When 47 States Have Stricter Regulations On Barbers Than On Tax Preparers, Mistakes Are Going To Be Made

If you visit a legitimate barber, hairdresser, or cosmetologist in any state in the U.S., that person will have gone through some sort of state-mandated education, testing, and licensing procedure. Yet only three states have any substantive requirements for someone employed as a tax preparer. Not surprisingly, a new report finds that this lack of quality control results in a large amount of errors, fraud, and abuse.

This is a big problem, as around 70 million Americans used a paid tax preparer in 2012, and while your hair will grow back (and you can always wear a hat while you’re waiting), errors and fraud on your tax return can haunt you for a very long time. Making the matter worse for lower-income taxpayers, an estimated 60% of families claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2012 paid someone who may have zero qualifications to do their taxes for them.

California, Maryland, and Oregon each have regulations regarding who can work as a tax preparer (New York, where 5.56 million people paid to have their taxes done in 2012, has a requirement that preparers register with the state, but no testing or licensing).

The only place in all states that you’re certain to find a (non-CPA or enrolled agent) tax preparer that has been tested on the subject are the unpaid volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.

The IRS attempted to create a system that would regulate all paid tax preparers by requiring registration, testing and mandatory continuing education, but it failed a legal challenge earlier this year when a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled [PDF] that the IRS overstepped its authority under existing law.

A new report [PDF] from the National Consumer Law Center looks at various undercover “mystery shopper” tests that private and governmental organizations have used over the years to test the quality of being done in the tax preparation market.


While there are only a few national tax-prep chains — H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax Service being the largest — there are countless smaller operations or pop-up prep services being offered, especially in businesses that normally cater to financial needs of lower-income Americans. These are deemed “fringe preparers” and are of great concern for both the lack of accountability and some rather obvious conflicts of interest.

There is a company that claims to have partnership with thousands of used car dealerships that lets the business prepare customers’ taxes and apply the refunds to the down-payments for the vehicles they’re buying. According to the company’s website, “There is no experience required, and our web-based program was designed for use by someone who knows nothing about taxes. Also, our customer packets have a checklist inside to walk you through the whole process.”


Tax preparers who have a vested interest in the outcome of your tax return may be tempted to falsely inflate the value of your refund, and leave you to deal with the fallout if the IRS realizes things are not okay.

A 2008 study of RALs in Durham, NC, and Philadelphia found instances of tax error or fraud in nearly 1-in-4 tests.

One preparer told a customer to “ignore” $5,000 on his return in order to get a $3,000 refund instead of owing $100 to the IRS. Another tax preparer, who admitted to never having seen a Form 1098 (mortgage interest statement), and did not include $3,500 in unemployment benefits for the undercover couple. As a result, he calculated a refund that was $600 higher than it should have been.

A 2009 study in multiple cities found errors or fraud in 6 out 19 tests. A preparer in New York City tried to convince a tester to commit tax fraud by including a $2,000 figure for church donations she didn’t make (to a church she didn’t belong to). Oh yeah, he also tried to get her to lie and say she had a dependent to increase the value of her refund. Fudging on expenses is one thing (not that it’s right), but creating entire human beings out of thin air is probably going a little too far.

A tax preparer in Arkansas was both incompetent and unethical. First, he didn’t know the difference between a 1099 (miscellaneous income) and a church tithing statement. The preparer thought the 1099 was the tithing statement and deducted the money instead of counting it as taxable income. Then, when the mistake was pointed out to the preparer, he tried to convince the customer to keep it like that because it resulted in a higher refund… not realizing that the IRS had a copy of the 1099 info and would be expecting to see it when the return was filed.

“He said he had to ask because some people don’t want them to report additional income because it lowers their refund amount,” wrote the mystery shopper. “So he has to do what the customers tell him to do.”

It’s not just the fringe preparers who are preparing error-riddled returns. A 2011 undercover study found a pretty bad example of fraud at a Liberty branch in NYC.

The tester asked the preparer if the income reported on her 1099 form would alter her refund (correct answer: yes), but according to the study, “the preparer answered that they would ‘fix it.’”

The preparer and his boss then asked her questions about her bank account, her material assets, retirement accounts, and any debts she might have.

When the tester asked how any of this would “fix” the issue, the preparer responded that they needed to make it look like she was in debt and had no assets to sell. They then filled out a worksheet — which they didn’t show to the tester. They also improperly claimed Earned Income Tax Credit for one of her daughters and falsely stated that she did not know the location of her children’s father.


While the IRS attempt to rein in unregulated tax preparers failed because the agency might have overstepped its authority, the long-term solution is for lawmakers in D.C. to craft legislation that would make these requirements a law.

In its report, the NCLC uses the existing laws in California, Maryland, and Oregon (along with the aborted IRS regulation) to suggest three requirements for any legislation aimed at curbing tax-preparer problems.

1. Tax prepares must register with their designated state agency (with a few exceptions, like Certified Public Accountants).

2. Preparers must pass a basic competency exam to demonstrate their knowledge of tax law and practice.

3. They must also have 60 hours of initial education and 15 hours per year of continuing education courses on tax law, theory, and practice.

Obviously, the preparers who can’t currently be bothered to learn the basics are unlikely to do any of the above, but they would then be in violation of federal law. One may claim that these regulations will reduce consumer access to tax preparation, but we’d argue that this is like complaining that quack doctors can no longer operate out of the back rooms of your local saloon.

And the regulations in California have not put a crimp in the tax-prep business, with 9.3 million people paying to have their returns prepared in 2012. That’s nearly 4 million more than the state with the next highest number of people paying preparers for returns (New York, 5.5 million).


If you’re going to pay for tax preparation, your best bet is to find a CPA. The American Institute of CPAs has this tool for finding a CPA near you along with information on how you can verify they are indeed certified.

For people making $51,000 or less, the IRS makes tax-prep help available for free at its VITA locations.

Starting in January, the IRS will use this search tool to make public the locations around the country where people can go for free tax-prep help from VITA-certified preparers and the AARP will also begin updating this page in January with information on tax-prep for the elderly.

This Consumerist post from 2011 has some more information on other free tax-prep programs and how to prepare properly for when you get ready to have your return prepared.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Atención al cliente con Redes Sociales #infografia #infographic #marketing #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre la atención al cliente con Redes Sociales. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/22/atencion-al-cliente-con-redes-sociales-infografia-infographic-marketing-socialmedia/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Receta para ser Community Manager #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con la receta para ser Community Manager. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/22/receta-para-ser-community-manager-infografia-infographic-socialmedia/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Plan de acción Social Media #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con un Plan de acción Social Media. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/22/plan-de-accion-social-media-infografia-infographic-socialmedia/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Las Redes Sociales en los colegios #infografia #infographic #education #ocialmedia

Hola: Una infografía sobre las Redes Sociales en los colegios. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/22/las-redes-sociales-en-los-colegios-infografia-infographic-education-ocialmedia/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

PS4 vs. Xbox One ¿con cual te quedas? #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre PS4 vs. Xbox One ¿con cual te quedas? Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/ps4-vs-xbox-one-con-cual-te-quedas-infografia-infographic/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Los números del Buen Fin 2013 en México #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía con los números del Buen Fin 2013 en México. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/los-numeros-del-buen-fin-2013-en-mexico-infografia-infographic-marketing/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Equipo que necesitas para rodar documentales #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre el Equipo que necesitas para rodar documentales. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/equipo-que-necesitas-pra-rodar-documentales-infografia-infographic/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Ad-Filled Monopoly Game, Deluxe Virtual Tooth Fairy, Potty With iPad Stand Top List Of Year’s Worst Toys

toadys Do your kids feel that board games are ho-hum without advertising from some of the world’s biggest brands? Maybe your girls and boys are bored with the virtual tooth fairy they already have (yes, this exists) and the only way to make them happy is to pay more to unlock a VIP edition? Or does your potty-training youngster cry because he or she has to take their eyes away from the iPad for a few seconds while they do their digestive duty? Then we have some toys for you!

Yes, the folks at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood have released the list of nominees for the group’s annual TOADY award for the worst toy of the year.

First up, is a toy that Consumerist actually brought to the CCFC’s attention back in July: Monopoly Empire, a version of the classic board game that uses dozens of existing name brands to advertise to kids. Among the companies found around the board — Target, Coca-Cola, eBay, Yahoo, Nerf, Chevrolet, Beats Audio, Carnival Cruise, Intel, Samsung, JetBlue, and of course McDonald’s.


“For more than 60 years, Monopoly was almost the perfect board game. But one thing was missing: ads!” writes CCFC. “Is there a better way to teach kids that whoever owns the most brands, wins?”

And guess how much you get paid for letting your living become a hands-on ad for several hours? Oh, wait… it costs you $20, and not in Monopoly money.

playdoh The second nominee is an app called PLAY-DOH Create ABCs. Yup, it’s the PLAY-DOH experience, but on a smartphone or tablet. For a few bucks (CCFC has it listed at $1.99 but it’s showing for $2.99 in the app store for us; not that we’re buying), you can save the hassle of cleaning up PLAY-DOH while also letting an iPad teach your kids the alphabet… Forgetting that the purpose of PLAY-DOH is to inspire kids to think creatively in three dimensions and use their hands.

“No more awkward guesses about what those Play Doh creations are supposed to be,” jests CCFC, “if your little one even bothers to look up from the screen to show you.”

Speaking of not being able to tear kids away from a screen, there’s the third nominee, the on-the-nose named iPotty. For parents who have no problem not only putting a $600 piece of electronics in a toddler’s hands, but who have no issue putting that device and the toddler together on a $35 piece of plastic intended for the collection of human waste.

14546594_Alt04 Of course, many of these kids are just mimicking their parents who won’t let a potty break stop them from checking their portable electronic devices.

The fourth nominee is truly something that is beyond my understanding. First, there is a website called The Real Tooth Fairies (look it up if you want, because after the flash-video horror I experienced just now, there no chance I’m posting a link) where you can create and dress up virtual tooth fairies. That’s bad enough, but at least it doesn’t cost anything other than the brain cells you’ve lost in looking at the site.

This is a screengrab from the non-VIP portion of the Real Tooth Fairies site, because I dared not go any further in the registration process.

This is a screengrab from the non-VIP portion of the Real Tooth Fairies site, because I dared not go any further in the registration process.

What got the TOADY nomination was the VIP Upgrade Membership on The Real Tooth Fairies, a $60/year membership plan that basically gives your kids the ability to pick from more virtual outfits and use whatever “sparkle dollars” to give their Tooth Fairy a makeover, all while mocking the buck-toothed, glasses-wearing fairy-wannabe Stepella. So it’s a way to charge parents money to enforce gender, fashion, physical, cultural, and class stereotypes. Rad!

dino The final nominee, the Imaginext Mega Apatosaurus by Fisher Price, takes two things kids love — dinosaurs and warfare — and combines them into one $40 toy. What’s worse, says the CCFC, is that in spite of the word “imagine” sort-of being in the product name (Imaginext sounds like a prescription drug, or a horrible convention you might stumble into), there really isn’t much for the kid to do with this toy.

“Battery powered, it moves and roars and shoots without kids having to move a muscle—or use their imaginations,” reads the nomination. “If only the real dinos had been packing heat, maybe they wouldn’t have gone extinct!”

You can vote for your choices on this year’s TOADY Awards at the CCFC website.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Samsung móvil en 2013 #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre Samsung móvil en 2013. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/samsung-movil-en-2013-infografia-infographic/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Navidades 2013: la explosión del comercio móvil #infografia #infographic #ecommerce

Hola: Una infografía sobre Navidades 2013: la explosión del comercio móvil. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/navidades-2013-la-explosion-del-comercio-movil-infografia-infographic-ecommerce/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Los libros más populares de todos los tiempos #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre los libros más populares de todos los tiempos. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/los-libros-mas-populares-de-todos-los-tiempos-infografia-infographic/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

La Historia de Android #infografia #infographic #software

Hola: Una infografía sobre la Historia de Android. Un saludo Courtesy of: Social Cubix

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/la-historia-de-android-infografia-infographic-software-2/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

The Very Long Journey Of A Cotton T-Shirt Before The Fabric Is Even Woven

Over at NPR’s Planet Money, they’ve had a dream for a few years now. That dream: to make a t-shirt for their listeners, and sell it to them. Not just to design and make a t-shirt, but to follow the entire supply chain from the cotton farm to the final silk-screening. This year, they finally achieved that glorious and nerdy dream.

When you look at a piece of clothing, you probably don’t think, “Hey, this shirt consists of a vast length of very fine thread, knitted into a cozy yet soft and durable fabric.” Thread? That’s what you sew clothing together with, isn’t it? The cotton knit fabric that t-shirts are made of doesn’t sprout fully formed from the ground, though. Cotton fibers first must become yarn. In the case of the Planet Money t-shirt, the cotton yarn was spun from American cotton at a factory in Indonesia.

What the farm and the yarn mill had in common: machinery. Cotton farming and cloth-spinning were once very labor-intensive tasks. Today…not so much. Planet Money reporters were stunned to watch a cotton farmer who could monitor the ongoing harvest from his iPad. A farmer with an iPad!

It was the same halfway around the world when that same cotton was spun into thread. There was a vast room full of machinery…but hardly any people.

Episode 496: Where The Planet Money T-Shirt Began [NPR]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Cómo sobrevivir al Black Friday #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre cómo sobrevivir al Black Friday. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/como-sobrevivir-al-black-friday-infografia-infographic-marketing/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Mapa de fiscalidad para empresas en el Mundo #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía con el Mapa de fiscalidad para empresas en el Mundo. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/mapa-de-fiscalidad-para-empresas-en-el-mundo-infografia-infographic/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Give Fitness-Related Gifts Without Angering Your Loved Ones

Let’s say that you want to buy a fitness-related gift for a friend or relative, but don’t want to imply that they’re secretly a giant slug. You love them, which is why you want to encourage them to enjoy the life-extending benefits of exercise. Just without the life-shortening stress of being mad at you. How can you do that?

Second/Shift Athlete offers some tips for fitness-related gift giving that might not make the recipient feel judged at all.

  • First, talk about it ahead of time. Listening is good here, too – if they mention needing new sneakers or that they’ve always wanted a clip-on MP3 player, this might be your moment. But it’s also okay to broach the subject casually.

  • Give the gift of an experience, not a thing. Make it an activity to do together, too. How about a snowshoe rental? Accompany your friend to beginning pole-dancing classes? Know the person you’re shopping for, of course.

  • Ambiguous gifts. You can use secure in-ear headphones while you run, but also while you ignore other people on the bus. The best fitness presents aren’t just for fitness.


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Millenials y el móvil #infografia #infographic #internet

Hola: Una infografía sobre los Millenials y el móvil. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/millenials-y-el-movil-infografia-infographic-internet/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Más sobre el Black Friday #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre: Más sobre el Black Friday. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/mas-sobre-el-black-friday-infografia-infographic-marketing/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

APPs que usarían en Juego de Tronos #infografia #infographic #software

Hola: Una infografía sobre las APPs que usarían en Juego de Tronos. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/apps-que-usarian-en-juego-de-tronos-infografia-infographic-software/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Preparate para el Black Friday #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía que nos dice: Preparate para el Black Friday. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ticsyformacion.com/2013/11/21/preparate-para-el-black-friday-infografia-infographic-marketing/ Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Tyson Foods Breaks Up With Pig Farm After Video Shows Alleged Animal Abuse

When the country’s biggest meat producer says “This isn’t working out,” it’s a big deal: Tyson Foods announced that it’s effectively dumping an Oklahoma pig farm by terminating its contract, after a news investigation showed undercover videos of alleged abuse at the facility.

NBC News says the video has workers on tape kicking, hitting and throwing pigs around, as well as slamming piglets into the ground. Frown face.

“We’re extremely disappointed by the mistreatment shown in the video and will not tolerate this kind of animal mishandling,” said Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods. “We are immediately terminating our contract with this farmer and will take possession of the animals remaining on the farm.”

Meanwhile the farm’s owner says the video does show “mistreatment” of the animals and says the issue won’t end here.

“I was stunned that anyone could be that callous in their treatment of any animal,” he said. “After viewing the video, I immediately returned to my farm and terminated the employees seen in the video.”

The animal rights group Mercy for Animals sent an activist undercover to work as a farmhand from mid-September to mid-October. While he was there, he captured footage at the business that supplies pork products to Tyson. The group says what happens in the video, as witnessed by the activist, violates a state animal cruelty law.

“This factory farm is hell on Earth for pigs,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals. “Tyson has allowed a culture of cruelty and neglect to fester at this factory farm facility. This is some of the most sadistic and malicious cruelty to animals I have ever witnessed.”

The undercover worker says it was pretty much an awful experience to see the “commonplace and constant” abuse, which he says included hitting, kicking, throwing, striking animals with the edges of wooden boards, sticking fingers in their eyes, and leaving piglets to die slowly after they were slammed into the ground “in failed euthanasia attempts.”

“On three separate occasions, I reported abuse to the owner,” he says. “After each report, the abuse continued by workers, and all of the workers I questioned told me that that owner had not spoken to them recently about animal handling.”

The owner denies the undercover worker ever brought up the alleged abuse, saying his workers only used approved euthanasia methods when necessary.

“It is a part of the business and there are prescribed methods of euthanasia and I follow those to a T,” he said.

Anyone with a strong stomach and brave heart can watch the video over at NBC News, but be warned that it’s very graphic and could be upsetting. Because piglets… little piglets. Ugh.

Tyson Foods dumps pig farm after NBC shows company video of alleged abuse [NBC News]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Customers In Gree Dehumidifier Recall Start Receiving Checks, Are Upset With Amounts

greehumidifiersEarlier this week, we shared a note from a reader who sent away for a refund when her dehumidifier was part of a massive recall because dehumidifiers aren’t supposed to catch fire. She wondered why her refund check was taking so long to arrive, and got even more confusing information when she called the recall hotline. Could we help? We could try.

We knew that many readers owned the dehumidifiers in question, so we put out a call: had any other people who had sent away for their refunds received their checks yet?

Here are our utterly unscientific statistics. Readers were waiting for refunds on thirty dehumidifiers. (Some correspondents had more than one dehumidifier, or had taken care of the refund paperwork for a neighbor or relative.) Of these, nine refunds had already been sent, or the readers us know that they had received the checks after writing to Consumerist about it. Twenty-one refunds were still outstanding, but it sounds like the checks are hitting the mail this week.

Some readers were pretty distressed about the situation. Dehumidifers aren’t cheap, after all, and some homes have more than one. You might have a few hundred dollars lying around that isn’t already earmarked, but many Americans don’t.

“My husband was afraid of this,” wrote Joanne. “We cannot afford to purchase another until we get the refund and our basement is getting damper by the day.” She wasn’t the only one who couldn’t afford a replacement without that refund check.

“Now, if I want another dehumidifier, which I really need, I’ll have to take it out of my Christmas money. I am forever done with Frigidaire, Soleus Air and Gree products,” grumbled Darrell when he wrote to us to let us know that his check hadn’t arrived yet.

Yesterday in our comments section, reader webalias pointed out that there’s a flaw with the refund calculations: in their community, there’s no way to dispose of a dehumidifier without paying some kind of disposal fee. The refund check was about $25 less than what this reader paid for their appliance, and then there was that fee.

I’ve determined that I’m also going to be stuck for a minimum $45 recycling fee — unless I choose to store this piece of junk in my basement, forever.

I paid $227.30 to Amazon for my Soleus Model SG-DEH-70-2. Gree says it will send me a check for $202.50.

Brendan found himself in a similar situation. “I’m not sure how much it was originally purchased for as the dehumidifier came with my house, but comparable models seem to be priced right around the $199 mark,” he wrote. He got $144.88 as his refund, and had to pay $20 to dispose of the old one.

However, this recall has really decimated the dehumidifier selection in some stores once you do go shopping for a replacement. “The pickin’s are slim out there right now since Gree seemed to manufacture most of the models,” notes Linda. “Choices were between a “Hisense” brand and a lowly-rated GE unit at my local Lowe’s and Home Depot.”

We talked to a Gree representative about the refund situation, and gathered some readers’ contact information to get more information. The answer to the question of “why is this taking so long?” was pretty much what we expected: 2.2 million appliances adds up to a lot of checks, even with an outside company handling the recall. “The time to process a refund application has taken slightly longer than anticipated because of the large number of consumers who applied,” the company representative told Consumerist. According to the company, the first recall kits went out about seven weeks ago, so the checks are pretty close to arriving within the time limits they originally gave.

For the record, here’s the complete statement from Gree:

The recall process has been running smoothly. Currently, wait times for those who call are averaging less than one minute. The time to process a refund application has taken slightly longer than anticipated because of the large number of consumers who applied. However, at this time, it has been roughly a week over six weeks since the first consumer return kit was received.

Tens of thousands of refund checks have already been mailed, and more will be mailed every week. The amounts being refunded are established by the suggested retail price, which is an average of the various amounts set by various retail merchants. Some consumers may receive refunds that are slightly more or slightly less than they originally paid.

Gree is reporting regularly to the CPSC on the progress of the recall, and both Gree and the CPSC are monitoring and assessing its effectiveness. There is no set date for the end of the recall.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

People Already Camped Out For Black Friday Admit: “We Are Crazy”

Every year there are the inevitable stories about consumers setting up camp to wait for Black Friday sales, and this year is no different. But honestly? The group at this Best Buy in Ohio sounds like a blast, as most say they’re there for the community aspect. “I don’t even want to buy anything,” one woman admitted. “I just wanted to hang out with everyone.” Wanna call them crazy? That’s fine, says another: “We are crazy.” [via USA Today (video autoplays)]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Ethical Or Not-So-Ethical: Using A Secondary User Name To Give Free HBO Go Access To Friends?

chinese_food_box Whether you approve of it or not, a lot of people out there share usernames and passwords for services like Netflix and HBO Go so that their friends, families and loved ones can share without having to pay for their own subscription. And some say there is a way you can do this for HBO Go (and presumably other services that use your cable login) without having to actually share your info.

In this Reddit discussion on how to watch ESPN without a cable subscription, one reader suggests creating a separate user name on your cable company’s website and later adds that he does this with Verizon and seems to imply it can be done via the Time Warner Cable site.

For those that aren’t familiar with how the HBO Go login works, here’s a quick lesson. When you log on, it asks you which cable company you subscribe to, then you provide your login info using the same username/password you would when you go online to pay your bill or check out your account. This allows HBO to verify that you are indeed an HBO subscriber without having to keep its own database, while also checking that your cable provider has made the HBO Go deal (not all of them have, believe it or not).

Now I personally don’t give out my HBO Go info, and not just because of the ethical issues. My concern is that whoever I give it to then has the password to my entire cable account. Not that I expect my friends or family will start adding pay-per-view movies or signing me up for NHL Center Ice, but it just seems like I’d be asking for trouble if one of my precocious nieces then shared the info with someone else, and so on down the line…

The suggestion from the Reddit user seemingly gets around that concern — provided your cable provider allows for multiple user names — by allowing you to create a sub account that would have login access to HBO Go but would not have permission to run up your bill or cancel your service.

Okay, so you’ve reduced the level of stranger danger associated with giving out your account, so that leaves the question of ethics.

Some will argue that any giving away of the HBO Go password is tantamount to theft, as you have no legal right to share access to that service. Furthermore, one could claim that HBO Go-sharing may result in higher prices for those who continue to pay for the channel, as customers cut cords but still put a demand on HBO and broadband providers.

On the other side of that argument is that this is all a well-deserved backlash against spiraling cable prices and HBO’s refusal to sell a standalone HBO Go or to make its streaming videos accessible through other services. Much of the HBO Go password-sharing would end if the network’s biggest shows were available on Netflix or some other service that didn’t require a basic cable subscription and the additional cost of HBO.

Since we don’t have the answer, you tell us:

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Gillette Auctioning Off “Beard Balls” — Bundles Of Players’ Discarded Facial Hair — For Charity

We know what that hollow, empty feeling in the center of your chest is. You’re feeling bereft because you don’t own bundles of discarded facial hair, which previously resided on professional baseball players’ faces. It’s your lucky day, since Gillette has decided it’s a great idea to auction off shavings it’s dubbed “beard balls” from Boston Red Sox players David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Shane Victorino. It’s all for charity, but eww.

For those of you who need to round out your memorabilia collection with something utterly unique and a bit grody, Gillette announced today (via CBS Boston) that the beard balls from Ortiz and Victorino are now open for bidding on eBay, with a starting bid of $100.

The shavings were collected during the public face-scraping of Ortiz and Victorino after the Red Sox won the World Series last month.

All proceeds will benefit Movember, the men’s health charity that encourages all your man friends to grow ugly/amusing/otherwise hairy mustaches during November and collect money from their friends and family for doing so. Whether or not your dad/brother/boyfriend/boy who is a friend looks good is beside the point — the charity seeks to raise funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.

Should you become the lucky owner of either “his one-of-a-kind, 100 percent authentic, David Ortiz 2013 Championship Beard Ball,” it’ll come with a nifty little display case and of course, the razor used to shear those facial locks. Because obviously you’ll want to show off your beard ball to everyone…?

Charity! It’s all about charity.

Beard Shavings From David Ortiz, Shane Victorino Up For Charity Auction [CBS Boston]

David Ortiz Authentic 2013 Championship Beard Ball [eBay]

Shane Victorino Authentic 2013 Championship Beard Ball [eBay]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Videocuestionarios con Yappr

via Educación tecnológica http://villaves56.blogspot.com/2013/11/videocuestionarios-con-yappr.html www.bscformacion.com

Southwest Now Offering Gate-To-Gate WiFi Access

Until yesterday, Southwest had been the only major airline that hadn’t taken advantage of the FAA’s long-awaited approval for passengers to use portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. But now Southwest has not only joined that group, but it says it will allow passengers to use the in-plane WiFi from the moment they sit down on a plane until the time they crowd into the aisle to deplane.

Southwest claims it is currently the only airline to make its WiFi available on the ground, as the other carriers use a service that generally does not operate below several thousand feet in the air. As The Verge points out, United has a similar WiFi setup to Southwest, so it’s possible that the airline could offer this service to its passengers.

Southwest says it won’t increase the $8/device fee for WiFi, even though the extended use of the service could add anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours to its availability, depending on tarmac delays.

“We know this is something Customers have wanted for some time now, and we’re excited to give them the freedom to use personal devices while in the air and on the ground,” said Kevin Krone, Southwest Airlines Chief Marketing Officer in a statement.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Restaurant Has No Choice: It’ll Allow Customer Who Didn’t Agree With Waitress’ Lifestyle Back

While it might seem unlikely that the customer who stiffed a waitress and wrote on the receipt that he or she didn’t agree with the lesbian waitress’ lifestyle would think, “Hmm, now’s a good time to go back there to eat,” if the patron decides to do so, it’s not like the restaurant could, or would, stop them from doing so.

“My initial reaction was a little angry, but if they come here we can’t stop them,” the general manager told the Courier-News in Bridgewater, N.J. “This is a public place. By law we can’t stop them.”

Meanwhile the waitress at the center of the media storm says she never expected to get as much attention as she has — customers are coming in just to see her and express their support, or leaving tips as “the tip she should have received.”

Thus far the Marine Corps veteran has gotten about $1,700 in tips and donations, and says she’ll donate most of that to the nonprofit Wounded Warriors Project, which advocates for injured service members.

“It was never about the money in the first place,” she said of posting the receipt on social media.

Because waiters depend heavily on tips in New Jersey, where the hourly minimum wage for servers is $2.13 instead of $7.25, the general manager said the restaurant later discounted an entrée on the family’s check so the waitress would end up with a tip.

And while people are asking him to name names and out the family that disapproved of the waitress, he’s not going to do it. And if they came in today? He simply wouldn’t seat them with the waitress.

“We don’t want to attack the family,” he said.

That’s called taking the high road — even when you don’t approve of someone. Well, that and operating a restaurant in accordance with the law. But still.

Restaurant won’t turn away family that stiffed lesbian waitress [Courier-News]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

A Candle That Smells Like Fried Chicken Is Sort Of A Tease

You tease me so, candle.

You tease me so, candle.

Listen, it’s hard enough out here for a hungry person, what with candles smelling like pumpkin pie and apple cider as they burn. But now you want to add in a decorative object that gives off the smell of fried chicken and yet fails to deliver said delicious food to my mouth? That’s just not fair. [via Scents of the Commonwealth]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

American Coffee Market Overrun By Pod People

When you make coffee in the morning, do you go for an intense, foodie-like sensory experience, or do you look for the quickest and easiest way to get caffeine into your digestive tract? More and more Americans are turning to pre-filled coffee cartridges for their caffeination needs.

It’s not like cartridges provide terrible coffee. It’s not a gourmet experience, but it’s not bad. “Unless you’re going to a well-trained barista you risk getting your coffee brewed incorrectly anyway,” a coffee consultant (which is an actual profession) pointed out to Marketwatch.

On the one hand, cartridges can get expensive and clog landfills: there are no recyclable options on the market yet. One place they’ve caught on outside of the home are places like offices, waiting rooms, and even apartment buildings. They do eliminate the ever-present office coffee machine problems of disagreements over who made the last pot, the best coffee strength, and the waste of tossing out cold leftovers. At fifty cents to a dollar per cup, is that worth it?

More than a third of American adults now have single-cup coffee makers like the Keurig, Nespresso, or Tassimo systems in their homes. Old-fashioned roasted coffee is now only 52% of the home coffee market.

Sales of single-serve coffee have tripled since 2011 [Marketwatch]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Taco Bell Gives In, Reinstates Free Tacos For Michigan State Basketball Fans

Taco Bell has a long tradition of giving away free food tied to the results of certain sporting events, like the World Series. But only weeks after pulling the plug on its 14-year free chalupa promo with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Bell angered Michigan State basketball fans by ending the deal that offered free tacos to everyone in the arena if the Spartans scored at least 70 points.

Mlive.com originally reported the to-do over the cancellation of the promotion, that had been going on since 2004 and had become a home game tradition for many MSU fans who started to get hungry when that score passed the 65-point mark. Just watch the above video from last season to see how pumped the crowd got as the score neared the “You’ve Got Tacos!” threshold.

The university’s athletic director said that the school tried to renew the deal with Taco Bell when it ran out, but the fast food chain “decided not to renew it, although it was a fan-favorite and something very positive and very popular.”

This led to the inevitable social media-based outrage from hungry fans whose MSU ticket stubs were now worth nothing more than the memory of a good basketball game and were a reminder of how they previously would have received free food.

In the wake of national media outlets picking up the story, the operator of 10 local Bells decided to reinstate the promotion without any official ties to the school.

Yesterday afternoon, Taco Bell HQ told Mlive.com:

“Our local franchisee is grateful for the passionate Taco Bell fans at Michigan State University and is exploring exciting new partnerships with MSU Athletics… As a thank you to fans, customers with an MSU basketball game ticket can still get a free taco at the locations below for the remainder of the season when the team scores at least 70 points.”

It’s like the scene in a cheesy sports movie where the guy who’d quit the college team because of some problem with his personal life shows up in the locker room just in time for the big game… or something.

There was no such fairy tale ending in Portland, where Blazers fans had their free chalupas replaced with a free Sausage McMuffin offer from McDonald’s. Just not quite the same…

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Winamp Shutting Down Forever After 15 Years — Wait, Winamp Was Still Around?

There are many readers who will no doubt read the above headline and, after wiping a tear or two from his eye, will surely rage, “Uh, I STILL USE WINAMP.” Rest assured, the astonishment that Winamp is still around comes from a purely nostalgic place. Winamp occupies that spot in my memory where I’ve just arrived at college, discovered Napster, and need juuuust the right Winamp skin to reflect my totally unique personality while playing awesome new DMB tunes. And now Winamp is about to go gentle into that good night.

Yes, Winamp, the Windows media player you might’ve used right around the time you learned about MP3s and needed something to play them, is shutting down after 15 years. Dec. 21 is set as the date of its demise, reports The Verge.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many turned to Winamp to listen to the radio through live streams or to play whichever MP3s you definitely did not get off of Napster because that would’ve been wrong.

Its popularity has waned since then, and it’s been sitting in development with its owners as of 2002, AOL.

There’s no reason that we’ve found for putting the kibosh on Winamp, but perhaps it’s just a results of the times. The major players on the scene like iTunes and other built-in media players are now all the rage, and it’s likely many of you have forgotten about kind old Winamp, sitting in the corner in his rocking chair, remembering when.

Goodbye, dear friend. You played those bootlegged Dave Matthews Band concerts like nothing else could.

Winamp shutting down after over 15 years [The Verge]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Thieves Smash Chase Branch, Drive Off With Entire ATM

(Fox Orlando) (Fox Orlando) (Fox Orlando) (Fox Orlando) “Needless to say, you’re not going to be able to use this ATM this morning,” observed a TV reporter standing in front of the Orlando, Florida Chase branch where an automated teller machine was ripped from the building. No. No, you’re not.

It’s pretty obvious that the machine was dislodged from the building using a front-end loader, since there was one abandoned on the scene. The thieves removed the ATM from the building using another vehicle. It contained an “undisclosed” amount of cash.

The difficult part might be getting it open: we saw that episode of “Breaking Bad,” too.

ATM uprooted from Orlando bank [Orlando Sentinel]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Walmart Hasn’t Paid $7,000 Fine For 2008 Black Friday Trampling Death

We mentioned the other day that it’s been five years since the tragic Black Friday trampling death of a Walmart employee. In the years since, Walmart has spent millions of dollars trying to avoid the meager $7,000 fine from OSHA, and still has yet to pay it.

Back in 2010, the company said it was fighting the $7,000 penalty because it felt that an employee being trampled by a crowd of shoppers at an annual sales event heavily marketed and advertised by your company doesn’t count as an occupational hazard and that assessing the fine “has far-reaching implications for the retail industry that could subject retailers to unfairly harsh penalties and restrictions on future sales promotions.”

The case is currently stuck in appeal, and one former OSHA analyst tells Huffington Post that this is a case of Walmart flexing its muscles to prove it’s the biggest bruiser in the room.

“It’s not about the penalty,” said the former OSHA staffer. “It’s this interest in seeing how far Walmart can push back against the decision.”

Walmart says it has made changes to its crowd management strategies for Black Friday — such as actually trying to manage crowds, rather than let them pile up against the front door because that looks awesome on the news reports the next day. But just because you put measures in place after the fact doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to pay for the initial fine.

OSHA said that Walmart failed to provide adequate training for employees on how to best handle the thousands of shoppers waiting to get into the store for the pre-dawn opening time on Black Friday 2008. The worker who was killed in the stampede had been hired through a temp agency only a week earlier. The agency claims that while this sort of tragedy was unusual, it was certainly a possibility that Walmart should have been aware of after years of Black Friday sales.

Even though the fine — the largest OSHA can issue in such a case without proving that the safety violation was willful — has been upheld by an administrative law judge, Walmart appealed that ruling to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent group set up to rule on challenges to OSHA penalties and citations.

That was in 2011. There has been no noteworthy movement since.

“It can take 10 years,” one lawyer tells HuffPo. “The average length it takes to complete a case is obscenely long. And the longer [Walmart] appeals this case, the longer they get a pass.”

A rep for the OSHRC says the Walmart case is not on the 2013 docket, and so won’t be decided until next year at the earliest.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

“Sell Your Xmas Gifts” And Other Pearls Of Wisdom From McDonald’s Employee Site

A few weeks back, the McDonald’s McResource employee hotline made headlines when a company rep “helped” a 10-year McDonald’s employee improve her lot in life by directing her to numerous welfare programs to supplement her income. What other gems of advice do the McResource people have for employees?

The video above, put together by the folks at Low Pay Is Not OK, a campaign seeking the ability to unionize fast food workers and increase their pay, highlights several pieces of sage advice from the McResource website, like:

Pack your bags: At least two vacations a year can cut heart attack risk by 50%.

Sing away stress: Singing along to your favorite songs can lower your blood pressure.

Break it up: Breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.

Quit complaining: Stress hormone levels rise by 15% after ten minutes of complaining.

And this one, in which McDonald’s suggests that employees get out from holiday debt by selling things they haven’t opened yet:

“You may also want to consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did. Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

A rep for McDonald’s says this is all much ado about nothing.

“This is an attempt by an outside organization to undermine a well-intended employee assistance resource website by taking isolated portions out of context,” a spokeswoman tells BusinessInsider. “The McResource website has helped countless employees by providing them with a variety of information and resources on topics ranging from health and wellness to stress and financial management.”

A recent study found that more than 50% of fast-food workers in the United States are receiving some sort of public benefits to supplement their wages. Some argue that this indicates that McDonald’s and others are using taxpayer money to subsidize the low wages they pay employees, while others contend that McDonald’s is giving these same people a place to work and a foot in the door toward a life without the need of public assistance.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Open Your Own Sprinkles Cupcakes Shop In Your Kid’s Playroom

sprinkles toy editionSprinkles claims to be the world’s first cupcake bakery, and it certainly was ahead of the trend, opening up in 2005 in Beverly Hills. Since then, they’ve been at the forefront of cupcake-deployment technology, launching the concepts of “cupcake truck” and “cupcake ATM.” Now, they’re extending their brand to children with a tiny toy version of their shops.

Well, most children already understand what a cupcake is. It’s the specific Sprinkles color scheme and little circles on top of the cakes that’s part of the company’s branding that make this kit a specific toy Sprinkles shop, instead of just any old generic cupcake shop.

Sprinkles Cupcakes bakery toy [Facebook]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

FAA Orders All Overweight Air Traffic Controllers And Pilots To Get Tested For Sleep Disorders

In an effort to guard against sleepy or fatigued pilots taking a snooze behind the controls, as well as air traffic controllers who might doze off, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced a new regulation requiring both kinds of staff undergo testing for sleep disorders if they’re overweight.

The FAA’s federal air surgeon announced the new rule yesterday. It could apply to about 125,000 of the country’s 600,000 commercial and private pilots, reports CNN, and an unknown number of air traffic controllers out of the 14,500 in the country.

The requirement says that any pilots and controllers with a body mass index of 40 or greater and a neck circumference of 17 inches, as discerned during routine medical examinations, would have to get tested for obstructive sleep apnea.

To put that in real life terms, a 5’11″ man who weighs 287 pounds would have a BMI of 40, says the National Institutes of Health. Sleep apnea can cause fatigue and is almost universal in people who fit those criteria, writes Dr. Fred Tilton, the federal air surgeon, in a statement announcing the new policy.

If a pilot turns out to have a sleep disorder, he or she will have to get treatment for it before getting a medical clearance to fly.

Once all of those pilots have been dealt with, the FAA says it will also look at those with lower BMIs “until we have identified and assured treatment for every airman” with sleep apnea, Tilton wrote.

The nation’s largest association of commercial pilots hasn’t weighed in on the policy yet, but a group representing private pilots is asking the FAA to wait a bit before it implements the policy, noting that just because there are sleepy pilots don’t mean those pilots have sleep apnea.

“This policy seems to be based on one incident involving an airline flight,” Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Vice President Rob Hackman said in a prepared statement. “Analysis of a decade of fatal general aviation accidents by the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee didn’t identify obstructive sleep apnea as a contributing or causal factor in any of the accidents studied.”

There have been numerous incidents of pilots falling asleep on the job, where afterward the pilots said they were overly tired and fatigued. One involved two pilots on a Go! Airlines flight where both pilots fell asleep and overshot their destination by 26 miles. In that case the captain was later diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea.

It’s also happened in Britain, when both pilots on the plane fell asleep, but in that case both had only had five hours of sleep before starting that flight.

Air traffic controllers have also gotten sleepy on the job, including one air traffic controller fired in 2011 for taking an intentional nap and two others who didn’t mean to do so.

The FAA says this new rule is in line with a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation and is “designed to help airmen and aviation safety by improving the diagnosis of unrecognized or untreated obstructive sleep apnea.”

FAA: All overweight pilots, controllers must be tested for sleep disorders [CNN]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist