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Time Warner Cable Techs Should Know They Will Be Photographed If They Fall Asleep On Job

(Reddit user DrinkingWhiteRussian)

(Photo: Reddit user DrinkingWhiteRussian)



Being a cable installer can be an exhausting job, with a day that is often overflowing with appointments you probably can’t make it to on time, figured out by some far-away computer that doesn’t care if you’re tired. Not to mention the fact that you’ll probably be put on hold for just as long as the customers who try to call in. With all that said, you still need to realize that if you’re going to fall asleep on a customer’s couch, your photo will probably end up on the Internet.

Earlier today, a Reddit user posted the above photo of what he claims is a TWC tech snoozing on the job.


According to the customer, the catnap occurred while the tech was on hold for about 20 to 30 minutes waiting to set up the modem:



The technician arrived around 12:30pm to replace our modem. I showed him where the existing one was and he got to work. I went back to my office to continue working, he replaced the modem and made a call to activate/register the modem… I could hear the hold music from his call because he had it on speaker and eventually after about 15 minutes of listening to it from the other room, I walked out to find him like that.


Before doing anything, I grabbed my phone and snapped the pic, and then said “Excuse me?”. He startled a little bit, pointed to his phone and said “Sorry man, still on hold.” So I went back and kept working, and 5-10 minutes later someone picked up and he registered the modem. My internet was working and he went on his way.



While the power-nap was over, the customer’s hellish TWC experience was not.


“About 10 minutes later, I turned on the TV in my room to see the ‘This cable box is not authorized’ message,” he writes. “I called Time Warner, eventually got a representative, who sent a signal to my box and got it working again.”


Then only two minutes after that, his Internet crapped out.


“I restarted the modem, and when I connected, it brought me to a ‘Automated Provisioning’ website, telling me that I had to register the MAC address of the modem,” writes the customer, who then called TWC… again. The rep took his info and promised a call back within 30 minutes. That did not come.


He called again, got a tech support rep who told him to do a hard reset on the modem. No luck. Try again. Double no luck.


“He then told me he had to transfer me to the local Time Warner to complete the registration,” recalls the customer. “He transferred me, but of course it wasn’t to the local Time Warner, it was back to the national Time Warner. However, the guy that I got this time saw that they had never deactivated the original modem that was replaced. So he did that, and then re-registered the new modem, and voila, internet!”


THE CONSUMERIST ROGUES GALLERY OF BAD CABLE INSTALLERS:

U-Verse Installer Uses Portable Urinal To Relieve Himself In My Bedroom, Leaves It Behind

DirecTV Apparently Thinks This Is An Acceptable Installation

Comcast Tech Tells Me He’ll Be Right Back… I’m Still Waiting

Comcast Installer Arrested For Exposing & Playing With His Cable In Front Of Customer

AT&T Needs To Come Pick Up Its Crap From My House

It Took Four Appointments And A Call To The Police To Get My Time Warner Cable Internet Installed




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

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CFPB Tackles Mortgage Protections For Borrowers In The Armed Forces


The CFPB last week unveiled a set of rules (PDF) to protect mortgage borrowers, especially those who are military servicemembers.


Part of the trouble for military families is that they simply have to move more often, and on timetables not of their choosing. That means dealing with more lenders, more houses, and more potential for problems.


The three new key areas the CFPB addresses are:



  • Dual tracking: Lenders who move forward with foreclosure proceedings against a homeowner, while at the same time working with that borrower on a loan modification, are dual tracking–and that’s a big no-no, says the CFPB.

  • Streamlining help for borrowers: Homeowners seeking loan modifications can get stuck in paperwork hell, having to submit a new package of documents (that goes who-knows-where) each time they pursue a new option or speak to a new service rep. The CFPB’s new rule requires lenders to consider all options for which borrower is eligible right off the bat, without countless repeated paperwork cycles.

  • Better service: Loan sevicers are required to “train their people to answer your questions and, if you do run into trouble, the servicer has to assign people to help you.” Additionally, lenders are supposed to have policies in place to prevent losing paperwork.


Specifically to help members of the armed forces, as of 2011 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac consider Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders to be hardships that qualify for assistance programs–meaning military families who have been ordered to pack up and move no longer have to miss a mortgage payment before qualifying for help.


Additionally, back in 2012 the CFPB issued guidance that all mortgage servicers should have a policy in place for dealing with borrowers who received PCS orders, and that they need to communicate those policies clearly.


In recent months, the CFPB has also addressed predatory lending and exorbitant bank fees targeted at military service members.




by Kate Cox via Consumerist

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Amazon In Talks To Create Online Cable Competitor, But Don’t Hold Your Breath


Amazon is already a major player in the streaming video rental and subscription business, competing against iTunes, Zune, Google Play, Redbox, and Netflix. But does the e-tail giant have its eyes on more-established competitors? A new report claims that Amazon is looking to create its own live pay TV service that would pit the company against cable operators.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon has talked to at least three major entertainment conglomerates about creating channels for this possible online TV service.


The company faces the same roadblocks that others, including Sony and Google, have come up against — namely that the content providers fear they would aggravate the cable providers with whom they have already established relationships.


Many of the cable/satellite blackouts or threatened blackouts in recent years have been tied to negotiations over streaming video rights. Cable companies don’t want to pay much for the rights to stream content they already provide on TV and via on-demand, while the broadcasters feel like they are getting nickel-and-dimed.


Making a deal that would give Amazon the ability to launch an online alternative to cable companies would only anger the Time Warner Cables and Comcasts of the world.


Additionally, with a federal appeals court recently tossing out the core of the FCC’s net neutrality rule, Internet service providers are now free to charge huge fees to competitors or outright block access to competitors. Since the nation’s largest cable operators are also its largest ISPs, we could easily see Verizon and Time Warner Cable doing everything they can to prevent unfettered access to an Amazon TV service.


(Comcast is currently unable to exercise this option as it agreed to abide by the FCC’s Open Internet rule through 2018 as a condition of its merger with NBC.)


There is also the issue of local TV broadcasts, which most consumers have become used to getting as part of their cable or satellite package. While Comcast might not be able to block online subscribers’ access to competitors’ services, it could try to make sure that any competing service will never be able to afford the retransmission fees for NBC owned-and-operated local stations.


Of course, if streaming service Aereo wins out in its Supreme Court battle against the broadcasters, Amazon could get around retrans fees by launching a similar service (or by buying Aereo).


This is all a very long way of saying that while it’s not impossible that Amazon could launch a successful online cable service, it s currently a long shot. More than likely, it seems like this kind of online-only service will come from one of the existing cable powerhouses.




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

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The Only Thing Standing Between You And $1 Billion Is A Perfect March Madness Bracket


For those of us who don’t happen to be the heir to an oil fortune or a company executive with a paycheck showcasing a bunch of zeroes, becoming a billionaire is something that could only happen in our wildest, probably lottery-related dreams. Unless you’ve got crazy good March Madness skills, that is.

Super Very Rich Guy And CEO Warren Buffett’s investment firm Berkshire Hathaway is partnering up with Quicken Loans to dangle a $1 billion-bounty to anyone who can complete a totally perfect March Madness bracket, reports the Detroit Free Press.


That means calling the winner of all 63 games in the NCAA March Madness men’s college basketball tourna,ent correctly, something that appears to be pretty much impossible to do. The prize will be paid out in 40 annual installments of (gulp) $25 million. Or you can take $500 million in a lump sum payment if you’re really jonesing for that money.


Because the odds of someone actually winning the grand prize appear to be ridiculously small, the two companies will also split $2 million among the 20 most accurate predictions submitted, as well as a $1 million donation from Quicken to to educational charities in Detroit and Cleveland, the two cities that are the main focus of Quicken founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert’s activities.


“We’ve seen a lot of contests offering a million dollars for putting together a good bracket, which got us thinking, what is the perfect bracket worth? We decided a billion dollars seems right for such an impressive feat,” said Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans.


And while Buffett seems like a firm believer in working hard to achieve a massive fortune, it sounds like he’s in the mood to throw a bone this time.


“Millions of people play brackets every March, so why not take a shot at becoming $1 billion richer for doing so,” Buffett explains (his company is insuring the prize). “While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn’t get much easier than filling out a bracket online.”


Registration for the contest starts March 3 and runs through March 19. Participants will receive their brackets on March 16 if they’ve registered by then, and can start filling them out at that time. You’ll have to act quick, as you’ll need to be one of the first 10 million to register.


The odds of predicting all the winners in all the games with a flip of the coin is 1-in-100 million trillion, or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000. So good luck!


Quicken Loans offering $1 billion for perfect March Madness bracket [Detroit Free Press]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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Is Voice-Recognition The Future Of Banking? Wells Fargo Thinks So


Who needs to go to the bank when you have a smartphone. Unless you really want to talk to a living, breathing person, you might not have to trek to the bank in the future. That’s because some banks are looking to add voice-recognition technology to their mobile banking repertoire.

Wells Fargo announced it recently began testing voice-recognition technology that consumers can use to check their spending habits and bank account levels, The Charlotte Observer reports.


Bank employees tested the product over the summer, but the company does not have a timeline for launching the product.


Officials with Wells Fargo say the technology is about bringing “powerful interaction” to consumers. The voice command option would allow consumers to use natural language to move between a “tangled web of drop-down menus”.


The use of voice command technology isn’t new to the financial world. Last year, Barclays announced it was getting in the game by replacing security questions with voice-recognition software.


Barclay’s system compare the customer’s voice to a unique voice print on file. When the program determines that the caller is indeed the customer, the system silently alerts the rep. If the program does not recognize the caller, the rep will then ask standard security questions.




by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

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Sacramento Kings Make Full-Court Press For Geek Fans, Will Shoot Game Video Via Google Glass

glassfkings At 14-25, the Sacramento Kings’ season is all but over, but that hasn’t stopped the NBA team from continuing to make a push for relevance among its fans in nearby Silicon Valley. Only days after becoming the first team to accept Bitcoin currency at its games, the Kings have announced that their games will be using live video captured on Google Glass devices.


The team tested the tech earlier this month, putting Glass on several of the Kings players during pre-game warm-ups, and will be officially launching it during the upcoming Jan. 24 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Sleep Train Arena, also known as “Seriously, the Best You Could Get Was Sleep Train? Arena.”


Fans at the game and at home will apparently get to see the game through the eyes of people with the best seats in the house — team mascot Slamson, the Kings dancers, sideline reporters and others who feel no shame sporting the pricey wearable computers on their heads.


Given that my 76ers have an even worse record (13-28), I’m hoping the team takes a cue from the Kings to use local Philadelphia-area companies to excite the fan base. Like, maybe have an Urban Outfitters sample sale in the concourse at Wells Fargo Center, or crank out some fresh Tastykakes during halftime?


Anyway, here is the thrilling footage recorded by Kings players on their Google Glass devices earlier this month:





by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Classy Name Change Doesn’t Change Cramped Space On American Airlines Regional Service


We’ve all been on one of those small regional jets – the tiny seats, cramped leg room and barely enough overhead space for your roller bag. Nothing will make trips on those small planes better. But American Eagle Airlines Inc., is hoping a name change might class things up a bit.


American Airlines Group Inc., announced American Eagle Airlines, Inc., its regional jet service carrier, will soon be known as Envoy.


Does the name sound familiar? It should. Envoy was once used by American’s new partner US Airways used to distinguish its business class offerings. So while the name elicits thoughts of extra leg room and comfortable seating, you’re not getting any of those things.


American Airlines Group said the name change was made to give the company its own distinct identity and eliminate the confusion between the company’s current name and American Eagle, the regional flying brand of American Airlines, Inc. With the formation of American Airlines Group, the 10 regional carriers providing service for American and US Airways will eventually fly under the American Eagle brand.


Envoy was chosen after an “extensive selection and vetting process” the airlines said.


“The name was chosen because Envoy is reflective of what the company does for the airlines it works with – serving as their ambassador and a representative to their customers,” airline officials said in a news release.


Customers flying on American Eagle Airlines and American Eagle-branded regional service should not experience any changes to travel. Eventually, “Operated by Envoy” will be added to the aircraft and passenger tickets.


The name change is just the latest development in the American Airlines and U.S. Airways merger. The marriage between the airlines became official in December after a long courting period.


Earlier this month, the airlines announced several customer-centric changes, including changes to mileage programs, combined terminals and “overcommunication” with customers.


American Eagle Airlines, Inc. To Change Its Name To Envoy [American Airlines]




by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

After Two Decades, Burger King Has Enough Of Little Old Ladies Using Parking Lot For Free


While the dispute between an NYC McDonald’s and some loitering elderly customers comes to an end, there is another feud brewing a few hours to the northeast.

For two decades, a group of senior citizens have been meeting several times a year in the parking lot of a local Burger King before hopping on a rented van that takes them into Boston for the day. The ladies say they’ve never had a problem with the BK management, that is until last Friday when all eight of their vehicles were towed away.


The 14 women tell the New Hampshire Union Leader that they were returning from their most recent Boston trip last Friday just as a tow truck was taking away the last of their cars from the BK.


They admit that the fast food joint recently put up signs warning that non-customers would be towed, but said they had not previously been warned about their parking.


“Burger King should have put post-its under the windshield wipers (saying) don’t do it again,” said one of the women. “They couldn’t have been oblivious to the fact we’ve been doing this all these years… I think it was a dirty trick.”


Dirty trick or not, it cost the senior citizens a nice chunk of change. The towing company called by BK managers usually charges $165 for car owners to get their vehicles out of the pound, but the operator of the tow business decided to drop that to $100 after talking to the women.


“I felt horrible when they all showed up,” says the owner of the tow company. “They were sweet little old ladies.”


Sweet little old ladies who still needed to ante up $800 for the tows.


The Union Leader tried to get comments from various levels of BK management, but received no response. Workers at the restaurant in question claimed to not know the identity of the franchisee that owns the particular location.


The only person willing to talk to the paper was the tow-truck operator who said the BK recently began cracking down on non-customer parking in order to run out pesky teenagers who speed through the lot and act the way you’d expect obnoxious teenagers to act. We’re not quite sure how towing parked cars stops teens from speeding through the lot…


One of the women tells the Union Leader that some of the women in the group, who average 80 years of age, do purchase food at the BK before heading out on their excursions.


She also says that she feels like the cars in the lot are good for the BK’s business.


“We look like we’re customers,” she explains. “We thought we were doing Burger King a favor; their parking lot is never full.”




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

If Walmart Won’t Accept Returns Without A Receipt, Pointing A BB Gun Is Not The Answer


On the one hand, it might’ve been a relief to a Walmart worker in Baltimore to find out that the weapon pointed at her recently at his workplace wasn’t in fact, a machine gun. But on the other hand, it’s still not a pleasing prospect to face an angry customer with a CO2-powered BB gun.

Police called to the scene say that the face-off was over the fact that the employee told a customer he couldn’t return items without a receipt, reports CBS Baltimore, just before 11 p.m. last night.


An employee working at the customer service counter told police that the suspect approached and wanted to return a used tablet, but she refused the request because he couldn’t provide a receipt. He then pulled a pair of headphones off his head and tried to return those as well, an attempt that was also denied due to lack of receipt.


Things went from uncomfortable to very bad, police say, when the man allegedly placed a backpack on the counter and pulled out what appeared at the time to be a black sub-compact machine gun, and pointed it at the worker, demanding he get his money back.


When the employee yelled, the man fled the scene without getting any money. Cops apprehended him outside of the store and arrested him on charges of attempted robbery, attempted first-degree assault and possession of CDS charges. Maybe cops could add a “Scaring the living daylights out of someone” charge. Just for good measure.


Police: Laurel Man Points BB Gun At Wal-Mart Worker Who Denied Requests To Return Items [CBS Baltimore]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Some Banks Reward Private Student Loan Borrowers With Refinancing Options


Recent college graduates face a number of barriers after getting their diplomas – finding a job, moving out on their own and paying back thousands of dollars in student loans. But now consumers struggling to pay back private student loans might find a bit of relief in new refinancing options from banks.


Charter One announced on Tuesday its new Education Refinance Loan. As advertised it provides borrowers with rates as low as 5.24% and a variable rate of 2.84%. The lowest rates are reserved for those borrowers with better credit, the Plain Dealer reports.


Charter One joins other instiutions, such as Wells Fargo and Chase, that reward borrowers for cultivating good credit and responsibly handling credit cards.


The new refinancing option from Charter One comes after the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau encouraged big banks to create more programs for graduates overwhelmed with private student loan debt.


Private student loans, which often come with a low variable rate that later dramatically increases, do not have the same forgiveness and flexible repayment options that federal student loans carry.


The CFPB estimates that more than 850,000 private student loans are in default. In December, Consumerist reported that 71% of students leave college with an average of $29,400 in student loan debt.


New refinancing programs are just the latest development in helping students with private student loans.


Last month, four U.S. Senators introduced legislation to reform disclosure and servicing standards for both Federal and private student loans. The Student Loan Borrow Bill of Rights includes giving borrowers the right to have options for alternative payment plans and the right to consistency in how monthly payments are applied.


Even with more protections and refinancing options, private student loan borrowers face an uphill battle when it comes to getting out of debt.


Consumerist reported last month on a company making sure student loan debt is as permanent as possible. The Educational Credit Management Corporation, a nonprofit, mounts legal challenges to borrowers trying to have student loans discharged in bankruptcy.


Borrowers begin to see refinance options for private student loans [The Plain Dealer]




by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Is This The Future Of Fast-Food Packaging Or A Disaster Waiting To Happen?


Okay, so it’s not exactly the shame-it-was-a-hoax hands-free Whopper holder, but we are intrigued by the potential (and the potential for disaster) of these prototype fast food containers that stack your entire meal into one calorific Voltron.

Posted over the weekend to the McDonald’s New Zealand Facebook page with the caption “McGenius?” the interlocking containers would put a sandwich on top of a beverage cup, covered by a fry bin that would have indentations on the top where you could store condiments.


So rather than walking down the street with a to-go bag, you’d have a tower of food.


We’re not quite sure it would be a good idea to stack a hot sandwich on top of a cold drink (the possibility for condensation, melting ice, and leakage scare us), the top fry layer seems destined to pop open and vomit fried potatoes all over the place, and it all seems rather top-heavy, so if you stub your toe on a curb or get jostled by a rude pedestrian, it seems like your whole lunch could go Jenga on the sidewalk.


That’s probably why McDonald’s NZ tells BurgerBusiness.com that it is not yet offering these containers to customers.




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

The Launch Of Beats Music Includes Execution Date For MOG Streaming Service

MOG is dead. Long live Beats Music?

MOG is dead. Long live Beats Music?



Ask any MOG user what they like best about the streaming music service and you’ll likely hear a rush of praise for its high quality streaming, something that’s very important to the well-trained ear. Those MOGgers are no doubt feeling proactively bereft at the news today that its new owners at Beats Electronics will be shutting down the service on April 15.


The makers of Beats headphones are pushing their new streaming music service this week, which means there will soon be no room at the company for MOG, which the company acquired in 2012, notes USA Today. At the time, Beats sounded like it was over the moon for MOG, touting its accomplishment as the first service to off their entire catalog of songs in the 320-kilobit format.


“They understand that the consumer wants ubiquity,” said Beats COO and president Luke Wood back then. “They have an extremely talented management team and engineering staff. So it’s really about the product, the service and the talent at the service we are buying.”


Today’s update on the Beats Music site makes it clear that MOG and Beats Music can’t survive together, however. Which means doom is nigh for MOG:



“The MOG service will remain live until April 15, after which it will be shut down, and MOG will stop accepting [new users? Just our guess] shortly after Beats Music goes live. Monthly billing will cease on March 15, and all yearly subscriptions will be refunded on a prorated basis. Our goal is to convert as many MOG subscribers to Beats Music as possible. As part of that effort, all existing MOG subscribers will be offered a one-month free trial of Beats Music, which will be made available starting March 15.”



MOG subscribers will be transferred to Beats Music in the coming days during the MOG phaseout. Meanwhile, we’ve set a calendar reminder for April 15 to keep an eye out for any refund-related angst for those yearly subscribers and their pro-rated refunds.


Beats Music sets shutdown date for MOG music service [USA Today]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Hotwire Forgets To Tell Passenger Her Flight Was Changed Three Months Earlier

Hotwire sent a confirmation e-mail in November for a Thanksgiving flight that no longer existed.

Hotwire sent a confirmation e-mail in November for a Thanksgiving flight that no longer existed.



When you book an airline ticket through a service like Hotwire, you’d expect that either the airline or the booking site will notify you when something important — like a flight being changed or cancelled — happens, especially when that change is made months before takeoff. But a couple in Virginia had their travel plans twisted around when Hotwire failed to let them know that their flight no longer exists.

The passengers recently told their story to NBC 29 in Charlottesville, VA (go Hoos!).


Back in July, they had used Hotwire to book Thanksgiving travel plans from Charlottesville to Colorado Springs, but when they showed up at the airport to make the first short leg from C’ville to Dulles International in Washington, D.C., they were told there was no longer a United flight from Dulles to Colorado Springs.


The best they could do was a flight to Denver, which would require them to drive the hour-plus south to Colorado Springs after they arrived.


They reached out to Hotwire to figure out what happened. Reps at the site said they would “research” what happened, which led to rounds of finger-pointing between Hotwire and the airline.


After several weeks of no one providing an explanation for how this happened, United finally produced evidence that it had alerted Hotwire to changes to this route back in August. That bit of important news was never passed on to the actual passengers.


In fact, Hotwire sent the passengers a confirmation e-mail for the now-nonexistent flight in mid-November.


The site tells NBC 29 that it’s looking into the matter, but the passengers say they will never use Hotwire again.





by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Porn Company Digitally Removes Condoms From Video


In 2012, voters in Los Angeles County narrowly approved Measure B [PDF], a law that requires porn performers to wear condoms. Some fans of adult film fans complain that the use of condoms is distracting, and a number of studios are either ignoring the law or shooting outside of L.A. County. But one porno producer is going the high-tech route, digitally removing the prophylactic devices from its performers’ phalluses.

BetaBeat reports that gay porn producers Falcon Studios are set to release their first film where the condoms were taken digitally erased.


Falcon is located in San Francisco, hundreds of miles away from where it would be impacted by Measure B, so why the post-production trickery? The film’s director says it was about evoking the more free-and-easy attitude of the ’70s.


“With this movie I really wanted to capture the essence of that time, when life seemed more carefree and spontaneous,” he explains. “In keeping with this concept, I felt that condoms need to be addressed. I wanted to give the impression of a pre-condom movie, but use condoms as we do in every scene we film.”


We’ve not seen the results, so we have no idea if the effect is believable. But if it could be done affordably and well, it might be an option for L.A.-based porn producers who wish to abide by the law while providing viewers what they want to see.


Given that multiple STD and HIV scares have intermittently shut down Southern California porn production in recent years, carnal consumers may need to learn to live with looking at condoms, at least until digital condom deletion becomes the standard.


[via TheVerge]




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

NYC Officials Broker A Peace Between McDonald’s And Loitering Seniors


Lest you were expecting a full scale West Side Story-esque rumble between the group of elderly senior citizens and the workers at the Queens McDonald’s where they love to congregate, rest easy. Peace has been achieved between the two groups, and all it took to reach this McResolution was the intervention of some local elected officials.


After last week’s story on the group of Korean seniors who chafed at the McDonald’s limit of 20 minutes for customers to finish their food, management has agreed to work with the group and ease the limit during off-peak hours, reports the New York Daily News.


That policy will be posted in both Korean and Mandarin, and in turn the seniors will have to give up their prime seats between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. if someone else needs a spot to sit.


“We had to dig deeper to comprehend the pride of a small business owner as well as the pride of our seniors to seek a place to socialize,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim, who helped arrange the deal and dubs it a “McResolution” in a press release about the détente (view the entire release over at Politicker).


The restaurant says it will also look into hiring employees who speak Mandarin and Korean and a local senior center will have a shuttle service for any elderly patrons looking for somewhere else to rest a spell or just gab the day away.


It sounds like everyone is happy, with the franchise owner saying in a statement that he’s proud to serve the community, and that his “restaurant has been happy to welcome these customers for years.” The deal will provide an environment “where all customers who wish to enjoy this restaurant have the ability to do so.”


Queens seniors, McDonald’s manager reach deal on seating time limits [New York Daily News]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

How To Not Suck… At Saving For College


This is Part One of a two-part feature on paying for an education. Next week’s HTNS column will focus on the best way to borrow for college. Next to a home purchase, sending your kids to college may be the biggest expense of your lifetime. And like all things money, this one is easy to screw up.

Whether you’re still saving or you’re right up against tuition payment deadlines, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.


WAITING TOO LONG

The idea of paying tens of thousands of dollars for your or your child’s education is intimidating, and that’s why so many people put it off.


“I’ll never be able to save enough, so why bother?”


Tuck that attitude away.


Even if you can’t save the entire amount your matriculating mastermind will need, every little bit counts.


Saving $25 a week — think of what you spend on lattes and muffins — over 18 years will add up to $41,394 at a 6 percent interest rate. If you haven’t started yet but you have eight years to go before college starts, $25 a week will give you $13,256.


Even if your student is already a college freshman, there’s still time to save. A $25/week set-aside over two years will give you $2,600 — without counting any earnings from investments.


That’s more than you’d have if you saved nothing at all.


CHOOSING THE WRONG ACCOUNT TYPE


Older generations depended on savings bonds or Uniform Transfer to Minor Accounts (UTMA) for college savings. The interest from EE Savings Bonds is tax-free if the proceeds are used for qualified education expenses, but the low rate on bonds doesn’t make them all that attractive.


The appeal of UTMAs is that the first $1,000 of earnings is tax-free, the second $1,000 of earnings is taxed at the child’s rate and anything above that is taxed at the parent’s rate.


However, the world has mostly moved on from bonds and UTMAs, with most financial advisors agreeing that 529 plans are the best savings vehicle for college


In a 529 savings plan, the money you invest grows tax-deferred, and if it’s used for qualified education expenses, the money comes out tax-free. Every state has its own plan — some offer additional tax incentives for in-state investors — but you can also invest in any out-of-state plan. You can look into pre-paid 529 plans, too, which essentially allow you to buy future credits for certain colleges at today’s tuition prices.


Most 529 plans also offer an age-based investment option. For these, your money is automatically invested more conservatively as college gets closer in time, effectively putting your asset allocation on auto-pilot.


If you used an UTMA instead, you’d have to monitor your investments to make sure the stock market doesn’t tank when your student is a high-schooler.


There are other major disadvantages to UTMAs.


These are custodial accounts, so when your child turns the age of majority (18 or 21 in most states) he controls the money. If he chooses to use that cash for a Corvette or a tricked-out Mustang instead of a college education, there’s nothing you can do about it.


By comparison, if your child decides not to go to college and you have a 529 plan, you can change the beneficiary of the plan to other family members — future grandkids, maybe? — and even yourself.


Because UTMA money is in your child’s name — unlike a 529, which can be in your name with your child as the beneficiary — an UTMA will count more in financial aid formulas. (More on that in a moment.)


To learn more about 529 plan options, try SavingForCollege.com’s savings options comparison calculator for a side-by-side evaluation of different types of plans.


TITLING THE ACCOUNTS WRONG

Whatever kind of savings vehicle you use, the titling of the asset — who is listed as the owner — is critical.


That’s because financial aid formulas count a student’s savings more than a parent’s. It’s expected that 20% of a student’s savings is earmarked for college, while only 5.64% of a parent’s savings is considered to be set aside for tuition bills.


That’s a big difference.


For that reason, it makes sense in most cases for the parent to be the account owner and the student be listed as the beneficiary.


Financial aid formulas are another reason why most financial planners recommend using a 529 plan in the parent’s name rather than an UTMA, which is in the child’s name.


Grandparents or other relatives can be 529 account owners, too, and those won’t show up on financial aid forms at all.


IGNORING FEES


Not all college savings accounts are created equally.


What you pay for account management — the fees — could cost you thousands of dollars, a little bit at a time.


For example, a typical 529 plan sold through a state has an average annual fee of 0.69%, according to the Financial Research Corporation, while those sold through brokers carry average annual fees of 1.17%.


That may not seem like much, but if you invested $10,000 over 18 years with a 6% return, you’d have $2,000 less if you invested in the plan with the higher fees.


That’s a lot of pizza and textbooks.


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


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


PREVIOUSLY ON HOW TO NOT SUCK:

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

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

How To Not Suck… At Last-Minute Christmas Gifting

How To Not Suck… At Saving For The Holidays

How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving

How To Not Suck… At Disputing Credit Report Errors

How To Not Suck… At Lowering Your Utility Bills

How To Not Suck… At Home Inspections

How To Not Suck… At Understanding Credit Card Rewards

How To Not Suck… At Getting Ready For Tax Season

How To Not Suck… At Picking A Retirement Plan

How To Not Suck… At Deciding When To DIY

How To Not Suck… At Getting Out Of Debt

How To Not Suck… At First Year College Budgets


DISCLAIMER: Any websites, services, retailers, or brands mentioned in the story above are only intended as some of many options available to consumers, and do not constitute an endorsement by Consumerist, Consumerist Media LLC (CML) or its staff. Per Consumerist’s No Commercial Use Policy, such information may not be used by others in advertising or to promote a company’s product or service. In addition, this policy precludes any commercial use of any of CML’s published information in any form, or of the names of Consumers Union®, Consumer Media, Consumer Reports®, The Consumerist, consumerist.com or any other of CU or CML’s publications or services without CU or CML’s express written permission.




by Karin Price Mueller via Consumerist

This Cat Needs A New Home After Living In A Home Depot For 13 Years


The world was Depot’s oyster, and that world is the Home Depot. See, Depot is a cat and her home is Home Depot (try saying that three times fast). She’s lived in a South Carolina store for 13 years, but that life of trolling for pests, snuggling up with paint cans and greeting workers in the morning is about to end. She’s getting the boot after triggering the store’s security alarms one time too many.


Management says her adventures in the garden section will need to come to an end, reports WTOC, because she sets off the alarms at night. That means it’s time to find her a home, and some customers are upset that she’s getting evicted.


“Being an animal lover, I’d get rid of management before I’d get rid of the cat,” one customer told the news station.


Despite a petition on Change.org asking to let Depot stay, it’s not like she’ll be kicked out on her furry, adorable behind. Home Depot officials have said they won’t throw her out until someone steps up to adopt her.


If you live near Bluffton, S.C. and need a new furry friend, check out the contact info for the store in the source link below.




Cat kicked out of home, Home Depot [WTOC.com]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

FAA Changes Takeoff and Landing Rules At Major Airports Because Collisions Are Bad


The FAA is rolling out a new rule for air traffic controllers that’s designed to reduce the risk of airplane collisions.


As the Wall Street Journal reports (paywalled, alas), the new rule staggers the timing between takeoffs and landings. With more space and time between planes taking off on one runway and planes arriving on another, the potential for mid-air disaster drops.


The rule change comes after an investigation of five near-miss incidents over the past several years. The NTSB found that the old rules created hazardous situations and unnecessary risk of collisions because pilots were not necessarily given clear guidance.


According to the WSJ, under the new rule, “tower controllers will have to delay issuing takeoff clearances regardless of weather conditions to make sure landing aircraft have touched down or taxied away from any potential conflict.”


The initial rule change affects 16 airports, many of which have already implemented the changes. Others have until February or April to comply, and an additional set of airports will be subject to the revised rules in July. Among the airports currently covered under the new rule are JFK in New York, McCarran in Las Vegas, O’Hare in Chicago, and Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as the airports in Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and “a handful of other locations.”


Increased safety is a great thing. So is there a down side? Well, yes, a small one: the change in regulations could worsen delays at peak travel times or in inclement weather.


It’s true that if you’ve ever been told that your plane is 73rd in line for take-off at JFK on a rainy Friday night, the idea of adding even more delays may seem daunting. But compared to an in-air collision? Bring on the hours of tarmac-sitting.


FAA Sets New Rules at Busiest Airports [Wall Street Journal]




by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Man Wearing Google Glass Claims Movie Theater Called FBI To Arrest Him For Piracy

glassFBIbg If getting a ticket for wearing Google Glass will land you in the headlines for a good while, how about when the FBI comes to arrest you in a movie theater for the same device? Yup, headlines aplenty.


That’s the claim made over on Gadgeteer, where a reader’s story of not only getting booted from a movie for wearing Google Glass but encountering the FBI in the process is lighting up the Internet.


The author of the story says he’s been wearing Google Glass all the time since getting prescription lenses for the glasses. Over the weekend he went to a mall in Ohio to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and at first it was like every other time he’d gone to the movies with the Google Glass on.


“It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion,” he writes.


We know what you’re probably thinking — of course it might seem suspect that someone is wearing a device that has a camera in it at a movie theater. Piracy is a real thing, after all. But he says he always turns the device off, while keeping the actual glasses on because they have his prescription lenses in them.


The trouble started after half an hour, when he says a man approached his seat, showed a badge and pulled the Google Glass off his face. He was told to go outside with the man immediately.


“Since I didn’t catch his name in the dark of the theater, I asked to see his badge again and I asked what was the problem and I asked for my Glass back,” the wearer writes in his account of the apparent FBI agents. “The response was ‘you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the “federal service” and you have been caught illegally taping the movie.’ “


He claims he tried to explain the situation and that he wasn’t taping anything whatsoever, but says that instead he was searched and more of his property was taken away. He writes that he was then brought to a room for a “voluntary interview” but that he basically had to cooperate or “bad things” might happen to him.


“I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it,” he claims. “I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.”


Despite his insistence that he wasn’t recording anything and that the Glass was off, he says they insisted it had been seen on. He writes that he tried to show them the light that comes on if the Glass is activated, but was told he couldn’t touch the device in case he tried to erase any evidence.


After a long time spent trying to explain things, he claims that someone finally came in with a USB cable and connected the Glass to the computer, downloaded everything from it and started going through the photos.


“Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong,” he writes.


At the end of the ordeal, he asked the agents why they couldn’t have taken those five minutes at the beginning of the whole thing, but they just left the room. He adds that someone else (from the “Movie Association” which could perhaps be the Motion Picture Association of America) gave him two free movie passes to make up for the interrogation.


When he asked why he wasn’t told simply not to wear the Google Glass if they were worried about piracy and thus, avoid the rigmarole, he says the man told him he was called by AMC, he contacted the FBI and here are two more passes for the trouble.


“I would have been fine with ‘I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies,’ ” he writes. “Four free passes just infuriated me.”


After all of that, the man says he should probably sue someone over his experience, but that he doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with it all. Instead, he wrote up his account so that others learn from his experience.


“I guess until people get more familiar with Google Glass and understand what they are, one should not wear them to the movies,” he muses. “I wish they would have said something before I went to the movies, but it may be my mistake for assuming that if I went and watched movies two times wearing Glass with no incident the third time there won’t be any incident either.”


We reached out to AMC Theatres to see if there’s a comment on this report, and will let you know if we hear anything back.


AMC movie theater calls FBI to arrest a Google Glass user [Gadgeteer]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

‘Password’ No Longer The King Of Bad-Idea Passwords

The password is...

The password is…



No matter how frequently consumers are warned about creating predictable passwords, many just aren’t getting the message. The good news from the latest survey of leaked passwords is that the most frequently used password is no longer “password.” The bad news is that the new bad-password champ is equally idiotic.

According to the annual list of most popular passwords from the folks at SplashData, “password” has slipped to number two, giving way to the terribly clever “123456,” presumably chosen by all those people who wanted to make sure they fulfilled a six-character requirement.


In fact, seven of the 20 most frequently found passwords are just strings sequential numbers starting with 1. There’s 1234 (#16), 12345 (#20), 1234567 (#8), 12345678 (#3), 123456789 (#6) and the people who just run their finger down the number row with 1234567890 (#13).


For those who want to fulfill their six-character requirement but don’t like to stray too far around the number row, there’s also 123123 at #11. And for the truly lazy, there is 000000 at #25.


The truly un-clever folks go right for the home row, making “qwerty” the fourth most-popular password.


In the wake of the massive data breach of software giant Adobe, a couple new apparently Adobe-specific passwords popped up on the SplashData list — “adobe123″ (#10) and “photoshop” (#15). The fact that these two company-specific passwords made it this high on the list of all leaked passwords goes to show (A) just how huge the Adobe database leak was and (B) just how popular these two passwords are among Adobe users.


SplashData has announced its annual list of the 25 most common passwords found on the Internet. For the first time since SplashData began compiling its annual list, “password” has lost its title as the most common and therefore Worst Password, and two-time runner-up “123456″ took the dubious honor. “Password” fell to #2.


“Seeing passwords like ‘adobe123′ and ‘photoshop’ on this list offers a good reminder not to base your password on the name of the website or application you are accessing,” says Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData.


A couple of phrases made their way on to this year’s list — “iloveyou” inched up two spots to #9, while “letmein” dropped seven spots from last year to #14. The largest drop on the list — 12 spots — belongs to “trustno1,” which barely made the round-up at #24.


Here is the full list of passwords you should avoid like the plague:


1. 123456


2. password


3. 12345678


4. qwerty


5. abc123


6. 123456789


7. 111111


8. 1234567


9. iloveyou


10. adobe123


11. 123123


12. admin


13. 1234567890


14. letmein


15. photoshop


16. 1234


17. monkey


18. shadow


19. sunshine


20. 12345


21. password1


22. princess


23. azerty


24. trustno1


25. 000000




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

The Cheapest Ticket To The Super Bowl Right Now (For The Worst Seats) Is $2,700


Unless you’re the kind of fan who’s got an emergency cache of cash ready to unload at the moment your team gets to Super Bowl XLVIII, you’re probably not willing to fork over the kind of dough that’s currently being demanded for tickets this year. Even the cheapest (and worst) seats, all the way up in the back at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, pack a punch of a price at $2,700.


That was the very cheapest price right now on the NFL’s official second-hand marketplace, reports the Atlantic Wire, and those seats are basically the equivalent of being banished to the attic garret where you’ll slave away in the cold sewing for your rich employers. Or you know, up in the eaves in the upper corners of the end zones. We’re seeing prices around $2,800 however, and it’s only going to get pricier.


If you’re the kind who can throw money at any problem without blinking, the most expensive tickets out there will set you back more than $25,000 for seats in the bottom of the stadium at the 50-year-line.


Again, even if you’re shelling out thousands of dollars to have a seat at the showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, it won’t be that easy to get to the actual stadium. You can’t walk in, and you can’t get dropped off at the doors unless you’ve somehow managed to snag on of the few parking passes that will be issued. Oh and you won’t be warming up by the fire of a tailgating party, either, because that’s not allowed.


Better bundle up, y’all, and hope that the memory of the money you’ve spent to get to the Big Game somehow keeps you warm.


You Can’t Afford Super Bowl Tickets [Atlantic Wire]




by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Two Men Arrested For Using Credit Card Numbers Stolen From Target


While most ID thieves are wisely staying away from the more than 100 million credit and debit card numbers compromised by the recent data breach of Target’s in-store payment processing system, two Mexican citizens apparently thought they could get away with using some of these leaked numbers to make illegal purchases.

The AP reports that the two men from Monterrey, 27 and 28 years old, were arrested at the border crossing near McAllen, TX, over the long weekend. They had used card information taken from the Target breach to buy several thousand dollars’ worth of items at stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and Toys R Us.


Police say the Target customers’ whose card information was used to make these purchases were from the same area of Texas that the two suspects did their shopping in.


“They’re obviously selling the data sets by region,” said the police chief in McAllen.


The bogus purchases began on Jan. 12, say the police, who confirmed with the Secret Service that the cards used during this shopping spree were from the Target hack.


Police looked through retailers’ security footage to identify the pair using the fake cards and eventually identified their vehicle. When the twosome attempted to cross the U.S./Mexico border, via the Anzalduas International Bridge, in that same car on Sunday, they were arrested. Authorities say the men had 96 fake credit cards on them at the time.


It’s not known if this is the first arrest made related to the Target data breach, but officials tell the AP that these two men appear to be unrelated to the actual hack.


Target referred questions about the arrest to local authorities.




by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Amazon Patents Method For Shipping You Things Before You Order Them


Regular Amazon shoppers are probably quite familiar with the e-tailer’s e-mail blasts that highlight things you might want based on previous purchases and the things you’ve searched for on the site. But what if Amazon went one step further and actually predicted the things you will buy and shipped them in advance?

The online giant applied for just such a patent back in Aug. 2012, and the U.S. Patent folks granted the patent last month, on Christmas Eve of all days.


The patent outlines the many, many ways in which Amazon’s “Anticipatory Package Shipping” could expedite the shipping process by getting items it believes customers will order to nearby distribution centers in advance of their being ordered.


So it’s less like mind-reading and more like the restaurant who knows you order the veal every Tuesday when you come by at 6:30, so it has everything ready to go.


The idea is ultimately to save Amazon money on shipping. Think of all the money it spends on one- or two-day air-shipping, especially for Amazon Prime customers in order to make delivery dates. If the company could bulk-ship predicted purchases to local distribution centers, that to-the-home delivery would be via cheaper ground shipping. In some cases, depending on customers’ proximity to a local center, same-day delivery is both logistically and financially feasible for Amazon.


So if Amazon sees a big video game title coming up for release and its computers figure out that there are certain customers who are likely to order release-day delivery of new titles, it may pre-ship enough copies to local centers so that they can be delivered via ground transport rather than Amazon having to pay for express delivery from one of its main distribution centers.


Among the many things that gets factored into the process is the cost for returning pre-shipped items to the warehouse. In some cases, it may just be less expensive to give some items away “as a promotional gift used to build goodwill” than it would to return them.


Just for fun, here are some diagrammatic explanations of possible scenarios from the patent (click on any image for full size):

amazonpatent1


patent3


patent2


Amazon Patents “Anticipatory” Shipping — To Start Sending Stuff Before You’ve Bought It [TechCrunch]


Amazon May Predict and Ship Your Next Order Before You Buy It [MainStreet]




by Chris Morran via Consumerist