lundi 30 novembre 2015

AT&T’s Remaining Unlimited Data Customers Getting $5/Month Rate Hike In 2016

(Mike Mozart)
It’s been years since AT&T stopped offering new unlimited data plans, but a number of customers have held onto their grandfathered plans for years — even as the company throttled their access for actually trying to use the “unlimited” data that was promised. Come February, AT&T will raise the price on unlimited plans for the first time in years.

According to this page on, the data portion of an unlimited subscriber’s AT&T bill will increase by $5, from $30/month to $35/month, beginning in Feb. 2016.

A rep for the company confirmed the plans and tells Consumerist that affected subscribers should be receiving notifications next month by e-mail (or in the mail if you’ve opted out of getting e-mails from the company).

AT&T’s increase comes on the heels of Verizon’s decision to raise rates on its few remaining unlimited customers. However, Verizon hit customers with a whopping $20/month price hike, bringing just the data portion of customers’ bills to $50/month.

Both AT&T and Verizon unlimited plans charge separately for text and talk, so it’s difficult to compare to unlimited offerings from T-Mobile and Sprint, which bundle in data/phone/text under one amount.

That said, T-Mobile also recently raised its rates for unlimited customers, from $80 to $95 (for single-line accounts; the pricing did not change for multi-line accounts).

Meanwhile, Sprint continues to offer two plans it dubs “unlimited.” There’s the $70/month plan that the company has had for quite some time, and a recently unveiled $20/month plan which — despite the “unlimited” name — only offers 1GB/month of high-speed data, leaving the subscriber to use Sprint’s much-slower 2G data network for the rest of the month.

Family Claims “Hoverboad” Scooter Exploded, Burned Down House

You’ve probably seen all the videos on Facebook, Vine, and YouTube of people cruising around on “hoverboard” scooters (that don’t actually hover at all, in spite of the nickname). While the product might be a hot item for the holidays, one Louisiana family says their not-actually-a-hoverboard caused a fire that burned down their home.

WGNO-TV reports that just a day after the family’s son received his hoverboard, it exploded while charging.

The board, which came from Fiturbo and was ordered via Amazon, operated on lithium batteries and was being charged with a charger provided by the company.

“It was like fireworks,” the boy’s mother says of the explosion, “the middle part of the board–just ‘poof.'”

The woman says the fire was so intense, her house was in flames within minutes. Local fire officials continue to investigate the cause of the blaze, WGNO reports.

While the family was aware of the risk of injuries from falling off the board, they never imagined it would catch fire.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission tells WGNO that in the last three months individuals have reported eight injuries that required emergency room attention involving hoverboards. However, each of those incidents included falls from the scooter-like devices.

A spokesperson for the agency couldn’t speak about specific hoverboard brands, but encouraged consumers to report all safety issues to

‘Exploding’ hoverboard blamed for destroying Lafitte family’s home [WGNO-TV]

It’s That Time Of Year Again: We Want Photos Of Your Disastrous Mall Visit To Meet Santa Claus

Jack, age 2, one of last year's ticked off kids.
‘Tis the season when parents pack their kids into the car, drive to the mall and deposit their offspring on the laps of mall Santas all around this great nation, which means it’s the right time for another of our favorite holiday traditions: seeing our readers’ photos of kids reacting hilariously to the bearded stranger their parents have forced them to hang out with.

Yes, we want to see photographic evidence of children freaking out with costumed mall characters, and we want you to send them to us to share with the world. Do your parents have great pics of that time you tried to rip the Big Guy’s beard off during a screaming fit? Did your child burst into instant tears when faced with that red, velvety expanse of lap?

To send in your photos (the larger the better!), here’s how you go about it:
1. Attach it in email with the subject line SCARY SANTA 2015
2. Include your child’s name and age in the body of the email (or if it was you way back when, your name, age at the time, and the year the photo was taken) along with any fun anecdotes about the experience.
3. Send it to for us to enjoy, watermark and share on the site on Christmas Day.

Please note, you need to be the child’s parent or the subject of the photo for your photo submission to be published, or we’ll have to get permission directly from the parents if you’re someone’s uncle or aunt. Gotta prove that stuff.

Even Pirated Media Files Are Now Upgrading To 4K

(Al Ibrahim)

The grainy bootleg tapes and even DVDs of yesteryear are gone, gone, gone. Among today’s daily signs that we all are, indeed, now living in a bright, shiny future: Even pirated video is apparently now in pixel-perfect ultra-HD.

That’s according to TorrentFreak which, well, keeps an eye on what’s out there on the torrents. And what’s out there on the torrents right now is apparently looking very, very good. As in, 4K resolution, ultra-HD good.

4K has been the talk of all the tech sites for a couple of years now, but overall it’s a technology still in its very early stages of adoption. Netflix and Amazon started trickling out 4K content in 2014, and Roku’s 4K ready gadget just came out this fall, Plenty of households have only just recently gotten around to replacing bulky old TVs with modern 16:9 HD flatscreens, and so it’ll be a while before everyone is on board with spending even more money to upgrade the upgrades.

There are some technically legal ways to record content from streaming services, although getting caught doing so will get your account suspended faster than you can say “Daredevil.” However, cracking any encryption on the data files is a big fat no-no, as is redistributing any of that content on your own.

That, of course, has never stopped a certain segment of the population from doing it anyway. Cracking the 4K code is apparently a monumental achievement for media pirates, as TorrentFreak explains, and is kicking off a new era of exceptionally high-quality files floating around.

There are a couple of things that might slow down the distribution of unlawful 4K files for the moment, though. The first is that slow adoption: if you don’t have a TV or monitor that can actually properly display 4K video, there’s not really any point to having the higher-resolution file on hand.

The other challenge is the sheer size of the data. You don’t need an always-on high-bandwidth connection to watch downloaded video rather than streamed, but you do need the connection up front… and then the drive space to store it. A 4K rip often runs greater than 100 GB, TorrentFreak points out, meaning that even on a 1 terabyte drive you couldn’t store more than a handful of them. (For comparison’s sake, that’s the same amount of data per 4K file as roughly 2500-3500 MP3 song files.)

Files that large would also bump into most broadband caps pretty quickly. Comcast’s 300 GB / month allotment would support between two and three 4K file downloads per month at that size, before incurring fees and overages. And if pirates felt like paying fees, they probably wouldn’t be ripping the files in the first place.

Pirates can now rip 4K content from Netflix and Amazon [TorrentFreak]

Wells Fargo’s High-Pressure Sales Strategy Probed By Federal Regulators

(Mike Mozart)

Six months after the Los Angeles City Attorney filed a lawsuit accusing Wells Fargo of a slew of unfair practices — like encouraging employees to open unauthorized consumer accounts and then charging those accounts phony fees to meet sales expectations — two other regulatory agencies have opened investigations into the bank’s behavior. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the San Francisco Federal Reserve are each probing Wells Fargo’s sales culture to determine if the bank pushed employees too hard to meet sales quotas and turned a blind eye when those workers employed decidedly anti-consumer practices.

The new investigations center around many of the same issues noted in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s lawsuit, which mostly focuses on the company’s ability to cross-sell products to customers – for example, coaxing a checking account holder to open a credit card.

Cross-selling has been used by the company since the late ’90s as a way to boost profits and deepen connections with customers, the WSJ reports.

Now, however, the practice has come under fire, with regulators seeking to determine if the company’s “Gr-eight” initiative that encouraged employees to offer or sell eight products or services – known as “solutions” – to each customer crossed the consumer protection line.

Among other things, regulators are examining just how widespread or systemic the alleged pushy behavior was, and whether it was limited to certain teams or regions, the WSJ reports.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo would not provide comment to the WSJ on the new regulatory issues, and reiterated that the company disagrees with the previously filed lawsuit and plans to defend itself.

According to the L.A. City Attorney’s civil complaint filed in May, in order to meet sales quotas employees at the bank regularly misused customers’ personal information to open unwanted accounts and failed to close the unauthorized accounts despite complaints from customers.

In some cases, the city alleged in its lawsuit, employees were so adamant about meeting sales expectations that they used funds in client accounts to open additional accounts.

As a result, the suit claims that Wells Fargo was able to create a “fee-generating machine” that harmed customers, while the bank got by relatively scott-free.

In addition to opening unwanted accounts and charging exorbitant fees, the lawsuit claims that Wells Fargo further harmed customers by placing their accounts in collections when they didn’t contain enough funds to cover the bogus bank-generated fees. Customers would then receive marks on their credit reports.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the San Francisco Federal Reserve seek to determine if Wells Fargo perpetuated the employees’ activities and whether or not the company failed to prevent such behavior, the WSJ reports.

As previously reported, the Los Angeles investigation into the unfair practices found Wells Fargo – which blamed the issues on an isolated group of employees – took little action to protect consumers.

“On the rare occasions when Wells Fargo did take action against its employees for unethical sales conduct, Wells Fargo further victimized its customers by failing to inform them of the breaches, refund fees they were owed, or otherwise remedy the injuries that Wells Fargo and its bankers have caused,” according to the May suit.

The WSJ spoke with several former and current Wells Fargo employees who described the high-pressure, and exceedingly loft, sales goals.

One personal banker in San Diego said he has daily and hourly sales goals for his specific branch, in addition to quarterly goals set by the company. Some days, depending on the time of year, he’s expected to sell 10 to 20 “solutions” – Wells Fargo’s word for services.

Wells Fargo customers have also spoken out about the alleged bad behavior by bank employees. Just weeks after the Los Angeles City Attorney announced its complaint, a California man filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of all wronged Wells Fargo customers, claiming the bank’s unfair practices created undue hardships and financial stress to clients.

The man claimed, among other things, that bank employees opened at least seven accounts in his name without permission and that he was routinely hounded by bill collectors to pay fees on those accounts – both issues detailed in the city’s original complaint.

At Wells Fargo, How Far Did Bank’s Sales Culture Go? [The Wall Street Journal]

Bidding Opens Tomorrow For A Chance To Stay In The Cleveland House From ‘A Christmas Story’

ralphieIf you’ve always dreamed of walking in the pink-bunny-suit clad footsteps of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, now is your chance — well, rather, tomorrow is your chance: that’s when bidding opens for a chance to stay for a weekend at the Cleveland home featured in the 1983 movie.

Starting Dec. 1 at 5:30, fans of the movie can place their bids for the opportunity to stay at the house for two days and two nights with three guests, an experience that’s only available for one winner every year.

It’s a “VIP experience,” according to the charitable foundation that runs the auction every year, with $800 of themed gifts up for grabs, including a Major Award Leg Lamp, tickets to Great Lakes Science Center, some kind of BB gun involvement (careful, lest you shoot your eye out), decoder pins, “and much more,” says the A Christmas Story House Foundation on the auction’s website.

All proceeds from the auction will go toward maintaining and restoring the historic neighborhood around the landmark house. The foundation provides grants to qualified residents for home restoration projects.

Amazon Prime May Soon Be Portal For Other Streaming Video Services

amazonprimegrabAfter a few years of deconstructing video entertainment into dozens of individual streaming sites, we’re beginning to see a trend toward re-bundling of those services. Hulu sells access to Showtime, Sling TV offers streaming HBO, and now a new report claims that Amazon Prime will soon be offering one-stop shopping for other streaming video companies.

This is according to Bloomberg, which reports that Amazon is looking to start offering these third party services as soon as next month.

Amazon Prime already includes access to a limited library of HBO content at no extra cost, though it’s only a fraction of what you’d find on HBO Go or HBO Now. The company’s Fire streaming devices for TVs have apps for competing services like Netflix, Starz, and Hulu, but most of these subscriptions have to be purchased through a cable company or directly from the streaming sites.

Bloomberg reports that the change to Amazon would bring unspecified streaming content under the Prime umbrella for subscribers. The idea appears to be similar to how Showtime content is included as just another category in the Hulu interface, rather than a separate app.

For the streamers, Amazon Prime brings some 40 million subscribers to the table. It also offers the ability to handle billing and customer service — two areas that content companies have been reluctant to get into.


Anonymous Donors Leave $500,000 Check In Minnesota Salvation Army Kettle

(Salvation Army)
Anonymous donors in Minnesota’s Twin Cities were certainly in the giving mood over the weekend, slipping a $500,000 check into a Salvation Army kettle. Unsurprisingly, it’s snagged the record for the area’s biggest kettle donation to date.

The charitable organization said that the donation made at a grocery store on Saturday handily beats the previous record for a single kettle donation, which was $25,000, reports The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Usually, a kettle bring sin about $30 in an hour.

“Yes, we believe the check is definitely good,” a Salvation Army spokeswoman told the paper on Monday. “We have been in touch with the donors, but they want to remain anonymous. This couple has supported the Army before with large checks in kettles, but never anything close to this level.”

The couple behind the donation said the act of generosity was their way of saying thank you, and was made to encourage others to do the same. On a smaller scale, perhaps.

“You get to a point in life where it’s time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of,” the donors said in a statement issued through the charity.

Couple slip $500,000 check into Salvation Army kettle in Rosemount [The Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Target Website Crashes, Spoiling Shoppers’ Cyber Monday

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.55.51 AMSavvy holiday shoppers who didn’t want to fight the crowds on Black Friday may still be battling congested online traffic in order to obtain the plethora of Cyber Monday deals today. That’s especially true if you’re trying to score some goodies from Target, as the retailer’s website crashed this morning. 

The Washington Post reports that at about 10:20 a.m. ET today, Target’s homepage, and the pages for many of its products, stopped shoppers in their online tracks with the explanation that “high traffic’s causing delays.”

Target tells the Post that it is working to restore full functionality to the website. Until then, however, the company will regulate the flow of traffic on its site.

By noon ET Monday, some shoppers were able to access the site. However, our attempts to reach the homepage from computers in Pennsylvania and New York both turned up “Access Denied” error messages.

The message seen by visitors to on Monday.

The retailer’s online woes are likely a result of its Cyber Week promotion which offers 15% off “virtually everything online.”

“Both traffic and order volumes are exceeding Target’s Thursday Black Friday event, which was our biggest day ever for online sales,” the company said in a statement Monday. “To help manage the volume, we have been metering traffic to the site.”

This, of course, isn’t Target’s first run-in with heavy traffic wreaking havoc on its website. Over the summer, the retailer’s site crashed during the debut of its limited-time collaborative Lilly Pulitzer line.

The company said at the time that the site didn’t technically “crash,” but that Target did make the strategic decision to limit some customers’ access to certain parts of The site was also made inaccessible for several minutes to avoid a crash.

In 2011, the company suffered a months-long glitchy mess with The most high-profile problem occurred in mid-September when the rush to purchase items from the new Missoni for Target line crashed the site. Problems continued after that, including further crashes, missing items and mysterious debit card charges… and re-charges… and re-charges.

Target’s Web site is experiencing delays on Cyber Monday [The Washington Post]

South Dakota Ghost Town Is Still On The Market, Could Be Yours For A Mere $250,000

(Keller Williams Realty Black Hills)
If you’re in the market for a new home, you could surely find something for $250,000 — heck, why settle for looking for a house when you could just buy an entire ghost town? An abandoned South Dakota town that was on the market for $400,000 back in 2014 is still up for grabs, and now at a bargain price.

Swett, S.D. is still on the market after 16 months, reports The Rapid City Journal. The unincorporated hamlet about two hours from Rapid City comes with a bar (currently closed), a single house, workshop, three trailers and 6.16 acres of land.

The real estate agent in charge of the listing says she fielded an avalanche of phone calls and emails from people interested in buying the town when the news first hit, many of them with quite… unique plans for the property.

She tells the Rapid City Journal that the weirdest idea came “from a guy out of Nebraska who wanted to bring in 2,000 women from Russia, and 600 men who were felons, and he was going to build acrylic houses and run cameras 24 hours a day,” she said. “I told him he needed to call the state because I couldn’t deal with the permits for anything like that.”

Three written offers fell through for various reasons, but the agent says she’s still getting phone calls, and is surprised that the town hasn’t sold yet. The bank has now cleaned up the land, hauling away three decaying mobile homes and other paraphernalia, and has deeply discounted the price in the hopes of finally finding a buyer.

“They even installed shiny new town signs for Swett,” the agent said. “The old ones had bullet holes in them.”

FOR SALE: An entire South Dakota town [The Rapid City Journal]

Study: Airlines Padded Flight Schedules To Improve On-Time Performance Stats


So many things can delay a flight — weather, traffic, minor technical glitches to name just a few — and yet nearly three-quarters of all flights arrived at their destination on schedule last year. A new study suggests that this achievement might not just be the result of increased efficiency, but of padded schedules.

OAG Aviation Worldwide, a British company that collects and analyzes travel data, found that since 1996 many airlines have increased the block of time set aside for flights, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

For example, the company examined 1,400 flights scheduled between Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport and found that the allotted time for the trips increased 8% on average from 1996 to 2015.

According to the study, none of the flights in 1996 took longer than 90 minutes, while those scheduled nearly 20 years later had flight times between 91 and 110 minutes.

OAG suggests that increased travel time was tacked on by airlines seeking to post better on-time rates to attract customers.

“At airports which are congested, airlines need to keep schedules realistic so their timetables are reliable,” the study said.

A spokesperson for an airline trade group, Airlines For America, tells the L.A. Times that the notion is simply wrong.

“We have the same goals as our customers, which is to get them, their luggage and packages to their destination safely and on time,” the spokesperson said.

Are airlines padding flight times to improve on-time performance? [The Los Angeles Times]

NYC’s Salt Warning Labels Set To Debut At Chain Restaurants This Week

Menus at New York City’s chain eateries will be getting a makeover this week, as the city’s rule requiring warning labels for particularly salty menu items goes into effect.

The rule is the first of its kind, and will mean that chain restaurants have to include a salt-shaker emblem on any offering that contains more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams — around a teaspoon — of sodium. Here’s the warning label:


This is the latest move in NYC’s nutritional mission, in an effort to get residents to cut down on salt. Health experts say most people consume too much sodium — on average, about 3,400 mg per day — which could lead to high blood pressure and heart problems.

Many folks might not realize how much salt they’re eating, health advocates say: for example, Applebee’s Chicken Fajitas Rollup clocks in at 3,600 mg of sodium; Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad has 3,470 mg and Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy entrée packs in 3,830 mg of salt per serving.

“With the high sodium warning label, New Yorkers will have easily accessible information that can affect their health,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in September, when the Board of Health approved the new warning.

Some restaurateurs are against the salt labels, saying that new federal menu labeling guidelines will be taking effect in 2016, which could require them to revamp their menus twice.

“This is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through. Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success,” Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said when the salt initiative passed in September.

Though restaurants are supposed to comply as of Tuesday, NYC won’t begin collecting fines until March 1.

Report: VW Knew About Fuel Efficiency Discrepancies A Year Ago

(Eric Arnold)

Earlier this month, Volkswagen announced that an internal investigation into the carmaker’s use of “defeat devices” to evade emission standards in nearly 11 million vehicles worldwide uncovered a second issue: nearly 800,000 cars included understated levels of carbon monoxide emissions and rule usage. But a new report puts the timing of the finding into question, with some sources claiming executives with the car manufacturer knew of the problem more than a year ago. 

Reuters, citing German Publication Bild am Sonntag, reports that VW executives were previously made aware that many of its vehicles were less fuel-efficient than marketed.

Investigators for VW initially said on Nov. 3, that an internal probe meant to clear up the ongoing diesel emissions scandal found that CO2 levels and fuel consumption figures for some models were set too low during the carbon certification process.

“Based on present knowledge around 800,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group could be affected,” the company said in a statement. “An initial estimate puts the economic risks at approximately two billion euros (about $2.19 billion).”

While VW declined to comment on whether or not the company had knowledge of the overstated fuel efficiency numbers a year ago, Bild am Sonntag reports that former chief executive Martin Winterkorn decided in the spring to pull one model off the market related to the discrepancy.

That car, not sold in the U.S., was the Polo TDI BlueMotion. Reuters reports that VW said at the time – and reiterated on Sunday – that the car was pulled because of low sales figures.

“The offering of the Blue Motion TDI Polo was suspended in all markets due to subdued demand,” a VW spokesperson tells Reuters. “We are currently testing all models built from 2012 for differences in CO2 levels from the listed values.”

In other VW news on Monday, Bloomberg reports the carmaker has submitted fixes for the defeat devices in all three of its diesel motor types in Germany.

While the plans, if approved, for a fix in Germany will likely cover all 8.5 million vehicles affected in Europe, that doesn’t mean U.S. regulators will give the proposals the go-ahead.

On Nov. 20, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board – the agencies that first brought the emissions scandal to light – announced that VW had submitted its initial proposal for addressing the issue in its 2.0-liter diesel vehicles.

It’s unclear for now what the proposed fixes – both in the U.S. and Europe – entail.

VW knew fuel usage in some cars was too high a year ago: report [Reuters]
VW Proposes Fixes for All Three Dirty Diesel Motors in Germany [Bloomberg]

Online Retail Passes In-Store Shopping For Black Friday Weekend

(Ann Fisher)
Going online for your Black Friday sales fix is now just as popular as trudging out to the mall to shop, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.

According to the survey results [PDF], more Americans did their shopping online than in stores each day of the holiday weekend.

This includes Black Friday, the most-hyped in-store shopping day of the year. The survey says that 72.8% of respondents did in-store shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, a hair shy of the 73.1% who shopped online.

That was by far the narrowest margin between the two shopping methods. Online also beat out bricks-and-mortar on Thanksgiving (39.8% vs. 34%), and on Saturday (49% vs. 45.9%) and Sunday (32.9% vs. 19.1%).

The huge disparity on Sunday’s numbers seems to indicate that consumers get exhausted with the physical process of shopping — driving, parking, browsing, waiting in line — but they still want to look for good deals while they’re available.

According to the survey, slightly more than half of the in-store shoppers said they couldn’t pass up the savings. This seems to indicate that price is the key factor in their decision. Meanwhile, only 31.2% said they hit the stores because it’s a tradition. Those people will continue to show up every year, but you can expect online shopping to only grow more popular as the savings-oriented consumers realize they can get most, if not all, the in-store deals from the comfort of their home.

The NRF survey does give credence to some retailers’ insistence on opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. When breaking down the hourly in-store visits on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the single biggest time for shopping was not Black Friday morning, but 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving — the hour when several major retailers opened for business.

More than 13% of people who shopped in stores this weekend showed up at that time, significantly more than other popular hours like midnight (4%) and 6 a.m. (5%), or 9 a.m. (7.8%) on Friday.

Amazon Shows Off Latest Prime Air Delivery Drone Prototype In New Video

Two years after Amazon debuted its delivery drone to the masses, the e-commerce giant is back with a new demo video showing its latest prototype for its Prime Air unmanned aerial vehicle.

Amazon enlisted British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson — known for his gig co-hosting TV show Top Gear — to narrate a scene depicting the company’s vision of the delivery future: when your “naughty, naughty” bulldog eats your daughter’s soccer cleat before the big game, Prime Air could come in handy by bringing a replacement set of footwear through the air from a warehouse and setting it down in the family yard. All in 30 minutes or less, Amazon says.

“In time there will be a whole family of Amazon drones, different designs for different environments,” Clarkson says in the footage, while the drone coasts over a suburban landscape. “This one can fly for 15 miles,” he says. “And it knows what’s happening around it. It uses ‘sense and avoid’ technology to, well, sense and then avoid obstacles on the ground and in the air.”

Compared to Amazon’s first delivery drone video, released in December 2013, the new version of the aircraft appears to fly higher and seems more stable.

“Amazon Prime Air is a future service that will deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones,” Amazon says on its Prime Air site.”Flying under 400 feet and weighing less than 55 pounds, Prime Air vehicles will take advantage of sophisticated ‘sense and avoid’ technology, as well as a high degree of automation, to safely operate beyond the line of sight to distances of 10 miles or more.”

There are a few intentional things in that statement: an early draft of the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules for drones required drones to stay within a user’s line of sight, but with this video, Amazon is perhaps trying to show that the vehicles can be flown safely at farther distances.

Mentioning the weight of less than 55 pounds is also in response to the FAA, which is currently working on its rules for registering drones that weigh — you guessed it! — less than 55 pounds.

“Putting Prime Air into service will take some time,” Amazon said. “We will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.”

It’s Cyber Monday, But Don’t Get Fired For Shopping Too Much At Work

(Chris Stephens)
So many people do their holiday shopping online that the idea of “Cyber Monday” seems like a relic of an era when online retail was a novelty in search of legitimacy. Still, the name — and the sales — persist, but shopping on the job today could land you in a heap of trouble with the boss.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reminds us all that many companies have policies about non-work uses for the computers and smartphones they provide to employees. And with more than 40% of U.S. workers saying they plan to spend at least one hour of work time going online to do their Christmas shopping, some businesses might be getting a bit peeved that these usage policies are being violated.

The paper points to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, which found that while 13% of employers are willing to look the other way when it comes to holiday shopping during work hours (so long as employees’ work still gets done on time), 32% say they have a no-tolerance policy for online shopping.

Yet another survey claims that more bosses have fired people for online shopping — up from 8% to 12% in a single year. This matches up with other stats showing increased monitoring of employees’ online browsing. More than a quarter of employers in the survey say they have fired a worker for using the Internet for non-work purposes.

You’re probably going to shop online at work regardless — and you’re likely reading this on your work time, possibly in violation of company policy — but just be mindful that your boss may be keeping tabs on those who spend the most amount of time doing something other than the jobs they’re being paid to do.

Hack Of Toy Maker VTech Exposes Data For Millions Of Parents, Kids

image003Let’s kick off the holiday shopping season with news of a data breach that may involve some toys you’ll be wrapping in the coming weeks. Popular children’s electric toy maker VTech has announced that customer information fell into the wrong hands earlier this month. 

VTech announced Friday that on Nov. 14, an “unauthorized party” accessed customer data housed in its Learning Lodge app store, which allows customers to download apps, games, e-books and other content for VTech products.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 9.24.30 PM

While the company assured users that the Learning Lodge does not store credit card information or Social Security numbers, the database does include data like names, e-mail addresses, encrypted passwords, IP addresses, mailing addresses, download histories, and answers to password-retrieval questions.

“Upon discovering the unauthorized access we immediately conducted a thorough investigation, which involved a comprehensive check of the affected site and implementation of measures to defend against any further attacks,” VTech said in a statement.

The company didn’t specify how many users may have been affected by the breach, but it currently provides services to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Latin America, Hong Kong, China, Australia, and New Zealand.

Motherboard reports that the compromised information may include data for nearly 5 million adults who have purchased VTech products and the first names, genders, and birthdays of more than 200,000 children.

“The investigation continues as we look at additional ways to strengthen our Learning Lodge database security,” said VTech. “We are committed to protecting our customer information and their privacy, to ensure against any such incidents in the future. Our Privacy Statement can be found on our website here.”

[via Motherboard]

jeudi 26 novembre 2015

Be Thankful That No One At Your Thanksgiving Is Lighting A Cigarette After Every Course

No matter where you celebrate Thanksgiving and what you’re eating, take a moment to be thankful that this suggested tradition from the mind of a marketer never caught on: lighting up a Camel cigarette after every course of your meal. No, not after dinner, after every course.

This ad is a Consumerist tradition, since it reminds us how terrible the past really was. Even if future generations might judge us for having cups of soda with every course of our holiday meals today.

It appeared in LIFE magazine on November 23, 1936.


“The best meal I ever ate would be a disappointment if I couldn’t enjoy Camels,” the man in the hat at lower left is quoted saying. He may have some low culinary standards.

Fortunately, there are fewer Americans than ever smoking cigarettes of all brands between courses on Thanksgiving, and on every other day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving, American Consumerists!

mercredi 25 novembre 2015

Nutty Nuggets And Panburger Partner: The Best Store-Brand Products You Submitted

At the beginning of this week, we took inspiration from reader Tom’s photo of a margarine tub, and asked our readers to send in your favorite funny store-brand product names. They could be fanciful or funny in their descriptive bluntness: they just had to be funny. You submitted plenty: let’s unload this grocery cart of amusement.

From Canada, Daniel sent along his favorite store-brand lemon-lime sodas: President’s Choice Spritz Up, and IGA’s Choose Up.



Hy-Top’s Panburger Partner is perfect, somehow inventing the perfect name for ground hamburger and pasta in a pan.


Spooki sent along Price Chopper’s Nutty Nuggets, which are store-brand Grape Nuts.


Michael found versions of Chex at Market Basket that are quite descriptive.




Another submission from up Ty north: this IGA version of Froot Loops is called “Fruity Hoops” in English and “Fruits Rigolos” (Funny Fruits) in French, leaving us to wonder what the French word for “Froot” is.


Another unhealthy cereal choice over at Aldi is Cocoa Peanut Butter Spheres, which is a classic right up there with Crispy Hexagons.

There’s something about creating generic alternatives for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter that bring out the best and worst in marketers.

Melissa sent along two, Fareway’s “Could it be Butter?” couldbebutter

Making your product’s name a question invites people to say “no,” which may not be what they intended. Isn’t the point here to not be butter?

She also points out Hy-Vee’s version, Best Thing Since Butter, which is a spread that contains some dairy.

All of the good names must have been trademarked by the time Acme got in the game. Robin sent this picture along: