiate the network’s contract with DirecTV, other Starz execs began omitting him from communications involving this deal.

As part of the deal that was eventually negotiated with DirecTV, the satellite TV service would not have to begin integrating Starz into its marketing program until 2015. Thomas says this lack of promotion was hurting the network’s subscriber and revenue numbers.

That’s why, Thomas alleges, in Sept. 2014, he and others were directed to provide inflated revenue and subscription figures to the network’s board of directors.

Thomas claims that even though this order came through the network’s director of finance, it was really a directive from Thornton and Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.

He says he defied this directive, believing it to be unlawful. Not long after, he was let go after ten years with the network.

“Starz ultimately terminated Mr. Thomas for his whistleblowing, his refusal to participate in illegal activities, and his advocacy on behalf of women and minorities,” reads the complains, which also alleges Thomas was fired for “bringing to light the unlawful influence Liberty had on the deal between Comcast and Starz.”

For its part, the network is denying the allegations made in the suit.

“Normally, we would not comment on pending litigation, and, in this instance the company has not even been served,” a rep for Starz told Deadline. “However, based on reading the complaint in the press, rest assured that Starz, as well as the other defendants cited, will defend themselves vigorously against these scurrilous, unsubstantiated and offensive attacks by a disgruntled former employee.”

At Target, Tide Free Is Free Of Dyes, Perfumes, And Logic

Reader Rob is a longtime reader and very familiar with our “Target Math” series of posts, so he knows to check the actual price per ounce on items he plans to buy. Especially, he notes, at Target. This recent promotion for laundry detergent demonstrates why.


That’s a nice deal, right? It makes each bottle cost $9.49 as long as you eventually remember to use that gift card. Under normal circumstances, though, the larger bottle of the same product would be a better deal per ounce. It’s not.


“That’s 18.7 cents/oz for the medium-sized bottle, and 19.9 cents/oz for the larger one,” Rob observes. At least the amount of detergent in a load is consistent across the sizes: 1.56 ounces. However, he points out, you don’t even need that gift card as an inducement to buy two smaller bottles instead. You don’t have to buy two bottles to get the gift cards at all, because the smaller bottle is a better deal. “Even without the $5 gift card with purchase of 2 bottles, the smaller package was still the better deal,” Rob observes.

Peet’s Makes Another Run Down The Indie Coffee Roasters Aisle, Buys Majority Stake In Intelligentsia

Peet’s Coffee & Tea is on quite the caffeine kick lately, and it seems it’s not ready to leave the coffee roasters aisle just yet: a few weeks after snapping up Stumptown Roasters, Peet’s says it’s bought a majority stake in Intelligentsia Coffee.

Peet’s didn’t disclose the terms of the deal in a news release, but Intelligentsia will continue to run independent of its new parent. The Chicago-based company has roasting operations in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as 10 coffee bars across Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Co-founders Doug Zell and Emily Mange and co-owner Geoff Watts will maintain “significant” stakes in the business, Peet’s says.

“We’re excited to welcome Intelligentsia to the Peet’s family as the growth of the super-premium coffee market continues to explode in the U.S.,” Dave Burwick, president and CEO of Peet’s Coffee & Tea said.

As long as it isn’t actual super-premium coffee exploding in the U.S., because that sounds dangerous.

Facebook Tweaking “Real Name” Policy To Make It Easier For Users To Verify That They Are Who They Claim To Be

If you’ve ever tried to insist to Facebook that you really do go by the name Her Magnificence The Empress Of Catland and been frustrated at your efforts, things are about to change: the company announced it’s tweaking its so-called “real name” policy to make it easier for users to verify that they really do answer to a name other than their legal one.

Facebook has long held onto its anti-pseudonym stance, one that it isn’t abandoning altogether. Instead, it’s offering easier recourse for those who lose access to their accounts over their name, allowing users to provide more context about their chosen name. It’ll also require others flagging those profiles for fake names to hand over more information.

