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Nestlé Creates A New Sugar: Use Less Get The Same Taste

For years, food and beverage companies like Pepsi Co. have tweaked their use of sugar and sweetener substitutes to find just the right mixture that aligns with consumers’ tastes and perception of a healthy lifestyle. Instead of fiddling around with different kinds of sweeteners like aspartame or Splenda, Nestlé hit the laboratory to create its own version of the crystallized ingredient. 

The New York Times reports that Nestlé, the company behind Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, SweeTarts, Crunch bars, and countless other chocolate and confectionary treats, has developed a new way of restructuring sugar that allows the company to reduce the amount of the ingredient used in its sweet treats while maintaining the same taste.

Nestlé expects to begin using the new sugar in products starting in 2018, estimating it will reduce the amount of sweetener in its confectionery items by as much as 40%.

While the company didn’t provide specific details about how the product was created, the Times reports, Nestlé chief technology officer Dr. Stefan Catsicas claims the sugar is simply assembled in a way that it dissolves in the mouth and doesn’t travel to the gastrointestinal tract.

Such a large change to the way sugar is created could be a game changer for the food and beverage industry, Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, who has no relation to the company, tells the Times.

Nestlé says it could eventually sell the sugar to other companies, but Catsicas cautions the product can’t be mixed with coffee or used to sweeten soda.

Nestlé Reformulates Sugar and Says It Will Use Less in Its Candy [The New York Times]


by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

The Limited To Start Layoffs At Corporate Offices; Could Start Winding Down Business

Two weeks after retailer The Limited announced it would explore its options, including a possible sale, the mall staple has begun notifying employees at its corporate offices that they could be out of a job and the company as a whole could close. 

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the retailer sent a letter to the Ohio Department of Job and Family services recently notifying the agency that it would begin layoffs as soon as today and that its headquarters in Columbus could close their doors amid continuously slipping sales. If the offices close, 248 jobs would go with it.

According to the letter, the privately-held company with 243 stores across the country is dealing with “significant debt obligations” as a result of “product misses and massive shifts in retail shopping trends.”

The company — which was once owned by L Brands, the mall juggernaut behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works — has now come to the conclusion that a sale is the only way to keep things afloat.

“We have now determined that the combination of sales misses and the level of existing financial obligations will require that the company be sold or we will have to wind down our operations due to an anticipated lack of operating capital,” the letter, as reported by the Dispatch, reads.

The Limited, which was purchased by Sun Capital Partners in 2007, says it is currently considering bids from potential buyers and is hopeful that it can continue operations.

Limited Stores to start layoffs as soon as today at headquarters [The Columbus Dispatch]


by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Couple Claims Car Dealership Employee Stole Intimate Photos, Sent Them To Swingers’ Site

The thing about private photos is that they’re supposed to be just that: private. But a couple in Texas says not only did a car dealership employee swipe intimate photos from one of their phones, he then emailed them to a site for swingers.

The couple says they’d been in the process of buying a car from the Tyota dealership two years ago, when the salesperson asked to see an app the husband had downloaded on his phone for pre-approved financing, CBS Dallas Fort-Worth reports (warning: link contains autoplay video).

Their attorney said the salesperson told the couple he’d have to show the phone to his manager to get financing approved, and was out of sight for five minutes. In that time, they allege that the sales director found two photos of the woman stepping into and out of a bath, and emailed them to himself and a site popular with couples who want to date other couples. The husband figured out what had happened by using an app that tracks deleted emails.

“I never imagined that anyone else would see it,” his wife said of the photos.

They claim that the dealership denied the sales director worked there, and that they never received a response to their complaints. They’ve filed a civil lawsuit, and the employee is also facing criminal charges for breach of computer security.

“I feel that my privacy and dignity were taken away,” the woman said. “I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Toyota North America declined to comment to CBS-DFW on the allegations, but noted that the dealership in question is an independently owned dealership, and as such, “does not own, operate or manage” the business, and “does not hire, fire or direct the day-to-day activities of the dealership’s personnel; and it is not involved in matters concerning employees of independent dealers. “

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of people taking advantage of customers to gain access to private photos stored on their phones, but usually, such thefts involve phone experts hired to fix or set up devices.

Back in 2007, Consumerist’s three-month sting operation caught a Geek Squad technician — on video — stealing porn from our hard drive. That investigation was initiated after complaints by current and former Geek Squad techies, as compiled in the 10-page Geek Squad confession, “Stealing Customers’ Nudie Pics Was An Easter Egg Hunt.”

More recently, in October, Apple fired several Apple Store employees in Australia accused of stealing photos from female customers’ iPhones, but said there was no evidence any such theft occurred.

And then last year, a Radio Shack employee was charged with allegedly stealing racy personal photos off a customer’s cellphone.


by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Visa And Mastercard Push Chip Card Deadline For Gas Pumps Back To 2020

Americans get to face another three years at higher risk of having our payment card numbers scooped up by criminals while we fuel up our cars. The major credit card networks, Visa and Mastercard, have given gas stations an extension, pushing the deadline for them to install payment terminals with chip (EMV) readers back to October 2020.

You’re probably a big fan of payment system liability shifts, but let’s review anyway: the United States was one of the few countries still using magnetic strips on our payment cards, and decided to join the rest of the world.

The system is called EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa) and has been in use for decades. Instead of a magnetic strip, the cards use a microchip that makes it harder for crooks to intercept payment card numbers, and impossible to buy credit cards online and create cloned cards.

Since this meant retailers and banks needed to buy new equipment that can read the chip-equipped cards, the card networks set a series of deadlines. The deadline for retail points of sale was in October 2015, for ATMs was October 2016, and for gas station pay-at-the-pump terminals was supposed to be October 2017.

After these deadlines, liability for fraudulent transactions would fall on the merchant still using an old payment terminal, not on the bank that issued the credit or debit card. That doesn’t affect consumers all that much, but it definitely affects retailers, some of which have sued card issuers over the delay in certifying those new payment systems that they had to install.

What does all of this have to do with gas stations? Gas pumps are fantastic targets for card skimmers, devices that capture customers’ card numbers as they’re swiped through the magnetic reader, since they aren’t in the direct view of a cashier, and they get lots of traffic. Security reporter Brian Krebs notes that gas station skimmer attacks have increased this year, perhaps because chip cards and readers are finally becoming prevalent. They’ve been especially plentiful in Arizona this year.

Here’s the problem, if you’re a gas station owner: those pay-at-the pump terminals are really expensive. That’s why the payment networks announced this week that they’re giving gas stations an additional three years to get new equipment.

Retrofitting some stations with older equipment is more complicated than swapping in a new card reader. “In some cases, older pumps may need to be replaced before adding chip readers, requiring specialized vendors and breaking into concrete,” Visa noted in a statement.

What all of this means is that it’s going to be a good idea for a while still to use a credit card rather than a debit card at the gas pump. If a scammer gets hold of your debit card number, they can drain your checking account and cause financial havoc as all of your payments bounce. Using a credit card leaves you with a bit of breathing room in case of suspicious transactions.


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

FCC Warns AT&T, Verizon That Sponsored Data Programs May Harm Consumers

While last year’s Open Internet Order — better known as the “net neutrality” rules — stops broadband providers from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down data to or from sources of their choosing, that rule doesn’t explicitly deal with the practice of “zero-rating,” where a broadband provider doesn’t count certain content against the user’s monthly data limit. After recently raising “serious concerns” about this practice, the FCC is now warning AT&T and Verizon that some of their zero-rating programs appear to harm consumers by providing these companies with unfair advantages in streaming video.

In separate letters sent to AT&T [PDF] and Verizon [PDF], the head of the FCC’s Wireless bureau says that AT&T’s “Sponsored Data” program and Verizon’s “FreeBee Data 360” offering may have potential anti-competitive impacts.

AT&T’s zero-rating Sponsored Data offering has been around for a couple of years, but has only recently come under heavy scrutiny following the company’s acquisition of DirecTV. In September, AT&T announced that DirecTV subscribers who have AT&T wireless plans could stream videos from the pay-TV provider without the data being counted against their monthly data cap. Just this week, that policy was extended to cover AT&T’s highly publicized DirecTV Now live-TV streaming service.

While AT&T contends that DirecTV reimburses the AT&T wireless division for this zero-rated data at the same comparable to what any other company in the Sponsored Data program would pay, the FCC pointed out last month that it’s not really equivalent, as the money DirecTV pays to AT&T is money that comes from and stays under the big AT&T umbrella, as opposed to third parties who experience a real cash loss by taking part in Sponsored Data. Thus, worried the FCC, AT&T might be giving its DirecTV products an unfair leg up over competing video services.

AT&T responded to the FCC’s concerns, but today’s letter notes that AT&T’s response only “tends to confirm our initial view that the Sponsored Data program strongly favors AT&T’s own video offerings while unreasonably discriminating against unaffiliated edge providers and limiting their ability to offer competing video services to AT&T’s broadband subscribers on a level playing field.”

According to the FCC’s calculations, a third party video provider wanting to join in the Sponsored Data fun would pay AT&T $16/month for a single user who only watches 10 minutes of zero-rated LTE video per day. If that person’s wireless video streaming increases to 30/minutes a day — highly feasible in some areas where people have long commutes by mass transit — the FCC says the rate goes to $47/month for a single user.

Meanwhile, the recently launched DirecTV Now — which is being marketed by AT&T as a “mobile first” product — only starts at $35/month and automatically includes zero-rated data for AT&T wireless customers.

“As consumers increasingly use mobile video services — a process which the practice of zero-rating mobile video usage will accelerate — these Sponsored Data charges could reasonably be expected to increase even more,” writes the FCC. “By contrast, AT&T incurs no comparable cost to offer its own DirecTV Now service on a zero-rated basis.”

By the FCC’s reckoning, “AT&T seems to present the unaffiliated provider with a choice that is unreasonable on its face: either pay a Sponsored Data rate (resulting in a $16-$47 per month – or higher – incremental cash cost not incurred by AT&T) that would make it very difficult, if not infeasible, to offer a competitively-priced service, or instead require its customers to pay significant amounts for their own usage of data while AT&T’s zero-rated DirecTV Now service offers customers the same usage for free.”

So the FCC’s “preliminary conclusion” is that AT&T’s zero-rating practices “inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the ‘virtuous cycle’ needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet.”

Verizon’s zero-rating practices haven’t made as many headlines, but it has zero-rated data for both its little-used Go90 streaming video service and for Verizon wireless customers streaming live NFL games through the NFL Mobile app.

Again, while Verizon does claim to make its FreeBee Data 360 program available to all takers, the FCC raises the same concern it has about AT&T’s Sponsored Data: That the cost of the Go90 and the NFL zero-rating is being paid by Verizon to Verizon; not the same as, say Netflix paying Verizon for zero-rating.

“We are therefore concerned that this combination could present anti-competitive effects,” writes the letter.

Both companies have been given until Dec. 15 to respond.

“We will provide the FCC with additional information on why the government should not take away a service that saves consumers money,” AT&T said in a statement in response to these letters.

While Verizon says “We remain quite confident that our practices are good for consumers, non-discriminatory and are consistent with current rules.”


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

No Pizza Is Worth Crawling Through Ventilation Duct To Steal

Listen, I get it. Pizza is delicious, and you may be tempted to go to extremes to be near it. But it is not a good idea to crawl through a pizzeria’s ventilation system in an effort to burgle the restaurant that makes it.

According to law enforcement in the Rochester suburb of Penfield, NY, a 53-year-old man had to be rescued by firefighters early on Friday morning, TWC News reports. They had to dismantle a part of the exhaust system in the restaurant to get him out, causing more than $2,000 in damage.

Police were called when a clerk at a neighboring convenience store heard the suspect yelling for help.

“I kept hollering, ‘Where are you?’ ‘I’m trapped in here!’ ‘Trapped in where?'” he said. “When the sheriff’s came they looked around and heard him. They said he was on the roof, that he scaled the building and got stuck in the vent, the oven vent.”

Along with charges of third-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief and possession of burglary oils, the pizza oven suspect’s bungled burglary has snagged himself a spot in Consumerist’s “You Have Only Yourself To Blame” Hall of Fame, where he has plenty of company:

1. The bank robbery suspect who was caught by police when he stopped for lunch at a casino.

2. The KFC worker who pulled a gun on his boss and returned for a paycheck the next day.

3. Suspected thieves who police said tried to sell a pawn shop owner his own stuff back, unaware that they’d purloined it from him in the first place.

4. A guy who police overhead planning a burglary after he unwittingly butt-dialed 9-1-1.

5. The burglary suspect who made things pretty easy by falling through the store’s ceiling… in front of cops.

6. A man who was freed after 15 years in prison for robbery who was accused of heading straight back there to rob it again.

7. The students who were arrested after allegedly stealing a $7,500 Ronald McDonald figure and then completing their drive-thru order.
ronaldmcdkidnap

8. A guy who was found sleeping in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru who was charged with DUI after he tried to pay cops for his burgers.

9. The burglary suspect who broke into a restaurant and was caught after he tried to cook himself up some tasty crab cakes.

10. A man accused of burgling a fried chicken restaurant who found himself in handcuffs when he returned to the eatery the next day — and wearing the same clothes, no less.
green_shirt

11. The guy found snoozing at a Wendy’s drive-thru who woke up to a DUI and no fries.

12. The father-daughter duo accused of going on a burglary spree who were nabbed after she posted a doctored Microsoft employee badge on Facebook.

13. The criminal mastermind whose brilliantly plotted heist was undone after he returned to the scene to grab a remote control for the sound system he allegedly stole 30 minutes before.

14. A real-life Hamburglar accused of robbing a McDonald’s who was caught when he crashed into the local mayor.

15. Yet another snoozer, this time, a guy police found asleep in the McDonald’s drive-thru who was charged with driving while intoxicated after scoring a blood alcohol content of 0.14%.

16. The guy accused of breaking into Walmart and trying to saw through the ceiling of the store’s cash room while an employee was present.

17. The blabby teen who bragged online about pulling off a bank robbery. He apparently thought no one watches YouTube.

18. A would-be Walmart robber who was unfortunate to get hit by his own getaway vehicle.

19. The timid bank robber who scared himself silly by shooting his gun, and ended up fleeing without cash.

20. An accused robber of storage units who left behind a pizza box with his address on it.

21. The accused thief who made the rookie mistake of uploading pics from a stolen iPad to the cloud.

22. Speaking of uploading things, there was the time when a Disney cruise worker accused of stealing an iPhone unwittingly sent photos to the cloud of his adventures with the pilfered device.

23. The guy who reported the theft of an iPhone he’d just stolen from someone else to the police.

24. A very sleepy man who allegedly broke into a bar and then took a nice nap on the kitchen table.

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by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

American Apparel Hands Out Layoff Notices, Extends Bidding Period

Twice-bankrupt clothing company American Apparel is in a hurry to get itself sold. While the company had a deal in place to sell to Gildan Activewear even before filing, now it has asked the court to change the auction timetable, but without extending the bidding process as long as its creditors would prefer.

According to Reuters, the clothing company asked the court to extend the deadline for bids to tomorrow. Creditors had proposed a four-week extension, but American Apparel told the court that such a long extension would endanger the bid from Gildan.

The two companies are a weird fit: Gildan’s marketing and its image in general are very modest, especially when compared to some of American Apparel’s racier ads under founder and original CEO Dov Charney.

Gildan has bid on the company’s intellectual property and manufacturing operations, but not on its retail stores, which would go to another buyer or simply liquidate and close. The company’s stores in the United Kingdom and Australia will close after the holidays.

According to a recent report in California Apparel News, American Apparel’s factory employees in Los Angeles have received layoff notices warning them that they’ll be out of a job on Jan. 7, 2017 unless the new owner decides to keep their facility open.

One requirement for bidders is that they be committed to manufacturing clothes in the United States, but that means that the jobs could move anywhere in the country.

By the way, if you want to hear what Dov Charney is up to, the podcast Startup is following him as he starts a few clothing company in Los Angeles.


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Don’t Give Up Your Seat On A Flight Until You’ve Read The Airline Voucher’s Fine Print

You’re waiting at a crowded gate to board your flight, when suddenly, you hear it. “Flight XYZ is overbooked; do we have any volunteers willing to give up their seat in exchange for a travel voucher?” But before you volunteer yourself as tribute in the airline Hunger Games, make sure you understand exactly what kind of restrictions might come with that voucher.

While every airline has different policies on this front, some may be more restrictive to to others. Spirit Airlines, for example, requires travelers to book their flights within 60 days of receiving a voucher. The industry standard, however, is a year, writes Christopher Elliott.

One of Elliott’s readers explained that they and their travel companion had volunteered to give up their seats on a recent Spirit flight in exchange for four vouchers. An airline rep told them these vouchers could be used to travel “anywhere” Spirit flies at “anytime.”

Though the reader asked about restrictions and booking several times, the agent confirmed that they could fly anytime, but would have to call to book the new flights within 60 days.

The travelers received six vouchers in the end, so they called the airline with several dates in February, March, April, May, and June they wished to travel — and were told that no voucher seats were available on any flights to their chosen destinations, not on any weekend in any of those months.

“We were able to book two of the six vouchers, but I feel like we were scammed, because we can’t use the other ones,” the reader wrote.

Elliott notes that while the gate agent should’ve fully informed the travelers about the vouchers’ restrictions, because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what an employee says, it matters what the voucher says.

A representative for Spirit told Elliott that while the vouchers do have some restrictions, “they are not typically such limited options,” adding, “I completely understand their frustration.”

Spirit canceled the original vouchers and has now issued new-round trip coupons with fewer restrictions. But of course, that won’t be the case for every confused traveler, so make sure you do your research before you step up to volunteer.


by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Intoxicated Best Buy Worker Can’t Hold Store Liable For Letting Him Drive Home, Crash His Car

If you show up to work so overly medicated that you won’t remember it the next day, it’s pretty likely that your employer is going to notice and send you home (and maybe tell you to never come back), but if you wreck your car on the way home, can you hold your employer responsible for letting you drive away?

In March 2014, a Best Buy worker in Tennessee says he ordered a liquid version of the sedative estazolam (think of valium and you’re on the right path) from an online “grey market” and then decided to help himself to a couple of drops of the drug before driving to work, and then another drop when he arrived at Best Buy. The employee says he doesn’t remember anything that happened after he clocked in at the store.

After an assistant manager learned that this employee was acting slow and unresponsive, he was told to clock out early and go home. The assistant manager had stopped the employee from using heavy equipment to lift boxes in the warehouse, but did allow him to drive away from the store.

Shortly after the employee left work, he drove into a median, bounced off and into a pickup truck, totaling both vehicles.

While the officer who responded to the scene said the driver — who claimed at the time that his tire must have had a blowout — was responsive and conversed normally, the Best Buy worker’s mother testified that her son was plaintiff was “not making any sense, talking out of his head,” and that she had to have him admitted to a mental health institute for several days. The employee claims to have no memory of this time period.

The driver eventually sued Best Buy, claiming the electronics retailer was negligent for allowing him to drive away in his intoxicated state. Best Buy countered that the store had no legal duty to prevent the employee from leaving the premises in his car, and that Best Buy in fact had no right to exercise any control over the employee’s use of his personal vehicle.

A state trial court agreed with Best Buy, but the employee took his dispute up the legal ladder to a state court of appeals in Knoxville, which this week upheld the ruling that Best Buy can’t be held responsible for letting the employee drive home under the influence.

In its ruling [PDF] the appeals court pointed to an earlier Tennessee court decision in a case involving a Waffle House employee who crashed their car after driving home from work under the influence.

A woman injured in that crash sued the breakfast food chain, but the court ultimately found the restaurant “did not have the means or the ability to control its employee when she made the decision to drive a vehicle in her condition,” nor did Waffle House have the obligation to keep the drunk employee on its premises when she was unable to work.

The appeals panel in the Best Buy case noted that if the Waffle House ruling found that the employer couldn’t be held liable for damages done to an innocent third party, “It would be plainly absurd to now hold that an employer has a duty to attempt to prevent injury to an employee who voluntarily went to work in an allegedly impaired state.”

Additionally, a Best Buy manager testified that while this employee was told to clock out early, he was not instructed to leave the premises. In fact, according to the manager, employees frequently stick around after clocking out because “We have a nice break room, a nice TV on the wall, DirectTV. A very comfortable environment.”

Finally, the court agreed that Best Buy had no authority to restrict the employee’s use of his own car.

Best Buy, concluded the court, “never had control of the vehicle, so it cannot be said that it entrusted the car to plaintiff.”

[via CourtHouseNews.com]


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Tesla Teases Michigan With New Look-But-Don’t-Buy Showroom At Nordstrom

Three months after Tesla sued the state of Michigan, challenging a law that says automakers can only sell through franchised dealerships, the electric carmaker has thrown caution to the wind and debuted a showroom inside a Nordstrom department store in the Detroit suburb of Troy. 

Fortune reports that the showroom — which takes up about 700-square-feet of the department store — marks the first in Michigan. The state and Tesla have squared off over a two-year-old law that bans Tesla’s usual practice of selling cars directly to buyers without the use of intermediary franchised dealerships.

While the 2014 law is still in place, Telsa say it’s not doing anything wrong, as it still has the right to show its cars to potential customers at Nordstrom, even if they can’t buy the car in the state.

The store-within-a-store is the third of its kind for Tesla, which opened other locations in Los Angeles and North Carolina earlier this year.

Essentially, the showroom serves as a hands-on marketing approach for the electric carmaker, giving shoppers the ability to learn about and see inside the Model S and Model X.

Tesla’s road to opening the showroom hasn’t exactly been easy.

The fight to sell its vehicles in Michigan began back in Oct. 2014, when Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that included an amendment explicitly banning Tesla from selling vehicles in the state unless it was through a franchised dealership.

Michigan law already required that anyone selling a car in the state do so through a dealership, but since Tesla had no retail operations in Michigan, it maintained that it wasn’t violating the law by allowing Michigan residents to buy their cars online.

The measure effectively shut the door on Tesla’s direct-sales approach in the state, meaning residents had to go out of state to buy one of the cars. That, or Tesla would need to make arrangements with franchised dealerships to sell their cars — a move that appears to be taking shape now.

Tesla appeared to be considering its options earlier this year, when it was revealed that the company had applied for a Class A dealership to sell new and used cars in the state.

If the application were to be approved, Tesla would be required to open a “repair facility as part of their business or have an established relationship with a licensed repair facility.” Additionally, the company would have been allowed to contract with anyone — except itself — to sell cars with the state’s dealership licenses.

That meant it was possible the company could send a former employee to the state to open a dealership with a franchise agreement that would mandate the same look and business practices as its current Tesla-run stores.

However, any hope of that happening was put to rest in September when Michigan officials denied Tesla’s application.

A week after the decision the company filed suit against the state, claiming its 2014 “anti-Tesla” law is unconstitutional.

The company said at the time that it’d rather resolve things with legislation, but was forced to take the issue to the courts as state lawmakers have said there will be no hearings on the matter.

“Unfortunately, the local auto dealers and local manufacturers have made clear that they oppose any law that would allow Tesla to operate in Michigan,” the company said in a statement. “Given their position, the leadership of the Michigan legislature recently informed Tesla that it will not even hold a hearing to debate the issue. As one leading legislator told Tesla: ‘The local auto dealers do not want you here. The local manufacturers do not want you here. So you’re not going to be here.’”


by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Amid Rash Complaints, American Airlines Flight Attendants Want New Uniforms Recalled

After months of many American Airlines flight attendants complaining that their new uniforms are giving them hives, rashes, and headaches, a union that represents the workers is pushing the company to issue a full recall of all the uniforms.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said this week that it’s received reports of allergic reactions caused by the uniforms from more than 1,600 flight attendants.

“While the company has reaffirmed its commitment to continue joint testing with APFA to determine what is causing these conditions, it has stopped short of a full recall,” the union said in a memo to members on Wednesday. “We feel a remedy that excludes a full recall of the uniform fails to adequately protect our members.”

Though the union notes that the uniforms may look good, crew members should also feel good in the uniform.

“Yet this feeling is not the case for a rapidly growing segment of our membership who has reported adverse reactions, including many Flight Attendants who are quite pleased with the look of the uniform,” APFA wrote.

APFA says it will continue to explore all legal options and consult with other experts in the field so it can get to the bottom of what’s going on.

In a statement to the Star-Telegram’s SkyTalk blog, a spokesman for American said the company has allowed about 200 flight attendants to keep wearing their old uniforms, and has ordered an additional 600 non-wool uniforms in an effort to address some of the skin reactions. American is also offering dermatological testing for any workers who’ve had reactions.

“We want everyone to feel good in the uniforms,” he said. “We are going to continue to work with the APFA on testing.”

That being said, the airline said in a letter to employees that it “stand firm” in its conviction that the uniforms are safe.

The issue first came to light in September, soon after the airline debuted the new uniforms. American said at that time that the complaints were likely related to a wool allergy, but some attendants said they had issues with garments made from cotton as well.

In November, APFA said that reports of allergic reactions were still rolling in, though American said the complaints only represented about 1% of the 70,000 employees wearing them.


by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

FCC: Cable Internet Really Is Getting Better But It Still Sucks To Have DSL

The FCC has released its latest Measuring Broadband America report, which — among other things — tells consumers if internet providers are indeed living up to the super-fast speeds they advertise. And while the industry is getting better at both delivering and marketing cable broadband, Americans who rely on satellite or DSL internet access are having difficulty catching up.

Back in 2014, the FCC found that by and large, fiber providers were consistently exceeding advertised speeds, cable providers were managing to hit them more than 90% of the time, and DSL providers were hovering around the 50% – 60% mark. And last year, the 2015 report found that cable connection speeds were getting faster nationwide, but DSL and satellite users were being left behind.

So what does the 2016 report have to tell us?

Let’s start with the good news first, shall we? Everyone likes good news.

So: broadband speeds are up! Both the real speeds and the advertised speeds for consumers have increased since last year, which is great. Last year’s average speed was 32 Mbps; this year’s median is 39 Mbps. That’s a 22% increase. Hooray!

(And yes, mean and median are two different metrics. The FCC changed the way it calculates figures this year in accordance with some rule changes due to the 2015 Open Internet Order — aka “net neutrality.” However, the commission says it compared both mean and median values and did not find any variations greater than 5%, “which implies that the measured values were, in general, only slightly skewed.” The full report still also provides raw data for both values.)

Another piece of good news: for most providers, the FCC says, real speeds and advertised speeds are finally getting aligned. Cable and fiber providers are meeting or exceeding their advertised connection speeds on the regular. If you’re paying a cable company for “up to” 100 Mbps downstream, odds are now really good that your device is indeed connecting at 100 Mbps or better.

In handy-dandy chart form, you can see how promised download speeds have grown rapidly over the past few years for cable providers, including Optimum, Charter, Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable:

Several broadband providers' highest advertised download speed, year over year.

That big spike up to 300 Mbps for TWC was for “TWC Maxx,” a service tier the company was piloting. However, since the Charter acquisition, Maxx has now been cancelled. All the other companies with high connection speed promises are hanging out around the 100 Mbps level, with Comcast popping up to 150.

That’s advertised performance, granted. But the median actual performance — which draws in data from every service tier — is also generally trending upward across the board:

Major internet providers' median download speed, year-over-year.

More consumers are adopting those higher speeds, too, where they’re available. But that “where they’re available” is the big caveat, and it takes us to the “bad news” half of the report. Because as both the charts and the text show, a large segment of internet users are still being left in the dust. While cable connections are improving, DSL and satellite users — and for that matter, some fiber users — continue to see their service stagnating or even degrading.

The satellite-internet customers also suffer on other major metrics: consistency, latency, and packet loss.

Packet loss measures how much data simply never makes it from point A to point E through points B, C, and D. For a smooth internet experience, you want that number to be as close to zero as possible. Cable providers Optimum, Charter, and Comcast all came in right around 0.1% of data lost or less, with Cox only fractionally higher. Hughes satellite users, however, were missing nearly 0.8% of their data. A number close to 1% adds up to a negative experience more quickly than you’d think.

Latency, meanwhile, is basically a measurement for delay. It’s about how much time it takes a signal from point A to reach point B and come back. That’s another number that you want to be as close to zero as possible, so you feel like you’re getting a fast response time when you do things online.

The cable providers once again came in pretty low, with Optimum leading the way between 10 and 20 milliseconds of latency, on average. (That’s 0.01 to 0.02 seconds.) Verizon FiOS also came in low, around the same point. Among cable providers, none had more latency than 30 ms (Time Warner Cable). DSL providers fared worse than cable, but still all came in under 60 ms, or about 0.06 seconds.

Once again, however, satellite internet customers are facing a comparatively crappy experience. For both Hughes and ViaSat/Exede customers, the FCC found latencies around 600 ms — that’s more than half a second, pushing towards a whole second, and that’s something significant enough for users to notice, especially if it happens with every single action you take through your connection.

And consistency, finally, is exactly what it sounds like: you want your connection experience to be consistent. If you’re looking for a 100 Mbps connection, is it always around 90-100 Mbps or does it oscillate wildly between 50 Mbps and 150 Mbps? Users want to know how their service works, and they want it to work the same every time they sit down with their computer or pick up their wifi-using mobile device.

The FCC uses a metric called 80/80 to measure consistency: are at least 80% of users getting at least 80% of the connection speed they’re promised during peak usage hours? Cable subscribers once again stand the highest chance of success there, with more than 90% of Optimum and Comcast users getting at least 95% of their advertised connection speed at peak hours. But by and large, DSL customers and Frontier customers are lucky even to find themselves making that 80% threshold. And for Viasat/Exede, the percentage of users who manage to reach 95% or more of their advertised connection speed at peak hours is… zero.

In a perfect world of perfect connections, all these bars would be 100% blue.

So why is satellite service so awful, especially this year? The technology itself is part of the problem, the FCC admits, but the other challenge is that both major satellite internet providers are, in a sense, victims of their own success: “increased subscribership and consumer usage of these services” really does mean there isn’t quite enough network to go around to all those users right now. “Future proposed launches of more advanced satellites” planned in 2017 would reverse the trend, the report suggests.

As for DSL, however, its downward trajectory seems potentially bottomless, because the networks just aren’t getting upgraded.

“We note that DSL technology is capable of attaining speeds comparable to cable and fiber technologies,” the report notes, “but that improvements … may be required, adding to overall expense of the service.”

“We find on this basis that there is a growing disparity in download speeds surveyed between DSL and cable and fiber technologies. This disparity has been growing since our initial Report,” in 2011.


by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Chick Fil-A Joins Trend From 2013, Gets Another Food Truck

You might think that with 74 Chick Fil-A restaurants already in the Houston area, the chicken chain wouldn’t need another one. Apparently, you would be wrong: one franchisee is taking advantage of the continuing popularity of food trucks and creating a rolling restaurant with a limited menu to bring chicken sandwiches to people who don’t already have them.

The franchisee opening the roving restaurant already owns Chick Fil-A outlets at the places where you might picture a chicken truck going over well: he sells sandwiches at local university football games and even some local schools.

The limited menu will include regular and spicy chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, lemonade and iced tea, and some still-unidentified cold items off the regular menu.

This will be the first chickenmobile in Texas, but not the first for the company: the chain also has a food truck that roams the Washington, DC area, Tweeting its location daily.

Eater asked the company whether this means that there might be plans for an expanding fleet of sandwiches, and it has not yet responded.

As a franchise-based chain, the existence of a food truck in an area may simply depend on whether an individual franchisee wants to build and maintain a restaurant truck.


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Planned Train Line Through French Flower Fields Could Threaten Chanel No. 5 Perfume

Chanel is making a big stink about a planned train line that the company believes poses a threat to the future of Chanel’s signature No. 5 perfume.

The country’s SNCF rail network wants to build a new high-speed route and viaduct to ease traffic congestion between the cities of Le Muy and Cannes, the Associated Press reports.

But the new line would cut across southern France’s perfume-making area, Grasse, and that could seriously muck up Chanel’s production of its most popular scents, including No. 5, the company said in statement on Friday.

“The construction of a viaduct and the regular passage of high-speed trains above the flower fields would force Chanel to stop supporting its artisanal activities in the region,” the statement read.

But SNCF said that because the area is also home to three of the country’s biggest cities, the region simply “cannot afford to remain isolated in an increasingly interconnected European area.”

Chanel is now throwing its weight behind a campaign to make Grasse’s perfume-making area on UNESCO’s protected heritage list. It’s also lobbying French authorities to support another route for the train.


by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Scammers Ran A Fake U.S. Embassy In Ghana For A Decade Before Being Shut Down

The U.S. Embassy in Ghana is a large, secured office building in the bustling West African port city of Accra, but for a decade scammers convinced some folks that their humble two-story structure — without security fencing, U.S. military guards,… or Americans of any sort — was indeed the office of the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana.

According to the State Department, Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime members operated the “embassy” three days a week, selling bogus visas and other government documents. While the building looks nothing like the actual embassy, the scammers did fly a U.S. flag outside and decorated the office inside with a photo of the president.

The scammers couldn’t even be bothered to staff the building with American con artists. Instead, the “consular officers” were just Turkish citizens who spoke English.

The actual U.S. Embassy in Accra
The not-an-embassy in Accra

Officials at the legitimate U.S. Embassy were tipped off to the faker — and a similar operation pretending to be a Dutch embassy — as part of a different fraud investigation in the area. Investigators then worked with Ghanaian law enforcement to shut down the play embassy, along with two related operations that were used in the scam.

This fraud was able to go unstopped for so many years because the scammers paid off certain authorities to turn a blind eye, and because they didn’t find their customers locally.

Instead of allowing walk-in visits to the not-an-embassy, the fakers would find their customers out in more remote regions of Ghana, advertising on billboards and through flyers. Customers would then be shuttled into Accra and put up at a nearby hotel.

For thousands of dollars, customers could obtain visas, bank records, birth certificates, and other documents. After authorities shut the embassy down, they found 150 passports from 10 different countries, along with legitimate and counterfeit visas from the U.S., India, and South Africa.

Fake documents recovered from fake embassy.

It’s believed that more items would have been turned up if it hadn’t been for the intervention of a corrupt local attorney, says the State Department.

Authorities attempted to raid a dress shop alleged to house the industrial sewing machine used to recreate the binding on the passports, but this corrupt attorney falsely told detectives that they could not access the building because it was currently involved in a separate court case.

By the time this claim was shown to be a lie, the State Dept. says that — with the help of corrupt officials — the scammers had already been bailed out and moved their production facility elsewhere.

While this scam was obviously targeting Ghanaians and other West African residents — as opposed to U.S. citizens traveling in Ghana — remember that you can always find the location of an American embassy, consulate, or diplomatic office at USembassy.gov.


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Foxconn Employee Accused Of Stealing & Reselling 5,700 iPhones

This sounds like something from a TV episode, or maybe even a novel or film: an employee who works with sensitive, high-value technology manages to sneak test units out of the job for years and sell them for a fat wad of cash. In a movie, he’d take the money and retire quietly to a nice tropical island where the drinks come with umbrellas in them. In reality, however, he is now being indicted by Taiwanese authorities for the theft.

The Taiwanese employee was a manager at Foxconn’s plant in Shenzen, China, Asia One reports.

Foxconn is where most of the parts Apple sources from around the world come together to be assembled into iPhones. And over the course of a few years, Taiwanese authorities allege, the employee managed to smuggle about 5,700 of those phones out of the factory.

Prosecutors say he didn’t act alone; he instructed eight other employees at the factory (manager, remember) to get the phones out of the factory. They were testing units, which are supposed to be scrapped after testing is complete. Instead of being relegated to the trash heap, though, they were quietly resold.

Between 2013 and 2014, the district prosector’s office says, the employee raked about $1.56 million, give or take, from selling the illicit iPhone 5 and 5S models.

He has been charged with breach of trust and, if convicted, faces a maximum jail term of 10 years.

Taiwan Foxconn manager indicted for stealing thousands of iPhones [Asia One]


by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Pickup Truck Crashes Through Walmart Entrance, Killing 3 And Injuring 2

A normal morning at an Iowa Walmart took a tragic turn yesterday, after a pickup truck crashed through the front door of the store, killing three people in the store and injuring two others.

According to the Des Moines Register , witnesses claim that the Ford F-150 was traveling so fast that it blew through a concrete barrier that had been placed in front of the store to prevent this sort of crash.

Before victims were officially identified, a cashier told reporters that two of the people killed in the crash were employees at the store in Pella, a city of approximately 10,000 people located 40 miles east of Des Moines. “We’re a small town, the cashier who shared that information told the Register. “We’ll come together and get through this. That’s what we do.”

A spokesman for Walmart said that the company was “heartbroken by what appears to be a tragic accident.”

While details still haven’t all been released, the truck was reportedly driven by an elderly male, and police say that he didn’t appear to have driven into the store entrance intentionally.

An employee of a neighboring store says that police initially entered the store with guns drawn, presumably because they were unsure at the time about whether the driver had meant any further harm.

“Originally, I thought bomb threat or terroristic threat or something,” the Sally Beauty employee said, since she hadn’t seen or heard the truck crash into the entrance.

The town held a prayer vigil yesterday evening, where employees and town residents gathered to honor the still-unidentified dead and injured, including the driver of the truck.


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Ford Recalls 680K Vehicles Because Seatbelts Are Supposed To Work

Seatbelts, they can save lives in the event of a crash. However, in order for that to be a possibility, the devices have to actually work, and that apparently isn’t a certainty in more than 680,000 vehicles being recalled by Ford.

The carmaker announced Friday that it would recall 680,872 vehicles — of which 602,729 are located in the U.S. — after determining that the front driver and passenger seatbelts may not function properly.

The recalled vehicles — which include model year 2013 to 2016 Fusion, 2015 to 2016 Mondeo, and 2013 to 2015 Lincoln MXZ vehicles — may be equipped with a seatbelt anchor that could prevent the occupant from being restrained in the event of a crash.

Typically, a pretensioner tightens the seatbelt in the event of a crash, securing the passenger or driver from moving forward in their seats. Ford says this isn’t occurring in some of the recalled vehicles.

Instead, according to Ford, increased temperatures generated during deployment of the seatbelt anchor pretensioner could cause the device cables to separate. If this occurs during a crash, passengers and drivers may not be properly restrained, increasing the risk of injury.

So far, the carmaker says it is aware of two incidents and two injuries associated with the issue.

Ford says that to fix the issue, it will instruct dealers to inject a conformal coating into the front driver and passenger seatbelt anchor pretensioner to protect the cables from increased temperatures generated during deployment at no cost to the customer.

In a separate campaign on Friday, Ford said it would recall 27 model year 2017 Ford Fusion vehicles to replace the second-row left-rear seat back frame, which may have been built with improperly welded pivot pins.

In the affected vehicles, the seat backs with pivot pins that were improperly welded may not adequately retain cargo in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.


by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

For-Profit College Industry Eyes Resurgence Under Trump Administration

At its height, the for-profit college industry represented about 25% of all federal student aid, even though these schools only accounted for about 8% of U.S. college students. Meanwhile, these schools were spending the large majority of their money on advertising instead of education, and their students were defaulting on loans at double the rate of other borrowers. Since then, several education chains have shuttered due in no small part to federal investigations and regulations, but investors are seeing sunnier days ahead under a business-friendly Trump White House.

A number of for-profit chains are already seeing their stock values rebound, notes the Wall Street Journal, including educators that have recently come under fire for questionable business practices.

For example, the market value of DeVry Education Group has jumped by 25% since Election Day, even though the company recently reached an agreement with the Department of Education that it would stop boasting that 90% of its graduates had found jobs in their respective fields within six months of graduation.

The school chain also volunteered to limit how much federal aid it accepts, but only after it had been suspended from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ “Principles of Excellence” program.

Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos — a Michigan billionaire and school-choice advocate with no employment or academic background in education — for Secretary of Education is seen by many as an indication that the incoming administration will not continue to scrutinize for-profit educators, and may indeed roll back some of the current administration’s efforts to rein in the industry.

For-profit colleges and their supporters fought for years to block or water down the Education Dept.’s Gainful Employment Rule. This rule, which requires for-profit educators to demonstrate that their graduates are actually going on to jobs that can pay the bills, was first proposed in June 2011, but spent years being written, lobbied against, scuttled and rewritten, then repeatedly battled over in court before finally going into effect in June 2015.

The Journal notes that Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee — the same committee responsible under Obama for shining a light on the bad practices of the for-profit industry — has recently indicated that he hopes the Trump White House will figure out a way to roll back that rule.

In October, the Education Dept. also finalized rules that would make it easier for students at failed for-profit to seek financial relief, and to prevent these schools from using arbitration clauses in their enrollment agreements to strip students of their right to file lawsuits.

Because that rule was finalized so recently, it will be eligible for possible rollback under the Congressional Review Act. That 1996 law gives Congress the authority to review and voice their displeasure with any new major agency rules. If Congress issues a joint resolution of disapproval and it’s signed by the President, the rule is rolled back.

The Review Act has only been used successfully once in its two decades of existence, but many believe that — with both the White House and Congress aligned politically — the law could be used to undo a number of rules put into place during the final months of the Obama White House.

One Credit Suisse analyst puts investors’ vision of the Trump administration succinctly, telling the Journal, “It’s fair to think that you’re going to have a more benign enforcement regime, certainly with respect to consumer protections.”


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

10 Things You Should Consider Before Paying For Any Retail Membership

Memberships, once the exclusive domain of warehouse clubs like Costco and BJ’s, are officially hot right now. From Amazon Prime and Walmart ShippingPass to subscription boxes (like Birchbox) and membership programs from retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond and Restoration Hardware, companies aren’t content until they’ve turned occasional shoppers into loyal members. But should you join? Will it be worth the money? How will you know if a membership program is right for you? We break it down.

There are basically four main categories of memberships. They offer a variety of services and perks for a yearly or monthly price and are not to be confused with “rewards programs” that cost nothing to join.

They are:
• Warehouse clubs offering groceries in bulk
• Online retail programs that offer free or low-cost shipping on a variety of items, and may offer other add-on perks
• Retail brands that offer free shipping and discounts on their goods
• Subscription boxes that arrive at your door on a regular schedule with products curated for each customer

Type Examples Who might like this?
Warehouse club Costco, Sam’s Club Shoppers who have a lot of storage space for bulk items, families, people with cars
Online retail programs Amazon Prime, Walmart ShippingPass People who live in apartments that accept packages; late-night shoppers who make impulsive decisions, people who like add-ons like streaming video, people who do not have cars, people who want an extremely large selection of items, people who want to automate regular purchases
Retail brands Bed Bath & Beyond’s Beyond+ Loyal customers who often purchase items from the same store throughout the year who may be interested in special discounts or members-only sales
Subscription boxes Birchbox, StitchFix People who like discovering new things; shoppers who want curated monthly offerings tailored to their tastes, people who like surprises

With all these new options out there, how do you know which are right for you? It can be confusing, but there are some questions you can ask yourself before taking the plunge and paying for any membership.

1. Am I Actually Getting Value?

If it’s a discount club that sells items in bulk, ask yourself: Will you actually use that industrial-sized vat of honey or are you buying it just because you can? Look at the unit price of something to see if you’re really saving on the per oz/lb/g price, and if that saving is significant enough to merit the yearly fees and other hassles.

Or perhaps you’re interested in paying $100 a year for, say, a Restoration Hardware membership, which offers various discounts and additional savings on all sale items, a complimentary interior design service, concierge service for orders; a “preferred” financing plans on the RH Credit Card; and early access to clearance events.

Do you regularly shop there and purchase home goods throughout the year, or did you stop in once and buy a table you saw online? Will you take advantage of that complimentary interior design service and clearance events? The more you shop with a brand, the more likely it is that you’ll get a good bang for your buck with a paid membership, especially if there are discounts involved.

For monthly subscription boxes, ask yourself if you would really be spending that much on the items you get, or are these just adding to items in your closet or pantry while shrinking your bank account.

At the very least, you should be able to make back what you had to pay — if you had to pay — to join the club or service.

2. Does The Selection Fit My Tastes?

Whether you’re shopping at a warehouse store or online with Amazon, know that you won’t be able to find absolutely every brand of product in every size. With Costco, for example, you may have to learn to love jumbo everything, or resign yourself to variety packs of some items.

There are also limits on what retailer-specific memberships may offer. If there’s a brand of bath towels you are dedicated to that isn’t offered by Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, or you aren’t keen on the idea of getting a box filled with one company’s coffee every single month, these kinds of memberships might not be for you.

3. Where Will I Store All This Stuff?

This question is especially important when you’re considering a membership to a warehouse club. After all, not everyone has a large pantry, endless freezer capacity, or plentiful closet room to stash 10 pallets of cat food at a time.

If items are coming via mail, you should think about issues like your tolerance for lost or delayed shipments, and delivery drivers who take out their frustrations on packages.

4. Do I Understand The Fee Structure & Policies?

This is an area that can get confusing, and quick. A few things you can ponder:
• Is “free” shipping totally free, or do you have to spend a minimum each time? For example, Amazon Prime Pantry includes free shipping, but only once your virtual basket contains at least five “qualifying” items.
• Is there a minimum you have to spend in a month/year to keep your membership?
• What is the company’s renewal policy? Unless you want to be surprised by a big charge on your credit card or bank account, you should look into whether or not your membership will renew automatically after a set period of time, which would mean you will have to take action to cancel it. If you’d rather not be bothered by having to remember to cancel and don’t want an auto-renewing membership, you may want to reconsider.
• If you’re interested in a subscription box service that sends multiple items you might like, with the option to return those you don’t, is there a time window you have to abide by in order to avoid being charged for unwanted products?

5. What About My Privacy?

Unless you don’t care what companies do with your personal information like your email address, shopping habits, and other data, you should read the terms carefully:
• Does signing up for a membership entitle the company to use your data in ways you’re okay with?
• Will you start receiving unwanted marketing emails? Some customers might like personalized coupons in their inbox tailored to their past shopping habits, while others might find it creepy and intrusive.
• Is the company saving your payment information and other personal details securely?

6. Can I Pay With Whatever Method I Want?

• Some warehouse clubs only accept certain forms of payment, for example, Costco now only takes Visa credit cards, though it does accept any Visa or MasterCard debit cards.
• If you’re signing up for a store’s membership program, can you only shop with that retailer’s card, or are discounts only available when using that kind of payment?

7. Is It Actually Convenient?

Memberships shouldn’t be work — they should make your life easier, so make sure you’re factoring convenience into the equation.
• If it’s a physical store, is it near your house or work? If it’s not, you’re less likely to make a visit as often as you would otherwise. Some wholesalers, like Costco, don’t provide shopping bags, either, so you should be prepared to bring your own — or have a car full of loose items on your trip home.
• Do you have an address where packages can be delivered easily, even while you’re at work? Having a doorman, friendly neighbor, or accommodating workplace is key if Amazon is going to be shipping you packages multiple times a week.
• Do you have to pay for certain amount of months in advance, or is it a monthly membership you can use on demand?

8. Will I Take Advantage Of The Extra Perks?

It’s not always about free shipping or the ability to buy mayonnaise in bulk — many memberships dangle other perks out there to lure shoppers in. For example, warehouse clubs often offer savings on non-traditional items: travel, insurance, auto repair, gasoline, optometry, and prescriptions (though you don’t have to be a member to get those filled).

Likewise, Amazon Prime has benefits that people may not be using, like free books, and music, while REI’s Co-Op membership offers special pricing on classes, rentals, shop services, and REI Adventures, which connects members to local guides when they travel.

9. Can I Try Before I Buy?

Some wholesalers may offer day passes or trial memberships so you can get the real experience of what it would be like to shop there. For example, Sam’s Club also offers one-day passes for prospective members: shoppers can go into a Club and ask for one, or get one online.

This isn’t an issue for services like Amazon Prime and Walmart’s ShippingPass as you can see what’s readily available on the site without being a member in any premium plan. But for example, the Costco site is not an accurate representation of the in-store experience.

10. Is Breaking Up Hard To Do?

Nothing lasts forever, so keep the end in mind when you sign up for any membership.
• Can you cancel at anytime without risking a fee?
• Do you have to take action to cancel your membership at the end of its term, or will it simply run out?
• If you have to take action, how complicated is it — sending an email, calling customer service, writing a letter?

Above all, make sure you’re being realistic. We all have good intentions, but you shouldn’t be paying a monthly or yearly price for something you just intend to use. If a membership is going to provide a seamless, easy shopping experience, that’s a good thing. If not, just walk away.


by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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