“We want to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their name on Facebook, when they are already using the name people know them by,” wrote Facebook VP of Growth Alex Schultz in a letter the company released today (via Buzzfeed News). “We want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary,” he added.

So if, for example, your legal name is Frances but you’ve always, ALWAYS gone by Baby because you knew someday you’d be meeting a handsome dance instructor and he’d need to tell others not to put you in a corner, you can add those details when Facebook asks you to confirm your authentic self. This was something you couldn’t do before.

“This should help our Community Operations team better understand the situation,” said Schultz. “It will also help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.”

Anyone who has an issue with your name will also have to fork over more information about why they’re reporting it, in the hopes of tamping down circumstances where someone might use the system as a weapon.

“When people use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say, making it more difficult to hide behind an anonymous name to harass, bully, spam or scam someone else,” he said.

The changes are expected to begin taking effect in December.

Walmart Now Has An Internal “Swat Team” To Prevent Embarrassing Costumes From Hitting Shelves

In 2013, Walmart had to remove this "Naughty Leopard" costume from its stores because... well, it's pretty self-evident why.
Walmart and its website have a spotted history when it comes to questionable Halloween costumes, like the “Naughty Leopard” outfit for toddlers, or the entire section of dedicated to “Fat Girl Costumes.” In an effort to pre-empt this sort of embarrassment, the retailer now has an internal team tasked with heading off offensive costumes at the pass.

Bloomberg reports that a “swat team” of around a dozen Walmart staffers in San Bruno, CA, are responsible for keeping Walmart’s costume selection out of the news headlines this season.

Thus far, the team has apparently stopped a handful of potential embarrassments — like a costume mocking Caitlin Jenner; or a decapitated Cecil the Lion head, complete with dentist’s smock; or costumes targeting presidential candidates — from being sold in stores or on

The notion is to be proactive, explains Walmart. They read through the news each day and keep an eye out for attempts to cash in on controversy by selling risque or outright offensive costumes.

But the Walmart team has already allowed some questionable outfits — like the Israeli soldier costume for kids that includes a toy machine gun, or the “Little Amigo” costume that lets you dress up your child like a mustachioed Mexican stereotype. These items were pulled, but not until after the public had already seen them.

As Bloomberg notes, there is no shortage of potentially offensive costumes — including some of the ones mentioned above — for sale on Amazon, but that rarely seems to draw as much public outrage as Walmart costume gaffes. Perhaps that’s because Amazon shoppers are more used to the site selling just about anything, especially when it comes to items sold by third-party marketplace vendors.

Or maybe it’s because parents can look on Amazon without having their children seeing these costumes, asking “What’s a naughty leopard and can I be one for Halloween?”

Ford Improves Its Anti-Car Spider Technology, Keeps Them Out Of Fuel Lines

fordspidermenSpider webs are more than cute Halloween decorations: usually they’re nets that catch pesky insects and maybe something to knock out of place when dusting. Yet there’s a species of spider that loves to build in the fuel lines of cars, affecting fuel pressure and the life and performance of cars. One automaker now has an actual solution meant to keep the creatures out.

Yellow sac spiders ar always looking for new hunting grounds, and there’s something about the fuel lines of certain cars, especially sedans from Japanese carmakers, that they find irresistable. The webs affect fuel pressure and can lead the lines to crack, causing leaks and even fires.

The good news is that Ford has been including spider-proofing screens on the vulnerable parts of their cars, since they have apparently also faced gas tank infestations. For the 2016 model year, CBS Philadelphia reports, Ford says that they’ve improved the spider-proofing device.

You’re still on your own with spiders in the cabin of the car, though. The filter isn’t meant to help with those.

Automaker Creates ‘Spider Screen’ To Keep Creepy Crawlers From Ruining Your Car [CBS Philadelphia]

American Airlines Flight Diverted After Passenger Allegedly Made “Alarming Statements,” Refused To Sit

Every day, millions of people manage to board airplanes, sit quietly for the duration of the flight, make it to their destination with relative ease. We don’t usually hear about those folks, however. Instead, the unruly, disruptive passengers are the ones who keep making it into our news cycle. To wit: an American Airlines flight had to be diverted recently when a passenger allegedly made “alarming statements” and refused to take his seat.

The flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia made an unexpected landing in Phoenix, where the passenger in question was escorted off the plane, reports KPNX News 12.

Phoenix police told ABC 15 that the passenger made “alarming statements” and refused to take his seat shortly after takeoff. The passenger started swearing and saying the government was after him, witnesses said, ranting about 9/11, and promising he’d be famous that very day.

“I thought, ‘This is weird,’ ” a fellow traveler told KPNX. “I looked at him and he looked angry and he wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks.”

After standing in the aisle, he eventually went back to his seat in coach, where he reportedly sat, muttering to himself. The flight crew approached him, causing him to jump up again and address the cabin. He was “seizing with anger” and making “threatening gestures,” the witness said.

Other passengers jumped in to assist the flight crew, corralling him back to his seat, making him sit and putting his seatbelt on. Flight attendants were ready with handcuffs, while one of the witnesses said he was told to duct tape his hands and feet together if he tried to get out of his seat again.

The flight landed safely in Phoenix, where police escorted him off the plane and took him to an urgent psychological care center for evaluation. He may face charges for interfering with the flight crew, police said.

“American Airlines Flight 754 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Philadelphia (PHL), diverted to Phoenix (PHX) due to a disruptive passenger,” American Airlines said in a statement. “The passenger was removed, and the flight re-departed for Philadelphia. For more information, please contact local law enforcement.”

In case you need a refresher, here are a few of the recent unruly passenger stories that have bedeviled American Airlines specifically in the recent past (not to mention numerous incidents on other airlines):

Can’t We Just Get Along? Yet Another Flight Diverted Because Passengers Argue Over Reclining Seat

American Airlines Flight Diverted After Unruly Passenger Allegedly Kissed, Then Punched Attendant

American Airlines Flight Diverted Because Of Yet Another Unruly Passenger

Woman Booted From Flight Because No One Asked For Her Best Whitney Houston Impression

Plane diverted to Phoenix for unruly, 9/11 ranting passenger [KPNX]

Jury: Cox Violated Antitrust Laws By Forcing Customers To Rent Set-Top Boxes

(Mike Mozart)
Should you be forced to be required to pay your cable company extra money for a set-top box in order to get cable TV service you’re already paying for? According to a federal jury in Oklahoma, which recently returned a $6.31 million verdict against Cox Communications, the answer is no.

The jury verdict is the conclusion (for now) of a class action suit alleging that Cox violated state and federal antitrust laws by making set-top box rental a condition of getting full access to premium cable service from the company.

According to court documents [PDF], the plaintiff contends that Cox was able to make the rented boxes a requirement “because it has substantial market power with respect to the provision of Premium Cable in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.”

But Cox countered that customers in the area could get pay-TV service from DirecTV or Dish. Additionally, the cable operator said boxes from TiVo and others could be purchased at retail and would have provided access to most of the same features provided by a Cox box.

However, these commonly available devices did not provide access to all the services Cox makes available, like pay-per-view video.

Cox contended that there were some third-party boxes — so-called “two-way” devices — available for purchase that would have provided Oklahoma City customers full access to Cox programming, but that it’s not the company’s fault that these weren’t readily available from retailers in the area.

After a trial at a federal court in Oklahoma earlier this month, the jury came back with a $6.31 million verdict against Cox. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say the final award could be trebled, putting the total at just short of $19 million.

But this is likely not the end of the road. In court documents filed yesterday [PDF] Cox argues that the verdict should be overturned “as the jury did not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for plaintiff.”

The company says, among other claims, that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Cox coerced customers into renting set-top boxes.

“In fact, the evidence in the record is that Cox told its subscribers that they could use retail two-way devices if the manufacturers of those devices decided to sell them at retail,” reads the filing, which contends that Cox tried to work with multiple manufacturers to make set-top boxes available at retail, but that it does not run those businesses and can’t tell them what to do.

“Cox could not and did not control the go-to-market decisions of set-top box manufacturers,” argues the cable operator.


Microsoft Will Push PC Users Into Upgrading Next Year With Update That Automatically Downloads Windows 10

Though Microsoft has been very eager to get PC users to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10, it’s also been a bit restrained in its efforts so far, luring customers with a reservation system that allowed them to upgrade for free. But next year, Microsoft is going to get a little bit pushier.

In early 2016, Microsoft will try to add even more devices to the 110 million already running Windows 10 by re-categorizing it as a “recommended update,” reports The Verge. It won’t automatically install Windows 10 without your permission, but the upgrade process will download and start all on its own.

“A user will be presented with a choice to install Windows 10,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s head of Windows and devices, told The Verge. “They’ll come back to their PC and there will be a dialog where they can choose to upgrade to Windows 10 or choose not to upgrade to Windows 10.”

The plan right now is to have that happen only once, so you won’t see multiple reminders to update after you’ve opted out. The Windows 10 upgrade is free for Windows 7 and 8 users through July 29, 2016. Beyond that point, it’s unclear if or how much Microsoft will charge.

Microsoft planning to automatically offer Windows 10 to existing PCs [The Verge]

Some Skippy Peanut Butter Recalled Because No One Enjoys Small Metal Shavings In Their Snack

skippyrecallWhen it comes to peanut butter, the great war wages on between chunky-lovers and smooth-o-philes, but one thing both sides of that battle can agree on is that peanut butter should not contain metal shavings of any sort.

That’s why Hormel has announced a recall of 153 cases (1,871 total pounds) of Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread.

The company says it discovered the possibility of “small metal shavings” in some of its product thanks to a magnet check during routine cleaning at one of its facilities. It claims to know of no injuries to, or complaints from, customers.

22615855951_5ed4d0a7f6_oHormel says the recall is limited to 16.3 ounce jars with a “Best If Used By” date of DEC1416LR1 (found on top of the lid) and a package UPC code of 37600-10500 (found on the label that wraps around the jar).

The company doesn’t know many of these jars were sold, but says they were shipped to distribution centers for Publix, Target and Walmart located in Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware and Arkansas.

If you bought some of the recalled Skippy, you should return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or call Hormel Foods Customer Relations at 1-866-475-4779, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time.

Hampton Creek Explains To The FDA That “Mayo” Is Not Necessarily “Mayonnaise”

justmayoHampton Creek, the company behind an eggless product called “Just Mayo,” has responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s warning that its product isn’t mayonnaise, and thus, shouldn’t be called “mayo.” That seems just fine by Hampton Creek, which recently responded to the FDA by agreeing with it.

The company acknowledges in a response obtained by Business Insider through a Freedom of Information Act request that the FDA is right — its product isn’t mayonnaise, it’s mayo. And “mayo” is not a regulated term, so its label is completely correct.

“The term ‘mayo’ should not now be held to the regulatory standard for ‘mayonnaise,'” wrote the company’s lawyer, Josh Schiller.

See, mayonnaise is defined by the FDA as a mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Which means if you’re going to put a product on the shelf with the word “mayonnaise” on the label, it had better contain those ingredients.

But Hampton Creek argues that there’s no definition for mayo, because the FDA excluded that word in its definition when the federal regulations governing labels went into place in 1976:

“While there is a food standard of identity for ‘mayonnaise,’ there is no current standard for ‘mayo,'” the company wrote in its reply to the FDA. “Hampton Creek does not use the term ‘mayonnaise’ on any of its products or any of its marketing materials … If FDA had intended to cover products that use the term ‘mayo’ in its standard for mayonnaise, it could have done so, yet it did not.”

The FDA had also taken issue with Hampton Creek’s use of the word “Just” on the label, saying that it implied that the product contained only mayonnaise. But the company said that on that front, the “just” pertains to how it manufactures its products, reducing land use, water use, and carbon emissions while creating an allergy-free product. In this case, “Just” means “fair,” not “only.”

Hampton Creek also urges the FDA to consider expanding its definition of mayonnaise — not that its product is mayonnaise! — to include new and more ecologically sustainable food production methods, thereby putting eggless products in the same category.

The company did acknowledge one change it’s making in light of the FDA’s August letter: it has updated Just Mayo labels to move its cholesterol-free claim to the appropriate location and will no longer imply on the label that its products can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The case is not listed as resolved on the agency’s website, BI notes, though communications between the two parties through Oct. 12 showed that the FDA and Just Mayo planned to meet.

Hampton Creek’s response to the FDA: Mayo is different than mayonnaise [Business Insider]

GM To Owners Of 1.4M Recalled Vehicles: Don’t Park In A Garage For Now

Earlier this week, General Motors issued a recall of 1.4 million vehicles over concerns about a potential fire risk. Today, the beleaguered carmaker is telling owners of those cars to not park them in garages until the problem is repaired.

The problem with these vehicles — Pontiac Grand Prix (1997-2004), Chevrolet Impala (2000-04), Chevrolet Lumina (1998-99), Chevrolet Monte Carlo (1998-2004), Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998-99), and Buick Regal (1997-2004) — is that hard braking may cause drops of oil to be deposited on the hot exhaust manifold, potentially resulting in engine compartment fires.”

The car company knows of 19 injuries and more than 1,300 fires believed to be related to the problem, which has been the subject of three previous recalls. GM says that most of the fires have occurred in unoccupied vehicles.

That’s why, in an “urgent” memo [PDF] to dealers released to the public this morning, GM recommends that owners of affected vehicles should not park in a garage “or other structure” while waiting for the recall fix to roll out.

In spite of that caution, GM claims the vehicles are safe to drive.

“This condition does not affect the safe operation of the vehicle,” reads the memo. “When the condition occurred while the car was in operation, drivers have reported seeing smoke from the engine compartment.”

Customers are being told to sit tight until they are notified to bring their cars in for repair.

When will that be? The notice doesn’t give a date, but the car company claims it is “finalizing a remedy” and is “making every effort to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”

[Via the Detroit News]

Walmart Doesn’t Need Free Shipping: They Want Everyone To Use In-Store Pickup

Competing big-box stores like Target and Best Buy are trying to attract shoppers this holiday season by offering free shipping on all online purchases, no matter how small. This strategy doesn’t interest Walmart, because their plans this year for holiday domination don’t include free online shipping: they include using in-store pickup to get shoppers into their stores.

Walmart is keeping their threshold for free shipping on most online orders at $50, which was also their online strategy last year. They’ve probably stuck with it because it works. Online customers either build carts worth $50 or more “The vast majority of our orders today are free shipping or free pickup,” the head of explained to reporters.

As long as customers don’t go elsewhere, not offering free shipping makes sense. Walmart is also growing its own subscription-based free shipping program for customers, but they have to pay a subscription fee to join it, making up for their savings later and giving Walmart another reason not to budge from its $50 cart minimum.

Wal-Mart Won’t Promote Free-Shipping Deals Over Holidays [Wall Street Journal]
(via ECommerceBytes)

Sprint’s $20 “Unlimited” Plan Is Anything But; Throttles Data After 1GB

Starter_Unlimited_DataFor several years, wireless companies have been selling data plans that were dubiously described as “unlimited” because users’ connections were slowed after passing some sort of arbitrary monthly threshold (usually around 3-5 gigabytes). But Sprint’s new plan — selling for only $20/month — lowers the limbo bar so close to the ground that the term “unlimited” might not be flexible enough to slip underneath.

Sprint announced the new plan yesterday, promising “no data overages” but also revealing that once the customer has used more than 1GB of data in a month, their connection goes from speedy 4G LTE to achingly slow 2G.

That doesn’t mean the Sprint plan is necessarily a bad bottom-dollar plan for consumers who need a smartphone but barely use it for anything more than checking e-mail. As Sprint’s chart above shows, at $40/month it is less expensive than comparable 1GB plans from T-Mobile and Verizon.

Our issue is with the use of the term “unlimited.” Those T-Mo and Verizon plans don’t market themselves as unlimited plans but as entry-level options for part-time smartphone users.

Adding potential confusion for consumers is Sprint’s offer of an actual unlimited data plan for $70, including talk and text. There’s a huge difference between a plan intended for people who only take their smartphones out a couple times a week and one that claims to offer relatively unfettered access to data (up to 23GB of it at least). They should not both be labeled “unlimited.”

[via DSLreports]

Fiat Chrysler Recalling 900K SUVs To Fix Issues With Airbag Deployment, Anti-Lock Brakes

(Ralph Krawczyk Jr)

Another day, another major car company announcing a recall: this time it’s Fiat Chrysler, which is calling back around 900,000 SUVs around the world to address problems with anti-lock brakes and how the airbags deploy.

In this case, the company said it’s recalling 284,089 model-year 2003 Jeep Liberty and 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees SUVs in the United States to replace some components linked to the deployment of airbags. In addition to the U.S. vehicles, the car maker is recalling about 13,411 vehicles in Canada, 6,277 in Mexico and 48,212 elsewhere in the world to fix the same problem.

Thus far, there have been seven injuries related to the problem that Fiat Chrysler is aware of, but the airbags haven’t caused any crashes or accidents.

We know — the word “airbags” comes up and you automatically think of Takata airbags shooting shrapnel at drivers. But Fiat Chrysler really wants to make sure you know that is not the case with this recall, emphasizing that the airbags involved are not produced by Takata (although the carmaker is involved with the Takata recalls elsewhere in its lineup).

Another set of SUVs is being recalled because water could get into the vehicles’ anti-lock braking and electronic stability control system, Fiat Chrysler says: 275,614 model year 2012-2015 Dodge Journey cross-utility vehicles (CUVs) in the U.S. are being recalled to replace certain parts of their anti-lock brake systems, as well as about 78,148 vehicles in Canada, 36,471 in Mexico and 151,476 in other parts of the world.

Customers with additional questions can call the FCA US Customer Information Center at 1-800-853-1403.

Target Confirms Free Shipping For All Online Orders During The Holiday Season

(Schumin Web)
As predicted, Target has gone ahead and confirmed an that it retailer would offer free shipping for all online orders during the holiday season, announcing on Thursday that it’d drop all shipping fees for the second year in a row.

Along with free holiday shipping, Target said it’s partnered with a company called Borderfree to ship products to 200 countries and territories outside the United States during the holiday season (for a fee), reports Reuters.

“Traffic is very important for us during the holidays and … free shipping was very well received last year,” Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornell said.

Online orders placed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 will include free shipping, instead of Target’s current policy of only offering free shipping for a minimum online order of $25.

Rival Walmart has said it’s keeping a minimum online order size for free shipping at $50 for the holiday season, but Best Buy will also send online orders on their way fee-free through early January.

Target to offer free U.S. shipping, strikes global shipping deal [Reuters]

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Here are nine 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.

(Great Beyond)
(Joel Zimmer)
(Karen Chappell)
(Great Beyond)
(Fabio Cecchin)
(吉姆 Jim Hofman)
(Debbie Mercer)
(Ben Roffelsen)
(Jason Rodman)

Want to see your pictures on our site? Our Flickr pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. 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.